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The pieces of fabric fell to the floor like joy unraveling. Kitchens remained bereft of all food items. Potato sacks replaced the dresses and suits and denim jeans and t-shirts. Everyone in the United States all looked the same—ashen and like grey blobs of paint against a portrait of utter bleakness. Henrik Niles and his wife Anita were with their three children, Bradford (12), Caxton (eight), and Cecily (five), all huddled in their house as the government officials cleared out their home in Alapocas, Delaware. The expansive space proved to be a gem for the Appropriators to rummage through, ransack, and rob the rightful owners, their property. The sun on this day in August blistered the Delaware area and sent tensions high. Families lined up down the blocks filled with spacious mansions. This anger simmered as the Appropriators went in and out of homes like pest control agents.
“This is for your own good,” the female voice droned on the podcast from a smartphone supplied by one of the Appropriators. He had attached wireless speakers to play throughout the Niles house. This act permitted the government men and women to ingrain into the residents that their entire lives did not belong to them. “We have become so self-centered in our ways that we must feel for the people without food or clothing or even housing. We must band together to bring about a change within this world. The modesty and meekness that should be instilled in you will do you all the good. There’s no telling when you might get your next meal. But that is not the concern. We’re not even giving away these items to our fellow Americans. Our brothers and sisters in Africa and parts of Asia need our help. If you think it is hot in Delaware right now, just think of the sweltering heat that is in the Congo. Consider for a moment a paddy field in Vietnam. Now, you can appreciate those sacks of burlap that you wear. We are shipping everything that we obtain to countries in Africa and parts of Asia where famine, nakedness, and homelessness run rampant. It is our duty. We must show that this will not be tolerated. As God-loving souls, we must prove ourselves worthy by what will now be known as the ‘Great Sacrifice.’”
Niles guarded his family as the men and women stormed through his mansion, tearing off portraits and seizing bottles of vintage wine. They spilled some, kept other bottles.
Appropriator, General Clevins Cave marked in his tablet the number of goods to be redistributed among the peoples of the Dark Continent and the Orient.
“This is for the good of all. You must understand Mr. Niles ... Mrs. Niles. We must be equal on every field from the clothes we wear to the food we eat to the housing in which we live. So help me God ... and society.”
Cecily scratched at the itchy potato sack cloth. It made her black skin even more ashen.
“Don’t scratch,” Anita said.
Cecily looked up at her mother. “Are we ever going to get our clothes back?”
Cave seized the opportunity to address the little girl.
“Why, you will have all of the wonderful burlap apparel that will be afforded to each American family. Gone are the days of the exuberant and flashy and gaudy colors and styles that mocked and embarrassed the people of developing nations. What did we have to offer them? The already printed T-shirts of the loser of a big football game? Now, they will be able to enjoy the beauty of the best designers that Americans spoiled themselves with over the decades.”
Niles stepped towards Cave.
“You must not do that, Mr. Niles. We are federal agents and will dispatch you if you ever attempt to do that again.”
“You vermin ... don’t you know that knocking down towers will never raise a man and his family up from a hut?”
“We see your concern, Mr. Niles. But there is no use in trying to maintain any sense of what was. This is the now. Our leader has bestowed upon us the power to make things right. She has allowed us to force ourselves to be good.”
“How can someone "allow" and "force" at the same time? The government doesn’t allow anything. We are free to do whatever the hell we want as long as we do not infringe on anyone else’s rights. It’s force ought to be used to protect, not take property from rightful owners.”
“It is quite simple. You may have given a bit to a favorite charity. You might have offered your clothes to the poor or gone to a soup kitchen, no?”
“That’s precisely why we are here. We are forcing virtue upon you. We are making you into selfless, upstanding citizens. By taking away all of your earthly goods, you will be relieved of the burden of being self-interested. You will be indoctrinated through the digital literature. You’ll find that happiness can be bought at the price of you selling your soul.”
Niles looked at his children, his wife. “You’re not taking away my family.”
“Oh, no, sir. We have no interest in splitting up homes. It is quite good that you have this happy little unit. Everyone will pitch in and raise the levels of goodwill. We just want your material goods. The things that should be making other families that have nothing to do with you wealthier and healthier. That is the the cause, purpose, and thrust of our campaign. Dreamed up by our great leader, she wants to see all Americans happy by stripping them of their rights to their property. To be completely altruistic.”
“That’s all of it sir,” Appropriator Sergeant Wilcox said.
“Great. This has been a rather joyous occasion. Just sense the feeling for all of the lives that will be enriched by your vintage vinyl collection, your rare cigars, Mr. Niles. And you, Mrs. Niles, your evening gowns and jewels will be going right back to the place in which they were first fabricated and extracted, respectively ... most likely.”
Niles kept a straight face. “These sacks and these provisions of cheese and peanut butter, what are we supposed to do with them? We can't eat this. We have allergies to nuts and dairy,” he asked.
