David Oblivion met Mr. Hamm on the Street of Dreams in Angel City. Hamm was an ambassador from Hell. Nothing could change the present. The outcome was inevitable.
Marty Mekum could hear the dream resonating in his brain like a land-mine about to explode. He told himself, there is no such place as Hell. The characters in his mind were as flimsy as used tissue.
Marty consistently asked questions trying to justify his life. His hands were frozen, stiff with age. He could no longer paint the images that populated his mind. His days working as an artist were over.
Marty left his lover in the past. They stood on a precipice overlooking the Arizona Desert. It was a tumultuous period in their lives. The world seemed to be drowning in a golden-shower of crass abuse and excess. The only way to live was to escape.
Protest marches and benefit concerts became routine. Demonstrations were another form of escape… bolstering a false sense of security. Drug overdoses became commonplace. The lovers lived in a haze of chemical enhancement… on the precipice — suddenly, Marty jumped, leaving his partner & lover behind.
“How are you, Marty?” The cyborg-appliance asked.
“How’s the weather?” Marty replied.
“Same as always… gray.”
Marty Mekum was from the future, but no one believed him. He wanted to save the world, but no one listened. By the time he recorded this story, he was very old. He came of age in the future by giving birth to himself. The Home cared for Marty. The Home was a network of prosthetic extensions that fed, manipulated, and recorded Marty’s existence to use as a merchandising incentive. People had inherent (but limited) monetary value. When inherent value was used up everything could be recycled and reused. All accounts were itemized and reviewed on Twitter. Capital gains and losses were tweeted daily.
Angina Splint was an account executive in the Golden Tower. She didn’t know Marty. She wasn’t concerned with other people’s problems or predicaments. Angina lived for the bottom-line. She loved her job. Perks were numerous. Gold Cadillacs abounded. Designer drugs sweetened the pot. Zombies moved into the cubicle across the hall, but Angina wasn’t bothered. Her office suite was large enough to flatten any zombie invasion.
Angina’s mom lived at the Home a few doors down from Marty Mekum. There was a cost incentive to visit mom once a year. Values were exchanged and increased. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Mom was always changing, trying to increase her value. She was a programmer from the last century so she knew her business. Mom’s brain was mush, puree — it didn’t matter as long as she could offer some amusing entertainment. She had to adapt. Capital gain was the name of the game. She often mimicked Hitler and harassed the “Juden.” Mom was a member of the Baby Generation. Baby clones ruled the world. The unborn were silent no longer.
Angina loved visiting mom — the money kept pouring in. Mom wore a blue hat and began to tick like a time-bomb — pure entertainment. Angina gushed.
The prosthetic appliances at the Home were plugging holes with stoppers trying to halt the flow of effluvium from the newest, Last War. Marty Mekum would have none of it. He began to rant, “the mad man in the tower is becoming more powerful each day writing new edicts, shaping the world into his own chthonic image. I hear the death rattle throttle.”
Angina caught the drift of Mekum’s riff. She was briefly mesmerized, cauterized by words she never heard. Meanings were resplendent.
Dr. Zosomo came to the rescue with an enema plunger to eradicate the excess verbiage.
Marty bespoke, “this is a drift into dark-matter. There are Nine Levels.”
No one understood. Angina and mom were determined to continue espousing the words of the baby prophet. It was a disaster: Matricide with suicidal tendencies.
“No one is free,” Marty sneezed, “we are all Him subject to the same corruption.”
The aliens took notes, gleefully observing the debacle. Too late it was revealed: He was controlled by dark servitors from beyond the veil. Dorian Gray lisped in brilliant decay.
A poet scrawled new codes on a bathroom wall.
He was a beatnik living in a trailer park and he was old. Being old was a crime. His name was “Knott” Hammond. The trailer park was called, “Flamingo Gardens” and it was an internment camp. If a person was beginning to look old, he-or-she was required to take the Treatment. People who couldn’t afford the Treatment were interned. The camp was part of a new resettlement program. It seemed like another lifetime, long ago when Knott was rich enough to avoid Flamingo Gardens.
