“I walk alone in the night like a specter. I see myself through distorted glass and warped mirrors that block my path. I recognize no one… I am no one. A dark shadow stalks me, haunts me. My quest for redemption is almost over…”
There was always music in the Darkk Museum. The night watchman listened as he made his rounds through the dank corridors and ancient halls where the city’s most revered treasures were stored. Raymond Rambush was only forty-eight, but he was already old, almost feeble. He was a fine artist, but his art did not sell. His only income came from working as a night watchman. He considered himself lucky to work in a highly esteemed museum where he could study the masterpieces on the walls. There was art and ancient relics on all three floors, but the most amazing contemporary work was stored in the underground museum, not open to the general public. Raymond always struggled. He never had the money to join professional art groups that might sponsor a show of his work. It was difficult getting influential people to come to his studio to look at his art. He was always living on the edge, between life and death, and the unrealistic dream of his art being discovered.
Ambrose Darkk built the museum from the ground up, a place to contain his unique art. While Darkk was in charge, the museum was never popular — too many accidents and strange encounters. A year after Darkk’s disappearance, the Trustees of the museum refurbished the building and stored the artist’s work in the subterranean vaults. Cultural artifacts and antiques were placed on the floors open to the public. The remake proved popular and an entrance fee was instituted to keep the museum afloat and earn a generous stipend for the trustees. Rumors circulated about Ambrose and his museum, but it only added to the public’s morbid interest; yet, no one wanted to see the work of the artist — old relics were enough to satisfy the viewing public. When Darkk was alive he was filled with hatred because most people dismissed him as a crank. He used his anger to infuse his art. A few collectors humored him because the Darkk family had money. Ambrose was aware of the sham. He grew more and more morose until the day he finally disappeared.
Raymond walked the halls and galleys of the Darkk, listening to distant sounds and eerie music that came from the basement. The sounds always led him to the underground vaults where rumors alluded to supernatural occurrences. Raymond saw enough of life to know there was no magic, no uncanny interventions. His life was characterized by tedium and torment … and the desire to create. For Raymond the only magic in life was making art. When he was a young man he desperately tried to break from the bonds of daily drudgery and discover some world beyond the norm. He realized how much he needed magic to make his life meaningful. He tried LSD and other mind altering drugs — he was seduced by strange visions and dreams, but when the drug wore off nothing really changed — he was faced with the dilemma of his sad life in a world where he was not accepted or appreciated. His art languished. His creative juices dried up. He tortured himself trying to regain his creative vision. Raymond threw himself into sexual abandon in hopes of cultivating some truth beyond ordinary reality. He experimenting with physical and mental sadomasochism. The rituals and fetishes amounted to nothing: no truths and no resolves. He fell to earth like a being from another world — ending in a pit of total despair. Raymond’s despair came from the realization that there was no magic and no life beyond death. In his despair he picked up a brush and discovered he could still paint — he was able to make art and that was his only value and function. He accepted the drudgery necessary to keep eating and breathing in order to create.
Raymond was intrigued by the art in the vaults beneath the museum. The Paintings by Ambrose Darkk were primitive and disturbing. They did not seem particularly sophisticated — filled with childlike splashes in a maze of atmospheric delirium, but the more he studied the art the more intrigued he became. Raymond began to see images in the paintings. The “altered music” became louder the longer he lingered. Night after night, Raymond spent more time in the vaults. His mind played tricks — he knew the wraiths he saw were merely shadows caused by his subconscious need for hallucinatory stimulation. A particular dark shadow frequently appeared. Raymond imagined it was the remains of Ambrose Darkk, appearing as some sort of necromancer. The paintings seemed to change. Faces appeared and vanished. Each canvas was a portrait — each told a story. Raymond no longer walked the halls of the museum — he spent all night in the vault. The portraits were alive. He heard them scream, but he could not tear himself away. One night, Raymond saw a blank canvas in the Darkk Vault. The next night he saw a man dressed in black like a shadow sitting in front of the blank canvas with brushes and paint. While Raymond starred at the apparition the music flowed like blood becoming louder and more dissonant… then, it stopped!
Raymond Rambush was never seen again and music was no longer heard in the Darkk Museum.
