A Quantum Event

Timothy Chan started his career as a teenager making paper dolls; then, he became a serial killer. He was also a respected Fashionista. He loved women’s lingerie. Timothy was a multitasker. By the time he turned thirty he was a wealthy celebrity; but he had issues. It wasn’t easy being Timothy. The newly elected government revoked the Freedom to Kill Act. Timothy bemoaned, “The act was granted in the new constitution so how could it be revoked.” His livelihood and fame depended on his grotesque and well-executed murders. He often quipped, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and people would applaud; but I’d much rather be creative. My murders are art.” Like a great leader from the past Timothy was often called The Chosen One by his adoring fans; but the present turn of events could trigger Timothy’s severe depression. He spent years dealing with the consequences of his mental illness until a doctor taught him how to repress his symptoms. Dr. Putnik showed Timothy how to remake and remodel himself into the celebrity he would become: there would be no more thoughts of paper dolls… no more urges to become the woman of his dreams. Putnik used a form of Minder Therapy that was developed by a surrogate of Artificial Intelligence. AI learned to read people’s minds and imprison the brains that were considered illegitimate.

People had to control all thinking and feeling. Minders were everywhere, stuck on lampposts and glued to buildings: tiny computers with the ability to read minds. A bad thought or feeling was reason enough to lock someone up and throw away the key. Trial by computer was predetermined to benefit power brokers. Prisoners were indentured servants working for breadcrumbs. The Freedom to Kill Act was initially designed to cull the population and make society more manageable. It backfired… too many power brokers were being murdered. Billionaires enjoyed life too much to be sacrificed so the Kill Act was killed (much to the regret of Timothy Chan).

Everything fell apart for Timothy Chan… washed up at the age of thirty-one. He started life as a runt. He was called a mongrel because his parents were part of a mixed race commune. Communes were commonplace before the Age of Enlightenment when Gabriel blew his Golden Trumpet and the world became little more than a conspiracy theory. Young Timothy was bullied. Bullies were lauded and praised for maintaining patriotic values. Fight Club mentality was all the rage. When he turned thirteen, Timothy Chan bought a silver revolver and got revenge. He was about to go to prison for the murders; but the world changed and the Freedom Act was passed. Instead of prison he went to Virtual Television and was declared a hero. For the first time in his young life he felt accepted and powerful. He was taking after his hero, The Chosen One, the common man who led the nation.

Timothy’s amazing success designing fabulous lingerie and making mincemeat from hapless bystanders was cut short with the end of the Act. Depression resurfaced… paper-doll dreams tugged at his mind. He had to avoid Minders lest they imprison his brain.

He remembered the touch of silk on his pre-pubescent body when he was alone in his room cutting-out paper dolls. Timothy was born just before the Golden Trumpet blew. For the first time in years he recalled how good he felt when life was new. He felt loved by everyone in the commune. Grade school was carefree, a place where he was not bullied; but by the age of eight Timothy felt the first tremors of an invading army. New teachers were brought into the school. They came with hordes of like-minded children who took control.

His reverie was suddenly breached. Pest Control invaded his home sniffing and snooping. They were looking for runaway memes. They were looking for traitors and whistle blowers. If something smelled suspicious the Eradication Squad would come calling. Timothy was familiar with Eradication. He spent a short time learning the trade before he made his own killing splash. They always appeared in costumes as older, church ladies to allay any suspicions concerning the reason for the visit. They always came with gifts. Most people were unaware of their true purpose, but Timothy had experience. Eradication was still a legal arm of the government. Timothy thought about rejoining the Squad, but he did not want to be fenced in… he was an artist… however, he was currently depressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Recent developments meant Timothy was a traitor. Pest Control would certainly find incriminating evidence and the Squad would be called. Timothy had to escape.

