SHORT FICTION: Gotta Distract ‘Em All

PGP-2

His finger hovered over the download button. Sweat trickled down his forehead, just a single line, but enough to make someone notice. Morris didn’t press the button. He turned his attention back to the sea of tents placed four feet apart from one another. Two people per tent, he was told. Only the tents were always empty. They’d been empty since he was stationed there five years ago.

“So this Pokemon Go thing?” he asked the sentry nearest him. “This is the one? It’s the distraction?”

His coworker shrugged. “It could be.”

“Wasn’t the primary election supposed to be the distraction?”

Another shrug. “I guess it didn’t work.”

“What about the last fad? What was that one again? I don’t remember.”

“Snapchat? Facebook? The ice bucket challenge?”

Morris sighed and stared at the empty tents. “I don’t even remember why anymore, John.”

“Why what?”

“Why are we distracting them?”

“Um, to take their guns. But it’s not us distracting them. It’s our bosses.”

“It doesn’t appear to be working.” Morris looked at his phone and rolled his eyes. “Hell with it. I’m downloading Pokemon Go. This place is boring.”

“Put the tin foil hat on first.”

He did as John asked. Better to be safe than sorry. His coworker never took his off. John said the Wi-Fi and television signals doped him up with too many subliminal messages. The hats, perfected over the last fifty years to look like shiny knit beanies, itched the scalp, but were otherwise comfortable. As the game downloaded, Morris looked at his partner and asked if he planned to play it too.

“These internment camps have been here for over twenty years. Longer maybe. I found a TV Guide in the mess hall with Bob Hope on the cover. And why are we taking their guns away and putting them in these camps? It’s stupid. You may as well play Pokemon Go too, John.”

The sentry laughed. His tin foil beanie shifted just over his right eyebrow. “I’m a grown man. I’ve got better things to do than play kid’s games.”

“Says the Candy Crush junkie. Says the guy who puts pictures of his dinner on Instagram. Says the man who plays fantasy football and opens Tinder every two minutes.”

“We need to be ready. This could be the distraction.”

Morris started playing with his phone. “I doubt it.”

But two weeks later, when unmarked cargo trucks began to appear, when soldiers started escorting half dressed, terrified Americans into the tents two by two, Morris couldn’t believe it. He stayed put, just as he was trained, and turned the game off. He’d just caught a Hitmonlee and got a good photo of it doing a high kick in front of some of the internment tents.

John whistled, obviously excited. “This is it. It’s finally happened.”

“PoGo was the distraction. My God,” whispered Morris.

“And you’ve been playing it.” The sentry looked up, noticing a contingent of soldiers heading in their direction. “You’ve been playing it.”

Morris felt his face flush red. “Just playing it doesn’t…”

One of the soldiers yelled at them. “You two. Stay right there.”

The soldiers, who Morris noticed were all wearing tin foil hats, carried their rifles in front of them, ready to use them if necessary. They both froze in place. Morris prepared himself. His phone was in his pocket. There was no way he’d be able to delete the app. It would be futile anyway. They already knew.

But instead of grabbing him, the soldiers converged on John. The sentry fought back for the briefest of moments before he succumbed to the soldiers. Morris shook, but knew not to move. One of the soldiers stopped next to them as the others dragged his coworkers to the camp. He was close enough Morris could smell the vanilla nicotine on his skin. A vaper, he figured.

Morris, his voice shaking, asked, “Was it Pokemon Go?”

“Pokemon Go? No, that’s just a game. Your friend over there is a registered Independent.”

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