Senator Saul travels in his sleek black car.
He drives through the streets of Washington, D.C..
Claire is in the back, next to the black package that holds Saul’s suit and his domino. Shades cover Saul’s eyes. There’s a cup of grape juice in the cup holder beside Saul.
“Do you think there’ll be trouble today?” Claire asks.
The shadows in the streets grow long. Words of poetry float by on the air. There is the harsh distant pounding of a drum.
“Yup,” Saul says.
Suddenly, the street signs all around Saul’s car indicate “ONE WAY” and they all point in at him.
“Aha,” says Senator Saul. “It must be a one-way sign demon!”
The creature that comes striding down the street has long stick-legs like an ostrich or a stick-bug. Its arms are thick long twisty metal, six feet of it, pointed at the end. It is bowed over and its color scheme is black and white and in many places it bears the legend, One way. It is crooning as it walks, crooning, “Saul . . . Saul! Saul, why do you hide from me?”
Saul brakes. He parks the car. He opens his door. “Stay here,” he says. He steps out. He closes his door. He looks up at the one-way sign demon through his shades.
“There you are!” cheers the one-way sign demon.
The presence of the faceless gods is thick in the air. Saul can almost see them, standing like giants above the city. Their grave regard fills the ether, and so Saul speaks.
The words pour through him. They burn him inside.
“Through this street flows the lifeblood of this city: its people, its power, its commerce, its joys. You who would disrupt this flow and turn it back upon itself, sacrificing the sublime city plans of Pierre L’Enfant in the name of petty diablerie—to you I can show no mercy. I summon the Senatorial Garb!”
The demon tilts its head to one side. It waits. It watches.
Saul strips down, calmly and methodically. He walks to the back of his car. He opens the door. Claire hands him the package that contains his Senatorial Garb.
The chaunting of the demon-lords in their hells is audible now. Under the pressure of the confrontation the membrane between Washington D.C. and the demon world has grown permeable and thin.
Saul pulls on his Senatorial pants. He puts on his Senatorial shirt. He shakes his hair into Senatorial resplendence.
“Now,” he says, “by the power vested in me as a United States Senator, I will teach you a lesson!”
There is a peace in his heart.
These words are sacred.
The demon bares nasty jagged metal teeth in a smile.
“Many months ago,” says the demon, “your ‘Senate’ implemented the Patriot Act, permitting federal agents unprecedented powers to destroy members of my kind without due process. For endless days I brooded in the dark, plotting my terrible revenge. Now I am here to show you a sign—”
The word is horribly emphasized, and Saul can feel the wordless appreciation of the faceless gods.
“—that you have traveled in the wrong direction. Oo hoo hoo hoo hoo.”
Its hideous laughter grates on Saul’s ears.
Saul calculates. He assesses the judgment of the gods. The instinct in his heart tells him that only Washington desires a drawn-out battle; the other three are hungry for blood and swift fire in democracy’s name.
Saul sculpts the power given to him in his hands. It forms a glowing energy sphere. A mandala of light blossoms behind him, writhing with demonic script.
“I’ll show you the power of the Subcommittee in Charge of Manifesting Spherical Chi,” snaps Saul. “I have broad procedural authority to dispose of trash like you!”
The chaunt of the demon-lords rings louder now; and Saul takes his power, and twists it, and sends it forth in a levinbolt.
The demon screams in fear, but the bolt does not strike.
It is Lincoln, not Washington, that has caused it to fizzle.
“Curses,” mutters Saul. Too late he remembers the Litany:
. . .honor ye Roosevelt with sword and bear
And unto Lincoln let your puns be prayers. . . .
“Oo hoo hoo,” whispers the demon, in relief. “One small senator cannot stand against me. Now you must face the justice of my claim!”
Saul is thinking frantically. One-way signs are plunging in at him from every side, their tips like metal daggers.
They do not reach him.
Senatorial Aide Claire, grown tall as a stoplight, her bangs shining with mystic energy, has grasped the demon from behind. She pulls it back, and it shrieks.