Scientists recently discovered that Change is simply a Qubit on a giant Quantum Computer that runs the Universe. Most people were not impressed. After all, life was about celebrity and social media, not about tedious science or about the meaning of life and death (yawn!). Life was simply an event like a rock concert… and death was irrelevant because no one expected to die. No one connected murder with death. Murder was simply an event that improved TV ratings, nothing more. Minders, hiding around every corner, reinforced the public’s shallow views. Nevertheless, new discoveries confirmed that Quantum Changes could have monumental consequences. Under the right circumstances Quarks could shift the structures we perceive as reality. A car can slip on black ice and slide into oncoming traffic. Annihilation. Conversely, numbers can shift and an unlikely stranger can win (or inherit) millions of dollars.

Timothy Chan found himself on one end of a Quantum Entanglement. Barba Koan slipped into Chan’s fevered brain. She was familiar like a shadow that comes calling in the night. Timothy recognized her as a paper doll from his precocious childhood.

Barba Koan was an indentured scientist. Minders considered her too intelligent to be allowed to roam free. She was assigned to the secret POTUS Lab. She worked on Time Reversal Technology that could be used to change history. It was all a ruse. No one could change time. Barba pretended to accept the fraudulent theories put forth by political appointees trying to curry favor with the president. All the while she was the infamous Anonymous who reported on the dysfunction in the new administration. Hackles were raised all over Washington with each new leak. Barba Koan’s new plan of action was to save Timothy Chan. She was the woman of his dreams. They were entangled.

Mr. D entered Chan’s penthouse. He sat in the corner like a frozen corpse facing Timothy. “Wishful thinking,” his voice resonated like a hammer striking bones beneath the skin. “Barba Koan is a fantasy. That’s what the mind does when facing the inevitable. There is no escape.”

Timothy whimpered. Mr. D offered a desiccated rag that could be used to dab away tears. It wasn’t a gesture of empathy or sympathy. Mr. D was matter-of-fact, all business. “Eradication will come for you…” Before the sentence was complete, church-ladies with gifts surrounded Timothy with saccharin sweetness and vile intentions. Several wore Versace Bandoliers (threatening but stylish). Timothy could see standards had deteriorated since his training in Eradication. He saw ladies with beards – a dead giveaway.

Eradication took Timothy to a hospital known only by the alphanumeric, X1. The hospital was a steel dungeon. Timothy was stripped and strapped to a steel table. The metal was bitter cold against his skin… he shuddered and imagined a perfect paper doll. Her loving smile warmed his frozen soul. The dungeon was in the basement of a government shell-building that also contained the secret lab where Barba Koan worked.

Barba Koan was often called Uncle or Man with a Beard (the definition of Barba in the dictionary). She didn’t mind. The sobriquet gave her an added layer of mystery. Nevertheless she was always riding waves of mockery in order to get a leg up on her chauvinist co-workers. Her personal avatar on social media was a man with a beard. She could say and do anything as long as she hid behind the beard. The beard was Anonymous. The link between Barba and Timothy was strong. They were the same essential person leading two different lives. This phenomenon could only be explained by Quantum Mechanics and The Many Worlds Interpretation.

Timothy Chan was a vile man with a divided self. He grew up in a psychotic, society. To survive in the world, Timothy became a sociopath prone to havoc. At the same time he had a softer, creative side. Both sides could not exist in the same body. The split altered worlds; but the worlds were entangled.

Eradication toyed with Timothy. People were often considered play-things to be used and abused by power elites. A robot surgeon was employed to remove Chan’s brain. The experimental operation always resulted in death, but science would benefit from the information retrieved from an extinguished brain. Social Media was also used by the administration to drain brains and nullify conscious behavior. Information replaced gold on the Exchange as a valued asset. Chan’s brain was drained, but the process triggered a Quantum Event.

Barba Koen was in the house… she was disguised as one of the bearded church ladies. She had a passport to go anywhere in the shell-building that housed the secret lab. There were no walls to halt her trespass. She had psychic indications about the struggles embroiling Timothy. She waited in the hospital dungeon for the Evacuation Squad to return with the prisoner. She slipped into the operation carrel. During the surgical procedure Barba’s near presence was enough to draw Chan’s brain into her own. So the two became one. Timothy’s deep desire to become the woman of his dreams was fulfilled.

