They were coming from beyond the horizon. Jonathan Rangle saw them through the Ultra-Lens he purchased from a Con-Arts Website: giant, voracious ants devouring everything in sight. The dream fragmented and shattered like a delicate wine glass. Jonathan was fifty and he still had comic-book dreams. The little boy inside the man refused to grow up. He was immature, unable to accept reality.
Jonathan couldn’t adjust. He tried (sometimes desperately) to control circumstances. He was convinced something was wrong (a spanner in the works). He was driven to discover the true nature of reality. Doctor Zosomo Kulio told him, “your behavior is part of a vicious circle: you reject reality only to create another version that you also reject as being inauthentic — and the cycle starts over.”
What Zosomo said made sense, but it didn’t really matter. Something really was wrong, terribly wrong!
Rufus, a rat that lived in the wall, told Jonathan Rangle that people around the country were very upset. Rufus was Rangle’s best friend. He sat on his haunches and ate cheese. Together, the rat and the man, sipped wine and talked until delirium set in and the morning sun ignited the world.
“They want more,” the rat said, “TV isn’t enough. The world is changing too fast. Old jobs are being replaced with technology. Only movie stars and billionaires can afford the life that TV promotes. Ads are everywhere. Buy more. Eat more. Get more any way you can. Privacy is a thing of the past. Computers invade brains with slogans and enticements. Free credit. Free everything!”
“Yes,” Jonathan ruminated, “it wasn’t like this in the 1950’s. It was pleasant and easy going, or so I’ve been told.”
“Wrong,” the rat sneered, “it was lily white and the world was under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Today, people are running scared cause they are being replaced. The alien threat is real, but it has nothing to do with immigrants or minorities.”
Jonathan knew what Rufus meant. His own father was a white-nationalist. He was an angry man who blamed other people for his own failures.
Rufus commiserated, “you have to be a failure in America… that’s how the rich get richer. Poor people are brain-washed to buy what they can’t afford so they go into debt. It’s a vicious circle. Believing the rich man is the biggest mistake of all.”
The news of the election-results was very upsetting, but not unexpected.
Unhappy voters gave the reigns of government to a New Faction. Traditional politicians with their empty promises were no longer acceptable. Outright lies were easier to digest. Fables on gold platters were more palatable than cold facts and reasoned debate that forced people to think. Thinking was considered hard work. No one really wanted to work except for “stupid immigrants who were stealing jobs” (quote taken from the New Faction website). Most people wanted the leisurely life that only the new President and his cabinet could provide.
The New Faction took control. Jonathan was bereft. Rufus took it all in stride. At first people were dismayed, but eventually what seemed so unnatural became acceptable. The press and congress wanted to give the new team a chance; they couldn’t be worse than other administrations.
The New Faction was very different. Working to fulfill great expectations, the President and his cabinet made an effort to appear human. Inevitably, nature took its course and the president slipped back to his old ways: wallowing in swill. The members of the new cabinet were relieved to discard the clothes they were forced to wear in order to fool the public.
“the world will never be the same,” Rufus commented as he ate his cheese and sipped his wine. Jonathan nodded.
Eventually everyone got used to pigs in the White House. Soon it was “business as usual” having barnyard animals rule the country.
“This is David Oblivion reporting from the basement of a deserted building in New Jerusalem. I’m tired and hungry. I’ve been running for three days. I’m trying to escape the future. I am able to send these messages due to an anomaly, a black-hole called Queer-time. Listen up… I am sending messages, images and stories from the future, your future… and, no, it isn’t a pretty “Norman Rockwell” picture… and, it isn’t the future Donny Trumpit predicted: the Global Utopia of Family Values, full employment, and the American flag. A friend once called this Queer-time a human manufactured Rapture… but, in fact, no one appears to be going to heaven. Instead, we are living in hell.
