Author: Matthew Speiser

About Matthew Speiser

I'm a 25-year old writer living in Manhattan

Safe Space

1.

It had been months since the sun shined. Nathan walked along the crumbling highway with his son Samuel in tow. Samuel had a rope tied to his waist. The rope was attached to a shopping cart which contained all of Nathan and Samuel’s worldly possessions: some cans of food, a rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammo.

The shopping carts’ wheels clattered along the cracked asphalt. But then Nathan heard another noise. The noise of an engine. He looked back and saw a cloud of gray dust on the horizon.

“We need to get off the road.”

Nathan grabbed the assault rifle and the blue tarp from the shopping cart. Samuel pulled the cart off the highway and down the hill into the tree line. The dead trees provided little protection, but it was the only cover they had. Nathan tipped the shopping cart on its side and laid prone on the ground alongside Samuel. He threw the blue tarp over them. The barrel of the rifle poked out.

The noise of the engine grew louder and louder until a pickup truck screamed past them. Thankfully, it was going too fast to notice the blue tarp. Nathan saw the passenger’s, though. There were four of them sitting on the bed of the pickup, all bald white men. A turret was mounted on the bed of the truck, and a Confederate flag waved from the bumper.

After the engine’s noise had died away, Nathan and Samuel crawled out from under the tarp.

“Dad, how much longer till we get to the bubble?”

“Not too long now. Maybe a day or two.”

“Will life be better in the bubble?”

“In some ways, yes.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a safer place for you.”

“But?”

“But safety comes at a cost. We won’t be free.”

“You mean we’ll be slaves?”

“No, I mean we won’t be free to do certain things.”

“Like what?”

“Like, you have to say Caitlyn Jenner was brave.”

“Who’s Caitlyn Jenner?”

“Don’t worry about that now.”

Nathan had been reluctant to tell Samuel all the truths of the world. He didn’t want to confuse the boy. Samuel had been born in the middle of the Snowflake Uprising. At the time, conservatives were still clinging to power. Every day, liberal armies would gather outside government buildings and courthouses in cities across the country, demanding conservatives leave office. They carried no firearms, for they were all staunchly opposed to the Second Amendment. Instead, the liberals wrote snarky messages on posters, sang peace songs and offered to give conservatives sensitivity training. The conservatives shot and killed thousands of them in self-defense.

But eventually, the ammo ran out. After several years, the liberal army — or Snowflakes as they called themselves — succeeded in ridding all the great American cities of every conservative-leaning politician, judge or bureaucrat. Once the job was done, they commissioned the scientific community, a loyal ally of the Snowflakes, to construct massive bubbles around their cities. The bubbles were impervious to gunfire, bombs or missiles. The Snowflakes welcomed immigrants, minorities, homosexuals and fellow white liberals into the bubble. They kept out conservatives through extreme vetting tactics. Pretty soon, the Snowflakes had what they wanted — liberal havens where people were free to be who they wanted to be, act how they wanted to act, and say what they wanted to say as long as nobody else is made to feel uncomfortable.

They called these bubbled cities their “safe spaces.”

2.

The sky had turned a darker shade of gray as dusk approached. Nathan looked off in every direction to see if he could spot a light or some kind of structure that could serve as shelter. It was very dangerous to be caught out at night. The Snowflakes weren’t the problem. Nathan feared The Deplorables. He suspected the men in the pickup truck from earlier were Deplorables.

The Deplorables were a radical offshoot of conservatives. Their kind had always existed on the peripheries of American cultural discourse but were finally able to seize power in the fallout from the Snowflake Uprising.

At first, the Deplorables tried to attack the space spaces. But soon they realized they had exactly what they wanted: an entire country free of liberal influence. The Deplorables then set about achieving their ultimate goal: creating a white ethnostate. They began roaming the country in search of immigrants and minorities who were unable to make it to the safe spaces. When they caught them they gave them a choice: death or slavery. Many chose slavery, more chose death.

But the Deplorables didn’t just stop with immigrants and minorities. Pretty soon they were hunting anybody who didn’t share their radical beliefs, which is why Nathan felt the need to hide. Sure, Nathan had been a conservative thinker his entire life, but even he wasn’t sure he could withstand questioning from the Deplorables.

Rumor had it that when the Deplorables question you, they shoot you full of truth serum and force you to answer three questions at gunpoint:

  1. Do you think women deserve to earn equal pay as men for the same job?
  2. Should businesses be required to provide service to a customer if the request conflicts with the business owner’s religious beliefs?
  3. Do you believe climate change is real and that humans are causing it?