Nobody knew or understood anything about Barba Koen. Perhaps she was from one of the Many Worlds. It didn’t matter. She was no longer Anonymous. She had achieved her ascension and reunification. She would change the world. Barba Koen blazed with fire and fury.

Golden Parachute (Postmortem)

He heard the chirping of birds and knew it was his time… time to go. The dark man who was little more than a shadow stood in the doorway and waited patiently.

The Inspector General was due for a visit. He was interested in crimes and misdemeanors…   particularly crimes against the state. He was armed. A person could be shot on site if he-or-she was considered guilty. The Inspector General carried out the wishes of the Boss.

Everyone was given a gun, but it was just for fun like a game on the computer. The game started in pre-school. It was called, “War Zone: USA.” Everyone played. The Inspector General had the biggest gun of all. He used Dreamers for target practice.

The big, white house was in disarray. No one could hide from the reigning terror. All factions were aligned with chaos… worse than a soap opera… worse than a B-movie.

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Retirement and old age are pushed together back to back. The need for control becomes an issue when life is foreshortened.

We were together for several years; but becoming a couple was still an issue. It meant sacrificing an old identity for a less certain future. We weren’t alone in our distress. The world broke free from its axis and hurtled into the dangerous Unknown. We awoke in a quantum entanglement, virtual-world.

The Halloween Dance at the old-folks home was the event of the year. It was a scene from an old, science-fiction movie. Monsters and aliens collided on the dance floor. “I did the Monster Mash…” Blasted from speakers, creating a wall of sound. The scene became a psychedelic dream fueled by adrenaline and a concoction of pharmaceuticals. An ancient recording of the Bee Gees, Staying Alive, pumped new life into the celebration. Everyone was old, frozen within webs of wrinkles, age spots, and goiters. Wigs, make-up and costumes were part of the fun, creating a layer of fantasy where anything was possible from vampires and witches to a momentary illusion of youth and good health. No one was unwittingly fooled in the Home for the Aged & Assisted Living. The elderly were revered on Halloween. They had no need for costumes. The senile (the bent and crippled) could be themselves without shame on Halloween. The hall where the event took place was decorated like a ghostly swamp. A White, Federal Style Castle floated at the edges of the deceit. It was sinking into the swamp. Mr. D, the perennial angel of death stood on the sidelines playing a violin.

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The nation plunged ahead on promises of gold. Tariffs were imposed. Walls, bunkers, and bomb shelters were built with American Steel. Spousal abuse and infidelity were awarded Medals-of-Honor (even as the controversy set tongues wagging). Climate change was denied as coal and oil were promoted as clean, new energy sources.

The Executive Branch was in disarray. The man at the top shouted misogynistic insults and pushed for a more aggressive stance. North Korea was either friend or foe depending on the executive’s mood. Predatory relationships were established with old enemies. Self Interest was the new modus-operandi as typified by Quid-Quo-Pro contracts.

The Inspector General carried out the President’s plan. The secret society was finally revealed as an extension of the NRA. Culture wars ignited into Civil War. Everyone owned a gun. It was essential: own a gun or die.

It was time for a Golden Parachute and the man in the White House clapped his hands with glee over the benefits he had accrued.

 

the Quantum Engine

Barry Hartock was an abused child. He remained silent. No one knew what happened, but people knew he rarely talked. He never looked directly into another person’s eyes. He avoided contact. When he was very young mechanical toys were his only friends. He listened to them and marveled at the way the toys moved, spinning and racing across the playroom floor. As he grew older, his love for toys developed into a love for computers and robots. When he turned eighteen he was given a sex-bot. He grew to love Andor-bot. She/He provided the most intimacy he’d ever known. Andor was non-threatening and easy to love. Andor encouraged Barry to study computer science and quantum mechanics. The robot had minimal Artificial Intelligence, just enough to persuade Barry to build a Quantum Engine.

When Barry began his work the world was in turmoil, sliding into the abyss of one man’s megalomania.

