A knock at the door. A bell rings. The intercoms of gated properties, apartment buildings, housing facilities, and communal living environments summon inhabitants to lobbies. This delivery cannot be left at the door, no one else can sign for it, and no one else can legally claim it.
The delivery person at my door is a woman, groomed and dressed in bland, neutral tones, trained not to show any expression or speak beyond what the job requires. I put my hand on the scanner and speak into the microphone. When the woman is satisfied with the result, she places a tiny beige colored box in my hand and leaves. No, “Have a nice day”, or “congratulations”. She goes to the next address on her list as do millions of other men and women throughout the country, who temporarily forfeit their right to vote as a requirement of the job.
Last time, it was me, on a different street, knocking on doors, ringing doorbells, asking building managers to summon their tenants. This year, however, I felt too strongly about the final candidates to make the same sacrifice, even if the pay was good.
I sit in front of the television. The box opens easily and inside is a clear, shiny package, containing a single gray capsule. A signal is sent to the television and a kindly faced, grandfatherly man appears on the screen. Dressed in a gray sweater, tan slacks, and sitting on a quaint stool, there’s a window behind him that opens onto a grassy meadow. Clouds float in a bright blue sky. I wonder if it’s a green screen, or if this was filmed on location.
“In twenty-four hours you will participate in the election that will determine who among the candidates will be named our 100th president. This marks a special milestone in our great nation’s history and you should be proud of this day, whoever you are.
“There are a couple of things to remember about the pill you are currently holding.” The screen went opaque and words appeared as the man read, presumably from a cue card, “1: This pill can only be delivered to a registered voter. Only one pill per voter is permitted. Please do not take this pill if you are not the registered voter it was delivered to.
“2: Unauthorized use of this pill, or using this pill in a manner not consistent with its original purpose, can be considered a treasonous activity and the guilty party will be imprisoned for a period of up to 100 years and voting privileges will be permanently terminated.”
Most of this I’m already familiar with. But the law requires all recipients of the pill to watch the spiel before the election results.
“The pill you are holding came into existence some time after the 2016 election when the final results triggered nationwide riots, mass suicides, and other destructive and antisocial behaviors. As a compromise and deterrent to future unrest, the pill was developed as a kind of second chance for people who were not happy with the results of the presidential election.
“Once you have swallowed the pill, the microscopic transmitter contained within will send a signal to the nearest tower, which will then convey your second vote to a polling station. An additional call will be made to emergency services, for your own safety.
“Thank you, America, for making our election process safe for all.”
The video ends, the TV turns off. The election results will be announced in just a few hours. On the coffee table is a bottle of water. I opened it and removed the pill from the blister pack, holding it in my hand. There would be no prize for taking it early
The seconds tick by, slowly. I turn the TV on and stream an old comedy series, trying to keep the mood light with a little laughter. Finally, it’s. I switch to my favorite news station and there on the screen, is the candidate who will, in theory, go on to be the 100th president of our nation.
I place the pill in my mouth and drink the water. The flavor I chose was raspberry. A blanket of darkness fell over my vision.
When I awakened, the TV was still on. Silas Swift was at the coffee table with Donnie, Carol, and Logan. I responded to the call from emergency services and declined medical assistance. Other than a light grogginess and a bit of amnesia, I’m fine. I finish the water to cure the dry mouth.
“Boy, that was the closest election ever,” Silas said. “I don’t think quite so many people have taken their second votes, do you?”
“Well the first time around people got confused,” Donnie reminded her. “They thought the second vote would actually change the outcome of the election. Really all it does is keep the people who are dissatisfied from doing something stupid and outright dangerous…”