Nathan knew there was only one answer to these questions the Deplorables wanted to hear, and he knew that if he wavered in front of them, it would cost him his life.

3.

They found refuge in the husk of an old worn down trailer parked off the highway. The trailer bore the Snowflake insignia on the side. Nathan assumed it was one of the trailers the Snowflakes used to transport goods between safe spaces. The safe spaces functioned as their own independent city-states, exchanging goods and services only with each other. They flourished economically under this arrangement, while the rest of the country — deprived of their hubs of finance and innovation — suffered.

This is why Snowflake convoys transporting goods were often attacked. Sometimes the Deplorables would attack them. More often, it was starving citizens. This worn-down old trailer was likely the result of one of the few successful attacks, and it would make an adequate shelter for the evening.

Nathan and Samuel laid flat on the metal floor of the trailer. Neither could sleep. Outside, in the distance, Nathan could hear engines roaring and gunfire.

“Dad, why did Uncle Michael get to live in the bubble?” Samuel asked.

“Because he was already living there when the Snowflakes took over.”

“So they let him stay?”

“Well, first he had to convince them that it would be okay for him to stay.”

“How did he do that?”

“You know, by saying all the Snowflake stuff: gender is a spectrum and universal healthcare and all that.”

“And he convinced them?”

“Apparently.”

“So he can get us into the bubble?”

“I hope so.”

“How do we know he isn’t a Snowflake?”

Nathan let out a long sigh. The truth was there was no way of knowing whether his brother was a Snowflake. Nathan hadn’t spoken to Michael in over 15 years. The two had been close as children, but things changed when Michael decided to attend college. In short time he began lecturing Nathan on “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.” Nathan would tell Michael that the purpose of college isn’t to be coddled, it is to open your mind to new experiences and new ways of thinking. The brothers would get into heated arguments and not talk for weeks.

The final straw came when Michael set fire to the student center to prevent conservative thought leader and author Khloe Kardashian from speaking at his school.

It was at this point that Nathan realized Michael had been infected with some kind of liberal disease. Rather than try and help his brother, he turned his back.

Little did Nathan know that this liberal disease would go on to infect his wife, Wanda. Only months after giving birth to Samuel, she decided to join a Snowflake march on the state capitol. Nathan begged her to stay home.

“Let them kill each other! You’re a mother now, you have responsibilities!”

Wanda shot him daggers. What she said next Nathan will never forget:

“Don’t be a cuck.”

With that she was out the door. That evening, Nathan heard about her death on the news. She crossed the picket line and attempted to enter the state capitol. She said she wanted to reason with the conservatives. She didn’t get two feet in the door before being cut down by a flurry of bullets.

Michael had seen the news too. He called Nathan that night, and invited Samuel and him to come live in the bubble.

“Do it for the boy,” Michael told Samuel. “You can’t raise him on your own. The world out there is not a good one.”

Nathan was wounded. “Your world is so much better?” he shot back. “Maybe the reason the world is like this now is because your kind stuck their noses up at the rest of us. So thanks, but I don’t need your pity. I’ll take my chances out here.”

Michael did take his chances outside the bubble, but he underestimated how bad the country would get. The only jobs left were in coal mining and agriculture, and the slaves did most of the agricultural work. The Deplorable government had promised prosperity for all, but to Nathan it seemed that all the money went to the top, and none managed to trickle down to the working class.

Out of options, Nathan was finally taking his brother up on his offer.

Michael rolled over and looked at his son.

“I don’t know that he’s not a snowflake. But I know that he’s my brother, and I think he can help us.”

4.

The trailer jerked forward. Nathan shot up from his slumber and reached for his weapon.

“What’s happening,” Samuel asked, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“I think we’re moving.”

The trailer jerked forward again and Nathan fell on his side. Then he and Samuel slid backward, then forwards when the trailer began to pick up speed.

Nathan stumbled to the back door of the trailer and unlocked it. The highway was running away beneath Nathan’s feet. Somebody must have hitched their vehicle to the trailer. Nathan didn’t want to find out who, but by now they were moving too fast to jump off the back.

“I’m scared,” Samuel said.

Nathan hugged his son and they huddled together on the floor.

“Whatever happens we’ll face it together.”

Nathan continued holding his son until he fell back asleep in his arms. Nathan wished for sleep as well, but he knew that was too dangerous. He needed to be awake for whenever the trailer got to where it was going. He needed to be ready to shoot.

Hours passed. Nathan laid against the wall in a sleep-deprived daze. He felt every bump on the road, every turn the trailer made. He kept one hand on his son, the other on his rifle.

