Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Night At The Port

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”- John Adams, Letter to John Taylor (1814)

September 23, 2016,
20:51 local time,
Residence of Anatu Martuenki,
Nineveh, Assyria

Despite all the buzzing and the scrambling that the harried nature of the moment had brought for her campaign, Anatu Martuenki, 26, could only sit at her desk and stare blankly at the video recorder, doing her best to hold in the numerous torrent of emotions that were boiling inside of her. The svelte blonde knew she had to project a calming and strong but reassuring image in her taped message; one that she hoped would resonate with voters worried that she could be the unifying force the badly fractured political system in Assyria so strongly needed.

She wondered how she got to this point. One of the dozens constituent states of the Virtue-aligned Asia Minor Federation (AMF), Assyria and its neighbours, the Hittites, were seen as “outliers”, places where the ancient Mesopotamian religion (and its Hittite variant) were predominant in a nation that was mostly Christian, especially among the elites. Anatu herself benefited from this “outlier” status, becoming a successful actress when The Temple of Love, a drama set in ancient times that centred around a temple prostitute played by Anatu, became a hit on AMF and later global television, lasting for eight seasons from 2006 to 2014. Halfway during the show’s run, Anatu gained a flair for activism, routinely campaigning against laws within the AMF that restricted sex to heterosexual marriages as well as legal and cultural practices that prevented a large number of women from working within the AMF. She gained a large following among progressive elements within the common population, so much so that, when the nominally-progressive leaning Mound Party registered candidates to eventually become the Mound’s nominee for AMF President, Anatu quickly signed up.

Anatu then romped through the primaries, vanquishing 22 foes through her populist message centering on easing the AMF’s restrictions against women as well as improving working conditions for the common worker. She then entered the general election phase against Christopher Lazlo, the nominee of the AMF’s other major political party (the more traditionalist Bearers of the Cross), with a ten percentage point lead in public polling, leading to many political commentators to believe she had a chance at winning the AMF election.

However, her lead would be volatile, as she underestimated the AMF’s penchant for evaluating the candidate’s character as opposed to their policies. Lazlo was a master of bringing up incidents in Anatu’s life that called her character into question, such as her long list of boyfriends, nights where she went on drunken escapades that involved incidents where Anatu would make colourful remarks, ingest drugs and/or doff her clothing, and an incident in 2000 where she defrauded a charity due to her financial difficulties as an actress. Many of those incidents by themselves would have sunk many AMF candidates, and they spurred the Mound leadership to question Anatu’s viability as a candidate (if not outright talk about replacing her), but, given that the AMF electorate was mostly tired of the elites’ antics, many looked the other way when another “scandal” popped up concerning Anatu, accusing Lazlo of “deflecting away from the real issues”.

Nothing, though, could prepare Anatu for the next salvo, one that threatened her candidacy for good. A photo released a week ago by The Pontus Chronicler showed Anatu hand in hand walking outside of a restaurant with a one John Razos of Sinope. Razos, the owner of a Fiat car dealership network within Sinope, was later revealed to be a married man, a revelation that sent shockwaves across the AMF. After initially downplaying the incident with “friends sometimes hold hands with each other”, Anatu was forced on to the defensive when Razos’ wife, Maria, alleged to the Chronicler that she caught John and Anatu “kissing” and released purported “love letters” written by John to deliver to Anatu. Public pressure mounted on Anatu to drop out, with rumblings within her own party growing that maybe it really was time to cut her loose. Worse, the Virtue Federation itself got involved, as they generally hated progressives like her, giving added ammunition for the Mound Party to make an unprecedented move. Her polling numbers dove into a tie with Lazlo for the first time, and, no doubt they would dive even further.

So this was a tape to stem the tide, she hoped. She would go on the recording, detailing the truth about her encounter with Razos, and apologizing with honesty for her actions. As she spoke, she worried that the truth might not be enough- but it was all she had.

February 19, 2010,
03:04 local time,
Portlands District,
Sinope, Pontus

“A strange time for someone to be out by the water,” said John Razos as he noticed Anatu sitting on a bench staring blankly out on the docks. Normally Razos’ comments would rattle Anatu, since she would think ill of anyone stopping her in the middle of the night, but there was something about Razos’ charm that stuck with her.

