In the Atrium

Michael Schumacher Short Stories

Part One : The Revolution

“The people’s revolution has succeeded!” shouts a student running through the atrium, breath like smoke in the cold. And when its cold, we burn coal in the basement of the capitol and wood in the offices, which means dust, dust on the floors, dust on the books, banisters, walls, but the worst is the drapes and tapestries, they seem to have an affinity for dust more than that of iron and magnets.

“To the victory of the people,” shouts a lawyer from the rotunda, “The Monarch is gone, long live democracy!” the marble of the atrium turns voices into tinny echos that bounce and shatter in form so words became cruel notes in no melody. Din and murmur owns no damp rag.

The best tool to use on such dust would be a mop, only slightly damp, as if it is sopping, it will make the floors too slippery and possibly freeze. For the walls, a damp rag, this is where the tapestries and drapes pose a problem, as one must beat the dust from them in a delicate manner and wait while it falls to the floor and walls until the damp cloth and mop capture it.

Lights flicker and there are gun shots outside. The double doors open with bitter wind and boots and clotted snow, which will melt and become a dance to clean if it freezes and it most certainly will; so close to the doors.

“Heroes, come in from the cold!” shouts a parent holding a baby. Soldiers walk and limp in, rags for fatigues, mismatched uniforms, cobbled weaponry and wrapped in bandages for warmth as much as stemming any hemorrhage.

“Victory to the Patriotic Liberation Front! Victory to the people!” cheers a bus driver, waiving a hat, cheers erupt from the levels of the rotunda spiraling in the middle of the atrium, packed with citizens. Someone begins a fiddle tune and the soldiers and people begin to dance. One raises a rifle to the air-

“Excuse me, lieutenant,” the music comes to a pause, a hush waves over, “there is no shooting allowed in the atrium,” says the janitor tapping the mop on a sign that reads ‘Please, No Shooting Inside, Thank You Citizens’. The Atrium’s echo quiets, the soldiers stop dancing and look at the janitor. The lieutenant lowers the rifle with a blank gaze.

“Of course comrade,”

“Thank you lieutenant, you will find warm water and fresh bandages in the basement by the furnaces, please wipe your feet and separate your trash.” says the janitor. The cacophony of the atrium grows as the nation continues a mill about; to dance, to shout, to drink and be merry in the frivolity and hope of a young revolution. Portraits of heroic war scenes quickly cover those of the monarch,

The dusty blue, gold bunting of the kingdom change to that of the revolutionaries; purple and white. This bunting would capture dust exactly the same. The folded bunting of the Monarch finds its place in the storage closet next to the holiday lights and gardening tools.

The paint chips and peels above the wood paneling in the government offices circling the rotunda in the atrium. Shudders and quakes from the artillery laid down plaster and loosened glass panels in their frames, so as the wind blows they rattle and leaking wind kicks up dust. More dust.

In the government offices, officials have trash bins, one for burning, one for burying and one for building – the factories that is – the bins are dumped into larger bins on a wheeled cart, then the cart goes to the shoots, where the larger bins tip into them. The rubbish falls into even larger bins in the basement, where it is either burned in the furnaces to make dust, buried on the grounds for use in the gardens, or carried to the factories who reuse the metal and glass materials. Some officials drink more beer or eat more beans or use more paper than others and much can be learned of a person by looking into their rubbish bins. What official will use a pen to its very end, or eat canned fish from embargoed neighbors, who is a perfectionist that must retype the same letter? Beyond habits like these, Personal details are gleaned, like birthdays, funerals or wedding invitations, or rejected holiday niceties, or small poems that grace crumbled margins of red tape.

This flow of human detritus increases during the tax months or festival season where the bins need to be emptied with increased frequency as they cascade with papers, documents and foodstuffs. However, nothing compares to events involving the monarch; marriage, coronation, (though those are quite rare) edict declaration or military victory. The rubbish generated during these times is to such an extend as to overwhelm the bins, shoots and outlets, not to mention the bewildering types of rubbish produced. Fanciful foreign papers and packaging that is mixed in character, metals that are non-magnetic, strange colored glass – the list goes on.

