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First pages

At 3:22AM, they broke down my front door.

Before I could reach the bedroom door six black-clad members of the new national police force had already raced up the stairs to the second floor. They entered my bedroom with their automatic weapons at the ready; red lights from their laser sights cut open the darkness.

The policeman nearest me struck me hard in the stomach with the butt of his weapon. Another one kicked me to the floor. Two more policemen took hold of my arms and handcuffed me. As the policemen lifted me to my feet my wife reached for the phone on the nightstand next to her.

"Maya," I said, "don't."

"I'm calling our lawyer," she protested.

"Don't bother," one of the officers said. "We cut the line outside."

His face was hidden by a black mask. When Maya picked up her cell phone the officer wrenched it from her grip. Next, he unholstered his pistol as he placed the cell phone atop the nightstand. He held the pistol by the barrel and lifted it over his head. Maya crossed her arms in front of her face. The police officer brought his pistol down like a hammer once, twice, three times, smashing the cell phone to pieces.

"Let my husband go!" Maya screamed.

She climbed out of bed, dressed in her favorite pajamas, colored white with images of Snoopy and Woodstock on them, and made as if to strike the officer who had destroyed the phone.

Just before they dragged me out of the room, the masked police officer raised his pistol and struck Maya in the face. My wife fell to the floor. The police officer kicked her in the sternum.

"We have the son," another officer announced.

"Where was he?" the masked officer asked.

"Returning to his dormitory," the other one said.

"They have Dylan?" Maya shouted from bedroom doorway. "What's he done? What have any of us done?"

The masked officer pointed at my wife. Four officers rushed my wife, pushing her back into the room. They worked her over, punching and kicking her until she fell to the floor.

The policemen who held me in the hallway didn't bother to allow me the luxury of walking down the stairs. Instead, they threw me. I bounced down several steps before landing in a heap on the ground floor. Another team of policemen retrieved me. They hauled me to my feet.

"Professor Kevin Burch," the masked officer said as he descended the stairs. "You are under arrest for violating the Patriot Act and stand accused of domestic terrorism and inciting terroristic ideology."

The four officers who had beaten up my wife followed their leader down the stairs. After that they shuffled me outside.

The black-clad officers threw me into the back of a black van. Two more were waiting for me there. One of them slipped a dark hood over my head and cinched it tight around my neck. I couldn't breathe. Once the van started moving the officer loosened his grip on my hood.

That night I didn't know if Maya was still alive or if the officers who remained at the house had beaten her to death. What I did know was that my son had also been arrested. As for the charge of domestic terrorism they had pinned on me, it meant only one thing thanks to the Patriot Act: indefinite detention without a trial.




This is how it began: several years ago there was a presidential election. People cast their votes that year in frustration and anger, rather than with hope and reason. Out of the dark where hate and prejudice had holed up licking their respective wounds, after a thorough thrashing from the angel of political correctness, there came a reckoning. A despot was elected president. Almost immediately democracy began to decay.

Throngs of people had welcomed the two-headed beast hate and prejudice with a zest not seen since Adolf Hitler's rise to power. The new regime will call my words hyperbole, and worse; that is if this book ever lands in the hands of what little resistance is left. Those alt-right bastards will say I stirred unrest, and they would be right. There was a time when social conflict changed things in this country. Now, those in power had claimed the same. They wanted change. They wanted to reign in the people. It was easy for them.

The systematic dumbing down of this great nation had begun decades beforehand. The No Child Left behind Act solidified what certain elements of power had been after for some time: critical thinking in classrooms across the nation was suppressed by meaningless standardized tests based in rote memorization. In essence, a generation had been denied what mattered most in a free and democratic society. Out of all this came the wholesale unmasking of hate.

Before long, the hate became violence. Until a few years ago, I had been a professor of English at Temple University in Philadelphia. Those of us in academia had sought to provide a safe place for people, regardless of creed, color, or sexual orientation. We retreated further into our bubble where we became trapped.

