Cover for Drabblecast episode Night of the Living POTUS by Tristan TolhurstThe Drabblecast presents “Night of the Living POTUS” by Adam-Troy Castro.

Every President Elect has “the briefing.” You know the one. The President opens a binder and learns the awful truths of the world. They all have to learn the same lesson.

This is the story of one President who learns the horrifying truth and must fight to save humanity. And Democracy itself.

And don’t forget the Drabblecast Reborn Preorder Store, as mentioned by Norm, is up and selling some cool Drabblecast merch.

Story Excerpt:

All Presidents have the same lesson to learn, and they all learn it early on the first full morning of their respective Administrations.

At that point they have already taken their Oaths, already declared their principles to the nation, already enjoyed the first round of celebrations, already settled in to what they imagine will be an Administration marked by great words and historic deeds.

End now we present (the full story is printed below the player):

Jefferson's Battle Cry by Tristan Tolhurst

Drabblecast #389 – Night of the Living POTUS

 

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NIGHT OF THE LIVING POTUS

By Adam Troy-Castro

All Presidents have the same lesson to learn, and they all learn it early on the first full morning of their respective Administrations.

At that point they have already taken their Oaths, already declared their principles to the nation, already enjoyed the first round of celebrations, already settled in to what they imagine will be an Administration marked by great words and historic deeds.

They are all ready for the lesson that will haunt them throughout the remainder of their days in power, giving them the somber gravity that so many people mistakenly attribute to the unimaginable pressures of the job.

Nobody knows that this change in them has almost nothing to do with anything they face as Chief Executive, and everything to do with the ordeal they all survive after their first night sleeping under the White House roof.

It will be the same for the next New President. Male or female, young or old, Republican or Democrat, warrior or pacifist, idealist or tool of his corrupt backers.
For the sake of argument, we posit a man.

He’s young, robust, charismatic, learned, driven by his vision for a new agenda.
He has not been sleeping long. He was kept busy, the previous evening, by the half-dozen inaugural balls where he and the first lady had been expected to make their joint appearance. But the need for at least a couple of hours of sleep, prior to the onset of his responsibilities, drove him and his wife to the presidential bed even as the last of those formals still raged at a hotel across town.

He does not dream of his busy next day’s itinerary, or of all the terrible mistakes that can torpedo his place in history, or even of standing before an Press Conference of thousands, naked but for that mouthy bitch from the NEW YORK TIMES, clad in dominatrix gear as she warns, Now, Remember, You Asked For This. For this night, at least, he has accomplished all of his waking dreams and has no room for sleeping ones. Exhausted, he is all but comatose, and incapable of noticing when the Secret Service enters to sedate the First Lady and quietly hustle her from the Residence.

He does not know, because he has not yet been told, that this happens before dawn on the first morning of every New President’s administration, and that the operatives who just removed his wife are the very same ones who performed this service for the five most recent Administrations. They may be elderly, by now, but by God they’re efficient.

The New President doesn’t wake until some dim impulse of his reptilian brain alerts him to a dark silhouette, looming over him. He opens his eyes, registers the metallic glint of the hatchet beginning its murderous descent, and rolls away just as the pillow behind him erupts in a mushroom cloud of liberated feathers.

Cursing, not yet understanding why these pre-dawn hours have become an arena for mortal combat, the New President scrambles away, tumbles off the opposite end of the bed, somehow finds the light switch, and rises to his knees just in time to see his assailant circle the foot of the bed.

His eyes, recently touted in National Review as “firm and unwavering,” become pale confused things as he registers the familiar, iconic face of his enemy: one all too familiar from dollar bills, textbooks, and commercials for President’s Day sales, distorted now by the kind of murderous bloodlust that has never been depicted on paintings of this historic figure crossing the Delaware.

This is not an imposter, not an actor, not a crazed assassin with a founding father fetish. This is the real George Washington, down to the wise eyes and lipless mouth, miraculously returned to life in a murderous frenzy. He’s wearing a blue waistcoat and white leggings and an expression of undying hatred, and that is all the New President has time to register before he has to scuttle across the floor in his pajamas, screaming for the Secret Service.

The Secret Service does not answer his cries for help.

When it comes to this important part of every President’s first day, they never do.
But they do watch on their monitors and they do nod with approval as the New President uses a lamp snatched off the nightstand to block the next slash from Washington’s hatchet. They observe the resourcefulness with which the New President parries another slash, still screaming for the help that they are duty-bound to withhold. They admire this President for rising to the challenge right away, in a manner that so many others have not. That big bully of a Texan, for instance, the one so talented at picking up little dogs by the ears, had whimpered like a girl at this point. The peanut farmer had soiled himself. Dubya had misunderstood the situation completely, imagining himself under attack by the man on the oatmeal box. But the new President is a genuine profile in courage. He stands his ground and he parries another attack and though the next hammering blow almost knocks him over he not only manages to regain his fair and balanced position but also presses his advantage, driving the lamp into Washington’s forehead with a crunch loud enough to be heard in Baltimore.