In the basement, tucked behind the shoots, the water boilers and furnaces, spare parts and past the broken furniture exists a pocket of a room, perhaps a architectural mistake creating an alcove. This pocket is home to the janitor. A cot, a bookshelf, a coat hanger and a set of drawers fill the room, and the lucky of discarded rubbish cover the walls, the poems and love letters, a holiday card draft, metallic ribbon from the coronation years ago, a teddy bear the monarch gave to children during the diphtheria years and a crystal liquor bottle that sparkles like a prism – so are the treasures of trash; memory, nostalgia and rarity.

“The revolutionary forces of the Patriotic Liberation front declare the capitol complex the people’s house, for use in revolutionary goals and ideals,” decrees a member of the politburo from the rotunda, speaking to a mass of citizens, purple arm bands contrasting against their bleak coats. “The people’s congress calls its first session, appointments and elections, please follow the distributed agenda, long live our glorious revolution!” the people, packed like matches on every level, cheer – their breath and heat steam the hall, their voices crash into rounded marble and thus began the slow and bureaucratic nature of the new government with all the trappings of the old.

With the amount of people gathered and respirating in the atrium there’s sure to be condensation, and although the indoor rain would help mop the floors, it also causes the papered murals and new propaganda to peel and fall from the walls, where it inevitably is trodden into a paste. Only thrice in the janitor’s tenure had the capitol been packed so full of citizens; the coronation, the royal wedding and the declaration of war on the ‘rebels in the hills’, these times, so full, the atrium rains inside. Though, the absence of glitter – in the mind of the janitor is the worst invention of human civilization – finds no place. In fact, this most recent celebration in the atrium would assist in the removal of the last stubborn vestiges of glitter in the cracks in the marble a 37 year curse in the Atrium. The best part of the revolution so far, an end to the oppression by glitter, the birth of a new era.

Part Two : Fuel and Famine

In the weeks following, the offices of the officials are full with bureaucrats, in the days of the Kingdom; only one official and a secretary would occupy the office, but now, with up to 10 now sharing the large rooms, the rubbish bins fill quickly and require frequent emptying into the shoots, though with the shortages in the markets, less cans, bottles and foodstuffs fill the bins, that and the salary of each official split equally between all the new ones, reduce luxury consumption.

However, the growing red tape of the new administration means one office produces more paper scraps than that of all the offices combined under the old administration. A form exists for everything now, sometimes a form needs another form signed by another official to just get a certificate so one could get another form. Sometimes forms exist in limbo, where processes find no completion form so one continually circles the rotunda, office after office, official after official form after form, seeking non-existent permission for simple works in a new government in confusion of who was in charge of what and how not to get in trouble. The paper flows from the offices to such degree that a propaganda press spools in the atrium to print forms and another printing press ordered immediately from a neighboring nation to keep pace with the leaflets and propaganda. The Janitor makes changes to the bins, carts and shoots coping with the copious papers.

The increase in paperwork coincides with shortages in most goods – though apparently not paper – that includes fuels like coal and wood being used to finish the war effort and ‘rebuild the glory of the destroyed countryside’.

Paper is a much dustier fuel than coal or wood, it flakes off and flies through the air still burning, it does not form a coal bed and generates little heat. The revolution removed the glitter but they increased the dust by substituting paperwork for fuel, for fuel itself. A trade the janitor would make any day, but still… the dust.

As the famine increases so to the slogans. The janitor busily scrapes off the letters ‘For King and Country’ adorning each glass door of the government offices, assembly halls, bathrooms and cafeteria; replacing them with ‘No Victory without Sacrifice’ ‘No Freedom without struggle’ ‘Glorious People’s Revolution’ ‘Ministers of the People’. On and on the slogans go, off comes any reference to the monarch and with the arrival of new slogans comes the starving farmers and peasant families, carrying their possessions; files to fill the halls with sleeping matts of straw bedding, which poses a problem but having little, little trash is made.

Kingly bedding found no place in the capitol since the monarch, an extravagant and disciplined affair, top sheets, dress pillows, woolen blankets from the north; pressed and cleaned, it never fell to the janitor to make beds, that lay in the court of the valets, but the process is well known as the wash bins, hamper, laundry shoots and linen storage fell to the janitor’s domain, so how to make bedding for the masses?

Staffing takes hold, and with it, the bedding of the peasants and the hospital and the bureaucrats without home, send their bedding through the shoots. Occupying more space than all else but paper; the bedding goes; wash and fold, and back up the steps. Though straw tends to clog and muddle the efforts of wash. The peasants whom gave straw laden bedding find down in return, monarch’s down, so the starving sleep like kings.

