Heltus Skeltus, or Mapstick: A Vonnegutian FantasyAsh Donaldson
2020 had been an odd sort of year. It wasn’t the longest year on record: that distinction belongs to 46 B.C., which Julius Caesar extended by decree to 445 days in order to bring the lunar calendar up to date with the solar year. Still, 2020 seemed like the longest year ever, as each month brought more madness than any year has a right to. If the world is overseen by a meticulous student taking a final exam (and I’m not saying that it is), patiently considering each question before bubbling in his answer, then 2020 was that moment when he realized that there were more questions left than seconds. Haphazardly, then, he marked in the rest of the test, cramming in any answer, however absurd, no matter how obviously wrong.
You, my grandson, are much too young to remember any of this; your mother wasn’t even born yet. But believe me, in hindsight 2020 was positively unremarkable compared to the year that followed, or even compared to the single day that followed, as January 1 ushered in that annus mirabilis. For in one instant — 4:18 a.m. EST, as it happens — the inhabitants of the United States of America woke up to find themselves not in one country, but 50.
Ex Uno, Plures
To say that America was suddenly divided into 50 countries does not begin to explain what occurred. Rather, Americans — this plastic designator that stretched to encompass all the races, nations, and tribes of the world, provided they found some way of getting here — were instantly transported to one of the 50 states, based on no criterion other than their racial and ethnic identity, as recorded in the 2020 census.  There was no reason why this should be so, unless the Almighty is either a comedian or a bureaucrat. But that is what happened, make what theological conclusions you will.
In hindsight, one could see that 2020 — and many a year before it — had paved the way for that sudden and irrevocable transformation, which whites came to call the Centrifuge, for a device that separates out substances based on their density. A country of contradictions had come to excel at doublethink. The elites had maintained that racial identity is nothing more than a social construct, or at most a mere accident of geography, yet it is somehow also the inescapable essence of a person, destining him to either unmerited shame or unearned pride. We were told on the one hand that the past is inescapable, that it drives our every action, animates our every thought, and on the other hand that the past could be freely ignored as the visionaries set about constructing a new order. Black athletes who made tens of millions of dollars a year self-righteously condemned the white working masses for their privilege. Professors who spent their careers arguing that whites benefit from systemic racism were found to have lied about their race, feigning colored ancestry to order to advance in the academic hierarchy, thus giving the lie to their own thesis. So if what happened on January 1, 2021 was absurd, it was no less absurd than what was already the country’s reigning ideology.
In one instant, each inhabitant of America found himself in one of the 50 states based solely on his ethnic identity, diligently recorded by armies of demographers and census-takers. And each of these racial or national groups found itself in precisely that state which corresponded in area to the relative size of each group’s population. Try to understand the scope of this change. Every White person in the country, over 180 million of them, was suddenly in Alaska. All black life matter was transported to Texas.
The various divisions, with one exception, were no more or less precise than the government bean-counters themselves. That is why, despite the incredible diversity found among people of European descent, long since officially replaced by the term “white,” the bearers of that label found themselves in one place. Much the same condition prevailed among blacks, unless they were immigrants who identified as Somalian, Nigerian, and so forth, each of which possessed its own state, proportional to population. The vast circus tent of “non-white, Hispanic origin” was divided into various sideshows corresponding to the respective nationalities of these various hyphenated Americans. Mexicans, thirdmost numerous after whites and blacks, ended up in the third-largest state, California. But Hispanics as a whole occupied, in addition to California, half the Plains states, much of the Upper Midwest, and half the Atlantic seaboard, while an Asian corridor extended from Oregon to the Mississippi River.
There was one exception to this demographic rule. Whoever had effected this transformation had discarded the fiction whereby Middle Easterners were counted as “white,” which had cleverly helped to mask the continuing decline of the White population proper. Arabs were evidently Arabs, and a Turk was a Turk, much to the chagrin of members of the intelligentsia who had identified as white in order to lecture their “fellow” whites, then conveniently retreated to the sanctimonious safety of their Jewish identity.
Speaking of Jews, I suggested earlier that the orchestrator of all this, if it was the devising of a single intelligence, must have been either a comedian or a bureaucrat at heart, but he (or she, it, what have you) may have been both. As if by some cosmic joke, the allocations based on population and state size placed the Jewish-Americans in Montana, and the Arab-Americans right next door in Idaho. And whether it be deemed comedy or tragedy, the 125,000 or so Alaskan Natives, having lost such a vast territory, being 51st in population now found themselves the possessors of Washington, D.C. This was the only non-state to be affected, for the U.S. territories were otherwise exempt from the Centrifuge. The Puerto Ricans remained in possession of their island, but the more than four and a half-million of them in the U.S. woke up in New Mexico. Meanwhile, Arizona became home to every American Indian tribe from the Apache to the Zuni, divided inside the state in like proportion. Perhaps the most amusing outcome of all of this was that the Somalians, being 43rd in population, ended up in Hawaii, while the poor Hawaiians (still in the last hour of 2020, technically) were dropped into a Wisconsin deep freeze.