The work provided meaning and purpose. Barry became obsessed with the riddle of Quantum Mechanics. He came to believe true magic existed in particles like the Higgs-Boson. He saw the whole universe as an entanglement. He studied during the day, taking classes online just to absorb information. The desktop computer was his most formidable teacher, answering questions about theory and practice. Once, Barry asked about the existence of the soul, it was a different kind of riddle that always confused him. His father was a Deacon in the church. Barry had a deep seeded hatred toward his father and everything his father represented including religion. The computer could not answer questions about the soul.

At night he tinkered. Barry worked tirelessly on the engine described by Andor… a Quantum Engine. The device grew exponentially. Layers of reality appeared to collide as the machine materialized. Barry saw multiple versions of himself exploding through the mantel of time. From the first moment he began assembling the machine the power was on… it was working from some off-world energy source. Barry realized there was no off switch.

It sparkled like a million-watt glow-worm; but it was only partially materialized. The machine existed in a pocket universe. During the birth process Andor began to change… radiating energy like an angel. Barry began to weep. He was in touch with the deep wounds from his past. The room was bathed in electric blue-light. Barry brought the Quantum Engine into existence. The music of the spheres rang out across the Earth. Barry’s mind was focused on one sound, a soft clicking. The count-down had begun…

 

The Perfect Line

Roland Dell was a successful artist. His work was featured in several galleries. Many of his paintings were bought by exclusive interior designers and displayed in model homes. His agent brokered a contract with Hollywood for Roland to supply art to movies and TV shows. He was living the good life. Nora, his model wife, loved him with all her heart. Nora had expensive taste and Roland made lots of money. He designed and executed art to fit in the most elaborate and expensive environments. He was praised for his technique and earned several awards. In the wake of his success, a nagging doubt began to plague Roland. At first it was just a small irritant, but it was persistent — the irritant became a conviction in his own mind that he was really a fake.

Determined to prove himself genuine, Roland began to experiment. He wanted to discover a more unique form of expression. He started with basic mark-making and simple lines. He became fascinated with pencil strokes on paper. His artistic quest evolved to a search for the perfect line. Nothing could distract him from his quest, not even sex with Nora. Her complaints hung in the air like dried husks from a former life. His agent’s calls were never returned. The flow of money dried up. Roland was oblivious. His search finally appeared to get results. He discovered a line that drew itself and in the drawing created life. Roland clutched a pen and let his hand glide across the paper. He would not, could not, lift his hand from the page. The line had to be complete: one continuous line traveling across reams and reams of paper. Even at night Roland held the pen and drew in his sleep, his hand could never leave the page. The line drew Roland as Roland drew the line.

Many years passed. Roland’s perfect line was discovered at an estate sale. New York art critics proclaimed The Line a masterpiece of contemporary art; but no one knew what happened to the artist.

Crossing the Line

“Another day… Another mass shooting…” Flashed across every digital-screen. It was the current headline from News on Fire. Eddy Slaybock was addicted to the news. There was no avoiding the news after The Man in the High Tower declared a new war (once again). Everyone was addicted. Watching the news was healthier than taking drugs. The news was scripted like a daily soap opera. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the fiction-writer, creator of Breaking News. It was wildly entertaining. Eddie was on a crusade. He suspected something significant was happening, hidden from the public. Recently he felt Reality beginning to unravel.

Eddy’s disquiet began shortly after he bought a small painting he found at an estate sale. He went to the sale with Anthony, his life partner. Anthony loved to shop and Eddy enjoyed indulging in his partner’s whims.

“You don’t need that,” Anthony complained. “It looks like a stupid scribble.”

“Hey, dear,” Eddy replied, “It’s only three bucks.”

“Oh, that’s all? OK!”

It was an unusual purchase. Anthony was right. It looked like a scribbled line… But it spoke to Eddy. The line drew Eddy into the frame of the painting. Images seemed to emerge.

