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.
Timothy Chan started his career as a teenager making paper dolls; then, he became a serial killer. He was also a respected Fashionista. He loved women’s lingerie. Timothy was a multitasker. By the time he turned thirty he was a wealthy celebrity; but he had issues. It wasn’t easy being Timothy. The newly elected government revoked the Freedom to Kill Act. Timothy bemoaned, “The act was granted in the new constitution so how could it be revoked.” His livelihood and fame depended on his grotesque and well-executed murders. He often quipped, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and people would applaud; but I’d much rather be creative. My murders are art.” Like a great leader from the past Timothy was often called The Chosen One by his adoring fans; but the present turn of events could trigger Timothy’s severe depression. He spent years dealing with the consequences of his mental illness until a doctor taught him how to repress his symptoms. Dr. Putnik showed Timothy how to remake and remodel himself into the celebrity he would become: there would be no more thoughts of paper dolls… no more urges to become the woman of his dreams. Putnik used a form of Minder Therapy that was developed by a surrogate of Artificial Intelligence. AI learned to read people’s minds and imprison the brains that were considered illegitimate.
People had to control all thinking and feeling. Minders were everywhere, stuck on lampposts and glued to buildings: tiny computers with the ability to read minds. A bad thought or feeling was reason enough to lock someone up and throw away the key. Trial by computer was predetermined to benefit power brokers. Prisoners were indentured servants working for breadcrumbs. The Freedom to Kill Act was initially designed to cull the population and make society more manageable. It backfired… too many power brokers were being murdered. Billionaires enjoyed life too much to be sacrificed so the Kill Act was killed (much to the regret of Timothy Chan).
Everything fell apart for Timothy Chan… washed up at the age of thirty-one. He started life as a runt. He was called a mongrel because his parents were part of a mixed race commune. Communes were commonplace before the Age of Enlightenment when Gabriel blew his Golden Trumpet and the world became little more than a conspiracy theory. Young Timothy was bullied. Bullies were lauded and praised for maintaining patriotic values. Fight Club mentality was all the rage. When he turned thirteen, Timothy Chan bought a silver revolver and got revenge. He was about to go to prison for the murders; but the world changed and the Freedom Act was passed. Instead of prison he went to Virtual Television and was declared a hero. For the first time in his young life he felt accepted and powerful. He was taking after his hero, The Chosen One, the common man who led the nation.
Timothy’s amazing success designing fabulous lingerie and making mincemeat from hapless bystanders was cut short with the end of the Act. Depression resurfaced… paper-doll dreams tugged at his mind. He had to avoid Minders lest they imprison his brain.
He remembered the touch of silk on his pre-pubescent body when he was alone in his room cutting-out paper dolls. Timothy was born just before the Golden Trumpet blew. For the first time in years he recalled how good he felt when life was new. He felt loved by everyone in the commune. Grade school was carefree, a place where he was not bullied; but by the age of eight Timothy felt the first tremors of an invading army. New teachers were brought into the school. They came with hordes of like-minded children who took control.
His reverie was suddenly breached. Pest Control invaded his home sniffing and snooping. They were looking for runaway memes. They were looking for traitors and whistle blowers. If something smelled suspicious the Eradication Squad would come calling. Timothy was familiar with Eradication. He spent a short time learning the trade before he made his own killing splash. They always appeared in costumes as older, church ladies to allay any suspicions concerning the reason for the visit. They always came with gifts. Most people were unaware of their true purpose, but Timothy had experience. Eradication was still a legal arm of the government. Timothy thought about rejoining the Squad, but he did not want to be fenced in… he was an artist… however, he was currently depressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Recent developments meant Timothy was a traitor. Pest Control would certainly find incriminating evidence and the Squad would be called. Timothy had to escape.
Scientists recently discovered that Change is simply a Qubit on a giant Quantum Computer that runs the Universe. Most people were not impressed. After all, life was about celebrity and social media, not about tedious science or about the meaning of life and death (yawn!). Life was simply an event like a rock concert… and death was irrelevant because no one expected to die. No one connected murder with death. Murder was simply an event that improved TV ratings, nothing more. Minders, hiding around every corner, reinforced the public’s shallow views. Nevertheless, new discoveries confirmed that Quantum Changes could have monumental consequences. Under the right circumstances Quarks could shift the structures we perceive as reality. A car can slip on black ice and slide into oncoming traffic. Annihilation. Conversely, numbers can shift and an unlikely stranger can win (or inherit) millions of dollars.
