Derek Mill wrote a book about his own life. Three years ago the autobiography awarded him 750,000 dollars. This year he was awarded 150,000 dollars for writing the book three years ago. Derek was awarded an undergraduate degree from a top tier university, which awarded him entrance to a graduate program at a top tier university. He was awarded A’s in every class. Over the last ten years Derek has increased the amount of people he governs by 2.8 million per year. This calculation, although misleading as Derek has only been awarded three different positions in ten years, reminded him of his value. Derek needed this type of thing since his father, Arnold who was Derek’s biggest fan passed away four years ago.
Arnold Mill would tell his son, “To govern is to be an angel walking the mountainous slopes of snowshoeing dragons.” Arnold Mill was awarded wealth as an artist of the avant-garde. He mastered the ability of disorientation, causing an audience to argue with one another about what he meant in a way that made everyone believe that they were the only one’s that truly ‘got it’.
This talent caught the eye of large businesses who hired Arnold to weave together words like, maintained, managed, integrity, talking points, seminar and developed in ways that communicated safety and trust while remaining entirely void of meaning. After his stunt in the business world Arnold became an asset to top tier politicians who went to top tier universities and who published top selling books about their own lives.
Which brings us to the well-educated and ambitious Derek, who just finished kneeling before a stuffed doll, chanting, ‘Envy is a reminder of who I can one day become.’ and who was now watching his sleeping wife Darlene.
Darlene Mill, the famous actress and singer. Darlene Mill the woman whose face was inescapable on magazine racks. Darlene Mill the woman Derek watched sleep when too anxious to dream. However this time it was an excited anxiety as opposed to an impending doom anxiety. For today was the day that the Solstice Queen would be announced, and this year Derek was (for the fourth time, and second year in a row) selected to be one of the seven Princes of the Solstice (In fact Derek, at 45 was the youngest man to receive the award four times).
This six others selected for this year’s celebration were:
Dale Burnett – A former all-star shortstop who now dedicated his life to proving that although return on investment will increase faster than economic growth, this is necessary to increase growth and help poverty. He proved this by filming a reality show where homeless people were given money as charity and others were given high interest microloans. Proving that the incentive of a growing interest forced loan receivers get a home faster.
Stuart Bailey – A pop-psychologist who changed the way people thought about marriage by introducing an idea that marriage should be done on a ten year contract so when the contract matured the couple could decide to renew and have a party or not renew and go their separate ways.
Richard Coin – A former lawyer who preached the philosophy of determinism through documentaries, books and television interviews. Informing the public that free will did not exist and therefore the concept of justice was primitive. Advocating a change in the prison system and a better understanding of incentives that fuel rehabilitation.
David Peoples – A successful film director who created an algorithm for sound and light pixels which would produce a new film each day that struck every human as intelligent, fascinating, funny, emotionally mature and original.
Burt Johnson and Ron Alexander – Two politicians just like Derek selected by a group of anonymous individuals with a high understanding of political theory. The public was well aware that they were not chosen democratically but all agreed that the anonymous individuals had excellent taste.
And then there was Derek. Derek eating his eggs and protein shake while he watched his beautiful Darlene sleep. Thinking to himself how he bought her the sheets with the high thread count and the mattress that astronauts use. That he got her the apartment with the skyline view and air conditioner that maintained a perfect 75 and a humidity level perfectly adjusted to the condition of her sinuses. It was he that kept her fed, loved, famous, happy and safe. Whatever desire she had, he suffocated long ago. She was perfect now, with him, she was perfect.
At 6:00 PM Derek and the six other elected Solstice Princes were sitting in chairs behind a podium. They were waiting for President Fremont to show so he could practice reading a speech while they practiced sitting in chairs behind him. At some point Burt Johnson leaned over to Derek and said, “Do you get nervous?” “During the performance?” Derek asked. Burt nodded. “You can take a blue one” Derek said. “I don’t like taking medication.” Burt said. Dale leaned into the conversation, “You need a blue one?” Dale said. “No.” Burt said a bit embarrassed. “Coin!” Dale yelled, “Burt needs a blue one!” “You need a blue one burt?” Richard Coin said. “No!” Burt said, “I’m fine.” “If you’re nervous you should take a blue one,” said David Peoples. “I’m not nervous,” said Burt.
