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.
Back on Earth the new CEO was forced to visit a therapist. He spoke about his accomplishments, “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 lies, shore up the base, and lower taxes for wealthy corporations.
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.
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.
“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.
The toys on the shelf in the old man’s bedroom belonged to a boy who once lived in the neighborhood. A large Preying-Mantis touched the man’s forehead to make him think. He did not want to think. There was too much blood in his thoughts. The Mantis persisted and the old man succumbed. The toys were cut from plastic. They didn’t move or talk like little robots, but sometimes they smiled.
The old man desired the toys because they had a very vivid and complex emotional life. The man knew that because he could hear them in his mind. He thought the voices were the reason he was forced to do the awful things. The Mantis did not agree. The old man knew that many inanimate objects had emotional lives. They were part of the code that determined reality. None of that mattered any more, since the world changed and new objects replaced the old things.
The man’s name was Levi Skrews. He was a very troubled man. At one time, Skrews was a medical doctor who cared for the sick and dying. Lots of people died in recent years due to changes brought on by unrelenting storms and atmospheric disturbances. Even more people died as the result of technological missteps. People were no longer able to keep up with the pace of innovation. Skrews was no longer a practicing physician — he had succumbed to his own private demons in a world he no longer understood. Machines were everywhere. Privacy no longer existed. The Mantis snickered, snaped a photo, and typed a message.
Skrews only companions were the toys on the shelf; but they were possessed. The toys chattered with the voice of the boy, Nathan, who used to own them. Skrews often thought about the boy. He was a beautiful boy. The toys were a reminder. The Preying-Mantis shed it’s skin in an attempt to alleviate boredom. Skrews was fascinated by the shredding skin. He wondered if blood still pulsated beneath the surface of the flesh. Everything became so dry and empty. Cities were entombed in metal and plastic, dry as sand. Skrews visualized the parched body of the boy. His skin peeling and turning to dust. How could such a tiny corpse contain so much blood?
His wife’s name was Cindy — Sin for short. She was a flesh eater. It had become customary to eat the young before they became leeches on the world. Skrews was an accomplice. He grew to love the taste of blood.
He couldn’t find a vein. He kept jabbing the spike into liquid flesh. Although his body hurt, he couldn’t feel the prick of the needle or see the telltale trickle of blood. He was no longer hungry but his body was starving. Three days before he stole a rat from a crazed kid — it was his last meal. He couldn’t feel the dirt on his body, the fat lice and raw infections. Numb and naked, saliva foamed over his lips like a mad dog.
He lay on the floor of a warehouse and peered through a hole in the wall, watching the city. It shone like an iridescent wound. The sky bled through poisonous clouds. People crawled from their steel nests atop skyscrapers and climbed down to the streets. Some people dove from high pinnacles and crashed into the cement. The gathering crowd cheered. It was a celebration. They were wearing costumes, synthetic humps and enormous sex organs. Some celebrants were painted with blood. The Dragon Queen led a procession. She wore a display case from Tiffany’s. The Halloween Ghoul hissed at the crowd. A group of priests beat themselves with sticks and straps. The slapping rhythm provided the primal music for the gathering. Screams blended and rose like a choir of demons. He saw the hungry mob turn into a rampaging beast.
Suddenly lights flashed and the sky appeared to split. He witnessed enormous, mechanical locusts descend and hover above the crowd; vibrating with metal wings, turbines and computers. They were covered with rotting flesh harvested from corpses. They glowed with holy fire. They spoke with a voice that reverberated like thunder, “We are the Creators, the Masters — you are the Dead. We invented you. We constructed you electron by electron. You are simple machines programmed to cultivate and care for the Earth. You – are a failed experiment, machines that have gone insane. In error you developed an Ego. There is no Ego, no individuality. There is no identity, no life. You are machines! You have become a blight on Earth, an abomination in the Universe. You are Dead! As the Creators we must intervene. We must render you harmless. We must take control!”
In the end, he was alone. He heard the thunder subside and was filled with a sense of peace. He was secure within the black hole of space where there was no fear or pain. He felt nothing. He was a simple machine, a lighthouse in space keeping track of the debris that circled the Earth. The planet below was once again thriving. There were no more signs that “humans” ever existed.
He had trouble remembering who he was or where. He didn’t know if he was male … or if “she” was a female. All he recognized was the darkness. Then, he remembered his name, Marvin; and memories fell into place like photos in an album. He awoke to a gnawing that devoured him from the inside. He had no way out. He was stuck in the dark, in a capsule floating in space. Marvin Naivan was an astronaut exploring a debris field left behind by an exploding star. The events that unfolded should never have occurred. He was an experienced pilot and an astrophysicist, but he wasn’t prepared for what he discovered. No one could have been ready for the unpredictable. He recalled the starlight that reflected off his naked body as he floated inside the space capsule. He had always taken pride in his physical appearance: chiseled muscles and lean body. He was aroused by the memory and it reminded him of the hunger and how his addiction began … The objects he collected were sealed in a containment chamber, but it wasn’t strong enough to stop the imminence from creeping across the metal barrier. He couldn’t describe it. He didn’t know if it had hatched, but he was sucked into it like an insect absorbed by a deadly flower. He had no control. Marvin’s brain and body no longer belonged to him. The thing from the locker used him like a rag to mop up the fluids left over from an orgy. He was worn down, exhausted beyond his mortal limits. But, still, he couldn’t get enough. He realized the intensity of the addiction could only lead to his destruction – but he could not help himself. Periodically he blacked out from strain and physical depletion, but he would immediately awaken by the hunger for more. Whenever starlight illuminated the cabin he could see reflections of himself. His once beautiful body was breaking down. He had stopped eating as his addiction became more intense. His body resembled a sack of distended flesh, bloated and sagging. Marvin was becoming a shadow, totally subsumed by the thing from the sealed compartment.
He was observed through a small portal. The man on the cot was very old. The doctor spoke into a diagnostic computer. “Patient X has been in a coma for two years. He is still contagious and must remain in a sealed containment chamber under surveillance. The outbreak continues to spread. The first signs of infection are increases in hormonal production resulting in sexual arousal followed by delusions and ending in the onset of a perpetual coma. No end in sight. We’ve been unable to track down the source of the infection.”
It always started with the same question, “Why am I?” The question was a virus that traveled from brain to brain causing great disruption. People began to deteriorate or just break down in philosophical dilemmas. The question was an obsession, stopping individuals in the middle of whatever task they were performing. Doctors were frozen in the middle of serious surgery. Beauticians were paralyzed while giving shampoos and often clients drowned with no one to attend to their hair. Ministers got hung-up in the middle of sermons and congregations left the churches with unanswered questions. The virus was deadly; then came the Apocalypse and the Truth was revealed. The unspoken Truth that caused the virus that ate brains was the return of the Messiah known as Jesus. The Truth revealed that Jesus Christ was in fact a Zombie and Zombies love brains.