Washington drops the hatchet, staggers backward, and collapses onto the New President’s bed, adding it to the long list of places where he’s slept.

Heart pounding, the New President staggers over to the bed, and stares down at the remains of a face he knows as well as his own. He touches his attacker’s cheek with an index finger, expecting to find a mask of some kind, but no: it’s flesh, all right.
Once again he tries to persuade himself that this is just an assassin who merely happens to look like George Washington, but the vivid reality of the moment argues against that interpretation. It is George Washington.

That’s when he notices that the First Lady is missing.

He is not a romantic man, this New President. He does not love his wife in any goopily adolescent manner, and at this moment cannot recall the last time he told her he loved her, but he has grown used to her presence, and he does count on her guidance in this rarefied enterprise their shared lives have become. The prospect of her trapped somewhere, in this legendary house, fighting for her life against (perhaps) a murderous Martha Washington, fills him with the kind of dread no threat to his own life can muster. He cries out her name and races to the door, which is course sealed and will not be opened for him no matter how how furiously he demands to know the meaning of this.

Watching this scene play out on the monitors, with the senior members of the Secret Service, the New President’s Chief of Staff thinks about his own hidden passion for horror movies and the rule, well-known to enthusiasts, that anybody pounding on a door and demanding to be let out is immediately attacked from behind. He watches the shadowy figure as it comes into frame behind the New President and finds himself murmuring, “Turn Around! Turn Around!”

The New President, sensing something wrong, whirls to confront the not only obnoxious and disliked, but now thoroughly deranged, face of President John Adams.

The New President is not as fanatical a historian as some of his predecessors, but he has seen the portraits. He recognizes who he’s facing. Shock paralyzes him until he feels the fingers close on his neck. His air supply already cut off, he braces himself against the locked door and propels himself forward, driving Adams into a two-hundred-year-old cabinet.

Adams does not waver. The man who brought the American Revolution into being by sheer force of personality is not to be deterred by a little bruising.

The New President feels his world grow black at the edges, but drives Adams into the dresser a second time, and a third. They spin again and hit the floor in a tangle of thrashing chief executive limbs. Still Adams does not weaken. The New President flails about for a weapon, finds a shard of broken crystal, drives the point into his assailant’s eye, and the rest, the coin a phrase, is History.

Even as he collapses against the bureau, massaging a throat now marked by an angry red line, a new wariness shines in the New President’s eyes. He achieved his station in life by knowing how to anticipate trends. He can prognosticate the further course of his morning, without any recourse to pollsters or focus groups or even paid special counsel. He knows who’s coming next.

And indeed, here comes Thomas Jefferson, the architect of Monticello, the composer of the Declaration of Independence and the impregnator of Sally Hemings, perhaps the most articulate man ever to hold the venerable title of President, now reduced to a guttural howl as he advances on the current office-holder, wielding his quill pen like a stiletto.

Jefferson is a product of the Age of Reason, and the New President tries to reason with him in kind, certain that these hostilities can be avoided by a few rounds of calm, and measured negotiation. But Jefferson’s advance is as resolute as his prose was pellucid, and he doesn’t even slow as he jabs the implement at the New President’s heart.

The New President retreats to his Right, as so many New Presidents are apt to, yowling as the quill rips a gash in his upper bicep. Retreating, also in the manner of so many New Presidents before him, he backs against the wall and finds himself whimpering as the implement that forged nations makes fresh edits to his shoulders, forearms, and cheek. Only when Jefferson draws back, with a flourish only possible for one so accomplished at penmanship, does the New President finally react to the clear and present danger and counter-attack, with a body slam that drives the pride of Virginia back, halfway across the room and back onto the bed. Jefferson howls. The New President rips the quill from the great man’s hand and drives it, screaming, into the great man’s neck.
But that is not the end of it either.

The next few hours continue in precisely that vein, all but a few of the invaders, in accordance with their respective marks on history, as unmemorable as assailants as they were as Presidents. Indeed, the New President experiences more than a little difficulty just identifying some of these figures by sight. Only a few stand out from the pack, and they’re not always the most dangerous.

Andrew Jackson, carrying so many bullets in his body from his vengeful and duel-besotted life that he rattles like a bag of marbles, takes twenty blows on the head before finally succumbing.

William Henry Harrison advances only halfway across the bedroom before wheezing, coughing, and then falling flat on his face, dead.
James Buchanan fights like a girl.

Abraham Lincoln, who split rails as a youth, is a deadly combatant indeed, his woodman’s axe extending the already prodigious reach of his arms.

Grover Cleveland, the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms, follows the paradigm set down by most cinematic mad slashers by rising from the statesman-strewn floor, not dead after all, following the brief and ineffective interregnum of an assault by Benjamin Harrison.

By the time the assailants begin to include figures from the Twentieth Century, the New President is gasping, his pajamas in tatters, his skin marred by a dozen serious injuries. He needs all the strength his exhausted body can muster, because these newcomers are among the most dangerous.