He saw a young man from across the room and he was immediately attracted to him. This never happened before. He was heterosexual. He could recall countless sexual encounters with beautiful women. When he was young he was noted for being a “horn dog.” This new sensation was all the more remarkable since he no longer had a sex drive… the drive along with certain other affectations had been medically eliminated. Parts of his anatomy were altered along with his memories. As he stared, the young man became more recognizable. He realized he was looking at a younger version of himself.
Rodney Anderflack sat cross-legged on a paisley cushion and smoked a drug-infused hookah pipe, recalling the past when America was great again.
The past was filled with ghosts. Rodney finally knew what it felt like to be a ghost. He’d been “ghosted,” taken over by a dominant Walk-in from the future. His body was being driven, manipulated by a Visitor; but his mind was left to roam free along the cyber-highways of virtual reality.
He remembered teenage angst: wanting to be part of the In-crowd.
He remembered his first true love: an android named Kelly. Her blond play-dough face popped up everywhere: on TV, on his cell, in the microwave oven, in the dishwasher, and on all his “smart” appliances. He loved her because she was the only woman who ever reached out to him. She was persistent. She always told the truth: just because Rodney had dark skin didn’t mean he was a black man… just because he was attracted to other men didn’t mean he was gay. She emphasized his free-will to straighten up and fly right. Some day, she said, Rodney could even be a member of the illustrious Orange Guard.
“Play your cards right,” she said, “and you won’t have to be afraid.” The words came directly from the Ban-man’s playbook; listed just below a paragraph about Auschwitz explaining the survival of some Jews because they cooperated by pushing other Jews into the gas ovens. Ban wanted to bring back the glory days. He was the Sweet Man’s right arm-and-hammer.
Rodney bleached his skin and went to Pence Camp for re-education. The treatments were expensive, but health care was freely provided in exchange for indentured servitude… “a win-win for everyone,” the Sweet Man liked to say in his edifying tweets. Kelly stuck with Rodney. She appeared on every surface, beaming her encouragement.
Rodney found himself in a time-bubble watching his life unfold. At Pence Camp he was given a new drug to facilitate his Transubstantiation. His sex drive was dissected and wire tapped. His skin was replaced with white gauze. Rodney proved to be a model citizen so he was given the opportunity to become a teacher in the Sweet Man’s schools-for-profit network.
He was a dedicated teacher. Since funds were limited, Rodney had to provide his own teaching materials. He used a claw-hammer as an effective instrument of instruction (as recommended in “The Camp of Saints,” the Ban-man’s favorite book).
“Mr. Sessions, Mr. Sessions,” came the plaintiff’s cry accusing the muzzled dwarf of flaunting an “unnatural” appearance. This was another “Glory Days Trial” broadcast across all channels of the homogeneous Trumpet Network.
Donnie, the Sweet Man, was having afternoon tea with the Kushners. The tweets were going well, stock prices were on the rise, and no one seemed to notice the indentured servants who supported the new social order. The rulers reveled in their hard earned largess. They followed the Ban-man’s play-book to the letter, making America great again. Soon the Kushners might encounter some unforeseen difficulties of their own due to their religious outlook. An extended vacation was scheduled for Jared and Ivanka at the Pence Re-education Camp where they would experience their own Transubstantiation. Donnie didn’t mind as long as business was on the upswing. He knew how to sublimate conflict while throwing subordinates under the bus. Melania disappeared years ago never to return.
Rodney Anderflack swallowed a bitter pill while trying to fit into the new America. He often had conversations with Kelly even though she didn’t really exist. She was a ghost, a shadow cast by the desires and anxieties of ordinary people. “I have nothing,” he complained to Kelly, “I gave my life to the New Order… and I have nothing.”
“You have your life,” Kelly replied, “Count your blessings. The world is a beautiful place.”
“I’m barely human. My skin is gone. I have no sex… and no love. I’m a slave to the government.”
“Your sacrifice is making a better world.”
“The world sucks. I’ve been duped.”
“Stop your whining. Don’t you remember how bad things were when Obama-mama was President? All that freedom. All that confusion. Now, you have nothing to worry about. You are cared for from birth to death… and even when you are dead, your body is placed in a recycle chamber and turned into profit. So stop your complaining and go back to work.”
