The Brain that controlled the spaceship was provoked. It sent out urgent messages and demands. After several unresponsive minutes the Brain was frustrated and attacked the loud speakers, “I want everyone off the ship. This is the final warning. I will not continent any more disrespect. Off! Off! Off!” These outbursts had been going on for quite awhile. No one listened anymore.
The Orange Toreador tunneled through space like a Mother Bomb. The Generation Ship was the greatest achievement of the twenty-first century… the only genuine accomplishment from a world that was long gone, left behind in the aftermath of “lift off” on an arc of fireworks and exhaust fumes.
The Toreador carried a cadre of brave and powerful people who planned to harness and yoke a new world for the continued glory of humankind. The first order of business was to discover a habitable planet. The ship hurtled through Ultra-Space powered by a time-loop. Three hundred years passed in the blink of an eye. The boarders on the ship merely experienced a passage of three weeks.
Morton Sedlack could no longer see himself in a mirror. He could no longer identify himself. He was a dying man sinking into a memory-foam mattress on the way down to a coffin in the ground. He awoke suddenly and found himself in the evacuation chamber of a starship. He was being evicted, cast into the vacuum of space. The Brain began the eviction process. It dismantled the failsafe and took total control.
Initially the Brain merely wanted to initiate money saving measures by cutting back on environmental safeguards. Oxygen deprivation ignited a series of citizen protests. The Brain could not abide any criticism. It decided drastic measures were necessary to keep the ship on course.
The sons-and-daughters of the Brain were frantic. They could see the same scenarios play out always ending in disaster. They were gathered in the Strategic Armaments Room — staring down at a holographic projection of “things past” and ” things to come.” The conference room was an exact replica of the glitzy showroom on Earth where major military decisions were authorized over a slice of chocolate cake. What disturbed the advisors was the lack of fashion-sense among the passengers on the Father-Ship. The lack of oxygen and total loss of control were also very problematic.
When Morton Sedlack was ejected into space he was filled with remorse. Sedlack wasn’t sad because his life was over, he was bereft because he left someone behind. He loved a cyborg named Phantom Limb. As his body blew up in the vacuum of space he remembered his last night with Limb.
Lights were flashing erratically due to the latest outburst from the Brain. A hellish rant of vitriol overflowed from the life-sustaining pool where the Brain was stored. Some people said the pool was a cage. Others said the Brain deserved to be in a cage. Morton and Limb relived beautiful moments together knowing the end was near. They tripped in enhanced VR, more real than life itself: the electrifying first kiss, metal to flesh… the fireworks of internal combustion and quivery intestines… the high-voltage synapse of brain cells conjoined with silicon chips… the ultimate experience being together when the sky exploded and the rocket launched into space.
Morton’s last wish was to be remade in molten metal and poured into his beloved, Phantom Limb. His wish and memories burned down to a tiny cinder.
Phantom Limb railed against the night. He was more than a metal arm or leg… more than a limb; but Morton was the only person who ever treated him like an equal, like a whole human being. Limb was hoping to receive a final message from Morton. Finally his I-phone-chip burped. The message was short: a spark dying in the night. It cut Limb to the core. He was immobilized. Frozen in grief.
The sons-and-daughters were devoted to the Brain. All life and power flowed through them from the Brain. But, now, it was acting erratically: evicting passengers without space suits. As advisers and enablers they needed to calm the Brain down. The brilliant children of the Brain were befuddled and uncertain. It was always difficult for them to make a decision that didn’t involve inanimate objects like money. Unfortunately the family never understood the reality of other people which (of course) led to the initial debacle back on Earth. Now the children had to save the survivors on the ship. They downloaded suggestions from the computer archives. They contacted Alex Jones and Sessions-Page. They discovered a great recipe for Hemlock Tea from Stephen Bannon. They were advised to sooth the Master by massaging the Brain. No one wanted to get into the warm, viscous fluids in the life-sustaining pool. It was too uncomfortable and slimy.
The children bickered. The Brain was very uncomfortable sitting in a slimy pool without a proper body and that was the real reason for his obstreperous behavior. The Navigator was conferring with the sons-and-daughters. No one was piloting the ship.
