Serel wore a mask. He spoke to a virtual audience on It was a safe news outlet because it reported the Fake along with the Real, no one bothered to distinguish between the two.

“The clock demands my attention as it stares down at me from the corner of my mind. The chip in my head keeps time. Years unwind like a coiled spring in an antique watch. My one true friend has escaped to the land of the dying sun, but I stayed behind. I’m here, behind a firewall, trying to conceal my identity. My Avatar has replaced me in the real world, playing the fool.”

They put old Serel in a home. He wasn’t really old, but he was labeled dangerous so they called him “old” and put him in a safe place. It wasn’t to keep Serel safe; it was to protect the public from Serel.

New edicts were being signed everyday by the fictive leader. Alt-facts were dressed up as truth. New rules were let loose like wild boars to rend and tear the flesh of dissenters. Serel refused to cooperate. He accurately reported what he observed. He was a distraction. He helped brain-washed denizens escape their mental prisons.

Serel wondered how his Avatar was coping. His Avatar took the brunt of the assault while Serel hid behind a firewall. He was very young when everything started to fall apart. When he was six-years-old, Serel had his own podcast and he appeared on TV talk shows. It made him an instant celebrity, but it did not help his current situation. For a short time, he was a scientist, trying to decipher the codes that bombarded earth from space. Serel grappled with semiotics and hidden meanings hoping to find solutions, answers to the current crisis. The firewall was a barrier, separating Serel from the results of his research. The crisis became catastrophe.

Devonna was Serel’s companion. She helped with the translation. The codes were stitched onto her brown skin. The codes were coming alive, crawling across her naked body like neon spiders. Truths slowly slipped from the coil of her mortality, but before anything could be revealed she was arrested for indecent exposure. Devonna was taken to the rehabilitation ward. Plastic surgeons slowly removed her coded skin. A lobotomy was scheduled, but she avoided detection once her skin was removed. Her body was covered with white gauze and she faded into the walls of the facility, escaping into the land of the dying sun.

The Celebrity-leader became suspicious of people who no longer boosted his ratings. A new edict was put into effect banning people from public discourse. Everyone was encouraged to leave their troubles behind and join the fictive worlds of Virtuality. Some dissidents were arrested and confined in mind-altering prisons.

Serel discovered the Apparatus on the Sixth Level of Quadrant Zero. The Apparatus created the virtual world where people gorged themselves on excess and vice. The Apparatus contained the codes that controlled reality and it bore the names of the Illuminati. Codes slipped through Serel’s fingers, dripping like gold dust transforming into vipers.

The firewall protected the Apparatus, but it also increased alienation. The wall was a barricade between life and death. The automatic clock lit up in a blinding flash, ticking away the instances that marked the limits of life.

Serel discovered he had to destroy everything. His life’s work had to be decimated if he was to survive and move to the next progression. The Apparatus churned out facts, multiple facts to meet any circumstance or situation. His lover left, or was abducted… same story, different circumstances… a line drawn in the sand leaving him bereft.

The codes held the answers: how to create worlds… how to escape… how to ascend.





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