My end came about when the university's computer main frame had been hacked. It was a hard lesson learned for those who thought the new president's constituents consisted mainly of half-wits and hillbillies. The truth of the matter, a truth many refused to accept, was that in the new regime's constituency there were a lot of intelligent people. Within days other universities had suffered a similar fate. First, there was a brief interruption of service. Then everything returned to normal; only, such normalcy didn't last long. In the hours following that well-coordinated attack, it became clear precisely what sort of information the hackers had been after.

Copies of various petitions, signed by faculty and students alike, in support of the president's opposition and of safe spaces for victims of rising hate, had been downloaded by outside entities before being systematically erased from university servers all over the country. My name was on several of those petitions. That's how they eventually got me.

The coordinated cyber attacks were just the beginning of a systematic campaign to rid the nation of those deemed a threat to the new regime. Within two years of the new president's inauguration, various hate groups and well-armed militias, many of which whose ranks were filled with former special operations soldiers, launched another series of coordinated attacks across the nation.

First, the riots came. The police in cities and municipalities everywhere were strained to their limits. That's when private security companies, some were little more than militias who supported the new president, stepped in to restore order. There was no National Guard or other units that could step in and aid the effort to re-establish order. The majority of their numbers were absorbed by various militias with the promise of higher pay in new organizations such as the America Initiative, an agency tasked with 'retraining' dissidents and helping them become more 'patriotic,' and the new Patriotism Enforcement Brigades that were established in each state. The majority of the armed forces, including active duty soldiers and reservists, had been deployed overseas. One year after the president's election America found herself embroiled in another world war that was fought on several fronts: the Middle East, China, South America, and Africa.

Martial law was declared by the president. Curfews were enforced nation-wide. It wasn't long before they came after the media. Some individuals within the media who had criticized the president and the new authoritarian regime disappeared overnight. Those were the early days. As time passed, the systematic takeover of independent media meant many more deaths; most of those executions went largely undocumented.

Through it all private security firms took over the role of the police in communities everywhere. After order was established once more, a new national police force was established out of the remnants of the failed police departments around the country. Police officers already serving in states, cities, and municipalities around the country were invited to join the national police force. Those who did not were summarily executed, charged with being a threat to the State. Once the national police force became fully operational, the president kept martial law in place so as to avoid another election. That's when the real trouble began.

Some citizens retaliated, forming loose pockets of armed resistance. For their efforts, whole families were made to disappear. Some went to labor camps; others were shot in public. America was no longer a democracy.


After they had come to my home in the middle of the night and arrested me, the first place they took me was to a county facility where new prisoners were in-processed. The national police turned me over to three corrections officers. Before they left one of the national policemen belted me in the small of my back with the butt of his rifle. I fell to the concrete floor. None of the corrections officers attempted to lift me up until the national police officers had vacated the building.

I was issued a prison uniform, photographed, fingerprinted, and escorted to a large holding cell. There were six other men in the cell as well. The seven of us sat on the floor, speaking in hushed tones. We all had backgrounds in academia; we all were charged with the same crime.

An hour later, a dozen corrections officers escorted the seven of us to what looked like a high school gym. There were single bunks lined up against all four walls. In the center of the gym stood a few tables with chairs connected to them.

"Why are we in the gym?" one of the new prisoners asked.

"Overcrowding," a corrections officer replied. "Now shut the fuck up while I sort out your bunk assignments."

They put us in the far corner of the gym. Four empty bunks along one wall, and three bunks along the other. I was assigned a bunk close to the corner.

"I hear they send people like us to that supermax prison in Colorado," another new prisoner said.

His name was Raul Pehlo. He had been a professor of political science at Rutgers University. Pehlo had come to the United States, I learned that night, from the University of Barcelona. A self-described ardent communist, Pehlo revealed himself in that first night to be quite the cynic. He had the unnerving habit of talking down to people as if they were his intellectual inferior. Unfortunately for Pehlo, such confidence did not bode well.

