The people were long gone. The streets were empty, and some old scraps of burned newspaper tossed on the hot, sulfurous wind. And Mitch McConnell was still confirming judges.
The sky was a dark, angry red. The sun was not visible and had not been visible for a long time. There were no longer any rhinoceroses whatsoever. There were exactly three birds. The halls of Congress were empty except for John Quincy Adams’s ghost and one hoarse buzzard perched on a cracked torso in Statuary Hall. And Mitch McConnell was still confirming judges.
“Just one more,” he muttered. His voice echoed in the rows of bones all around him. He had been assiduously confirming judges for a very long time, although night and day were now the same and were difficult to measure. Clocks had ceased to exist. “Just one more lifetime appointment.”
Someone crawled toward him through the dust on hands and knees. “Why?” creaked forth from his chapped lips. “Mitch, why?” It might have been Chuck Grassley. No one could say. There was no one there to say.
“Is there some curse you are trying to break? Is there some reason?” the voice asked.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Mitch McConnell said, as though that were an answer. There had not been chewing gum for a long time.
Surely there had been a reason long ago. Power, or the desire for power, or the desire to build a legacy. Or a judicial vacancy had gravely insulted his father. Or he had been told by a sea-witch that if he just confirmed a hundred judges to lifetime appointments, his brothers would all be restored to their human form. Or was it 200? He had forgotten. He had to keep confirming them. There would be no vacancies.
Once there had been other things to do with this power that might have helped people in their brief spans on the globe. Those things were all gone. All that remained was vacancy, and Mitch McConnell was determined to fill it with judges.
What was a judge? Where would the judge sit? What would the judge uphold or overturn? What did any of it matter? It was not even very clear what he was confirming, except that he was confirming something and would continue to do so even after the sun burned out and the whole world was cast into ice and shadow.
“Just one more,” Mitch McConnell hissed. “No vacancies. Leave no vacancies.”
The Fates gave up spinning and measuring and cutting the threads of human lives. Perpetual motion machines wound to a halt. The world tree Yggdrasil cracked and a great serpent swallowed the Earth. Mitch McConnell continued appointing judges. This would be his life’s result. This would be his legacy.
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