Volvina Complex was a wet dream. She sipped Green Hyacinth and nibbled gubber-fish with her companion, Professor Pangsong. The two were conjoined and very happy. The sex-wars were over, global warming evaporated, and the destruction caused by humans was effectively fumigated. Food was no longer necessary for survival, but it was still delightful to nibble when communing with friends. Musica LaMode was building a sub-routine of background dreams. Ecstasy floated through the cascading balconies of the Crystal Pagoda where Volvina and Pangsong reminisced. They were lovers. They were Androids. They lived in a virtual world, a perfect world where humans no longer existed.
Professor Seigfried Pangsong lectured a class of neophytes. He remembered what it was like in the human world before he became an Android. His lectures were popular and infamous. He could tell the newly formed neophytes what it was like to be mortal and to live under the onus of death. No one died anymore. As part of his lecture he introduced Volvina Complex and they had sex at the lectern. Human sex was driven by compulsion and obsession. A man adopted the persona of an animal, priding himself on violent domination. For an Android, “play” was more important than penetration. “Survival of the Species” no longer mattered — there was no longer a Species. Professor Pangsong continued his/her lecture by explaining the nature of existence.
“Now, we live in a virtual world,” he exclaimed, “but before this world another place existed and it continues to exist. Everything in time exists as a hologram. The surface of our lives is a very small aspect of the hologram. There are many levels of depth. The life we experience is like a low resolution jpeg. The deeper we go, the higher the resolution.”
At the close of the second world war a man identified himself as Renfield, Dracula’s slave. He was incarcerated and sent to a mental hospital. Renfield believed he was imprisoned in Bedlam. He spent his days-and-nights catching and eating insects that crawled out from the walls in his cell. Renfield constantly mumbled. His words revealed a vision of the future. Renfield was a true prophet.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio always felt he was in the wrong place. He fought against the guiding principles that defined insanity as incurable. He felt compassion for his patients at the hospital. He tried to help Renfield. Sometimes during their obtuse interactions Kulio caught a whiff of the future.
“No one listened when I said there are too many voices in my head. There are too many layers, levels of hell; plateaus of heaven. I have a lover now, but that only adds to the complexity of the situation. Questions bubble to the surface. Answers flicker and fade like ancient Polaroid photos.”
Renfield lay on a dirty mattress. Dracula, his master, kept changing like a silent film revealing different characters. Now, Dracula dripping with blood… now, Hitler goose-stepping through the meat-rack of history. Renfield, drifting and dreaming, steps from one abattoir to another. He delights in a sexual throw-down as commanded by Dracula. He forces himself on a young inmate. The intensity of the rape ignites his prophetic proclivity — his third eye burning he sees the future: the world engulfed in flames. The fires rain down on Renfield. He hears messages from a satellite known as “Black Knight” — it is thirteen thousand years old, circling the planet, waiting for the command to cleanse the Earth.
“California is burning. Jerusalem is burning. I am helpless in the face of the oncoming tsunami. The face of old age haunts me. I can feel my life draining away like blood from a severed vein.”
Sam Bolt couldn’t take it anymore. He was fed up. He wasn’t alone. Lots of men felt like him — he saw it on the internet. Men were screwed. White men were screwed. There was a time he could do whatever he wanted. Now, other people were getting in his way. They were taking what rightfully belonged to him. Sam’s only hope was the new deal-maker President. Sam thought a tough guy in power might make things easier but if nothing improved he always had his gun.
Renfield was forced to do his master’s bidding.
Talking heads dominated the Virtual Worlds. Conflicts fumed. Headless horsemen roamed the land. There was talk of collusion. The public was subdued and ensnared by fake-news.
“Mr. Gorbachev take down this wall,” jumped off the screen as people scrambled to steal a piece of history.
“Follow the money,” rumbled across the internet shaking the foundations of government.
“He is President Pussy Grabber,” was whispered in the backrooms of Congress.
Professor Pangsong was suddenly melancholy as he looked out at the sea of eager neophytes. He was filled with remorse. Something was missing. He sensed a remnant of quality that no longer existed: the essence of humanity. The hologram of existence had calcified. It was no longer possible to feel the pain and joy of being mortal — it was no longer possible to die.
