A story written for a publication called 'After The Kool Aid Is Gone' but not submitted.
| Blinkers Off
Welcome to the age of the Kool Aid where anything is possible if you just listen to the right man. You'd have to admit that initially the taste was pretty stomach churningly disgusting. Some of you stuck with the disgust and found other ways to quench your thirst. Let's face it, there were plenty of other alternatives, most far more pleasant and refreshing.
The thing about Kool Aid that not many knew was it was addictive. A couple of weeks of ingesting the stuff and you'd find yourself pretty much hooked. It was made that way - of course it was. What better way to bring in the dollars than by having something widely available be so habit-forming! And as with so many addictive substances, the longer you drank it the more you'd desire it. These Kool Aiders could never ever get enough.
Perhaps it wouldn't have mattered if someone had not discovered a way to use it to their own advantage. Another craze that would have died a natural death. What they added to the mixture, and even more how they managed to get it into the recipe, was one of life's great unsolved mysteries. Even now, when it's over and the nation is trying to cope with the repercussions, no one can come up with any explanation that would hold up to examination.
Those that became addicted to the Kool Aid began to slowly lose their connections to reality. As with so many addictive substances, those that partook of the demon drink began to look through a haze of illusion, or maybe delusion would be a more correct way of putting it. They became gullible, ultra-receptive to auto-suggestion and were no longer capable of telling fact from fiction, lie from truth. They sucked up this man's words as though they were manna from Heaven and they believed.
Was he behind it? Or was he simply another pawn put into play by invisible powers that had no plans of ever revealing their identities? Whichever was the case, Reginald Peters seized the opportunity to push for his own slice of power. Fame, or perhaps infamy, he already had, along with the fortune. You'd have thought that his immense wealth would have alienated the bulk of the population, for how could he possibly understand a thing about life while he was closeted in something akin to an ivory tower.
Quite simply, Reginald Peters craved the adoration, hungered for the spotlight. He would put himself forward for the position of President, and would become the most influential and powerful man in the entire world. The Kool Aid flowed through the brains and the bodies of so many individuals and for some reason they hung on to his words, never even paused to question his promises.
Reginald Peters, multi-billionaire would make the country and its people great again!
The world looked on, somewhat bemused by the spectacle. He wouldn't have a chance of winning, or so they believed; and a good job too, for those policies announced with such pride could do nothing but separate and segregate the world more than ever. He spoke of peace and stability, and yet all the ideas that he voiced were the very antithesis to achieving this state.
Had politics ever been played with such a disregard to the rules before? This man was certainly prepared to pick up heaps of earth to fling around, muddying reputation after reputation, and slowly but surely, Reginald Peters began to creep his way up in the polls.
Rally after rally was held, Kool Aid handed out freely, guzzled greedily, and by the time their hero took to the stage he could have said anything and those 'supporters' would have cheered him on. They didn't care about anything other than satisfying their craving, and this man, well he could easily afford to finance their addiction.
If the cameras had zoomed in they would have picked up the crazed eyes that stared in deaf stupefaction at the man on the podium. Reginald Peters continually referred to his belief in God, and to his zombiefied army within the electorate he was the closest to that that could ever be found in human form
Reginald Peters was the only man that would lead them towards a better life. He HAD to be elected and he was.
The shock waves rippled around the world. What had just happened? This country that had been friendly and supportive to so many other nations had now struck out. Hostility was now the name of the game. Greed and domination were openly preached, while the country President Peters reigned over became ever more fractured.
His supporters were delirious in their victory. As the Kool Aid lit up their veins they cheered and taunted those who had stood against him. They partied like they had never partied before, and maybe the recipe was made more potent because they'd have fallen to the ground and kissed his feet if they had been given the opportunity.
Any Kool Aid that had made its way to foreign shores was recalled. Every drop of it was going to be needed to keep Reginald Peters in that position, but there was another consideration too. What if suspicion ever became aroused, and another government carried out a thorough investigative analysis? Would they discover the secret of his success? It was too great a risk to take, and after all, there were so many addicts at home there would be no loss of revenue. In fact it only made commercial sense to raise the price. The addicts, well they'd be prepared to pay whatever it took.
During his first term as President, the country became further divided. Those that drunk the Kool Aid refused to listen to a word that was said against their hero. Such was the strength of their delusion that, when the next election loomed, they were more than willing to take up arms and defend the man, the only man that would make their nation even greater, even more powerful. Their nation deserved no less.