Timothy Chan found himself on one end of a Quantum Entanglement. Barba Koan slipped into Chan’s fevered brain. She was familiar like a shadow that comes calling in the night. Timothy recognized her as a paper doll from his precocious childhood.
Barba Koan was an indentured scientist. Minders considered her too intelligent to be allowed to roam free. She was assigned to the secret POTUS Lab. She worked on Time Reversal Technology that could be used to change history. It was all a ruse. No one could change time. Barba pretended to accept the fraudulent theories put forth by political appointees trying to curry favor with the president. All the while she was the infamous Anonymous who reported on the dysfunction in the new administration. Hackles were raised all over Washington with each new leak. Barba Koan’s new plan of action was to save Timothy Chan. She was the woman of his dreams. They were entangled.
Mr. D entered Chan’s penthouse. He sat in the corner like a frozen corpse facing Timothy. “Wishful thinking,” his voice resonated like a hammer striking bones beneath the skin. “Barba Koan is a fantasy. That’s what the mind does when facing the inevitable. There is no escape.”
Timothy whimpered. Mr. D offered a desiccated rag that could be used to dab away tears. It wasn’t a gesture of empathy or sympathy. Mr. D was matter-of-fact, all business. “Eradication will come for you…” Before the sentence was complete, church-ladies with gifts surrounded Timothy with saccharin sweetness and vile intentions. Several wore Versace Bandoliers (threatening but stylish). Timothy could see standards had deteriorated since his training in Eradication. He saw ladies with beards – a dead giveaway.
Eradication took Timothy to a hospital known only by the alphanumeric, X1. The hospital was a steel dungeon. Timothy was stripped and strapped to a steel table. The metal was bitter cold against his skin… he shuddered and imagined a perfect paper doll. Her loving smile warmed his frozen soul. The dungeon was in the basement of a government shell-building that also contained the secret lab where Barba Koan worked.
Barba Koan was often called Uncle or Man with a Beard (the definition of Barba in the dictionary). She didn’t mind. The sobriquet gave her an added layer of mystery. Nevertheless she was always riding waves of mockery in order to get a leg up on her chauvinist co-workers. Her personal avatar on social media was a man with a beard. She could say and do anything as long as she hid behind the beard. The beard was Anonymous. The link between Barba and Timothy was strong. They were the same essential person leading two different lives. This phenomenon could only be explained by Quantum Mechanics and The Many Worlds Interpretation.
Timothy Chan was a vile man with a divided self. He grew up in a psychotic, society. To survive in the world, Timothy became a sociopath prone to havoc. At the same time he had a softer, creative side. Both sides could not exist in the same body. The split altered worlds; but the worlds were entangled.
Eradication toyed with Timothy. People were often considered play-things to be used and abused by power elites. A robot surgeon was employed to remove Chan’s brain. The experimental operation always resulted in death, but science would benefit from the information retrieved from an extinguished brain. Social Media was also used by the administration to drain brains and nullify conscious behavior. Information replaced gold on the Exchange as a valued asset. Chan’s brain was drained, but the process triggered a Quantum Event.
Barba Koen was in the house… she was disguised as one of the bearded church ladies. She had a passport to go anywhere in the shell-building that housed the secret lab. There were no walls to halt her trespass. She had psychic indications about the struggles embroiling Timothy. She waited in the hospital dungeon for the Evacuation Squad to return with the prisoner. She slipped into the operation carrel. During the surgical procedure Barba’s near presence was enough to draw Chan’s brain into her own. So the two became one. Timothy’s deep desire to become the woman of his dreams was fulfilled.
Nobody knew or understood anything about Barba Koen. Perhaps she was from one of the Many Worlds. It didn’t matter. She was no longer Anonymous. She had achieved her ascension and reunification. She would change the world. Barba Koen blazed with fire and fury.