Then, the trailer stopped. Nathan clenched his weapon tightly. In another moment, the back doors of the trailer swung open and Nathan and Samuel were hit in the face by dull morning sunlight.

“My god,” Nathan heard a voice say. “There are people in here.”

Two men climbed into the trailer. Nathan instantly recognized their Snowflake fatigues.

One of the Snowflakes spoke:

“Who are you two?”

“My name is Nathan and this is my son Samuel.”

“How did you manage to get inside a Snowflake trailer?”

“We were traveling along the interstate and we found it on the side of the road,” Nathan said, meekly. “We needed shelter, and it was unlocked.”

The Snowflake reached down and grabbed the rifle out of Nathan’s hands. He inspected it and then passed it off to the other Snowflake, who exited the trailer with it.

“How do we know you didn’t kill the driver and steal what was inside the trailer?”

“We didn’t!” Samuel yelled.”

“Samuel, be quiet.” Nathan said.

“Alright then,” the Snowflake said. “We’ll get to the bottom of this. Get up you two.”

Nathan and Samuel climbed off the floor and the Snowflake escorted them out of the trailer. Nathan turned around and laid his eyes upon an enormous dome raised over 3,000 feet in the air. Inside the dome was a beautiful city with shiny silver buildings and luscious green trees.

They had made it to the safe space.

5.

The needle pricked Nathan in the arm, and he watched intently as the truth serum entered his blood stream. Samuel sat in the corner, watching sheepishly.

The Snowflake who administered the shot held the door open as he exited the room. A slender black man in a tailored suit stepped in.

“Hello, my name is Barry,” the man said as he took the seat across from Nathan.

“I’m Nathan, and over there is Samuel,” Nathan said, turning to address his son in the corner.

Samuel nodded his head.

“Samuel,” Barry said. “Can I get you a soda or a snack or anything like that?”

Samuel, staring at the ground, just shook his head.

“Ok then, I’m going to have to ask your dad a few questions. Would you be a good sport and wait outside please?”

Samuel picked up his head and looked at his father. Nathan gave him a nod and he shuffled out of the room. After the door closed behind him Barry turned to Nathan.

“I want you to know right now that your son will be granted access to the safe space, no questions asked.”

Nathan let out a sigh of relief.

“What about me?” he asked.

“Well, that depends.”

“On what?”

“On what kind of person you are.”

“I’m a father. A widower. A good person.”

“A Deplorable?” Barry asked.

“No!” Nathan exclaimed. “Those people are a cancer.”

“But you are a conservative.”

Nathan wanted to say no. He wanted to lie. But he felt a painful tinge in his throat. He couldn’t find the words.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Barry said.

“Listen,” Nathan said. “We’re both rational adults. Not all conservatives are bad people. Just like not all liberals are good people. You have to agree with that, right?”

“Do you know how cancer starts?” Barry replied.

Nathan was taken aback. “You mean like the disease?”

“Yes.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You see, our bodies are made up of 100 million cells. Cancer starts when just one of them begins to grow or multiply too much. The result is a growth called a tumor. We treat cancer with chemotherapy, which kills the cancer cells but also harms perfectly good cells.”

“What’s your point,” Nathan said.

“Remember the country we used to share. Millions of cells all working together. But then one of those cells began to grow. Pretty soon we had this ugly conservative tumor that was bringing down the entire country. Us liberals tried our best to treat this tumor humanely, but the more we tried the bigger and nastier it got. Pretty soon we had no other option but to cut the tumor off. And yes, some good cells were killed in the process, but we were able to save the most important parts of this country, our safe spaces.”

“That’s quite an analogy,” Nathan said. “But there is another way of looking at it.”

“Do tell.”

“You just equated conservatism to a cancerous tumor, but did you ever stop to think that you’re the disease?”

Barry raised his eyebrow, interested in what Nathan meant.

“Think about it,” Nathan went on. “One of the foundations of our old country was freedom of speech. But then y’all started policing everybody’s speech. We had the right to bear arms, but then you tried to take our weapons away. We wanted to keep people out of this country who came here illegally, and you called us racists. You even sullied the sanctity of marriage by allowing pretty much anybody to do it. Every single day I watched liberals undermine the basic tenets of American life. And I tried to understand. I tried to have sympathy. But your side ate at the very fabric of what made this country great. You were the cell that grew out of control, you were the tumor.”

“If we were the disease,” Barry asked. “How come we now live in great cities? How come we have technology beyond what you could ever dream of? We are healthier, more socially active. We have higher IQs, we have greater rates of employment, and our environment is cleaner. On top of all that, our life expectancy is nearly 15 years longer than that of your kind.”

