“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Polyneikes, the radical activist taken into custody several months ago, died this morning in police custody. The activist and leader of group The Rebel Epigoni, famous for his fiery speeches and charismatic presence, was arrested for breaking into an unnamed government intelligence building outside of D.C. Building plans were found on his person and it is believed that he was planning to bomb the facility, thus adding treason to his list of charges. Details surrounding his death are unknown. Joining us now is a top advisor to President Kreon, who recently labeled Polyneikes a terrorist…”
Ismene grabbed the remote and shut the television off. She and Antigone sat in silence for a couple of minutes, eyes fixed on the black reflective surface. Ismene wrung her hands together to stop them from shaking. It didn’t work.
Suddenly, Antigone stood up and ran into the other room. Sounds of retching filled the air, followed by a sob.
Hours later, sunlight slanted through the curtained windows and onto the ceiling. Antigone didn’t sleep all night, resigning herself to the fact that her mind and body couldn’t rest. She made her first pot of coffee over an hour ago. Time for another.
Ismene groggily rose from the couch and slumped to the kitchen. The young women embraced tightly, parting when the coffee maker beeped.
“I barely slept. I don’t even think the sleep that I did get was any good,” said Ismene, rubbing her sore neck. “Did you get any rest? Antigone?”
“What?” Antigone broke from her trance. “Oh, no, I didn’t sleep at all.” She poured herself another mug and brought it up to her lips, about to take a drink, but she stopped. “We have to do something, Ismene.”
“There’s going to be a vigil planned, maybe we can start a media campa-“
“I’m not talking about a damned media campaign or vigil. That’s not going to get anything done.”
Ismene was too tired to argue. “Okay, so what are we going to do, Antigone? Polyneikes is gone and Kreon has shown us what she’s capable of.”
Antigone rubbed her eyes. “Well, they’re not going to do an accurate autopsy on the body, and that’s the only way we can prove that he was murdered.” She walked the length of the small kitchen. “So, I guess we have to take the body and make sure it’s done correctly.”
“Later today, President Kreon will be meeting with her advisors to discuss the growing dissent in the capital city. Protestors have been gathering on the National Mall since the news of Polyneikes’ death last night. With us at the scene is our reporter Ampelius. Ampelius?”
“Thank you, Georgios. Many of the people here have stayed through the night, chanting about what they perceive to be a gross injustice – some have even called President Kreon’s actions ‘tyrannical.’ I spoke to a woman earlier today who expressed her frustration at what she perceives as a systemic lack of transparency surrounding the federal decision-making processes. A sense of growing unrest has surrounded the capital for weeks now, particularly after the president’s authorization of military action in the Turkish Civil War back in March. At the National Mall, I’m Ampelius.”
Kreon paced around the mahogany conference table, the heels of her shoes clacking on the marble floor. A group of men and women in suits sat around the table. Each shuffled papers in front of them and murmured to themselves. Kreon stopped pacing, took off her blazer and sat down. “What are we looking at here?”
A man with a prominent bald spot cleared his throat. “Around a hundred people have gathered on the National Mall since last night. Their numbers have been growing, and a few hashtags about Polyneikes’ death have started trending in the city. I don’t expect the movement to grow beyond what is happening right now, however. We don’t need to worry.”
Kreon looked across the table at him, her face stern and scrutinizing.
A woman at the end of the row of advisors piped up. “We also believe that there are already too many protests and acts of retaliation. But he’s right; if this flurry of action follows the pattern of similar protests, it should die out soon enough. Most social movements never last long enough to be a threat, and I wouldn’t even say that this could be qualified as a movement. It’ll trend for a while and then give way to the next news cycle.”
Kreon folded her hands together in front of her mouth. Her brow furrowed and it was apparent that she was forming a plan in her head. The mind of Kreon was normally calculating and shrewd, but her thinking had been clouded by paranoia. Her advisors were starting to see her paranoia manipulate her decision making but did not know how to navigate the constant fear that they were the new subject of elusive surveillance. Paranoia is good friends with violence, and Kreon was not afraid to be violent towards anyone.
The President leaned back in her leather chair. “Let’s give it some time, and if dissent continues to grow, we will be forced to take action. Gregor, talk to our friends at the FNC, see if we can help them talk about Polyneikes – we don’t need him to become even more of a martyr. Melitta, inform the chief of police that I want his officers to be on high alert. We might need them soon.”
“A young woman was arrested earlier today at the federal coroner for a crime that some are calling gross and inhumane, while others herald it as a move towards justice. The body of activist Polyneikes was almost stolen by Antigone, an accomplice in many of his schemes against the government. Joining us is Ampelius, who has been our reporter on the ground in the midst of growing unrest in our city.”
“Thank you, Georgios. A few days have passed since Polyneikes death, and hundreds more people have joined the occupation here on the National Mall. While many of the protestors here are peaceful, it appears that vandalism in the surrounding area has gone up as a result. Tensions here are rising, leaving many people wondering how long it will be before they burst. Back to you, Georgios.”
