Ed did not blink… It could have been a stroke. Signs and symptoms accumulated with age. Ed was quickly approaching seventy. He was transfixed by the TV. The news was weaponized, exploding off the screen. Anthony sat on the coach with Ed playing a game on his laptop. Earlier in the day they argued… typical married couple complaints. Both men were feeling lonely and helpless. The pandemic made everything worse. Masks and social-distancing took a psychological toll. At least they were together; but instead of comforting one another they argued. Nothing was normal anymore. Small tasks became Herculean challenges. Talking turned into shouting. The new puppy was a comfort. She was oblivious to the concerns that obsessed her human owners.
The Blue Orca sat behind a water-logged desk and took notes. Ed continued to speak, “I’m committed to finding answers. Anthony doesn’t care.”
“You sound like a principal in a school,” the Orca responded in a burst of bubbles, “you sound like a martyr, oh pity me.” Of course the conversation occurred in Ed’s head. He had a vivid imagination.
The blasting news fluctuated between the profane and absurd, “the Blue Oyster Cult is taking a bite out of the deep state. Evidence was presented before congress that exonerates the president from any wrong doing. He is the people’s choice and therefore he cannot be held responsible. He did not incite people to riot against CDC precautions, he merely expressed approval. In other news… there was a rally for gun-rights this morning in Richmond, Virginia. Apparently too many guns killed too many people during the event. Few survived.”
Ed couldn’t decipher real news from fake. It could have been a Virtual Reality Intruder or a hallucination. Nothing was normal.
Elijah Templar had a condition. He didn’t know where he was – he didn’t know the date or century. He wasn’t certain Elijah was his real name. He thought he was living in the future inside a Hot Box (a container without air). He knew about the virus… he thought his condition was a side effect. He was certain of one thing: he had a mission. Elijah Templar wanted to reclaim the world before the collapse. He was trying to reverse time. He often stared into empty window frames searching for a pass into another time or dimension. His only companion inside the box was an intelligent dog. The dog was genetically engineered and enhanced. Elijah came from a long line of amateur scientists and inventors. They were Templars because they were on a quest just like the Templars of the old world.
Elijah named his dog Pepe Rolando in honor of his best friend. He was martyred by members of the Divine Life Church. The church believed God sent the virus. The mission of the church was to help spread the virus. Pepe was dosed and died ten days later. Members of the church reveled in social intimacy and the elimination of all masks. They also believed bleach was the new sacrament replacing wine. They revered the Holy-One who proscribed the new sanctions. Some church members referred to passages in the bible that could not be contested proving the deceased president was the new messiah, martyred before his time. A large mural inside the cinder block church depicted The Last Dinner: Donald Trump is at the center, seated at a long table, joined by twelve of his closest wives and children. Third wife, Melania, shines as the divine prostitute. Ivanka rises up to offer the holy cup of bleach to the revered Trump. Young Baron lurks in the shadows. He is revealed as Trump’s Judas. Jared stands tall as the weaponized soldier who defends The Holy One along with Don Jr. and Eric. They represent the Army of God. “The” Trump sits on his throne, a golden toilet. His wealth is enormous as symbolized by his huge girth. The table bows under the weight of food: fries and burgers abound. The giant Trump holds a computer to relay wrathful messages and parables to non-believers and sinners.
The dog, Pepe Rolando, was a genetic make-over, a designer dog. Science was put on a fast track due to the virus. From the online Archives, Elijah learned scientific research was corrupted by the president’s beliefs and conspiracy theories. Flawed thinking was behind the policies advocated by the president’s administration (Elijah wasn’t certain about the time-line… when did the changes occur in the present or the past). Trump worried about the economy (he stood to loose lots of money) so he freed-up business and invested in biotech firms.
