Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
So, I voted today. Before I get started, I’d like to point out that I’m not politically savvy or community-oriented. That’s probably how I wound up in this mess. I’ve voted once before, but that was on election day, and I had a friend with me. This time around, I wanted to get it out of the way, but I had never voted early before. I didn’t know how to go about doing it all; so, I decided that a search engine would have to be my guide.
Have you ever tried to search for something on your phone, but accidentally opened Facebook instead? I have a habit of doing that, and this time was no different. I even typed my inquiry into the Facebook search bar before realizing my mistake. I typed in “vote early”. Just as I was about to close the app and open my web browser, I noticed one of the results. It was an event with the title “Battered Grove – VOTE EARLY BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE” – Battered Grove being the town I live in. I could have left it and went about my business, but I was curious.
I clicked on the event only to be greeted with little information. One tidbit that stood out was a disclaimer stating that the event page was for “Clan Members Only”. Other than that, the page had a date, time, and place for voting; November 4th, 8am – 8:45am, 54 Marion Road. Despite the weird disclaimer and small voting window, I assumed the event page was there to inform last minute voters like myself. I knew the fourth was my last chance to vote early in my state and it was the only day I could do so because of work restrictions. I saved the info into my phone and set an early alarm for that day.
Fast forward to the day in question – today. I got up early, went about my morning routine, and headed off. My phone’s GPS informed me the address was only twelve minutes away. Wonderful, but about six minutes in, I realized that it was taking me to Forsaken Falls.
In Battered Grove, there is a large area of abandoned living space that the locals have dubbed Forsaken Falls. It’s not its own town, but everyone treats it like it is. It’s comprised of a bunch of old, decrepit houses too dangerous to live in, but too ancient to tear down. Many years ago, a history buff by the name of Molly Winthrop fought with the town over their historical values. After months of bickering, documentation, and surveying the land, she won. All the buildings in that area were deemed historical monuments and thus could not be demolished.
Everyone knows the story, and usually, people stay away from that part of town. There’s no reason to go out there unless you want to see a bunch of eyesores taking up space in an otherwise beautiful town. So why, then, was early voting taking place there?
I brushed off the thought and drove out to the address. I found myself at the old town hall. This was probably the only building in Forsaken Falls deserving of the title ‘historical monument’. Still, it was abandoned. I wondered if I was the victim of some sort of prank. My car was the only one there. I was about to drive away when I noticed a small sign on the building, just above the back entrance. In crude red lettering, it said “Voting Downstairs”. Maybe I was in the right place after all.
I looked at my phone and saw it was a little after 8:30am. I quickly rushed into the building to make it in time before the polls closed. More crude signs were inside, leading me down into the town hall’s depths. It was odd, but I didn’t question it; I just wanted to get the voting done.
After rushing down a few flights of stairs, I wound up in what looked like an auditorium. I waltzed in, ready to cast my vote for the presidential election. That’s when I noticed that something wasn’t right.
I will explain the layout of the voting area for those of you who haven’t voted before. The voting area itself is usually roped off with a designated entrance and exit beside each other. To your left, a person at a small podium helps with questions or concerns you might have; it is very helpful for first-time voters. To the right and left of the voting area are two long tables. The one on the left is where the town staff sits and is cut up into precincts. You must go to the person assigned to your precinct, as they have the list of registered voters for that area and will hand you your ballot. The table to the right has sealed envelopes that contain the ballots after voting is complete. The middle-man is straight ahead – the voting booths. The ones I know are small, chest-high tables separated by makeshift drapes – like how patients are separated in hospitals.
Everything was set up as normal, but here’s the weird part. The ‘town staff’ were all wearing red cloaks. And instead of precincts, they were divided by faction. The podium had a strange symbol carved into it, and the ‘drapes’ separating the booths were of a gross, dark red hue. Something was off, but I concluded that I was the dumb one, having never voted early before. So, I decided to go along with it.
I walked past the podium and directly to the cloaked figure assigned to Faction 5, knowing I lived in Precinct 5. Instead of asking for my address or name, the person simply handed me my ballot. I gave them a weird look and took my place at an empty booth. That is when I realized that I was not in the right place.
The ballot was normal, aside from its text. In place of the presidential nominees, there were candidates for “Leader of the Clan”. The only name I remember is Abbadon. There were other positions to vote on, the nominees of which I had not only never heard of, but I could barely pronounce their names. I flipped the ballot over to reveal the questions. This side seemed normal, but instead of ‘Questions’, they were called ‘Queries’.
On a ballot, there are various questions to vote on. If enough people advocate for a specific proposition, your state’s Senate will vote for it. At least, that’s how I’ve come to understand it. On the ballot itself, the Question displays the outline of a proposed policy followed by a summary. The summary will read something like “If you vote YES on Question 3, this will prohibit farmers from using chemical-based pesticides on their crops”. I usually skip to the summary or pass the Questions altogether. These ‘Queries’, however, were impossible to overlook.
I will divulge to you the two Queries that shocked me the most. They weren’t worded exactly like this, but you’ll get the gist of it:
The proposed law would allow high-ranking clan members to acquire new disciples through the local community via force. Children captured under the grounds of this law will be trained in the ways of the Clan. A potential cure for underpopulated factions.
A YES VOTE would give Clan paladins the right to kidnap civilian children.
A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws pertaining to civilian children.
The proposed law would allow any Clan member to murder a civilian on sight for crimes against nature. Humanity’s destruction of the earth is deemed reason enough for the ultimate punishment. Humans will bleed for their insolence.
A YES VOTE would give Clan members the right to kill any civilian above the age of 18.
A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws pertaining to civilians.
My heart sunk after reading Query 4. What had I stumbled into?
Realizing rather quickly that I was somewhere I shouldn’t be, I slowly backed away from my ballot and walked away from the voting booths. The cloaked figures watched me. I think that’s when they too realized that I was out-of-place because they moved in my direction. I ran as fast as I could to get up those flights of stairs and out to my car.
Luckily, I made it to my car unscathed, but the cloaked figures weren’t far behind. I looked behind me for a split second and noticed the town hall doors swing open. I panicked and dropped my keys. I heard one of them scream, followed by the unpleasant sound of several people running. I thought I was done for.
I picked up my keys, get into my car, and drive off before they could get to me. I booked it out of Forsaken Falls and back to the comfort of civilization. I was shaken, but I was free.
I called the cops shortly after arriving home and told them everything. They said they would check it out. About an hour later, they called back and said that they found absolutely nothing at the old town hall. No trace of anyone being there in years. The man on the phone even accused me of trying to prank them. I assured him I wasn’t and said that I spoke the truth; he didn’t seem to believe me and hung up.
And that’s it. That’s the extent of what happened to me, today. I would have never expected a twisted cult to put parameters in place for proper voting, much less that I would somehow end up in the middle of it. The thing that gets me is that they’re still out there, doing whatever it is that they do. And if those ‘laws’ of theirs are passed, Battered Grove will be terrorized by them. I only hope that, at the very least, they didn’t get a good look at me. I don’t want to be a victim of Query 4.
Credit: Christopher Maxim
(Click HERE to check out Christopher Maxim’s book, How To Exit Your Body and Other Strange Tales)
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