The parched sought to begging the officials for food, who respond by asking them to fill out paperwork to indicate they are starving. Many forms are to be filed for ‘The People’s Starvation Welfare Program’, they follow with obedience and so the rotunda around the atrium became a sickly parade of the walking dead, of adult and child, filing paperwork to notify the government that they starve before them – a government who too starves before they.

“Comrade please help! We are starving, my children are starving, I cannot read or write, I don’t know how to file this form” begs a peasant,

“All in good time comrade, let your family be nourished by the freedom of the revolution,” replies a bureaucrat. And so.

A bread line forms by the cafeteria and storage lockers, where thin soup and bread finds bowls and bellies. Bags of grain overflow the atrium and it appears more of a granary than a capitol building. The grain brought the population of mice beyond the carefully crafted management, so soon the rodents ran rampant, nesting, chewing, housing and filling all spaces with their sickly sweet excrement. In a moment of circumstance paired with action, occasionally called genius, the peasants whose cats were not eaten and those adopted by the convent – over-run with hungry cats- are brought to the Capitol. Gaunt and aloof, them too with their waste, march the cats. Nightly massacres. The rats particularly provide a good meal to the people, the wild birds caught in nooses, the chickens kept in coops under the outdoor stair cases, and so the starving found sustenance.

Thirty six milking cows, came to the small garden shed and there existed no shortage of dairy folk, who turn the milk into butter and sweet cream and cheese. Many peasants beg to haul in earth and manure, to make gardens “’neath the skylights in the atrium”, they are assigned to a people’s council to refit the conservatory domes past the square, currently short on fuel, for a garden. So; paper, peasants and garden tools march to the conservatory to grow early crops along with children and cats.

Cholera spreads following the neglect of the plumbing maintenance schedules. Beds scarce at the hospital come to the atrium. Beyond dust and rubbish bins, it is the bathrooms one must care for. Stocking of sanitary cloth, floors and fixtures top the list, but the complicated pipe-works lying under the marble dictate the promise above. Pipes take great care to maintain, water pressure and the build-up; reflective of water Ph and content.

Pipes are the veins of a building – electricity the nervous system – so the clean-outs, the drains religiously cleared, the reservoirs brimming by teams of roof-bound laborers on hand pumps. As calories increase to the starving, so too their needs of the bathrooms, as the starving have less to pass, except life. The handles, hinges, chains and gaskets take wear and become mismatched, as the want for perfect spares falls to the junk room in the basement where piles of old fixtures lie, soon to reclaim an aspect of utility presumed forever lost.

As with all the rubbish that builds up in complicated times, the dead bodies pose a new difficulty of which bin. Are you to bury or to burn? Arbitrary in nature it seems, they take both places, more complex than foodstuffs or paper. For to bury a body the janitor thought of head stones and more importantly; place. In such, junk marble slabs etched with dull chisels meant for woodworks are planted with fruit trees so as not to spread the cholera. As for the burned; well, it takes a large coal base to burn a body, a child wrapped in cotton swathes, delicate and dense by parents, can be stacked three fold deep compared to an adult, carelessly adorned in a sack, one deep, liberally accompanied by wood still rare.

Insidious dust. For this is dust as all dust, remains coating floors and walls and drapes long past the mop and damp rags, a seeming eternity. A human soul is harder to dust from a drape than that of a tree.

The rubbish of bodies stands as sorted and subjective as do humans themselves, but thats rubbish in the capitol, thats rubbish in the atrium, thats burnt rubbish dust of children and dreams and thats Cholera, thats Diphtheria, thats flu, thats death and organic material, no matter the contents of presence; thats a rubbish of humanity.

Part 3 : A Summer To Purge

The winter broke to spring, so the tools in the storage room – only a few used for depraved deeds – find new lease in fresh dirt, so gardens spring to surround the capitol among the new cemeteries like nothing seen for 40 years, even the janitor has no memory.

The heart of the city became the countryside as the countryside became the governing will and seat. The break in weather spreads to the famine and soon to that of Cholera, both fall against the sprouting leaves. This relieves the plumbing as the peasants return to farms. The hospital and granary find their proper buildings in the city, the cats – the exception the Janitor’s adopted calico – leave, with the masses running back to the tulips and so follows, that of straw and paper and bodies, all ebb.

