USA, 2020

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
I wrote this seven or eight months ago, after one of the GOP candidates made a remark about building an electric fence between the US and Mexico to stop illegal immigrants from coming into the country.

Submitted: July 18, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 18, 2012





Corporal Sam Henderson and Private Bob Miller were sitting on a bench, staring through the fence at the wide Rio Grande River. Finding myself bored after my latest run through the calisthenics course, I walked to the bench to join them.

“Private Jon Swift,” said Corporal Henderson as he waved me over. “Come, sit.”

I sat down on the bench beside them, and I began to look at the river. Beside me, Corporal Henderson pulled a cigarette and a lighter from a pouch on his uniform. He lit up and began smoking. As if this was a cue, Private Miller also began to smoke a cigarette.

“Hey, Swift,” said Corporal Henderson, a short, stocky man of twenty-one. “Why do you never smoke?”

“Yeah, why don’t you smoke, Swift,” said Miller, a kid of eighteen, my own age.

“I never liked the taste,” I said.

“But they’re good for you,” said Miller. “The government and the tobacco industry say that cigarettes promote good health.”

“Yeah, but not smoking won’t kill me,” I replied.

“Don’t you know that you’re legally required to purchase at least ten dollars worth of cigarettes every year?” asked Henderson.

“Yeah, I pay my dues.”

“So what do you do with the cigarettes?”

“I toss them in the river.”

The others laughed. Then, Henderson said, “Come on, let’s go inside and watch some TV.”

“All right,” I said.

We walked to the recreation building and entered. We walked through smoky corridors to a room that had a small TV on a table. Facing the TV were a bunch of chairs. Each of us took a chair, and Henderson turned on the television.

It was exactly six in the evening, and the news was on. The breaking report was about another border incident. This one had happened in Arizona, in some desolate stretch of desert. One of the newscasters began to speak. She was a pretty blond lady with well-tanned skin, and her counterpart had short dark hair, was very tall, and had been tanned as much as his partner. Of course, these people were designed to appear attractive, so that they could distract the masses from any bad news with a smile.

The long and the short of the report was that an unknown number of Mexican refugees had fled across the border from Mexico into the United States. When they had made it across the border, which involved scaling a waist-high barbed wire fence, they had to deal with the next obstacle, the mile-wide minefield. At this point, the refugees had two options; they could travel on a road or through the desert itself. The roads weren’t mined, so most of the refugees walked along the road. Two had tried to run through the desert, but hit a mine and were killed in the explosion.

The ones on the road had two more obstacles. The first was the fence, and the second were the armed civilians, police officers, and soldiers behind the fence. Often in situations like these, the border guards didn’t need to do anything. The fence was electric, supercharged with two million volts of electricity. Anybody that touched it was instantly cooked like a KFC special.

However, some of the civilians had opened fire. There won’t be an order of battle here, but including the people that stepped onto the mine and including two people who were fried on the fence, eight refugees had been killed, ten wounded and arrested, and the others had fled back to Mexico.

The news cameras panned over the scene, showing the bodies lying crumpled in the road, faces invisible, or clinging to fence, burned beyond recognition by the electricity.

“Why do we kill these people?” I asked Henderson.

“Because if we don’t, they’ll come across the border and steal jobs cleaning vomit and picking vegetables from hardworking Americans.”

“How many jobs is that? I mean, I needed a job, so I joined the Army, you know?”

Private Miller shushed us both. “Big Brother is on the TV,” he said.

Sure enough, the footage on the television had cut from the bodies to an image of Big Brother, who had taken over the country in a relatively bloodless revolution in November of 2012 and had appointed himself Big Father for Life in January of 2013.

“These evil Mexicans,” Big Brother addressed to a supportive crowd, “are trying to infiltrate our country and steal jobs from American people. They are evil, and we are going to continue our militaristic measures until they cease trying to cross the border.”

Just then, we were interrupted by the sound of the base alarm going off. We quickly ran and grabbed our weapons and equipment. We ran outside to see what was happening. The guards along the southern end of the base turned on their floodlights, illuminating our section of the electric fence, a large section of the Rio Grande, and the two hundred feet of heavily mined riverbank between the two.

Several canoes were coming across the river, all of them filled with Hispanic people. None of them appeared to be armed.

One of the officers, Captain Kevin Jenkins, grabbed a megaphone and shouted, “This is American soil. Turn back immediately, or you will be shot.” For good measure, he broadcasted the message again in Spanish.

The canoes kept coming, and all of them came ashore on the bank. Then, Captain Jenkins ordered us to aim and fire at will. Someone fired a rifle and one of the people on the boat collapsed backwards into the river, shot in the chest. The Mexican civilians began to run toward the fence, screaming at us not to shoot them. I began to hear explosions where some of the refugees were stepping on the mines.

I looked through the sights on my rifle and spotted a young Mexican woman, in her mid-twenties at a guess. She was carrying a baby in her arms. I lined up my sights on her face and moved my finger to the trigger.

I couldn’t do it. When I looked at her face, all I could think was that her skin was a bit darker than mine, that she followed a slightly different religion, and that she spoke a different language, but that it didn’t matter. This was America, land of the free and home of the brave, and here we were with a policed electric fence. I couldn’t pull the trigger, but my hesitancy became a moot point when Private Miller fired a shot from his rifle that hit the woman in the head. She collapsed, dead before she hit the ground.

About one hundred people had stepped off of the boats, but only about a dozen had made it to the fence. An elderly man grabbed the wire with his bare fingers. Two million volts of electricity coursed into his body, setting it on fire. The others met similar fates, and the gunfire died down to nothing.

Bodies littered the riverbank. The sun, though low in the sky, was shining enough light to make them clearly visible. The baby that the woman had been carrying began to cry. Henderson fired a long blast of fire from a light machine gun, and the crying stopped. Every corpse on the bank of the river was a civilian. All of them were unarmed, all of them looking for a place in America, and we cut them down like wheat, even innocent babies, and all because of some paranoia over a few low-paying jobs. The horror. The horror.

© Copyright 2020 Cole Nichols. All rights reserved.

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