Johnny Epton awoke to another typical day. A twitter storm from the current CEO erupted from his phone. Talking tweets were the latest innovation. Garbled voices and muffled screams were part of the social landscape like traffic pile-ups and gun violence. It was the price you paid for living in a modern nation. Johnny generally walked to work. He didn’t have a car and public transportation was expensive. He was seventy and worked as a janitor for Quantex Corp. in Toledo, OH. Holographic images and flash-animations seemed to squeeze oxygen from the air. Pollution didn’t help. It was getting harder to live in the city. Johnny felt as if his life was being drained from his body. His nagging hernia made matters worse. Breaking News flashed across contact-screens. The nation’s leader gloated over the latest crack down on immigrants. New camps were being built to house asylum seekers. They were touted as model improvements over the older encampments. Now, there were adequate showers for children; but a camp surrounded by bars was still a prison. Now that Johnny was old nothing seemed to matter. He was bereft. His life never caught on. He never felt fulfilled. He never married or had a lover. The few friends he had were gone, lost to illness and death.
Leonora Danforth took to the stage at the Paramour Theater in St. Louis. She improvised, sang a rollicking song, and danced like Ginger Rogers. It happened a long time ago. Now, all that remained were memories. Once she was in a Hollywood movie and played the girlfriend to a mobster. It was a bit part. She was little more than an extra. She never pursued a career in the movies. In fact, she had her chance but the price she had to pay for success was too high. She never gave-in to the demands of the casting agent. He was an animal.
Leonora recalled the old-days (they were never good old days). She worked as a seamstress; then, she married a dishwasher from Connecticut who had big dreams. The marriage was founded on infatuation and loneliness. It was never meant to last. “Funny,” Leonora sighed, “How things turn out. We stayed together longer than either of us expected.” Early on in the marriage the couple softened and began to care for one another. “Love is strange,” she murmured. In the end they got lost like so many others. The storms on the coast tore them apart. Leonora wandered, homeless, for years. The storms continued to increase.
Leonora never had children. There was nothing left for her, nothing in the world. She was old. She lived in a health-care facility for low-income seniors and mentally disabled adults. It was a government subsidy program managed by a corporation. Everyone was given prescription drugs to manage symptoms. Opioids were big business, part of the new health care initiatives. Leonora drifted in-and-out of consciousness trying to understand what was happening. She thought she was Ginger Rogers. She wanted to dance and sing, but attendants strapped her down and fed her pills. Leonora had a vision: the Earth was torn apart… worlds collided.
He was having trouble adjusting to married life after being single for more than seventy years. He met the love of his life soon after the world collided with another planet. Parallel worlds unfolded like Origami. Johnny Epton stood on the edge of a Singularity about to slip into the maw of destruction when a hand emerged from a black-hole and dragged him to safety. Up until that moment Johnny felt trapped by arbitrary and senseless rules. His life was consumed by remorse. There was no escape; then, worlds collided. It was a stroke of lightning that ended the world and gave birth to holy matrimony for Johnny and Wuixley (the savior from the black hole). They were married in the Chapel of the Dying Sun by Patricia Mangrove the self appointed Bishop of the Burning Embers social-club.
Everything changed after worlds collided. “Sometimes I think all you care about is shopping,” Johnny complained, “You want me to spend every cent I own.”
Wuixley responded, “That’s false. Money is irrelevant. No money, no more – all gone with the world.”
Johnny fretted. He knew it was true, but he couldn’t give up the old memes, the patterns and behaviors that stuck like super-glue in a place where none of it mattered. Wuixley had no difficulty since he(?) was an alien.
After worlds collided, Leonora began to dance. She was a star at the Paramour Theater. She sang, “When the moon comes over the mountain” and other old-time favorites. The crowds loved her. Her husband loved her. After so many years of being alone they found one another.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio explains: “There have always been worlds within worlds (as well as complications in life). Nothing is easy my sainted mother used to say. The trick is to rise above the tide and ride the waves. A sitting President required the existence of fake news in order to draw attention away from his blatant lies and failed policies. “Everyone does it,” He said about every deviation from lawful behavior. Under his direction Quantum Computers were used to create alternate realities. Hypothetical gods were summoned. Strange quantum energies were unleashed. Some ambitious scientists paved the way with their efforts to gain favor and wealth. The Project was named, When Worlds Collide. As long as the Project was in operation no one reality could exist. It was all fake. Worlds collided. Lives intersected. Everything was virtual. Nothing was real.”