He would not win again, could not win again, the world believed, and yet he did. The streets ran with blood that night, for those that followed Reginald Peters went crazy with victory. Anyone that stood against him was an enemy of the country and deserved to die. Just like any other enemy if the nation was to ever reach the pinnacle of greatness that was its due.
Emboldened by his victory, the re-elected President followed his dreams unchecked. The Kool Aid continued to flow, many addicts drinking it now from the moment they woke up until the moment they fell asleep. What other explanation was there for their blind devotion to a man who dismantled the few remaining societal safeguards one by one.
Welfare? Who needed welfare, for there was plenty of work for those that were willing to put in a bit of effort.
"Look at me!" he spoke from the podium. "I had to work for my money. And I bet you good folks did too. No work, no money. It's as simple as that, my friends"
And they whooped and stamped and clapped their hands, even those followers that were dependant on the welfare he was condemning. Forget the rent, the food, the clothes - so long as there was Kool Aid things would be fine.
When the hurricanes came in from the sea, and when the fires burned down house after house, Reginald Peters did not go and visit the areas in person, like previous Presidents had done in times of adversity. Instead he took to the airwaves, intoning his message in a slow, unnaturally deep voice.
"I think we should look at these events as an act of God." He stared sorrowfully into the camera. "Maybe there's been a lot of sinning going on, and you all need to clean up your act."
If the cameras had zoomed in then, they would have captured the gleaming eye of a zealot, one who was so egotistic that he knew he was speaking for The Great One. His words were received in one of two ways. Those that were blinkered by their addiction fell to their knees and prayed for forgiveness, while those that did not indulge in Kool Aid drinking were outraged. How dare that man stand up and turn the finger of blame on the residents themselves? Where was the help, the support that a President owed his people?
Casey Hollins took to the podium. "The people are not to blame for the weather, at least not in my book. How dare a President stand up and throw out accusations like stones, at the very people who have lost everything."
It was as though a subliminal message had been sent out, for all of the President's followers stooped to pick up stones and then proceeded to hurl them in the direction of any that stood on the other side of the political divide.
Whereas the country had been fractured before, there was now seemingly such a great gaping chasm that it would never be able to be breached. The President whipped up hatred at every opportunity, and will Casey Hollins urged his supporters to restrain themselves, too often that proved impossible. There was an undeniable feeling that a Civil War was taking place, in all but name that is. The world looked on in silence, appalled by what they were witnessing.
And then the Kool Aid began to run out.
First one ingredient was no longer available, then another, as crops began to fail. Appeals went out to other countries but they all turned deaf ears towards these pleas. It was hardly a famine situation. If there had been genuine hardship, all would have helped; they would have stepped forward to offer aid, in spite of the animosity their leader had aimed quite blatantly them. But they weren't going to put themselves out for a drink, no matter how much money he plied them with. Let the population drink something else.
Frantic messages were passed around. It didn't matter; there were other drinks that the drug could be added to.
"Hell, Mr President, a switch in the brand might work in your favor. You know, attract more followers that maybe didn't drink Kool Aid."
And so he took to the airwaves, promoting another drink, urging his followers to switch to a 'superior brand.' The Kool Aid junkies could not understand. That other stuff... it just didn't cut it. They needed their fix and they needed it now.
Some were so devoted to the President that they tried it for several weeks, but they were getting the debilitating headaches that those that did not drink SoCo were suffering. On any street you would be able to pick them out, for their faces sagged in defeat while their bodies cramped and trembled. Uncontrolled withdrawal from the Kool Aid and its additive was just as cruel as that of morphine, heroin, and in fact many turned to such drugs in an attempt to find relief.
"What's going on?" The President was fuming. "Why is SoCo not working?"
"We're trying to figure it out, Sir. It appears that there was a reaction between the drug and one of the no longer available ingredients that made Kool Aid so potent."
"Well, fix it! This is a problem that I will not allow. If things aren't sorted by next week, I promise you that heads will roll." He left the threat that the head attached to the chief scientist's neck would be one of them implied but he might as well have made the threat. The chief scientist nervously rubbed at his neck.
They worked all through the day and all through the night, trying to find the solution. And then they made the worst discovery possible. The Kool Aid effect needed the one crop that had failed and was not grown anywhere else in the world. There was no other way of replicating its delusional properties, with either natural of manufactured ingredients.