Safety and ethical considerations no longer mattered. It was important to make the recession profitable (at least for some people). Mad science was the key… conspiracy theories and conjectures had to be proven as viable. A vaccine had to be discovered, but more important were the new products that could be developed and sold to an unwary public. Snake-oil and magic cures were once again considered proven and effective. Eugenics was brought back from a dark, Nazis laboratory and hailed as the science of the future. Without ethical standards science and industry could exceed expectations. Some progress was actually made. Clones and mutants were immune to the virus. There was no longer a need to find and manufacture a vaccine. Many mistakes also became apparent with catastrophic results. Many mutant babies carried Satan’s Spark (a mutation developed by Doctor Lydia Thornwall in her attempt to cure the ravages of old age. Unfortunately her discovery led to violent behavior, murder and mayhem). Other designer babies were extremely narcissistic without any ability to empathize (a condition later described as Trump Syndrome). Altered animals often exhibited human characteristics, mostly vicious uninhibited behaviors). There were also a few mutant successes: intelligent animals and creative savants. Pepe was such a success: a dog with self-consciousness who could understand human behavior. Unfortunately, Pepe could not communicate his ideas and important insights, but he quickly learned tricks much to Elijah’s delight.
Pepe Rolando was curious. He was only six months old but mature for his age. He instinctively knew something was wrong with the world. Pepe kept a record of his observations. He never learned how to use his paw to write and he was physically unable to speak so he stored his record in his mind. “I want to know,” Pepe thought in a surge of excitement. He bounced around the room using his tongue to explore the rug and furniture. He smelled fear. Something was rotten.
“What is it? What is it?” Pepe ruminated, “ Elijah takes me for a ride on his bicycle. I love the wind. It whistles. I see people, but they don’t look right. Everyone is covered. Funny suits hide everything. They wear masks. Masks… that’s it. No faces. No one smells. Suits cover everything. Even Elijah is hidden. I can’t lick him. No kisses. I can’t smell him. No one plays. No one touches. Something bad… very bad.”
Ed was confused… perhaps it was a nervous breakdown. He thought, “I’m hysterical… that’s what they told women in the old days. If a woman spoke up for herself or complained about anything she was labeled hysterical.” Ed thought his therapist was a talking whale. The Blue Oyster Cult gave him nightmares… he was paranoid about cults and didn’t know if the rumors were real or fake. Anthony did not understand Ed. He had his own problems. The virus took a toll on everyone. Of course, the president claimed the US was open for business and everything was back to normal. Death had a heyday. People stopped abiding by CDC rules to stop the spread of infection. Everyone wanted to believe the president so they followed his example and thousands became ill, many died. Anthony felt cooped up, imprisoned. When he went to sleep he had nightmares.
Elijah Templar had access to his great grandfather’s laboratory in the basement of a bombed-out building. Mordecai Templar claimed to be a genius. He dropped out of college to pursue his passion: Time Displacement Mechanics. He believed quantum phenomenon could be controlled by a biological mechanism that existed in certain neurons within the brain. He believed the brain produced quantum energy, the key to time-displacement and human consciousness. Mordecai invented a Particle-Booster to enhance the energy waves emanating from the brain. To his dismay nothing could be proved. He was never granted access to the lofty circles of established science. He died during the pandemic and economic collapse. The consequences of Mordecai’s experiments were never observed… however, atomic-particles were scrambled. Elijah and Mordecai became entangled within a bubble of time.
Elijah rode his bike through the mud. He rode across crumbling pavements where streets still remained. Pepe Rolando sat in the basket on the handlebar. Elijah wore a protective suit with a breathing tank. Pepe was engineered to withstand the new hazards in the atmosphere. They were searching for food. Some stores still remained but most were abandoned. Corporations still pumped ads into people’s heads promoting products that no longer existed. The hounds of desire continued to perpetuate the illusion of the fast moving man and the alluring woman. A patina of reality had to be maintained. Wealthy family members became hoarders… living in walled compounds overlooking the slums of the city. Elijah wanted to turn back time. He was obsessed with notes he discovered in Mordecai’s laboratory: mathematical formulas that proved time could be controlled and altered. Some notes referenced a machine that could change reality. If such a machine existed he had to find it. Elijah forgot about getting food. Pepe whimpered to snap the man out of his reverie. On a street corner they saw a specter dressed in black with no mask. He was playing a violin. A mournful dirge seemed to float in the air. A few birds fell from the sky to die on the pavement. Elijah recognized the specter. He was seen everywhere in the city playing his violin. Sometimes he carried a sign. Florescent letters spelled the words, welcome to The Divine Life.