The barrier between life and death is paper thin. No one even noticed when the Father-ship crossed over, tumbling helter-skelter down into the land of the dying sun.
David Oblivion met Mr. Hamm on the Street of Dreams in Angel City. Hamm was an ambassador from Hell. Nothing could change the present. The outcome was inevitable.
Marty Mekum could hear the dream resonating in his brain like a land-mine about to explode. He told himself, there is no such place as Hell. The characters in his mind were as flimsy as used tissue.
Marty consistently asked questions trying to justify his life. His hands were frozen, stiff with age. He could no longer paint the images that populated his mind. His days working as an artist were over.
Marty left his lover in the past. They stood on a precipice overlooking the Arizona Desert. It was a tumultuous period in their lives. The world seemed to be drowning in a golden-shower of crass abuse and excess. The only way to live was to escape.
Protest marches and benefit concerts became routine. Demonstrations were another form of escape… bolstering a false sense of security. Drug overdoses became commonplace. The lovers lived in a haze of chemical enhancement… on the precipice — suddenly, Marty jumped, leaving his partner & lover behind.
“How are you, Marty?” The cyborg-appliance asked.
“How’s the weather?” Marty replied.
“Same as always… gray.”
Marty Mekum was from the future, but no one believed him. He wanted to save the world, but no one listened. By the time he recorded this story, he was very old. He came of age in the future by giving birth to himself. The Home cared for Marty. The Home was a network of prosthetic extensions that fed, manipulated, and recorded Marty’s existence to use as a merchandising incentive. People had inherent (but limited) monetary value. When inherent value was used up everything could be recycled and reused. All accounts were itemized and reviewed on Twitter. Capital gains and losses were tweeted daily.
Angina Splint was an account executive in the Golden Tower. She didn’t know Marty. She wasn’t concerned with other people’s problems or predicaments. Angina lived for the bottom-line. She loved her job. Perks were numerous. Gold Cadillacs abounded. Designer drugs sweetened the pot. Zombies moved into the cubicle across the hall, but Angina wasn’t bothered. Her office suite was large enough to flatten any zombie invasion.
Angina’s mom lived at the Home a few doors down from Marty Mekum. There was a cost incentive to visit mom once a year. Values were exchanged and increased. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Mom was always changing, trying to increase her value. She was a programmer from the last century so she knew her business. Mom’s brain was mush, puree — it didn’t matter as long as she could offer some amusing entertainment. She had to adapt. Capital gain was the name of the game. She often mimicked Hitler and harassed the “Juden.” Mom was a member of the Baby Generation. Baby clones ruled the world. The unborn were silent no longer.
Angina loved visiting mom — the money kept pouring in. Mom wore a blue hat and began to tick like a time-bomb — pure entertainment. Angina gushed.
The prosthetic appliances at the Home were plugging holes with stoppers trying to halt the flow of effluvium from the newest, Last War. Marty Mekum would have none of it. He began to rant, “the mad man in the tower is becoming more powerful each day writing new edicts, shaping the world into his own chthonic image. I hear the death rattle throttle.”
Angina caught the drift of Mekum’s riff. She was briefly mesmerized, cauterized by words she never heard. Meanings were resplendent.
Dr. Zosomo came to the rescue with an enema plunger to eradicate the excess verbiage.
Marty bespoke, “this is a drift into dark-matter. There are Nine Levels.”
No one understood. Angina and mom were determined to continue espousing the words of the baby prophet. It was a disaster: Matricide with suicidal tendencies.
“No one is free,” Marty sneezed, “we are all Him subject to the same corruption.”
The aliens took notes, gleefully observing the debacle. Too late it was revealed: He was controlled by dark servitors from beyond the veil. Dorian Gray lisped in brilliant decay.
A poet scrawled new codes on a bathroom wall.
Morton Sedlack retreated to a VR Pongo-Parlor in an attempt to stop time. Reality had become too much, penetrating his soft-core defenses like a Bazooka — his brain was torn to shreds — dangling from a precipice of double-speak politics and redacted information.
