Posted November 28, 2012

Legacy

A Naptown Tales Sequel by Altimexis

Epilogue - Samuel Franklin Austin

For days it felt like I’d been floating in a dense fog. Nothing made sense as I felt like I was on fire sometimes, and other times I was freezing. Then things started to clear and now I found myself sitting on a log with my feet dangling in a stream. It was densely wooded where I was, with sunlight filtering its way through the tree canopy above me, feeling good as it landed on my bare shoulders.

Looking down I noticed two things immediately. The first thing was that I was much younger than I should have been. I looked and felt like I did when I was twelve years old. The second thing I noticed was that I was buck-naked. Strangely, nothing felt at all odd about being outdoors and in the nude.

“It’s been a long time, Sammy,” I heard a voice speak to me from my right. I turned to see a face I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time. Seated next to me was another boy of about twelve whom I readily recognized - an African American youth named Jamal Sawyer - a boy with whom I’d shared a cabin the summer we were both twelve. Like me, he was also naked and, although we’d been forced to do sexual things with each other by our fucked-up counselor, Gary, for some reason our both being naked didn’t seem at all strange or perverted now.

“Jamal, what are you doing here?” I asked. “The last time I saw you, you…”

“Blew my brains out?” he responded.

Rather than say anything, I merely nodded my head.

“I guess I learned the hard way that suicide isn’t an end at all,” he replied. “Attempted murder and suicide is even worse. I just wanted it to end, you know?… I just wanted to finish off the demons in my head and to stop the constant abuse I was getting at home. I just wanted it to be over and in the fucked-up logic in my head, I wanted to punish those who were the least at fault for my condition. I wanted to punish those who had what I couldn’t have. I wanted to punish the gay boys who’d found acceptance in their homes.”

“But Bret didn’t find acceptance at home,” I pointed out. “His father tried to fuck him up bad. It was only because his boyfriend’s parents took him in that he found acceptance.”

“Sammy, I was messed up. I was hurting. I lived up in Fort Wayne, the headquarters of some of the most homophobic churches in America, including ours. I had no idea Bret had been through that. I only saw a black kid who was out and proud… and happy. I wanted that but I couldn’t have it, so he had to be punished. Pretty fucked up, huh?

“Anyway, the afterlife isn’t anything like what they tell you about in Church. There’s no such thing as Heaven or Hell, but there are consequences for your actions on Earth. Killing yourself is falling just about as far as you can go. So is killing other people, or even trying to. It took me all this time to come to terms with what I did and I’m still working my way out of the abyss.

“Thank God there’s no such thing as eternal damnation, although that would be a whole lot easier. Seriously, my life on Earth really was Hell as far as I was concerned. No afterlife could have been worse than that. Sure, what I did was wrong, but it did give me a shot at salvation. It’s only now that I realize just how much I messed up and what I need to do to make up for it.”

“But there were mitigating circumstances,” I countered. “Surely what happened at camp should have been taken into account,” I suggested.

“What happened at that church-run camp was important for a variety of reasons. It shaped many of our lives and it set things up for the future, a future you helped shape for the entire world.”

“You make it sound like it was all planned,” I objected.

“To an extent it was,” Jamal replied. “As terrible as the events were, they set in motion a chain of events that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. You, for example, were adopted by the Austins. Where do you think you’d be today if that hadn’t happened?”

Thinking only briefly, I answered, “I’d probably be in jail… or dead.”

Exactly, Sammy,” Jamal replied. “Here you are, one of the most influential and important figures in history and you might have ended up in a wasted life, had you not endured those horrible events in the summer of 2008. Kurt would have likely ended up a two-bit minister, rejected by most congregations because of his being gay, and Trevor would have spent his life installing security systems.

“Yes, what happened was part of a larger plan. The counselor you knew as Gary was a troubled soul who was easily manipulated. He didn’t do anything he wouldn’t have done anyway but, by doing them to us, he changed history.

“Yeah, but look how it affected you!” I countered. “The sexual coercion put you over the edge. Your resentment became anger, simmered and, eventually, you exploded.”

“It wasn’t Gary that made me explode, Sammy,” Jamal countered. “If anything it was Trevor. Gary didn’t do anything to me that my old man hadn’t already done to me before. Yeah, my dad was your typical homophobic closet case and he took out his frustrations by porking his sons… first me and then after I offed myself, he had a go at Terrence.

