Your leadership style bears examination because of the coup. The personality brochure distilling complex human traits into four categories rests in your hands, pretending to help, but you flip a bird. The world’s end is a damned inconvenient time to grapple with temperament. The glossy, color-coded brochure smugly insists now is always perfect for self-reflection.
Your needle pegs red. Why are controlling personalities always labeled as the color red, as though red signifies rage? You flick past those pages; your index finger wetted for better traction. The snapping echoes off the cave walls crowding close, like the traitors who gathered with cool disdain at your so-called trial.
You rip out a page and wad it. No faceless trait scientist [literally faceless by now, you’ll bet] will convince you that waiting and starving is superior in strategy to striking and running. You’re still standing. The dumb fuck who wrote this brochure likely isn’t.
D = Director: You don’t just occupy your space; you own it. Among Other Things, you are human. Your blood-under-the-nails instincts rule. You bare your teeth, grip your knife, and scream into the inkiness: Come and get me!
Your rust weeps from too many cuts and slicks your leathers. Your heart pounds as rapidly as the boots that wrestled you here. Your propensity for flashy victories [their words, not yours] comes at the expense of friends, family, and followers, and those remaining seek vengeance, indeed, not truth.
I = Influencer: [Amusing, right?] The brochure claims you’re possessed of a negotiator’s DNA, illustrated by the color blue [never your favorite]. You don’t simply pursue agreement: you alert on the tiniest advantage to your agenda.
A parlay Among Other Things was brilliant; negotiations would have established leverage for humans. But you, a self-proclaimed chameleon, utterly failed to spot the inside double-cross. The slaughter’s stink still swirls your senses.
A snarl reverberates off the cave walls. Sick gurgles in your belly. You’re about to die, but two points bear further hashing.
S = Statesperson. Point one: 99.9 percent of [remaining] humanity hides, shunning controversy like the proverbial plague, which isn’t proverbial anymore. But you? You strap on the brochure’s canary yellow and bore through conflict like debris through a black hole [which is how those motherfreaks got here] because, Among Other Things, conflict is their language, and you’re now fluent in their tongue.
Point number two: Loyalty matters. You’re humanity’s leader [okay, were]. You accept that leaders are flashing neon targets [for dissenters to take aim] but taking an arrow from within your ranks from someone you love[d]? That’s just…wrong.
Shivers quicken your hands, the ones that cradled your boy’s body the same day the man who shared your heartbeat laid the blame of his death at your feet. You should have been wary of the shadows entering his gaze. He betrayed you at the parlay and disappeared, leaving you to explain how you’d never sell out humankind to invaders.
Blood dopps onto the brochure from the G your former followers carved into your brow.
[G for guilty.]
You crumple the entire brochure and drill it into the darkness.
Snarls unfurl a heartbeat’s distance away.
A good thing you’re a
C = Cog-nator: Go-go juices spurt into your limbs. Your breath feathers hot over your lips. You hold, hold…a force drives you back. You strike. The stink is palpable, Among Other Things. You plunge the blade down and in. The tip skips off bone, but you keep pressing. [The high-pitched squeal is yours.] Bone is an organic component comprised of collagen protein. The major minerals are calcium and phosphate. Bone is hard; it is not the brochure’s green like tree saplings. You fight.
Among Other Things, if you fight, you will survive.
It turns out, self-reflection for healing is worth the sweat.
You’ve been judged, dumped, and left for dead, but you are who you are.
You’ve made mistakes—sure. But no color-coded brochure of red, blue, yellow, or green encapsulates you.
An apocalyptic plague of aliens from the stars is self-explanatory: humans didn’t start this crap. The self-healing process lets you see that peoples’ thoughts about you don’t matter.
Only living does.
Because Among Other Things, you are unique, and you’ve done your best. You will overcome. You will rise from the pit. You will choose to forgive and, in turn, be forgiven.
Humanity needs you, so you’ll lead again.
Among Other Things, the victory will be yours, and one by one, all the things coming against you die at your feet.
Ara Hone writes speculative fiction. Before that, she climbed grain silos to admire sunsets, joined the military when it wasn’t cool, and survived a sales career. She adores a great TV series and editing stories for Flash Fiction Magazine. Her best advice? Drink coffee daily. @ara_hone