“Well, you know,” said Anatu with a chuckle, “I work so hard during the day and deal with so many throngs of people that this is the only time I ever get to be by myself.”
“Wait,” said Razos, clueing in after getting at good look at Anatu, “you’re the actress- Anatu. Wow…it’s so nice to meet you.”

Anatu looked at Razos and smiled, seeing that Razos had developed some nerves after being star struck. She aimed to calm those nerves and invited him over to sit next to her with a flick of her head.

“Are…are,” said Razos, stuttering. “Are you sure?”
“Of course,” said Anatu, flashing a wide smile that Razos found inviting. “You seem like a nice enough guy.”
“Yeah,” said Razos, still visibly nervous. “I…I mean…I like to think I am.”
“It’s okay,” said Anatu, patting Razos’ knee before keeping her hand there, which delightfully surprised her guest. “You come off more as a dweeb than a mugger.”
“Um,” said Razos, taken aback by the comment, “thank you.”

“So,” said Anatu, relinquishing her grip of Razos’ knee. “You know who I am…what’s your name?”
“John,” said Razos, “John Razos. I own a Fiat car dealership network here in Sinope…top-rated, actually.”
“Nice to meet you, John,” said Anatu with a smile.
“So, you know,” stammered Razos, “if you ever need a car…”
“Ah,” said Anatu with a sigh, “I’m sorry…I’m partial to my Austin-Healey…I’m a BMC gal all the way through.”
“Oh,” said Razos with interest. “Which one?”
“The 350,” said Anatu. “2004…my mother bought it for me when I got my first acting gig. Still runs like a charm.”
“Oh does it?” said Razos, switching to his “sales mode”. “What if I told you the Lancia Fulvia has more horsepower and gets you better gas mileage? It’s also a quieter ride.”
“Yeah,” said Anatu with a knowing look, “but my Austin-Healey goes much quicker and has a much better suspension. Trust me…you’re not going to convince me.”
Razos threw up his hands and smiled. “Okay,” he said, defeated. “You got me.”

“Say,” said Anatu, changing gears in the conversation, “what brings a handsome guy like you out on a night like this?”
Razos chuckled and blushed, taken by Anatu’s kind words. “Stress,” he replied demurely. “I deal with so much crap in my life…sometimes, I just need to escape. This is usually my hideout…I came here a lot as a kid, and, after the week I’ve had, I figured I needed to revisit this area.”

“What happened this week?” asked Anatu, concern painted on her face. “If you want to talk about it.”
“It’s okay,” said Razos after a sigh. “One of my dealerships is getting sued…could get put out of business.”
“As Assur is my witness,” said Anatu with unbridled shock, “that’s awful. What happened?”
Razos, a Catholic, was taken aback momentarily by Anatu’s admission that she followed the Assyrian religion, but made no issue of it.

“Last year,” said Razos, letting out a heavy sigh, “a customer came in and bought a Fiat 500. Got into an accident, sustained a concussion and a broken leg. Car was a write-off, though parts were salvageable. The police report said that he was going too fast for the conditions and obviously not paying attention, and investigators found that his seatbelt was not attached. I mean…it’s completely his fault, but in his deposition, he claims that the seatbelt was faulty and that we knew about it and still sold him the car anyway. Can you believe that?”

“Wow,” said Anatu, shaking her head. “I can’t believe that happened. It’s sad…there are too few people who are willing to take responsibility for their actions. They’re always looking to blame someone else…especially if that ‘someone else’ has money.”
“Tell me about it,” said Razos. “What’s worse is that my lawyer believes the customer might even have a case…I really don’t know how, none of Fiat’s cars failed a safety test in ten years.”

Anatu could only respond with a sigh and a headshake, before she got up from the bench and started to leave, but not before addressing Razos one last time.

“Listen, John,” said Anatu, “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I should get back to my hotel…but, if you ever need someone to talk to, give me a call.” She then gave Razos her card before putting her hand on his shoulder allowing her to lean in and plant a kiss on Razos’ cheek, before turning and leaving for her hotel.

