Editor’s Note: Click here for chapters 1 and 2, here for 3 and 4, and here for 5 and 6. Order on Amazon here.

Chapter Seven
The first time Clyde had a fit of sleep paralysis, he thought he might die from the intensity of the panic. By now, his fits were common enough that, after the initial sting of fear, he realized what was happening and knew enough to wait it out. Sometimes it took a few seconds, sometimes several minutes; one time it took an hour. That was the worst part–not knowing how long it was going to last. He would just lie there in bed, between awake and dream, unable to move, staring across his bedroom at the faceless figure who stood watching him. The faceless figure was presumably staring at him now. "Presumably" because it had no eyes. It never spoke. It never came towards him. It would just stand there, a vision that was presumably staring at him, sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for a few minutes, and one time for an entire hour.
The word rang out from the distance and Clyde’s heart leapt. For a moment, he thought the figure would rush him, but then the voice came again and he realized it was his father’s: "I’m telling you, we don’t have to die. I can save us!"
Vernon Sexler was tall and wiry with pale skin and thin, disheveled hair that resembled an under-watered plant. He wore the frame of a beaten man, but had the curious eyes of a child. He considered himself a modern-day Thomas Edison who could solve any problem, including escaping the apocalypse.
"You think you’re going to succeed where the Lord’s government has failed?" Mrs. Sexler asked rhetorically. Her tone was loaded with derision and her voice was eerily soft compared to his. "If he wanted us to live, his government would have given us a cure."
"People carry the virus!" Mr. Sexler said. "We just need to get away from people. And where is there a lot of wide open space with no people? The ocean. All we have to do is sail away."
"You cannot ‘sail away’ from God’s will."
"Noah did."
"Noah wasn’t a drag."
Drag was a slang term for someone who had been convicted of the Debtor’s Reduction Act, or DRA-Guilty. In order to reduce bankruptcies, the law empowered the federal government to regulate private debt by setting a private-debt ceiling and creating a federal Credit Management Office to issue debtors licenses to people who wanted to borrow above the debt ceiling. Mr. Sexler had never defaulted on a loan or even missed a payment; he simply went over the debt-to-income limit set by the federal government and was therefore deemed too irresponsible to handle his own finances. He had applied for a debtor’s license that would have kept him in compliance with the law, but because of the two-year wait to have his application reviewed, he was unable to get one before the interest on his existing debt pushed him over the federal limit. So, the government "repossessed" him. In the old days, that would have meant throwing him in a debtor’s prison. In the modern era, it meant empowering the IRS to seize his assets to pay off his debt and assume control over his finances. Mr. Sexler couldn’t buy anything without approval, change jobs without approval, do anything that required a financial transaction without approval. He was given a weekly allowance on a government-issued debit card, and every transaction was subject to IRS oversight and approval. He had the right to challenge his case in court, but the administrative hearing process was backlogged by three years. So, all of his possessions were sitting in limbo in a dusty warehouse, including the boat he believed would save the Sexlers from extinction.
It wasn’t too long after Mr. Sexler became a drag that Mrs. Sexler converted to the Church of Government, causing a rift in their marriage. He knew the church elders were encouraging her to file for divorce, that they had shown her how she could live a better lifestyle as a single mother on government aid than she could as his wife. He knew, because she had been throwing it in his face for months.
Clyde watched as his mother packed her bible into its wheeled carrying case. "What’s going on?" he asked, and they noticed him standing there for the first time.
"Your mother is leaving us. She’s going to her ‘church’ to welcome the apocalypse with her fellow parishioners."
"Can you help me with this, Clyde?" she asked once she had finished packing her bible.
Mr. Sexler grabbed the handle and began wheeling it out. "I’ll drive you," he said.
"No you won’t," Mrs. Sexler snapped. "It’s not enough that the IRS has your car, you want them to take Clyde’s too?"
Clyde’s truck used to belong to Mr. Sexler. Clyde bought it from him for a thousand dollars after Mr. Sexler bought himself a fancy new commuter car. His commuter car was now parked in a government warehouse. Right next to his boat. Despite the fact that the truck was registered in Clyde’s name, the IRS was attempting to seize it, too, arguing the purchase was a sham transaction to transfer assets out of Mr. Sexler’s name. All they needed was proof, like to catch Mr. Sexler driving it. And with cameras on every street corner feeding their images to the government, if he ever did get behind the wheel, they would certainly catch him.
"Well, I’m not going to make him deliver his mother to her death all by himself," Mr. Sexler said as he wheeled the bible out the door.
"I don’t understand, Mom," Clyde said quietly. "If Dad says he can save us, why wouldn’t you give him a chance. Why would you just … go off to die?"
"I won’t be dying, Clyde. The President has reopened CyberHeaven. I’m going to live in eternal bliss."