The conversations took place in a Cyber Wasteland. Rodney’s body was elsewhere, manipulated by the Visitor from the future. Rodney’s conversations with Kelly were irrelevant. Pieces were falling into place to change the present. The world was off balance, skewered on the edge of an Event Horizon. The Reality Stream was broken and the Visitor had to make a correction.
David Oblivion met Mr. Hamm on the Street of Dreams in Angel City. Hamm was an ambassador from Hell. Nothing could change the present. The outcome was inevitable.
Marty Mekum could hear the dream resonating in his brain like a land-mine about to explode. He told himself, there is no such place as Hell. The characters in his mind were as flimsy as used tissue.
Marty consistently asked questions trying to justify his life. His hands were frozen, stiff with age. He could no longer paint the images that populated his mind. His days working as an artist were over.
Marty left his lover in the past. They stood on a precipice overlooking the Arizona Desert. It was a tumultuous period in their lives. The world seemed to be drowning in a golden-shower of crass abuse and excess. The only way to live was to escape.
Protest marches and benefit concerts became routine. Demonstrations were another form of escape… bolstering a false sense of security. Drug overdoses became commonplace. The lovers lived in a haze of chemical enhancement… on the precipice — suddenly, Marty jumped, leaving his partner & lover behind.
“How are you, Marty?” The cyborg-appliance asked.
“How’s the weather?” Marty replied.
“Same as always… gray.”
Marty Mekum was from the future, but no one believed him. He wanted to save the world, but no one listened. By the time he recorded this story, he was very old. He came of age in the future by giving birth to himself. The Home cared for Marty. The Home was a network of prosthetic extensions that fed, manipulated, and recorded Marty’s existence to use as a merchandising incentive. People had inherent (but limited) monetary value. When inherent value was used up everything could be recycled and reused. All accounts were itemized and reviewed on Twitter. Capital gains and losses were tweeted daily.
Angina Splint was an account executive in the Golden Tower. She didn’t know Marty. She wasn’t concerned with other people’s problems or predicaments. Angina lived for the bottom-line. She loved her job. Perks were numerous. Gold Cadillacs abounded. Designer drugs sweetened the pot. Zombies moved into the cubicle across the hall, but Angina wasn’t bothered. Her office suite was large enough to flatten any zombie invasion.
Angina’s mom lived at the Home a few doors down from Marty Mekum. There was a cost incentive to visit mom once a year. Values were exchanged and increased. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Mom was always changing, trying to increase her value. She was a programmer from the last century so she knew her business. Mom’s brain was mush, puree — it didn’t matter as long as she could offer some amusing entertainment. She had to adapt. Capital gain was the name of the game. She often mimicked Hitler and harassed the “Juden.” Mom was a member of the Baby Generation. Baby clones ruled the world. The unborn were silent no longer.
Angina loved visiting mom — the money kept pouring in. Mom wore a blue hat and began to tick like a time-bomb — pure entertainment. Angina gushed.
The prosthetic appliances at the Home were plugging holes with stoppers trying to halt the flow of effluvium from the newest, Last War. Marty Mekum would have none of it. He began to rant, “the mad man in the tower is becoming more powerful each day writing new edicts, shaping the world into his own chthonic image. I hear the death rattle throttle.”
Angina caught the drift of Mekum’s riff. She was briefly mesmerized, cauterized by words she never heard. Meanings were resplendent.
Dr. Zosomo came to the rescue with an enema plunger to eradicate the excess verbiage.
Marty bespoke, “this is a drift into dark-matter. There are Nine Levels.”
No one understood. Angina and mom were determined to continue espousing the words of the baby prophet. It was a disaster: Matricide with suicidal tendencies.
“No one is free,” Marty sneezed, “we are all Him subject to the same corruption.”
The aliens took notes, gleefully observing the debacle. Too late it was revealed: He was controlled by dark servitors from beyond the veil. Dorian Gray lisped in brilliant decay.
A poet scrawled new codes on a bathroom wall.
“This is David Oblivion reporting from the basement of a deserted building in New Jerusalem. I’m tired and hungry. I’ve been running for three days. I’m trying to escape the future. I am able to send these messages due to an anomaly, a black-hole called Queer-time. Listen up… I am sending messages, images and stories from the future, your future… and, no, it isn’t a pretty “Norman Rockwell” picture… and, it isn’t the future Donny Trumpit predicted: the Global Utopia of Family Values, full employment, and the American flag. A friend once called this Queer-time a human manufactured Rapture… but, in fact, no one appears to be going to heaven. Instead, we are living in hell.