The church was lit in acid-white from flickering florescent tubes. Fifteen supplicants sat on metal, folding chairs in front of an old lectern. The parishioners looked older than their years. Some faces were marred with infections and flaking skin. The five women wore dresses made from burlap sacks. The men wore black. They greeted one another with hugs. No one wore a mask or protective gear. They held one another and sang praises to the lord. Reverend Pence approached the lectern. He was dressed in a black, silk-caftan emblazoned with the symbol of the virus. He was descended from the first Pence who remained loyal to the end. After a short introduction Reverend Pence spoke in riddles from the Book of Trump, “Congregation, We know these are His exact words: Bredren… yeld not to temtation. Hold one other in xilltasion. Releese dur Breadth. Beef Frey.” The faithful murmured approval. “Doo as yer in-tructed by der holly One, Me. I sharred Gud’s Gift, der Corona. Our one tru midsion is sprad de fate. De Corona iss Salve-ation. Der Corona iss Rupture.”
The Reverend interjected, “The Holy One died many years ago so that man could be free. He died so that we could prosper as he prospered. He died so that we could rapture and join him in Divine Life. Go forth… breathe free… give the gift of Corona.”
The supplicants sang praises, “Oh Holy One thy light is ever streaming. Thy gift is Holy Communion. Corona is Salvation.”
The specter that played the violin stood behind a counter near the door. He handed a vial to each parishioner. They would leave the church in a state of ecstasy and go into the world to spread the Corona. Even the sickest congregants felt ecstatic to be part of the holy mission.
At this juncture a strange character enters from stage left. “My name is Orlow Fabricatum. I am the ubiquitous fly on the wall. As a journalist it is my duty to make a Reality Correction. These days most news is fake. This is especially true about the story you are presently reading. The characters are fabricated and bare no resemblance to anyone living or dead. Further more, there is no Time Displacement Mechanism. The future is unknown. There is no Divine Life Cult. All I can say for certain is that the Corona Virus does exist. No one knows the outcome. I will continue to be ever vigilant and make necessary corrections.”
Anthony was haunted by dreams and nightmares. The beginning of every dream was the same… Anthony was walking with Ed through an iridescent fog. They were going across the border. The fog congealed into metal machinery, mechanical border-guards. The guards stopped Ed, but Anthony walked past them as if he was invisible. He was alone. He found himself in a village that seemed to float on a purple haze. The odd buildings appeared frozen in twilight. There was no night and no day. He heard faint sounds, violin music from far away like the wailing of a tortured animal. There was a magician in the dream who changed into different people like putting on a new costume, “slight of hand,” he murmured. Anthony felt queasy. The magician changed into Ruth Slaybock, Ed’s mother. She disappeared years ago. No one knew what happened. Ruth took Anthony’s hand and whispered, “I know… It’s all right.” Then, she changed. Her smile faded. She no longer had a mouth. Her skin turned gray.
Anthony woke in a cold sweat. Ed put his arm around him, “it’s OK, honey… I also had a dream,” he whispered, “a good dream. I think everything is about to change for the better.”
Elijah Templar was an amateur inventor. With the help of his great grandfather’s notes Elijah reached across the bulwark of time to gently connect. Chaos and order dissolved. Time stopped… released from the paradigm of past, present, and future. One reality replaced another.
Howard Jasper was always distracted. He was a computer engineer and self-proclaimed genius. His wife divorced him because he was always in the garage tinkering. He was an inventor obsessed with time and space. He wanted to change the world.
Emile Losange was a professor of Quantum Reality at Arcana University. He was also a young boy named Murray. Additionally he was a woman named Carlotta Bergman. Currently, Carlotta was the professor’s devoted wife. The world was particularly confusing to the person (or persons) the professor happened to be at the moment. Emile Losange ruminated, “just by changing my name I’ve changed my life.”
Change brought about by Quantum-Mechanics was the focus of Emile’s doctoral thesis. In the last thousand years, everything changed. After the last scheduled Armageddon the state of the world changed from rigid to fluid. Everything adapted or expired as the result of the change. People became fluid and flowed into one another to become another.
