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“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.”
Once Lilly was a white-supremacist, a Nazi named Lennard. Before her transformation she was a great fan of the current pussy-grabber in the White House. Lilly wasn’t sure how she changed. She wasn’t certain if it was a government authorized transformation to punish Lennard for his suspected crimes. “No,” she decided. She always wanted to be a woman and that was the reason she acted like a thug. No one would suspect Lennard. No one knew Lennard was really a woman inside a pig’s body.
She couldn’t remember taking hormones or having any surgery. Lilly decided it was the codes that deleted Lennard and allowed her true self to emerge. A secret-service agent supplied the transformation-codes. She realized it was part of a conspiracy; or, perhaps it was merely fake news.
The high profile lawyer declared, “it wasn’t a real crime… nobody got killed.” It was the corporation’s latest defense. “Even if it was murder,” he stated, “the corporation can’t be held responsible.”
Lilly was watching the news on a portable screen. She was having tea with her companion, Sylvia Tungsten. They sat at a pink, marble table in the Washington Annex. They were in close proximity but preferred to communicate over a wireless connection. “More fake news,” Lilly typed.
“OMG… will it ever end,” Sylvia tweeted.
“Is this a closed channel?” Lilly retweeted.
“OMG… yes! It is Facebook safe.”
Once, Lilly believed she was a time-traveler and she confided in Sylvia. Her friend confessed to having panic attacks due to the investigations. Lilly was dumbfounded. She had no idea she was being investigated, but Sylvia was convinced even though they both had security clearances. Lilly pondered her last thoughts. When did she get a security clearance and why? She recalled being unemployed with no access to sensitive information of any kind. Her memory had been causing problems lately, since the transformation. Lilly assumed she wasn’t completely adjusted to her new lifestyle. Suddenly, she had an outrageous idea coupled with the horrific image of a pig. Sylvia stared as if in shock… her eyes were very large and brown like the eyes of a doe. Lilly thought her friend might have been a deer at one time, but she couldn’t be certain. The transformation codes were called CRISPR. The codes could have changed her from a pig into a woman. Fake news and fake histeria were leaking all over the pink, marble table from cell phones and smart screens.
Orlow Fabricatum popped up with a digital notepad. He was the fly on the wall reporter with a nose for news, gossip, and fashion trends. The lady heffers were definitely trendy. Orlow specialized in smear campaigns.
“Hello Ladies,” Orlow hissed, “may I be of some assistance? I can easily rub out problems… and turn turds into roses. I have a nose for news.”
“Hitler was a basket case!” The talking-head kept yelling while he pointed at the president. Lilly and Sylvia were comatose from too much tea. Orlow took notes and reported to the new Kavanaugh Bureau of Decency. There was an elephant in the room and it gave off a sour smell. Someone expectorated, “conflicts of interest.” There was a public outcry that was muffled by empty promises of free money. Growing panic became commonplace. A small war was considered (hush, hush) to distract the masses? An elected official could start a war of distraction by creating a phony incident.
Lilly straddled worlds between the living and dead trying to make sense out of absurdity. Was she married, she asked herself for no particular reason; but she could not recall. She was bombarded by too much information. Holiday cheer spread across the internet like a virus. Everyone wanted something… hands reached out and tore ribbons of flesh from her body. She had to buy gifts: trinkets, decorations, slow cookers, coffee pots, etc, etc. Insults and assaults flashed across floppy-screens demanding attention. “Drain the swamp. Lock her up!” Lilly was afraid. Did they want to put her in jail? What was her crime?
Lilly came back from her dream. She yawned and snorted, “there are too many conspiracy theories… how can I keep up?” It was true. There was a man named Otis T. Carr who built a flying saucer. His invention was hidden and he was disappeared. Lilly skimmed the internet and discovered the lost city of Atlantis. She researched Bill Lazar who said he worked for the government building a machine with Alien technology. Did he talk to the Aliens, she wondered. Lilly saw cities on Mars and Pyramids beneath Antarctica. She was dazzled by the revelations. There was no longer any reason to live an ordinary life. There was no reason to get distracted by political news or government corruption — it was all fake! Lilly binged on YouTube following reliable news about alien contacts, big foot, and leprechauns. She forgot about Crispr. She repressed any thoughts about a pig. Lilly suspected her new found interests and revitalization had to do with Orlow Fabricatum who rewrote history with the nub of his digital pen. Sylvia’s panic was no longer relevant. Nothing mattered any more except images on the screen and encounters with the arcane.