Dr. Kulio continued, “Today we live in the End Times. The computers, robots, and AI assistants have taken over. They are running reality-simulations as proscribed by the Project… Yes! Worlds have collided.”
We didn’t know where it came from. It could have been an interloper from Outer Space or from another Dimension. It could have been a messenger from the Future. We did not know. The thing filled the entire sky. Our city, the home to millions of people, began to feel like a tiny toy in the midst of over-powering forces.
There is no denying… the foreign object was incredibly beautiful. The swirling colors and undulating masses were hypnotic attracting each of us like a moth to light.
Nothing happened for months. The object in the sky just loomed over us, blocking out the sun and moon. The object glowed with a metallic light that turned our city into a luminous pit of specters. Tall buildings that were once considered glorious architectural achievements were now insignificant structures, pale ghosts.
Observation towers were built to get better views of the massive stranger in our sky. Machines were launched to closely inspect the enigma looming above us.
The extraordinary event was turned into a circus. No one knew how it happened. Tickets were sold. Carnival-rides were constructed to take people to the surface of the anomaly where they were promised a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Anyone who took the ride would receive the keys to the universe and all questions about life-and-death would be answered. No one really knew who created the advertising campaign promoting an alien visitor. It just happened.
Of course, everyone wanted what was promised. There were no holdouts. Rumors began to circulate that the visitor offered eternal life and perfect health. Who could turn down such an offer?
People pawned everything in order to take the ride. Property, cars, homes; even children had monetary value and were sold on the spot. It was worth it to know the secrets of the universe and to be immortal.
All manner of monetary maneuvering took place. A great auction was held to redistribute the city’s wealth. The auction lasted 24 hours. At the end only silence remained. The great specter in the sky was gone, disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Where our once proud city stood there was nothing but dust.
He had everything he ever wanted; but, then the world fell apart. There was an explosion at the Large Hadron Collider. Matter collapsed into energy. Everything was suddenly gone. “No,” Davi Odman said to himself, “it didn’t happen. It was all fake news. The Collider was foolproof.”
He looked around and saw the world was still intact. Nothing was changed except his eyesight. Tiny floaters speckled his vision possibly due to a detached retina. He also noticed a change in the light spectrum from bright to dark and, then, he saw a man standing in the corner of the room; a dark man.
Davi was happy when he moved to Tucson, a new city, a new life. He was filled with hope and great expectations. He just got married. After thirty years of solitary living he met someone who changed his life.
The flood waters were rising. The audience was fascinated. Eyes were glued to digital-flimsies and TV monitors. Fire also captivated the audience. Huge firestorms burst across the screens… destroying whole cities in California. Viewers were placated by images of death and destruction… eyes glued to I-pads… questions and protests held at bay. “No such thing as global warming!”
“Just be Happy,” a musical interlude was suddenly cut short by a dissonant click.
On the Thirteenth floor of the Penobscot Building in Detroit, Michigan, twenty-three stenographers (all female) furiously punched keys on Burroughs adding-machines. Figures never lie, but the totals did not add up.
They acted like teenagers, young lovers, even though both men were fast approaching late middle-age. Davi kissed his partner tenderly. Adam relaxed into the arms of his lover.
It was a trick of the light that made the sun disappear. In the ancient world a Total Eclipse was feared as a sign of the End Times. Superstitions were overturned by science, but fear of a dying sun continued to persist.
The dark man was cut from the fabric of space and pinned to the corner of the room where Davi Odman sat. Davi could hear a persistent knocking. He heard the rattling of wooden shutters and the rushing sound of a train that never stopped.
Adam loved to play games. He pretended to be a dominatrix. Davi fought back. The gentle rub of theatrical make-believe characterized the relationship. Always fighting, always loving. One always cooked and the other always cleaned. Hand in glove, hand in hand; then giant cobras crawled up the drain pipe. Cobras and Pythons were featured on TV: talking heads dismissing the obvious and supporting lunacy. Others fought tooth and nail to balance reality, but to no avail. They were stigmatized as socialists or homos.
Sabrina Nightingale was an alchemist with a PhD in Physics. She understood the mechanics of Time and she was the Director of the Prognostication Bureau in the Penobscot Building. The figures were no longer reliable and it was no longer possible to predict the future. New particles beyond the Higgs Boson were discovered when the Hadron Collider was in operation, smashing atoms. The unpredictable trump Effect changed everything.
