Suffer the Children

First the Children send lawyers into the city, fearsome lawyers. Lawyers who balloon with pride to represent innocence and righteousness. Only now, after all the battles the Mayor has so far survived, have the lawyers come at him without restraint. As if always knowing the Children would one day appear, they had always held back before. The Mayor has engaged them forcefully, staging delaying actions that will last longer than his own term and very likely longer than the childhood of the Children. At any rate, they won’t be silenced. Now the Children themselves are coming.

The Mayor doesn’t panic. He sends his advisors away. He ponders. His is the sort of politics that entirely depends, for better or worse, on the varied kinds of lived experience that define adulthood. Could it be that versus the Children, his instincts and skills are worth nothing?

Thus far his challenges have been met by righteous disdain. The Children have in fact ignored the Mayor, as if simply preferring to wait for him to die or go away. They are so sure he will go away. This rankles. This is not simply the righteousness of the Children’s Crusades, which were willing to serve the interests of Daddy whether they knew it or not. Nor is it the righteous amorality of the children who have committed war crimes in every region of the globe as a protest against the fact that they are already dead. These have a righteousness that is still life, where the Mayor represents death. And though a lanky boy is their spokesman, it is those eyes of the girl, glittering with that truth that tells you the time for talk has already ended long ago, the Mayor can’t shake. And that shell/stone on her necklace is like something he has dreamed.

These new information systems have grown the kids up too fast. They know every end point. They don’t understand the million, the billion of small terrible battles on the real and adult road to each one. Their righteousness infuriates him. Yet he would not have survived for as long as he has without being able to consider the fact that part of him loves their righteousness. Part of the Mayor hates the Children for not coming sooner. Where were they during his own childhood? It is for these delicate moments of policy-making the Mayor keeps on his staff the “fyctocrytyc” Van Helsingen. He dislikes Van Helsingen intensely. Yet Van Helsingen enjoys an entire well-equipped office with balcony, and goes about “their” “research” at the Mayor’s expense. Let’s see today what having one’s enemy near is really worth. The Mayor calls Van Helsingen to the Office.

“In two hours the Children’s train is due to arrive at Flinder Street Station. I want to cut off their money; shut them down before they get here and immediately end this struggle.”

“Not possible,” says Van Helsingen, with an expression more amused than interested. “Kids are pre-capitalist.”

“Pre-capitalist? This is not the time for jargon. Where do they get their lunch money god damn it? Kids need money too.”

“Well that’s simply not true,” Van Helsingen says. “Many kids get everything for free.”

“I can stop the train before it gets here. I can intern them. Trump something up against their damn lousy parents.”

“I would not advise it,” Van Helsingen says, pulling on that hateful yellow pointed beard.

“So I lose, is that it?”

“Exactly. You say they’re arriving by train?”

One hour later Van Helsingen joins the delegation that accompanies the Mayor to Flinder Street Station.

They know that Heaps live on most Earths of the Books; Heaps and their proddings are widely believed to be intimately mixed-up in the evolution of the human. But though it is not generally known, mathematics has already made heaps visible. These days one would expect to find such relics underground, in back alley and/or bi-way. Now that they have learned to see them, Van Helsingen sees Heaps nested visibly among anything that will one day become randomized flotsam of industrial capitalism. Even though they have predicted it, to see an old Heap today in the vast old world environs of Flinder Street Station’s Great Hall, gluttering in plain view of the hustling passers-by, strikes Van Helsingen as neo-surreal.

The Heap – holding itself into an assortment of found tin cans, newspapers, plastic 6-pack rings, the tossed butts of cigars, cigarettes, and things worse that would last for a thousand years — gathers words in Van’s head to chat. It feels just lighter than thinking. Hey Heap, the Heap says.

Hey Heap, Van Helsingen returns. Want to intervene in human history?

Sure we do, Heap. Glad you joined.

Bulging against barriers, an admiring crowd awaits the Children. The Mayor and his delegation stand to meet that barefoot, dark- eyed girl whose righteousness in particular presents itself as silence in the Grand Hall. Van Helsingen stands beside the Mayor, holding in their palm a pencil, a piece of chewing gum, a paper clip, and an empty cigarette lighter.

The Mayor falls to one knee. “Behold,” he says, with some gallantry. “The loudness. The stink, the white sun through the rose window. The races, mixed and separate, the boys, the women, the tall walls stretching sun-lit into the y axis. Big doilies, doorways, faces, tobacco, nesting rats, chewing gum, newspapers, hawkers, shouts, honks, murmurs, sticky spots, discarded plastic capsules, hot dogs, pretzels, hiving insects, ancient gum: grey history gods of a billion intersections in the era-pause. Trucks honking! Uncountable small nuts. Visible poverty softened into proto digitalia by internets of graffiti predicting electronic futures only tells us we have misjudged the shallowness of our shared future. Here signs flow like analog waves through the colorless bars of the industrial urban illusion, while fictions of realism motivate corrupt ever-young elders on their never-forking tempo-trails. These seem to us similarly mindless, tracked, and predictable as the great Locomotive pulls the Lord of the Heaps upon you — in other words, yes, take it all! Start over! We Surrender. Literally.”

Without another word, the Mayor unstrings the necklace, and hands over the Key to the City.

 Mark von Schlegell originally published in