"Who's going to tell him?" The chief scientist emptied his desk, ready to make his escape to another country before the Big Man found out. No one volunteered and eventually it fell to the Vice President to deliver the blow.
"Oh, no, no, no. Don't you stand there and tell me it can't be done. It will be done, and they are all going to once again bow down before me in adoration."
There was no avoiding the fact the President, Reginald Peters, was crazy. Totally cuckoo! What to do about him though was a different matter, for he had the military might firmly in his pocket, and there was no conceivable chance that he would concede without a fight.
Just as crazed, or perhaps more so than their manipulator, were his followers whose blinkers were ever so slowly beginning to crumble. Where was the greatness that they had been promised? What had happened to dissolve the new fairness that they had been so convinced had already been delivered?
They looked around themselves and saw squalor where there had not been any before. Neighborhoods were split between party political lines. If you lived in the wrong street, you'd have had to move out or be forced out. Men and women stood and scratched their heads at the once adequate homes that had been reduced to little more than rubble; derelict, graffiti covered homes for the vermin that seemed to have multiplied tenfold while the occupants had fled. They hadn't been responsible, had they?
Shops were looted, homes were broken into, for the hardened few who had managed to secret away a stash of Kool Aid were ever more desperate. They would not desert their 'Chosen One' and would kill to cling on to their illusions.
From around the globe we watched as men, women and children shot each other over a can of drink. It was beyond comprehension. A helicopter swooped in, streaming live footage of the violence; some of these people were literally tearing others apart, clearly in the grip of some type of mania. We could see the madness, the lunacy in the eyes of those... savages until we heard the missile make contact and were confronted with spiraling images and cries of terror from the crew until the stream cut off.
The President took to the airwaves once more. "No, this is not the way to behave," he said, as though he was lecturing some errant children rather than talking to his fellow citizens. "By behaving like this you are playing into the enemy's hands."
Enemy! That was the only word that penetrated their fogged minds, the perception having become overloaded by the facts, the truth. The President had not identified the enemy but that there was one, not one of them doubted that. Who? Was it their husband? Their wife? The little old lady from across the street? Everyone represented a possible foe to their increasing paranoia.
What should we do? Could we, the wider world, really stand by and watch a country that had been so proud of the freedom that it gave its citizens destroy itself? Contact was made, along with offers of assistance, each of which the President rebuffed.
"Stay out of it, okay! Don't you come meddling or you'll wish you hadn't." Reginald Peters said to government after government. "I'm not afraid of a war. You want to come sticking your nose into what doesn't concern you, that's what you'll get."
A month after the Kool Aid ran out things began to calm down on the streets. There were still bodies to come across, left to lie where they fell, but the violence that had burned through so many veins seemed to have become extinguished. Eyes that had burned with hatred now looked out with a clarity that brought with it shame and defeat.
Had they really done all this? Impossible, for were they not part of a proud nation, the best nation in the world. It was hard to believe when people sat on the street, sobbing in pain and unable to afford the medical treatment they urgently needed. Whole families camped out in parks, in shopping mall car parks, anywhere where they could rest their weary bodies.
Reginald Peters had round-the-clock guards standing beside him. Even when he slept, there would be a man stationed either side of his bed. It made no sense to him that people were blaming him for the decimation of his people and their lives.
"Don't listen to the lies that say you caused this," he appealed from the televisions. "It's all fake; the films, the reports. Nothing more than fabrications by those on the left."
Those that had been such ardent followers of the man such a short time ago might have glanced at the televisions, unable to make sense of how the man who had seemed so fine and upstanding, so enigmatic, had turned into the man that spoke to them now. Egocentric, disconnected from life and his fellow men; how could they have ever fallen for the lines that said they would become a great nation again. Now he was a man who hid behind his armed body-guards. None of them were left deluded enough to ever believe he would give them the time of day.
Maybe there would have been anger turned towards him, regardless of the self-destructive nature of such an attack should it ever be attempted. President Reginald Peters was untouchable as he stood there and ranted and railed, demanding his people to get back into line. His eyes burned now with an intensity that some believed could only come from the Devil himself.
They did collect themselves into groups though, and they marched, but they were not heading towards towns and cities. Heads down, shoulders slumped in defeat, they marched towards cliffs and mountains by the sea, ravines that dropped steeply into rock strewn rivers. And there, overcome with the guilt and the shame that had flooded in through their now open eyes, they stepped off into thin air like lemmings.