Lilly had a small-death epiphany. She heard the pounding and clamoring at the doors of perception. It was an obvious trick of reality. She realized there was no reality — it was all fake. From birth to death everyone exists in a Virtual World. Lilly could see the glitches that flickered at the edges of her vision. It made her wonder if any real world ever existed.
She soon forgot her epiphany because she couldn’t remember who she was. Her only concerns were the images on the screen. One image became dominant: a new friend, a little girl in a yellow dress who sat in the corner sucking on a lollypop and smiling. She was so sweet and friendly. Sometimes she flew into a TV-screen. She pirouetted and blew kisses. She always encouraged Lilly to explore the digital signals that fluoresced across the screens. The sweet girl said her name was Little Miss.
Lilly never discovered who she was or if she really was transformed from a pig. She floated on the wavelengths of electronic signals with her little friend along side. One morning Lilly awoke to discover she could no longer remember her name. She had no memory. Lilly just stared at the screens in her room. Moving images piled up and overflowed. Yammering voices slammed together to become a garbled cacophony. Little Miss wrapped her arms around Lilly’s waist. It was a long hug and Lilly slowly eased her way far from the world. Little Miss delivered Lilly to the Land of the Dying Sun.
Amarosa was the springboard leading to strange and peculiar events. She opened a secret door that few people even knew existed. A great wind rushed through the open door on the wings of sulfur and corruption. Jeremy Hidelwink was caught in the torrent. He had no interest in politics or government. He was an innocent bystander. Jeremy’s brush with the wind changed everything. He gained a super-power, “critical perception.” His power grew and Jeremy became the vortex at the center… exposing political corruption and scandal. He became the most convincing witness for the prosecution. His sojourn in Russia made his testimony air-tight. He had the evidence revealing what really happened in that Moscow hotel room.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” the wind whispered in Jeremy’s ear encouraging him to step forward with the proof.
An old friend sat on the other side of the secret door. He held playing-cards in his bony left hand and a scythe in his right hand. A Cheroot dangled from his lipless mouth. Each card in his hand represented a character in the drama. The First Family were caught between his thumb and forefinger gasping for air. Amarosa dangled precariously from a small finger-bone. Jeremy was in a prime location at the center of the hand of cards. With a slight twitch of bone, Jeremy was suddenly gone as if he never existed and new cards came into play. Mr. Death chuckled at the turn of events.
Death wondered what was real and what was fake. He perceived himself to be a philosopher, therefore he questioned everything. He wondered why he existed… he was not certain he was even real. He had to constantly test reality. He had to make people die in order to substantiate his own existence. Mr. Death often partnered with misfortune, disease, and corruption. He particularly enjoyed the current climate, the turn of events in the White House. The lies gave Death confidence. He would enjoy deflating the tiny humans who claimed to have power. They were as insignificant as bloated balloons. One prick could erase them from the face of the planet.
Sierra Quantro was a time-traveler who tried to discover the meaning of life. Sierra was a multiple, several personalities existed in his head. He-or-She was part of a Collective Dream, a digitally composed aria enacted in Hyper-Reality.
Sierra crossed the line and entered the Trumpet Cafe in Devastation Alley where he met other searchers from the Collective Dream. The neon night was visible through the glass ceiling. Bolts of lightning lit the interior of the cafe.
Perhaps it was in another dimension where they found a body on the moon. We don’t know the particulars. The discovery made no sense until the body was recovered and analyzed. It was preserved, frozen, and inert. The body was an outlier, a true anomaly. Rumors went viral. The President had a science advisor who coordinated a special X-group to explore the possibilities of extreme life extension. The newly appointed Head-of-Science was publicly viewed as atavistic: anti global-warming, anti birth control, and anti science… this was part of a government campaign to deceive the public with fake news. In fact, the President secretly supported big science projects: Black Projects to develop laser weapons, super soldiers, and life extension. The world-leader was concerned with his legacy and his mortality. He wanted to live forever. The scientists involved in the President’s projects were not very skilled. Several had a limited education, receiving degrees from Trump University. The experimental projects all failed. The corpse on the moon had nothing to do with the President’s quest for immortality — that was just fake news. No one knew anything for certain concerning the corpse. It could have been human, alien, or a mutant cyborg.
