Letters from the Waste: Part IV is the fourth installment in the ongoing Puritan serial. In this fourth installment, the Puritan takes center stage, making his intentions and character known as he plans a new chapter for his world. Click here for the previous installment.
Fragment 0001 – c
[Copy of an introductory address delivered by Patriarch Wade to citizens in Washington D.C.; dated exactly two years into his rise to power.]
Citizens of the Order, men, and women, of importance, Vicars, Auxiliaries, Generals, and priests,
Look at what we have achieved! In two years – just two years! – I have accomplished more than perhaps any other leader in history. Peace! Order! Virtues and righteousness restored! And I could not have done it without each and every one of you. You are important! [He begins pointing at sections of the crowd, who cheer in unison as his finger falls upon them.] You are important! You are important! You! Are! Important! Together, we have made the world a better place. We have achieved the dream, the human dream, set out for us so many millennia ago.
And today, perhaps more than on any other day, will fulfill that promise. We will march into the new age. When I first set out on my mission in the land of the Citadel, I stated my case, my certain case, for equality. In God’s eyes, we, righteous citizens, are all essentially the same, and I wanted to make a world where we could be treated as such. We have nearly completed that aim. But there is one article, one possession, a parasite so engrained in society that we have had, for the last two years, to cut it out carefully, replacing its every facade with something better: money. Today, we destroy that last vestige of sin, the driver of greed, the great unequalizer.
Some, my opponents, fear that this denial of money is a denial of thriftiness, individuality, and natural growth, but I say to them, nay! We have demonstrated the path of progress, a progress bound not by material worth, but by real, existential, spiritual worth, and it is a path laid with responsibility for both individuals and the common good. Money never promised the goods my opponents champion; it merely placed a price on them.
And now, the evils and temptations of wealth will no longer beset any of us ever again. None shall be poor, nor rich by comparison, except that we all shall be rich, all shall be provided for, all shall know the sustenance and comforts of hard work, health, and hospitality. My Order, our Order will lift up the lowly and fill all with good things.
My friends, the kingdom is at hand, and it is yours.
Long live our glorious Order, its righteousness, and power! May it shine forth as a beacon to all, a torch to shine in the eyes of men and angels alike!
[A group of young, uniformed men step forward with torches, laying them out on a symbolic pyre of dollar bills. This action marked the beginning of the Liquidation.]
And now, I would like to introduce Arch-Vicar Moore, a very, very intelligent counselor and talented scholar and administrator, to speak further on the new system of designations.
Fragment 0158 – a
As you requested, in confidence, I have retrieved a transcript of Patriarch Wade and Agent Anne Milton’s most recent conversation. It is enclosed below. I trust that you will use its contents only with the best intentions.
[Copy of transcript attachment enclosed below.]
[Patriarch Wade enters his private study. Agent Anne Milton follows.]
Patriarch Wade: You never told me, what do you think of the place? Be honest.
Agent Milton: It’s extensive.
PW: Is the red too much?
AM: No, but I can tell that you like it a lot.
PW: I feel like it adds some warmth to the room.
[PW and AM audibly take their seats on the couch.]
PW: Alright, let’s get down to business. I’ll admit, I’m impressed with your restraint. Most people seem more afraid of me.
AM: I doubt that.
PW: Don’t flatter me. I can see it in their eyes. Everyone in this whole damn city is afraid of me. Even you, but you’re good at hiding it. It’s just the way things are.
Do my words surprise you?
AM: No, sir.
PW: There we go again with the sir. I told you, call me John. Or, if you prefer, the Puritan? [laughs]
There’s a romanticization to the latter, one that sets me too far apart from the common people, even if they are the ones who coined it. No, I need you to trust me, me, because I need to trust you.
AM: John, sir, why am I here?
PW: To help me save the Order. What do you think of the centerpiece?
AM: Is it the symbol of the Order? The Crossguard?
AM: It looks old.
PW: It is. Not very old, though. You know, some people think that the Crossguard is random. Many think that it’s religious. A cross. I let them. Faith is a powerful thing. A useful thing – one that I can respect – and I don’t object to the juxtaposition. Most days, I consider myself a faithful servant. Some of my early critics compared it to a swastika. In truth, and this is a truth known to only a few, this centerpiece, this symbol, it’s something more personal – my Rosebud.
PW: That would go over your head. That’s fine. I’m old-fashioned. And old. Look, this centerpiece, the origin of the insignia, is just a window pane.
PW: As a child, I used to stare out this same window, every day, when I first got up in the morning. I always loved the light, the silhouette made by the crossbeams. There was something peaceful about it, something promising, that there was a world beyond this one, just behind the glass. For me, it had a spiritual influence. The glass is broken now, and the paint continues chipping off, but this relic is really where it all began.
How do people think that I got my powers?
AM: [brief silence] There are theories. Some think that they were a gift given to you by God. A friend of mine – a mathematician – used to say that it was a byproduct of the inherent chaos of the universe, an unpredictable miracle. Or you fell into a vat of toxic waste.
PW: It really boils down to two options then, doesn’t it? It was either a gift or a mistake. Which do you think?
AM: I’m not sure. But I’m inclined to think that there’s a plan for all of us.
PW: For a long time, I thought that too. [brief silence] Don’t think too highly of me, Milton. Everyone does, but I’m nothing if not humble. No. I don’t know how I got my powers, any more than you do. Or at least, not much more. I didn’t always have them. I wasn’t born with them. I know that much. But when I started doing this, all of this, I firmly believed that God had chosen me. Through every step of the way, I asked him what I should do next, looking to his example. I prayed for his guidance. [pause] But, as I found my road nearing its end, I couldn’t help but question whether He was still answering me.