Morton was no longer young. He used to be Tom Selleck ranging across some tropical island like the indomitable “Magnum P.I.” It didn’t last. Nothing lasts. Everything expires in a breathe of sordid self pity. Morton commiserated, “life sucks when you are 75, stuck in a corporate utopia, and strong-armed by a political hack.” There was nowhere to go but down to the depths of clown hell. Entertainment-for-All was the new mantra as people were rounded up and shipped off to “holiday camps.” It was televised for the viewing pleasure of the new majority. The new system generated money for the first family along with selected TV producers and magnates of industry.
One happy man was at the center of attention while people chanted, “he’s the man with the plan. He tweets and twitters about all his jitters… and no one can complain when they get a free ride on the Happy Land train.”
The masses were sedated with TV happenstance and Virtual Reality, but buyer’s remorse was beginning to set in. There were high taxes, lower incomes, and the remorse over lost jobs. Frustration was at an all time high. Why were the Aliens taking over? The country was in crisis. Segments of the population were pitted against one another. In the end there was a re-count. The kerfuffle was all about entertainment… and ratings were never higher.
Morton was paralyzed with remorse. He just bought a new car to escape the encroaching mass hysteria, but the car was a lemon and the ads for better cars kept shooting up his brain like poison darts. He recently broke up with his boyfriend over an issue of mistaken identity. There were fistacuffs over a man named, Donnie. Morton was easily confused. He worried about dementia. Was Donnie his unfaithful boyfriend who hooked up with Kellyann, a striptease artist who sold drugs for chump change?
Hannibal Lecter sat with the former Entertainment Mogul sipping non-alcoholic cocktails in the Titanium-Lounge where the virtual Russian Embassy was located. The children stood around silently staring at their powerful father, the new executive director of the nation. They were pretty children who invested heavily in their father’s vision of a new world. The mogul spoke with confidence, “we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but I like your style.” Lecter grimaced, “I did all I could to help you win.”
“I know. I think you are great and I want to reward you!”
“Not necessary,” Lecter remarked, “you have already given me your support in my reclaiming many small, petty states that are rightfully ours.”
“Not enough for all you’ve done. I certainly appreciate the flattery you’ve lauded on me. You are a man of great authority.”
Lecter beamed, “thank you, Mr. President. There is no one quite like you. I loved your TV series.”
“I still own the rights. Still making lots of money! I want you to know that I’m one of your greatest fans. Loved the photo of you riding a horsey with your upper torso exposed. Quite manly. I’m proud to give you a another gift of my appreciation. They are yours!” President Mogul pointed to his beautiful family who were overwhelmed with deep seeded fear.
Hannibal clapped his hands with glee and licked his lips.
Morton Sedlack hit triple Pongo. All his dreams were coming true. His new boyfriend stayed by his side even as he was slipping into post-traumatic shock. They were together riding in the new, “Magnum – Self Driving Car.” It was a home on wheels. There was no longer a need for a stationary residence where people were stuck forever, rooted to one spot. Society was now totally mobile and digitally connected. Everyone was moving… running… trying to escape. Morton was quietly napping in his capsule. He was surrounded by entertainment … surrounded by love.
Morton’s brain was split. It was standard procedure. He was placed in the capsule for security reasons. He was, at last, happy.
Milton Farbin dreamt he was “the Fast-moving Man.” It was a recurring dream, part of a campaign to promote particular products and services. The Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman were cultural icons, pop stars with the highest appeal-rating according to the new, Trump Index. They were loved and adored. They slipped into people’s dreams by means of a new phone app given out for free. The glorious couple demonstrated new, American-made merchandise that was on sale for bargain prices.
In the dream, Milton was a charismatic leader with blistering eyes and orange hair, a man of wealth and power. When he awoke he was penniless and depressed having spent all his money on goods and services he did not need or want. Once he left the Virtual Dream, Milton was a rag man, no longer capable of keeping a regular job. In the past he was a beautician. He was in high demand and he loved his work, but everything changed once he fell in love with the Alluring Woman. Milton wanted to please her so he bought whatever she sold. He became desperate and sought the services of surgeons and therapists to gain the looks and appeal of the Fast-moving Man.
