Stan Berserkervich Rides Again (Part 2)

Half an hour later, Stan and Belinda were riding in a stretch limousine to the casino for the daily press briefing. Belinda checked the schedule in her phone, while Stan stared out the window and sighed contentedly. City buildings rushed by. Empty businesses. Empty restaurants. Empty streets. The limo stopped at a red light. There was no traffic. Stan lowered his window and looked at a homeless man sitting amongst his few belongings on the footpath. The man held his dirty, gnarled hands up in front of his beard, blowing a talentless tune into an old harmonica. When he saw Stan, he stopped, lowered his hands and smiled a toothless grin. Stan returned a wincing smile and waved. The light turned green, and the limousine took off again. Stan put his window up. He shuddered a little and wiped his hands on his trousers.

Two blocks from the casino, the car slowed down. There was shouting in the street. “What’s going on up there, Phil?” said Stan.

The driver (whose name was actually Chris) answered, “Looks like a protest.”

“A protest?” muttered Stan. “But I banned protests. I banned protests, didn’t I Belinda?”

“Yes Sir, under current rules, any public gathering of more than ten people is illegal. Especially protests.”

The car crawled toward a furious mob of about fifty people chanting and waving picket signs. A circle of police, including several members of the dog unit with their German Shepherds, had the mob surrounded.

“Stop the car, Phil!” said Stan.

Chris stopped the car.

“Let’s keep going, Stan,” urged Belinda. “The press briefing is in fifteen minutes.”

“Wait. I want to see this.” Stan lowered his window.

A police officer waved the limousine along, but then noticed the premier. “Oh, good morning, Mr Premier. Just a bunch of anti-vaxxers causing trouble. Don’t worry, wagons are on the way. We’ll arrest the lot of them.” He headed back toward the protesters.

Stan nodded without hearing a word the officer spoke. His gaze was fixed upon one of the protest signs, which read Get rid of dictator Stan! All Stan saw of the sign was his own name; his imagination filled in the rest. One of the protesters, a young woman, burst from the crowd, ducked beneath a police officer’s arm and ran for the limousine. “You scumbag!” she shrieked. She held her water bottle aloft to hurl it at Stan’s car, but a police officer chased her down and clubbed her in the back of the head with a riot baton. The bottle dropped from the young woman’s grip, and she flopped to the road like a ragdoll, a ragdoll with a brain haemorrhage. Belinda cleared her throat, and Chris drove quickly away from the scene. Stan turned to Belinda. “Did you see that?” he said. “That sign said Stan is the best!

Belinda stared at him.

“They’re starting to see I have always been right,” said Stan. He smiled to himself. “In the end, I will save them, and they will love me.”

Belinda blinked, then nodded and smiled. “Yes Sir.”

After arriving at the casino, Stan made his way to the theatre’s backstage area. Since Stan had banned musicals, live bands, stand-up comedy and plays, and had made acrobatics punishable by twenty years in prison, the casino theatre was now only booked for two shows a week by a magic duo. This allowed Stan to use the theatre for his daily press briefings. He sat in the makeup chair and closed his eyes as the makeup artist applied powder to his forehead. The press briefing’s opening number commenced on stage, as a choir of three hundred children robed in red sang the triumphant anthem, “Stan is Great”. The press briefing had come a long way in a short time. What had begun as convenient format to announce Covid related statistics, inform the public of health and safety measures, and answer questions from the press, usually lasting no more than thirty minutes, had evolved into an hour-long celebration of Stan’s leadership, involving government-approved songs and poetry, dramatic performances depicting Stan’s victories, on-stage Covid vaccinations and a short speech by Stan himself. His speech was typically followed by a fifteen-minute standing ovation from the crowd of five thousand citizens, comprised largely of members of the Stan Berserkervich Fan Club (formerly known as The Young Communists Society. They had altered their uniform slightly and adapted their motto from “This time we’ll get it right,” to, “Stan will get it done”). The event was broadcast live on every television station each morning, and then shown again in the evening. Anyone who commented negatively about Stan’s press briefings on social media could expect a “courtesy call” from police, or to be audited by the tax office.

© 2022 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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