The internet has been banned; but it can’t be stopped. It seeded itself from simple viruses that were used to infest computers. The result was the birth of monsters. The Net has become self-aware and ubiquitous… capriciously sliding between power brokers, helping or destroying on a whim… but, always seeding itself and creating more monsters. The little war the U.S. started in Iraq never stopped… it spread to Syria … fueled by religious fanatics and Russian avarice. Our President’s Russian ties earned him billions while the country sank into a swamp of corruption that spread to the Net, becoming part of the Net, fed by corporations and mega-industries. America has become New Jerusalem… born of the internet!
America, “that shinning city on the hill” — now, we live in enclaves and barricaded communities… or in hovels and abandoned buildings. People stay indoors because the streets are too dangerous. War exists everywhere. Most people are plugged into the Net discovering virtual worlds and virtual pleasures. Nothing is safe. Spy Eyes are everywhere… bugs, on search and destroy missions, are relentless. Many enclaves must submit to the New Puritans. There are many powerful missionary groups that demand compliance to the “Word of God.” Missionaries use the internet for their own purpose, to ensnare unsuspecting “sinners” into virtual porn-palaces where their minds are dismembered and cannibalized. People no longer care about the dangers because the Net offers the only pleasurable distraction in a world where there is no place to escape.
Sometimes, demons roam the streets in search of targets to pick off like ducks in a shooting gallery. They go to deserted warehouses or back-alley bars and hunt for prey; or they sign-up for the war where it is easier to get weapons and where there are rewards for hunting and killing. War makes all things possible. A demon can become an officer and help mold a policy of rape and torture. A demon in a uniform can influence the minds of impressionable youth… and sucker the “poor” into fighting the war for the “rich.”
The only hope lies with the artists and poets of The Manifest, an underground group struggling to reveal the truth. As a member, my life is in jeopardy. I’m being hunted. At any moment …” Screen goes dark and Gunshots ring out.
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.
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.
Krator was falling into the screen. Everyone was attached to devices — it was the dawn of a new day. People were implanted and digitized. Everyone was a star: making videos, chatting, and networking. Adamine went undercover as an artist trying to connect the dots to the murder which took place in the art district outside a dilapidated movie-house. People didn’t bother going to movies anymore because all the films they wanted to see played inside their connected heads. Krator took his undercover role seriously and began to live like an artist, even renting a cheap room to use as a painting studio. He enjoyed his foray into making art even though he never had any inclination to be an artist. An odd transformation took place. He started to notice objects and connections he never saw before. Adamine was becoming the artist he was pretending to be. The case became secondary. The body no longer mattered — only the gruesome image of the body remained as an inspiration for Krator’s disturbing paintings. He painted furiously, learning techniques as he created each new painting. His art was filled with bodies torn apart — lives upended and isolated in pools of blood. He knew it was a crime of passion but he didn’t know why … so, instead of investigating, he painted. He discovered how difficult it was to be an artist when no one cared for meaningful work. His paintings were not “beautiful” or decorative — his work only caused people to think and contemplate the mystery of life itself. People bought paintings as investments. Everyone was a consumer. Everyone was a product. Adamine began to suffer as only a truly dedicated fanatic can suffer — totally divorced from the real world and fuming in his own obsessive vision. Bombs exploding in the art district woke him to the gravity of the situation. It all related to the initial, unsolved crime. Bombs were followed by random shootings and other acts of violence against the most innocent and vulnerable. A media circus was quickly erected to take advantage of the unfolding drama — everyone craved entertainment. Even the victims gladly participated on blogs and social media — offering gruesome photos and selling actual artifacts from the crime scenes. Religious fanaticism reached a fevered pitch inflamed by scandals in the Catholic Church and demagoguery in the Koran, Bible, and other religious documents — it was all part of the growing entertainment-circus fueled by the need to make life more dramatic. People were totally connected and totally bored — pressure built to produce more intense (violent) incidents to substitute for human interaction in a virtually dependent world. It all became part of Adamine Krator’s art.
The detective-artist was sequestered for questioning. Adamine was confused. The authorities in his new home began to view him as a prime suspect. He wondered if he was originally hired to be ensnared in a trap: blamed for the crime he was hired to solve. Was he a scapegoat? He was taken to a virtual holding cell where he was a guest on the Police Kebab Reality Show broadcast over the internet. (more to come)