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…
I was sitting at my desk when Endrina Moorcock came into the room to tell me a fantastic story. Massive Attack scratched out a melody on barbed wire, the soundtrack of my life. Endrina spoke, “I am digital … coming to you over an illegal wavelength to warn you.”
Manfred Meeks was a celebrated concert pianist inspired by the music of Bach, Mozart, and John Phillips Sousa. A virtuoso. A teenage phenom. He is no longer remembered because the accident changed everything. It was predicted in the Bible, the Koran and other religious documents. It was anticipated by the Heisenberg Principle (Quantum Physics). It was ignited by hubris and politics. The Singularity (read Kurzweil) burst on the scene like a ruptured appendix. Manfred was caught in the melee.
Rotobar Trumpf ranted about ownership at the televised convention. He spoke in abstract riddles and never said anything about his desire to own the world. He introduced Manfred Meeks, a bullied boy who had great musical talent — the boy grew up to worship power. Meeks played the piano and awed the rambunctious crowd. The recital of national hymns turned out to be Manfred’s biggest mistake, an accident of unparalleled proportion that led to the election of Rotobar Trumpf..
Endrina Moorcock was Raptured along with the others. It was a confusing time. the man who sold the world never anticipated the fallout. Rotobar Trumpf made a pact with Professor Andor Morph. The professor had a formula based on Schrodinger’s cat experiment and modified by Minsky’s mathematical equations. Morph started out as a geneticist, but was discredited and lost his license to practice in any medical facility. He was a psychotic genius who disregarded ethical considerations … but, Trumpf liked him. Morph was someone who could get things done. Endrina was part of the fallout from a Morph experiment that had gone wrong. She became a creature of the night, not quite human, no longer the person she used to be, no longer Manfred Meeks.
Rotobar enjoyed an absinthe cocktail as he observed his world through a small porthole. The world was red, reflecting the glow from lava furnaces that scorched the earth. The leader of the world lived in luxury in his well stocked bunker surrounded by loved ones and family. There was only room for twenty people and supplies would run out in fifteen years. Rotabar would be dead by then so it didn’t really matter. He felt some concern for a few of his sons and daughters, but they had spunk and he was certain they would come up with a plan to carry on.
Most people were Raptured like Endrina: digitized and uploaded into computer simulations while their brains were used as fuel for Angels and Demons, the Robots who inherited the Earth. The Rapture Bomb was set off by Morph and funded by an ill-informed Trumpf who thought he was just building robots & military hardware.
Professor Morph was a witness to devastation long before he became a scientist. He saw towers exploding and murderers rampaging through city streets, taking hostages and creating chaos. As a child he was scarred by an explosion in a cafe’ that killed his parents. Somehow he survived, but the sight of his parents erupting in flames never left him. He never forgot the screams. He knew, even as a boy, it wasn’t the terrorists who were responsible. It was something inside every human being that caused the horror. At first he tried to change the human genome to make people better, but his efforts were doomed. Humans were systemically defective. Morph couldn’t cure them, so he had to eliminate them.
The nondescript man babbled words as if he were in a trance, “There were several of us walking around, not realizing we were all the same person until we ran into one another on a busy corner in the financial district just off skid row. We were all the same, but we were also different — individuals, yet part of the same organism. We looked the same. We even talked the same. It was an epiphany to stare into the eyes of another person and realize that person was me. Am I part of a Hive? Is my mind being controlled? Hold on, I’m receiving a message from space — the archangels are calling. The message is always the same: the Earth is off balance. Trumpet players are in control and politics have gone viral.”
Jacob Latterly sat in a computer cafe’ having a conversation with himself in a virtual reality chat room. He was trying to figure out the codes that determine the human perception of reality. He was having no success. One conundrum let to another in an ever winding spiral of confusion. Dr. Zosomo Kulio stepped up to Jacob to reassess the situation and write a report. “Jacob,” he said, “you are having delusions.” The good doctor suddenly disappeared, but the lingering wisp of melange hung in the virtual air.
At this nexus in the story a new virus, one of many, was effecting Jacob’s brain.
Jacob grasped at the fragments and caught a whiff of Nostalgia (an intoxicant found in a mutant viper imported from Jakarta). A new sensation was born inside Jacob’s breast that led to a series of improbable circumstances. Against all odds, Jacob fell in love. His natural inclination was to wallow in depression. Love was not supposed to be in the mix. His lover was a metallic reflection, a bird on the wing deep within the jungle of digitally enhanced reality. The experience resonated deep within Jacob’s hypothetical Soul. As far as he was concerned, the state of the world was no longer of any consequence. The incredible messages from space suddenly stopped without a trace. The archangels expired like pigeons dying from exhaust fumes. Politics continued to run amok. Devices continued to get smarter until they were too intelligent to stay on Earth — all the gadgets left the planet. Jacob, however, was happy. Depression evaporated. He found love. Nothing else mattered.
People are always angry at me. I hear them cursing, yelling at me when they think I cannot hear. They think they are safe to criticize and curse because they are acting inside the confines of their own skulls. No one is really safe. Nothing is really private. I hear them jabbering like monkeys and throwing shit at one another. I know them, each one. They are all as insignificant as dust.
The fat slab of humanity, made up of segmented joints, sits in the waiting-room. Each joint believes it is unique, an individual. Each joint is nothing but a jumble of nerve cells. The waiting room is a nursery that inculcates survivalist behavior, fang and tooth tactics, and war maneuvers. The joints are eager cannibals happy to gobble up their weaker neighbors. “Works in the real world,” General Joint tells the commissioned troops, “better to stay alive then be eaten alive.” The waiting room is always full. New recruits arrive hourly.
Jeremy always waited. When he was a child, he waited in the principle’s office because the teacher reported him for bad behavior. He knew he was bad, but he didn’t really know why. Jeremy waited for his report card hoping it might never arrive. He waited for his parents to get angry. Jeremy waited to become an adult so he could leave home. When he was older he waited when Lisa said she was pregnant with his baby. Jeremy sat listlessly in the hospital waiting room.
The angels were created by scientists who wanted to create a utopia. Science was the scalpel used to reshape and sculpt the human genome. Perfect people were the result. A hive mind was manufactured from quantum computers and recycled logarithms. An angel could plug into the hive and gain access to all the information that composed known reality. The hive was an enormous waiting room where angels fluttered make-believe wings while they waited. A Monitor, known as Oculus Prime, was in charge. Oculus assigned each angel certain requirements that had to be fulfilled before the angel could move to the next level of enlightenment. Each new level offered exciting opportunities that could relieve boredom, however the waiting game always led to more boredom.
Jeremy had an active imagination. It was the only way he could escape from daily drudgery. He never loved Lisa. Once the baby was born she admitted that Jeremy was not the father. He suspected as much since he was gay and never really had sex with Lisa, but he stayed with her. He waited for the marriage to end. While he waited he dreamed the Monitor would call his name and assign tasks he needed to undertake in order to have a better life. Jeremy knew there were all kinds of tasks that had to be completed, lessons learned, and hardships to be endured. A task could be as simple as waiting in line to pay for some necessity; or as complicated as undergoing an MRI while waiting for a physician to outline a plan of surgery to remove a brain tumor. Waiting was part and parcel of every task. The surgery was expected to be a total success: the tumor would be removed, but the patient might never recover. The waiting room was always full.