Flamingo Gardens began as a real-estate venture to off-set losses due to the housing crash. The CEO who managed the program turned it into a cash cow. Government policies were put into place to maximize profits. Almost overnight the policies favoring Flamingo Gardens became draconian and the trailer park became the final solution to end the woes besetting the country.
Knott recalled the day he boarded the train. He had his own compartment, a stainless-steel box like a small cargo container. People who were poor and old were hypnotized by ads to sign up for the “program.” Before the camps, Knott survived by working as a repairman. He refurbished old digital components and traded them for food or a place to sleep. It was a hard, scrabble life and he wanted something better. He was seduced by the TVs and phones which he restored to life. Holographic announcers were in his brain using subliminal suggestions. He boarded the train to dreamland.
Flamingo Gardens was a contemporary trailer park, orderly and antiseptic. Stainless-steel trailers were unloaded from the trains and hooked to Mother (the grid). The camps were set up when the country was run by the first CEO. There were camps for refugees, camps for criminals, and camps for the old. “For a better life, come to Paradise,” was the slogan used to mollify and seduce a worn down public. Rich people knew the score. Money protected them from propaganda aimed at the masses. They opted for the Treatment to stay young; or, at least, to appear young. Plastic surgeons made a killing. More arcane interventions added to the mystique of permanent longevity.
Everyone wanted to avoid the pitfalls of old age, but only the very wealthy could afford the Treatment. The new economy was built on class warfare. The poor, in camps, were fodder for the rich. Old people could be used for experiments and replacement parts for members of the ruling class. Everyone wanted the biggest prize of all: the stirrings of immortality.
Mother provided everything to the occupants in the metal-box trailers. Links connected the boxes and tubes fed the cubicles with life sustaining nutrients for the body and virtual dreams for the mind. When the arrangements became too expensive to maintain, Mother provided the gas to whittle down the population.
Knott Hammond had a relay switch in his brain. He installed the switch himself as an experiment. He always enjoyed tinkering with human-machine hybrids. The on-off switch could be used to analyze and mend digital links, but the switch was faulty and unpredictable. The relay interfered with Knott’s brain causing episodes of psychosis leading to his fall from the graces of the rich and influential.
The switch was never removed. Knott sat alone in his steel compartment, cut-off from the pleasures provided by Mother and subjected to the reality triggered by the machine in his brain. The holding tank was cold and dark. Knott was suffering from malnutrition (Mother cut back on resources and nutrients in order to save money). The terror of the situation triggered a survival reaction in Knott’s brain. He started to tinker with the data in his head. He discerned connections to his past when he was lauded as a genius in the tech industry. He recalled the codes, computer language, that could be used to alter reality.
Gaining control of Mother was not terribly difficult. Knott had slightly more difficulty hacking into the Treatment Centers where the wealthy sought immortality.
Nothing lasts forever. Old age and death snapped the “new young” like fragile twigs.
Winthrop Marcos was facing a crisis. He was slowly disappearing. His world was vanishing around him. At first, familiar objects, like household utensils, were lost – not too uncommon. Socks were always disappearing. However, the frequency increased beyond normal expectations. It worried Winthrop when familiar places, buildings and parks, began to vanish. He was certain a three story Victorian building stood at the corner of his well established neighborhood, but suddenly it was gone. No one else seemed to notice. His wife, Melissa, was oblivious to the changes. At work “Widgets.com” there were a lot of vacancies. His supervisor, said people were “let go” due to the recession – “nothing out of the ordinary.” But Winthrop worried. Melissa was unable to calm his anxiety; then, one day she was gone. It hit Winthrop in the worst way. He was frantic. Each new day there was less to see, less to do. He couldn’t remember what was missing, but knew it was gone forever. Winthrop began to notice changes within himself. He felt frail, less weighty – his hands looked smaller. He was certain he had two arms but he could only find one. Words were also missing, language vanishing. What were the words to describe something that no longer existed? Widgets.com still carried on, writing and rewriting the codes that controlled the Information Age. Winthrop no longer worked at the office. He was being eliminated. He wasn’t out of work due to the recession. His code was being revoked, consigned to the trash bin.