Stuart Bailey jumped in to kill the discomfort, “Who do you think will be the Solstice Queen this year?” Stuart asked. “Unofficial poll said Mary Winston would win,” said Ron Alexander. “Don’t believe that bull,” said Dale, “After Michelle Davis’ best actress win she’s on everyone’s mind.” “What about your girl Derek?” said Stuart. “Oh I don’t think so,” said Derek. “People love to see a couple share the solstice spotlight,” said Stuart, “besides she’s due for a win.” “If she didn’t win it five years ago, I doubt she’ll win it now,” said Derek. “Jeez brother have some faith,” said Dale. “I just don’t want to get her hopes up, between Michelle and Mary there’s not much room left for Darlene this year.”
“You all speculating?” Said President Fremont entering from stage left. “Derek, Darlene is certainly due for a win, don’t be such a naysayer.”
“Thank you President,” Derek hated calling Ferris ‘President’. Three decades ago Ferris was crying because he claimed Derek hacked him on a layup. Now he was Derek’s superior. For decades now, Derek fantasized about taking a hammer to Ferris’s head so to release the air of pretension trapped inside.
7:15 PM was television prime time and President Fremont was before a crowd and several cameras, holding a stuffed doll chanting, ‘Envy is a reminder of who I can one day become.’ After the mantra, there were words put together and thrown at the crowd and cheers thrown back. There was then acknowledgement of Derek and the six other princes, their accomplishments, their ideals, their hard work. It was all very motivating to the people. Then each of the men, including Derek, took to the podium and gave a presentation on someone else who they believed took great strides this year in accomplishing achievement.
Finally Fremont took the podium back and said, “Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, what we are all waiting for is to hear who will be the seventy-eighth Solstice Queen. The Solstice Queen is savvy, goal-oriented, aware and dedicated to improving the lives of others. Displaying honorable characteristics such as these in her everyday life, both as an individual striding to achieve economic, personal and humanitarian goals, and as a woman who seeks to improve society and the world around her. The award is unprecedented and performing in the solstice celebration is an honor that should only be given to the best. So it is my honor and my privilege to announce that this year’s solstice queen is…” President Fremont opened an envelope, looked at the paper, looked back at Derek and smiled. Derek’s wished he was dreaming when he heard: “Darlene Mill!”
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” was the first thing that Darlene said to Derek when she returned from the press. She then said something about walking on clouds and started laughing. Derek tried to ask her a few questions about the preparation she had to do, and Darlene gave a satisfactory answer and showed no concerns. She then said she was exhausted and passed out. Derek watched her sleep and wanted nothing more than to shake her until her eyes opened but instead he paced around the living room and left to go see President Fremont.
FREMONT: Mr. Mill!
DEREK: Hey, look, I had a few questions about the performance.
FREMONT: You’ve got more experience than I do.
DEREK: Is there any way we could change the solstice queen?
FREMONT: Excuse me?
DEREK: Could we replace Darlene with a different solstice queen?
FREMONT: I don’t understand.
DEREK: Could the runner up be the solstice queen?
FREMONT: I get what you’re saying. I just don’t understand why you’re saying it. Is Darlene sick?
DEREK: No. But, uh, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s good for her.
FREMONT: Does Darlene not want to do it? Why wouldn’t Darlene want to be a Solstice Queen. (Fremont Laughed).
DEREK: No she does, I just, I don’t want her to do it. I don’t think it’s good for her.
FREMONT: Derek, excuse me for saying this, but you sound incredibly selfish. The Solstice Queen is the highest honor, I don’t know why I’m even saying that, you know it. But even if she had the flu combined with food poisoning surely any woman would still accept the honor.
DEREK: It’s not good for her.
FREMONT: You are not the one to decide that Derek.
DEREK: I’ve given a lot to the performance and I should have some say in the decision.
FREMONT: Yesterday I saw Josephine Dawson, twenty-five years ago she was Solstice Queen.
DEREK: I know who she is.
FREMONT: You know what she told me? (Derek says nothing) She said it was the most meaningful experience of her life. She said she still replays the memory in her head every day.
DEREK: I know, I know, I know, It’s important. It’s selfish of me to not want her to do it. But I can’t help it, for some reason I do not want her to be the Solstice Queen. Now can you help me out? I’ve done a lot for you Ferris. I’ve done a lot. Can you give me this one fucking favor.
FREMONT: Look Derek, we’re practically family and for that reason I will not repeat any details of this conversation. But I would like for you to leave my office at once.
Derek watched the sleeping Darlene snore for forty-eight minutes. He felt like he was going to explode. He wanted to scream thousand of things but he knew that he must remain calm and subdued in order for the strategy to be effective.
