Tom put the very last box into the truck with not a little bit of relief, as it was pretty much the last bit of space in the truck. Molly and the kids were going through the house, supposedly checking to see if there was anything left, but in reality dragging out their departure. There’d been tears from the kids when they’d told them they were moving, and he hardly blamed them. This was the house they’d grown up in. The school they attended was just three blocks over, and they’d trick or treated on these doors with other kids, or attended birthday parties or barbeques in other people’s backyards so many times. This was home.
It wasn’t the first time he’d had to move house, but this had been different. Of course it had. For one, he’d had to do most of the loading himself, if only because so many of the people who might have helped were busying packing their own families’ stuff, or had already moved. Then there were those neighbours who might have helped in the past, but now just glared through a window.
As the kids made their final rounds, Tom lowered the US flag that flapped in the light breeze from the pole over the porch. A former marine, he treated it with respect, carefully folding it as per regulation and placing it snugly in the trunk of the car, between two pillows so as to not get creased. There was a lot of talk about new flags these days.
Tom looked at his watch. They were just on time.
“Ok, let’s go,” he shouted into the house, and the family appeared at the door. Molly was struggling to hold back tears.
Tom gave her a hug and closed the door behind them, and they all got into the car. He was determined not to look back as they pulled away.
Their appointment was not far away, and it wouldn’t be a disaster if they missed it, but Tom wanted to just move on and get things done. He wanted to be in the new house, and wouldn’t feel comfortable until…well…he didn’t like to think about it.
The appointment was in a Walmart car park which had been temporarily taken over by the army for the purpose. Tom joined a queue of cars waiting. He was reassured to see US Army soldiers and armoured vehicles. Overhead a helicopter patrolled noisily.
“Honey, have you got…” he said to Molly, but she was way ahead of him, and had them in her hand. A soldier with a clipboard reached the car, and Tom rolled down the window.
“Good afternoon sergeant,” Tom said.
“Good afternoon sir. Can I take your IDs please?”
Tom handed over their United States Citizen identity cards. The soldier thanked him, and scanned each into a handheld scanner, then peeked into the automobile to match faces.
“Good afternoon ladies: we’ll have you ready very quickly.”
He handed back the cards, noted the car registration, and leaned in again.
“You’re with 246. About ten minutes I’d say.”
Tom thanked him, and closed the window.
Tom looked at the cards again. He still couldn’t quite believe he had to carry mandatory identification, but he understood why. He remembered the night Molly and he had sat down and made the decision, as every American family did.
A soldier stood on the back of a jeep and spoke through a bullhorn.
“Ladies and gentlemen, could those of you in convoy 246 please follow us. You all have been issued with your emergency hotline number. If you have a problem during the convoy please call it. Do not leave the convoy without calling as we will not be stopping other than at designated break areas.”
Tom checked his gas level again: he’d filled the tank as the kids were bringing down their boxes. They had water, snacks, phones were charged, and he’d make sure everyone had used the bathroom.
The army vehicles roared into life, and pulled out, the hundred or so civilian vehicles following them, a collection of stationwagons, SUVs, rental trucks and RVs. What struck Tom was that all had that overloaded look, like each was packing a family’s whole life into them, which was often true. As they drove through the suburbs they could see state police cars with flashing lights blocking roads to let them pass the agreed route. Occasionally crowds of protestors had gathered to hurl abuse, waving flags. The soldiers on the vehicles in the convoy watched those crowds carefully as they passed.
They were among the last convoys to leave. After Sunday, it was up to people to make their own arrangements, and whilst that technically shouldn’t be an issue following the Biden-DeSantis Accord, Tom was still glad they had an army escort. There had been stories. People killed, families hounded from neighborhoods they’d lived in their whole lives, militias ordering people to leave states. Yet it was still better than the full frontal civil war that had been brewing. This was the least worst option.
The decision hadn’t been hard. They loved their home, their city, but they could see what was happening. That there was basically one way to think and if you don’t agree you’re one of them. When the website asked them to make their decision, and upload the information, they knew they hadn’t really a choice, because one thing was adamant: you had to choose one. You could not be both. It was one of the few things that even former Presidents Trump and Obama agreed on. Even when it emerged later that President Trump realised the implication for his businesses, but by then it was too late even for him. His daughter and son-in-law recognised it.
There had been quite a lot of schadenfreude particularly when older white people had made their choice, then realised what they had actually voted for, and tried to reverse their decision. No take-backs, the president said.
Molly and the kids were fast asleep by the time they had pulled away from the final scheduled breakstop, and hit the road again. The convoy slowed to a halt in dense traffic, and the army helicopters circled aggressively, as if to deter would-be attackers. This was the most dangerous part, he’d been warned. Across the freeway he could see similarly loaded cars speeding past from the other directions, full of kids and families, He could see kids cheering in some of the cars.
As the convoy got closer, the huge structure was visible, with armed soldiers patrolling on top of it, and powerful lights illuminated the whole area. There were more flags on either side of it than at a political convention.
Tom could see the lead army convoy vehicle wave at the soldier on the barrier, who opened it and waved them through.
“Hey kids, you’re going to want to see this!” Tom said, and the family awoke from their slumber just as they passed the sign announcing “You are now leaving the Constitutional States of America”, and beside it flew the South Carolina state flag, which had a symbol restored to it that would have been approved of by Jefferson Davis.