Outside the detention facility, society continued to unravel. Inside, the microcosm had broken had broken down even further. The corrections officers charged with keeping the peace were largely absent. The lack of order in the prison gym did not work in Pehlo's favor.

It took the other inmates less than four hours to turn on the condescending Spaniard. Four men beat him until he nearly lost consciousness. Then they held him down on the floor while a fifth man raped him.

When it was over, Pehlo cursed the lot of them in Spanish, calling them pieces of shit whose mothers were whores. Pehlo's rapist, who also spoke Spanish, ordered his crew to hold his victim down once more. The four men sat on each of Pehlo's limbs as the Spaniard lie on his back.

Pehlo's rapist took a roll of toilet paper from beneath his bunk nearby. He proceeded to beat Pehlo in the face with one end of the toilet paper roll until his victim's facial bones shattered. At some point during the beating Pehlo gave up the ghost. His attacker kept on pounding the dead man's face until he became winded several minutes later. Aferward, Pehlo's murderer got up and walked into the latrine.

The six of us sat perfectly still, unable to look at Pehlo's ruined and bloody face, and listened as the Spaniard's murderer disposed of his weapon by flushing a toilet a dozen or more times.

Pehlo's body remained where it lay all weekend. No one bothered to cover the corpse with a bed sheet. On Monday, two prison trustees entered the gym with a laundry bin. They dumped Pehlo's body into it and took him away.

I thought perhaps that there would be an investigation. Several hours after Pehlo's body had been removed; four corrections officers entered the gym. They informed Pehlo's murderer that he was being shipped to another prison.

"Come on, Rodriguez," one of them said. "Get your shit together and let's go."

Rodriguez stuffed some paperback books into a laundry bag and followed the corrections officers out of the gym.

I was lying on my bunk, wondering how long it would be before some group or another signaled me out, when I heard a lone rifle shot. It took less than an hour before some of the other inmates starting talking in hushed tones about how Rodriguez was shot trying to escape. With the report of the rifle shot still fresh in my mind, I followed the other inmates as they shuffled off to the chow hall and back. Everyone talked long into the night about Rodriguez's death; it was the only way to convince ourselves that the corrections officers hadn't carried out a summary execution. All that changed the following day when several squads of corrections officers entered the gym in full riot gear. They rounded up Rodriguez's four accomplices, shackled their hands and feet, and led them out of the gym.

I waited for the rifle shots from outside, but none came. An elderly man with a long beard came over to my bunk.

"Sometimes they hang them," he said, and left me alone after that.


Another colleague from Temple University was picked up at the Philadelphia International Airport. My first thought was the writer Thomas R. Mulraney who was something of a legend at Temple, but then why, I wondered, did he return to the United States after allegedly leaving the country before it all fell apart? The answer to that was Mulraney did not come back. The faculty member picked up at the airport was Carlton Reed.

By the time the round-ups had begun the main campus where Reed and I worked was almost empty. Those young men not called into service to fight on foreign soil sought refuge in Mexico and Canada. Young women who refused to enlist or otherwise support the war effort soon found themselves incarcerated as well. Yet, despite abysmal enrollment percentages, Reed and I, along with so many others, showed up a few times a week on campus to discuss the current situation, to plan how we might aid others in need, and to discuss the possibility of establishing safe houses for people on the run.

Reed, I knew, had family in Montreal, and one day he walked out of his office in Anderson Hall, went to the airport with the intent of flying to Montreal never to return, and was subsequently apprehended when his name showed up on a no-fly list. Reed, like the rest of the new prisoners, was charged with domestic terrorism. He had taught philosophy for thirty years at Temple University. I taught writing and literature. His office was one floor below mine.

Even now I can see in vivid detail a small poster on his office door. The poster was a pen and ink drawing of Jean-Paul Sartre, complete with a rather phallic-looking smoking pipe. Man, the caption read beneath Sartre's likeness, is condemned to be free.