“Never in this land of love,” she grunts, struggling against its inhuman strength, “will a Senator of justice traffic with demons like you! Strike now, Senator! It’s the only way.”
“That’s not a pun,” protests the demon. “That’s not even real wordplay!”
Saul begins his invocation.
“Wait,” whimpers the demon. “No. I didn’t really—I thought—”
“In 1941,” says Saul, “John Borglum stole the faces of the gods for Rushmore. In 1971, John Dean opened the gates of Hell. In 2001, provisions of the Patriot Act created the role of Senator Domino, sworn enemy of all demons. He alone can command the Bear-Fires of Mammon, uniting the light of Roosevelt with the dark power of the demon-lords! Under subsection 360(b) of HR 3162, I hereby instruct the Bear-Fires to aggressively pursue this one-way sign demon’s destruction! Swiftly! Swiftly! In accordance with the statutes and observances!”
The faceless gods are satisfied. The Bear-Fires sweep down. The demon burns.
Saul leans against his car, spent.
“Senator Saul!” says a shocked reporter named Sally. “Was that—did you—”
Saul realizes his mistake. He tosses aside his shades and conceals his face behind his arm as he gropes in the backseat of his sleek black car for his domino mask. Only when it’s on his face does he turn to look at Sally.
“Oh,” says Sally, her tone redolent with affected ignorance. “It’s you, Senator Domino.”
“That’s right,” says Saul.
He faces the cameras. There are usually cameras, after an incident like this. He clears his throat.
“There are those who think that we as a nation have lost our way,” says Saul. “But this—this is my answer.”
The Senator Domino theme music is playing, piped in by unholy pipers from the distant regions.
“Imagine a world where there were no demon-lords,” says Saul. “No faceless gods. Only the brutal unmusical struggle of man against demon. Only the confusion of a thousand one-way signs, and death. It would mean nothing. It would be hollow and the corpses would be hollow and we’d never really know why.”
“Senator, do you agree with the demon’s contention regarding the Patriot—”
Saul holds up his hand. Sally silences.
“This is the point of all our struggling,” says Saul. “This is why we live. To make the speeches, to wear the fashions, to launch the mystical attacks that are sacred to our gods. Not to win. But to serve.
“And today—today, we have pleased them.
“Today we have sacrificed to the distant powers our blood, our strife, our sweat.”
Singers far away sing, “Senator Domino.”
Saul says, “Today we have made our actions unto them a gift. We have justified our existence, here, upon this world, man and demon alike. Take this and treasure it in your hearts. Today humankind and demonkind are worthy.”
The calm regard of the faceless gods fills his heart with joy.
“This is not a partisan thing,” he says. “This is America.”
Then he gets back in his car and starts it up. After checking in the rearview mirror that Claire has snuck back into her seat, he drives away.
“Senator Domino!” cry the reporters.
He drives further away, and they do not follow.
After pulling around the corner into a conveniently unoccupied road in the middle of Washington, D.C., Saul removes the domino. He makes his way to the Capitol. He parks his car, gets out of his car, and walks with Claire into the building.
The sailor-senator is still on the floor, as she has been for seven days. Her filibuster continues.
“How long,” Saul asks Claire, “do you think she can keep that up?”
There are signs and sigils scrawled in the air all around the sailor-senator. They are glowing with the harsh light of her slow death.
“To let the words speak through you like that,” says Claire, “—it’s harsh, Saul. You of all people should know how harsh.”
The sailor-senator is ranting, “—those who would take the Patriot Act forward even one more year, I can’t show you any mercy!—”
“She gives her life for this,” says Saul.
“—ruining the lives of young people who only seek love and arguably terror—”
So he nods his head to her, and touches her shoulder gently as he passes, for all that they’re on different sides.
“—not about Iraq but about ‘I rock’—”
He will vote against her, when the time comes, but he loves her now.
Such is the honor done to those who please the faceless gods.