In the year of our misfortune, the century hard to place, a peach-headed man descended on Rust Hill, pretending to have hitch-hiked there. Tall-hatted, in gilded peacoat and with an unnatural paste slathered on his face to hide infirmity, he was an old time huckster in the classic american mold, looking to sell the people what they didn’t need. A snake oil wholesaler.
The trick was in trading in fear, playing off anxieties that people were being left behind and forgotten, while at the same time stoking age old hatreds that had mostly been in remission. His words put cracks in the conviction that the system ruling the people of Rust Hill was fair and just, and soon the cracks grew to a fissure, the magma of animosity spewing up.
The huckster, hopped up on devil dust to improve his stagecraft, couldn’t offer any actual solutions to the problems facing the town, his hollow slogans were simply designed as catalysts for igniting the base passions of the group mind, primed as it was by a crumbling way of life. He told them that a powerful elite (of which he surely was not) was conspired against them, pulling hidden levers to keep them under yoke. They only needed to rise up. He would lead from the back end, squeezing the bowels of the back country. In fact his cancerous presence in the body politik was argument in favor of a societal preserver, a cabal of benign intelligence, Illuminati or otherwise, that might ensure that the ignorant, driven to violence, would not upend the apple cart, much less collapse the entire temple in on itself.
Crude caricatures were offered up as effigies, targets at which to hurl the rotten fruit of their disdain. With the throng sufficiently whipped into frenzy, the huckster made his sales pitch. He would give them the past. Halcyon days when there was a chicken on every table in Rust Hill, the way things used to be, a dead dream. Of course he was the only direct supplier.
Many were willing to buy in. But there was no going back. Time itself was the guarantor of that.