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.
His Surrogates called him, Earl Stump. The boy emancipated himself when he was twelve, the age of consent. During the first twelve years it was considered essential for a child to experience the “real world” in order to counter “arrested development.” When Earl donned the VR Helmet for the first time he changed his name and persona. He called himself, Johnny Biggie Wang, and connected to the Fast Track in search of entertainment. In the beginning he was ensnared by viral videos and dumb snap-chats. His personal entertainment value was zero and that meant no chits to pay for food, lodging, and maintenance. At this rate Johnny Biggie would starve and his physical body would be recalled and recycled. Johnny had to find a shtick. He needed a gimmick that could make him a star like The Donald. Johnny knew he could never outdo The Donald, no one could. Johnny just wanted to emulate his hero.
He tried pole dancing at Provenda Empora, but even in virtual reality he couldn’t dance and his morphing skills were not mature enough to perfect a really hot body. No one was interested in a barely pubescent boy no matter what he made himself look like. The few chits he managed to earn were from tired pervs. Doing it with a perv did garner some attention, but not enough to keep Johnny’s real heart pumping. Before leaving school, Johnny read a book about the value of entertainment. He knew everyone was a potential star. Once you donned the helmet and stepped onstage, you were either “In or Out.” Everyone was on camera 24/7. As a young boy, before his hormones kicked in, he was dismayed to learn the best entertainment involved sex, dismemberment, and death. Once he was optimized with testosterone and doctor approved medication he was ready for the big time, eager to be like The Donald and provide the best possible entertainment.
Johnny loved spinning along the web, visiting fancy habitats and disreputable pleasure domes. Everything was free to experience. The only price paid was the reminder from a cell phone about a person’s physical body that was always in need of something. The phone was the umbilical cord to the outside world. It rang every hour with a report on an individual’s entertainment value, the debits and credits.
Johnny tried the reality show circuit where specific challenges pitted contestants against one another. Winners got the most chits. Losers were put on display in the most humiliating circumstances and their chits were dissolved. But losers were given a fair shake: they were rewarded if their misery and groveling provided sufficient entertainment value. Everyone voted. A true democracy. Biggie did poorly on the reality show circuit. He had a twelve year old mind that made him an easy mark. He ended in the dog house every time, able to recoup some earned value by howling and whimpering like a spanked puppy. He finally did what The Donald would do and switched tactics. Like his role model Johnny learned how to gain interest on his entertainment coefficient in the free-market stock-exchange where votes and chits were bought and sold. He learned to play the game. He smoked out newbies and put them in his debt until he could foreclose.
He pretended to be The Donald and that became his Shtick. Johnny Biggie Wang flitted like a butterfly across the wireless-net, but he bit like a cunning shark. He made a killing in the Suicide Dispossium. The suicides were always great entertainment, filled with desperate losers trying to gain a few extra chits to live long enough to enjoy a wing-bang farewell party. Johnny convinced new arrivals to try the suicide route. He provided ample chits for an unforgettable departure; then, he’d receive the entertainment value that resulted once the poor sap left the stage for the last time. He always came out a winner.
He became a wheeler and dealer like The Donald. He earned value and chits from the blood and guts of Virtual Reality — Murder, Inc. was a model entertainment built around an old movie that played every night at the Cinerama Dome in Megaplex City. Murders ended in the real world with the physical body sold off for spare parts. Torture and mayhem were lucrative ventures for someone as clever as Biggie. His physical body was pampered due to his accumulation of chits — food and other healthy nutrients were fed into his body through tubes. He lie on a comfortable Barca-lounge, naked except for a diaper and a VR helmet. Electrical stimulation provided exercise and massage. The helmet never came off. Johnny was living in paradise until everything began to melt. (end Part 1 of 2)
Humphrey Bogart sat in a Mexican Bar drinking shot after shot of Tequila. He was not the famous movie star. His full name was Humphrey Bogart Gelfen. His parents loved the movies and Bogart was their favorite actor. They raised a good son. He was intelligent and career oriented even though that meant giving up his dream of becoming a science fiction writer. He took the advice of his parents, “there’s no money in writing crazy stories.” Humphrey became a school teacher. He married a sweet, Jewish girl named, Shana. Although Humphrey was never religious, he learned to accept Shana’s Orthodoxy. The couple kept a Kosher house. They joined the Temple and attended regular services. Some of the religious strictures were difficult to maintain, but the rewards were plentiful: a good home and loving family. They had a son named Joshua. Life was good.
Humphrey did not speak Spanish, but Consuela understood his needs. She brought the Tequila. Humphrey drank himself into a muddled haze. The place was a carnival that buzzed in his head. An old TV sat on a shelf above the bar. The colors on the screen were florescent, dancing patterns and shapes that were animated by jangling rhythms and raucous music.
Life was good until his son became a Zombie. Humphrey remembered the story of the Golem about an artificial man created by a Rabbi. No good could come of it. The dead cannot help but destroy the living. Humphrey told himself Joshua was going through a phase — Zombies were just another teenage trend. He told his wife to stay calm and pretend nothing was wrong. It worked for awhile until his sweet Shana fell under the spell of the Zombie craze. Zombies were everywhere. America was the first to bare the brunt of the invasion. Humphrey fled. Mexico was relatively safe for the time being, but the Zombies were getting closer. Humphrey kept drinking, trying to blot out the world.
It was more than a craze. It was a televised revolution. Zombies loved TV. They entered living rooms everywhere and caused havoc. No one knew when or where they might turn up next. The newer zombies always went after brains — their victims were torn apart; but older Zombies were satisfied simply watching TV. Zombies were all the rage. People didn’t complain too much because when they weren’t killing you zombies provided copious amounts of entertainment. Nothing could compare with the thrill of a Zombie attack. People craved entertainment. A social-geneticist, Dr. Essie Zuma, discovered the gene that caused homo-sapiens deep seeded hunger for entertainment. The discovery became the key to understanding all human behavior. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was tossed to the trash heap because Entertainment was now proven to be the most basic need, above the need for food or shelter. New industries were developed based on the entertainment value. New crises were manufactured to stimulate interest and participation. Many Zombies were developed in a lab using human guinea pigs. The drama was televised. People were excited by the possibilities of a world gone mad. Signals were sent through the air to create more Zombies. Zombie Fever captured the nation’s imagination like a brain infection, in fact “Brain Infection” was the next scheduled entertainment. Bureaucrats went wild, members of congress closed down the government, and the stock market crashed — it was all extremely entertaining. History was revised and rewritten in lieu of the endemic entertainment gene. The Roman Circus was seen as a pinnacle in human endeavor both for the audience and purported victims. The Christians who were thrown to the lions were being entertained as much as the emperor and his legions. Hitler was now considered a saint in that he provided so much unabashed entertainment. The millions of Jews and others who were shipped to concentration camps and gassed were entertainers enjoying their own devastating performances made possible by the ingenious Nazis production company. The photos and meticulous documents from that spectacular era will live forever, rebroadcast and rewritten to enthrall younger generations.
Zombies loved TV. They sat in stranger’s homes on plush sofas munching body parts and watching 3-D TV. All the Zombies had I-pads and smart phones so they could keep in touch with one another while getting news from the internet. All the while watching themselves on YouTube and keeping copious blogs describing their adventures, giving lessons on dismemberment, and giving advice on how to best enjoy brains, raw or barbequed. In the end, everyone was having a really good time — no one could imagine anything better.
The TV above the bar was sending signals to Humphrey Bogart’s brain.