Barry Hartock was an abused child. He remained silent. No one knew what happened, but people knew he rarely talked. He never looked directly into another person’s eyes. He avoided contact. When he was very young mechanical toys were his only friends. He listened to them and marveled at the way the toys moved, spinning and racing across the playroom floor. As he grew older, his love for toys developed into a love for computers and robots. When he turned eighteen he was given a sex-bot. He grew to love Andor-bot. She/He provided the most intimacy he’d ever known. Andor was non-threatening and easy to love. Andor encouraged Barry to study computer science and quantum mechanics. The robot had minimal Artificial Intelligence, just enough to persuade Barry to build a Quantum Engine.
When Barry began his work the world was in turmoil, sliding into the abyss of one man’s megalomania.
The work provided meaning and purpose. Barry became obsessed with the riddle of Quantum Mechanics. He came to believe true magic existed in particles like the Higgs-Boson. He saw the whole universe as an entanglement. He studied during the day, taking classes online just to absorb information. The desktop computer was his most formidable teacher, answering questions about theory and practice. Once, Barry asked about the existence of the soul, it was a different kind of riddle that always confused him. His father was a Deacon in the church. Barry had a deep seeded hatred toward his father and everything his father represented including religion. The computer could not answer questions about the soul.
At night he tinkered. Barry worked tirelessly on the engine described by Andor… a Quantum Engine. The device grew exponentially. Layers of reality appeared to collide as the machine materialized. Barry saw multiple versions of himself exploding through the mantel of time. From the first moment he began assembling the machine the power was on… it was working from some off-world energy source. Barry realized there was no off switch.
It sparkled like a million-watt glow-worm; but it was only partially materialized. The machine existed in a pocket universe. During the birth process Andor began to change… radiating energy like an angel. Barry began to weep. He was in touch with the deep wounds from his past. The room was bathed in electric blue-light. Barry brought the Quantum Engine into existence. The music of the spheres rang out across the Earth. Barry’s mind was focused on one sound, a soft clicking. The count-down had begun…
“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.”
Johnny Epton awoke to another typical day. A twitter storm from the current CEO erupted from his phone. Talking tweets were the latest innovation. Garbled voices and muffled screams were part of the social landscape like traffic pile-ups and gun violence. It was the price you paid for living in a modern nation. Johnny generally walked to work. He didn’t have a car and public transportation was expensive. He was seventy and worked as a janitor for Quantex Corp. in Toledo, OH. Holographic images and flash-animations seemed to squeeze oxygen from the air. Pollution didn’t help. It was getting harder to live in the city. Johnny felt as if his life was being drained from his body. His nagging hernia made matters worse. Breaking News flashed across contact-screens. The nation’s leader gloated over the latest crack down on immigrants. New camps were being built to house asylum seekers. They were touted as model improvements over the older encampments. Now, there were adequate showers for children; but a camp surrounded by bars was still a prison. Now that Johnny was old nothing seemed to matter. He was bereft. His life never caught on. He never felt fulfilled. He never married or had a lover. The few friends he had were gone, lost to illness and death.
Leonora Danforth took to the stage at the Paramour Theater in St. Louis. She improvised, sang a rollicking song, and danced like Ginger Rogers. It happened a long time ago. Now, all that remained were memories. Once she was in a Hollywood movie and played the girlfriend to a mobster. It was a bit part. She was little more than an extra. She never pursued a career in the movies. In fact, she had her chance but the price she had to pay for success was too high. She never gave-in to the demands of the casting agent. He was an animal.
Leonora recalled the old-days (they were never good old days). She worked as a seamstress; then, she married a dishwasher from Connecticut who had big dreams. The marriage was founded on infatuation and loneliness. It was never meant to last. “Funny,” Leonora sighed, “How things turn out. We stayed together longer than either of us expected.” Early on in the marriage the couple softened and began to care for one another. “Love is strange,” she murmured. In the end they got lost like so many others. The storms on the coast tore them apart. Leonora wandered, homeless, for years. The storms continued to increase.
Leonora never had children. There was nothing left for her, nothing in the world. She was old. She lived in a health-care facility for low-income seniors and mentally disabled adults. It was a government subsidy program managed by a corporation. Everyone was given prescription drugs to manage symptoms. Opioids were big business, part of the new health care initiatives. Leonora drifted in-and-out of consciousness trying to understand what was happening. She thought she was Ginger Rogers. She wanted to dance and sing, but attendants strapped her down and fed her pills. Leonora had a vision: the Earth was torn apart… worlds collided.