Reed was shaken, but otherwise unharmed when they brought him to the county jail gym. He had joined our ranks for only a couple of hours when the guards came and hauled one of the original seven away, a professor of history named Wellington. There were no more rifle shots that night, but the old prisoner who had talked previously about hangings gave me a knowing nod.

Once Reed had heard the story of Pehlo's death, he attempted to ingratiate himself with a dozen other African-American men. He made the made the mistake of attempting to educate his newly adopted group on the socio-political reasons for their incarceration. The other black men knew well enough the circumstances that had led them to their present state. They did not need a lecture from a philosophy professor. One of the other men slugged Reed when he hinted that Malcolm X. had a role in his own assassination. Reed never got a chance to explain himself. The initial blow knocked him to the ground. Before he could get up Reed's chosen disciples stomped him to death.

As each of these men eventually had fallen victim to their own hubris, I became more frightened. I was convinced that I too would not survive in jail.

On Wednesday night, a middle-aged man with a ponytail appeared next to my bunk. His muscular arms were covered in tattoos. The moment he squatted down to look me in the eye I nearly pissed in my prison uniform.

"You part of the round-up?" he whispered.

"I'm not sure what—" I began.

"Forget it," he said. "You smell like those other eggheads. Here's some advice. Just keep your mouth shut."

I did I was told. No sooner than the stranger had offered his words of wisdom he stood up and sauntered back across the gym to his bunk. As the other prisoners settled in to sleep for the night, I remained awake; fearful, I was, that some group or another would haul me out of my bunk and do me harm. I was still awake when the corrections officers entered the gym after dawn to rouse everyone from their bunks.

Breakfast that morning consisted of cheese sandwiches and an orange drink that tasted rancid. I ate my share and finished the phony juice without saying a word.

By noon that day, a squad of corrections officers entered the gym again. They rounded up the remaining professors and me. We were taken to a windowless room where a man sat at a desk. He told us that his name was Dart, and that he was there to help us. After interviewing us, questioning our allegiance to the United States, and berating us for being less then patriotic, he signed a form in each of our files before turning us over once more to the corrections officers. Once Dart left the room the corrections officers corralled us into a hallway and marched us outdoors.

"Where you are taking us?" asked Ted Haskins.

He was a portly forty-something year-old history professor from Saint Joseph's University.

"Camp What-the-fuck-do-you-care," one of the corrections officers replied. "That's where all the domestic terrorists like you end up."

They filed us into a passenger van with blacked-out caged windows. Our hands and feet were shackled. On went the black hoods again. We were driven for what felt like hours, no doubt in a circuitous route, to throw off our sense of direction. None of us spoke a single word; our silence brought on by trepidation over what was to come.





Never in my life did I think there would come a day when I was jailed for my thoughts, for freedom of expression; never did I once consider that my country would change into what most Americans abhorred: a country ruined by stark differences and subsequently usurped by an autocrat. Yet, there I was, riding in the back of a passenger van, headed for what turned out to be an internment camp.

Since the van had made a roundabout route to the destination, there was no way to know for sure where I was when they removed my hood and took me out of the van along with the others. The camp had been outfitted with old army troop tents, portable toilets with no doors, and long wood boxes reinforced with bands of steel. Surrounding the camp was an electrified fence that rose nearly forty feet in height. The fence was capped with concertina wire. Tall pines bordered the camp. As far as I could tell on that first day, there was only one road in and out of the facility.

There were at least a thousand prisoners in the camp, and the numbers grew each day. One evening, a school bus arrived at the main gate. Thirty prisoners were loaded onto the bus. They never returned to camp. Another bus appeared the following month; another thirty prisoners were carted off into the night never to be seen again.

At the internment camp, they kept us busy during the day. Every morning work details were formed. Trees were cut down, stumps and roots were cleared, and the sandy soil was made level. As soon as enough space had been cleared, a row of troop tents were put up. The tents measured sixteen feet by thirty-two feet. Each one was outfitted with twenty cots. The guards broke us up into four-man teams when we put up the tents. Some of the prisoners made a science out of erecting the tents; others, like me, were initially baffled by the task.

