Kill the Insurgents
May 1, 2012
First, it was no more than a nuisance, a few malcontents rabble rousing in the provinces, railing about the injustices of the system. Then, new reports came of nighttime raids on National facilities, occasional firefights on back roads where the insurgents inflicted scrapes and bruises while they endured heavy casualties.
Leaders at the national capital read the intelligence briefings, dismissed any thoughts of real danger to the regime, a substantive challenge to its hegemony. They sent a few more troops to quell the unrest with simple orders: shoot to kill.
A year into the rebellion, the insurgents had taken three provincial capitals and held them against all odds, fighting like wild men with meager supplies against the ever-swelling juggernaut of national troops. They formed loose alliances, fought each other’s battles, cared for their widows and orphans.
Before long, underground newspapers sprang up like weeds in a neglected garden, championing the zealots. Popular sentiment began to shift toward David in his fight against Goliath.
When national tax revenues plummeted, the regime raised the tax rate and balanced its books on the backs of the populace it still controlled.
The leaders called in the big guns, heavy artillery, air strikes around the clock.
The rebels kept coming, fueled by a flood of volunteers into their camps, volunteers with nothing to offer but themselves, nothing to gain but freedom of speech.
“We will show the bastards that there will be no freedom of speech in this country,” the commander-in-chief of the national forces said. “If we don’t contain them, the next thing they will want is cheap books, or even free books. No nation that allows such a thing can long endure.”
His generals applauded and raised the prices on all the books in the national book stores.
The citizens retreated to their homes and searched the Internet for new e-books from the insurgents. They formed clubs and discussed new ideas a burgeoning number of authors not authorized by the nationals dared to express. They laughed at funny stories told by old men and women sitting at computers as they typed words into a blogosphere that emerged overnight. They shrieked when they read paranormal stories, cried when they read about lost love or love found.
The citizens never returned to the national book stores.
In the middle of the fifth year of the struggle, the last store closed. When it did, the national commander-in-chief sent his emissary to the leaders of the insurgency, seeking to make peace.
“Let us show you how to conduct the book business. We have centuries of experience in the field,” the envoy said.
The leader of the insurgents shook the emissary’s hand, slapped him on the back and looked him in the eye before he spoke.
“No thanks, old chap,” he said. “I think we can handle it just fine without you.”
“But you don’t know how to inflate your prices,” the emissary pleaded.
The insurgent leader turned away from the national ambassador. As he walked back to the other rebel captains, he shook his head and muttered under his breath.
“I guess they will never learn,” he said.
(Written for The Writers Collection to the prompt “the game.”)