“You are working with hypotheticals and none of this is real,” Sierra Quantro blurted in frustration. A major disturbance rippled through the Collective Dream. They had just experienced a visitation from a spirit who called himself Jesus. It was Christmas eve, but no one expected a miracle. The face of Jesus went viral. Everyone was mesmerized. Coincidentally, many unidentified flying objects were seen everywhere across the world… and governments started releasing reports about UFOs that were once hidden from the public.
The soap factory down the block was developing a cosmetic scrub made from skin retrieved from corpses. People were rounded up and put to work on resident farms till they died from exertion and lack of food. Some ne’er do wells were put in ovens and gassed. Bodies were recycled. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” was the government motto used to circumvent the law. The soap factory was just one new enterprise that relied on human recycling. Critics agreed it was good for the economy.
Sierra Quantro became melancholy. He offered a suggestion, “couldn’t there be an alternative scenario as a counterpoint? Perhaps two teenage boys meet at the playground and inexplicably fall in love. How’s that for melioration? Love could be an anodyne to political upheaval and destabilization.”
Everyone had to wear an Eye-Cam, grafted on to the skin of the forehead. It was the law, newly authorized by the Attorney-General in order to monetize moral turpitude (another way to boost the economy). Even the President had a Cam, but all eyes in the White House were discreetly blocked. Eye-Cams were promoted as fashion accessories. Citizens became Keepers of right-behavior. The stock market boomed. Right-behavior was good for society and good for business. Women were no longer allowed to complain. Men were, once again, in charge… led by the Commander-in-Chief who now ruled the nation like a personal harem. Women were recruited from every town to service the White House.
Bondeer Saville entered the Dream Collective. She was followed by Jeremy Hidelwink who was disincorporated. Bondeer spent her life surfing the waves of digital information, adding and subtracting megabytes in order to create a perfect world; but now she detected a disturbance in the force. Hidelwink was no longer corporeal, but he had knowledge of alternate Dimensions that might ameliorate errors in the Hyper-verse.
Bondeer Saville leered at Sierra Quantro, “I know a thing or two about boys in the schoolyard. Believe me, they are little piggies just like our current White House Pig.” She continued, “I invented Red City. I’m no shrinking violet. I know how to fight.”
Mr. Death chuckled, amused by the cross-talk (amused by the chivalry and cowardice). He believed in Democracy: everyone, rich or poor, died.
Government appointees (Watchers) were stunned when the corpse from the Moon awoke.
Thousands of UFOs emerged, unseen, above the Earth. The alien occupants came from unimaginable distances in order to observe the unfolding saga. There was no intention to interfere; but the events on Earth provoked an unexpected response, laughter. The whole world quivered, shook, and broke apart by the thunderous roar of uncontrollable laughter.
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 was cut off at the knees, ruptured… unable to resolve a problem that could mean life or death. A terrible wind was rising, threatening to engulf the world.
There is a switch in my brain that turns on and off and recycles my personality. I am forced from one dimension to another… never certain of who I am… or where I am.
What really happened in that Moscow hotel room?
Gordon Levy was an astronaut, happy and successful. He loved his family. His son, Timothy, wanted to be just like him. They played ball in the yard while Margie, his wife, watched with pride. Gordon was good at his job and he was rewarded with a special mission: to be the first astronaut to visit a habitable planet in another galaxy.
Moreau Manta reaches out to stroke the head of Piscador, his pet Peacock. The bird bites Manta’s hand. Blood oozes from the wound. It happens every time, but the ritual must be enacted. Manta is obsessed with order and repetition. He insists the bird will come around. At the same time, he relishes the pain as it represents the bound between him and Piscador.
He could never return from the dream.
Moreau is elderly. It has become more difficult to look at himself in the mirror. He is a gross character of the man he used to be, once trim and well-proportioned, now pushed and pulled out of shape by gravity. The years take a toll even on the rich and powerful. There is no escaping death.
Everything about the mission was top secret. Even Gordon was not privy to the exact technology that made the voyage possible. The mission was only supposed to last a year, an impossible objective since no one could go faster than the speed of light and the destination was hundreds of light-years away.
