Chuck smiled as he stepped out onto the congressional floor, a sea of black-tied men, and at least three women, staring back at him in silence. He did feel a little out of place, dressed in his ceremonial white toga with his chest clearly exposed, but tradition was tradition. They simply refused to allow him to wear anything more formal.
It was cold in the room, his body shivering as he walked over to the podium, but he couldn’t completely blame his uncontrollable trembling on just the temperature. A mixture of excitement, fear, and a little bit of arousal was causing the hair on his arms to stick up and his limbs to shake. After all, it wasn’t every day that he was invited to stand at the center of Congress, half-naked and ready to die. Sure, he had done a few practice sessions, but never to a room filled by some of the most powerful people in the United States. Usually it was just a few of his fellow sacrifices and one or two gleeful congressmen. Now, however, it was the real deal. He’d waited decades for his name to be called.
Chuck stopped in front of the podium and turned toward his audience, bowing slightly.
“The floor welcomes sacrifice Chuck Greene,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner from atop the podium.
Chuck had seen Mr. Boehner walking around the building a handful of times, but they’d never formally met before. He’d once noticed him at a practice sacrifice—or a pracrifice, as Chuck had grown to call them—but he spent most of his time playing on his iPhone. As such, it was frankly pretty exciting to hear that John Boehner—the John Boehner—actually knew his name.
“Thanks, John,” Chuck said, turning toward the podium. “Can I call you John?” he whispered.
“Absolutely not,” Mr. Boehner whispered back. He turned toward the microphone and continued. “We want to thank Mr. Greene for allowing his body to be sacrificed on behalf of this great nation. Without him, today’s decision would not be possible.”
Chuck smiled and stared out at the rows of congressmen and women. Most of them were focused on their iPhones, browsing Facebook or whatever else seemed to catch their fancy that day. It was truly an honor to be standing before the nation’s great deciders, perhaps even better than he expected it would be. The years of lectures, of being told of the eternal life granted from a congressional sacrifice, they didn’t even seem to hold a candle to the real thing.
“In accordance with the 2017 declaration that all major congressional decisions come at the cost of human life, we give thanks to Mr. Greene for serving as today’s sacrifice. Furthermore, in acceptance of the 2019 declaration that all minor decisions also come at the cost of human life, we honor Mr. Greene.” Mr. Boehner paused. “Likewise, in agreement with the 2021 declaration that all congressional decisions—just in general—come at the cost of human life, we give the most thanks to today’s sacrifice.”
Chuck smiled, bowing forward slightly so that his body formed a right angle. He always loved looking at the beautiful congressional floor. They took such immaculate care of it, save for the dark, almost black, stain that remained permanently dyed into the oak panels beside the podium. According to the custodians Chuck occasionally spoke to, they no longer bothered to try to scrub up the post-sacrifice blood. They did their best to mop it into a bucket, but getting down on their hands and knees was simply not worth the effort, at least not since 2021. Congress hardly went a day without killing eight or nine people, and that equated to a lot of scrubbing.
“I’m ready, John,” Chuck said. “Sorry, Mr. Boehner,” he quickly added.
Mr. Boehner stepped in front of Chuck, his navy blue slacks clearly just a bit too large for his relatively thin legs. The blade of a long, silver sword swung into vision along his left thigh, running down to just above the bottom of his foot. It was such a beautiful weapon, always hung above the door when congress was not in session. Chuck spent hours dreaming of the day he’d finally get his moment to feel it against his neck, to release him from his Earthly body and into the awaiting arms of America’s deceased Presidents. He hoped it would be everything he imagined, to die so that his country could continue to operate as it was designed.
“Any final requests?” Mr. Boehner said, the weapon vanishing from vision. Chuck glanced up at him, his arms raised, the sword held over his head in the grip of both hands.
“Yes,” Chuck said. “I’d like to—”
Mr. Boehner swung the sword down, an incredible rush of cold spreading through Chuck’s body. It was almost as if someone was blowing frozen air directly onto the back of his neck. He toppled over, his legs suddenly unable to carry his own weight, as a pool of ruby blood began to build up around his eyes. He could no longer breathe, his throat refusing to respond to his mental requests at doing so.
“It is decided,” Mr. Boehner said from what sounded like miles away, “The United States will now be a gluten-free country, even though I have no idea what gluten is.”
Chuck closed his eyes, the world around him already having faded to black.