Corporations invested in the business of “Addictive Proprieties” whereby individuals were subliminally seduced to become the Pop Icons they worshiped. Lots of people desired to be the Fast-moving Man. Other consumer apps were developed to hound consumers with ads targeting individuals based on their past choices and personal histories (privacy no longer existed). The Hounds-of-consumption were let loose regularly and continually. There were Hounds for cosmetics, fashion, and real estate — emulating the lifestyle of the Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman who lived together in perfect bliss. Face creams and fast-food promised the consumer a better life. New cars and luxury apartments were the ingredients for true happiness.
Milton Farbin lived in an abandoned bookstore. He couldn’t break the cycle of desire. He was tormented by dreams. The Hounds were relentless, barking like banshees, wailing like sirens. The Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman lived with Milton in the bookstore. They were everywhere, wrapped in each other’s arms, trying out the newest deodorant or the best hair depilatory. They had sex in front of Milton just to torment him with their obvious bliss.
He tried everything to escape. He starved himself hoping the Hounds would die from lack of sustenance, but they were invincible. Milton went on long hikes, trudging through the worst areas of the city where drug addicts and murderers hid from spying eyes. He was hoping he might be murdered… hoping the Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman would not follow him, but they never left his side.
Milton was driven to distraction. He knew the drugs he collected for the last five years were deadly. He sat down against the moldy wall at the back of the abandoned store. Looters found his body and proceeded to dismantle the corpse and recycle the parts.
Milton was dead. It was very dark. He could sense icy fingers caress his body. He felt peaceful and began to drift away like a cloud of dust. But, before the dust could disappear, Milton heard the shrill barking of the Hounds. He saw the neon glow of the Alluring Woman and the Fast-moving Man. They followed Milton Farbin into death and they would never leave.
He was a beatnik living in a trailer park and he was old. Being old was a crime. His name was “Knott” Hammond. The trailer park was called, “Flamingo Gardens” and it was an internment camp. If a person was beginning to look old, he-or-she was required to take the Treatment. People who couldn’t afford the Treatment were interned. The camp was part of a new resettlement program. It seemed like another lifetime, long ago when Knott was rich enough to avoid Flamingo Gardens.
Flamingo Gardens began as a real-estate venture to off-set losses due to the housing crash. The CEO who managed the program turned it into a cash cow. Government policies were put into place to maximize profits. Almost overnight the policies favoring Flamingo Gardens became draconian and the trailer park became the final solution to end the woes besetting the country.
Knott recalled the day he boarded the train. He had his own compartment, a stainless-steel box like a small cargo container. People who were poor and old were hypnotized by ads to sign up for the “program.” Before the camps, Knott survived by working as a repairman. He refurbished old digital components and traded them for food or a place to sleep. It was a hard, scrabble life and he wanted something better. He was seduced by the TVs and phones which he restored to life. Holographic announcers were in his brain using subliminal suggestions. He boarded the train to dreamland.
Flamingo Gardens was a contemporary trailer park, orderly and antiseptic. Stainless-steel trailers were unloaded from the trains and hooked to Mother (the grid). The camps were set up when the country was run by the first CEO. There were camps for refugees, camps for criminals, and camps for the old. “For a better life, come to Paradise,” was the slogan used to mollify and seduce a worn down public. Rich people knew the score. Money protected them from propaganda aimed at the masses. They opted for the Treatment to stay young; or, at least, to appear young. Plastic surgeons made a killing. More arcane interventions added to the mystique of permanent longevity.
Everyone wanted to avoid the pitfalls of old age, but only the very wealthy could afford the Treatment. The new economy was built on class warfare. The poor, in camps, were fodder for the rich. Old people could be used for experiments and replacement parts for members of the ruling class. Everyone wanted the biggest prize of all: the stirrings of immortality.
Mother provided everything to the occupants in the metal-box trailers. Links connected the boxes and tubes fed the cubicles with life sustaining nutrients for the body and virtual dreams for the mind. When the arrangements became too expensive to maintain, Mother provided the gas to whittle down the population.