Peace grows with the tulips and wounds begin to heal. Too soon to change. Chides and rumors sweep like a yawn in the spring warmth and a new disease – that of paranoia – spreads.

“Enemies of the revolution pay their lot, we will find you and eradicate the rot, to the death!” speaks a party member behind the banners and fervor on the rotunda. The open windows and breeze confide a passion misunderstood as spring ushers a new war of purge and rumor.

The citizens and politburo are hard to forget the stacking of bodies, the suffering of the very people the revolution supposedly fought for, the radicals find easy hold and take power, with them, a bureaucracy of blood rather than paper springs forth, there is little dust in blood.

Peace takes absence again, like the dust, but only for one week, so is the break between the cooling fires and pollen. Behind the pollen marches the ants, swarming the atrium, an onslaught unseen by the rifle wielding youths at the gates, though this is a familiar fight, the cobwebs and martyred carapaces of lady bugs find their home in the compost.

Now, blood isn’t the most difficult fluid to clean as stain, from fabric yes, especially in shortage, but its not the red wine of peace, and on marble, nothing, as only glitter and scuffs remain a difficulty when cleaning marble floors, where the dust remains an inconvenient truth. With the straw bedding, begging peasants, cholera and visceral pain receding, the floors clean, the furnaces brimming full of coal- seasonally sidelined – and an economic recovery taking hold; the scares of revolution do not heal as grass.

The trials in the atrium begin. Young and old find their fate in the cheering masses of a civilized revolutionary government and its purges. The distant labor camps and mass graves echo little if not none in the atrium, only the rumors and wildfires of perception fill the halls. Making adequate use of rubbish bins, scuffs and dust, as you don’t burn paper in late spring.

“And who now is a dissenter? What are they planning, do you have train tickets from here?Everyone is a dissenter!” scurries a party member to a staffer

“Yes, we must flee; it’s religious! Lets go abroad my liege, they have the resistance living with them by the river, but the train, the party controls the stations, maybe a wagon with the gypsies and refugees?”

“I don’t know any gypsies here anymore comrade, does the resistance have a press? An army? What nonsense do you speak? The purges are beyond borders!”

“They have taken the deacon and the family, the head of press, the economic minister and soon the convent, there remains no sanctuary, please listen, the resistance is all we have!”

“Do not speak to me of the resistance, we are the resistance in our own council, lets talk far from here over wine and food,”

“Well, see you soon, be fleet we have little time,” so echoes the chatter. Parting words in the atrium, and these words make no difference to dust and rubbish bins as the whirring of the three printing presses drowns the slight shadow of talk in an aura of bleakness; a machine set on its gears in a government set on revolutionary ideals.

Quiet befalls the halls, finally, work in calm. The pipes, the marble, the bins, the shoots, the furnace, the grounds all need attention from the labor crews, but the windows. The windows cram grim within them like mayflies on a bridge. Windows.

Windows are the eyes to a building and eyes the windows to the soul. Now, glass is difficult to clean as streaks come with any product applied to a glass and years of dust and neglect passed them over. The established teams; the same as with the rubbish and water pressure and bodies and revolution, set to work.

To avoid streaks on a window, newspaper must be used, within the new government there existed no shortage of newsprint, what with the paper printing like a river in the bottom of the atrium, it is inevitable that there is out-dated press in propaganda. Always. Always.

Skylights, doors and plate glass; find new sheen and the sunlight of summer pours into the atrium, there needs no coal, no wood, no paper, no fuel, as clear windows open to the breeze and warmth fill the void of carbons. Pollen replaces the dust and the drapes and tapestries wave clear with pollen in the season of golden sun.

The purges work backwards, till the ones responsible find death themselves and the ants do the same, so in summer, the atrium is free of executions, more importantly, free of ants.

The governing halls of high ceilings, with chairs and desks and flags at the front, neglected since the kingdom as a showpiece, and now the same, on terms of authority and of maintenance during the revolutionaries. Cavernous rooms, with galleries and booths, two podiums and sets of ringed chairs with desks, lit by skylights and old oil lamps, marble walls kept clear of propaganda – more on nostalgic ideal than new ideal or to reenforce the latter.

