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.
“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.”
Mr. Polyps, a local numbers runner, was selected as the new Pope. He was deeply conservative and it was the hope of the Bishops that Polyps could halt the recent liberalization of the Church. This rather odd displacement of reality happened in Randy Hangarten’s kitchen just before a small UFO landed in the sink. Needless to say, Randy was in crisis; but not because of the UFO or the new Pope. No. Randy was in crisis because he was in love.
Love was something Randy never expected and it seemed like a miracle. He was bed ridden due to a sudden increase in weight. He could no longer walk because he was so obese. Randy had a very poor self image. He described himself as a sodden sack of fat. The events of the last twenty minutes (ie: the election of Pope Polyps and the UFO in the sink), as unlikely as they were, had no significance when compared to the fact that Randy was in love; and most important, someone loved him. His bed was stationed in the kitchen not far from the refrigerator and at the heart of recent unusual events. He would never have known about the UFO if he wasn’t situated in the kitchen, but he might have known about the election of Pope Polyps because it was announced on social media (or so it seemed).
Doctor Skrews was responsible for a great deal of misinformation and confusion in Randy Hangarten’s life. By day, Skrews was a kind professor at Strathmoor-Debuque Community College; but by night he cast off his kindly persona to become a megalomaniac intent on performing experiments on innocent students who needed money to pay off student loans. The professor was looking for the Keys that would unlock the nature of reality. The Keys would bestow the power and recognition that Skrews believed he deserved. Randy Hangarten was skinny and shy when he met Doctor Skrews. The Professor promised to unlock Randy’s hidden potential by putting him on a special diet composed of psychedelic mushrooms and junk food laced with Testosterone. Skrews believed any dramatic change in a person’s lifestyle could break through the barriers between quantum dimensions causing chaotic repercussions that could be used by a Mastermind (like himself) for personal gain. It was very risky business. So far the only breakthrough resulted in Randy’s weight gain and consequent immobilization, stuck in the kitchen in the prison of his own skull.
Randy’s brain was becoming a breeder reactor. Mushrooms, LSD, and Testosterone played havoc inside his mind. Neurons collided resulting in the manufacture of both Heaven and Hell. At the penultimate level of confusion, Randy made contact and gave birth to Amarillo Quintahra Super Hero with red, spiked hair and two sets of sex organs for greater versatility — the perfect Love God. Amarillow loved Randy, but it was not what the Doctor ordered or expected. Skrews felt betrayed by his own lies, misdeeds, and ambition.
The UFO in the kitchen sink was a non sequitur, an aberration caused by the sexual tension between Randy and Amarillo. The UFO had no basis in reality … in any case, reality was breaking down. Doctor Skrews (or Professor Drews, as he often called himself within the sanctified halls of Community College) was at wits end with nowhere to turn. His experiment had literally gone wrong when it seeped out of Randy’s skull and got up on two legs. It whacked Skrews in the head causing a concussion that resulted in a coma.
Randy and Amarillo were detained at the State Hospital for the Mentally Damaged. Doctor Skrews was sentenced to eternity inside the impenetrable walls of his traumatic coma. Reality continued to shift and dimensions collided. When the walls turned to jello, Randy and Amarillo escaped from the asylum. They were happily entwined, oblivious to the disintegrating world, and free to create a new reality.
Pope Polyps rested on his laurels. He was not the cause of disintegration, but he applauded the results. At last he could cast off the shackles of conformity and tradition. At last he could set off on a journey of true decadence and debauchery.