As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from their play, and stared at him with such fixed statue-like gaze, and such strange, uncouth, lack-luster countenances, that his heart turned within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.
By degrees Rip’s awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage, which he found had much of the flavor of excellent gin. He was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another; and he reiterated his visits to the flagon so often that at length his fear was overpowered, and he decided to converse with his company.
“My name is Rip Van Whitey,” he slurred, “And it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
The games ceased and once again the crowed looked at him with an uninviting glower. The awkward silence was too much for poor Rip to bear, so he gulped his beverage nervously.
The men looked away, some returning their attention to their game. The commander apparent took a step toward Rip, revealing a slight limp steadied by the use of a cane. He plucked the cigarette holder from his mouth and cracked a polite smile at Rip.
“My dear fellow, do you know who we are?”
Rip shook his head, a sense of shame coming over him.
“We are the beginning of the end. We are revelers between two awful and pointless racial civil wars. We are the heroes who seeded a generation of traitors. We are the creators and enablers of the beast that would crush our kith and kin. We are the men who built an empire so powerful it took the entire world a century to destroy it. But destroy it they did.”
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” Rip admitted, thoroughly befuddled.
“But of course you don’t, kind sir, for what has been hidden from you since birth may as well have never existed. But I assure you: It did exist.
“They will lie to you when they say there was no such thing as the “good old days”, that there was no “golden age” in this nation.
“For if you knew what has been lost, you would revolt tomorrow.
“Those who have engineered your subjugation have profited royally from it. They sit perched atop Glitterati Hills, looking down from their gated compounds with nothing but contempt for you and vicious glee over your suffering. All the while, you remain blissfully unaware that your situation could be much improved if only you had the nerve to question what has been forced upon you—and why.”
Rip’s eyes began to swim in his head. He had only one recourse, which was another trip to the flagon. The distinguished gentleman limped after him.
“There are unpleasant realities no one wishes to hear, Rip Van Whitey, but no man should ignore. The fact is your beloved paradise below has been destroyed, and intentionally so. How do you fail to see it? Do you think that the random savagery to which you are so woefully accustomed is normal? Do you think the constant disturbances of the peace, the endless streams of profanity, the stupidity, the idleness, the violence, the thuggery, the thievery, the squalor, the filth—do you think these are elements inherent to civil society? If so, what, exactly, makes it so “civil”?
“Look around you now. Do you fear for your life? Do you fear for your pride? Do you have any concern at all that you will be treated in anything but a decent and respectable manner by us perfect strangers? No, of course you don’t. This—this—is the nation which once was. And this is the nation we, our children, and our children’s children, forfeited.
“Why did we forfeit it? Because we were naïve. Because we were credulous. Because we were lazy. Because we were compliant. Year after year, law after law, generation after generation, we became more ensnared by the Leviathan we created, failing to heed the warnings of the Cassandras, or, more often, dutifully following orders to tar and feather them for daring to utter heresies against the Utopia “diversity”, “multiculturalism”, “equality”, “democracy”, and total government was certain to bring.
“But in the end we saw the error of our ways, and took up the struggle against our fate. After all, we were warriors.
“But you, dear Rip, joined the chorus of voices who denounced us, vilified us, ridiculed us, marginalized us. Like our children, you preferred to worship the idiocy of youthful fantasies than respect the wisdom of the aged. You allowed yourself to be emasculated by a shrew of a wife, then demonized those who chose to remain men.
“What is it, Rip, that compels you to such deplorable behavior? Is it cowardice? Is it envy? Is it foolishness? Certainly it can be no respectable quality that makes for such shameful ways.
“We forged the closest thing to heaven on earth humanity had ever seen, and then we let it be destroyed by an ungrateful, ridiculous generation. But when I see so-called men such as you, I wonder whether you don’t deserve everything that has been visited upon you.
“So drink up, Rip Van Whitey, and enjoy the game. And as you immerse yourself in the entertainment, consider whether you will continue to ignore reality, or choose to take arms against a sea of troubles. Just know that we don’t care. You have forsaken us, and we have moved on. It is your world now. Make of it what you will.”
With that, the distinguished gentleman limped back to the crowd who resumed their attentiveness to the game. Rip stared off into space, unsure of what he just heard and exactly what to make of it. So, feeling queasy, he poured himself another beverage.
And with a few more sips, he fell into a deep sleep.
To be continued…