FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS
by Preston Fleming
Inspired by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s account of a Soviet labor camp revolt in Gulag Archipelago, Volume III, the story of FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS follows political prisoners and security officials at a corrective labor camp in Kamas, Utah, where inmates seize control during the summer of 2024.
Kamas, Utah. 2024. In the totalitarian dystopia that America has become after the Unionist Party’s rise to power, the American West contains vast Restricted Zones dotted with ghost towns, scattered military garrisons and corrective labor camps where the regime disposes of its real and suspected enemies. Kamas is one such camp.
On a frigid March night, a former businessman from Pittsburgh, Paul Wagner, arrives at a labor camp in Utah’s Kamas Valley, a dozen miles east of the deserted resort town of Park City, which prisoners are dismantling as part of a massive recycling project.
When Wagner arrives, he is unaware that his eleven-year-old daughter, Claire, has set off to Utah to find him after becoming separated from her mother at the Philadelphia Airport. By an odd quirk of fate, Claire has traveled on the same train that carried her father into internal exile.
Only after Wagner has renounced all hope of survival, cast his lot with anti-regime hard-liners and joined them in an unprecedented and suicidal revolt does he discover that Claire has become a servant in the home of the camp’s Deputy Warden. Wagner is torn between his devotion to family and loyalty to his fellow rebels until, on the eve of an armored assault intended to crush the revolt, he faces an agonizing choice between a hero’s death and a coward’s freedom.
In FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS, author Preston Fleming offers a stirring portrait of a man determined to survive under the bleakest of conditions and against formidable odds. Fleming’s gift for evocative prose brings the characters and events to life in a way that arouses emotional tension while also engaging the reader’s intellect with fundamental questions about the future of American society.
“Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.” —Joseph Goebbels
Saturday, November 12, 2016 Our stone farmhouse atop a forested knoll commanded a sweeping view of the hills along the Ohio River to the southwest. The south end of the house projected just beyond a line of towering maples, the French doors of our old glassed-in porch opening onto a flagstone veranda. Beyond the boxwood hedge that enclosed the veranda on three sides, the hill sloped gradually at first, then more steeply, past our neighbor’s horse paddock to the two-lane state road that connected downtown Sewickley with Interstate 79.
I finished my mug of tea and joined my wife on the veranda. Juliet had begun covering the boxwood with burlap slipcovers and called me over to shovel mulch around the roots. I pulled a long-handled shovel from the wheelbarrow to join. Meanwhile, our two daughters, Louisa and Claire, aged three and nearly five, busied themselves collecting fallen twigs for the woodpile. The sun was already high in a cloudless sky and the morning frost had melted nearly everywhere.
It was the second Saturday in November, only four days since the national elections in which the President was re-elected under the banner of his newly formed Unionist Party. The Unionists also took both houses of Congress, which had come as a complete surprise to me. I had been spending sixty-hour weeks at the office and had not paid much attention to the persistent reports of large-scale voter registration fraud, voting machine hacking, pre-stuffed ballot boxes, and voter intimidation at polling places in major cities across the country. Even with a government blackout on live television and radio coverage at polling places, rumors of a stolen election had quickly spread to nearly every household with a phone or a computer. But like too many others, I did not understand what was happening until the damage had already been done.
“Where do we put the sticks, Daddy? “ my older daughter Claire asked, bringing my thoughts back to the present.
“By the woodpile, sweetie,” I replied. “Break them up in pieces about so big and make a stack with them.”
“This one’s too big to break.” She was dragging an eight-foot branch across the grass. “Will you help me?”
“Of course.” I lay down my shovel to give her a hand, but when I reached her, Claire had dropped the branch and was pointing toward the road at the bottom of the hill.
“Who are those people, Daddy, and where are they going?” she asked. “Are they going camping?”
I looked up and saw the road clogged with a slow-moving procession of cars, pickup trucks, trailers, Amish-style horse carts, bicyclists, backpackers, even big-wheeled garden carts pulled rickshaw-style. Those on foot were trailed by a pack of underfed dogs. It reminded me of World War II newsreels of the Dutch fleeing the bombing of Rotterdam, or German refugees retreating from the advancing Red Army. Most of the cars and trucks were far from new and many of the foot travelers shabbily dressed, though most gave the impression of being strong, hardy people who had once belonged to America’s middle class.
A trio of deer peered out from behind a copse of trees near the road and hesitated, unable to find a break in the uninterrupted stream of traffic. A few of the dogs looked up, as if catching a scent, but none gave chase.
“Where are they going, Daddy?” Claire repeated.
“I think some are headed north to Canada, darling, like the Moores.” The Moores were our neighbors who, having lost their savings to inflation and having failed to sell their horse farm before the mortgage company gave notice of foreclosure, abandoned the farm and their unpaid tax obligations and moved in with their son in Ottawa.
“The ones in the fancy cars are probably driving to the Toronto airport to catch a flight overseas. The rest are probably headed south, where there are more jobs and it’s cheaper to live.”
“Are we going away, too?” Claire asked, turning to me with a look of disapproval.
I heard footsteps behind me and felt my wife grip my arm. She held on with both hands as if what she saw on the road had given her a chill.
I looked into her eyes and saw the fear of losing our business, our savings, our house and everything in it—and not being able to start over. Not in America, anyway. Not with the Unionists in power. I glanced over to Claire, hoping that she had not sensed Juliet’s fear.
“Not today, sweetie,” I replied. “We’re staying right here at home. Mommy and Daddy have work to do. And so do you and Louisa. Here, let me pull that branch over to the woodpile for you. Now, break up the small twigs, like this.” I used more force than necessary to break one of the tender twigs in half. “But leave the big sticks for me, okay?”
My wife squeezed my arm once more and let go to take my hand.
~Buy it at Amazon.
~Add it on Goodreads.
Preston Fleming was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He left home at age fourteen to accept a scholarship at a New England boarding school and went on to a liberal arts college in the Midwest. After earning an MBA, he managed a non-profit organization in New York before joining the U.S. Foreign Service and serving in U.S. Embassies around the Middle East for nearly a decade. Later he studied at an Ivy League law school and since then pursued a career in law and business. He has written five novels.
Find him online:
-Kit ‘N Kabookle posts on Twitter @desantismt. Tag me for retweets.