The blob made its way into downtown Arlington, Virginia fixing power lines and removing graffiti all the while. Such decrepitude in infrastructure was not conducive to a good business environment. The property defacements decried at-will employment and called all hedge fund managers bastards and scorned the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and so the blob carried out its work eagerly and efficiently and with a perverse relish devoid of panache.
About four feet in height with the approximate proportions of a more or less perfect sphere, its dark blue color and semitransparent qualities would have elicited more notice if not for the thirty-gallon garbage bag which came to cover the blob following a particularly forceful gust of wind soon after its arrival. Assumed to be yet another property-less transient, the eyes filling the sockets within the skulls belonging to people on their way to or from brunch––or else on their way to or from a very important brunch business meeting––saw neither the blob nor the gap between the sidewalk and its hovering form.
The blob absorbed an abandoned non-biodegradable food or beverage container here, a discarded electric scooter originating from a failing public-private partnership there. It obeyed traffic laws and refused to jaywalk and even went so far as to maintain a significant distance when behind isolated women late at night so as to induce no fear that it had nefarious intentions. It was important to the blob that it leave a desirable impression (if it had to be noticed at all). The blob and those responsible for its creation had dreams, ambitions too.
It spent hours (or perhaps days or perhaps weeks) navigating the grid of our transportation network in this way, memorizing routes and alleyways and legal and illegal curbside parking zones alike. It was still learning at this juncture. We might have had a chance to end our farcical way of life if only the Pentagon was called instead of animal control, if only gawkers contacted representatives of the security state rather than used phones to film reaction clips for TikTok and cultural capital. But probably not.
In retrospect, the elderly would compare the entity to the titular alien amoeboidal entity of the 1958 B movie, though this blob was neither red nor came to earth from outer space, lodged within a meteorite. The middle-aged speculated amongst themselves that the creature must have been the product of a top-secret government research lab from which it had either escaped or been unleashed as a sort of test for the larger scale of damage to come, when deployed in Beijing or Moscow.
It was the intuition of children which proved most accurate, for they recognized their birthright in the blob, recognized a decaying empire with two recent failed wars and diminishing control over world affairs. They had been born in a pitiful nation which nonetheless spent their inheritance to retain what it could of its military might rather than provide social services and quality lives for its citizens. It would rather use its greased palms to hand lucrative contracts to multinational corporations and mercenary outfits than pay anything more than lip service to those peoples it pretended to protect over hills and over deserts and overseas. It would rather hide behind uncertainty than tabulate how many flames it extinguished with a moistened pinch of a drone strike here, how many democratically-elected governments were toppled there (never here) with a clap whose echoes reverberate for decades.
For now, the RadioShack on Friedman Street and Circuit City a block over on Schlesinger Avenue were integrated first by the gelatinous organism. Whether because the blob required technological innovations of American industry to grow or the lingering stench from carcasses ravaged by private equity vultures to survive was fiercely debated in the aftermath. What remains uncontested is that the blob began its assimilation not long after absorbing the latest gadgets and gizmos and doodads.
By the time it made its way to the nearest gun store and Bank of America branch, it could compete with the dimensions of the newest Ford F-150, then retailing for about a fifth of the median American home price. After incorporating the aisles of Remington rifles and hollow point bullets and Dell computers storing templates of high interest loans and log-in codes for a fraction of the world’s $710 trillion invested in the global financial derivatives market––the options, swaps, and commodity futures so entailed––it was clear that something needed to be done about the five-story (and growing) spawn of foreign interventionism and laissez-faire absolutism.
Aroused by the taste of the essential products of American civilization, the blob was ready to move on to the main course. It cared tremendously for diversity and inclusion, so people of all colors, creeds, and abilities were welcomed into its rapidly-expanding globular blobularness. It co-opted anything and everything as it moved across the city, subsuming countless caucasians (even though these people had never visited nor had genetic roots to the caucasus region of Europe and Asia). It subsumed as many African-Americans and Asian-Americans and Latino-Americans as it could get its hand-less hands on. Men and women (whether straight or queer or trans) and the non-binary were all equally accepted, accepted precisely because they were all equally capable of production and consumption.
Everyone was represented. Those who could not speak English were welcomed with open arms without arms (since the blob possessed none) and in this spirit the fewer limbs attached to these humans the better, for the blob understood that those with disabilities were often discriminated against in ways large and small in the course of daily life, and that these sufferings were horribly inefficient within the larger cause of maximizing Gross Domestic Product. It was important for everyone to feel included, for everyone to participate in the same collective process, for everyone to have an equal opportunity to become inextricably linked to not only each other but the very nature of collaborative economic activity.
