Tom Bisant dream’t he was an astronaut who just returned from a twenty year journey to Enceladus, Saturn’s moon. He rode a Super Stegosaurus rocket… It slipped through time on the wings of a Proton-Drive Engine.
Space surrounded Tom like a cold, black room. He saw a gray shadow, a stand-in for death. The shadow staggered across a make-shift stage while struggling to perform a song-and-dance routine. When he was a teenager Tom wanted to be a comedian, but he was never ready to perform in public so he became an astronaut instead. The dark hole of space gave him time to think and revise his comedy act.
When the ship landed on Enceladus Tom was met by a younger version of himself.
“Look… they see me coming and they want me to screw them. I’m a celebrity. Women let me do whatever I want.”
“Obviously,” Doctor Zosimo Kulio replied, “the stress of your new job is making you feel inadequate so you compensate with bravado.”
“Hey, what gives… I’m here for your support. I thought we had a deal.”
“Oh, dear… no deal… you were ordered by your manager to get an evaluation and, in my professional opinion, all your man talk is covering up a deep seeded sense of inadequacy and most likely homosexual tendencies.”
“Fake news!! You must be working for the networks. I’ll sue!!”
When Tom Bisant returned to Earth he was old. No one remembered him. People were no longer interested in space flight. Everyone retreated into Virtual Reality, self-contained versions of Paradise. Real world scenarios were too complicated to understand, let alone manage. The real world was binary and everyone was sold on digital. The binary world was characterized by conflict, opposites, compromise, and adjustment. The digital world was always perfect and seamless.
The memo slithered out of congress like a viper. The ruling party was committed to building a bigger, better swamp. The memo was a distraction meant to inhibit enforcement of the law.
There were aliens on Enceladus living beneath the ocean that covered the moon.
Tom was a relic. He tried to talk to his estranged lover who he hadn’t seen for twenty years. It was impossible to bridge the gap. She was no longer present. She slipped the moorings of time-and-space and hung quiescent in some VR holding cell. What can you say to an empty shell?
Tom faced disaster everywhere. Space was an escape. Back on Earth disaster loomed large. The doctor prescribed pain-killers and anti-anxiety medication. Thoughts of suicide increased (a side effect caused by the drugs). A dark street hid malicious intent: strangers suddenly appeared like ghosts, asking questions and demanding information. He worried constantly about unlocked doors and faulty electrical-wiring. The plumbing in his home moaned like a wounded elephant. The house creaked. The TV assaulted him with ads and news about government shut-downs and social unrest. Tom longed for the peace of Enceladus.
We all crave attention. We are obsessed with celebrities on TV. We are social creatures so we create terrifying acts of mass murder. We want to be remembered. It is impossible to escape danger. The sun gives Cancer. The air contains contaminants that lead to COPD.
There is no way to justify an abduction in the middle of this narrative; still, it happened. Millie Vincent from Moorpark, Idaho was reported missing on the morning of February Fifth. Although she returned two days later, many unanswered questions remained. Where did she go and why? No one believed she was abducted by a UFO, but that’s what she described. UFO abductions are as common as cattle mutilations and crop circles, but no one believes those events occur either. Millie’s story had a strange twist. She recalled everything that happened on the UFO. Her description of the alien ship was like nothing ever reported before. The inside of the craft looked exactly like a karaoke bar with decor from the 1960’s. Rock music was blasting. A few gray aliens were also in attendance. Most surprising to Millie were the people in the bar. She recognized many government officials led by the Commander-in-Chef who let loose a disco rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The officials cheered, bowed, and praised his glory. The aliens took notes.
On Enceladus Tom Bisant confronted his younger self. The boy was fragile and insecure. He tried being the class clown in order to make friends. His comedy hung in the air like flatulence and Tom ended up in the Principal’s office. The boy was humiliated and wanted to commit suicide. His mother’s pills mixed with alcohol would do the trick. At the final moment the boy had a vision of himself as an astronaut. His life was saved.
Corporations gained profits and the stock market hit greater highs since the new president was elected. But, it was all negligible. There were rumors of a pole shift. The president was beginning to feel trapped by the fake news hammering him from every media outlet along with low poll ratings. A new plan was hatched. When in doubt spread the wealth, shore up the base, and lower taxes for power brokers and lobbyists. .
The administration supported a new Black Label miracle beverage to be marketed to all segments of the population. It was a scientific breakthrough that promised a universal cure-all and remedy for the ailments of old age. If people couldn’t afford to purchase the drink it would be given out for free. A Day of Reckoning and Reconciliation was declared when everyone (as one) would drink the Black Label.
Tom Bisant knew it was a sham. The life he led was make believe. He tried and failed would be written on his tombstone. His career as an astronaut and the journey to Enceladus happened in his brain after taking LSD while listening to Jimmy Hendricks. He confronted himself in his head… Time seemed to stop. When his turn came he would gladly sip the beverage along with everyone else.
The physical body was neatly disposed of, eaten by voracious bacteria developed for the specialized purpose of digesting organic material. The brain was processed, turned into a slush of neurons, synthesized and digitized; then fed into the computer-matrix. Everyone was connected. The operation was intended to breach the barriers of scientific inquiry by finding answers to all the questions that plagued mankind from the beginning of time. The computer-mind expanded exponentially as the newly departed were digitized, but the computer was not satisfied with the minds of the dead … living brains were necessary to complete the task of finding answers to the ultimate questions. Every computer-screen lit up with a blinking demand, “the computer wants brains.” What did it mean people asked. The computer-matrix instigated a growing panic that radiated from tablets, I-phones, and other devices. Panic led to looting and violence, riots and murder. Controlled chaos was orchestrated by world leaders who were motivated by greed and encouraged by Microsoft and Apple to move forward with the digital revolution. A campaign was created to mollify the populace. Citizens were promised immortality within the digital cloud — there would be no more loneliness — people would be engaged with one another exploring the universe through the eyes of satellites and robots — searching for ultimate truths — discovering god or creating God where none exited. It was a bold venture and a great promotional campaign. Everyone would be connected forever. People flocked to the digi-toriums to be processed and flushed into eternity.
“Hello, is anybody there?” A tiny voice reverberated in the dark. The dark surrounded the voice like a cowl, smothering the words, choking the sound. The voice came from a speaker that was disembodied and floating in space. It was a peculiar sensation, the sensation of “nothingness.” The voice had to refer to itself in order to have someone (or something) to interact with. At first, the voice referred to itself as a “he” so that a conversation could be facilitated — so that the voice could think in terms of “he said – etc. – and so on.” The “he” took on a life of its’ own. Conversations were animated and often aggressive, delving into the structures of reality and the matrix of consciousness. “What does structure have to do with it?” He would say. The speaker was at a loss for an explanation and the conversation collapsed into a cacophony of fragmented ideas and disparate voices. Flathead said, “reality is built on structures that are intrinsic.” Pucker-face added with a sneer, “to say that structure is the basis for reality substitutes one nonsequitur for another and means nothing.” Anna Biotica complained, “nothing makes no sense. There has to be something otherwise what’s it all for — what does it mean?” Cowboy Joe stated succinctly, “there is no god.” “How did god get mixed up in this?” squawked Miss Nomer. So it went, on and on for an eternity until the speaker became unduly provoked. The conclave of cacophonous voices touched a funny bone of contention that ticked the primal voice into overdrive eliminating the artifacts of consciousness until there was no one but One… who proceeded to ask, “is anybody there?” Darkness eclipsed the question mark. The screen went dark.