Wade Welles hadn't gotten a lot of sleep last night. It wasn't for lack of trying, and she had been exhausted from being out all night, which she spent "on the town", so to speak, but there was so much riding on what happened today. Too much.
It was Election Day, after all. In fact, right now she was standing in line to vote for Green Party candidate Amy Carter.
'Please God, let Carter be the winner. Please God, let Carter be the winner.' This was Wade's mental mantra all the way up the line.
The line was unbelievably long, much longer than they had been back when she was on her own world. She often remembered those days with a mix of fondness and regret. She really didn't want to think about it much right now, though.
From the looks of things, some folks had been here all night, sleeping when they could in a sleeping bag and waiting to be among the first to cast their ballots. Some of the more disheveled-looking ones walked past her, probably heading home to get some well-deserved sleep.
After a few hours, Wade was able to enter the voting booth. Punching the space next to Amy Carter's name, she worked her way down the names of candidates, mostly voting Green, othertimes switching over to vote Libertarian (hey, there had to be a few good ones out there). She left the booth feeling good and desperately wanting to get some sleep. She got none. Arriving at her hotel's bar, she sat down and ordered a drink, not even remembering what it was she ordered a few moments later when he brought her a tall glass of beer. She took the bartender's word for it.
The TV was on, which was a mixed blessing. All the channels were talking about how Libertarian President Al Lewis was bound to be re-elected and that every exit poll showed him ahead. "What do those blasted polls know anyway?" Wade said quietly, but with much venom.
Apparently somebody heard her, because the man at the next table suddenly shouted, "Lousy Green! It's your kind that's going to ruin the country for us decent folk. If Carter gets elected..."
"Hey!" the bartender barked as he moved to show the man the exit. "No politics in my bar!" The protective barkeep pointed to a sign that read NO POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS ALLOWED to the angry customer. He was promptly shown the door.
"You get off with a warning," he told Wade with a small degree of scorn. She brushed it off. In a day's time, what would it matter anyway?
After finishing her drink, fatigue finally got the better of Wade Welles. She went up to her room to lay down for a short nap, just a refreshing little sleep to help her get through the rest of today.
Eleven hours later she woke with a start when some uniformed goons who looked a lot like storm troopers were flashing lights and pointing guns in her direction. "You Wade Welles?" one of them asked uncaringly.
"Yeah, what's going on?" Wade asked, fearful of the very obvious answer.
"Did you vote for Carter?" another one of the men barked at her.
Wade could now barely suppress her fear. "Yes," at that word the men surrounded her, carrying her off without much co-operation from her, "but you don't understand. I'm not from this world! I don't understand your insane political system! I just want to go home!"
Surprisingly, the men did stop and their commander looked straight at Wade. "If you really are from a parallel world, then it won't be so bad, will it?" He then broke out into a hideous grin and the men once again began escorting her to a detention center.
They finally did let her stand on her own, only to have her be herded with several dozen others onto a nearby bus. As she was forced by the bar she had been drinking in only a few hours before, she heard a news commentator's voice. "...and moments before stepping into the void, candidate Carter offered her concession speech and wished Al Lewis the best of luck in running the country for the next four years. Turning to sports, the Seattle Yankees once again beat the Minnesota Mets in Game 3 of the Super Series..."
As Wade boarded the bus, she began to curse herself for her foolhardiness. But when she started down that road, she always ended up in the same place. Quinn Mallory.
"Damn Quinn," Wade muttered. She had loved him, but he just had to fall for that Diana bimbo. The happy couple, Bennish and Maurice were probably still living it up, partying across the multiverse like they always had. It got old and wore too thin too fast for Wade. She wanted to do some good, make a difference on the worlds they visited.
"You want to 'make a difference'?!?" she remembered Quinn asking her. "Then do it! Stay here and save the world!! You're no good to us anyway." Maurice Fish, some R&B singer who footed the bill for Quinn's experiments and thought sliding around for a while would boost his career, had never liked her much and Bennish didn't either after he found out she wouldn't sleep with him.
So that's how she got stuck over there. She had a chance for freedom, and at least a reprieve for just a few weeks, after the grueling months on that frozen mudball. But now she had to go back. "Just because Amy Carter couldn't win on Election Day," Wade bemoaned.
They were driven out of the bus and into a large white building with thousands of other disgruntled-looking people. A few stragglers were shot. There weren't any more after that. Once everyone was inside, a large gray vortex opened up and took up most of the space in a room the size of three football fields, if they had football on this world. The guards stepped back to another room and locked the doors behind them. Suddenly the vortex's power was increased and all of them were sucked into the huge gaping maw.
And there they were again. There were probably some newbies, some people who weren't able to vote last time, some people who got fed up with Al Lewis as President, but mostly it was the old gang. Back to this frozen wasteland.
The new arrivals were injured and somewhat dazed. A TV monitor was already activated in the otherwise dank and Medieval-looking room. On the black-and-white fuzzy scrren, Amy Carter spoke. "I will tell you that as President of Second Earth I will commit myself to making sure there is enough food for everyone and that everyone gets warm shelter. As long as everybody does their share of the work and there is no internal political dissent, you should get along just fine until we get to try again in four years."
Wade had tuned her out. Unmarked mass graves outside told her how much chance there was that everyone would make it back alive from this world, she didn't need Amy Carter's empty promises. Not that the woman didn't mean well, it's just that this world couldn't support a lot of people.
'If I hadn't thought Al Lewis' thugs would torture me to death on the other side, I would have voted Libertarian,' she admitted to herself. But enough of political thoughts for now, night was in full bloom, and Election Day was long over. The only thing Wade could do now was to try to keep warm enough to stay alive, maybe find a good place to get whatever meager food existed here, and wait for the next election.