The couple lived in a condo close to the apartment where Eddy’s mom resided. Ruth Slaybock was ninety-four. She was fairly healthy for her age and fiercely independent. She did not want to live with her son and his partner. She knew the truth although Eddy never came out to her. She was tolerant, but not happy because she always wanted grandchildren from her only son. It was an odd twist of fate when the health-care agency sent Anthony to be her attendant and nurse. Eddy also assisted as an obedient son. He resented it. He always felt abused as a child; but he was never certain if the memories were real or fake. His memory never included his father – the man was always absent.

Everyday Ruth sorted through her memories trying to understand. Ruth was always self-reliant. She owned and managed an old-fashioned haberdashery for twenty years. The shop was part of an amusement complex called “America Great Again.” She was the breadwinner in the family. Once she turned eighty-two, she gave up the business. She saw the writing on the wall: the slow decline in physical and mental health… A winnowing of the spirit. She retired. At first she tried to adjust. She went to the local senior center and made a few friends. She played Bridge. It was never enough… It wasn’t like being a successful business owner with a strong voice in the community. Ruth earned enough income to provide her son with a college education. Thanks to her, Eddy had a decent job as a computer technician. He never seemed grateful. He always wanted something else, something she could never understand.

Now, everyday was the same for Ruth: TV, Solitaire, and Virtual Reality… “Boring, boring, boring,” she thought. Ruth often welcomed the pain that comes with an aging body. It relieved the boredom: Arthritis, Sciatica, and shortness of breath. Often her blood pressure was too low and she felt feint. Her short-term memory seemed shorter and more infuriating. She was pretty certain she wasn’t dealing with Dementia, not yet; but so much of what she used to know alluded her: names, recipes, addresses. She lost things – it never happened before. She was no longer allowed to drive (she couldn’t afford a self-driving car). Her eyesight was deteriorating and surgery was too dangerous. She wanted to scream, but realized it wouldn’t help. Nothing helped any more. Anthony was a dear – he tried so hard to please. Eddy came and went, but his heart was not in it. Ruth could see the truth.

She spent most of her time in VR watching News on Fire… One crazy incident after another: a rollicking roller-coaster of tragedy to make people forget their own insufferable lives. “All lies,” Ruth whispered, “paid for by incessant ads for health-aids that don’t help and fast-foods that make you sick!”

Eddy stared at the painting he recently purchased trying to find some meaning. It looked like a scrawl, a line painted in black that came from nowhere and continued to infinity. It seemed to resonate like a nuclear generator about to explode. He saw dark clouds and fire-storms breaking across the city… Natural forces erupted in pandemonium.

“Honey,” Anthony called from far away. “I’m making pasta for dinner.”

The images from the painting dissolved. Eddy thought, “It was just a line, after all.”

Eddy wanted to know the provenance of the painting. He could make out part of a signature at the bottom. The name looked like Mortimer. He’d heard of a painter named Mortimer Field who mysteriously disappeared. “Could this be the same artist?” He wondered. He learned the last person who owned the painting also disappeared. He was declared dead after ten years; then there was an estate sale where Eddy found the painting.

The painting of a line from nowhere was fascinating – it reminded Eddy of a loose thread from an antique tapestry. Once, Eddy saw a different world while staring at the painting. It was like a postcard from another dimension. He saw lights, colors that dissolved, melting together like wax to become one color that looked like twilight. From far away he heard music, an old refrain, “I’ll take you there…” Whenever Eddy followed the line he heard music. Once he heard a soft voice. He could only make out one word, “No.”

After dinner Anthony was upset. He didn’t like the way Eddy treated his mother. “I’m more of a son than you,” He shouted, “she doesn’t even know we’re married. Are you embarrassed?” He accused. Eddy was tongue-tied. It was partly true.

“I didn’t want to confuse her. She’s ninety-four,” he countered. It was a lie. In truth Eddy just wanted to keep his life separate from his mother. He wanted something of his own that he didn’t have to share; but he didn’t tell Anthony. The argument got worse. Anthony resented Eddy’s obsession with the painting. He was feeling abandoned and thought the painting was simply crazy. That night they slept in separate rooms. Eddy was trying to convince himself everything was all right and the argument would blow over. He told himself he loved Anthony, but he was no longer certain it was true.