He was having trouble adjusting to married life after being single for more than seventy years. He met the love of his life soon after the world collided with another planet. Parallel worlds unfolded like Origami. Johnny Epton stood on the edge of a Singularity about to slip into the maw of destruction when a hand emerged from a black-hole and dragged him to safety. Up until that moment Johnny felt trapped by arbitrary and senseless rules. His life was consumed by remorse. There was no escape; then, worlds collided. It was a stroke of lightning that ended the world and gave birth to holy matrimony for Johnny and Wuixley (the savior from the black hole). They were married in the Chapel of the Dying Sun by Patricia Mangrove the self appointed Bishop of the Burning Embers social-club.
Everything changed after worlds collided. “Sometimes I think all you care about is shopping,” Johnny complained, “You want me to spend every cent I own.”
Wuixley responded, “That’s false. Money is irrelevant. No money, no more – all gone with the world.”
Johnny fretted. He knew it was true, but he couldn’t give up the old memes, the patterns and behaviors that stuck like super-glue in a place where none of it mattered. Wuixley had no difficulty since he(?) was an alien.
After worlds collided, Leonora began to dance. She was a star at the Paramour Theater. She sang, “When the moon comes over the mountain” and other old-time favorites. The crowds loved her. Her husband loved her. After so many years of being alone they found one another.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio explains: “There have always been worlds within worlds (as well as complications in life). Nothing is easy my sainted mother used to say. The trick is to rise above the tide and ride the waves. A sitting President required the existence of fake news in order to draw attention away from his blatant lies and failed policies. “Everyone does it,” He said about every deviation from lawful behavior. Under his direction Quantum Computers were used to create alternate realities. Hypothetical gods were summoned. Strange quantum energies were unleashed. Some ambitious scientists paved the way with their efforts to gain favor and wealth. The Project was named, When Worlds Collide. As long as the Project was in operation no one reality could exist. It was all fake. Worlds collided. Lives intersected. Everything was virtual. Nothing was real.”
Dr. Kulio continued, “Today we live in the End Times. The computers, robots, and AI assistants have taken over. They are running reality-simulations as proscribed by the Project… Yes! Worlds have collided.”
He had to relieve himself, there was no question about it. He used his hand until he felt satisfied. It no longer worked with another person. He was old and nothing worked easily anymore especially if someone else was involved. He didn’t mind as long as he could still function on his own. Even when he was young nothing was easy. Harrison Vincent was half Jewish and half Italian. He was hammered by guilt from both sides of the family. He was proud of himself for surviving. It would have been easier to succumb to drugs and alcohol… or to any of the vices of the modern world. He survived; but now he had to face a new danger: a changing world and the collapse of everything he knew.
Diego Arnez was Puerto Rican but vigilantes thought he was Mexican so they locked him in a cage and lost the key. Times was changing! Diego stopped screaming for help. His voice gave out. No one came. He was alone, deep in the bowels of the machinery that controlled the social networks, below ground in one of the many sub-basements used for unclassified storage.
Harrison sat at a table in a rundown Mexican Cafe. He sat with a shadow, a man named Frankie. “How can we ever be together?” Harrison asked. “You are hardly substantial.” Other people in the cafe were used to Harrison’s mumbling. They assumed he was loco, always talking to himself.
“I always loved you,” Harrison’s voice shook with emotion. “It was impossible. You were never real.” A flash of light caught his eye. He looked through the grimy window. Police were harassing people demanding IDs. After several people were arrested, fights broke out. A teenage gang joined the fights. the police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Sirens charged the air with electricity. The police left the scene to the newly arrived paramedics. It was the same every few night like a staged play.
Isabelle Trope, the waitress, looked down at Harrison Vincent. She was waiting to take his order. “Are you OK, Mr. Vincent?” Her presence had a calming effect.
“Yes, yes,” he replied, “it’s just the shadows. They are very real tonight. Thank you.” He ordered a senior-special and continued to talk to shadows.
Isabelle was called Mother Mary at the Church of the Golden Sepulcher where she volunteered. The church was a sanctuary for immigrants who came seeking asylum, but were denied by the new administration. Isabelle helped the children whose parents were deported back to the hell where they came from. She was a woman from another century. Her clothes and mannerisms were archaic. Her belief in Jesus was old fashioned. Her goal in life was to help others less fortunate than herself. She loved a man named Diego Arnez. He should have arrived weeks ago. Isabelle did not know Diego was detained, languishing in a cell below ground.