The first strategy was to ask her how she felt about the whole thing. Did she feel exhausted? She said the excitement kept her running. She said that their adoration was fuel in her bones. Derek said that the exhaustion might be bad for her health but Darlene said even if it shortened her life by a year it would be well-worth it.
The second strategy was reminding her that it would bring a lot of attention into their personal lives. She said, “I know, isn’t it great.”
The third strategy was asking her if the whole event was making her nervous or if she had stage fright. She laughed thinking Derek was making a joke.
Derek had a fourth strategy but he became so wound up in frustration that he forgot what it was. When she was sleeping, his head was filled with only strategy but now he couldn’t find it. He sat there thinking of something to say but only said ‘Um’ and then the telephone rang. It was Darlene’s choreographer letting her know that she was waiting downstairs. Darlene gave Derek a kiss and ran off.
Derek wanted to strangle Darlene. He felt it was justified due to how she disregarded his wants. The logic of course can’t be translated into words, but as Derek paced the parameter of their bed, the logic was rock solid. The greater frustration was that there was nobody who would sympathize with him. He thought there must be someone who had felt this way. At least once a husband must have forbidden his wife from receiving this award.
So he searched the records and he found that four times in history, elected solstice queens declined the award and let someone else perform. Margo Ruth, Gwen Young, Brita Stillson and Penelope Glass. All of them claiming they couldn’t perform due to illness. But Derek thought otherwise, maybe there was a husband behind the curtain pulling the strings. He searched the internet for the names of their husbands. He found that all of them were dead (Cancer, Heart Attack, Cancer, Overdose). Derek said fuck many times. He searched the women and found that three of them were dead (Cancer, Cancer, Cancer). The only one living was Gwen Young. Derek called her and said they had to talk.
“Hello,” Derek said. Gwen replied with a ‘Nice to see you’. Gwen had blonde hair that was clearly dyed, Derek thought about why she would dye it instead of let it be grey. She was a wise old woman now not a young attractive thing, besides the blonde dye was visibly obvious, she wasn’t fooling anyone. But Gwen was cheerful despite her fabricated hair color and they talked and drank coffee and pretended they were friends. Finally Derek navigated to the object of interest.
“You were once elected solstice queen [but then you decline] is that correct?
(Derek is young and Gwen is old. Derek was respectful of this and treated her politely, however when attention is thin we must get the point across quickly.)
“Yes, [Why is it that you bring this up?] I was sick unfortunately, a great regret in my life.”
“I’m sure you were disappointed, [I can’t let my wife be solstice queen, it’s not good for her and it does something to our marriage, I can’t explain it. It’ll ruin us.] Did your husband support your decision.”
“Oh yes of course. [Let me show you pictures of my husband. He kept a journal, many ideas and theories about the society we live in today, how marriage should be. He wrote many books but they are all in the basement. They are locked and I cannot remember where the key is but if you answer this riddle you shall find it. [‘Riddle’]] My husband was always supportive.”
“The solstice queen is a great honor, [Answer to Riddle] I’m sure your husband was proud.”
[The walls begin to melt and Derek believes he might be a schizoid. He chants mantras to try and grasp hold of reality. When he calms himself he realizes that the walls are not melting and instead it is actually a hologram being projected out of Mrs. Young’s ears to make the walls appear as if melting. Derek surmises that Mrs. Young is a robot and the answer to the riddle must have cracked open her mainframe.]
[Mrs. Young’s tongue unravels out of her mouth and into Derek’s lap. Derek sees a zipper on the tip of her giant tongue. He unzips her tongue. Several thousand microchips fall out of her tongue and scatter across the carpet. Atop a pile of microchips is a silver key.]
[Derek picks up the key] and goes to the basement.
On the morning of the solstice Darlene awakes having not seen Derek in six days. She figured that it was a tradition similar to the groom not seeing the bride’s wedding dress and she wanted to confirm if this was so but didn’t want to risk sounding uninformed, and she was much too exhausted every night from practice to search it on the internet. She hoped that Derek was not nervous as he had so obviously demonstrated that he was when he asked her all those silly questions. It amazed her that such a prestigious man still felt nerves and she reminded herself that everyone is susceptible to insecurity, which of course she knew but seemed to always forget.
Darlene met with the choreographer and went over a few basic things, nothing remotely strenuous. She was a bit in denial that she was going to perform and she was aware of this. She told the choreographer that it felt like a dream. The choreographer said that Darlene was the best Queen’s she ever worked with and people were going to be amazed at her talent. Darlene knew that the choreographer said this to everyone every year but still said thank you.