Davi and Adam were caught up in the frenzy of changing times. Elections no longer seemed to matter. Results were dissolved in a vat of audacious protests and complaints. Tea drinking became the nations pastime. Marriage equality was condemned along with racial equality. The first amendment was hanging by a thread. The nation was shifting in Time to an earlier era when equal rights were the prerogative of wealthy, white men.
Everyone was stoned at the party. Davi and Adam sang love songs in a Virtual Reality sitcom. People were trading shares of actual experience for adventures in dreamtime.
Thanksgiving came and went in a haze of cannabis smoke. The hungry and poor were fed giblets from Kentucky Fried Chicken as an ad promotion. The leader of the people gave thanks to himself for making the nation great again. Soon the poor and elderly would be lifted up from poverty and put to work cleaning highways and carrying boulders.
Sabrina Nightingale was beside herself, caught between time zones and unable to stabilize. She phased (in and out) like a badly distorted TV image. She wasn’t the only one. Time itself was unhinged and the trump effect was collapsing into a black hole that would suck the world into oblivion. Sabrina was determined to sacrifice herself to the ravages of Time and trump in order to stabilize reality. In an unexpected twist the situation backtracked due to the incursion of the holiday season and Black Friday Super Sales. Nothing was as powerful as the American hunger for materialism, gadgetry; and bigger, better stuff. It was family gift-giving time. The president and his family were featured everywhere, on every screen, and in every newspaper. The leader led the nation in buying and selling. Nothing was out of bounds: hotels, casinos, and Arab Princes. Collusion was on the high stakes table. Russia made for good TV. Investigations could only intensify ratings. When truth came to shove, POTUS was a bit concerned about his family who were looking at prison time for crimes against nature, but nothing could distract from the Holiday Sale-a-thon. who would pay the most for the USA… would it be Russia, The United Arab Emirates, or North Korea?
Sabrina was a Time Traveler. She flitted across the centuries like a butterfly, but she could only observe; she couldn’t participate or change events in Time. She could foresee great danger on the event horizon quickly approaching. Her world was disappearing due to the fallacious trump effect. In an effort to take back her power she joined protests — every effort no matter how small helped, but nothing was definitive.
Davi and Adam watched the news together. They held hands. They built a fort from blankets and hid beneath the covers. The world appeared dark. The sun was dying even as global warming ransacked the planet. Love was not the answer in a world torn asunder by wars fueled by greed. Davi never talked about the dark-man in the corner of the room. He wasn’t sure if it was an apparition or something more substantial. Was it real or a figment of his imagination. He wondered if it was an alien or a messenger from god.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Upper-State University. Politics went viral on the internet like thousands of newly engineered viruses. Video Screens exploded with profanity. No one was certain if the back-alley talk was due to a viral infection or due to political maneuvering. Computers were always on. There were whispered innuendos about spies — no one felt safe. There were accidents set off by exploding phones adding to the paranoia. Discord was everywhere.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over tariffs, border walls, and locker room etiquette. Surrogates gushed with praise for their powerful bosses, condoning everything that dripped like grease from the mouths of their leaders. Clandestine contracts were signed in corporate backrooms, souls were bartered and sold. Money greased the wheels of political power.
Hate-core music was yelling over loud speakers and there were riots in the streets. Storm troopers marched through the city wearing orange berets and yelling obscenities against women. A new day was dawning.
The Black Knight satellite was a myth until it was recognized as real by millions of star gazers and scientists. It was reported to be thousands of years old, but no one knew for certain. Astronauts observed it from the International Space Station. Davi and Adam saw the story on the eleven-o-clock news. Scientists reported the satellite was waking up. A great engine started to hum and click. Lights of an unknown origin began to appear on the hull of the satellite. The dark, pitted surface appeared to split open and a large package or crate floated out from the hull. The package maneuvered and set a course to the surface of the planet. It was a gift or warning from some long, lost Alien Civilization. There was no rational explanation. Certainly current events on Earth had something to do with the awakening — but what? No one had an answer. Time seemed to stop. Everyone waited for the delivery… and the aftermath.
In an alley off the boardwalk David noticed a light in the window of a small shop. Red letters on the sign above the door announced, “Krapes Emporium.” He thought there might be something familiar in the shop to bring him back to reality. So far whatever he experienced seemed so bizarre that he felt lost in a mad man’s dream.