February 21, 2010,
00:21 local time,
The Suites of Mithridates,
Sinope, Pontus

“Oh how I waited for this,” said Anatu, excitedly opening the door for Razos, and diving right in for a kiss, allowing the door to close behind Razos.
“You and me both,” said Razos, plunging in to Anatu’s mouth.

The two of them continued to kiss passionately, wrapping each other up in their arms as both of them felt drawn to each other in a way neither of them had felt before. For Anatu, she was taken by his inviting blue eyes and his smooth skin, but she was really drawn to Razos’ vulnerability, knowing that deep down inside there was a man who had the confidence to “take charge” but just needed someone to bring it out. For Razos, meeting Anatu was a breath of fresh air, as no matter what time of the day it was, there was Anatu, always finding time to respond to him and providing an open ear for his problems, being able to bear his insecurities in a way he never thought he could.

So when tonight happened, the excitement into the coming encounter built into a crescendo that erupted into a bout of full, unabashed passion, a passion that neither of them could contain.

Anatu would soon lead Razos away from the door, their lips still intricately locked, and led him to the bed, where Anatu took a seat before inching herself upwards, all while not loosening her lips’ lock on Razos’ passionate mouth. Once she got to the head of the bed, she pulled Razos towards her, binding them both into a tight embrace that deepened their bond. Here, Razos let go of his hold on Anatu’s mouth, making her gasp audibly before her moans became louder and louder as Razos moved his kissing to Anatu’s neck and then her ear, which caused her to squirm her body towards his in delight. As she was enjoying Razos’ sensual nibbling, Anatu found herself opening her legs and pressing her groin against his, desperately anticipating what was about to come.

She wasted no time undoing Razos’ belt and unzipping his pants, pulling them down before Razos finally shook them off. Razos then took the cue and ran his hands underneath Anatu’s silky black dress, pressing his hands and the dress upwards so smoothly and so elegantly that Anatu couldn’t help but be taken by Razos’ newfound brazenness. As Anatu tossed away her dress in delight, she barely flinched before excitedly undoing the buttons on Razos’ shirt, leaving both naked in all of their glory.

Razos then raised himself up, and took a long, but delighted look at Anatu’s body. Seeing her naked was nothing new to him- she’d done nude modelling pictures before and, as a fan, he’d seen all of them- but realizing that he now could actually see Anatu’s body and feel it and pleasure it in all its raw glory was astounding for him.

“You’re more beautiful in person than any camera could ever capture,” said Razos, still stunned by what he had just witnessed. Anatu smiled and thanked him, before wrapping her hands around his neck and kissing him again, which allowed them to resume their sexual escapades.

Razos then took his time enjoying Anatu’s body, nibbling everywhere with full delight and taking a particular interest in Anatu’s luscious, firm breasts. Anatu took particular delight in Razos’ dominating her in bed, as she felt that Razos had long lived a life where he had to acquiesce to others, an option that wouldn’t be on the table for him tonight.

Eventually, it came time for Razos to put on his condom and delight Anatu one final time. The two of them had sex, with Anatu yelping and screaming in delight as she implored Razos to go faster and harder, which he ultimately did. After a few minutes, the whirlwind of flurry and passion was over and both climaxed together, which caused them both to collapse onto the bed panting heavily in a vain attempt to catch their breaths.

“That was,” said Anatu, smiling and giggling but at a loss for words.
“Amazing,” said Razos, slightly hesitant before Anatu turned to him and gave him an approving look. “I needed that…I needed that badly…after all I’d been through…”

Anatu then placed her finger on Razos’ mouth to silence him, as she smiled in delight.

“I know John,” said Anatu. “I know. That’s why I let you take control. I can tell you’ve never had it your entire life.”

Razos smiled, struck by Anatu’s words. She was right, as he was stuck in a loveless marriage with a woman who regularly belittled him and psychologically abused him, with one of her favourite tricks being teasing him for sex only to stop at the last minute, several times doing so just to spite him or taunt him. He only married her because they had a child together, and while he does not regret his son, he regrets every day that he even met his mother.

“You know, it’s funny,” said Razos, feeling calm and relaxed. “What just happened…my wife would never go for that.”

