In the morning, Electorate, he passes people trooping away from home with their newspapers, bearers of a weight that goes beyond pounds and ounces. They headed up an avenue still blistered with the flotsam of campaign advisers, of newspapermen. Men and women, almost in single file, leaning into wind, faces steeled against complaint, obligated to carry this load. They are standard-bearers, foot-soldiers, walk-on spear-carriers with tiny but necessary roles, of an idea first given a name by ancient Greeks. No one can say for sure yet if it really works.
Countless pairs of little white wires, framing people's faces in the flat fluorescent light, denoting: iPods.
Marketing men in sharp, crisp ties gaze impotently from their offices at spectacular Midtown Views. There is nothing at this point left for them to do. The Day has come. This is the Day itself.
Feet set, purposeful and resolute, on the lime-green tiles. In the toneless acoustics of the school gymnasiums and school cafeterias and dual-use school gymnasium/cafeterias the low steady roar of raw electoral mass forms a background of white noise. Mathematics steadily accumulate around them.
The emotional tone. Let it express itself.
Technology from what appears to be pre-WWII (the Second Great War)-level manufacturing stands at the ready, waiting for the numbers. In poorer parts, plastic card racks with push pins attached to countertops with the same little chains affixed to pens at banks. In still other neighborhoods, eerily blinking computerized interfaces no one is sure can be trusted.
No one is sure they can be trusted.
From the crowd, more snatches of unattributed dialogue, nonsensical yet queerly resonant:
"Days like this. Pull a lever, and a potential, a mathematical possibility, shoots up. Sensitivities. Attunements. Things are ready to happen that normally never do."
"My name's not important. What's important is the news organization I'm polling for. I'm here to poll the area and make sure the area is polled as you conduct your undisclosed business. I am not here to interfere or influence or affect you or the person you may or may not be supporting in any way. You are but one mere node in a vast aggregate of polling data which is at this time our primary concern. We have procedures we've developed over long periods of time."
"Paper. Legal size. White with blue lines."
"What do you mean a Blockbuster Video membership card does not constitute a legal I.D.? This is America! What's wrong with you people?"
"Do you have a working telephone?"
He stands in the doorway to the junior high school gymnasium and stares blinking into the loud murmuring bustle of unedited, unmediated humanity massed before him. Waiting with grim expressions in interminable lines. Glancing back and forth at petty annoyances as the hours draw out. Swarming into lines, paperwork in hand, forms filled, addresses verified.
Far from here, massive telecommunications infrastructures are employed to frantic ends. Media professionals dart from room to room, dash onto camera and off again as slips of paper are handed this way and that by grim-faced white-knuckled interns. Encrypted data fills the rooms around them with crucial up-to-the-minute updates.
It is flat, on flatscreens, two-dimensional.
But the real story is not in these waves of electromagnetic signals being beamed via satellite and fiber-optic cable onto cathode rays and plasma the nation over. The real story today is here, in this ugly room.
The New Yorkers, the Wisconsinites, the Chicagoans, waiting in line. Some have come out of a sense of patriotic duty, some in hopes of a quick fix, some out of vague, barely comprehensible last-minute anxieties about redistribution of hardworking plumbers' wealth.
A primary motivator these last eight years, the pundits have explained—on cable, and on basic cable, and on radio, and even, still in this day and age, newsprint—not fear, not terror, but a new thing: fear of terror. Yet today the faces of the grandmothers and the hippies and the Joe Six Packs and the pained, exasperated office workers in painful, pastel shoes do not seem, to his searching eyes, to be afraid.
Miles from here, in the White House, a nervous cluster of Ivy League graduates attend to the needs of one man imparting terror to the dreams of the Republic. He is thinking about his ranch. His staff prepares to pack his things.