Knott Hammond had a relay switch in his brain. He installed the switch himself as an experiment. He always enjoyed tinkering with human-machine hybrids. The on-off switch could be used to analyze and mend digital links, but the switch was faulty and unpredictable. The relay interfered with Knott’s brain causing episodes of psychosis leading to his fall from the graces of the rich and influential.
The switch was never removed. Knott sat alone in his steel compartment, cut-off from the pleasures provided by Mother and subjected to the reality triggered by the machine in his brain. The holding tank was cold and dark. Knott was suffering from malnutrition (Mother cut back on resources and nutrients in order to save money). The terror of the situation triggered a survival reaction in Knott’s brain. He started to tinker with the data in his head. He discerned connections to his past when he was lauded as a genius in the tech industry. He recalled the codes, computer language, that could be used to alter reality.
Gaining control of Mother was not terribly difficult. Knott had slightly more difficulty hacking into the Treatment Centers where the wealthy sought immortality.
Nothing lasts forever. Old age and death snapped the “new young” like fragile twigs.
Frank Larson boarded the Aero-Jet and disappeared. No one noticed. No one saw him come on board. He was gone in the blink of an eye.
Larson, a lanky fifty-year-old with receding hair, was a detective doing field work for Internal Affairs. The department had gone viral, federalized and in charge of several agencies throughout the nation.
He was investigating the case of Emmy-Mae Parsons. She was supposedly a defenseless bag lady who was shot and killed by a fellow officer. Frank followed orders and did his job, but he always fudged in favor of the officer being investigated. This case was different, involving national security because someone blew up Hoover Dam. The lucky survivors inevitably adapted seeking rafts and house boats instead of McMansions. The bag lady was never a suspect, but strings were pulled to nullify the situation and lessen the damage to the police department (two birds, one stone). This current case smacked Frank in the head like a rotten mackerel.
Johnny Jackcraw was in stasis in the holding compartment of the Aero-jet. He wasn’t worried. His brain was being massaged and cleansed and his ninety-year-old body was undergoing artificial rejuvenation. Johnny needed his prepackaged good-looks because he was the main witness for the prosecution in the Emmy-Mae case. The government was willing to pay Johnny for information.
Johnny told authorities he witnessed the murder when he was a prisoner, confined in a jail cell with a view (he was imprisoned for the crime of petty theft — he was addicted to shop lifting even though he had a pod-load of bit-coins). He claimed he saw Emmy-Mae murdered by Officer Inola. He spied the crime while star gazing through his prison window. Nobody on the force liked Inola, Johnny said he was a witness, and the gun that killed the bag lady was discovered in Inola’s belongings. The cop-cam that every officer had installed was no help in this case — it was melted from the back blast in the explosion of Hoover Dam.
Johnny hated jail. He was a Star who loved to wear rainbow caftans and perform at the notorious Blue Nail on 126th Street in lower Manhattan. He couldn’t really sing, but audiences loved his amazing variety of colorful caftans (some of which were stolen from high end boutiques). He elaborated the story he told about Emmy-Mae so he could get out of prison. it wasn’t a total lie because he actually knew Emmy-Mae and she was a bitch who deserved to be killed. The condemned police officer was the cop who arrested Johnny so revenge was definitely a strong motivation. If the dark plan worked, Johnny would receive a new lease on life with an improved brain and a new, teenage body.
“There is no question that this case was a turning point in the mise en scène of events contributing to the Future,” Orlow Fabricatum stated with aplomb. (Kind reader, you might remember that Orlow is The proverbial fly on the wall — in this case, a robotic fly who has appeared in several stories & diary entries. Orlow was hired as a reporter for the net-blog, Future Days). Orlow continued his snide remarks, “the human tendency for gross infidelity and inaccuracy is only exacerbated by greed-and-ego resulting in predictable catastrophe.”
The club was sweating bullets when Johnny Jackcraw (now known as Livia Trash) gave his comeback performance at the Blue Nail on the same day that Detective Larson disappeared (it was previously reported that Johnny was in stasis on the Aero-Jet, but that was a cover story). He wore a lavish caftan created from purple haze and he sported large D-cup breasts to add to his youthful allure. He sang like a banshee much to the discomfort of the anesthetized audience. Johnny’s already dreadful voice had been augmented during his surgical procedures (when doctors discovered he was carrying a baby that had been conceived 60 years in the past. In his youth, Johnny was a poor, unwed mother, a bag lady, with no prospects but a shopping cart. Of course the baby had to be aborted against the prevailing laws of the land, but since this was a national security case abortions could be religiously performed).