We might have had a chance to end our preposterous way of life if only the President was called instead of the Pentagon, if only gawkers contacted their congressional representatives rather than representatives of the security state. But who are we kidding?
As the situation escalated and cable news ratings soared and the profitability of the commercial breaks for these cable news programs reached unprecedented heights, those inhabiting the Situation Room were flummoxed. The President couldn’t make heads or tails of the intelligence reports which described a peculiar creature comprised of unknown matter but suspected terrestrial origin, and not just because the four-star general representing the Air Force tasked with flipping the coin and the National Security Advisor tasked with calling it in the air couldn’t correctly time their respective duties so that a decision could be made.
The CATO and AEI institutes were assumed to be likely incubators of the blob, and snide comments were made of monetarists by aides and low-level staffers (who thought they knew better but didn’t) from behind stapled economic forecasts shielding lips from senior officials. While the President––and the entire permanent DC foreign policy and economic policy establishments––were in the habit of gazing into mirrors for not inconsiderable durations every morning while primping and preening in their suits and pantsuits for the day ahead, they weren’t nearly as practiced at the fine art of recognizing the ramifications of their shared vision of colonialism by another name.
It’s important to remember that the blob is only partially culpable. The blob is no conventional B movie villain, no xenophobic representation of the immigrant or metaphor for individual avarice. The blob neither created nor destroyed, only facilitated and secured. But rather than spot in the blob the logical extension of the ideological precepts which fueled every decision made during the entirety of their so-called public service, the President and the Washington foreign policy blob and Washington economic policy blob saw the blob (our blob) only as competition for ultimate supremacy within the ruling class.
They launched what few of the notoriously expensive and poorly manufactured F-35s had working engines, deployed what few troops weren’t stationed in any of the 150 countries in which we had a permanent presence, and flew tens of thousands of drones customarily stored in secret Middle Eastern bases to Arlington. They tried to evacuate those scant few who had yet to make the acquaintance of the blob. Attempted to blow up the bridges leading out of town to contain the monster. Succeeded in nuking the city off the map, off every map in the National Archives. These efforts––this logic––only fed the blob, made it more powerful.
We might have had a chance to end our absurd way of life if only activists were called instead of the President, if only gawkers lived in an era in which organized labor had not been systematically crushed and immigrants had not been deported in historic numbers for four consecutive administrations and millions of the immiserated had not died premature deaths due to the debt economy and a lack of health insurance and an inability to profit from the so-called free market to even the slightest degree under the reign of neoliberalism. And it probably would have worked.
Instead, the blob made its way into downtown New York City and Chicago and Dallas and Los Angeles, and downtown Mexico City and Santiago and Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, and downtown Kinshasa and Lagos and Cairo and Johannesburg, and downtown London and Paris and Berlin and Stockholm, and downtown Beijing and Moscow and New Delhi and Jakarta, and downtown Sydney and Wellington. The blob subsumed us all. International institutions were dissolved and intergovernmental military alliances abandoned and transnational free trade agreements rendered redundant.
We were accepted in all our forms and colors. Finally, after millennia of unnecessary production losses resulting from inefficiencies of non-cooperation within uncoordinated states, we became one and the same. We became citizens of the blob, eager to compete as individuals (rather than nations) within the strong and impartial state of the blob’s dark blue and semitransparent gelatinous continent for the good of the economic and political freedom afforded by this way of life.
Now, after all this time, it can finally be said that there is truly no such thing as society. Only individuals who work in the blob and leisure at the blob and call the blob home.
Samuel Rafael Barber is 0.00000001253133% of the population, a Chicano from South Texas, and the author of the chapbook Thousands of Shredded Scraps of Paper Located across Five Landfills, That if Pieced Together Form a Message (The Cupboard, 2019). A PhD candidate in English and Literary Arts at the University of Denver, his fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from DIAGRAM, Normal School, Passages North, Puerto del Sol, Quarterly West, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. According to life expectancy tables, he will live another 51.4 years.
Other stars in the Conch asterism:
Once Upon a Time in Hawaii
Melissa Llanes Brownlee
We glide to the boats on silent waves. Our paddles slicing through the waters. Our war canoes hidden in the darkness of a new moon.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
I fell into a pile of old wrinkled love poems I had written in youth to a young lady I had a crush on back in undergrad.
[most of us saw what we were looking for]
most of us saw what we were looking for, rather than what we found. i take my grape-nuts with instant coffee. now the river is an empty bed of sand.
The Weatherman Again Predicts a Once-in-a-Lifetime Storm
Backstroking across a green screen, the weatherman warns of falling skies and downed power lines. Spleen-shaped hailstones shatter windshields and aviaries.