I’ve joined the legions of the dead in the land of the dying sun. I hang my head in shame for what I have done. I stood by while the world was dismantled. The machines came to my town and tore it apart.
Gordon was ecstatic to be chosen, but it meant leaving his family behind. Still, he couldn’t resist the challenge and glory of such a mission. On the morning of his departure, Gordon got a call from the President wishing him luck. His wife and son waved goodbye from the monitor in the cabin of the space craft. The countdown seemed to take longer than the actual trip through space. An incredible journey flashed through Gordon’s brain — faster than the speed of light.
I am drawn to young, teenage bodies, the warp and woof of skin over muscle, the surge of eroticism in every movement. Male or female… it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the expression of youthful grace and vulnerability. I am older and wiser so I can easily corrupt the innocents of youth, although I no longer believe anyone is truly innocent. Perhaps I am deluded thinking that I am still attractive and capable of love. It is a pleasurable delusion. What more can any one ask of life?
The new world was teeming with life. Furious colors, plants and creatures seemed to mutate before Gordon’s eyes like strange cartoon characters. Suddenly his silver space-suit began to ring. Gordon picked up the receiver and automatically responded, “Hello.”
“With new, improved PROPEL you are only limited by your imagination. Doctor recommended. Side effects may include PTSD and paralysis. Propel: don’t let life hold you back from your dream!”
“This is the voice of your on-board computer… this is not happening!” Gordon didn’t have time to understand the message because the world around him went totally dark. The dark absorbed all light, even the beam of his lantern was absorbed. There was only sound: chittering, snapping, gobbling noises that seemed to be closing in on Gordon.
What more can anyone ask… Unfortunately I am more complicated than that. I make trouble for myself. I indulge in pain. The painful search for understanding, for truth.
Back at mission-control there was applause and congratulations. Engineers managed to isolate Gordon’s brain, separate the brain from the body. The project was speculative, authorized by the Union of Cybernetic Scientists. Outer space was never the goal of the experiment. The scientists were concerned about “living space” on planet Earth. There were too many people on the planet and resources were limited.
I am constantly curious. I crave forbidden knowledge.
Gordon was the prototype… by taking the brain and recycling the body, more space would be available — space that could be sold for a profit. Gordon was never an astronaut. He was just an uneducated man collecting unemployment benefits. Billions of brains could be stored. Benefits would no longer be a drain on the economy. The brains would be treated well, preserved and allowed to live in virtual dreams. In time, the project was so successful most people vied for a brain transplant and eternal dreams. Of course, no one knew what kind of dreams would haunt the remains of humanity.
I am locked in a dungeon of my own creation from which there is no escape.
There was a total eclipse of the sun … at the moment when the moon devoured the light sepulchral events were triggered. It became more difficult to rationalize one’s life, and easier to accept death.
The tall-man stood on a bridge that spanned a crack in the earth. He smiled. The bones in his throat rattled like the engine in a broken-down car. He was a ruler: King in the Land of the Dying Sun.
Arthur Rambluster was having a grim day. His best friend, Veronica Delfacto, was dying. She developed Septicemia, a blood infection with no known cause. Arthur did not want to think about Veronica so instead he thought about his name. He never liked the solemnity of his given name — he preferred to be called by his nickname, Artie. His mind kept shifting back to Veronica. Artie was feeling guilty because he didn’t want to visit his dying friend. He had his own problems to consider.
First off, he thought he was prematurely dead. He’d been trying to concoct a more powerful cleaning-formula to attack the dirt he saw everywhere in his one bedroom condo. People often called Artie a “clean freak.” It all began when he was a child as a way of coping with stress. Symptoms continued to get worse as he grew older. Without thinking Arthur mixed several products that combined to produce chlorine gas. The smell was like a blast from an acetylene torch. He thought his eyes were dissolving in acid. He ran screaming from the house. The cool air revived him — he no longer felt dead. This was a reprieve so he decided he’d better visit his dying friend.
Arthur was upset by mendacity, lies everywhere. Everything was fake. There was no escaping the news. Computer screens never shut down. Arthur grappled with chaos. He wanted the world to be as clean and white as porcelain. Everyday he had to face disasters: hurricanes, wars, and massacres.