“That's too bad ... Anyway, they’re free and you’re free to use them how you please. There is a guide in the literature that will explain all of the information regarding what we took and why and what has been afforded to you by the US government.”
“Bullshit. Nothing is free. We payed for this stuff through taxes.”
“You are quite bright, Mr. Niles. Yes, the beauty of taxation brought you those essentials.”
Appropriator General Cave smiled at the Niles family. “You are doing a great service to help your fellow human beings. It is God and society together that form a union that grows stronger everyday.”
“I don’t care about the dresses or the cars or the jewelry, per se. I care about my children living a better life than I had when I was a child. You’re taking away all of this and there’s nothing we can do about it? I will scream with this sack on my body. I will scream with all of the anger and frustration that has built up inside of me. But they will be silent screams. I will fight you. I will fight the very idea of you. Your existence disgusts me and you and your henchmen can go to hell.
“My husband and I have started from the bottom and reached pinnacles of success in finance only to see those statues of wealth crumble? How cruel must you be?” Anita asked.
“Mrs. Niles, I know that this transitional period is rough on all of us. But you must understand ... It’s for the good of humanity. You didn’t give of yourselves to anyone but yourselves. The leader says that she will suspend the seizure of valuables when the time comes.”
“And when will that be?”
“Until no child is afflicted, goes hungry or is homeless ... in other countries. It’s on you to raise your kids. But you must value the next country’s children over your own. It is the human way to be.”
“I’ll be goddamned if I ever support this program. I will fight, and claw, and make noise about how unjust and despicable you all are,” Anita said.
The Appropriator General smiled. “Mrs. Niles, I appreciate your zeal. But you must face the facts. This cause is final and proper.”
The Appropriators all left the home as the Niles family saw their possessions slip from their ownership like stones being cast to the sea.
Through imminent domain, their spacious mansion became the property of the United States government. The August heat made the burlap sacks stick to the skin. Cecily started scratching again. Anita just shot a glance at her daughter. Cecily ceased her activity. Bradford wiped his head with his hand.
“Why are you all Appropriators?”
“We’re taking what was never yours. Sure, you say that you worked for your belongings and possessions. It was only the government which permitted you to do that. Now, you will be afforded labor that will help you to make a few dollars less than your African and Asian counterparts.”
After these words, Niles and Anita inched closer to each other. In their minds, they had a plan to convene with the other Delawareans on their street to find a way to supersede the Appropriators’ command. They outlined a plan to dispatch the sergeants and the lieutenants.
Niles rolled up to one of the lieutenants and shot him with his own gun equipped with a silencer. After he dispatched him, he threw the firearm to his wife and she took down a sergeant. The Appropriator General looked about him and noticed that his fleet of flunkies had dwindled. He scoped around and inspected. He looked at all of the crevices of the house and attempted to ascertain where all of his fellow federal agents had gone.
“Niles? I know that you are playing with me. You are not going to win this battle. You will present me with my men or face…” his words stopped.
The pistol pointed right at his face. Anita held the gun up to Cave. She walked him back slowly from the entrance of her home. Niles had finished off the rest of the Appropriators. There remained no droves of troops or soldiers ready to save the day for Cave. Sweat trickled down his visage. He opened his mouth a bit, a gasp of air rushed in it.
“Mrs. Niles, you do realize that you are responsible for the deaths and so far, attempted murder of federal agents. The leader will ensure that you will be hanged for treason against the government."
“Shut up. You just listen. We’re getting our clothes back, we’re getting our food back, and we’re getting our house back. That’s for sure.”
“What you fail to comprehend Mrs. Niles is that the leader...”
“Goddamn you and the leader. You’re never going to be able to get out of this one. The rest of this block, the rest of this city, the rest of this state and country will be rebelling against you Appropriators and all of your vicious schemes.”
“That’s all very well and good but you forget one thing, there’s a lieutenant over your shoulder with a rifle trained on your head. If you make the slightest move against my life, I swear that yours will be ended as well. There’s nothing that you can do about it. There will be 1500 different Appropriators on their way here within the hour to haul you off to prison to rot in a cell for the rest of your days.”
In minutes Bradford had gathered enough courage and snatched the lieutenant’s side pistol and shot him. His face turned to granite. His mushy mouth trembled. His eyes lowered.
“Bradford, come over here,” Anita said. Niles, Caxton, and Cecily all came around to where Anita and Bradford had been standing in the foyer to their home.
“You’ve no chance of escaping the consequences of your actions. You will be brought up on charges of murder and you all will ha–” Niles shot the Appropriator General right between the eyes.
Other individuals from the neighborhood rushed to the trucks where their belongings remained. They went into their houses and donned blue jeans, t-shirts and suits and sundresses. They replaced bare arms with wrist watches and removed vegetables and fruits and meats and wines from the trucks. The sound of the leader still rang out through the house via the speaker system. Little Cecily in her dress ran over and switched off the podcast.