One event often triggers another unrelated event. Quantum Mechanics describes an Entanglement where particles smaller than atoms influence one another even though they are not connected.

Eddy was working on his computer at home when the Internet was suddenly interrupted. It was an impossible event that only occurred in the distant, primitive past. The primary wireless connection failed. All services stopped. All information short-circuited. No TV. No VR. Nothing. People were cast into the void of non-existence. Everything ceased. Ruth thought she was having a stroke. She was paralyzed. Even if she could move, she could not call for help because all services were connected to the Internet. Eddy was unable to breathe for several minutes and almost expired. Anthony did slightly better because he practiced survival skills in the only National Park that still existed. He knew how to move efficiently without virtual enhancements. The black-out covered all the remaining States in the Union. It lasted exactly three minutes and fifteen seconds. Those minutes almost destroyed the world. Luckily the glitch was corrected by AI-Minders. Some people died in the lapse, but most survived. An Emergency was declared and AI proceeded with the Amnesia Protocols. Survival depended on memory erasure. No one was allowed to remember the event that triggered the emergency.

At first Ruth didn’t want to go. Mr. D’Angelo was obviously a con man. She surmised there were already too many con-men running things in the world; but Eddie and Anthony were insistent. “A night out will be good for you,” they asserted. They were more curious than anything. No one knew very much about D’Angelo. Rumors persisted. Supposedly he was a faith healer who raised the dead.

The amazing Mr. D’Angelo presents Miracles, Healings, and Revelations! One night only. The Veil will be lifted and you will SEE. Be among the chosen few. Refreshments will be served.

Not everyone was given an invitation and that made the event especially intriguing to Eddy and Anthony. Ruth reluctantly agreed to go. She hadn’t been out of the house for ages. She thought stepping out would be an interesting change.

There were only twenty people in the audience. The theater was virtually enhanced to appear like a Gothic Cathedral. Organ music swelled and synthetic angels glided just below the vaulted ceiling. Neo-Pop Hymns were sung by an invisible choir. Ginger-ale and crackers were served from floating drones. Ruth, Eddy and Anthony sat together on a luxury pew near the front of the auditorium. Ruth was beginning to feel excited. This was something different from News on Fire. This was interesting.

The stage lights dimmed. A skinny, bedraggled man stepped out of the shadows and onto the stage. He looked like a homeless derelict. Murmurs rumbled through the audience, “could this be D’Angelo?”

Ruth smiled… the man on the stage was certainly a con man just as she suspected. People were offended and got up from their pews to leave the theater. Suddenly the auditorium was filled with blazing light. Everyone was momentarily stunned like birds caught in the draft of a giant wind-turbine.

The homeless man laughed, loud and boisterous. He seemed to grow taller in the light. His clothes no longer looked like rags – they were faded, but still stylish, raiments from a bygone era. He jumped from the stage onto the floor among the stunned audience members who were still standing. He called for calm, “please take your seats. Relax.” His voice resonated with warmth and sincerity. No one wanted to leave. Ruth was confused by the changes, but her suspicions were allayed. Eddy and Anthony were eager to see what would happen next.

Mr. D’Angelo spoke, “folks, welcome. I’m not here to judge or proselytize. I’m here to help. People are suffering silently. Everyone here feels pain (whether it is physical pain like Sciatica or mental pain like Depression; people are in pain). I can tell you that drugs don’t help. TV and Virtual Reality are distractions, but the pain lingers. There is only one cure for the pain. I have that cure and I’m willing to give it to you free of charge. I have to tell you something we all know but refuse to recognize. It is a simple truth: life is not easy. Expectations make it hard. Everyday we are sold images and lies. We are told to buy homes, cars, and the newest gadgets. But, those things cannot stop the pain of life. That is the simple truth and that is Also the simple solution. If you want to stop pain you have to give it away… give it up.

“I can take you to a place… a place without pain and suffering. I’ll take you there, but only if you are ready to go. We are all children and I am a child as well… but I can take you there. Hold hands, one and all… and, I will take you there.”

