The wrong president was on television. Jonathan Ortega was supposed to be president, but there was a Chinese woman giving the state of the union address. And there was nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but Rita knew this woman wasn’t the president. She knew it, just like she knew the smell of her mother’s cooking, her husband’s face, the name they were going to give their first child (Eugene if it’s a boy, Alexandra, after her father, if it’s a girl.)
At first she was confused. She didn’t know what to make of what the television was telling her. It wasn’t a movie. It was horribly boring for starters, but then it didn’t end. It just kept going on and on, with President Ducard (a Chinese woman president with a French name! Imagine that!) talking about water shortages, the war in Brazil, continued wealth distribution. It sounded like something out of the ebooks her father had read when she was growing up.
Then it ended and she was frightened. The gathered crowd clapped. The President shook the hands of her peers and waved to the cameras. The feed cut to people sitting around a table, projections behind them, each shouting over the others to discuss what they thought the President’s speech meant for the coming year. It was real. It was actually real.
And at last came anger. What had been done to her? Who had put her here, in this small and empty room, with its sparse furniture, with the vase of cheap flowers? What monsters had done this to her? She held her hands up before her, hands once tan and strong grown as pale and withered as dead slugs, and she shouted out in a voice far too ancient, “Who did this to me?”