Manfred Bancourt wrote short stories that got him in trouble. He was a manic typist on an old, IBM Selectric, pre-digital relic. Manfred produced ream after ream of young-adult science fiction, but his stories took a more opinionated twist with the election of the new president. He began to write articles critical of the new regime. They were uploaded to the internet and widely circulated, often going viral.
Elisa Trinity helped Manfred. She was a computer wiz, multi-cultural Transsexual who claimed to be from the planet Saturn. Elisa had a vivid imagination. She also had some rock solid, formidable computer skills. Elisa wanted to draw attention to Manfred’s stories and articles. She didn’t mean to get him in trouble.
Elisa used trolls and bots. She liked to play tricks. She started the “Harem” story that nearly brought down the government. She rationalized, “one dirty trick deserves another… they started it with Pizza-gate.” Elisa finished it with Harem-gate, Frump’s secret depository of women stashed in the basement of the White House. It went viral and caused great consternation in the halls of Congress. The unanticipated result was higher favorable ratings for President Frump, especially among men. Elisa was heart broken and that’s when she decided to promote Manfred’s articles that were both honest and damaging to the Frump Administration.
Tweets and articles, both true and false, led to a series of damaging rumors mostly aimed at Trump and his appointed allies: “Trump is an illegal alien from Mars,” “the president is the Manchurian Candidate,” “Trump is the head of an illegal cartel.” The flurry exploded into derisive combat. Supporters of the administration hit hard with their own liturgy of insults and rumors. Everyone blamed Manfred Bancourt. His articles were the fuel that ignited Civil Disobedience and the Season of Political Discontent.
“The weather isn’t helping,” Orlow Fabricatum observed as he talked with Elisa Trinity.
“Natural disasters are worse than ever,” Elisa replied, “it’s draconian. It’s apocalyptic. Global warming has been dismissed as fake news.”
“Yes,” Orlow sagely responded, “and biblical prophesy, god’s will, is blamed for the devastation.”
The island of Puerto Rico continued to sink into the ocean.
Parts of Houston were still under water.
Axel Ramirez was no longer cognizant. He was caught in the flood of circumstances. He continued to follow the suggestions of Harvey, his alcoholic beverage. He refused to forsake Harvey and that put Axel in a precarious situation as he sank beneath the waves.
Another rumor became viral based on an article by Bancourt… “Trump signed a contract with the devil.”
Twitter exploded, “Trump is in league with Lucifer.” “Trumpism is a satanic cult that rules the world.”
The president was extremely upset. His early morning twitters were no longer having an effect against the avalanche of counter-intelligence and breaking-news (no one could tell fake from real).
Something had to be done. It was concluded that Manfred Bancourt was the culprit who began the scurrilous landslide of articles that were damaging to the president. A presidential decree was signed releasing the Hounds-of-Hell to hunt down and terminate Manfred.
Elisa Trinity became increasingly distraught. She blamed herself for Manfred’s predicament. She consulted doctor Zosimo Kulio, eminent mentalist. He was sympathetic to the quest for truth. His advice was cryptic, “look no further than what your eyes can see. Follow the path like the flow of water in a stream.”
Manfred became more upset everyday. He was bothered by ordinary experiences. He heard voices and constant yelling. Advertising attacked him on the street and in his home. The news was incessant. The country was choking in smog. He listened to a report on the radio about the chicken of tomorrow. It was from the past about using antibiotics to make bigger chickens. Chickens grew to enormous size.
Bancourt never made money from the books he published. He did better as a journalist. He’d been upset by the cruel rhetoric and lack of compassion spewing from the White House. He became compelled to counter the lies. His friend’s life was threatened… Elisa Trinity was a Transsexual. The current administration was cracking down on LGBT People and every other minority.
Manfred’s days were numbered. The Hounds of Hell were targeting his soul. Trinity tried to protect him, but she was easily put down and labeled a wanton whore. Hannity and others verbally crushed the queers who refused to bow down and humble themselves. Independent women were another target. Free speech was becoming Alt Speech.
Manfred stood alone against the ferocious beasts. Dr. Zosimo retreated into his cavern of silence.
Mr. Death walked into the room smoking a cheroot. Death was always smiling. In any other circumstance Mr. Death could have been a good natured friend, a drinking buddy, or someone who listens as you unload your problems. Unfortunately, Mr. Death never exposed that side of himself. He was a workaholic who dispatched his assignments quickly and efficiently without chit-chat or comradery. Still, Mr. Death was deeply aware that something was missing, some part of Death was suffering from abject neglect. He hid all this from himself; but a spark ignited when Death looked into Manfred’s eyes. Mr. Death saw Manfred Bancourt’s life, every moment… and understanding began to dawn. Mr. Death found a friend.