These become the homes of the revolutionary parliament, the ‘peoples congress’ These halls, the pinnacle of structure in forming democracy seek cleanliness and order. So bedrolls, cook stoves and wardrobes find replacement with desks of pens – and paper – the clean drapes and clean floors. Mops to dust, ashes to rags, the halls fill with debate, finally; democracy.

Part Four : Bank notes and Ballots

“Here, here, come to order, the federal congress comes to session,” the facilitator taps a small hammer and the mob sits in white robes, and the chairs are clean, so the parliament finds footing, as the radicals give way to their own obscenities and the parliament grows to the ease of the purge, diversity in message, separating of trash, floors close to polish, the dust relenting and summer embraces democracy.

The warmth dictates the sublime and calm nature of governing. The government offices around the atrium populate with benches for patience and order for waiting constituents, the purple bunting of the revolutionaries find its place beside that of the royal blue and gold, and the new gold and a new white laps over the railings of the rotunda; a bunting to catch dust as the rest and white; not the easiest color to keep.

The gardens in the grounds begin to bear fruit and fine harvest, the bus station running with more regularity than usual around the square, the markets brim with produce as do the bins and dust and grime, the labor of which falls to the skill of the laborers, who unionize and take power and great care of the capitol so the janitor becomes flush with skill and proficiency, disciplined municipal workers, who task about annihilating the dust, maintenance and grounds and flows forth clean floors, separated trash and less glitter, and all the little spots done.

To clean is a form of tidy, tidy is a form of hapless daily thoughtlessness for idea, the idea being clean order. And tidy is all the janitor had had time for.

Now, in the corners and nooks, the lasts stands of filth and dust and grime found end, so much so, the shoots clean by scrub, the largest bins and the doors of the basement refit for new trucks; prosperity ushered itself in, the vagrancies of leisure and placid complacence of peace swept with the summer’s heat and pollen so sickly sweet, the blossoms of fruit born a gasp of freedom, real freedom.

With the ants gone by early summer and the mosquitoes and wasps about to advance, the janitor readies the teams for the flies. For flies prey on anything unkempt, on the rotten and discarded; bodies, governments and compost, gardens and all, the flies pose a greater nuisance than a wasp, whom may sting but does not linger, where as a fly only lingers, on a wall. At least no glitter. The flies advance, insipid as truth.

A storm like plague envelopes the capitol. The janitor and team lie sweet traps and dirt and ash, and all people enlist to end the menace.

Window screens. A magnificence screens are, but so too, they need their care. The flies subside with the wasp’s rise and so another plague ends, and another begins; representative democracy.

“Come to order, order,” speaks the facilitator from the podium in white. “Calling the chair of the roadworks department to the stand,”

“Thank you facilitator and thank you citizens of the nation. We plan on rebuilding roads and rails for the nation, through union labor we have prepared a plan to refit and maintain the transport infrastructure, with what we hope is majority we call on a vote on bill 13-9,” Speaks the chair,

The clean skylights cast shadows, tracing the debate from one side to another as bin after bin fill, but here it is orderly, papers and cigarettes, the same bin, cans and food another.

“With 61 ayes, 19 abstentions and 23 nays, bill 13-9 passes.” speaks the facilitator with a gavel and cheers, some boo and shout. “The senate motions a recess,”

“Seconded,” shouts a senator,

“Debate?” asks the facilitator, silence, “Motion passes, the senate comes to recess,” applause.

The white robed senators beg for clean, and quickly make sure the furnaces carry hot water in radiator, and the fire places in the offices of the officials become ornaments, air filters to the fans, adding another layer of maintenance, but cleaning dust from a filter is much more convenient than trekking the vast halls with a damp mop and rag. The senate becomes the best government in the janitors eyes; The offices of the officials with balanced and orderly bins pull the waste stream back to three groups.

And in one brief moment, in a hare’s breathe of government, exists equity, a republic with pure ideals and motivation, and all humans find equality, and temperance and patience. And it was one brief moment. A hiccup of a hare’s breathe. For at the far ends the two parties were indistinguishable. Extremist or zealot, ideologues or demagogues, the Politburo or the defense council. Any assemblage of government to these extremes, results in the same crushing government. Beautiful and fleeting as is beauty in government, so the new rulers, ruled with all trappings of the old, and it began again.

