Journey Through Genres - Alternate History - November 2020
“Did you see the post today in the morning edition? We have til noon to comply. Any ideas?”
The Monday morning meeting of the rulers turned their attention to Sir George Allen. The future of the Free State of Montana depended on the vote to be taken this afternoon. Ever since Montana had seceded from the Union of the States in 1918 during the great pandemic of the Spanish Flu, the citizens had selected several men and women from across the large area previously known as the State of Montana.
“I think we should set up a committee to oversee this new ruling as soon as possible.” Dame Mary Libby stated.
“Oh come on. Another committee? We cannot be governed by committee.” Sir Mike Durant stood, pounded the table. “Let’s just set policy and deal with this garbage now. What does King James want now?”
King James was the de facto ruler of the far flung cities in Free Montana. James Monroe Harrison, a native Montanan, was leader of the Free Montana party. His political party took control after the United States fell into chaos with the Spanish Flu pandemic. The citizens of Montana decided they would secede from the United States early in 1918. Since then the counties in the newly formed Free State of Montana formed a loose alliance. Harrison seems had little opposition and had been ruling now for over a year. Each county sent representatives to the capital now located in more centrally located Winnett.
The constitution of Free Montana set up the ruler as King, the representatives as Sirs and Dames. The citizens thought highly of the English constitution and had no problems reverting back to the ideas of monarchy.
“Seems the King wants to set guards at the borders. We need to keep the flu out of our country. Not only the country, but each town and each house as well. We need to put a lid on this evil pronto folks.” Sir George Allen read from the proclamation.
“We need to guard all roads. Then all towns need to assign guards. Towns need to select honest men and women who will be assigned homes to search and guard. The inhabitants will be locked into their homes, folks. No one will be allowed to leave their houses once the law goes into effect. No one into our country, no one into our towns, no one into the houses.”
Loud cries came up from the assembly.
“Are you crazy?”
“What kind of insanity is this?
“Lock the people into their homes? Whose idea was this?
Sir Allen raised his gavel, struck the table for order.
“Enough! Order, people Order!”
The assembly came to a fractious order, but murmurs still persisted.
“King James has issued the proclamation and is it our duty to enforce it. This evil sickness must be stopped at our borders. Our people need to be protected as if a raging horde of barbarians were at the gates. Think of the past, the barbarian Huns of Roman times and the Mongolians of Genghis Khan fame. Do we want those types of people invading?”
Allen’s speech went on for the better part of an hour. He whipped the constituents up into a lather about the idea that raging hordes of barbarians would be soon at the borders, ready to bring the sickness to Free Montana.
The votes were unopposed. Committees were formed. The nine original counties in Montana were reestablished, new boundaries were drawn, making law enforcement easier and consolidating manpower in the sparsely populated countryside.
The new order from King James was posted in the new county seats for all citizens to read. The order would go into effect on May 1, 1919.
To All Counties in the Sovereign Free Montana:
So Established to be Effective May 1, 1919
A Searcher’s Office.
A searcher’s office will be established to find those homes that are filled with persons that are sick. It will be noted what illness is in those homes, If any home is found to be infected with illness, said home will be shut up, locked from the outside, and reported to the sheriff. The house will be marked with a red X
A Watchmen’s Office.
A Watchmen’s office shall be established by the sheriff to go to homes that are reported with illnesses. To every infected house there will be assigned two watchmen. One watchman will be assigned from 6 AM to 10 PM. Another watchman will be assigned from 10 PM to 6 AM. The watchman will be responsible for making sure the inhabitants of the house do not leave the house for any reason. If necessary items, such as food or medicines are needed, the watchmen will be required to obtain those for the inhabitants of the houses. The watchmen shall have the only keys to the houses. Once the illness has left the house, the lock is removed, the red X is removed and the inhabitants can resume their normal lives.
A Burial of the Dead.
If someone in a watched house dies, those people in the house can put the dead person near the front door of the house and let the watchman know. The watchman will make arrangements for removal of the body. The inhabitants cannot remove the dead body.
So let it be written, So let it be done.
The Free Montana Rulers
The orders were written and transmitted to each county seat in Free Montana. After the posting on county courthouses, the outcry was immediate. Sheriff offices were overwhelmed with complaints. But there were also many applicants for watchers and searchers. The peeping toms, the curious, the busy bodies. All wanted to be in on the action it seemed.
Huddled in their home in the little town of Ryegate, Humboldt and Gay Dennis talked about the order they’d seen on the Beaverhead County courthouse door.
“I fear for this, Hum. Little George has a fever. It came on last night. I worry someone will come lookin’ and lock us in. What will come of us if that happens? What will come of the farm?” Gay paced the floor. She had just put little George into his bed upstairs.
“We just have to do our daily routine. Little G is a baby. No one’s been by to check on us yet. If anyone comes, tell them he’s napping.” Humboldt put on his coveralls and muck boots, headed for the backdoor.
“I’m off to the barn. Ring the bell if you need me.” He kissed Gay and headed out.
Humboldt had no sooner reached the barn then Sir William Batch and Sir Drake Durgin pulled up in Durgin’s truck. They got out, looked about. Gay saw them from the kitchen window. She stepped onto the back porch.
“Hello there. How can I help you, Sirs?” Gay prayed little G stayed asleep and not fuss.
“Good morning Miss Gay. We’re just here as Searchers. I trust you saw the proclamation. We just need to have a look-see.” Sir William Batch gloved hand shook Gay’s bare hand. He craned his neck to try to see in the house.
Gay stepped in front of the door.
“Oh, well. My, yes, we did see that paper. And yes, we understand. Do you need to go inside right now? You see, little G is asleep. I just put him down and I hate to wake him. He’s hard to get back to sleep once he gets woke up so soon and all…”
The two searchers looked at each other. There was no rule for this eventuality.
Humboldt saw the men from the barn. He raced to the porch.
“Can I help you?”
“Hey there, Hum. We were just stoppin’ by to check on the place. You know, the new order’n all. Things okay here?” Sir Drake Durgin shook Humboldt’s hand, his hands gloved.
“Fine and dandy. No worries here. We’re just fine; fine and dandy.”
The four stood without talking for a few seconds.
Sir Durgin broke the silence. “We really need to search your home, folks. It’s our sworn duty, you see. We need to make sure all is in order here. Be sure you aren’t harboring any infected people in there.”
After a few hours, the two searchers made their way to Sir Drake Durgin’s truck. It had taken longer at the Dennis homestead than they had anticipated. But the house now had a big red X painted on all the locked doors, the sign that no one should enter. The animals had all been loosed into the pasture to fend for themselves.
“I feel kinda bad about them. But it’s our job to protect the rest of Ryegate. We took an oath.” Sir Batch wiped his bloody hands on one of the rags Durgin kept in the back of his truck.
“No one said this task would be easy. But future generations will come to appreciate the steps we’re taking to make the world safe.”
Sir Drake Durgin backed the truck out of the drive, they turned one last time to look at the house, then drove down the driveway to the next family on their list.