How can a single living corpse change the entire world? If he’s the President of the United States. The President is assassinated by a domestic terrorist organization, lies dead on the operating table, but is reanimated by an untested medical process. He comes back with an undead agenda, a bold vision of remaking the world in his own image. From the most powerful office on the planet, he advances the technology and expands his secret constituency. As he pushes the United States closer to global Armageddon, the fate of humanity rests with three women: a reporter for a tabloid cable news network, the estranged First Lady, and the isolated Vice President. No one knows what happened to him. No one knows what he’s planning. And no one knows how to stop him.


Carlo Scarelli had a thundering headache, which was not at all surprising given the lack of sleep the past few days and the tremendous pressure he was facing from all sides. Despite a lifetime in politics, it was much harder than he expected to keep a secret as consequential as the one he was carrying. The burden fell primarily on his shoulders to explain to the public that the President was bravely fighting what were very serious injuries, they were all encouraged by his progress, and he was happy to say the President’s condition seemed to have stabilized. All the while avoiding, of course, any specifics on his status, any prediction on when if ever he would be able to return to the White House, and oh yes, any mention of the fact that the man flat out died and had returned as a mindless and sometimes violent husk.
        The press was hard enough to deal with, swarming like cockroaches and inventing new ways to rephrase the same pounding questions over and over and over. But what Carlo found much more difficult and draining was the constant stream of friends, colleagues, his own family, all waiting for a chance to catch him alone and ask with commiserating eyes what was really going on. It was astounding, the endless parade of individuals, down to White House staffers and interns, who all thought they were unlike the rest of the population, the ones whose harping questions he was constantly battling, and expected him to open his heart given a chance and invite them into the inner circle of secrecy.
       Tom Holden was experiencing the same pressure, clearly, and was watching Carlo like he expected him to crack any second and confess on Sixty Minutes. He had said, at the beginning, that all he needed was three days, only three days to bring the delicate initiative in Asia to a more stable resolution. You could have scripted what would happen next. Tom was already saying there are still several critical junctures hovering on the precipice of disaster, and only a couple more days would make all the difference. He was driven, it seemed, to push this charade until one day beyond the point when it would become unsustainable.
       Now the speculation was building in the media that the President was actually dead, or at least so close to it that the Administration was refusing to confront the truth. The rumors were troubling the government officials whose tacit acquiescence was essential to preserving the status quo – the Cabinet, the Joint Chiefs, Congress. If the demands of the public were not enough, the Administration was running out of credit within the federal government itself, without something more than bland assurances that the President was making encouraging progress on the road to recovery. It was all Tom could manage to keep the Cabinet together, in the face of Maritza’s predictable run at the Twenty Fifth Amendment. Now it appeared she still wasn’t giving up, and was sounding out Congressional leaders about emergency legislation to appoint an alternative body capable of endorsing her declaration of the President’s incapacity. If this turned into a public debate in the House, anything could happen.
        When Kudzan reports, out of the blue, that the President is able to talk, after all, though he isn’t really thinking and shows no sign of conscious mental control, you could sure see the next move coming, too. The last thing you want to do, when your asset is in a state that would be, if revealed, catastrophic to your position, the absolute last thing you want to do, of course, is wheel said asset out into the public eye for a session of intense scrutiny. So what, you might ask, is brother Tom’s brilliant response to the vectors of impending doom piercing in on them from every direction? Naturally, he wants to schedule a public appearance, in which the President will appear, perhaps weary, but basically sound and able to recite a few reassuring lines that will doubtless make everyone complacent again. The whole world will heave a great big fucking sigh of relief to discover the President is once more ready, willing and able to lead the entire fucking free world again, after all. 
        Talk about a death wish, a cataclysmic spectacle of certain doom. What on earth could possibly go wrong? With a thousand cameras on live TV zeroed in on a brainless maniac in the President’s body, just sitting there like a rabid dog waiting to sink his presidential teeth into the first person to touch him? How do you explain that one? Where’s the spin on that behavior anomaly? What if he attacks a reporter and has to be subdued by the Secret Service? So sorry, the President was momentarily confused, but rest assured he’s fine, now.
        So Carlo finds himself sitting with Mitchell Hess, the Press Secretary, and the President’s two principal speech writers, Ruth Lucane and Ferrell Prine. It was the President’s idea, during the campaign, pretty clever, really, since he was running as an independent, to have a Republican, Ruth, and a Democrat, Ferrell, write his speeches. Sometimes they each wrote their own on a specified topic, and Campaign Manager Jeremiah Burton, the mad genius, would weave them together into a coherent tapestry of astounding resonance. But at times like this, when they needed something terse and effective, the two would be forced to draft together, bitching and moaning every inch of the way. It didn’t help much with Carlo’s headache.
       Carlo was asking for a twenty second version, two sentences, and a minute and a half version, to use if they were feeling really ambitious. Ruth and Ferrell were arguing like preschoolers. Carlo spoke only often enough to break the logjams, while Mitchell urged them along earnestly. Bless him, Mitchell was about the only ranking member of the White House staff who hadn’t tried to corner Carlo for a heart-to-heart on what was really going on. Mitchell knew his job was to stay on message, and he understood that unnecessary information may be counterproductive.

Author: Todd A. Richardson
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