Anatu then got up from the bed and looked at Razos with scorn.

“John,” said Anatu sternly. “I think you need to leave.”
“What?” said Razos, flabbergasted at the development. “What do you mean? I…I don’t understand…”

She then casually put her dress back on, still looking at Razos with disgust.

“You didn’t tell me you were married,” said Anatu. “You told me you were just dating and that you broke up tonight…by Assur, I believed you…wow…” She started to breath heavily, with her voice cracking as she started to cry. “I…I don’t even know what to believe anymore…I…I confided in you, let you into my life…and now I know that you lied?”

Razos tried to approach her as she broke down in tears, but Anatu brushed him away.

“Anatu,” he pleaded, himself starting to cry. “Please…believe me…I wanted to tell you…I didn’t know how. My wife…she abuses me so much…she mistreats me so badly…when I met you, it was like I found my solace…my soulmate. I…I…I didn’t want to lose you…I was afraid…please…please…I can’t go back…she’ll hurt me…I feel so trapped and you had set me free…oh my gosh…please…I can’t lose you!”

He then buried his head in his hands and cried audibly, which caused Anatu to sit and ponder what she had just heard. Her heart was taken by Razos’ honest pleas, but she was a public figure, and in a polity that as deeply Catholic as the AMF was, adultery was inexcusable. Razos was at best negligent, and thus Anatu knew she couldn’t let him off the hook.

“Look John,” said Anatu. “I have people who might be able to help you with you and your wife. Help you find a way to annul the marriage, although I know in Asia Minor that’s extremely difficult. I can even find you counselling to allow you to get through the tough times…but…” she paused to take in a deep breath before continuing. “You know how bad adultery is in this country, and the fact you couldn’t be upfront about that, especially with me being a celebrity, was callous and disrespectful. One day, I hope I can get past this and we can have a wonderful friendship, but right now…there is no way I can do it.”

Razos nodded his head, understanding what it meant, before getting up and putting on his clothes. He then meekly departed, upset and ashamed that he caused so much grief, though he wouldn’t yet understand fully the true impact of what he did.

September 24, 2016,
10:11 local time,
Mound Party Headquarters,
Tushpa, Urartu

“Hello,” said Mound Party Chairman Amaru Bensarduri as Ihbarhasvad Ganbold, Virtue’s Ambassador to Asia Minor, entered his office. “Listen, I’m just as upset with Anatu as you are.”
“Yet Amaru,” said Ganbold sternly as he readjusted the tie on his suit, “You still keep her as your nominee. Surely by now you would have released Anatu from her position as the Mound Party’s official candidate…I mean, what more do you need?”
“The people elected her,” said Amaru. “Whatever reservations I or my party’s leadership may have with her candidacy, the registered voters for our party came out and cast their ballots for her…if I respect democracy at all, I must respect that decision.” Amaru shook his head when he saw that Ganbold was visibly nonplussed.

“Look, I get it,” said Amaru, “she’s promiscuous…she threatens the sanctity of human sexuality by being so wantonly reckless with it, and by expecting others to follow suit. Believe me…I know how dangerous her message is, not just because of the social ramifications that would trivialize the most intimate part of human relationships but the health issues too, since promiscuity leads to STDs, many of them life-threatening. You don’t need to go on a rant, Ganbold…I already know that everything Anatu stands for will destroy our society, perhaps even going beyond our borders and thus we need to contain it…I already know.

“However…Virtue is also about democracy, and being a real one that has checks and balances, unlike Rome where the Caesar can decide on a whim he doesn’t want elections anymore. If you want the people to respect Virtue and continue seeing it as a reputable institution that protects democracy, then it is your duty to respect Anatu’s candidacy, no matter how revolting you may find it.”

“Passionate speech, Amaru,” said Ganbold, still dismissive. “All that stuff could have held a week ago, when, despite our better judgement, she was in the lead. She is not anymore, and now she’s a proven adulterer. That alone should give you some pause.”
“Come on,” said Amaru, “you heard her…she said she was fooled…that she didn’t know that John Razos was married, and that she broke it off as soon as she found out. Technically adultery, yes…but it’s not like she actively sought him out and induced him to cheat. John did.”