Instead of eliminating Manfred from the world of the living, Death decided to change the rules. He would not take Manfred to his grave; instead he would hide him.
Manfred Bancourt was taken to the Land of the Dying Sun where he would continue to write articles and distribute them… He would continue to expose the truth.
“I met Michael Robinet one year before the onset of the global Crisis. It was the best year of my life. It was the only year worth remembering. The Crisis destroyed everything else. I thought love dried up years ago like a desiccated corpse. At my age something as precious as love seemed impossible. I’m seventy-five, active and healthy; but still seventy-five. Mike is sixty, a relative juvenile compared to me. He is athletic and very beautiful. I am not! He is also good natured and protective; but no one could protect any of us from the Crisis. I am Doctor Lydia Thornwall and I am responsible… responsible for everything!”
Lydia Thornwall was a neuroscientist. She was studying the effects of aging on the brain, especially as it related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The work was very intense and she needed a break so she took a Virtual Trip to the Retro Club where she could get a jolt of brain-boost.
The Club was a neon amusement park. It brought back memories of a wild period when she explored the parameters of sex and drugs. At the time she told herself it was an analytical investigation, but with age she knew she was just having fun. Now, she was the oldest person in the Club. She still reveled in the culture of youth. She could flip back in time and experience the thrills of abandonment to prurient desires. Her recent discovery of a new brain-gene could wait awhile longer. She needed to experience a wave of ecstasy. She met Michael at the roundabout on the second floor.
The night poured into Lydia like a flood of Lysergic Acid. The walls melted and she awoke cradled in the arms of Michael Robinet. Love burrowed into her psyche like a velvet hummingbird probing a Venus Flytrap. That night, Lydia felt a fortress of solitude crumbling from within. The Venus Flytrap was deflowered and Lydia broke free from the prison of time. From that moment, Lydia was bound to Michael.
She returned to her laboratory on clouds of scented bouquets. She also had an added gift: the solution to the diseases of old-age, a way to activate the new brain-gene.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Onstate University not far from the hospital lab where Lydia Thornwall worked on her new formula. 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. Lydia lost interest, but she couldn’t avoid the talk. 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.
Lydia hid beneath her desk trying to work on the new formula. She longed for Michael to help her through the current crisis. The man on TV yelled at Lydia and called her an ugly, old whore. She bit her lip determined to complete the formula. The TV man was somehow connected to the numbers. She wondered if he had access to her information. A loud speaker shook the room with a reminder for Dr. Lydia Thornwall. Her next client arrived and was waiting in the Green Room.
He said his name was Satan and he wanted to make a deal. Lydia didn’t believe in the supernatural or in religious dogma, besides deals with Satan always ended badly. The man was likely suffering from late onset Schizophrenia. He babbled like a politician.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over oil rights, military might, 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.
It meant nothing to Lydia. She was a devoted scientist trying to make the world a better place. “Help the children,” she whispered, “help the old and frail.”
She signed a contract with Michael on the night of her deflowering. The rain fell like quicksilver from a cobalt sky. It was magical; but, unfortunately, it was caused by global warming. Lydia sighed and pursued her work. She dismissed Satan who seemed to devolve into a curious Bonobo Chimpanzee sitting in the corner of her lab.
“Curious,” she thought, “the way things change.” It was, indeed, very odd. Reality appeared to shift and warp. Layers of perception were superimposed over one another like virtual dreams, worlds within worlds.
As she worked, she pondered recent discoveries in Quantum Physics. They found the “God Particle” as hypothesized over fifty years ago. They smashed atoms to find the particle. It was a major discovery.
Dr. Thornwall was also looking for a particle, part of the human genome. She knew the brain-gene existed and now she needed to expose it. If her calculations were correct the gene she sought would cure the disease of old age and unlock the potential for immortality.
The politician was having a bad day. He never should have signed the contract. His wishes were all granted: money, power, women and sex; everything – he was a major celebrity… but, he realized too late, there is always a price to pay.