“No, what set me off was watching Trevor and Kurt together… the way they touched and even kissed each other when they thought no one was looking. I saw how life was supposed to be and would never be for me. It’s a wonder I didn’t shoot Trevor in the chest, especially when he talked about how accepting his parents were.”

“God, Jamal. I had no idea so much shit was going on in your life.”

“I did my best to keep it hidden, and everyone at that camp seemed to have their own shit to deal with too. You sure as fuck did.”

“And I’ve spent my life ever since trying to forget what my life was like before,” I admitted.

“But your life on the streets played a huge role in making you who you are today, Sammy,” Jamal explained. “Would you have taken on teaching in an inner city school if not for that?

“Even that terrible day in 2012 played a vital role. I know it affected all of you and I’m surprised none of you ever discussed the connection to the church camp scandal… it was mentioned in great detail in The Star and even on the national news, after all…”

“But we’d already put the church camp scandal behind us.” I suggested. “None of us wanted to open old wounds and, the way things ended with you shooting yourself…”

“That may be, Sam, but sharing your experiences with each other could have gone a long way toward getting over it. Instead you all went your own way and poor Trevor still has nightmares to this day. Hell, he was the junior counselor in our cabin. I can’t even imagine doing what he did, but he knew me and I guess he felt the need to try to stop what was happening. The professional counseling he got could only go so far. Believe me, I know. I went through a lot of counseling after the church camp scandal and, yet, I still went on a rampage. By talking openly about it with each other early on, you might have been able to help Trevor get through it.”

“I never thought of that,” I responded, feeling guilty.

Shrugging his bare shoulders, Jamal said, “You live and you learn from your mistakes, and you move on.

“Anyway, the shooting incident did result in some positive things. It was the main reason Billy Mathews started the Sanctuary project. It gave Brad Reynolds a platform from which to speak about immigration reform…”

“Speaking of which,” I interrupted, “who really killed Cam Dunnington’s mother? I can’t believe that Billy could have offed his best friend’s mother-in-law, let alone had anything to do with David’s death. Still, the rumors have persisted to this day and the mystery remains unsolved.”

Laughing, Jamal replied, “You should know I can’t answer a question like that, Sammy. So long as my brother is alive, he has to be given every opportunity to make up for all the terrible things he did.

“Yes, my little brother became a terrorist,” Jamal continued, “but even that had a purpose. He played a significant role in setting up the Reynolds assassination and in ensuring that the Vice President was killed along with the President’s double. Although he never knew it, Terrence’s involvement was directly responsible for the Secret Service taking action and saving David Reynolds’ life. You cannot begin to imagine how important his survival was and is to the future of the World.

“That an innocent, elderly woman who would have died anyway of natural causes within a matter of months, was killed so that a sports hero could live is immaterial.”

“So why are you telling me all of this, Jamal?” I asked. “What good is it to me now that I’m dead?”

Placing his hand on my shoulder and getting a huge grin on his face, he responded, “Sammy, you’re not dead… at least not yet anyways. You’re still very much alive and you still have a large role to play in shaping the world.

“You’re going to recover from your illness and your immune system will be restored. This dream-like state you’re in is the result of your body responding to the powerful drugs they’re giving you. Soon you’ll wake up and, with a little rehab, you’ll be stronger than ever.”

“What more could there possibly be left for me to do?” I asked.

“You’ve done great things for the world, but there’s still a lot more to be done, and you’re going to be pivotal in making it happen.

“Your brief stint as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. showed the world what you’re made of. You stood up to your own president, your childhood friend, forcing Brad to fire you when you put world interests ahead of the narrow interests of the United States. You were seen the world over as a hero and even your detractors had to admire your courage. It’s no wonder you were chosen to be the next Secretary General.

“Now, you’re re-inventing the U.N. You convinced the General Assembly and the Security Council to review the charter and to convene a committee to look at revising it. What will emerge, with your guidance, will be a much more effective organization.

“The U.N. will have a true legislative body, the World Congress, and a much more effective executive branch with an elected Secretary General and an appointed cabinet. And the World Court has already been strengthened, with effective ties to courts throughout the world.

“Before you came along, the World Court could try individuals for war crimes and could mediate disputes between or among member countries, but only if all parties agreed to take their grievances to the World Court. Now, nations that fail to abide by the World Court are subject to serious sanctions.