Ganbold didn’t offer a response- he just pulled out his smartphone and loaded a video, thrusting his phone into Amaru’s face and thus forcing him to watch the video. Amaru was quickly disgusted by what he saw.

“I just want to comment,” said Razos in a video statement released just moments earlier on his social media accounts, “on Anatu’s video, and the blatant and downright disgusting lie that she put forward, as well as the casualness she displayed while uttering it.” As Razos continued, his eyes watered due to the eye drops he applied to them, with his voice quivering but sounding stilted at times. “Despite what Anatu has led you to believe, she knew full well that I was a married man, yet she decided to continue pursuing me anyway. Much like her name, she was relentless, pulling every trick that she could in an effort to visit me and see me, all so she could just have sex with me. She continued to contact me even though I told her not to, she would talk to my friends in a bid to get a chance to see me, and she even once posed as a customer just so she could visit my dealership.”

Razos then choked up, thinking about his worst childhood memory- when his pet turtle died- which allowed him to produce credible tears.

“The worst of it, though,” said Razos, his voice cracking because of his sobbing, “was when she invited me to her hotel room. I simply thought, ‘wow, I’ve never seen a celebrity’s hotel room before’, so I decided to pay her a visit. I never expected sex. So you could only understand my shock- and bitter resentment- when, upon arriving to her room, she decided she had enough of me rejecting her advances, so she quickly undid my pants and…” He paused to take a deep breath, although no new tears formed, “and she stuck my penis in her mouth, proceeding to give me oral sex even though I didn’t want it. Frozen with fear and paralyzed the shock of her brazen act- not to mention how dangerously close her teeth were to my penis- I decided to give in, and I broke down my resistance and…to my shame, I had sex with her that night.

“I thought that would be the end of it, but I would soon still receive calls and texts from Anatu, begging me to see her again. I did not think much of it, but then, one day, while I was alone in my bed- as my wife was out of town that night- I woke up to Anatu, naked, with my pants down and my penis inside her vagina, using her body to thrust it repeatedly inside of her. After overcoming my shock over what was happening, I pushed Anatu off of me and grabbed my shotgun, upon which she decided that it was not worth the fight and fled. After she left the house, I tried to go back to bed, but I couldn’t, as I laid in my bed for hours, crying uncontrollably and feeling like a disgusting husk of a man who couldn’t stop this ‘woman’ from defiling me. I became distant from my wife, as I felt ashamed for what happened, which eventually led to our divorce.

“Thus, I cannot understand why anyone would think that Anatu would be qualified in any way to be President of our fine federation. Truth is, she should be in jail for her actions, not just because she forced herself on to me several, several times but because she did so even though she knew I was married. She became so obsessed with me that she was determined to destroy my marriage just so she could have me all to her, as if I was just a shiny ‘prize’ for her to obtain. People say, ‘what’s the harm in sexual liberation?’ ”. Razos then panned the camera and revealed that his room that was supposed to be his living room was barren, as he moved all the furniture out of it. “Well, I ask them to take a look at me, and see how much harm it really can cause.”

Ganbold then put away his phone and stood stoically looking towards Amaru, who shook his head several times and wiped his face with his hands multiple times, visibly distressed. Eventually, Amaru spoke.

“You know what,” said Amaru, his resolve finally broken. “Ganbold…you’re right. This woman…she’s dangerous. She cannot be anywhere near the government where she can set policies that ensure the destruction of our society.” Amaru then slammed his palm against his desk, causing Ganbold to jump.

“Screw the riots,” said Amaru with conviction. “Screw how many people will march to destroy our government- we can handle them. You know what, screw the people who will contend that we elites are ‘out of touch’ and don’t know what we’re doing- it’s the commoners who show, more often than not, that they’re ones who truly don’t know what they’re doing.

“No…Anatu will no longer be our candidate. I will officially remove her right now.”

Amaru then began his press release, pointing to an obscure Mound rule that says that the Party could get rid of its candidate “for any reason, whenever it saw fit”. Amaru then smiled as he wrote, eliciting a smile from Ganbold as well, but- as Amaru would soon find out- there was no preparing for the protests the AMF was going to get.