title: mind games, prompt: tenacity in (just like) starting over flash fiction

  • June 21, 2023, 4:21 p.m.
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  • Public

They had hoped connecting every mind on the continent psychically, even for one split-second, would manifest as a love that overwhelmed all other impulses, leaving America with a chance to breath, reconsider and lay down their arms. They knew that would carry with no guarantee but it seemed a better gamble than letting America’s self-destructive impulses spread across the world entire. “That’s the funny thing,” Kurt added, “not funny-funny. Sad-funny. Love did overwhelm and overcome hate in that moment. Love conquered hate!” Bobby was confused. “So what, uhm, went wrong?” “Love conquers hate, Robert,” Dakota interrupted, “I’m assuming that Bobby is short for Robert, but fear? Fear is so very much more insidious than any stock-simple hatred.”

“Hate’s a ravenous beast, Princeton, a horror, a wonder. But mere beasts can be slain, eventually, with a gun or a missile or enough knives.” Vonnegut extinguished the butt of his cigarette on the heel of his left shoe.” “Fear’s a damnable cockroach. An endless swarm of them, each with that species’ legendary tenacity. Any single cucaracha is pretty easy to snuff but there’s more, there are always more, always more fears in the walls, no matter what you do. And if just two of the survivors manage to copulate, it’s scant months until the swarm is back to full-strength again.”

“Hate is a self-extinguishing flame,” Dakota elaborated in a less vulgar manner as was her way, “hate passes like clouds in the sky when stared for long enough. I’ve seem other peoples’ fears, inside my mind, though, and fear is a whole different animal entirely. It never stops, never goes away. At best, you can make people fear something else instead, and even that’s a stretch. Fear of losing money, fear of losing property, losing personal status.” Bobby interrupted her. “Loved ones.” “Loved ones, sure. Of losing the assumptions that underpin your reality. Love suffocated hate like two fingers around a candle wick. Fear wrapped around them and set the hand ablaze.”

The telepathy machine quickly exploded, similar to the Turtledove rig that drew Bobby to them, that Dakota named as such because it reminded her of the ancient Christmas song, trying to bring two birdies briefly into the same tree. As the aftermath of that catastrophic failure, the wars were then driven by the fear of loss instead of by the hate for the other. “A far more powerful driver of atrocities,” Kurt said. Then, that other side-effect, ten thousand or so latent psychics permanently awakened. The Bushmen and Haigmen, even though both leaders were long dead themselves by that point, quickly worked to weaponize that new reality for use in the crusades of loss and fear.

“That’s how I became,” Dakota put to fingers to one of her temples, “like this.” And she tried to send an image into Bobby’s mind and, yet again, failed. “I’m so used to not having to talk, when talking just won’t work.” “I’m not doing that on purpose.” “Robert. That makes it even worse.”

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