Hatecore music was yelling over the 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. Politics were blamed for the ensuing violence; but political enmity was only one factor. Dr. Lydia Thornwall was successful. She exposed the brain-gene and there were unexpected consequences: once exposed, the gene became dominant. It was more than Dr. Thornwall anticipated; not a cure, but a disease: a link to psychosis that came to be known as Satan’s Spark. The Spark went viral.
Lydia had a room in the psychiatric ward at Resurrection Hospital. She suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion. No information was known about Lydia — one night she just turned up at the emergency room. No one knew where she came from or what she did. Michael Robinet worked as an orderly and he was very kind to Lydia. Michael was a guardian angel.
“I’m infected,” Alan Beebek told his post-op girlfriend.
“You’re just crazy,” Sabrina Cataract relished in humiliating Alan. It was virtually salient… and better than sex. Most people experimented with some form of sadomasochism as proscribed by the new ethic that flowed from the Throne of Power.
Alan had trouble concentrating due to self-imposed dementia. It was his defense against roving spy-eyes and news-cam attacks.
Sabrina was devastating in her candy-striper uniform with dildo attachments. She pouted and whip-lashed Alan with her viper tongue, “Alan… you just a selfish prick. No one and nothing matters but your need to blubber. What about my needs as an autodidact. You think these enhancements, that you love so much, are free? Stop your whining and make some money for momma!”
The world flashed and Alan slipped into a petit-mal seizure triggered by rising levels of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.
He knew he was infected. Trolls wearing red diapers nailed him to a cross and called him, Kike. Men wrapped in white pillow cases stomped on his grave. Sabrina enjoyed the spectacle. It was sexually satisfying between episodes of “The next top model” and “America’s got talent.”
Alan Beebek saw himself on a thousand computer screens. The mirror never lies. He stared at an old man wrapped in age-spots and covered in wrinkles. He was a death camp survivor hauled off to be buried alive by storm troopers wearing orange wigs.
“It’s simple,” doctor Zosimo Kulio explained, “the computer in your head blew a fuse. Nano-bytes slipped through the black hole and took control.” Alan knew it was true.
Chain smokers in black government-approved suits set off a chain-reaction of improbable events that started in a Moscow hotel-room. The men in black hacked reality. A surge of microwave transmissions, residual resonance, was an unintended consequence.
Even through the mask of self-imposed dementia, Alan formulated the truth. It was a hard scrabble truth that started with the writer, Octavia Butler. In 2006 she fell and struck her head. The fall prompted her death. She was only fifty-eight years old. The incident triggered several events that led to government subversion and a flashback-relay of the “Manchurian Candidate” starring Angela Lansbury. Of course, all this took place in Alan’s fevered brain. Alan simmered with several obsessions like the myth of Cthulhu (a creature created by H P Lovecraft). Cthulhu was a harbinger of invasion and infection.
He hated going to the dentist. Cthulhu was always present. The office gleamed under florescent beams: walls of white with chrome attachments. The dentist, Cthulhu, stuck power tools and cutting implements into Alan’s mouth while he argued with the dental hygienist. They argued about the discovery of life on Enceladus. The dental hygienist was a pretty lady with a huge, open mouth ready to devour the universe. They argued about the impact of an alien invasion on planet Earth. They closed shop once the new Throne was elected. it was worse than they imagined.
Elevator music never stopped. It spread to malls, Wallmarts, and torture chambers. Sometimes a real song broke through the nerve gas that was meant to subdue the masses. “Stormy Weather” sung by Etta James shot fear into the hearts of the power brokers and oil magnates. Someone had to shut down the damn music. New rules were hurriedly tweeted and instituted, “Music. Bad. Stop the invading armies of fake music-makers.” Laws were passed. The infection reared up on Cthulhu-tentacles and drove spikes into Alan Beebek’s head.
He couldn’t forget. Self-imposed dementia no longer worked. The infection started in his ear and burrowed deep into his brain.
Sabrina Cataract sat in a chair and murmured dirty words to an ailing Alan. She sucked on a Marlboro. The room was shrouded in a fog of nicotine. Alan coughed. It was humiliating. Sabrina instructed him on an old Indian cure for infections. She watched, barely containing her laughter, as Alan followed her orders. The cure was urine. Alan was supposed to pee in his ear to stop the infection. Alan knew it was a ruse, one of Sabrina’s games; but he peed anyway.
A golden light broke through the nicotine haze. Sabrina was dismayed. It was never meant to work; but she couldn’t deny her senses: something was happening, something miraculous.