Sportsman, soldier, and avid hunter Theodore Roosevelt is almost impossible to defeat. The New President shatters almost every valuable antique in the room just to take him down and even then needs to reduce his own fingers to hamburger just prying the man’s jaws from his ankle.

The obese William Howard Taft, though slow-moving and short of breath, is almost as formidable: in part because he almost crushes the New President to death with the weight of his own body, in part because the New President, by now wielding the sword of Ulysses S. Grant, inflicts six or seven gaping wounds without once penetrating deep enough to nick any of the man’s vital organs. That battle doesn’t end until the New President musters the last of his fading strength to force the fat man into the bathtub, which Taft has historically been unable to escape. Wedged in tight, rippling with enraged avoirdupois, Taft can only grope with hands like sausages as the New President fills the tub with water and fries the bastard with a casual toss of the First Lady’s hair dryer.

Calvin Coolidge turns out to have some stuff. He’s not as tough as some of the others, but he remains spookily silent, never emitting so much as a grunt as he pursues his dark agenda.

Standing over his mangled body, the New President feels certain that he’s just dispatched the deadliest of the creatures he’ll have to face before the likes of Kennedy and Nixon, but he’s wrong.

No, the worst foe yet, the most deceptively powerful, turns out to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who emerges crawling out from under the bed, his withered and nigh-useless legs not nearly as decisive a factor as the compensating over-developed musculature of his arms. Almost falling to the man’s first attack due to overconfidence, when he cannot escape Roosevelt’s powerful grip, the New President squirms free, regains his feet, and enjoys a few relatively easy minutes just strolling out of the New Dealer’s way.

He puts off the inevitable longer than he truly has to, because taking down Roosevelt, the very symbol of strength over adversity, feels dirtier than anything he’s had to do so far. But there comes a moment for even the greatest President to realize that he’s used up every peaceful initiative.

He shakes his head sadly. And goes to the closet, to get his golf clubs.

After that, things get easier. The New President has it down to science now, and as wades like a titan through a bedroom increasingly littered with bodies, he resists a total descent into hysteria by constantly reminding himself that history itself limits the number of attackers remaining.

Taking out Kennedy means gaining the height advantage and striking him from behind.

Johnson resigns midway through the fight.

Nixon is a squirmy, shifty-eyed bastard, a lot like a rabid ferret. He inflicts a number of savage, ravenous bites on the New President’s leg before going down from a ceremonial plate to his skull. The New President, feeling giddy by now, shouts, “Normalize relations with this China, you asshole!”

Ford has the body of a fullback, but keeps tripping over his own two feet.
Carter’s attack seems perfunctory, despite the bloodlust in his heart.
Reagan has the martial arts moves of a man who pretends toughness but in truth learned all he knows from the movies.

Bush the Elder attempts the same moves as Reagan but can’t fake the conviction.
Clinton proves almost impossible to pin down, and repeatedly squirms free.
Bush the Younger, clad not in the jacket and tie favored by so many of the others, but in a flight suit with a suspicious bulge in the crotch, steps back after landing a couple of early blows, smirks in imagined victory as he declares the fight over, and doesn’t even seem to notice as the New President puts him down like a dog.

Obama is precise and organized, but goes down to repeated merciless jabs from the right.

Trump is relentless with the low blows but is unable to take even the slightest punishment. Even bloody and staggering, he insists that he’s the best fighter of all time. 
 But that’s it, now. It’s over.

Appropriately enough, this is more or less simultaneous with the arrival of dawn.
The New President, or what’s left of him, stands bloody but unbowed among the unmoving stuff of stamps and monuments, free for the first time to wonder what this has all been about, knowing in his heart that he’s just been made privy to some kind of elemental truth, were he only to find sufficient wisdom to discern it. He feels stronger for the experience, somehow. But for some reason he also feels like weeping: his optimism, his dreams of great things, all fading beneath the certain knowledge that his plan for a better future will be as flawed as all the others.

And somewhere between the time the First Lady arrives to see what’s become of her husband, and the time the First Aid crew arrives to patch his wounds and slather makeup over his bruises, and the time his Valet arrives to pick out his suit and make him presentable, and the time his Chief of Staff arrives to assure him that none of what’s happened here will impact his appointment schedule, and the time when can finally stride forth to help guide the destiny of his Nation, the New President finally reaches the epiphany he’s been looking for.

This truth is marching on. Someday, there will be a successor, and another successor after that, and another successor after that. And none will never know a lasting peace, for as long as America endures, since all will be pulled from retirement or the grave to appear in this room on the first day of every new Administration to participate in this one savage rite of passage.
Because there’s only one reason why every New President would have to spend their first day in office weathering the hostility of all the Presidents who came before.
Because they’ll spend the rest of their respective Administrations earning it.

Looking gray and eminent now, in a way he never has before, the New President leaves his most important battlefield, and heads toward the Oval Office, his footsteps echoing behind him not at all.