All Politics is Local
(c) 2017 Andrija Popovic
“Ms. Deveroux, give us a straight answer.” Duane Jefferson, seventy years old and elder statesman of the Groveton city council, crossed all four of his arms. “Is the waste water disposal system for the oil wells causing our inter-dimensional issues?”
Thea Deveroux, an occult seismologist with Oklahoma Geological Survey, tucked one of her antennae back against her pointed ear and replied: “Yes.”
A storm of growls and keening laments rattled the town hall. Duane just shook his head. His membranous wings, black as his bald head, flapped irritably.
“Order! Dammit, order!” Alicia Sears, new mayor of Groveton, banged the gavel with a cilia-covered hand. Her six eyes were heavy and dark with exhaustion.
Chad Michael Rimer – representative from Halithon Pandimensional Petroleum and the only baseline human in the room- spoke: “Please. Everyone, settle down. Look, we all knew there may be minor environmental issues with this new fracturing and disposal process…”
“What?” Duane clacked his talons. “Look, we know the drilling boosted the economy. And we knew there would be risks. But when y’all came here, you didn’t mention gates to chaos realms on Henderson Drive!”
“The damn hounds mauled my cattle!” John Murphy stood, frills red and agitated. “Protective runes cost money and blood. How the Hell am I supposed to keep out seven dimensional predators without bankruptcy?!”
“I appreciate your concern. But, we don’t know enough about what’s really going on in the dimensional subsurface to know how to mitigate some of this risk,” said Rimer. The pandimensional wards sewn into his Alexander Amosu Bespoke suit gave it an oily sheen. “HPP is continuing its studies. We feel there is no direct correlation between our processes and the regrettable phenomenon–.”
Mayor Sears interrupted.”And the report?”
“Our in-house teams will be releasing a full rebuttal. We disagree with the hasty and ill-evidenced conclusions–”
Howls from the audience overwhelmed Rimer. Deveroux looked moments away from bludgeoning the HPP representative with the six hundred page report.
Duane slapped his wings. “Madame Mayor, I motion that, based on Ms. Deveroux’s testimony and the report submitted, we consider Ordinance 193 and halt this method of waste water dumping.”
Citizens and town council-members alike growled, snarled and slapped their shells in approval. Rimer glanced at the runes dancing on his tablet. “Point of order!”
Silence, and then Rimer said: “The council cannot take up this ordinance.”
“Mr. Rimer, it is well within our jurisdiction to regulate how business is conducted in our town. Especially if it impacts the well being, and pan-dimensional stability of its residents.” The Mayor rattled her spines, annoyed.
“Not anymore.” Rimer placed his tablet into his briefcase. “As of twenty minutes ago the State Legislature voted on, and the Governor signed, HR 193. This blocks local governments from regulating energy operations in the state. If you want to shut us down, take it up with the legislature and the Governor.”
Everyone dove for their tablets as Rimer made his exit. “Thank you for your time,” he said. “Our legal team will be in touch.”
Order was abandoned. People swarmed the council members. Others mobbed Thea Deveroux, demanding answers. Alice had to stand on her chair and let loose an unearthly howl before order resumed.
But no one was in the mood for further business. Motions were tabled, and everyone filtered out. Only Duane and Alice remained in the meeting hall.
“We can’t let this go on, Alice.” Duane stood up, one set of arms folded behind him. “I mean, look at this. We’re barely human anymore. Haystacks of tentacles roam Memorial Park like it’s their back yard. And what do we get out of it? The blood magic expenses eating away at the money HPP brings in. We’ve got to do something.”
“You know my grandfather was from West Virginia?” Duane shook his head. The Mayor clicked her secondary mandibles in thought. “Yep. Coal country. When I was young, he told me how the mining company cut safety gear costs by using outdated masks. Or how botched coal ash storage contaminated the aquifer with heavy metals. Then, he lost his best friend to methane explosion. The mine could have prevented it if they weren’t in such a hurry to open up new seams.”
“Every now and again, someone talked about suing or getting the government involved.” Alice stared at the text of the bill scrolling down her tablet. “No one ever did, though.”
“Why’s that?” Duane tilted his head and antennae.
“I asked my granddad. ‘Why they put up with it?’ He always told me to stand up to bullies when I grew up.” She packed away her tablet, notes, and documents into a messenger bag. “He said, ‘What else are we going to do? That’s just the price you pay for having a job.'”
“Do you believe that?”
Alice laughed. “Fuck no, Duane. I love my Grandad, but he spent his off hours crawled into a bottle of cheap beer.” The Mayor picked up her bag. “I’ve got to get to work, start making a plan to overturn this bill. Maybe go to court. I’ll be in early tomorrow. Should I expect you there?”
Duane smiled. He tucked his wings along his back. “Yep. I’ll be here. See you tomorrow, madam Mayor.”
“See you tomorrow, Duane.” She haded out. Duane turned off the lights, closed the door and locked the town hall behind him.
In the distance, green and purple flares jetted from the drilling wells dotted landscape. The tentacled mounds in the park stood in a circle, undulating around the statue of the town founder. A pair of hounds, lean and barely in this dimension, howled at the moon. They serenaded him all the way home.
Duane hoped they’d hush up, or find a rabbit to chase. Tomorrow would be another long day in local politics.