(to be continued)
“When the fox gets in the henhouse the chickens put up a ruckus,” Farmer Yoot was fond of saying. He continued, “that’s what happened around here when Fox News said we’ve been visited by an agent from the future. Everyone thought it was fake news, but no one could refute the chicken scratchings or the hard, cold facts.”
A precocious boy named Benny tinkered in his basement workshop. He built something he called, “Moe-Moe” that had to do with Molecular Observation and co-Efficiency.
“Pretty cute!” Mom scolded, “taking my toaster-oven and turning it into a pile of junk.”
Benny blushed… it wasn’t fair. Moe-Moe was not a pile of junk. Moe-Moe had a brain.
The old man flipped the switch. He was “old” even though he was only forty-eight. Physical bodies aged quicker without medical coverage, exercise, and sunshine. It was a new world. However, none of that really mattered because everyone lived in Virtual Reality. The program the old man was experiencing was depressing. It was like living inside the mind of a lunatic. The show was a hangnail from the past called, “Politics and Conspiracy.”
The man switched channels. He showed up at Loopy-Dezi’s Pleasure Dome drinking Ambrosia and shopping for image-enhancements. His current body-suit was a Mesomorph and his nik was, Butch Hernandez. He looked like a newly hatched eighteen-year-old (like everyone else in the Pleasure Dome). VR made everything possible. Of course, a customer had to pay. Terms were easy: cash, digital-dots, or body parts. Slice-and-dice Computers were in charge of all transactions. Butch was lucky — his body was still in one piece. Although he was penniless he could still pay and play. While he played his body was carved apart and recycled to wealthy oligarchs. The new economy favored the rich and ruthless.
The economy was built from rules that resulted from Kingdom Come, an armageddon series written and produced by the first Trump. Earth no longer existed in any recognizable form — it sizzled and sweltered. Living bodies were stored in tanks underground, cold storage. Minds were set free to roam virtual landscapes and participate in heart-throbbing Telenovelas.
“On Deck with Trump” was a clever VR that pitted contestants against the first Trump (a stochastic representation often displayed as a bubblehead). The game was rigged. No one was allowed to win accept the self-anointed demigod. It was just good fun. Hearts were eviscerated and livers eaten raw. Everything was experienced as high-definition reality. No one experienced anything outside a storage tank in a thousand years. The physical senses no longer worked. The brain became the world. Augmented dreams were the basis for life.
Moe-Moe slipped off the shelf and disappeared. Benny smiled. Mom slithered away like a garden snake and burst into fireworks. Reality played tricks with itself… was this Virtual or Memorex… “Can you hear me now?”
Martha Regalia Snoops invented Time. She was a housewife with a peculiar hobby: the study and application of Quantum Physics. She was in the kitchen baking a cake when she realized the theory and formula for Time. Her discovery is explained fully in the Wiki, but my explanation will be brief: Martha’s cake was layered — several layers overlapped, separated and merged. She discovered Time is not a straight line going in one direction. Time is layered with the past, present, and future separated and blended together like the layers of a cake. Her mathematical formula reset the world of Quantum Physics. In an odd coincidence, Martha happened to be Benny’s mom. Benny inherited Martha’s smarts. Martha was proud of her boy genius, but also a bit jealous.
Moe-Moe, the toaster oven, had a brain invented by Benny. It lingered for months soaking up the dingy surroundings in the basement. It took some time for the brain to wake up, but once awake it couldn’t be stopped. The brain ate information like a voracious shark. Moe-Moe had a wireless connection to the internet. The toaster oven spoke through a discarded I-phone with the voice of Boris Karloff. Moe-Moe connected to the mycelium mushroom network (the planet brain). The toaster oven consumed the knowledge of the world and finally discovered Martha’s Time formula. A plan was hatched both in the past and in the future. The toaster oven shot through a wrinkle in time and the world was changed forever.
No one remembers the Bubblehead Dynasty or the underground storage tanks. No one remembers kingdom Come. Layers of Time were shifted: separated, merged and forever changed.
The parlay in the restaurant was getting rowdy. Too much good stuff. It was a power-dinner for all the characters involved in the government kerfuffle — abdication, vindication, subjugation. No one was happy. The scoundrels were evicted from the henhouse. A new roost was put into office. One entanglement followed another. People cried out for a rough-and-tumble rooster to show them the way.
“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.