Sat in his dressing room, Jericho watched the lines on his face grow longer and deeper as he peered into the reflection looking back at him through the smudged and dimly lit mirror. He haphazardly applied makeup so anxiously the dust of his cracking blush fell onto his light gray suit which he had already taken off and on several times while contemplating whether or not to wear the darker suit he had on the rack.
His hands shook as he ran them through his thinning hair. Despite his concentration held on the figure of his face he couldn’t help but notice the lingering shadow shaped like a man reflected in the dark corner of the room just past his shoulder. Jericho swallowed sharply and closed his eyes hoping it was just his imagination but when he opened them, the shadow had drifted out of the darkness.
The man stood solemnly under a single hanging light. He wore a clean pressed suit and a carefully shaped wide-brim hat.
“I’m gonna run, Hunter,” Jericho said, his eyes still fixated on the mirror.
“No you won’t,” Hunter responded coldly. Slowly, he shifted his interlocked hands behind his back which gently revealed a revolver once hiding beneath his coat.
“Yes- Yes, I will.”
“Why?” Hunter asked calmly. His footsteps grew louder as he lurched closer.
“I can’t keep on doing this, the lies are getting to me, I don’t believe them anymore,” He said woefully. The echoes of his faithful followers howled in the theater just beyond the sealed doors and elongated hallway that led to the stage, his podium, and his predetermined speech.
“That’s exactly why you don’t run,” Hunter said bluntly with a tilt of his head, “they’ve come all this way to hear you, to hear us.” His eyebrows sank tightly into his gaze.
“I don’t wanna be here, I don’t wanna do it,” Jericho said, and with a fleeting moment of confidence, he stood from his stool and spun to meet Hunter’s daunting gaze.
“Sit back down.”
“No?” Hunter’s eyes widened and in one swift motion, he pressed the revolver square into Jericho’s sternum.
“Okay- Okay, I’ll sit,” he fell back onto his wooden stool. Hunter holstered his weapon before readjusting his hat.
“Good answer,” he said harshly.
“I’m not a pawn,” Jericho muttered softly.
“You say that now, Jericho, but give it time,” Hunter motioned to the sealed doors which kept them away from the ravenous and brainwashed audience ready to carry the two of them to the White House, “Trust me- trust us,” Hunter moved closer to Jericho.
“It’s only you, Hunter,” Jericho said, scowling at the floor, “they’re waiting for what you’re selling, not me.” he turned lethargically to the drawer on the right-hand side of the vanity and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
“No, remember the deal. We are selling you. We’re selling your image, we’re selling your values, we’re selling-.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s the deregulation and shoddy infrastructure you’re peddling, not my politics,” Jericho said sharply, his cigarette lit and hanging from his bottom lip.
“That is your politics and they love it. We love it.” Hunter said coldly, he hung like a shadow over Jericho, “This is what you wanted.”
“Maybe when I started. Not now,” Jericho said longingly. His eyes drifted past the waist of Hunter towards the dark edges of the room.
“You begged for this,” Hunter said, he rolled his shoulders slowly and began to stretch his neck from side to side.
“I’m not doing it.”
Hunter looked up at the tin ceiling panels before one more long and drawn-out breath. He then turned quickly and grabbed Jericho by the collar before lifting him off of the stool and onto the surface of the vanity.
“You mean not doing it, again?” Hunter snapped. His words were as sharp as a raven’s claws.
“You’d have me killed if I didn’t go out there before.” Jericho jabbed back with grit teeth and tears welling in his eyes. His hands shifted and patted around the vanity knocking off the half-drunk bottle of scotch.
“Who’s to say we wouldn’t now, huh?”
“There are cameras and people. My constituents!” Jericho pleaded. The tears in his eyes were now tangible and more than a passing shot at some semblance of potential empathy.
“Good ratings make better martyrs, Jericho. You don’t have a choice.”
Jericho let that sink in. His eyes blinked rapidly, and his gaze once more drifted to the darkness bubbling in the back of the room as his mouth fell slightly ajar.
“God. Oh my God,” He said in a whisper.
“Get out on that stage. They’re waiting,” Hunter demanded. He stepped away from the shell of a man in front of him. He scanned him up and down, “and change your suit,” his scowl dug deeper.
“Don’t look at me like that, Hunter.”
“Like what?” He asked, already turned away. He hadn’t the respect to give Jericho the chance to answer while looking him in his yellowed eyes. His footsteps echoed through the dressing room as if it was some hallowed mausoleum.
“Like I sold you my soul.”
Hunter cut his stride towards the door short. He was back-lit by the single hanging light and nearly consumed by the swarming darkness. Hunter removed his hat slowly and craned his neck. Jericho could have sworn that amidst his lingering shadow two horns prevailed from atop his head.
“But that’s what you did.”