INTERIOR, AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, TWILIGHT
An anonymous PRISONER is seated on a plain wooden chair facing the VP's desk. He is haggard, gaunt, filthy. A dark puddle of something is at his feet. His wrists are chained to his ankles with unnecessarily heavy chains. He is leaning forward, listing to the side, as if he will fall forward any moment, looking at the VP from under a drooping brow. The VP is speaking.
...loyalty. Principle. Fortitude. I'm talking about ethics. These are the things with which you should have concerned yourself. This business about deferring to the Constitution, the law...
he pauses to check his disgust
...the will of the people. This is not integrity; this is cowardice. It's a dodge. The conceit of the rule of law is a luxury for the effete. For those who couldn't protect an anthill from a kid with a magnifying glass. That is, those among them who actually believe their nonsense. As for the rest, you just watch what becomes of their Constitution once they get a hold of it. No, you've thrown your lot in with cowards and traitors.
You say you've lost your stomach for it; now you want to obey the law. The law is for traffic cops. When you get to this level, no one charged with defending the nation, no one standing on that wall, gets to play the virgin.
The law is a beautiful, comforting--and above all useful--illusion. Always has been. That's not the same as saying it's meaningless. On the contrary. It's precisely because I want to preserve it that I do what I do. I break it where it needs it, to preserve it where I can. I do what I have to do. The people have no idea.
You want out? I thought you knew. No one gets out.
His hoarse voice is barely more than a whisper, his words lisped through swollen lips
I can keef my mouf shut.
the VP silences him with a raised hand
Even if you were telling the truth, I don't care. You're of no use to me. Except as an example. Letting you go now is out of the question, as you know. But your example will help greatly. You can rest knowing that you gave one last invaluable service to your Vice--to your country. But let's have no more talk about the law, about the Constitution.
But if that's what the people want...
Do they? You disappoint me. I thought you understood human nature. The common man? The citizen? The common man is a cowering, superstitious, gluttonous fool who gladly chooses to live in a fantasy world. You think he wants liberty? Freedom? If he ever came upon true freedom and got a look at what it requires of him he would--he does--run to cower in the shelter of power's embrace.
What he really wants is power; knowing he can't wield it, he settles for power working on his behalf, always; always out there crushing someone else, somewhere unseen, some other insignificant fool to whom he has no relation, for whom he has no care; power grinding away out of sight like a factory that continually produces safety and plenty--free of charge. And that's what we do. It's a beautiful thing. It's a tremendous act of kindness.
The common man just wants to be left alone. That's the full extent of his understanding of freedom. We have a deal, an arrangement, the common man and I, and he knows it. He doesn't want to see the tremendous effort and sacrifice I make on his behalf; he doesn't want to know. I--we are like God. We create the world as it exists in the collective mind. It is the most sacred trust there is. You think we could do this constrained by the law?
You see, we haven't any choice in the matter. The law, the Constitution, morality itself; all of this is an illusion. A fantasy. Now you, and your newfound friends, want us to give the illusion a try--because you have fooled yourself into believing it. This is madness. And you wonder at my contempt.
The people want to be left alone to fuck and eat themselves into a stupor. For the love of God man look around you. And I'm here to oblige them. It's only when the common man starts to fear; it's only when he thinks that power will fail that he starts to pay attention, that he starts to bleat away about rights and the law. And, contrary to the fantasy world you have thrown your lot in with, that's when what peace and liberty we have managed are threatened.
Believe me, the last thing any of us want is for the "people" to act. For us to give the Law an honest try. God help us then. This will all look like a paintball game if it comes to that. But it isn't going to come to that.
We dirty our hands on the common man's behalf. We take up the burden he gets to pretend isn't there. We toil in the dark, doing his dirty work. And this is the thanks we get. Don't fucking talk to me about the law. I'll have your ass sent to--well, never mind where. Trust me, you haven't seen anything. Count yourself lucky you haven't any remaining useful information. But the betrayal.
Why not give it a try you say. You forget that as long as there exist out there those who will sacrifice the law for power, and they will always be there because they are every one of us, that subjugating yourself to the law means subjugating yourself to them. People don't know how lucky they are that it's us at the lever; we who are willing to allow them their measure of freedom and the plausible fiction of the "law."
I took an oaf--oath--to defth, to defend--
If you want to keep what's left of your tongue you'll stop moving it. Constitution? Let me tell you about the Constitution. The dirty little secret of the Constitution is that it cannot survive without someone like me contravening it. You want a constitution? Well, you can have part of one, but you can't have all of one. Listen to me. It isn't possible. A complete constitution will not last five minutes in the real world. We won't last five minutes adhering to some bullshit constitution. Fuck the Constitution.
The Constitution is powerless to protect the nation. Hell, the Constitution can't even defend itself. The Constitution is a conceit. You fell for that bullshit. Unfortunate. But if you think I'm going to leave the nation defenseless so that I can preen before it as a defender of the Constitution. I defend lives, not paper. Jesus.
Your time is up. All of this will be rolled back. The next administration...
the VP interrupts him with laughter, a low, thumping caw in the chest, steadily rising in volume
...they'll turn it all back, you'll see; we can't go on like this, we have to try and make it all work like it's supposed to...
the VP, still laughing, reaches inside his collar, grabbing hold of something; as he pulls his hand back out his face contorts, going lifeless. His laugh is muffled as he pulls away a rubbery mask, revealing the face beneath. It is a woman's face; we know it; it is the FRONTRUNNER. The laugh is now her familiar cackle; she stands, pulling away the remnants of the mask, her laughter growing louder.
CLOSE SHOT, PRISONER
He is horrified, trying to speak.
CLOSE SHOT, THE MASK OF THE VP
It is grimacing up at us from the ground through black, hollow eyes.
LOW ANGLE SHOT, THE FRONTRUNNER
She is towering over our view, shadows cast on her face from low angle light intensifying her sinister expression, laughing away like a madwoman.