The tents all had stove jacks, but as the cold of winter settled over the camp it became clear that the guards had no intention of allowing us to use the 'pot belly' stoves that were stacked against the south fence. That first winter dozens of prisoners died. The lucky ones like me suffered frost bite. It wasn't until January that I was issued old army cold-weather gear. By then it was too late. The camp doctor ended up cutting off the distal phalanges of my ring finger and my little finger on my right hand. The only saving grace was that I was able to convalesce in one of the fixed-structure tents, with heat inside, that served as the camp infirmary.

It took only a year to go from a fifty-tent internment camp to one that had nearly four hundred. They worked us day in and day out. Some of the prisoners went crazy. Others died of malnutrition. And still others chose to throw themselves against the electrified fence rather than remain a prisoner.

Before the next winter set in, the camp commandant, a man who called himself Dr. Payne, though none of us ever did figure out what he was a doctor of, had announced that the camp was complete. In all nearly a square half-mile had been cleared in the woods, and over six hundred tents erected. Through it all the school bus arrived once a month. Every month another thirty prisoners vanished. Every week new ones were brought to the camp. I learned early on not to get too friendly with anyone in my tent. One never knew who would end up taking the twilight bus ride next.


During those early days before the frost bite, before the camp was deemed completed, I had little time during daylight hours to myself. Nights were a different story. In my cot I thought about my wife Maya. I tried my best to remember life before the country had been torn apart and rebuilt into something undemocratic; despite my best efforts, it wasn't always easy.

Maya taught comparative religion at University of Pennsylvania. We had met back in the 1990 when we were both at Columbia University. In 1992 we completed our dissertations, married, and we moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia when Maya secured her tenure-track position at UPenn. Mine soon followed at Temple University. Two weeks after the presidential election in 2016, someone had carved messages on Maya's 2010 Volvo station wagon. On the engine hood the culprit wrote Die Jew Bitch. On the doors that same person had carved Jews Out of America. UPenn Police and the Philadelphia Police Department considered the act a hate crime, but the anti-Semitic vandal was never apprehended.

Our first child Jane, named after my mother, was born 1994. During the election year Jane had been a first-year law student at Harvard. Over the winter break of her second year at Harvard Law School, she had decided to stay in Boston where she was interning at a law firm. One Saturday Jane walked into a synagogue to attend services. She was among ten other congregation members who never made it out. That afternoon a self-avowed white supremacist had decided, according to a YouTube post, to hasten the coming of the Fourth Reich. He walked into the synagogue armed with two Glock pistols and shot my daughter and fourteen others before he shot himself.

Four weeks after we buried our daughter I was taken in for questioning by two plainclothes agents of the newly formed National Police Force. They wanted to know about a demonstration I had attended the previous weekend with Tom Mulraney. The agents questioned my motivations for attending the rally that had been held in protest of the election results. The agents placed large color photographs of me standing near the steps of a museum where the rally had been held. They asked me if I considered myself a patriot. They wanted the names of other people I knew who may have attended the rally. When I asked them if I was being charged with a crime they countered with more talk of patriotism. The interview went on for a few hours. The agents were interested in what I taught at Temple University, the novels and stories I included in my syllabi. When I answered they wanted to know why I wasn’t teaching literature that wasn't subversive. I told them that all literature was subversive to one degree or another. They went back to the subject of patriotism; namely, my lack of it; as if it were a malady for which there was no cure.

After the interview I went home. When I told Maya what had happened she contacted our lawyer Bernie Hoffmann. He advised us to contact him immediately the next time. The next time came three nights later when they kicked in my front door and charged me with being a domestic terrorist. When I learned that they had picked up my son Dylan that same night it felt as if someone had cut a hole in my heart.