“Even the most powerful nations are learning that their internal affairs can be subject to world scrutiny and that there are consequences. Those used to solving their problems through war have learned that the price is not worth the effort. Truthfully, it never was but, with the U.N. having it’s own standing army and the ability to shut down ‘criminally negligent’ wars wherever and whenever they occur, why would anyone start a war when they can take their case to the World Court instead?”

“Unless, of course, you’re the aggressor,” I pointed out.

“But with the threat of economic sanctions, air strikes and even U.N. troops on your soil, you aren’t likely to risk being an aggressor.”

“Yes, but what more can I do?” I asked. “I seriously doubt that most countries will be willing to cede any more power than they already have.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Sam,” Jamal countered. “The establishment of the World Congress will happen, but not without you leading the charge. As long as there are human rights abuses, your work will not be done. The only way to address human rights issues is to get all of the nations of the world to open up and be seen by the light of day.”

“And how am I supposed to do that?” I asked. “So long as corrupt regimes are able to amass power and wealth and to keep the downtrodden under their thumbs, change will be impossible.”

“I knew you’d find the answer if you thought about it, Sam.” Jamal replied. “The problem is corruption, pure and simple. Politicians can amass power in two ways… legitimately through the will of the people, or by buying it. Even in America, too many politicians’ loyalties are up for sale. Brad did a lot to curb that and the Kramer Court’s decision that political claims are subject to the same rules of false advertising as any other product, will probably do even more to even the score. In the coming years, watchdog groups armed with new, powerful statistical tools will make it virtually impossible to trade political favors without getting caught in the act. Transparency is the key.

“You need to convince the world that corruption is not inevitable, and you’re the one person who commands enough respect to make people listen. You have the ability to galvanize the people of the world to fight corruption wherever it exists. Again your best weapon is transparency. You alone can convince the world to adopt political and economic reforms on a par with those introduced by the Reynolds brothers and by Jeremy Kimball.”

“That’s going to be a tough sell,” I replied.

“All of North America, Japan and a smattering of countries around the globe have already adopted the Reynolds Doctrine. Rules establishing a level playing field are at the core of their economies,” Jamal countered. “Look at how dramatically things have improved in Argentina, for example, since they did so. Getting the entire Western Hemisphere under the Reynolds Doctrine is not only possible, but you will make it happen within the next ten years.”

“The European Union and the former communist countries will never go along with it,” I lamented. “In Europe, the labor unions are steadfastly opposed to market reforms that could undermine their power, even though they would put an end to exploitation. The result has been a stalemate.”

“And exploitation is the name of the game in the European Union,” Jamal challenged. “For more than a century they’ve been bringing in guest workers, mostly from Muslim countries, and treating them as second-class citizens. When the immigrants failed to assimilate and adopt Western culture, they forced them into enclaves and tried to isolate them, suppressing their political power and, in some cases, even their ability to vote. Some countries are already majority Muslim and, yet, the Muslims have no power.”

“But the immigrants haven’t exactly made an effort to fit in,” I pointed out. “I’m not saying they should abandon their culture or their values, but they can’t expect to live by third world standards in the first world and be welcomed. Look at New York,” I went on. “Riding the subway, you’re very likely to see a Muslim woman in a scarf standing next to an Orthodox man with a long beard and a broad hat. They’ve retained their culture, their traditions and their core beliefs, even as they are respectful of each other. And they bathe!”

“That’s a two-way street, Sammy,” Jamal countered. “You can’t expect immigrants to adopt Western standards when the West treats them as the enemy within. In New York there are established immigrant communities ready to assist those newly arrived. The immigrant communities of Europe only serve to further isolate the new arrivals. At least since Jeremy Kimballs’ eulogy at David’s funeral, things have slowly gotten better. Fundamentalist leanings are in significant decline among the youth throughout the world and, as a result, minority youth within Europe are more willing than ever to integrate into their host societies… they just don’t want to lose their identities. Europe as a whole needs to find a way to make it happen and, with your help, they will. Trust me, if you can do that, political and economic reforms will follow.”

It all sounded far-fetched and yet, somehow, I knew he was right. The whole idea that I could still have an impact, even in my mid-sixties, however, seemed absurd.

“You’re still young, Sammy,” Jamal countered as if reading my thoughts, which he obviously was. If nothing else, you need to be around when the last of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is handed over to U.N. control.