AM: With all due respect, Patriarch, I still don’t understand why you’re telling me this.
PW: Take this. [slides an American quarter across the table]
AM: Patria-, John, is this – is this about the mandatory evaluations, from a few months back? Sir, I –
PW: Pick it up. [pause] You have absolutely nothing to fear.
[tosses his own coin into the air]
Tails. Your turn.
AM: [flips coin] Tails.
PW: Again. [flips his coin] Heads.
PW: Again. Tails.
PW: Once more.
[Both coins fly off the table, into the air.]
Anne, you’re either a gift or a mistake.
AM: What do you mean?
PW: It took a little over two years to complete the testing. Two long years, and you’re the one that showed for it. You’re right to think that this little exercise here doesn’t prove a lot. [He raises his hand, summoning two pieces of paper from his desk.] But these do.
AM: My scores.
PW: And mine. They match. One hundred and eighty-four flips of a simple coin, and every data point matches.
AM: It’s unlikely, but-
PW: It’s astronomical! To you, this process might seem random, but I’ve spent years perfecting it. [pause] Are you familiar with the selection process for the Dalai Lama? It’s extensive and deeply spiritual, endowed with meaning and purpose. Shortly after the death of their leader, High Lamas, driven by the guidance of visions, look for their leader once again in a new incarnation, in a child. But the child is found, depending on your point of view, by mistake, chance, or by a miracle. The child who will become the Dalai Lama picks out the possessions of their predecessor. Such a test could be a coincidence. Or a genuine, real connection. Or both. My evaluation is not so different. And the thing is, I expected to find nothing. One in two to the 184th power, that was how unlikely finding a match was! But I found you, right when I needed to. A successor.
AM: A successor?
Did you ever wonder why I chose the format for the test that I did?
AM: Everyone wondered. It seemed … wrong to re-introduce monetary articles.
PW: I considered that. When I first started making the coins for the evaluations, I could have chosen any binary object I wanted – levers, switches, even or odd numbers – simply from scratch. I could have chosen to not make them in the image of money. Or I could have etched my face on one side of the coin, and the Crossguard in the other. And I could have made it a fifty pence, a Canadian dollar, a nickel, Kennedy, Lincoln. I could have put Christ himself on there. Shaping the coins was easy, as easy as it had been to destroy them in the first place. But I decided on an American quarter for a few reasons. First, ever since most standard forms of money had been rendered obsolete, I had held onto one article for myself. An American quarter. For a while, I didn’t entirely understand why I kept it, except to keep my fingers occupied. I used to be a magician – you know that right? – and using a quarter was the first experience I had with sleight of hand. Having one already, it was a simple enough thing to copy, an acute mental image, molding metal disc after metal disc with my mind. But more than that, I like the insignia of American coins. Given the circumstances, they felt fitting. In God we trust. E Pluribus Unum. One out of many. For this test, I was having every citizen in Ordered territory flip a coin a seemingly ridiculous number of times, trusting that God. through that method, will bring me one out of many, you. In some ways, I was testing God as much as my own people. And then, there’s Washington. When I built my empire, when I structured the Order, I looked to the great examples: Alexander, the Roman emperors, the early American conquerors, the Mongols, the Khans, David, the Crusaders. But one man stood out. Washington. Maybe it’s because I’m American myself; when American history was American history, George Washington was mythical. Before I reshaped it, they even had him standing up in heaven on the dome of the U.S. Capitol building. Here was a man who, having used his lifetime to build a nation, let it move on from him. Throughout history, most of the great conquerors have failed in one regard: to make something lasting. Washington didn’t make that mistake. He passed the nation on. Now, I plan to do the same.
AM: To me? Because of a coin toss?
PW: Because of a coincidence too impossible to be a coincidence.
AM: There are people infinitely more qualified than I am.
PW: People who are accustomed to serving. To living in fear. And you’re afraid, sure. But you’re not blindly obedient. You’re important, Anne. That’s what your evaluation told me. And so, together, we’re going to find out what that importance means. I see potential in you, Anne. Tremendous potential.
AM: I need time to think about this.
PW: Of course, you do. It’s a lot to know. But trust me on this, if you’re not the person I’m looking for, we’ll know soon enough. I’m not going to throw you into this too hastily. The evaluation was just a spark. Soon, we’ll find out if you can hold a flame. For now, you may leave. Take this with you, as a sign of my good will. I usually find it best to consolidate my thoughts into writing. It helps keep my mind clear.
[Patriarch Wade offers her a leather-bound journal. Taking it, she stands to go.]
And Anne, I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that you’re not to breathe a word of this to anyone. I’d hate for you to lose your tongue, like the last Pariah. We’ll meet again tomorrow, at three. And give the Crets, my best, will you?
AM: Yes, I will. Thank you, Patriarch. Have a good day. [Bows and exits]
Fragment 0002, Anne Milton – c
I need you to know, if anything happens to me, that I love you. I don’t know if they’re checking my mail. Patriarch Wade seems to be testing me and, as much as I hate to admit it, I think I know why. I’ve done something wrong. I just don’t understand why the Patriarch would take such a personal interest in it.
Fragment 0000 – b
So many lies, but where lies the biggest fabrication of all?
Il Miglior Fabbro
[Photograph of attachment below]
Cataloged as Original Test Results: Anne Milton
note: further analysis necessary – annotations