Before I had children I used to cringe when other parents talked about what such saints their children were. After I became a father, I understood what other parents meant. It had nothing to do with children behaving themselves or never acting out of turn; no, I found out that it meant the way children touch some part of us on the inside, much like those saints of old who did the same for people in their lives.

My son Dylan was like that. He attended high school in Bryn Mawr. After the election, there were incidents at school. One day some boys cornered Dylan. They wanted to know where his allegiance stood. My son was slight of build, abhorred violence of any sort, and did his best to talk his way out of the situation. He managed to escape harm that day, but it did not end there. Even after he graduated high school and started college a strong current divided young people. No father ever wanted to see his child suffer; in that respect, I was no different. On the night I was arrested and my son was apprehended, something inside me broke. I refused to operate under the false delusion that everything was going to work out. Dylan admired his mother, and for that I was proud. Maya was intelligent, and she was not afraid to voice her informed opinion about anything. By the time my son started college that year he was just coming into his own. Dylan had learned to speak up for himself, at last. Still, no matter how proud a parent I was; no matter how much Maya and I tried to instill in him that he should always defend those who couldn't defend themselves; no matter how often we reminded both of our children that while other people are borne into circumstances different from theirs they needed to exercise respect; moreover, no matter how unpopular their convictions may have been in the face of beliefs held by others, they needed to stand by that which they knew was true. For these reasons, I harbored little hope about Dylan's predicament—alone now and part of the system that sought to make free-thinking people into something else. My heartbreak was borne from the knowledge that there was no one who could save him from the savage system now in place.


To pass the time I often remembered those days when I lived as free as any other man. Shortly after I began to teach full-time at Temple University, I met a rather illusory figure in the English Department. Thomas R. Mulraney was his name; T.R. Mulraney, if you were familiar with his work. Unless you are a science fiction fan, you probably have never heard of him. Mulraney had carved a niche in the science fiction and fantasy genres by the time he was twenty-five years old. His most-famous work, The Nebula Tide at Kaethryx, was a novel detailing an alien named Isolk Benu's visit to Earth. Isolk arrives on planet Earth in order to study human nature, and soon becomes enamored with humanity despite the many ills governments around the world continued to unleash on their citizens.

A Philadelphia native, Mulraney lived with his maternal grandparents in West Philadelphia until he was sixteen years old. In 1955, he joined the merchant marines. He ended up quitting when he arrived in France. From there Mulraney found his way to Algiers where he joined the National Liberation Front, fought in the Battle of Algiers, and returned to America in 1960 after hiding out in Tangiers, Seville, and Faro, Portugal before boarding a cargo ship in Lisbon that brought him to the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal.

Three months later, Mulraney completed his GED while living in a Greenwich Village studio apartment. In the fall of 1961, he enrolled at Columbia University where he majored in English. By the time Mulraney had graduated he had published a dozen short stories and his first novel entitled The Blind Crowd Cries Static.

Two years later, his reputation within the science fiction community grew to mythic proportions with the publication of The Nebula Tide at Kaethryx. He granted few interviews after the book came out. In one rare interview that appeared in the New York Times Book Review section, Mulraney talked at length about the transmission of knowledge through myth; as for details concerning his next novel, he remained tight-lipped.

Nearly twenty years after he had graduated from Columbia, Mulraney was accepted at Princeton University where he earned a masters degree in English in 1984. Throughout those decades he kept writing, even as completed his thesis at Princeton, but none of the novels he wrote came near the masterwork that was The Nebula Tide at Kaethryx.

After completing his graduate degree at Princeton, Mulraney returned to Philadelphia in 1988 where he took a full-time position at Temple University teaching literature and fiction writing.

By the time I was hired at the university Mulraney was nearing retirement from academia. He had reached a god-like status among students and alumni, and everyone within the English department deferred to him as if he was a Christ figure. To hear my colleagues tell it, Mulraney was that rare sage who readily shared his wisdom expecting nothing in return. The more I heard about him, the more eager I became to meet him.

"Whatever you do," Paul Logan told me, "don't look him directly in the eye."

