Could it be the bent cardboard package backing? How the plastic is so slightly yellowed with age, how the dried glue’s seal is slightly broken but not enough to lend credibility to the possibility of tampering? Maybe it’s all those qualities. Maybe it’s none of them. Maybe it’s because there are exactly six beer coasters in the set, no more and no less, and that number called to him. He didn’t know he was looking for these coasters until he looked at them, but once he found them, he knew his days of wandering were over.
Certain events were set into motion just a short time ago with the goal of reaching a certain outcome. For that outcome to be reached, certain signals will be broadcasted through reality; certain coincidences will line up and convenient events will occur that help guide reality towards that certain outcome. Partner, this is one of those events.
“How much you got on this ah, this pack’a Coors beer coasters, here?” George asks the clerk, who is standing behind him, by addressing the coasters themselves.
“Oh, y-you can just have them, Sir. There’s no need–”
“No,” as he turns around to face the clerk. They’re the only two in the secondhand shop, George walked in just after the last customers walked out. The guy was about to close, such impeccable timing. “Anybody else would pay. C’mon now, how much?”
“Oh, oh uh, um…” He shakes his head in disbelief. “Five bucks?”
George smiles and offers a hand. “Make it ten and you have a deal.”
The clerk takes it for a shake. “Gee, thanks Mister President!”
George W. Bush’s smile doubles in size a bit too quickly. “I sure am the President. Say, I like this little town y’all have here back in the woods. What do you call it?”
The clerk actually blushes. “Wuester!” he inadvertently shouts. Then, in a calmer voice, “Wuester, it–… it’s called Wuester. And thank you! It’s a beautiful town for sure, we’re pretty far out here though. Not much to do, nothing more than trees to see. There’s Atacama Lake out west a ways, but that’s, you know…” He kicks at the dust. “A lake.”
“It sure is!” George beams. “Well listen bud, I like your little town here. It’s perty, you know? Got some charm to it. I think I’d like to build my headquarters here.”
The clerk stares at George W. as if he’s following along with everything the man is saying for a few seconds after George W. stops talking, then the confusion seeps out of his brain and into his face. “Your headquarters?”
“Yeah, bud. For The Advisorate.”
Another few seconds of silence, but the clerk is no longer following along, whether pretend or not. “The… The Advisorate, Mister President? Am I–”
“Yeah, the seven of us. Six plus me. I’m in control, they don’t really know it though. They think we’re all equal.” He shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Seven of you…? Who are you?”
George W. Bush’s face noisily morphs into a mirror image of the clerk’s face. “Who are you, bud?” The clerk shrieks and closes his eyes; when he opens them again, George has his own face back. “As it turns out, most folks don’t know how reality works. There are a few Earths out there, Mister Clerk. Quite a few. This one’s called High Tower, but I have a feeling in my gut that’ll change soon. A good ol’ feelin’ in the gut.”
“High Tower… huh, I can see why you’re changing it. Why High Tower?”
George sneers at the clerk. “I’m the one in control here, see. I don’t need to explain why I say things. It don’t matter, I have my coasters. I will raise my headquarters over this town and preserve it. You folk’ll be left here, but you’ll likely run out of food and water before you’re found by anybody. Or I could just put you all in the cells.”
The clerk is down on his knees now, one eye pouring cold tears of fear, the other hot tears of excitement. “The cells, Sir?”
“The cells,” agrees George W. Bush before claping his hands together twice. All the planet becomes a prison, every structure a cell, all the living locked away. The town of Wuester, Atacama Lake, and the surrounding uncivilized northern Jersey woodlands are encased in an opaque dome and buried beneath the ground. From the disturbed soil rises a slim gray tower which resembles a mushroom capped with a grand observatory. It is here The Advisorate shall meet, just as soon as George W. Bush sees it fit.
The seven members of The Advisorate sit around a silver heptagonal table in a lighted room shrouded in shadowy darkness. Everyone has a cold cocktail of THC-infused gin and everyone has a coaster to rest that cocktail on. Everyone but John Kerry, that is, damned to hold his drink until it’s empty, lest he drip condensation on the table.
“So who’s going first?”
Howard Dean and Wesley Clark both stand up. “We’re happy to report that Bionic Earth has successfully linked with Spectral Earth. A living spirit has been transferred.”
“It’s not quite living,” Wesley Clark cuts in. “They think it’s basically potential life, it just lacks a body to reach that potential. It exists perpetually, as far as the humans know. It’s really such fun to watch them develop.”
“Indeed it is,” agrees George W. Bush. “Great work, gentlemen. Who’s next?”
The gentlemen sit down. Al Sharpton rises. “I’ll go – the humans of Cosmic Earth have successfully been introduced to extraterrestrial lifeforms. There’s even been some interspecies mingling going on. I’m seeing amazing results, Sir.”
“Exceptional!” shouts George W.
“Now that is the truth,” from the end of the table. Everyone looks. It’s John Kerry.
“You have something to say, Mister Kerry?” offers George W. Bush.
“I do,” John says, putting his glass directly on the table. He waits for George’s eyes to come back up from the glass to continue. “In no misleading terms, I have discovered the truth about who we are, brothers and sister. The truth lies on True Earth.”
Carol Braun puts her hand over her mouth. Everyone else stands and whispers to one another, aside from George W. and Richard. George W. is staring without emotion at Kerry, and Richard? Richard is smiling, smiling brightly and loudly.
“I saw True Earth today, John. I believe you’re trying to cover something up.”
“Ex–” is all that comes out of John’s mouth before a wave of hot air hits him from behind. A large portal’s opened up, it seems; on the other side is Armageddon. Buildings crumbled into rocks and boulders, dust afloat on the air, streets ashen and shattered. Entire forests burned to charcoal. The last stand of civilization is a small backwoods town in north Jersey. The inhabitants are few in number.
“I move to rename True Earth to Fallen Earth, and secondly to rename High Tower to True Earth. Thirdly, I move to strip John of that which makes him like us and banish him to the wasteland he’s allowed to fester under his rule. All in favor?”
All but John. The motion passes without fuss. John simply fades away. The table consumes John’s drink and smoothly converts itself into a hexagon. After everyone else has sat back down, George W. Bush sits down as well.
“So,” he says, slapping his palms flat on the table. “Who’s next?”