Everything inside was covered in layers of dust. Glass cases crowded the floor leaving very little room to maneuver. In one corner there was a metal grate beneath a sign that said “pawnbroker.” David felt slightly reassured by the apparent normalcy of the place, but the more he looked at objects behind the glass the more his reassurance disappeared. Some items were labeled — he saw “unicorn horn” and “dragon wing.” There were small black-cubes labeled egglets and glowing objects identified as oospheres. He noticed several large jars under a sign that read, “glandular conditions.” He was relieved because the glass on the jars was so discolored and cloudy he couldn’t make out the contents. A tall purple crate stood in a cage near the back of the shop with a sign that read “Martian Mummy.”
David was about to leave when he was accosted by Captain Crunch — at least it sounded like the cartoon spokesman for the cereal by the same name. “How goes it, matey m’boy.”
David turned back and saw a cadaverous man in a red-striped jacket, wearing black lipstick and an Andy Warhol wig. He was smiling. There was a bad taste in David’s mouth, “I was just about to leave.”
“Nay, matey — stay. I’ll show you some wonders. Perchance we can strike a deal. What’s your pleasure?”
“Just looking — really. I need to get back to my room.”
“No fun in that. Perhaps you have something to sell. I’m a pawnbroker — best in town. Of course I only handle unusual items. If you have an ordinary ring to sell I don’t want it, but if you have a ‘power ring’ I’m your man. I pay the highest prices anywhere. Let me show you some of my precious cargo.”
“Not really interested in selling or buying anything.”
“Don’t be a spoil sport, m’boy. Come along.”
David found himself drawn toward the smiling cadaver as he wove his spell.
“That’s it lad. This way. I deal in Neoteric Dimensions. I sell a preparation called ‘mental slop’ — you might be interested. It is guaranteed to grow hair follicles inside the brain — quite an extraordinary experience. I keep a regular stock of Loomies, but sometimes I run out of Draco Nins. I personally authorize all virgin births in the area. I have a large collection of poly-globular eyeballs. Right this way. For a small price, I sell glimpses of the future — invariably accurate. Well, matey is there anything I can temp you with?”
David’s stomach was doing flip-flops. He was convinced that none of it was real, but didn’t know how to escape. “I have everything I need . . . Just want to get back.”
“Going somewhere so soon. We’ve hardly had time to get acquainted. Let me give you a parting gift to show there are no hard feelings.” The cadaver handed David a stone.
“Don’t worry dear boy — it won’t bite. It’s the eye of a Venusian Swort. The creature died in the arms of an astronaut — a tragic love affair. The astronaut sold the eye to me in prostrate destitution. Stare at it — it will help you see.”
Nothing happened when David looked at the stone, but when he looked up he was on the street outside the shop.
He was having a difficult time adjusting to his current situation. A few days ago, Curtis Mangrove was a young adult with every possibility that life can offer spread before him like a banquet; but, now he was an old man with no options. His condition was called: Collapsed Phase Containment. He wasn’t certain where the diagnosis came from and he didn’t know what it meant.
All he had were memories that did not belong to him. It seemed his brain had become a device to record other people’s lives. Curtis Mangrove’s life ended… as quickly as flipping a switch he became a hollow vessel with other people stuck in his head.
Monty Slayback was having great fun with his new boy-toy. The toy was built from liquid nanites that could be programmed into any shape or personality Monty desired. With just the twist of a dial the boy-toy would become a giant vagina with the voice of Boris Karloff. Monty was having megatons of fun!
The recording device observed Monty Slayback as he was swallowed by a giant, mechanical vagina. Curtis was barely able to decipher the difference between himself and Monty, but the memory was real. Curtis wondered if he was seeing the future through some distorted lens.
They all went to church. It was the only activity that brought the entire community together. Jen bowed her head in prayer. She was consumed by waves of electricity as the sounds of the sermon swept through the auditorium. Jen was certain her faith would bring peace and harmony into the world. Music flooded the chamber as voices rose in a cacophony of sound. Curtis Mangrove watched and remembered. There were no people in this church, only machines who thought they were human.
Curtis was plagued by memories that were not his own.
Fantone Glix wore a cloak and mask to disguise his body and face. He spoke in Asemic symbols and vocal glitches, but Curtis understood because Fantone Glix was inside his head.
Glix thought of himself as a scientist, but he lived in a world where science was excoriated, blamed for mistakes that led to moral degeneration. Glix had to contend with many problems and distractions in his meager life. He had considerable trouble determining who he was in a world where he was rejected by everyone, even his family. Sometimes he thought he was born into the wrong body. He was Dysmorphic. He often thought he was an Alien and he was often in trouble with the authorities. His one shining light was an an uncanny ability to understand higher mathematics which was both a blessing and curse.