Logan was the English Department Chair, an old-school academic who never received the memo detailing how turtlenecks and tweed jackets had gone out of style.

I found out soon enough what Logan had meant. Mulraney was self-conscious about an old war wound that had left him partially blind in his right eye. A scar ran over his face from the left side of his forehead at a downward angle over his cataractous right eye, and ended on his right cheek. Later, he would joke that the injury had been administered by a Marseilles prostitute whom a younger Mulraney had stiffed after spending an otherwise enjoyable evening in the prostitute's company.

"He was, alas, dafter than I was with a blade," Mulraney once said of the legendary encounter.

My first meeting with Mulraney took place on an elevator in Anderson Hall. When I boarded the car it was crammed with students. After stopping at several floors, the elevator emptied out leaving Mulraney and me. I had recognized him immediately from his profile. His author photographs that graced the dust jackets of his novels were always taken from the side in an effort to hide the scar on his face. Mulraney was older, of course, and gaunter than I had anticipated. Born originally in Trinidad to a young Trinidadian woman and her Spanish lover, Mulraney's tawny complexion contrasted his long white hair pulled back in a braided ponytail.

When the elevator neared the tenth floor, Mulraney stepped toward the doors first as they opened. He looked up and watched lit-up numbers over the door as they flashed 8, 9, and 10.

"This job would be so much easier," Mulraney announced just before the doors slid open, "if it weren't for all the students."

Four weeks would go by before the legend spoke to me again. The next time was to playfully chastise me about my PhD. dissertation on the use of light and shadow in Milton's Paradise Lost. Aside from fancying himself a comedian, Mulraney found great satisfaction in knowing something about each of his colleagues in the English department. It was my turn that semester. I was the new guy. Mulraney was merciful, and for that I was grateful.


Yesterday my confessor visited me for the last time. His name was Dart—though I suspect that his name, like everything else that had to do with the president-turned-dictator, was a lie. The first time I had met Dart was in the county lock-up before I was transferred to the internment camp. From there he followed me like Dr. Frankenstein did his monster; unrelenting, he was, in his pursuit to see me accept the new patriotism that everyone else was embracing in order to save themselves.

Before I tell you more about Dart I should tell you a little about the camps; for there were many beyond the prison system. In jail, I had learned that there were eight reeducation camps per state. As for reintegration camps, no one knew the exact number. Those camps operated as black sites; officially, they did not exist. The way the system had been set up was that enemies of the president (they were no longer referred to as enemies of the state) were imprisoned in existing jails, and the corrections system served as the first line in breaking the spirit of liberalism. After that, if a prisoner showed no signs of coming around to supporting the powers that be, he was transferred to one of the reeducation camps under the false pretense that such a move was one step closer to freedom. In truth, select criteria had to be met to be moved to a reeducation camp; namely, having the will to protest and to remember what freedom meant before democracy became a thing of the past. If one raised too much hell in a reeducation camp, he was sent to a reintegration camp. As more people were apprehended and charged with domestic terrorism as enemies of the president, more news came to those of us on the inside. Newly arrived prisoners all maintained that reintegration camps were the last stop. As far as any of the freshly arrived prisoners knew, no one had ever made it out of a reintegration camp.


About me

Richard J. O'Brien was born in Camden, NJ. He currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In 2012, he completed his MFA in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. His stories have appeared in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Two Cities Review, Encounters Magazine, and others. Richard works as an adjunct professor at Stockton and Temple Universities. He has published two novels, The Garden of Fragile Things (Vagabondage Press) and Infestation (Sinister Grin Press).

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
The inspiration for this story came from the most recent election as I thought about a prequel of sorts to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Portraying the torture scenes in this book. That had to be one of the hardest parts.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
This book came from a short story I wrote years ago about how the old Soviet regime defeated America without firing a single shot. That story is lost, but the image of imprisoned intellectual like the main character in this book, a man jailed for believing in freedom, has stayed with me.

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