“You’re right,” Nathan said. “Your kind lead completely different lives. We came from different worlds. It only makes sense that we would wind up in different worlds. But you know what? We weren’t the ones who did this to America. You gave up on us, not the other way around.”

Barry let out a sigh. He shuffled a stack of papers in front of him.

“Are you ready?”

Nathan took a deep breath. He nodded.

6.

Barry cleared his throat. “Question one: Do you think women deserve to earn equal pay as men for the same job?”

Nathan crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Yes.”

“Question two,” Barry continued. “Should businesses be required to provide service to a customer if the request conflicts with the business owner’s religious beliefs?”

Nathan let out a laugh. The truth serum made the hairs on his arms stick up when he even thought about lying. He shrugged. “Yeah.”

“Very good,” Barry said. “Final question.”

Nathan grew tense. He knew what was coming. He knew what he wanted to say, but he didn’t know if he would be able to.

“Do you believe climate change is real and that humans are causing it?”

Just hearing the question made sweat bead on Nathan’s forehead. The fluorescent light shined brighter. Barry squinted at him. Nathan could see what he wanted him to say. He could feel the truth serum rushing through his veins. The hairs on his arms wanted to rip themselves out.

“I…”

Barack leaned forward, intrigued by what may or may not come out of Nathan’s mouth.

“I…”

“Well?” Barack said. “Do you believe in climate change or not!”

“Ergh…I….”

Nathan began breathing heavily. He thought about Samuel. What would become of him in the bubble without his father? Would be become a Snowflake? Would he be vegan?

The thought made Nathan clench his chest. His heart wanted to burst out and run from the room.

“Nathan. I’ve had just about enough!” Barry yelled. “Give me an answer now or leave.”

Nathan’s eyes began watering. The soles of his feet burned. His fingernails gripped the wooden table like a cat. A fire rose in his chest. Now it was rushing up his throat. He felt it in his mouth now. It made his tongue dry. He was crying now. The salty tears evaporated in his mouth. He opened his mouth as wide as he could.

“I DO! I BELIEVE IN CLIMATE CHANGE,” Nathan screamed between sobs. “IT’S REAL! IT’S REAL! GOD ALMIGHTY, CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!”

7.

Barack re-shuffled his papers. “Thank you, Nathan.”

With that, he stood up and exited the room.

“Wait!” Nathan sobbed. “Did I get in?”

Michael stepped into the doorway.

Nathan had to wipe the tears from his eyes. “Michael? Is that really you?”

“It is,” Michael said as he approached his brother. “The Snowflakes alerted me when they brought you into custody. I vouched for you. I told them you are a good man and they agreed to allow you and Samuel to live in the safe space with me.”

“But, the questions…”

“A mere formality. Did you really think we would condemn you based on your response to a few silly questions?”

“No,” Nathan said. “Those are the same questions the Deplorables use during their interrogations.”

“Oh, are they?” A grin appeared on Michael’s face. “Have you been interrogated by the Deplorable’s firsthand?”

It took Nathan a moment to understand what his brother was saying.

“You mean,” Nathan shuddered, “The Snowflakes spread fake news about the Deplorables?”

The grin on Michael’s face had turned into an almost sinister smirk, but he wiped it away as Samuel came running into the room.

“Dad! They just told me we can stay!”

“That’s right,” Michael said. “Welcome to your new home.”

“Who’s this?” Samuel said pointing at Michael.

Nathan looked at his brother, then at his son.

“This is your uncle Michael, Sam. We’re going to be living with him.”

Michael knelt down and shook Samuel’s hand, but he kept his eyes fixed on Nathan.

“Let’s say we get out of here and have something to eat,” Michael said.

“Yeah!” Samuel said. “I’m starving.”

“I could use a nice fat burger after the day I’ve had,” Nathan said.

“I’m sorry,” Michael chimed in. “But in the safe space saying the word ‘fat’ is considered a body-shaming tactic and punishable by 90 days in jail. I’ll let you slide this time but next time I’ll have to report you.”

Nathan returned his brother’s remark with a blank stare.

“Also, red meat is illegal in the safe space. But I know a place that makes great soy black bean burgers! Let’s go!”

Michael took Samuel by the arm and they marched out the door. Nathan stood there for a moment staring at the wall. He thought he felt a lump in his chest, or maybe a tumor.

Samuel appeared in the doorway again.

“Dad, are you coming?”

Nathan nodded. Then he put one foot in front of the other, and he was gone.