The stale interrogation room was dimly lit and monochromatic. Shadows cast from the one fluorescent light bulb hanging in the middle of the room made it so one could not clearly see many details on the walls. Antigone sat in a metal chair, handcuffed to the furniture by both her wrists and ankles. She looked radiant in her shackles.
The door opened, and stiletto clacks filled the room. Kreon emerged from the shadows, her eyes holding Antigone’s. Unwavering. Challenging. Eye contact did not break when Kreon sat across the metal table. The two women sat in silence. Unwavering. Challenging.
Kreon leaned back in her chair and sized up the younger woman across from her. “So, you’re Antigone. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Antigone mirrored her actions, taking the opportunity to better understand the woman she’d watched closely on television for years. She tried not to betray the snarling terror that was building in her gut by meeting Kreon’s gaze. “Thank you, I’ve heard a lot as well.”
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I have done nothing wrong. The people deserve to know what actually happened to Polyneikes.”
Kreon smirked, her lips bending around some luscious power. “Oh, honey. So naïve. The people deserve a leader that will put their needs first. Leaders give their people protection through order and direction, something that they so desperately need. I can do that for my people. And I am doing that for them.”
“You won’t even deny it? You killed him!” Antigone looked off to the side and sneered. “So, you’re saying that you needed to murder Polyneikes so that you can impose some oppressive order. How do you feel about that?”
Kreon leaned forward and smiled. “Just fine, thank you. How do you feel about stealing a corpse from a federal building?”
As Antigone spoke, Kreon’s smile evaporated and arched into a malformed snarl. “You people are so ungrateful. Do you people have no respect for the law? It is here for a reason, I am here for a reason – to protect against violence and chaos while people like you welcome anarchy. You and people like you are what’s wrong with the world.”
Standing up, the metal chair smacking the ground, Antigone worked against her chains and pushed her body forward across the table as much as she could. “I am what’s wrong?” She spat at Kreon. “Madam, I have not justified mass murder in foreign countries. My people and I have not decided to oppress dissent with guns. I have not silenced voices with a flick of my hand. Madam President, you are what is wrong.”
Maintaining eye contact, Kreon stood up and buttoned her red blazer. “Well, Antigone, I don’t think we need the courts to decide your fate. You have already sealed it.”
Antigone smirked. “I welcome my fate.”
The next day, Antigone entered her new home: a desolate room furnished with a thinly padded bed, toilet, and a noticeable lack of windows. Solitary confinement.
“Starting last night and continuing into the morning, unrest throughout the city has led to several violent altercations between protestors and police, as well as a rash of looting. Images of police facing off with protestors while clad in riot gear are spreading throughout social media, and we are seeing an increase in reports of social turmoil in other cities throughout the country. Ampelius has been reporting on the events here in Washington, and he will join us now. Ampelius?”
“Thank you, Georgios. As you can see behind me, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest President Kreon’s decision to convict Antigone of treason. The slogan ‘A state for one man is no state at all’ is a common sign that I have seen and what appears to be a rallying cry for everyone here. In the past few hours, police have made several hundred arrests. There is, however, there is not enough jail space to hold people for very long; as a result, officers are trying to get people still protesting to go home. Tensions are escalating, and I will be on the scene to report any developments in the protests. Back to you.”
The screen went black and Ismene stared at her muddled reflection. Tears slid down her cheekbones, and her eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep. One tear fell onto her shirt, and she looked down to see that there was an unidentified stain on the front that wasn’t there a few days ago. Empty beer cans lay scattered around her.
A couple of minutes passed. Then an hour. Then two hours. Ismene held her position, eyes closed and arms wrapped around her bent knees. Without thinking, she reached with shaky hands towards the remote, her thumb finding the power button. A burst of color and sound filled the screen.
“Georgios, I am here on Capitol Hill and tensions have escalated and riots have spread from other parts of the city to federal government buildings. Word of Antigone’s death in jail spread through the crowds and with it came militancy. The people that I was able to speak with say that they do not believe she hanged herself. A few minutes ago, armed violence broke out between police and some protestors, though we are currently unsure as to how many people have been shot, if any. Many protestors are calling for revo-”
Ismene threw the remote straight into the screen, releasing a scream that had been building since Antigone left to prove Polyneikes’ innocence. And failed. She failed. He failed, too. Ismene knew that they would and was heavy with the knowledge that she might too.
Looking into her fractured reflection, Ismene sat silently. No tears deserted her eyes – the time for that was long gone. Suddenly, she sprung into a flurry of action, grabbed her coat and Antigone’s megaphone, and ran out of the house.
A young man in a crinkled suit ran through the halls of the White House towards the West Wing. He flung the door open and hurried into the oval room. “Madam President,” he puffed breathlessly, “they’re outside. They’re rioting outside.”
Kreon was bent over her desk, hands pressed into fists and resting on the surface, her knuckles white. “I know.”