The internet has been banned; but it can’t be stopped. It seeded itself from simple viruses that were used to infest computers. The result was the birth of monsters. The Net has become self-aware and ubiquitous… capriciously sliding between power brokers, helping or destroying on a whim… but, always seeding itself and creating more monsters. The little war the U.S. started in Iraq never stopped… it spread to Syria … fueled by religious fanatics and Russian avarice. Our President’s Russian ties earned him billions while the country sank into a swamp of corruption that spread to the Net, becoming part of the Net, fed by corporations and mega-industries. America has become New Jerusalem… born of the internet!
America, “that shinning city on the hill” — now, we live in enclaves and barricaded communities… or in hovels and abandoned buildings. People stay indoors because the streets are too dangerous. War exists everywhere. Most people are plugged into the Net discovering virtual worlds and virtual pleasures. Nothing is safe. Spy Eyes are everywhere… bugs, on search and destroy missions, are relentless. Many enclaves must submit to the New Puritans. There are many powerful missionary groups that demand compliance to the “Word of God.” Missionaries use the internet for their own purpose, to ensnare unsuspecting “sinners” into virtual porn-palaces where their minds are dismembered and cannibalized. People no longer care about the dangers because the Net offers the only pleasurable distraction in a world where there is no place to escape.
Sometimes, demons roam the streets in search of targets to pick off like ducks in a shooting gallery. They go to deserted warehouses or back-alley bars and hunt for prey; or they sign-up for the war where it is easier to get weapons and where there are rewards for hunting and killing. War makes all things possible. A demon can become an officer and help mold a policy of rape and torture. A demon in a uniform can influence the minds of impressionable youth… and sucker the “poor” into fighting the war for the “rich.”
The only hope lies with the artists and poets of The Manifest, an underground group struggling to reveal the truth. As a member, my life is in jeopardy. I’m being hunted. At any moment …” Screen goes dark and Gunshots ring out.
Morton Sedlack retreated to a VR Pongo-Parlor in an attempt to stop time. Reality had become too much, penetrating his soft-core defenses like a Bazooka — his brain was torn to shreds — dangling from a precipice of double-speak politics and redacted information.
Morton was no longer young. He used to be Tom Selleck ranging across some tropical island like the indomitable “Magnum P.I.” It didn’t last. Nothing lasts. Everything expires in a breathe of sordid self pity. Morton commiserated, “life sucks when you are 75, stuck in a corporate utopia, and strong-armed by a political hack.” There was nowhere to go but down to the depths of clown hell. Entertainment-for-All was the new mantra as people were rounded up and shipped off to “holiday camps.” It was televised for the viewing pleasure of the new majority. The new system generated money for the first family along with selected TV producers and magnates of industry.
One happy man was at the center of attention while people chanted, “he’s the man with the plan. He tweets and twitters about all his jitters… and no one can complain when they get a free ride on the Happy Land train.”
The masses were sedated with TV happenstance and Virtual Reality, but buyer’s remorse was beginning to set in. There were high taxes, lower incomes, and the remorse over lost jobs. Frustration was at an all time high. Why were the Aliens taking over? The country was in crisis. Segments of the population were pitted against one another. In the end there was a re-count. The kerfuffle was all about entertainment… and ratings were never higher.
Morton was paralyzed with remorse. He just bought a new car to escape the encroaching mass hysteria, but the car was a lemon and the ads for better cars kept shooting up his brain like poison darts. He recently broke up with his boyfriend over an issue of mistaken identity. There were fistacuffs over a man named, Donnie. Morton was easily confused. He worried about dementia. Was Donnie his unfaithful boyfriend who hooked up with Kellyann, a striptease artist who sold drugs for chump change?
Hannibal Lecter sat with the former Entertainment Mogul sipping non-alcoholic cocktails in the Titanium-Lounge where the virtual Russian Embassy was located. The children stood around silently staring at their powerful father, the new executive director of the nation. They were pretty children who invested heavily in their father’s vision of a new world. The mogul spoke with confidence, “we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but I like your style.” Lecter grimaced, “I did all I could to help you win.”
“I know. I think you are great and I want to reward you!”