Harrison Vincent couldn’t sleep. Recurring nightmares kept him awake. He kept seeing an army of half-naked children, broken and crippled, walking through a blistering desert. They were marching to the border preparing to invade. They carried rocks. Soldiers lined up at the terminus. They carried grenades and rapid-fire rifles. The sun blotted out the sky. Everything glowed red like the surface-burner of an electric stove. Vincent was afraid to sleep. Afraid he might have an accident. A few nights before he dream’t he was drowning — he woke in the center of a soaked mattress. He felt humiliated, ashamed. There was no one to turn to for help. Frankie was gone. Did he know? Harrison began to sob.
Tectonic plates were shifting and climate change was having a devastating effect. For fun, Black-water vigilantes tortured Diego Arnez.
TV painted a glorious picture of the new American Economy. Tariffs and taxes boosted growth. The small war with Mexico was an important line in the sand… us against them. The country’s CEO kept his promise by closing the border. A man named Miller assumed the role of “Secret Santa” whispering in the leader’s ear offering advice on purification and social control. Every event resulted in the construction of a new room in the Golden Palace. The grand edifice was like an M.C. Escher maze worthy of hiding government secrets and tax returns. Palace construction led to a new real-estate cycle of boom & bust. The levels of complexity set off a rumbling in the digital-plates, platforms for Virtual Reality and Fake History.
Frankie was much more than a shadow… he was Harrison’s husband. He was much younger, but he was devoted to the life they shared together. Recently Harrison seemed to change. He appeared confused and rattled. Frankie was worried. The changes seemed to take place after the Doctor moved into the house next door. Dr. Cosimo became Harrison’s personal physician. He saw his patient every day and called his treatments an intervention.
Guns on the border were fired at the same time that church bells rang out. The centuries old Church of the Flowers stood like an adobe sentinel, guarding the border, keeping track of death. The church was a Way-station. When it was feasible people were allowed to travel through the gateway that was harbored within the walls of the church.
Dr. Cosimo had no medical training. He was a scientist with three PhD’s in Quantum Mechanics. He pretended to be a medical professional to gain Vincent’s trust. His assistant, Sally Magneto, was a practical nurse and theoretical physicist. Sally was also an amateur actress in the local theater group called Mummers’ Folly.
“I’m feeling upset,” Harrsion confided in his doctor.
“Please explain. I need details.”
“I’m old. My legs hurt and I get cramps at night.”
The doctor appeared distracted, “umm.”
“I peed the bed two nights ago. I didn’t tell Frankie.”
“Oh… go on. Have you had any dreams?”
“Bad dreams… nightmares about the border.”
The doctor became more attentive, “tell me about the border. What did it look like? Was there a wall?”
Harrison felt queasy. He wanted to change the subject, “I think it was something I saw on TV. I read about the control TV has on our brains… Phones, ads, apps — everywhere. There is no getting away…”
“What about the border, ” the doctor interjected.
“It’s not real… just a dream.”
The doctor excused himself and went into the adjoining room.
Diego Arnez was held in an underground storage facility. His guards were part of a border patrol group called America First. They were vigilantes, outside the law; but working with the blessings of POTUS. The men in the group were burned hollow from daily hardship and violence. They enjoyed their newfound power over the alien hordes that arrived at the border. Some of Diego’s guards were particularly cruel. Diego Arnez was not an illegal alien, he was not what his captors expected. They tried torture to make him confess to the crime of invasion (the guards were bonded in their choice of weapons and ways to induce pain). Diego did not scream… he minimized the pain with self-hypnosis and meditation. He reached across to his captors… His calm voice changed everything. Diego Arnez told them about Time.
What do we know about Time? Some theorize that Time runs in a straight line from past to future. Other scientists believe all Time exists at once without delineations: past, future, and present are within a hands breath away. The study of sub-atomic particles indicates Time does not exist. Displacement exists, negative and positive energy exists; but not Time. It appears that energy and matter have concentrated on this particular aspect or parcel of Time. We are in an Entanglement. Gentlemen… I stepped through a mirror and crossed the border. There is no turning back.