New voting rules pass, behind them, peace with the neighboring nations, the new tax bill and land reform – long, long overdue, so the halls fill with free press, bias, partisan, unhindered –

“Extra extra, Land reform law is class warfare, read all about it!” – “Artillery exchange in East Valia,” “Flu epidemic sweeps the low country,”

The radicals, hardliners and moderates fight in votes and ideas and words and laws. Pages tear through the halls and rotunda, scuffing, a message here, a rushed vote, bellicose debate.

The campaigning politicians make their case behind new slogans.

But ballots, if the Patriotic front generated a lot of paper, nothing compares to ballots, which fill banker boxes to be counted and saved and then burned after all was sure who had won, so not only did this paper need to be burned, first it had to be saved and stored. The leaves on the oaks in the grounds turn red, then crispy, and the warm day and cool nights of autumn befell the capitol.

(Maybe Add protest here)

With democracy follows drink. Night sounds of a pub in the atrium bounced and bent in the marble. Citizens, honest and emboldened by stern ale, chatter and balk, one part revelry, one part reverence, the senators conspire here with the industrialists, who grow more powerful everyday. The barons of factories, rail and press accrue fortunes in the economic prosperity. A pub means broken glass on the floors and vomit in the toilets and a pub is where the barons write laws for the state.

“Extra Extra, bank collapse spreads countrywide, read all about it” shouts a newsie in the atrium, murmurs and hustle in the halls.

“Its not worth anything, none of it,” cried a citizen clutching banks notes,

“They are rioting in the markets, looting, soldiers shooting into the mobs,” stammered a senator,

“This is why we needed to pass the regulations on lending, we saw this coming,” moaned the chair.

Bank notes now fill the bins as much as ballots and forms dust that coats the floors in worthless fortunes. The famine returns, the trolly stops running with regularity, the staff maintaining the capitol building leave to find work in the south.

Part Five : Government and Genocide

As the snow falls, the leading hardliners overthrow the senate in one evening, with minimal paperwork and waste except for the bodies, red on the white robes which freeze stiff, so the gold bunting of the senate finds its place next to the purple and blue, red bunting took its place, portraits of the strong and powerful plastered over those of debate and cooperation. ‘Freedom in Democracy’ scraped away, to be repainted with the slogan, ‘Strength and Order’.

The vagrancies of leisure pay for the collapse, the pub, the park, the press, all consumed by the state to overcome the depression. The hardliners build train schedules well kept, and clean the bins and separate their trash to a fault, and there exists no famine anymore they say and the people fall into a religious fervor for their state, a government of a cult, of xenophobia of nationalism. The dictators had both been killed by the mob and embolden by them, so the cult changed hands, so the snakes became hydras, the devoted and indoctrinated.

“God bless the Restoration Council,” Sing the mobs in the atrium with their red arm bands bright against grey coats, treading paper into the floor.

“There are cockroaches among us, woven throughout our nation, trying to undermine us from within!” Shouts a member of the Restoration Council from the rotunda, the crowd jeers, “Here are their names, here is where they live, to the streets we will make their kind extinct!” And the masses pour out onto the streets and form militias, set up check points and pull families from carriages and trollies and beat and hack and shot them, and the bodies of all, litter the streets, litter the countryside and in the winter their blood freezes stark crimson against the snow.

Anyone hesitant to the kill find their death as well, and the state soldiers waddle house to house rounding up the labeled and they put them on ordered trains, with ordered numbers and ordered paperwork and the tools of civilization facilitate the savagery. Anyone not slaving for potatoes found a gardening tool to the spine, and children took against parent- maybe not to be wrapped in cotton in a furnace – and neighbor killed neighbor; an orgy of death and murder, a meat grinder of humans as well as humanity, so went the genocide. There are countless stories remaining untold of hiding in attics, sewers, holes, trees, under false identities, a lifetime of recounts, hopefully to be told another day. Storage, done right is a beautiful thing, boxes or crates on shelves, well organized and labeled, provisions laid out and well kept is a point of pride in those that keep pantry or larder. But these are things, and the janitor and company are adapt with things. People, storing people is much more difficult. Their needs of intake and output, down to their breathe, must be accounted, and so too, they decay in confinement like prisoners or zoo animals. Much care is taken to conceal these people from the mob, to hide the innocent is to become guilty, more maddening than dust and mixed refuse. A dedicated and small team press the children and old into nooks and crawl spaces, hundreds in the atrium, and keep to their needs. So much so, the nights of empty halls and offices respires a village in near silence. They make no trash, just gum the works and make hiding refuse a cynical game of custodial stealth.