In the middle of the twenty-first century, a reclusive biomechanical engineer designed hardware and software that could download information from the brain. He formed the company Intellitech and offered to download people’s dreams so they could watch them when they awoke. The company predicted that, within a few years, it would be able to download the entirety of a person’s brain and plug them into a virtual world of their own creation. Intellitech spun off a subsidiary named CyberHeaven that promised to plug people into an afterlife of their own design. Three subjects volunteered for the test trials, which were more successful than the company had hoped. Not only were the subjects’ entire mental lives preserved forever, they were able to interact with the outside world and create and retain new experiences. CyberHeaven had found a way to provide a version of eternal life to all human beings. Someone could die, yet still live in a virtual world and communicate with their grandchildren and all their descendants to follow.
The Wapols argued that, for the common good, a technology with that much power needed to be controlled by the government to protect people’s privacy. So, they used eminent domain to seize all rights to the technology.
The families of the three CyberHeaven test subjects sued to prevent the government from confiscating their accounts. They argued that the beings represented in these accounts should be afforded the same legal protections as all U.S. citizens. To rule they were property that could be confiscated would be tantamount to slavery. To better demonstrate the merits of their case, the Eternal Three, as the account holders came to be known in the press, represented themselves in court. They fought it all the way to the Supreme Court who found themselves in the awkward position of having to define human life. Unfortunately for the Eternal Three, the court ruled against them.
The inventor of the technology subsequently went into hiding. It was rumored that, since he still carried the know-how in his brain, he feared the government would come to confiscate him as well. Two years later, it was revealed that the CIA was using the technology to download the brains of suspects during interrogations, and the U.S. Advocate General sued to have a permanent injunction placed on the use of the technology.
President Poll, eager to do something to lift people’s spirits, issued an executive order lifting the injunction. Now, through its Federal Progressive Church, his administration would offer eternal life to all its members. The punditburo sang his praises: "He’s changed the entire tone and direction of this thing." said one. "He’s always been a master at controlling the narrative," added another. "He’s turned this apocalypse into a win for the administration," marveled a third.
Clyde turned onto Federal Boulevard, and as he passed through the front gate and entered the government district, his truck was dwarfed by the gigantic government buildings that towered all around it. In the exact center of the district, in the exact center of town, there stood a monstrous stone building that looked like the Capitol in D.C. Out front, was a large bronze statue of FDR, and above the door was an inscription that read: "In Government We Trust." It was a Federal Progressive Church. There was a long line of people out front that wrapped around the building.
Mr. Sexler stayed in the truck as Clyde unloaded his mother’s suitcase and bible and wheeled them onto the sidewalk. Clyde noticed most of the parishioners were walking into the church as a family. After watching a young boy grab his mother’s hand, he turned to his mother and she was able to read the question in his eyes.
"You’re a good boy, Clyde," she said. "But we both know you never really accepted the President as your personal savior." She paused to let him protest, and when he didn’t, she continued: "You didn’t have to go through life alone, Clyde, and you don’t have to go through death alone, either. Give your life over to the Lord’s government and he will care for all your needs–both earthly and divine." She cradled his cheek in her hand. "I pray that you do before it’s too late." And with that, she grabbed her suitcase and wheeled her bible to the end of the line.
Clyde stayed for a moment to watch his mother leave, then returned to the truck. Mr. Sexler was staring at the line leading into the church. "What’s the world coming to," he said as Clyde climbed into the cabin.
"An end."
Mr. Sexler shook his head. "Take me to the Repayment Center."
Chapter Eight
The President spent a full day looking at thousands of images of beautiful young women, but he couldn’t narrow the list down without appointing a committee to help him decide which women were the hottest.
The Subcommittee to Enhance Procreation included the President, Jenkins, and Debuke. New to the group was Congressman Dobb, a middle-aged congressman who had earned a reputation as a real cad.
Congresswoman Doe was not invited to the proceedings for reasons related to gender; Rockefeller wasn’t invited for reasons pertaining to impotence; and Senator Kennedy wasn’t invited for reasons related to cock-blocking.
"You saw what an obstructionist blowhard he was about a couple of goats. Imagine how he’d be with beautiful woman," the President had said to Jenkins when he instructed him not to invite Kennedy.
Jenkins was preparing the video files when the famous film star, Carter Cash, entered the Oval Office; he strode in as if he was walking the red carpet. Cash’s silver-screen smile was a VIP pass into any room in the world. He was also a fundraising powerhouse for the left, a magnet that pulled in coin by the boatloads and, thus, part of the Democrat elite. The President had never organized a casting call before, so he invited Cash to lend a hand. The star was wearing what looked to be a gaudy necklace, but was actually a limited-range, directional EMP called the Tempest. It could disable the paparazzi with one click. They were status symbols and so celebrities wore them like badges. Cash crossed over to a mini bar in the corner and started mixing himself a tequila martini, one of many ostentatious ways he tried to be original. He made his martinis with tequila and his margaritas with whiskey.
Perhaps motivated by a subconscious desire to snuff out Cash’s light, Jenkins began closing all the drapes.
"So, what are we looking for here?" Cash said, stirring his drink.
"Beautiful women," the President said.
"All woman are beautiful in their own way."
"Of course, of course. We just need women who are beautiful in … our way."
Cash took a healthy swig from his glass before continuing. "Let’s get more specific. What role are these women going to need to play?"