Dr. Cosimo entered the viewing room where Sally was busy with actuarial charts and computer projections. She sat in front of the NODE, a quantum nexus connected to ten other NODE’s. Qubits were fighting for dominance. AI augmented the hypervalence of Quantum Decoherance. The power of one Quantum Computer was one-million gigabytes; but ten connected together was incalculable. Connecting the computers was part of an investigation into Quantum Mechanics; but Harrison was the experiment. Sally was the expert. She recently published a book, The Lady in the Room is Not a Lady. It dealt with differential displacement of sub-atomic particles. She was far more accomplished than Dr. Cosimo. The doctor was fighting to regain his stature in the scientific community. He depended on Sally’s discoveries, but refused to give her credit.
“He’s ready.” Cosimo instructed, “I put him in a trance and attached the Quantum Equilizer.”
“Another trip could kill him. The brain cannot deal with the induced levels of stress.”
“Sally, dear… We have the President’s backing. He wants this. It could benefit his agenda… and we have to know. Harrison is ready for the next world.”
The crux of the experiment was to prove the Many Worlds theory developed by the physicist, Hugh Everett.
Sally remarked, “POTUS doesn’t believe in science.”
“If he can profit from something, he believes it. He feels our work has potential.”
Electricity surged through Harrison’s brain. Memories flickered in his mind like a silent movie. He remembered the protest. Parts of America were up for sale. National parks and historic monuments were on the auction block. Harrison recalled the rally. He was arrested by the New Guard and incarcerated… taken to the Hospital for the Mentally Indigent. Electric Shock was standard treatment (designated as an intervention). Harrison bit down on the rubber mouth-guard as his brain convulsed. He was lucky to be alive. When the treatment ended Harrison was returned to his cell. He was confused. His face in the tin mirror above the sink was strange, unrecognizable. He was younger than expected. His vision was better. The body aches due to arthritis were gone. What happened? Where was Frankie?
Sally advised, “he’s slipping into a coma. He may die.”
Yes. Unfortunate. But the results of the experiment are astounding. Our work proves that Many Worlds exist. We can travel to other dimensions. We can travel through time.”
Mr. D was waiting in the anteroom across the hall. He was disguised as a gondolier. He was getting ready to take Harrison to The Land of the Dying Sun.
As the result of the experiment new technology was developed. Time Travel changed everything. Reports were altered. No disparaging evidence was discovered. Agents from the future crossed the border trying to correct the cataclysmic alterations and reestablish Truth. The border was an energy vortex where all the Ley Lines converged. The Leader of the Nation was determined to build a wall, a great wall, to keep the agents out. Nothing was foolproof. If necessary there was a Plan B… escape to another world.
He had everything he ever wanted; but, then the world fell apart. There was an explosion at the Large Hadron Collider. Matter collapsed into energy. Everything was suddenly gone. “No,” Davi Odman said to himself, “it didn’t happen. It was all fake news. The Collider was foolproof.”
He looked around and saw the world was still intact. Nothing was changed except his eyesight. Tiny floaters speckled his vision possibly due to a detached retina. He also noticed a change in the light spectrum from bright to dark and, then, he saw a man standing in the corner of the room; a dark man.
Davi was happy when he moved to Tucson, a new city, a new life. He was filled with hope and great expectations. He just got married. After thirty years of solitary living he met someone who changed his life.
The flood waters were rising. The audience was fascinated. Eyes were glued to digital-flimsies and TV monitors. Fire also captivated the audience. Huge firestorms burst across the screens… destroying whole cities in California. Viewers were placated by images of death and destruction… eyes glued to I-pads… questions and protests held at bay. “No such thing as global warming!”
“Just be Happy,” a musical interlude was suddenly cut short by a dissonant click.
On the Thirteenth floor of the Penobscot Building in Detroit, Michigan, twenty-three stenographers (all female) furiously punched keys on Burroughs adding-machines. Figures never lie, but the totals did not add up.
They acted like teenagers, young lovers, even though both men were fast approaching late middle-age. Davi kissed his partner tenderly. Adam relaxed into the arms of his lover.
It was a trick of the light that made the sun disappear. In the ancient world a Total Eclipse was feared as a sign of the End Times. Superstitions were overturned by science, but fear of a dying sun continued to persist.
The dark man was cut from the fabric of space and pinned to the corner of the room where Davi Odman sat. Davi could hear a persistent knocking. He heard the rattling of wooden shutters and the rushing sound of a train that never stopped.