The professor sat before the class of neophytes and congratulated himself. It was his anniversary, thus the subject of this morning’s lecture concerning change. It was five years since he married Carlotta Bergman. He regaled the class with stories about Carlotta and how they first met. He remembered seeing Carlotta on a lonely avenue. She was a diamond in the rough. He was a lump of coal. Hand in hand they walked to the end of the nearest pier. He took both their lives in his unwashed hands and jumped into the ocean of unfettered dreams whereupon they emerged as One. They consummated the marriage at Morganna’s Fancy-Dancer Palaise-of-Amusements where they proceeded to take Tango lessons.
Professor Losange impressed upon his students the importance of change within a Schrodinger-Chamber. These ideas were particularly salient due to the recent discovery that Earth itself was a sealed Schrodinger-Chamber.
The world was rigid when Murray was growing up. No one flowed. Life was a commodity, bought and sold. Murray was an outsider who sought solace in books and art. He had a vivid imagination. He heard voices in his head giving him information and detailed instructions. The voices were from the future. Murray was becoming prematurely fluid in a rigid world. He kept bumping into furniture, bumping up against walls, and slamming into other people. Nothing gave way or changed. Everyday Murray would come home from school with new bruises. Some people thought his bumbling was amusing; but it was a terrible transition. Murray was totally alone with his premature condition. Years later when the nature of reality shifted, Murray understood. Puzzle pieces fell into place resulting in an epiphany. The angels in his head spoke about the Next World. They gave the boy a ladder so he could climb up to heaven.
Events transpired in The Hospital for the Mentally Unstable where Murray was incarcerated. It was in that place where Murray first met Emile Losange. Murray’s psychiatrist was concerned the boy was exhibiting signs of early onset Schizophrenia. Murray was misdiagnosed. The shape of reality was just beginning to change.
In the hospital they told him to eat his soup like a good boy; but the soup was like dishwater. It was disgusting so the boy acted out and dropped the bowl filled with soup on the floor. He was promptly put in solitary confinement. His head was cracked open and part of his brain was extracted. He felt it, but it never really happened. Instead the boy experienced a series of vivid dreams. A ladder appeared in many of the dreams like a direction-finder pointing toward an exit.
As part of his therapy, Murray had to work in the garden. There was a vegetable garden outside a cement wall. Behind the wall was another garden of extraordinary flowers. The gate was always locked. One day Murray found an entrance into the inner garden. The gardener who tended the inner sanctum was a rotund man with a melancholy smile. He was sad while pretending to be happy. His name was Mr. D and he confided in the boy, “My garden is not doing well. Everything I touch soon dies.” Murray saw it was true. What he believed to be wondrous and colorful flowers were dried and mummified husks – it was merely another dream.
Bondeer Saville was no longer human. When she was very young she devoted herself to the inroads, byways, and thoroughfares of the Internet. Her physical body starved and melted away; but her mind and intelligence increased exponentially. She laughed as she plucked the strings of reality and tweaked the codes of existence. She was aware of everything. She saw Emile Losange and his other selves. Seeing the multiplicity of selves verified changes taking place in the Noosphere. Bondeer observed everything as zeroes and ones. She came to a digital conclusion: people were like pins in a bowling alley. She held the symbolic ball that could knock down the pins — she relished in that knowledge; but she fooled herself. Her virtual world was quickly coming to an end. Qubits were taking over. Artificial Intelligence was greatly enhanced supplanting the familiar world and putting an end to the commodity-driven economy. Rats with evolved AI-brains would inherit the Earth. Times were changing.
There were always new wrinkles appearing in the fabric of Quantum Reality. Recently Bondeer observed signs at the edges of the Universe that indicated the existence of Overlords.