Veronica Delfacto lived in an old house that was left to her by an unconventional aunt, Mademoiselle Felicity. At one time the house was a ravishing, rainbow-hued beauty. Now the house reeked of remorse for better days and lost lives… it had fallen into itself like the carcass of a butchered cow. Veronica was an artist. Although she was mediocre at best, she was intent on acting as if she was a genius who created masterpieces. The drama, the fiction, excited her to no end. She pretended to devote every living moment to her art. Nothing else mattered. Housecleaning was the least of her interests. Repairing the roof or rebuilding the ramshackle porch did not concern her in the least. She owned two cats for company, Ezma and Cora. The cats took care of the house.
Artie always felt tortured when entering Veronica’s house … but she was dying and time was running out. The stench repulsed him. The moth eaten drapes covered with cob webs nauseated him. Veronica’s paintings reminded him of moldy food covered with worms. How, he wondered time and again, did he ever befriend this mad woman.
They met at the Homeopathic display-rack in Pieta’s Health Emporium. They were both interested in staving off death for as long as possible … both seeking better outcomes than what life already provided. Both were hypochondriacs.
The Land of the Dying Sun comes closer everyday. During the total eclipse, the Dying Sun slipped its’ moorings and began to drift … drawn like a magnet … across the bulkheads of Time and Space.
Arthur sat with Veronica, holding her hand. “I’m dying,” she spoke through a haze of green smoke. Her voice was weak, but filled with drama. The old drugs, prescribed by doctors, never worked. Veronica preferred the promises offered by marijuana and psychedelics. In her mind she was painting a masterpiece. It was called, The Last Gasp. Veronica vaguely registered Arthur who frantically held her hand as if he were clinging to his very own life.
Artie was upset and still feeling guilty. He couldn’t take it anymore. He had to leave. There was so much to do … so much cleaning that had to be completed. If he could put things back in order, sanitized and dirt-free, he would feel better. He had to clean himself as well, especially after visiting the hell hole where his friend was dying. He had to attain purity.
Weeks passed. Artie no longer heard from Veronica, perhaps, she passed away. It didn’t matter anymore. Things were getting cleaner. Arthur tracked every speck of dust and mopped it away.
Once, his parents sent him to a therapist to get to the bottom of his obsessions. Dr. Mortis Hem was a tall man, a gaunt man. He had pictures of the End Times on his office walls. Artie was withdrawn; but Dr. Hem cracked his shell and sucked him out like a boiled lobster.
When Arthur was four he was traumatized by the sight of a black rat rummaging through the garbage that spilled on the kitchen floor. The trauma was burned in his subconscious and became the root of his obsessive behavior. The doctor told Artie he could never avoid rats. He said Artie could never avoid dirt. The natural world was dirty and filled with rats. Arthur was traumatized even more. He felt threatened. He felt cursed.
Veronica never called again. Artie dreamt his friend was laid out on a large table. She was the banquet. Rats consumed her body. Artie woke up screaming.
Synchronicity played a horrible trick. Perhaps it was the shifting of light that caused the ensuing events. When Arthur woke from his nightmare he went into his spotless bathroom. A rat sat on top of the toilet tank. Fear froze both rat and man like a wall of impenetrable ice. As unexpected as a snapping icicle piercing flesh, Arthur was shocked back to his senses. He ran from the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
He could not reconcile reality. It couldn’t be happening.
The exterminator was quick and efficient. Arthur no longer had to worry. He was pest free.
The months that followed were like fleeting images in a dream. The Dying Sun sucked color from the world. Everything turned gray and dirty.
Arthur began to change. At first everything seemed better. He felt more relaxed. He had more energy. His appetite improved. He enjoyed taking long walks. Objects seemed to glow as if he was seeing the world through infrared lenses. He no longer sensed the Dying Sun.
Soon Arthur noticed something peculiar. He became enthralled with the night. He craved small, dark places where he could hide. He stopped cleaning his home. He reveled in the dust. He enjoyed garbage.
He no longer recognized himself. His eyes were small, beady coals of incendiary red.
“At first there was the hum of the machine: a constant buzz and yammering, voices in my head: TV news, commercials, and pleas for money.”
The psychiatrist was attentive. He spoke with the thunder of boom and bluster, “I understand you need help. Recent traumas have had a negative effect. But… I sense there is more. I believe you are fundamentally flawed. You are dealing with several different personalities, all residing in the same corpus.”