"They’ll need to procreate," Jenkins offered.
"Okay there, professor. ‘Procreate,’" Cash snickered. "So, they’ll be mothers. They’ll need to be matronly."
"Not matronly," the President said with a hint of panic.
"Eventually, but at first they’ll need to be …"
"Hot," Dobb said.
"Hot mothers?"
"Attractive women young enough to have a lot of children," the President said.
"We’re going to need polygamous relationships in order to create diversity in the population," Jenkins explained. "So we need women–"
"You need women men will want to have sex with. Got it."
"For the good of mankind," the President said.
"Of course. Anything else?"
"Well they can’t be psycho," Debuke said. "I mean, it’s going to be cramped in the biodomes."
"And ideally they’ll have skills they can pass on to future generations," Jenkins said.
"Like being good with a firearm," Debuke added.
"I think that’s enough to go on. So, what are we starting with here? Head shots? Audition tapes?"
"Surveillance footage from the NSP."
"Okay, I guess that’ll work," Cash chuckled. "Let’s go through the footage and narrow it down to the list of women you’re interested in seeing."
As Jenkins played the various clips, the President sat on the edge of his seat watching intensely as if it was some sort of game where he needed to spot hidden treasure. "Ooh, I like her," the President said. "I like her a lot. What do you think, Dobb?"
"She’s a looker."
"Put her down on the list," the President said. Another woman came up on the screen. "Ooh, I like her too. Dobb?"
"I’d put her on the list."
The President nodded for Jenkins to make it happen, then turned back to the monitor for the next woman.
"Ooh, she’s a peach. She goes on the list for sure, don’t you think, Dobb?"
"Sir, you can’t put them all on the list," Jenkins said.
"What are you, the list police?" Dobb said.
"I’m just saying, we have to narrow it down."
"Shh!" the President said. He was staring dumbstruck at the next woman to come onscreen. He rose and approached her image.
The President remained silent. He began tracing the woman’s lips on the monitor. "I’ll be," he said breathlessly. "The NSP has found me an angel."
The image was of Candi Lovelace. Not only had she set off alarms at the NSP, but she also set off alarms in the President’s heart. Well, not so much his heart … about a foot and a half lower.
A hover jet settled on the White House lawn and the beautiful Candi Lovelace descended the plane, her shapely body made aglow by the setting sun that dotted the horizon behind her. She and the other attractive women who followed her off the jet were there to audition for a spot in Operation Legacy.
"Good morning, Miss … Lovelace," Jenkins said reading off his clipboard. He escorted her to a seat before the committee. The President, Dobb, and Debuke were all present. Carter Cash was not. It was feared his presence would undermine the success of the other suitors. "So tell us, Miss Lovelace," Jenkins continued, "do you have any special skills or talents to speak of?"
"I’m a really good dancer?" Candi said. She smiled and tossed her hair, which seemed to make a sighing sound, probably because the President sighed when she did it.
"I mean, something that will enable you to contribute to the common good," Jenkins said.
"What’s the common good?"
"Something that will benefit everyone."
"Everyone likes to dance."
"Yeah, Jenkins, what do you have against dancing?" the President said.
"I’m referring to more practical skills."
"Oh, you definitely need to practice if you want to be any good. I mean, I don’t really need to practice. But most people do."
The President was on to Jenkins. He had thrown such a fit about the fact that there weren’t enough "skilled artisans" included in Operation Legacy, he was obviously trying to corrupt the proceedings to select women with "practical" talents. The President would have none of it. He leapt up and grabbed Jenkins’s clipboard. "Next question. Actually, forget the questions." He tossed the clipboard onto the coffee table. "Miss Lovelace, would you like a tour of the White House?" The President was hoping to get the procreation part of the plan underway. He rustled Candi to her feet and escorted her out of the room.
"This whole selection process is making me sick," Debuke said.
"I know they’re young, but the future of the human race is going to depend on the women we select having a good number of child-bearing years in them," Jenkins said.
"I’m talking about fortitude. We have no idea if these women have what it takes to pick up a gun and join the resistance against an advancing Chinese army. (Debuke was convinced China was employing their own version of Operation Legacy and control over the post-apocalyptic world would be a global power struggle between the two nations.) We’re ignoring the most important traits in these proceedings! So they’re attractive. There’s more to women than just looks."
The comment threw Jenkins. For once he and Debuke were in agreement. Sort of. They didn’t discuss it further, but if they had, Debuke would have revealed that he found a woman who could handle a firearm a real turn-on. Debuke loved strong, intelligent woman. To him, sex and love were just another form of warfare, and for warfare to be rewarding you needed a worthy adversary. His truest love of all was a girl he met at West Point who wrote her thesis on ancient battlefield tactics. When they made love, she would scream, "Break my phalanx" and Debuke would respond with, "Here come the javelin throwers." He would shout, "Charge!" and "Retreat!" with each gyration of his hips while she would shout, "Hold your positions!" until the two of them climaxed in ecstasy together, each concluding the campaign by whispering, "Truce … truce … truce."