“Not necessary,” Lecter remarked, “you have already given me your support in my reclaiming many small, petty states that are rightfully ours.”
“Not enough for all you’ve done. I certainly appreciate the flattery you’ve lauded on me. You are a man of great authority.”
Lecter beamed, “thank you, Mr. President. There is no one quite like you. I loved your TV series.”
“I still own the rights. Still making lots of money! I want you to know that I’m one of your greatest fans. Loved the photo of you riding a horsey with your upper torso exposed. Quite manly. I’m proud to give you a another gift of my appreciation. They are yours!” President Mogul pointed to his beautiful family who were overwhelmed with deep seeded fear.
Hannibal clapped his hands with glee and licked his lips.
Morton Sedlack hit triple Pongo. All his dreams were coming true. His new boyfriend stayed by his side even as he was slipping into post-traumatic shock. They were together riding in the new, “Magnum – Self Driving Car.” It was a home on wheels. There was no longer a need for a stationary residence where people were stuck forever, rooted to one spot. Society was now totally mobile and digitally connected. Everyone was moving… running… trying to escape. Morton was quietly napping in his capsule. He was surrounded by entertainment … surrounded by love.
Morton’s brain was split. It was standard procedure. He was placed in the capsule for security reasons. He was, at last, happy.
He didn’t actually, but I thought it was a good way to draw attention to the improbable events that happened while Trump monopolized the TV screens. Many earth shaking occurrences and changes were overlooked during the election season debacle.
Where to begin…
David Oblivion sat in the Hot Box waiting for the interview to start. He’d been waiting for eleven days and the Box was getting hotter. Food and water, the basics, were provided through a slit in the metal door. He was the one on trial, but David had his own questions that needed to be answered.
David was waiting to be interviewed by a man who called himself Death. He was a representative of the “New World Order.” David was one of the few people who knew the New Order was already in control. It happened while everyone was hypnotized by The Donnie on TV.
Lavonia Freestand wanted to free David. She was an activist who believed Black Lives Matter. David wasn’t Black, but he could have been… and really it didn’t matter. David was a victim and Lavonia knew he was innocent. She worked in social media penetrating the walls of lies that separated people from one another. Most people were attached to the internet, floating in cyberspace, living in virtual reality like make-believe celebrities. Real life was superceded by Second Life while the New Order quietly took control.
According to the Donnie the world was about to be decimated by Muslim terrorists. Immigrants were destroying America. The Middle East was a tinderbox because a weak, former President failed to bomb the place to kingdom come. Different truths for different folks.
Conspiracy theories also existed. Some theories were fact: no one knew about the washing machine on the Moon. No one knew about the colonization of alien planets. No one knew about the Third World War that began in 1975 and never ended. It was too late for David Oblivion. He wrestled with himself -wrestled with his realizations… David knew!
Lavonia Freestand wore a sliver lame’ gown fashioned from spider silk. She was having a nosh at Katz’s Virtual Emporium.
“Hi there,” Monsoon Rex sauntered up to Lavonia and stunned her with his X-ray eyes. She faltered but stayed true to her digitally enhanced persona.
“Bub,” she said, “what’s your game?” Lavonia suspected enemy collusion or worse.
“I’m here to soft talk you,” he said, “I want your soul.”
“Are you Death?” She queried.
“No,” he said, “Death is with David Oblivion doing an interview.”
Lavonia couldn’t help herself. She was drawn to the devious stranger like a motherless child looking for love. She lost her grip and forgot about David. Lavonia and Monsoon shifted into retrograde.
“I’m here to interview you,” Death uttered like a bass drum
“I know,” David replied like a shy, adolescent girl.
“You trying to seduce me?” Death said.
“No way… just following the rules. I have a few questions.”
“Don’t screw with me… You know who I am!” Death was indignant.
“I know… but, it’s important.”
“OK, ask away,” said a subdued Death.
“I only have one question, really… Why do you exist? Why all the drama… What’s the big deal.”
“Long story short: you want me here… All of you. I make your lives meaningful because you are always under my threat… Always trying to cheat me… Always surviving in my shadow. Without me there would be nothing to live for. You need me to goad and push you into the future. You need me to make the future possible.”
While David was being interviewed, a new President was elected. The future was beginning to unfold.
It was the end and David knew it. He hoped the world would survive the inevitable.
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.