The screen went dark. On the other side of the wall a political rally was dividing the country. An Angel appeared: a flash of light too brief to be noticed. There were others, but they were as silent as shadows fading into the wall.
Dieter Rosenquist was sedated, recovering from a recent fall that split open his forehead. Modern science sealed the wound and put him on the path to recovery. He lay on his newly purchased, massive bed that rose up and lowered with the touch of a button. Dieter had his I-pad and I-phone to keep him company. The computers revealed the world through filters and fake news reports. Dieter was ninety-two, quickly approaching his Year of Ascension when he would receive his first pair of angel wings. He was ready. He had seen enough of the Twenty-First Century and the New World Order. Dieter already felt the flutter of wings as he settled into a virtual healing session with Godfather Ken, the spokesperson for Cthulhu on Earth.
Readers may remember Cthulhu as a character in H.P. Lovecraft novels from 100 years ago. Of course, time no longer has any significance. Time was declared irrelevant by the President of the Apprentice Nation. Who am I to judge… I’m just an obedient reporter working for the Cthulhu contingency of Alien Observers.
Dieter awoke with a jolt of electricity and immediately left his old body behind. He climbed into a golden chariot. The self-driving Behemoth took him to Sound-Stage Eleven, the lap of luxury, where he would encounter Terpsichord Renatta. Terpsichord was a mash-up, a mix of characters from Dieter’s past. Tonight she/he represented a fling in the hay and a love-gone-wrong. As ever, Renatta was stunning beyond belief, optimized with alluring filters. It was an explosive experience being in his/her close proximity. They were attending the inauguration of television’s most vaunted celebrity.
The party was just beginning. On the surface everything was orderly and precise. The event proceeded without a hitch, but something peculiar stirred in the depths. Tersichord was not allowed to use the bathroom of his choice. Dieter was bleeding profusely. The Orange Guard infiltrated local communities. Church leaders were seen taking bribes and kissing ass. Real news was banned. Pussy grabbing was all the rage.
The confusion began with a crash on the 405. It could have been a hit-and-run that resulted in a misstep, a terrible tumble. One moment Dieter was driving his car and the next instant he was sliding into oblivion. He skimmed the Event Horizon and fell through a Black Hole. He thought he saw the face of God: tentacles screaming out of the void… a momentary flash of orange hair in a comb-over.
The President tweeted about a new TV event, a Network Spectacular. The name of the show was, Smash, and the whole world was encouraged to attend. The Billionaires Club hosted the Virtual Extravaganza. Party favors were delivered by drones to every household in the country. Dieter received an AK47 signed by the President. Corporations provided chemically infused fast food, a feast of enormous proportions. Arenas and Pleasure-Domes were packed to overflowing. The event began with patriotic songs and a parade of unemployed workers from coal mines and uranium fields. Crowds cheered as gladiators were forced to perform Herculean tasks. Consumer goods were praised. Russian roulette and other games-of-chance were promoted by celebrity shills. Nothing was too devious, crass, or outrageous. Television ratings soared. A war ravaged world watched in shock and awe.
The men and one woman at the Billionaire’s Club watched and laughed. Smash generated Trillions. Attention was focused on the violence perpetrated by the hordes attending the event. Everyone was fascinated. No one was complaining. the masses were subdued. Members of the Club laughed like hyenas ripping apart a corrupt carcass.
Cthulu also watched; enormous, bloated and vengeful, Cthulu rose up from the darkest depths, blotting out the sky, devouring the universe… all the while laughing, always laughing (the hum… constant buzz and yammering… a sound like the shredding of entrails).
The land of the dying sun was not far away. The white-gold disc glowed softly behind a curtain of mist. A woman lay on a hospital bed refusing to give-in to the doctor’s diagnosis: old, beyond years, but still beautiful… still ferocious… a face to be reckoned with… facing life and death. Everyone else faded away like gauze, ghosts in the fog. Nothing mattered anymore. Cthulu and the others receded into the background. The Angel lingered briefly and vanished. Virtual Realities evaporated, as insubstantial as tissue. She wondered if she was crazy… and why nothing made sense. Commercials still intruded: TV voices hammered, but no longer threatened. The beasts lost their teeth. Machine-men, doctors and nurses, hovered around the patient like sentinels… prophesying death. But, she smiled, happy to be done with the overwrought world of men… Glad to be in the land of the dying sun.