From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Advertisement

Fiction

The Life and Death of Atomic Tangerine

Atomic Tangerine skates like a dream / nobody beats Atomic Tangerine.

—Federova, Anya. Preserved Graffiti of the Water Riots. 2055, mixed media. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

• • • •

Nobody knew where she came from. One minute black and brown bodies were being thrown to the streets, the crack of tear gas canisters spinning across asphalt, and the next, there she was.

She wove through us—through the roar, through the sweat, through the rage buttoning us up tight—her bright orange skates and bodysuit cutting through the chaos. And where she skated, batons slid like butter out of cops’ hands. Flashbangs fizzled. And the guns? I saw them, saw them shooting flowers into the street as she passed. Dandelions exploding into showers of seeds. Like it was snowing.

Laugh if you want, but you asked what I saw.

And what I saw was the first coming, the big hallelujah. The one and only, Atomic Tangerine.

—Derry, Sal “Salamander.” Personal interview, Louisiana State Penitentiary. 18 May 2053.

• • • •

Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she wasn’t a single person, no more than she was capable of turning bullets into begonias. I swear, the stories people made up. No, when it comes to Atomic Tangerine, they—and I emphasize they—were just like all the other criminals that summer destroying our great nation. So what if some people had more water than others? Those who work the hardest reap the rewards.

As for what happened to them? Don’t believe the videos of that last riot, of Tulsa. They’re deepfakes, like all the rest. I mean, seriously, don’t make me laugh.

Obviously the FBI finally caught up with them. I mean, you can only hide for so long, and that hideous orange bodysuit was rather conspicuous, you know. Yeah, the FBI. Scooped up all the Atomic Tangerines overnight, all those orange-suited anarchists pissing on the lives of honest, hard-working Americans. And now they’re rotting in a classified prison, where they belong.

Now, if only we could toss the rest of the rioters in prison with them. That, my friends, would be the true American Dream.

—Heston, A.B. “Failure of the American Dream.” Full Metal Patriots, dreamcast, episode 42, 5 November 2054.

• • • •

I know what happened.

Atomic Tangerine.

—Anonymous. Comment on “Waht jsut happened n Tulsa???” 6 June 2052, 13:39 CST, https://www.discust.com/x/WaterWatch

• • • •

They were waiting for her in Tulsa. Hundreds of National Guard. The Water Riots had been going on for months at this point. Chicago was on fire, the Pacific Northwest was cannibalizing itself, and Florida . . . don’t get me started on Florida.

But yes, they were waiting for her. You can see it in the videos, the way the troops sit behind the police lines. Patient, like they know something nobody else does. There weren’t National Guard anywhere else either. Only Tulsa.

You hear her before you see her. The roar of the protesters in the rear crescendoing its way to the front. They know who she is by now, and now that she’s there, they know everything will be, well, not okay, but better. Yes, better. The protesters will end the day still thirsty, but at least they won’t be as bruised and broken had she not come at all.

There are a lot of videos showing her emergence on the front. You’ve seen them. The one where the two officers stagger back, riot shields erupting into butterflies. The other where she swoops up some kid about to be beaten, skating him to safety.

But the important ones, the important videos focus on the National Guard. Lowering their rifles. Aiming tight. A few of them look confused, unsure. But enough of them are pointing their weapons ahead, at Atomic Tangerine . . .

And that’s where the videos end. Every one of them.

Accounts afterward vary. Many are contradictory, if not outright fantastical. Most common, claims of her being shot, peppered with a spray of bullets too much for even the legendary skater to stop. A few also of her skating past the National Guard, bullets dissipating into so much dust.

And then, the other stories. You know the ones. The ones of her skating so fast she breaks open the sky itself.

Like I said, fantastical.

But perhaps not near as fantastical as what actually happened when the videos came back on . . .

—Xiang, Lily. “Death of the Atomic Tangerine”. Stories of the Water Riots, edited by Ben Roth, Forester Books, 2053, pp 167-183.

• • • •

What did she achieve, really? What can any one person achieve against the vast machine that is our society? The rains may have come at last, miraculously relieving the drought plaguing our nation, but what of the drought plaguing our souls?

—Dunlap, Gerald. “Lessons of the Water Riots.” Joining Together for Social Justice Conference, 12 June 2054, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA. Keynote address.

• • • •

It’s raining, oh!

It’s pouring, oh!

The water’s overflowing, oh!

Who we gotta thank?

Atomic Tangerine!

Who we gotta thank?

ATOMIC TANGERINE!

—Unknown. “Children playing. Emerson Elementary School, Tulsa, OK. 16 September 2052.” When the Water Came: Recordings of Generation Thirst. 2051-2054, mixed digital recordings. Rain Memorial Plaza, Chicago, IL.

Michelle Muenzler

Michelle Muenzler

Michelle Muenzler is an author of the weird and sometimes poet who writes things both dark and strange to counterbalance the sweetness of her baking. Her short fiction and poetry can be read in numerous magazines. Check out michellemuenzler.com for links to the rest of her work (and her convention cookie recipes!).