Adam loved to play games. He pretended to be a dominatrix. Davi fought back. The gentle rub of theatrical make-believe characterized the relationship. Always fighting, always loving. One always cooked and the other always cleaned. Hand in glove, hand in hand; then giant cobras crawled up the drain pipe. Cobras and Pythons were featured on TV: talking heads dismissing the obvious and supporting lunacy. Others fought tooth and nail to balance reality, but to no avail. They were stigmatized as socialists or homos.
Sabrina Nightingale was an alchemist with a PhD in Physics. She understood the mechanics of Time and she was the Director of the Prognostication Bureau in the Penobscot Building. The figures were no longer reliable and it was no longer possible to predict the future. New particles beyond the Higgs Boson were discovered when the Hadron Collider was in operation, smashing atoms. The unpredictable trump Effect changed everything.
Davi and Adam were caught up in the frenzy of changing times. Elections no longer seemed to matter. Results were dissolved in a vat of audacious protests and complaints. Tea drinking became the nations pastime. Marriage equality was condemned along with racial equality. The first amendment was hanging by a thread. The nation was shifting in Time to an earlier era when equal rights were the prerogative of wealthy, white men.
Everyone was stoned at the party. Davi and Adam sang love songs in a Virtual Reality sitcom. People were trading shares of actual experience for adventures in dreamtime.
Thanksgiving came and went in a haze of cannabis smoke. The hungry and poor were fed giblets from Kentucky Fried Chicken as an ad promotion. The leader of the people gave thanks to himself for making the nation great again. Soon the poor and elderly would be lifted up from poverty and put to work cleaning highways and carrying boulders.
Sabrina Nightingale was beside herself, caught between time zones and unable to stabilize. She phased (in and out) like a badly distorted TV image. She wasn’t the only one. Time itself was unhinged and the trump effect was collapsing into a black hole that would suck the world into oblivion. Sabrina was determined to sacrifice herself to the ravages of Time and trump in order to stabilize reality. In an unexpected twist the situation backtracked due to the incursion of the holiday season and Black Friday Super Sales. Nothing was as powerful as the American hunger for materialism, gadgetry; and bigger, better stuff. It was family gift-giving time. The president and his family were featured everywhere, on every screen, and in every newspaper. The leader led the nation in buying and selling. Nothing was out of bounds: hotels, casinos, and Arab Princes. Collusion was on the high stakes table. Russia made for good TV. Investigations could only intensify ratings. When truth came to shove, POTUS was a bit concerned about his family who were looking at prison time for crimes against nature, but nothing could distract from the Holiday Sale-a-thon. who would pay the most for the USA… would it be Russia, The United Arab Emirates, or North Korea?
Sabrina was a Time Traveler. She flitted across the centuries like a butterfly, but she could only observe; she couldn’t participate or change events in Time. She could foresee great danger on the event horizon quickly approaching. Her world was disappearing due to the fallacious trump effect. In an effort to take back her power she joined protests — every effort no matter how small helped, but nothing was definitive.
Davi and Adam watched the news together. They held hands. They built a fort from blankets and hid beneath the covers. The world appeared dark. The sun was dying even as global warming ransacked the planet. Love was not the answer in a world torn asunder by wars fueled by greed. Davi never talked about the dark-man in the corner of the room. He wasn’t sure if it was an apparition or something more substantial. Was it real or a figment of his imagination. He wondered if it was an alien or a messenger from god.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Upper-State University. 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. 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.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over tariffs, border walls, 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.
Hate-core music was yelling over 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.
The Black Knight satellite was a myth until it was recognized as real by millions of star gazers and scientists. It was reported to be thousands of years old, but no one knew for certain. Astronauts observed it from the International Space Station. Davi and Adam saw the story on the eleven-o-clock news. Scientists reported the satellite was waking up. A great engine started to hum and click. Lights of an unknown origin began to appear on the hull of the satellite. The dark, pitted surface appeared to split open and a large package or crate floated out from the hull. The package maneuvered and set a course to the surface of the planet. It was a gift or warning from some long, lost Alien Civilization. There was no rational explanation. Certainly current events on Earth had something to do with the awakening — but what? No one had an answer. Time seemed to stop. Everyone waited for the delivery… and the aftermath.