The Land of the Midnight Sun
Cold it certainly was for most inhabitants of the 50 states, and no one felt this more than the whites, now collected into Alaska. The difficulties went beyond mere climate, as forbidding as that proved to be. Where there had been one resident of Alaska, there were now 250. That distribution, in fact, is precisely what happened throughout the former U.S.: the population of each state may have dramatically gone up (as in Alaska) or down (as in the New England states), but the relative density across each state appeared to match what had been the population distribution before. Overnight, then, Anchorage and its environs became host to an apocalyptic scene as 72 million Whites looked about on a snowy landscape, with the mercury at nine degrees Fahrenheit and the clock at just past midnight, with still ten hours to go before the wintry dawn.
All of this must seem like ancient history to you, my grandson. Try to imagine my panic, though. There I was, one moment in my living room in Midland City, for it was New Year’s and I had stayed up late. By now I had put back several snifters of brandy, as I was holding forth on the lesser-known works of Euripides (brilliantly, I might add). The next minute, it was colder than the proverbial witch’s teat, and I was standing on the runway of the Will Rogers Memorial Airport in the town of Barrow (which had recently been renamed from that intrepid explorer to an unpronounceable string of vowels and consonants). There I stood, with one million others in the general vicinity, woefully underdressed for the Arctic Circle. And without my brandy. You have no idea of the horror.
Needless to say, this created a humanitarian crisis almost unimaginable in scope. No one who lived through that time could forget it. If the race deserved a scourging, as some would have it, then never was a people’s back lashed so swiftly and severely. Picture, if you will, the corpulent denizens of Walmart, their pudgy fingers diving deep into the discount DVD barrel, suddenly transported to this unforgiving tundra the next. Conjure up the witless hordes frantically trying to search for an app on their phone to get them out of this predicament. Pity, if you will, the professors of ethnic studies, the corporate commissars of affirmative action, the holders of government sinecures now possessing no job except mere survival. Ah, I see such terms mean nothing to you. Perhaps it is just as well.
The death toll was in the millions and may have been higher yet, if not for the arrival of ships and aircraft bringing aid from Russia, the so-called White Bread Airlift. Slowly the immediate crisis was alleviated, spring arrived, and the population that faced the winter of 2021, if it was somewhat smaller in size than the year before, was filled with more determination that the famine and the chaos would not return. I have nothing but praise for our neighbors across the Bering Strait, but little aid came, I am sad to say, from Europe proper, save for a small but meaningful contribution that arrived courtesy of the Hungarian navy. Most of Europe was more concerned with the conditions of the Lower 48.
In most of the other states, you see, the situation was little better. The Ghanaians and Panamanians huddled in the ski lodges, and the Dominicans experienced the full force of a Minnesota winter. True, there was more than enough housing in such places, for the population of most states went down. That did not mean, however, that there were people with the know-how to operate the infrastructure. The task of keeping Seattle supplied with heating and electricity, for instance, proved beyond the capacity of the Jamaican engineers. Furthermore, it was soon discovered that the sudden transplantation that had just occurred was irreversible. This was perhaps the most curious aspect of the whole affair.
Borders Without a Country
The political boundaries of each of the states may align with geography in some cases, or be completely arbitrary in others, but the power that effected the events of New Year’s Day, 2021, also had the ability to make it permanent. No sooner would, say, a Guatemalan of Kansas step into Japanese Missouri, then his heart would fail to pump the blood that marked out his nature. That nature must indeed have been taken into account, for it occasionally happened that two nationalities which had been neighbors on a continent found themselves likewise neighbors on this, and there the boundary’s effect was often less violent. The Ecuadorians of Florida, it seemed, could step over into Peruvian Georgia without immediate fatality, only an uncomfortable increase in heart rate, and likewise, the Hmong of Pennsylvania could enter Laotian West Virginia if they were willing to suffer a migraine. A few blacks, it seemed, were of unmixed enough descent to step foot into Nigerian Arkansas. Nevertheless, the discomfort became more pronounced with the distance from one’s fellow countrymen, and in most cases, “side effects may include death” was not a prospect that many wished to risk.