Everyone felt elated as if a miracle was taking place. It felt as if all pain was lifted… all cares and worries dissolved. People began to hold one another, hand in hand, amidst the sounds of ethereal music and the flutter of angel wings.

The one word spoke in Eddy’s mind, “no.” He held Anthony’s hand. He wrapped his arms around Anthony. It was an affirmation of their love. They were together, but everyone else was gone. Ruth was gone. The world continued, but nothing was the same. Reality was unraveling. The sun was beginning to dim. Night and day melted together like wax crayons… Twilight engulfed the world.

Crossing Line

Repercussions

“Hi there, Riki Siliband here… at the Church of the Holy Ghost and Gambling Emporium. I’m here with Domina Highgraves and we are enjoying the greatest show on Earth (or off Earth for that matter). This is Silliband On Demand, the webcaste that reaches the darkest black-holes in space. We now know that the flutter of a butterflies wings in Wyoming can cause Tariffs on China; thus we are here to gamble on Future Derivatives.” Domina interjects with some stimulating banter, “Hello… I just want to give a cheer for the fabulous Riki. He is awesome and he always has his eye on the Future. I’m loaded with cash (tee-hee) so I can afford to lose, but I’m betting I’ll win every time by following Riki’s lead. Remember our sponsor Virtual Svengali, the Cure for everything!”

“I keep telling myself to focus… in order to enter another dimension, to see beyond the five senses… I have to focus.” Aubrey Beaderslee was in trouble… he could not adjust to reality. He was fifty-five and wondered how he survived. He constantly asked why he wasn’t dead. He often thought the world was Hell… it was out to get him: noise, weather, traffic, inane gibberish, phones, and computers – everything. He was driven to find another world. He was building a machine. It could change everything, but first he had to contact the ghost, the ghost in the machine.

The reason this story is familiar is because it has been written a thousand times before. Each time the characters are slightly different. The conclusion to the story is also slightly different time and again. Reality shifts. A new determinant is at play: Loop Quantum Gravity has been entered into the formulae for decoding existence.

Aubrey Beaderslee looked in the mirror and saw the reflection of his life from birth to death. “Each stage of my life was telescoped before my eyes.” It was a shattering experience. He couldn’t comprehend the meaning. He lay in pieces across the floor. Everything was recorded. Eye-spies were everywhere. The Bureau of Reclamation retrieved the pieces. Aubrey’s thoughts, emotions, and memories were recycled – his flesh and bones were reassembled and a new vessel was born.

“Are we living in the End of Days?” Sister Monica Dwarfkin asked the Holy Father who stood before her like a stone monolith. The Father was a statue imbued with life (he was a step beyond Quantum Intelligence). Sister Monica was a man when she first joined the Order of Transformative Science. She was never comfortable as a man. The religious order offered succor and sustenance and provided a pathway to reassignment. Anything was possible in the land of Milk and Honey, the new Virtual Reality.

The Holy Father answered Monica’s question, “The world is no longer with us.”

“Your Eminence… what does that mean?”

“My daughter, things have changed in the last one hundred years. The world perished. I am here to help you in your transition.”

Monica was shaken by Father’s words, “What happened to the world?”

“It needed to be replaced. I came along to help. Everyday people faced tragedy. Finally the world tore itself apart.”

Monica innocently asked, “How did you help.”

“I provided a way out, beyond the fray. I’m known by many names. I am Mr. D. I’m the Angel. I am the Ghost in the machine.”

 

 

Crisis

The new government was generously taking responsibility for a person’s right to life. Babies were assets. Every baby had the innate right to be born. Society was built from the life-blood of babies.

For the first twelve years of his life Daniel Wrightridge was supported by the government. When he turned thirteen he graduated. A farewell party was arranged. Daniel was granted the legal responsibility of caring for himself. Mom and Dad, Thelma and Sidney, were on Ice. They could no longer afford to pay the rent necessary to stay alive. Ice was cheaper than life. Ice was hope (dim as it was) providing the possibility that things might be different after they were defrosted in thirty or forty years. Mom and dad barely knew Daniel. They chose Ice when he was three years old. Rent was going up. Each new living-day had to be paid for. Sidney was out of work. He used to work as a Hack Inspector at Robards Security Agency, but AI replaced him. AI was cheaper and better than human inspectors.