At this time, there lay so many bodies on the grounds they are not burned in the furnaces, they are stacked, stiff in the cold, like logs on a bon fire, for that’s what they are, fuel oils pour over them and the smoke; suffocating of souls and the most dreadful ash, blankets the city, their charred bones, the gardens.

In the late winter thaw and weakened by its own blood lust, rebels push over the giant state apparatus, and so too the road blocks and mobs and bring order. Victorious rebels, in mismatched uniforms walk in from the cold, boots of clotted mud and ice, the hiding burst from their nooks and chant with their last remaining energy and the rebels and refugees break molding bread and dance long into the night, in this manner, shooting is avoided in the atrium.

Part Six : To Begin Again

Spring breaks winter, the genocide eases, and so begins a refit; cleaning, polishing, restoration of the plaster, the fresh paint, the new water system, fresh government offices, remaking of the tiled murals, new wax for the floors, fresh drapes said to be dust-resistance.

A rebel general, who claims a blood line with the old king, reinstates the monarchy with them at the helm as regent.

The portraits of the strong came down revealing the ones of debate and democratic cooperation which too came down and behind them the portraits of battle and heroes of the revolution soon too became litter and fodder for the furnaces and at last the portraits of the old king and the monarch reveal themselves and are cleaned to a glint. The blue and gold bunting came forth from the storage closet, a musky memory and coronation plans as the red of the restoration council finds its place next to the purples and blues and gold of the previous governments for use again, the janitor thinks … eventually. At least there’s less dust, a victory after all the change, that’s one great thing about this state now.

Not two weeks later, the coronation takes place, an extravagant and ostentatious affair, the food, the music, the grandeur and dancing, all polite and civilized, so civilized they threw glitter. Mountains of glitter as if it were meant to put out a fire. Glitter balloons, glitter cannons, the janitor surprised that pigeons had not been filled with glitter to fly around and rain it down in their excrement or explode in puffs of bloody feathers and glitter, and so the new government began with all the trappings of the old, and the janitor fears it will be impossible to live another 37 years to see another glitter free day for the floors of the atrium.

The monarch creates a new press with the same machines, who’s soul purpose is docile praise and fluff, reinforcing their heroic roll in ending the genocide, teaching the children through stacks of skulls, and so trauma passed down masked as history, a flamboyant warning forces complacency. The roads lit with electric light so as to keep an eye on the people and show the world how far they come past the mass killings of the hardliners. Beautiful new trollies and a hotel for foreign dignitaries. Recycling mandated, the streets clean, hawkers and musicians carried off side walks to create an air of perfect order. To tell outsiders of their wealth and illicit respect, to tell the citizens of the government’s absolute power and expected obedience. Freedom replaced by the promise of wealth and guaranteed retribution. In the quiet assumes a malignant ambience of tranquillity, indicative of obedience, and this obedience lives far from that of the ideals of democracy, for it easier to blow trains up then to make then run on time and the people wanted peaceful punctuality rather than chaotic debate and choice.

In this world, the echo of freedom only exists in war, when the opposing sides are locked in a death grip, and occupied with victory, in such an environment personal discretions go overlooked or even celebrated for their character in the struggle. No sooner after the flags and slogans change so do the rules of home. Who can marry, who can build, who can write, who can think, who holds power. In this entire dance, freedom seems a taunt, a desert mirage that forces the thirsty forward onto empty sands, and parched peoples will do anything for water, like drink their own blood, where sustenance predicates the starvation of the soul, these are the times we live.

In the Atrium there is little difference in the trash these governments make, the refuse of the kingdom, the patriotic liberation front, or the republic with its many faces, the restoration council the regent, fill bins and furnaces nearly the same, the dirt and sand on the floor, the clogged toilets, the broken handles, the peeling paint, the chipped marble all the same. Blinded by their dogma, not to see it as so but some mission of by sacrifice, ideology and grudge.

When your allegiance is to cleaning the floors, your perspective has no ceiling and no walls. Please separate your trash, wipe your feet and remember, there is no shooting allowed in the Atrium, no matter whose in charge.