Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Romance of Ambrose Bierce #3, 1964
Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Romance of Ambrose Bierce #3, 1964

Battleground is scorched, scattered with strings of matchbox cars and hundreds—thousands—of individual crayons, mostly the red and blue. Stray little ones scurry at sudden loud sounds. We play Elvis on dozens of old record players at the border, through their hollow streets. They don’t come out. I try The Beatles, still no luck; but I like The Beatles, so I leave it on.

The situation has always been this way, generation after generation, God knows why. I don’t have a choice. It’s just what I do, and I don’t mean to brag, but I do it well. It’s a science—no, an art, really. The occupation began in—well that’s not important, but what remains is this state.

The specifics of this occupation should remain anonymous, dear subject, but rest assured: I am proud to serve as your dictator.

Through the city streets, desolate and spooky, some boys and girls wander, ravage the streets; paper bags and empty cans rattle, blown down the avenues. I hear some dissonant singing, creepy in the stillness of the dour street, see them skipping on hopscotch squares drawn with blue chalk on the street.

They wear blue collectively now. I think it’s bad.

Now we set up on top of an apartment complex in Washington Heights overlooking their territory. Me and General Amley—kind of my right hand man, not a great record but has potential—and General Marrow are up here strategizing. There’s a map out on the table. This is us, says Amley, and this is them. She draws a straight red line down the map of Manhattan.

I look down to where the red line corresponds and there is the barricade. It’s lined with barbed wire and reeks of spoiled milk. I put the binoculars to my eyes. Little red wagons, cups of apple juice stacked on bookcases filled with essentials—dictionary, Bible, etc.—Playdough, big stuffed Gorillas, blue plaid blankets, stacks of DVDs, endowed with innocence and a sense of familiarity. See a few of them run for cover as my guys launch “Advanced Readers: Level 3” booklets at them.

7th battalion goes out on the East flank, where they are exposed. Littler ones sling flaming t-shirts wrapped around baseballs at us and we just watch, wait, all we need to do.

Handcuffs rattle—the ones we dropped in.

The blue and the red shift, block by block, Tetris-shaped territories seized, lost to packs, gained by us, back and forth. I can see it in my mind like a little game, a harlequin, tetragonal color show.

Destroyer of worlds is no dull occupation—accountant of sins, doctor of agony; death is no walk in the park.

Meanwhile on the corner of 12th and 45th, we took down a few blocks with TNT for a helicopter pad. Buildings crumbled slowly and with a far off rumble and collapsing concrete blocks that I watched through the binoculars.

Vacant voices, strings of vile slurs binding the crumbling city together. Sweetness, innocence, tranquility, watercolor blossoms on the trees that line Glenridge Ave.

Catch sight through a window, in their land, a group of them, a couple boys, two girls. They are scavenging through the abandoned apartment, find canned food, books, take the TV. I follow them with my binoculars and see them scramble to put the TV at the border with the barricade then scramble back—pretty cute, really.

Then we shout through the megaphone, Shut the hell up Kevin. You’re a weenie. The others turn inwards in a circular form and point and Kevin cowers and they mock him in a swelling cacophony.

Two years pass. Have built up our barricade on the West side—gender roles, estimated salaries, standardized curricula, societal expectations—unbreakably solid. We separate them, gradually.

They quickly form a line at the DMV, three years having passed. Then some found a cabinet full of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and crashed an Escalade into a jewelry shop on 17th. Now a pack of them—blue blurs, Bacchic, demented, faces painted with indigo tempera—hop the barricade—movie posters and picture frames—in a charging pack, javelining sharpened billiards sticks into my barracks at the border. I radio for the uprising to be let alone. Let them gain false hope—the most dangerous kind, the only dangerous kind—socioeconomic mobility, education “the great equalizer”—then we’ll crush them when they are tallest, shanghai them with trinkets and diplomas, grant and divest.

It’s begun to get cold, as it does. I worry some of them aren’t figuring out how to stay warm with the heat out.

I order a couple platoons down to the border to gain ground, it being time. Torch the barricade, as we have done so many times. Armed with riot shields, the phalanx pushes forward, rolling through the streets, scattering the kids—I see a few try to fight but never struggle free from my men. My strong and well-trained men. They have always been too powerful for the little boys and girls.

Saw one of them out in the street from the HeliCam—asking for it in the first place, if you ask me—playing the Tuba. Very bad, annoying, making lightsaber sounds. We shot him. He wasn’t playing it right. We had to, you know?

Four years pass. We finally take Drake off the loud speakers—he’s been playing the whole time—and replace it with loud speakers blasting their parents’ voices—George, are you going to be a doctor like your daddy? Loretta, you better not bring home that black boy I saw on your Facebook page.

We drop 6 tons of heroin on them with helicopters. I see at a distance, through the binoculars, the herd rush to the powdery white pile (new binoculars, very powerful).

We walk down the streets, boots slapping blood-puddled pavement, firing t-shirt launchers filled with suits from the hip and round them into cubicles like sheep.

So we have begun to gain ground, block by block. Two years pass. Step over the bodies—pile them. Another year.

Do you enjoy reading the Nass?

Please consider donating a small amount to help support independent journalism at Princeton and whitelist our site.