This did not prevent trade, however, for goods and animals could freely pass across borders. Semi-trucks could be idled across the interstate line, though having train crews swap out at the border proved rather tricky. Air travel disappeared, however, for the physiological effects of the political boundaries appeared to extend vertically. The infrastructure required to maintain satellite communications collapsed from want of coordination and expertise among the various ground stations. The Ecuadorians and Mexicans were the only ones to inherit space-launch facilities, but they proved unable or unwilling to pay much attention to such endeavors. Yet once things stabilized, there was quite a competition by the Asian nations to find ways to circumvent the Centrifuge. The Japanese, I hear, have a tunnel complex deep in the Ozark Mountains, where they are trying to dig under the state border. If it works, I’d love to be there when the Nigerians of Arkansas see them emerging from the ground! The Chinese, meanwhile, are convinced — despite the airplane predicament — that there must exist a position high enough that one could go over the border. Near their metropolis of Ras Vegas, they are constructing a tower that reaches to the very heavens, something not without precedent, I believe. I wouldn’t place bets on either of these succeeding, though. The Divine Bureaucrat is not mocked.
This curious situation along the borders, which has so far confounded the most brilliant minds, did not prevent conflicts from breaking out. People might not cross these lines, but bullets, artillery shells, and even nuclear weapons might. This last calamity occurred in 2029, when the Jews had had enough of the Arabs launching drones across the border from Idaho. The nuclear missiles of Malmstrom Air Force Base, which long ago had been aimed at Moscow, were now directed at an altogether different Moscow, as the Sunni residents of this Idahoan town were vaporized. Comparable stockpiles existed at bases in Wyoming and North Dakota, but the Haitians and Cubans never seemed to get the knack of it. Down in Nevada, the Chinese were rather miffed that the architect of this whole business was under the delusion that Taiwan was a separate nation, though there was not much they could do about far-off Massachusetts.
It was soon discovered that the internal borders had another odd characteristic. Those who were mixed-race, or who had reported themselves as such, were placed by the Centrifuge along the state borders. Here lay a zone, a quarter-mile on either side, in which these 11 million people could move freely along the border between any of the states, without risk of death or serious ailment. Thus, they had a freedom of movement denied to others. Their dominion, only half a mile in breadth but 11,000 miles long, became known as the Mule Trail. Much of it could be traversed on foot, especially out west, but as one moved east, this often required being on boat or barge. The Mules became like the Aramaeans of antiquity. With their “Kamala Caravans” (named for their queen), they have a monopoly on the interstate trade. They do well for themselves.
Heartbreaking scenes took place along the Mule Trail as unmixed spouses met at the border, perhaps touched briefly, while their Mule children passed between them, now on one side, now on the other. Such moments inspired a touching folklore, a romantic literature that spread by word of mouth. These include the vignettes of the lower Ohio River, where houseboats moored alongside each other, and the loving unions of Armenians and Turks found an echo of the marital harmony they had enjoyed before the Centrifuge. Or who could fail to see in his mind’s eye the split houses hastily built along Interstate Avenue in Fairview, half in Montana, half in North Dakota, with the border running right down the dining room table? In such odd domiciles, Jewish-Haitian families sat down to dinner, passing the gefilte fish and the pork griot across that cruel line.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea
As the White Bread Airlift demonstrated, international travel was still possible, though the Russians soon discovered that it was advisable to make sure that the crews were truly Russian; two Kazakhs died of heart attacks in mid-flight. Many Whites tried going to Russia aboard ship or plane, but they experienced a number of medical complications, fatal in 15% of cases. The same was true of those who ventured into neighboring Canada, except there, death was even more frequent, something like 30% and growing every year, which gave the Canadian census-takers much to contemplate.
The nationalities fortunate enough to have a coastline could, in theory, receive foreign aid from the mother country, although the Blacks of Watexa, as it came to be called, did not benefit overly much from Liberia’s largesse. The European Union took up the White Man’s Burden, as they used to call it, and provided aid to the Lower 48, many of which seemed to be doing much worse after the departure of their erstwhile oppressors. In Brussels, an EU planning directorate undertook this noble operation with Germanic efficiency, coordinating with the Mules to distribute the aid to the various inland nations. It proved disastrous. To begin with, the oceans could still be traversed, but the physical complications and maladies mentioned above began at a distance of 200 nautical miles from the former United States, depending on the severity of the racial or ethnic difference between the crew members and the state they were approaching. At 12 miles out, the limit of the territorial waters, a wall as powerful as that along the internal state borders came into effect.