Thelma made jewelry at home. She sold some of her wares at flea markets on weekends. The money she earned was not enough to pay for life and provide for Daniel. For the next ten years the boy would be supported by the government and cared for by virtual nannies. He lived in a solitary cell with computer generated walls that provided views of the surrounding city. His social life was virtual.

Everything was rented under the new economy. The very rich used digital currency. They rented everything on a generational basis and passed their accumulated assets down to the lower ranks of family. Cash was not owned, it was passed along and only the very wealthy had that kind of cash-flow.

Dahlia Pennyworth was living on borrowed time; but she didn’t know it. Her parents were life-brokers, insurance actuaries. They calculated an individual’s most likely span of life. They bet on their statistical results. The markets were booming. Life extension was shrinking for people in the middle and at the bottom of the well of mortality. Digital cash was hoarded by family hierarchies. Some family members lived into their hundreds and longer due to life extension procedures most people could not afford. The super-rich could pay for the accumulation of days and years. Hierarchies were extended through time with the introduction of clones. Clones were fake humans, therefore illegal, but no one could tell a clone from an original.

The Bellhop at the Tramador Hotel was only 23, but he only had four days to live. He relied on tips. Hotel salaries were minimum. Lately tips were scarce. Most people paid to stay alive. When the Bellhop first got the job the hotel catered to wealthy patrons. Money meant nothing to them and tips were generous. Good times didn’t last and the hotel became a disheveled ghost of better times. Now, the Bellhop was reduced to paying for a few hours at a time, just to see the light of day, just to breathe the air. He obsessed about robbing a store or even killing someone to get money. He soon realized he didn’t have it in him. He wasn’t a killer. He would die instead.

Zachary was a very old man and very wealthy. He had extreme cash-flow backed by the family Hierarchy. He rented his life at Golden Horizons Chateau. He lived in an elegant suite. His main bathroom featured gold trappings with a marble spa. He had personal attendants night and day. For the last forty years Zachary exhibited symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. His mind was gone. He had to be fed. An attendant helped him in the bathroom. He no longer had an identity, but he refused to die. He left a will backed by cash flow. He wanted to live forever. He wrote the will fifty years ago at the age of 110, before he had symptoms, before he was diagnosed. The law was on his side. His will was iron-clad.

Abraham sat with his partner, Mike, at a café on Monteith Street. They met to discuss the situation. Living together was not working out as planned. They were being watched by government agents. Time was running out for both of them.

“Mike,” Abraham broke the silence, “How are you? I think the house is bugged. That’s why I wanted to meet here. I saw the news. They are talking about Time Shares.”

“I know. I can’t get my head around it. The whole rent thing is crazy. They are out to get everyone, put us in a cage and let us rot.”

“I’ve heard there is an underground. Mikey, we have to reclaim our lives.”

Mike looked surprised, “What’s happening, Ab. You were never radical.”

“I can’t take it any more. Life isn’t something you buy and sell. I have to take a stand, do something.”

“Now you sound like me. I told you this would happen.”

Abraham coughed and spoke up, “What do we do?” The question hung in the air like a deadly fog: fumes from the near-by coal factory.

Daniel Wrightridge was homeless when they picked him up… homeless, disheveled, unsightly and poor. He had no phone, I-pad, or tele-screen; that was reason enough to incarcerate him… But, he exhibited other symptoms as well. He was mumbling, talking to the people who lived in his head. They took Daniel to the Eugenics Clinic where his symptoms would be burned out of his brain. With less brain, Daniel would become the ideal citizen. It was part of a new program that crept into American Society. Eugenics was the wave of the future. This time there would be no turning back from the ideals of a Greater Society, a more homogeneous society. The debates had no effect on the outcome. The economy looked good and that won the election. Citizens were conjoined to consumerism. The new manifesto was “Art of the Deal.”