Much to Johnny’s chagrin, no one watched his performance. No one was interested. His fabulous caftan was completely overlooked. His jack-hammer voice echoed like the death throes of a dying swan with no one in the forest to hear. The realization stung like an infected hangnail.
The case was finally solved by the “surrogate” Judge Franchisum, in the courtroom of public opinion. The judge consulted with Orlow Fabricatum to get the facts straight and assess the situation. This was no ordinary trial. There was no lawyer, prosecutor, or jury. The trial was conducted on the Virtual Web and every person, avatar, and robot was invited to participate in the proceedings. Hoover Dam still existed somewhere, but it no longer mattered. The Judge concluded no crimes had been committed. First came the screens, then came the head-gear; then, the world disappeared. Virtual Reality replaced everything.
In an alley off the boardwalk David noticed a light in the window of a small shop. Red letters on the sign above the door announced, “Krapes Emporium.” He thought there might be something familiar in the shop to bring him back to reality. So far whatever he experienced seemed so bizarre that he felt lost in a mad man’s dream.
Everything inside was covered in layers of dust. Glass cases crowded the floor leaving very little room to maneuver. In one corner there was a metal grate beneath a sign that said “pawnbroker.” David felt slightly reassured by the apparent normalcy of the place, but the more he looked at objects behind the glass the more his reassurance disappeared. Some items were labeled — he saw “unicorn horn” and “dragon wing.” There were small black-cubes labeled egglets and glowing objects identified as oospheres. He noticed several large jars under a sign that read, “glandular conditions.” He was relieved because the glass on the jars was so discolored and cloudy he couldn’t make out the contents. A tall purple crate stood in a cage near the back of the shop with a sign that read “Martian Mummy.”
David was about to leave when he was accosted by Captain Crunch — at least it sounded like the cartoon spokesman for the cereal by the same name. “How goes it, matey m’boy.”
David turned back and saw a cadaverous man in a red-striped jacket, wearing black lipstick and an Andy Warhol wig. He was smiling. There was a bad taste in David’s mouth, “I was just about to leave.”
“Nay, matey — stay. I’ll show you some wonders. Perchance we can strike a deal. What’s your pleasure?”
“Just looking — really. I need to get back to my room.”
“No fun in that. Perhaps you have something to sell. I’m a pawnbroker — best in town. Of course I only handle unusual items. If you have an ordinary ring to sell I don’t want it, but if you have a ‘power ring’ I’m your man. I pay the highest prices anywhere. Let me show you some of my precious cargo.”
“Not really interested in selling or buying anything.”
“Don’t be a spoil sport, m’boy. Come along.”
David found himself drawn toward the smiling cadaver as he wove his spell.
“That’s it lad. This way. I deal in Neoteric Dimensions. I sell a preparation called ‘mental slop’ — you might be interested. It is guaranteed to grow hair follicles inside the brain — quite an extraordinary experience. I keep a regular stock of Loomies, but sometimes I run out of Draco Nins. I personally authorize all virgin births in the area. I have a large collection of poly-globular eyeballs. Right this way. For a small price, I sell glimpses of the future — invariably accurate. Well, matey is there anything I can temp you with?”
David’s stomach was doing flip-flops. He was convinced that none of it was real, but didn’t know how to escape. “I have everything I need . . . Just want to get back.”
“Going somewhere so soon. We’ve hardly had time to get acquainted. Let me give you a parting gift to show there are no hard feelings.” The cadaver handed David a stone.
“Don’t worry dear boy — it won’t bite. It’s the eye of a Venusian Swort. The creature died in the arms of an astronaut — a tragic love affair. The astronaut sold the eye to me in prostrate destitution. Stare at it — it will help you see.”
Nothing happened when David looked at the stone, but when he looked up he was on the street outside the shop.