The Night of The Solstice
Derek arrived just as he was supposed to. However he had missed a week of rehearsal, and been out of touch with everyone involved. But he was allowed to skip meetings and he was allowed to come late, he thought to himself. He was Derek Mill goddammit and he prayed for someone to challenge him, but nobody did. They didn’t care.
President Fremont was talking on stage as Darlene was in a green room meditating in silence and as Dale was teasing Burt about being nervous. Burt told him to shut up and go fuck himself and the only reason you are calling me nervous is because you’re nervous. So fuck off. Dale was a bit embarrassed but smiled instead and apologized. Told him that he would do great and so would everyone. Derek wasn’t listening.
Derek ran on stage.
When Fremont saw Derek he gave him a look a father would give a misbehaving son. But when the crowd saw Derek, they roared. “I have something to say!” Derek shouted, and no one heard because the only microphone was at Fremont’s lips. “Save your speech for after the celebration,” Fremont said. Derek walked over to the microphone and said, “I want to speak to my people.” The crowd roared and Fremont was pissed but had no choice.
“Hello everyone,” Derek said, the crowd cheered. “Before we celebrate the solstice I want to say something. Gwen Young was once elected to be the solstice queen. She declined. She said it was because of the flu. This was a lie.”
The crowd gasped and chatted amongst each other about who Gwen Young was.
“She lied because her husband did not want her to perform in the solstice celebration. See her husband saw the importance in marriage and recognized that our values and ideas are backwards. We’ve become obsessed with progress. Obsessed with doing what makes sense but truly what we think makes sense doesn’t make sense. In Mr. Young’s writings I found many poems about love and essays about importance of staying with one another, I read about how the two of them were going to forfeit everything they had and run away with each other just to be together. He would have her and she would have him and that’s all that they needed. And I read that Mr. Young speculated that nobody could understand his logic because the hemisphere of thought had broken off from love when the god Harotha who lived before time had molested the sand beaches of Naragatha. Harotha was a bastard god and belonged to burn in a separate dimensional vortex. But because of him we are stuck in this chaotic nonsense world, where we can’t control what we love. So Mr. Young set out to destroy Harotha, he found the evil god and he even took pictures. But now that I’ve seen the source of evil in the photos of Harotha I no longer want my wife to perform in the solstice celebration, I’m free and I’m disqualifying my wife and removing her participation. It is my right as her husband, I can recognize this now and you will too once you see the photos of Harotha. Look! Look at the photos!”
Derek reached into his pants and grabbed what he thought were the photos of Harotha. He held them above his head for people to see. What people saw was Derek holding a handful of hair that was obviously grey but dyed blonde. Derek looked at the hair and saw it too. It was then that he realized he was in fact schizoid and he most certainly murdered Gwen Young and hid the corpse in her basement. Derek said fuck many times and was arrested.
The celebration still had to go on and Darlene was still the elected Solstice Queen, for this reason the staff decided it was best not to inform Darlene of her husband’s actions. They did however interrupt her silent meditation to tell her that her husband became very ill and could not participate. Darlene thought maybe he got stage fright. She was upset that he would not share this moment with her and felt a bit like crying but pulled it together and reminded herself about her responsibility to perform.
Meanwhile a politician named Joseph Thornwood was backstage well prepared just in case a freak accident like this occurred. He stepped in with great honor and took Derek’s place. The other six men were chatting about Derek’s incident and arguing about the meaning of what just happened. Burt, however, was not taking part in the gossip, his head was elsewhere. “Dale,” Burt said. “I am nervous.”
“Do you want a blue one?” Dale said.
“Do you have one?” Burt asked.
“Richard’s got a couple. We’re all nervous.”
Burt smiled as a thank you.
“Dick!” Dale shouted to Mr. Coin, “Dick! Burt’s nervous, you got another viagra?”
Richard Coin said he did and tossed it to Burt. Burt swallowed it. He was ready to perform and perform he did along with the other six men they showed the public exactly what they wanted to see and when they finished, just as it happens every year, Satan ascended from the Solstice Queen’s uterus and gave a rousing speech about the importance of being cooperative instead of competitive and how the senior teaching benefits are really the same thing as giving away tenure and that we should remember the importance of using incentives to stimulate an ambition to be an effective teacher as education should be the number one priority.
Derek watched the speech from the jail cell as psychologists tried to determine what was wrong with him. Derek envied the seven men on television and knew that he would never get a chance to be in the celebration again.