Not to be outdone by the Divine Bureaucrat, if such there is, the Brussels planners began to recruit ship- and air-crews of Nigerians, Bangladeshis, Afghanis, and so forth. To man, train, and equip these fleets required bringing in many more immigrants into Europe itself, until one brave functionary pointed out to the EU president what the fate of Europe would be if the Centrifuge should come there one day. That was enough to give him pause, but only for a moment. After all, the EU president had more serious business to attend to, namely, the reports coming in to the effect that the aid was never reaching the inland nations. The Mules, it seemed, were abusing their position as middlemen to turn a rather handsome profit. The poor Columbians of South Dakota had not seen a single crate of Spätzle; the Jews were only receiving loans, not aid, and at exorbitant rates; and apparently, the Mules were fleecing the American Indians by opening a string of casinos along the Arizona border.
So this conscientious statesman ordered an exhaustive audit of the process, to be conducted by a multiracial army of accountants and logisticians. It took 10 years to conduct the audit, and by the time it was complete, the president had transitioned to a new gender. Imagine her disappointment when she learned that only 13.1 billion Euros worth of aid ever reached its intended recipients. Unfortunately, the audit had cost 278 billion Euros. So perhaps there is a Divine Comedian after all.
But the most tragic result of the sea wall occurred during the Antifa Boat Exodus, in the summer of 2029. By then, the worst of the crisis in Alaska was over, and in fact, life was getting quite tolerable. Several thousand whites, however, remained convinced that the Centrifuge had been brought about through a Russian conspiracy. The whole thing, they said, was the brainchild of a certain Dr. Strannaya Lyubov, as part of a nefarious alliance with white supremacists to avoid the racial reparations that the country had been about to adopt by the end of 2020. It did no good for other Whites to point out that surely they had paid any conceivable reparations and then some, for they had lost their homes, their jobs, and all their earthly possessions save the clothes on their back. Truth to tell, I think it irked the Anti-fascists of the Alaska Revolutionary Party, as they called themselves, that the ethnostate appeared to be getting its act together. Schools and universities were being founded, new sectors of the economy were opening up, and there were even sports leagues, all with nary a penny, or a single minute, allocated for racial grievances or sensitivity training. Those who had survived the famine after the Centrifuge did not feel inclined to accept one iota of guilt for people now occupying their houses and driving their cars.
And so the unemployed baristas and aging hipsters of the A.A.R.P. commandeered several fishing vessels and set out from the Alaskan panhandle; their destination, the Pacific Northwest. It was their fervent hope that there, they might begin true racial reparations by abasing themselves at the feet of the Jamaicans and Filipinos. Sadly, they died to a man — and to a woman, even to an “it,” one might add — 12 miles out. Many a Jamaican beachcomber at Cape Disappointment had to pick his way through the water-bloated bodies of these noble-hearted creatures, or at least those activists which the sharks had deemed too thin and stringy for consumption. A more ambitious wing of the A.A.R.P. had resolved instead to sail around to Texas, whose Blacks they deemed to be an even more deserving recipient of their voluntary peonage. Far out to sea, they were set upon by Somalian pirates from Hawaii.
Ackchyually. . .
I can anticipate, my dear grandson, some of your questions, perhaps even your doubts. What of the other nations, you might ask, that once made up the rich fabric of this country? Surely, there were more than 50. What of the Paraguayan-Americans, the Congolese-Americans, the Sri Lankan-Americans? No? I see that these terms, also, mean nothing to you. Ah well, all I can say is that if an architect, either divine or extraterrestrial, fashioned the partitioned house in which we now live, he seems not to have known what to do with the material left over. Or perhaps the Neo-Platonists were right, and the task was handed off to a series of subordinate demiurges and principalities. But whether it was a fit of bureaucratic pique or the incompetence of a lower-ranking functionary, these much smaller groups were merely shunted back to their nation of origin.
To be sure, the overseas military bases and the tourist haunts were not forgotten, as U.S. citizens found themselves transported by the Centrifuge to one of the 50 ethnostates, or set to wander among the Mules, as the case might be. It was still a messy business, this Centrifuge. In theory, I suppose, foreign tourists here should have been returned to their country of origin, but an entire extended family of Italians, visiting relatives in Florida, was transported on New Year’s to Juneau. They eventually set up a winery there, and believe me, they do good work.
What about the other 49 ethnostates, you wonder — did they undergo a scourging as we did? From what I hear, it varied. Some found themselves in better situations than others, but despite what each group did or did not find ready at hand, they all soon exhausted present wealth. Each then had to turn to the greatest of natural resources, the blood within, which is to say the spirit of the heart that pumps it, and the coiled helix that travels down those sanguinary corridors. But with due credit to the four and a half million Chinese distributed across the Nevada desert, the place where man and nature confronted each other most starkly was here in Alaska.