Glix was the master-builder who designed the phase-containment unit. For his efforts, he was condemned as a heretic. No one wanted such a diabolical mechanism to be built. Glix was cast out, forced to live and work in a sulfurous wasteland by a lake of liquid mercury. Glix lived in shame, but he still managed to survive and build a workshop to further his experiments. Misfortune led to success. In the wasteland, Glix discovered the ingredients to make his machine functional: sulfur and mercury. Once processed, the ingredients would generate a reaction in the unit that would break a hole in space and prove that other dimensions existed. The discovery was accidental, totally dependent on his banishment to the place where he found the compounds necessary to complete his project. Another accident entangled Curtis Mangrove in the collapsed phase containment event.
Curtis was twenty-four when his life was preempted. He was preparing for an exam in theoretical physics, contemplating a particularly difficult equation. He didn’t see the stop sign. The equation determined the amount of time it takes before two disparate objects collide. The answer was a fraction of a second.
They put Jack McRoy on ice because he had a brain tumor, but that was a lie; they just needed someone to experiment on. Actually, they put Jack in a tank. They weren’t performing an experiment — it was a transformation.
They picked Jack because he was a fifty year old delinquent. He wrote papers and pointed fingers. He uncovered and exposed unpleasant truths that should always be kept secret.
They saw themselves as good guys, concerned citizens: the Guardians of Order. They ran a small diagnostic firm that was really an elaborate laboratory where experiments were conducted on hapless miscreants. They had several government contracts. No one asked questions. The work continued twenty-four hours a day.
Jack McRoy was not his given name. He was eight-years-old when he crossed the border from Mexico. His family sent him to live with his successful uncle in the U.S.. Jack was an illegal alien, something he forgot. His uncle imprinted a new identity on the alien boy’s brain and named him Jack. His uncle was a scientist working for the government.
Jack McRoy loved to surf naked in the early hours just before dawn. There was no reason not to — he was young and athletic. People loved him. He often saw colored lights blinking in the sky like signals from a far off future. The water would always protect him. Suddenly he was sweating profusely. He body was drenched, smothered in an offshore oil spill. He recalled the spill that destroyed the beaches in Santa Barbara in 1959 and again in 2015. He was no longer a young surfer. He was something that lived in the water, dying from poison that stuck to his skin. Too many animals perished and many more would become extinct.
A tiny machine always followed Jack around. It clacked. The clacking never stopped. The machine was collecting information. Jack began to think the machine was an overseer who watched his every move.
Jack was always aware of duplicity: the state of being two fold or double. There was the “clean” side and the “dirty” side. He wanted to be clean, but he always felt dirty. Jack couldn’t avoid the noxious fumes or the oily residue.
The Overseers watched intently as Jack McRoy banged his head against the side of the tank. It wasn’t an unexpected reaction. The man believed he was drowning in oil. The Overseers had large, black eyes and gray skin. They smiled because the transformation was succeeding. Jack would never bother anyone again. He would be tame. The contract with the government gave the Overseers freedom to experiment on persons who were considered dangerous. Jack was getting too close to the truth about government infiltration and a program to implant every newborn with a chip. The chip collected information that could be used to control behavior.
Jack was baptized when he was thirty-two years old. It was his wife’s idea. He loved her. Estelle was religious and Jack just wanted to make her happy. The Priest poured oil over Jack’s naked body. The oil was black and shiny, it stuck to his skin and it smelled like death.
When Jack emerged from the tank he smiled. The Overseers were his friends. He could see that with his new eyes, large and black. The Aliens were never from outer space. They were all created in a tank — part of the government program to make a better human race.
Ollie Firstwell was a remarkable child. When push came to shove he faced an incredible challenge and proved his prowess — which was not easy for an intimidated human-weakling. At school, after several beatings, he decided to lay down and just sink into hibernation mode. The bullies thought he went catatonic – it worked wonders. No one bothered him again until he met the hyper-dimensional Being named Zonkkk, a nasty critter who ate brains for breakfast. Zonkkk thought Ollie was really catatonic and that was especially tempting to the alien. But Ollie was only playing and when Zonkkk attacked, Ollie went into Super-charge mode and his brain caught fire with anti-alien rejection hormones. Zonkkk was decimated and Ollie was invited to join the Galactic Guardian Society (a secret organization of super heroes).