By Jared Kavanagh
On the Sea Lion Press Forums, we run a monthly Vignette Challenge. Contributors are invited to write short stories on a specific theme (changed monthly).
The Sixty-First Vignette Challenge is on Sealion II, and can be found here. The very first Vignette Challenge was on Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of Britain in WW2; on the fifth anniversary of these challenges, we return to the initial theme.
This vignette was from the Fifty-Sixth Challenge, on the subject of Mayors.
The Last Election
“Once we had kings!” a man proclaimed.
I stopped abruptly to look at the speaker. Someone bumped into me, and exclaimed a biologically improbable obscenity about my ancestry. I mumbled an apology without turning around.
“Proud rulers! Each a sovereign in his own city!”
The speaker stood where the Street of Dreams joined Awaki’s main square. People hurried back and forth past him. Most of the arrivals and departees carried something or, in one case, led a line of ducks. The cries and haggling of market day buzzed behind the speaker.
I shuffled back against a wall. No need to block passers-by any more than the haranguer already was.
“A king had pride! What do we have now?” The speaker wore a sash that proclaimed his skin was Red. A sash which was only necessary because imperial soldiers were too ignorant to tell different skins apart by their clothing.
“A lot of words!” I called out.
The speaker ignored me. “Mayors! Administrators without authority! Pretenders without power! Claimants without, without-”
“Clout?” I said.
“Precisely! Mark this: A king could command. A mayor can only – ”
“Rule in the name of the Emperor?”
The speaker shuddered. “Never would I impugn the Emperor! I speak only of our mayors!”
A handful of others had stopped to watch the speaker. All of them were Reds. Sometimes those of other skins turned to watch him as they passed, but none stayed to listen. Each skin belonged with its own.
“The Emperor rules,” I said. “We need no kings.”
Some of the other watchers murmured agreement.
The speaker raised his voice even further. “The Emperor never deposed them! So long as the city paid its tribute, he was content. The kings deposed themselves!”
Another man stopped nearby to observe. Unlike the others, his sash proclaimed his skin as Gold.
The speaker continued. “The kings had their own power. A mayor relies on those beneath him acclaiming him. An election.”
“If our last king abdicated of his own choice, how say you that we should fix it?” I asked. The Gold one nodded at my words.
“Simple: elect me mayor.”
I burst out laughing. The other watching Reds did the same. Oddly, the Gold one remained straight-faced.
I shouted: “You’re a Red. Mayors are Greens. So are kings.”
“I don’t want your votes so I can rule!”
“I won’t vote for a joke!” I called, mentally setting aside the large number of mayors who turned out to be jokes.
“Once mayor, I will chose a king. Of the proper skin. Green. He will rule from then on. Rule always.” A bronze-armoured imperial soldier strode in from the Street of Dreams. The speaker hastily added: “Under the Emperor, of course!”
“So why should we waste a vote on you?”
The speaker grinned. “Vote for me, and you will never have to vote again!”
Jared Kavanagh is the author of a number of books available through SLP, including Walking Through Dreams, part 1 of the Lands of Red and Green series; and The Proxy Dance, book 2 in the Lands of Red and Gold Series. He was also editor of the anthologies Alternate Australias and Apocalypse How?
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