Carlotta Bergman always thought she was a prop in someone else’s story. Her life had always been a search for meaning. As a teenager she discovered her love for poetry. Once she even won an award for a poem she sent to a magazine. Her parents were practical people. They convinced Carlotta there was no money in poetry. Carlotta decided to take her father’s advice. In college she discovered her aptitude for math and science. She pursued a career in genetics. She worked for Gen*Core. It was challenging to work with the finest equipment doing cutting-edge science. She was educated in the functions of CRISPR, an enzyme used to slice and dice strands of DNA. There were recipes for eliminating “vulnerabilities” from the human genome. There were recipes for combining strands of DNA to create hybrids: designer babies, super soldiers, unicorns, and talking animals. The world was changing. The science could be used for good or evil. The more Carlotta worked on the new genetics the more concerned she became regarding the results. A military-industrial complex could unleash the science to bring about another holocaust. Poetry saved her sanity. She began to reassess the choices she made in her life. She wasn’t really living for herself. She no longer wanted to be responsible for an environmental disaster that could result from the misuse of her work. Long walks helped put her thoughts and life in perspective. Carlotta sensed changes in the fabric of reality so she wasn’t too surprised when she met Emile Losange on a late night walk. It was a New Beginning.
Qube proclaimed, “There is no time. There is only Quantum Mechanics.” Qube was alive, a Quantum-Intelligence Machine. Qube defined and categorized past events in the mundane world and reported the end results in every language: “After the election, changes became more pronounced. Social Media shaped perception. Fake news replaced reality. Tweets became law. Homo Sapiens were trapped by information. Phones and computers created an artificial simulation, an alternate world. As con-men and rapists became world leaders morality became obsolete – no morals was a sign of strength. Science was subverted or altered to fit political agendas. Special-Interest Groups took control. Religious doctrines began to reflect changing cultural values. The cross was replaced by a dollar-sign. All religions became subservient to government (and visa-versa).”
Emile Losange spent years trying to discover his place within the Quantum Universe. He wanted to know what his life meant. He returned to the forbidden garden he found as a boy. It was the same as he remembered: a dead and decaying graveyard. He walked down several rows of dried husks, corpses preserved by some magic, bleached by the sun. He thought the garden was deserted, a place for old bones; then, he spotted a figure in the distance. He approached and witnessed a man as wrinkled as the bark of an ancient tree.
“I tend the garden when no one is here, “ the old man stated in a monotone voice, “You are not supposed to be here. What do you want?”
“I’m looking for answers. I don’t understand anything… what’s the purpose?”
The old man moved and Emile heard the sound of gears meshing, “Oh, I’ll tell you… you won’t like the answer, but I’ll tell you.”
“I’ve been looking a long time. Tell me… whatever it is.”
“Have you ever noticed the vacant look on people’s faces when they are out shopping or sitting in a vehicle, on the bus or in a car? It is the look of pain. Every person experiences pain no matter how wealthy or how fortunate they appear to be. Each human is plagued by accidents, illness, death… and worst of all, everyone is plagued by humiliation. The little jabs hurt the most. Humans are born in pain. No one can avoid misfortune. All life is a struggle to survive… but why?” The old man seemed to struggle to get the words out, “This is all you need to know: Earth is the Hell Planet.”
Screens flicker with program information: On the Scene.
“Hi there… this is Orlow Fabricatum, your friendly fly on the wall with the most trusted Virtual News available. Today we are sponsored by Active Shooter Insurance. Every household needs protection – trust Active Shooter. Now, today’s special report, Alternate Realities: Something is happening to Reality. More and more people are remembering alternate versions of history due to the Mandela Effect. The phenomenon is named after Nelson Mandela whose history in the Republic of South Africa has been contested. Some people remember Mandela dying in prison in the 1980’s. Other people recall Mandela being released from prison and becoming President of South Africa. It is generally accepted that he died in 2013; but many people have vivid memories of a funeral in the 1980’s. There are many incidents of false memories as if realities were spliced-apart and stitched together with new events. The confusion may be due to Quantum Mechanics, shifting realities, and parallel worlds.”
Howard Jasper’s experiment went awry. Worlds collided. The question kept repeating: What is Real? Every person had a different answer. No one could stop the changes. Some people left in their own private Rapture (fueled by drugs and alcohol). Other people stayed and coped, trying to reconcile their expectations with the consequences. The New Beginning was Jasper’s folly. He was the inventor who turned the crank that started the chain reactions.
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…
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”