The Great White North
The burden of the population here was great, especially for a state that was already importing most of its food, but the resources of this land were also vast, and barely tapped. Much of it proved farmable, for the soil here is rich, and white farmers there were aplenty, ready to share their knowledge, a situation sadly not paralleled among the Hmong of Pennsylvania or the Thai of Indiana. The herds were quickly increased, and forests were felled — too soon for the fears of some — as the population spread out. But gradually a more manageable stasis was reached, supplemented by a lively trade with Russia. Alaska now possesses a population density roughly equal to Austria with its Alps, or as that nation had prior to the Pakistanis’ arrival. After 20 years, an entire generation had grown up since the Centrifuge, including your mother, and even the humblest of residents enjoyed a standard of living not dissimilar to Sweden in 1970, and getting better every year.
The comparison to 20th-century Scandinavia is apt, because surviving the aftermath of the Centrifuge had required an unprecedented centralization of resources and energies. Fortunately, most of the political divisions of the past melted away in the crucible of the Centrifuge. This occasionally had surprising results. One faction of the A.A.R.P. had never quite been convinced of the desirability of placing themselves in bondage across the seas. They remained in Alaska, where they continued their call for a socialist order. Only now, they felt the need to acknowledge that socialism was possible only within the confines of the Alaskan nation, so they took to calling themselves National Socialists to register this fact. They also replaced the hammer and sickle on their red flag with the Big Dipper of Alaska’s flag, only they set it about cartwheel fashion to express their hope that the advance of time might one day reverse the Centrifuge. Few of them still talk that way now, though.
The visible differences between 2021 and today would astonish you. But for the whites of Alaska, the Centrifuge brought about an internal transformation no less profound. It awoke a stirring in the blood, and prompted a shrugging off of the apathy that had reigned for generations. The frontier spirit was alive once again, and not among a portion only of this people, as when the pioneers headed west in covered wagons, but by necessity, among all. The Nature which confronted them was as merciless as it had been when it carved the features of their ancestors. Here, at last, the race seemed to have rekindled that love of struggle, that pride in the hard-won victory, that fires the imagination of the young and warms the memories of the aged. We have found an inner satisfaction, a sense of purpose, for which no material luxury can substitute. Many a candle, I can tell you, is lit at the shrine of St. Seward. But for him, all 180 million of us would be in Texas.
Et Cetera, Et Cetera, Et Cetera
It would take far too long to describe the condition of each of the other 49 ethnostates, even if such detailed knowledge were available to me. Tonight is too glorious for such mundane matters, for in these days of summer the sun dips but never sets — see how it makes the waters of the Enoch Powell River appear blood-red. And though the light might hold out, my Kodiak whiskey would not. I’ll tell you what. Imagine that the Guatemalans of Kansas developed a society as economically vigorous and technically advanced as their Korean neighbors to the north. Or that Silicon Valley is prospering as never before now that it is in northern Mexico. Suppose that the inhabitants of Watexa have invented wonders and serve as a beacon to the rest of the world. Try to convince yourself that the Chinese, possessed of a desert land, do no better than the Arabs, whose land is fertile. And if you believe all this, my grandson, there is a dilapidated bridge in New Caracas that the Venezuelans would like to sell you. I see you do not get my joke. Ah, well. . .
In retrospect, 2021 was an odd sort of year. And though foreign elites, especially in the capitals of Europe, trembled at the approach of New Year’s Day 2022, nothing out of the ordinary happened. Across the sea, various peoples began their day, like any other, either seeing what needed to be done and doing it, or preferring to view themselves as victims devoid of agency, surly dwarves toppled from the shoulders of giants.
And so the other regions of the world breathed a sigh of relief, and the census takers’ hands ceased to tremble. But as the years passed, another sentiment could be detected among the benighted White residents of Manchester and Montreal, Amsterdam and Auckland, Stockholm and Sydney, Berlin and Bloemfontein, and many another town and suburb. An undercurrent of resentment, even envy.
Yes, 2021 had been an odd sort of year. But it had nothing on 2041.
Ash Donaldson is a three-decade veteran of the Forever War in the Mideast. He is the author of historically inspired mythology books for children, as well as Brother War and From Her Eyes a Doctrine, now in its 2nd edition. See more on www.PreservationofFire.com.
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 Obviously, the 2020 Census data is not yet available. My source was the 1-year estimate tables from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, with a couple minor adjustments and projections.