“But even if all of my proposals are adopted, at the earliest that won’t happen until December 31, 2100!” I cried. “Do you have any idea how old I’ll be if I’m still alive when that happens?”

“Of course I know,” Jamal replied. “We were both born in 1996. You’ll be almost 105.”

My head spun imagining what it might be like to still be alive at that age. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it no matter how hard I tried.

“Like I said, Sammy, you’re still young. There’s plenty of time to tackle corruption, even forcing the former communist countries… countries with economies based on corruption… to reform their ways.”

“And if I do all this, the world will be at peace for ever and ever?”

“Of course not, Sam,” Jamal replied, “but there will come a time when Mother Earth is irrelevant to the survival of humankind. You just need to set the world on the path of peace long enough for that to happen. No matter when the end may come, whether it be from global warfare or human-induced climate change, or even when the next asteroid strikes, it will be a tragedy. However it would be an even greater tragedy if it happens while humankind is still stuck on Earth. The framework you establish for maintaining peace and prosperity will give humanity the time it desperately needs to colonize space. The Earth is only our birthplace. Our destiny lies far beyond.”

“Wait a minute,” I said with a pause, “you know something about what’s going to happen in the future, don’t you? You know how and when the world will end!”

“Sammy, I only know a little more about the future than you do. The one thing I know for certain is that, someday, the world as we know it will come to an end, much as it did for the dinosaurs. That may not happen for millions of years, or humans may manage to destroy the planet in mere decades. We just want to put off the possibility of the end coming from war and destruction long enough that it becomes irrelevant to humanity’s future. Putting an end to these things is the first step in leaving the cradle. It’s time for us to embrace our future.”

“Jamal, who is ‘we’?” I asked.

Getting a grin on his face, Jamal responded with, “I have to go now, Sam. I have nothing more to tell you at the moment. Besides which, you already know everything you need to know to proceed with your destiny. You just needed a pep talk to hang in there and get back on your feet.”

Jamal literally vanished before my eyes and then the entire scene faded away and I started to feel achy and feverish. My body shook with chills. What did I just experience? Was it all a dream?

Slowly consciousness began to return. I became aware of being in a bed - a hospital bed - and I could sense the presence of people around me. I still felt achy and feverish and I still had chills, but I didn’t feel quite so sick anymore. I squirmed in bed and moaned without even realizing I was doing it.

“Sammy, are you awake?” I heard as a hand squeezed mine. I recognized the voice as that of my wonderful husband. I managed to open my eyes and realized that I wasn’t separated from him by a barrier anymore. I also saw that he was not alone.

Standing next to him was David. Even though he was wearing a surgical gown, a mask and gloves like the others, I would recognize his face anywhere. I smiled up at him, grateful that Jeremy had found him. Standing next to David was tall woman that I didn’t recognize. Although it seemed strange, somehow I knew she was his wife and I was happy for him, that he’d managed to find someone with whom to share his life. On the other side of the bed were my stepdaughter, Sandy, my step-son, Josh, and his husband, Alan. We were all here, reunited at last, and it felt wonderful.

It was at that moment that my stomach rumbled loudly, making everyone chuckle or laugh. Fed intravenously, it had been days, or maybe weeks since I’d last had a proper meal. Was I ever hungry!

“You know what I feel like?” I barely managed to croak through my bone-dry vocal cords.

Getting down on his knees and placing his mouth right next to my face, Jeremy took my hand in both of his and asked, “What is it, Honey. I’ll get you anything you want.”

Turning to look him in the eyes, I replied, “I’d like a nice, thick, juicy, blood-rare steak.” I could imagine the amused look I must have had on my face as my husband practically turned green before my eyes. I didn’t know about the woman next to David, but everyone else around me was a vegetarian and, before long, they were all laughing their heads off.

Perhaps I really would be around for another forty years and, if so, I hoped it would be with my family at my side. Continuing to hold Jeremy’s hand in my left and taking David’s in my right, I squeezed their hands, eagerly looking forward to the future.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing, Low Flyer in proofreading and Ed in beta reading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.

DISCLAIMER: This is a fictional account of the assassination of the first openly gay president of the United States. Except as noted, all characters are fictitious and the reader is cautioned against attributing anything from the story to real individuals. There are occasional descriptions of consensual sex between underage boys and it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure the legality of reading this material. The author retains full copyright.