We didn’t know where it came from. It could have been an interloper from Outer Space or from another Dimension. It could have been a messenger from the Future. We did not know. The thing filled the entire sky. Our city, the home to millions of people, began to feel like a tiny toy in the midst of over-powering forces.
There is no denying… the foreign object was incredibly beautiful. The swirling colors and undulating masses were hypnotic attracting each of us like a moth to light.
Nothing happened for months. The object in the sky just loomed over us, blocking out the sun and moon. The object glowed with a metallic light that turned our city into a luminous pit of specters. Tall buildings that were once considered glorious architectural achievements were now insignificant structures, pale ghosts.
Observation towers were built to get better views of the massive stranger in our sky. Machines were launched to closely inspect the enigma looming above us.
The extraordinary event was turned into a circus. No one knew how it happened. Tickets were sold. Carnival-rides were constructed to take people to the surface of the anomaly where they were promised a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Anyone who took the ride would receive the keys to the universe and all questions about life-and-death would be answered. No one really knew who created the advertising campaign promoting an alien visitor. It just happened.
Of course, everyone wanted what was promised. There were no holdouts. Rumors began to circulate that the visitor offered eternal life and perfect health. Who could turn down such an offer?
People pawned everything in order to take the ride. Property, cars, homes; even children had monetary value and were sold on the spot. It was worth it to know the secrets of the universe and to be immortal.
All manner of monetary maneuvering took place. A great auction was held to redistribute the city’s wealth. The auction lasted 24 hours. At the end only silence remained. The great specter in the sky was gone, disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Where our once proud city stood there was nothing but dust.
“I occupy a room on the rim of the world,” he said to no one in particular. Leonora sat by the bedside reading the news on a digital screen. She was a mirage, a figment of his over-active imagination born from the womb of his loneliness. He led a long life; now, he was retired. He reclined on the memory-foam bosom of Time collecting the residue left from unfulfilled dreams.
The man in the White House kept throwing twitter-bombs at Frankie Bernbaum, an innocent bystander. Frankie was a third-rate comedian on the virtual Borscht Belt in the Catskills. Frankie’s shtick was not very funny – it was more therapy than comedy. Frankie needed therapy. He stood on the “realer-than-life” stage and confessed to being a hypochondriac with obsessive-compulsive tendencies and mother issues. A few people thought it was funny enough to keep bringing him back. But, Frankie was getting worse. His agent, Frosty Dick, thought Frankie should be committed to an asylum. Frosty had issues. He worshiped the man in the White House. Bernbaum’s criticisms and exaggerations infuriated Frosty.
Frankie had a new shtick, “Oy Vey, I got a hernia,” he told the five people tuned into the Velvet-VR-Lounge at the Mogen David Motor Lodge. “It’s such a pain,” he said, “but pain is all I got. I named it… I call my hernia Donny after our beloved presidente’.” No one in the audience laughed. Frankie assumed they were all supporters of the president. Frankie was upset. He began to rant. “Dumb schmucks,” he yelled at the audience.
“Goddamn dumb schmucks!” He believed the audience was spying on him, sent by the government to take him down. He had visions of Nazis.
Two security guards wrestled Frankie to the floor of the make-shift stage. Frosty Dick arranged to have Frankie admitted to the Cold Stone Infirmary for the Disturbed.
Years ago Frankie Bernbaum had delusions of grandeur. When his dream of fame and fortune was crushed by reality, Frankie became a bottom-feeder, just barely hanging on. Nagging pains convinced him to see a doctor. Dr. Zosimo Kulio revealed some interesting results, “Frankie you are the direct descendant of a catfish living in a Louisiana Swamp.” Bottom-feeder, indeed. It was odd news, but Kulio was an odd doctor. “No… I’m joking. Can’t you take a joke?” Frankie wasn’t laughing. The doctor’s real diagnosis was just as astounding. “Frankie, you got a hernia. In my opinion this is not an ordinary hernia. It is developing. X-rays revealed a head. I’m afraid you had a twin when you were born, but the twin didn’t make it. At least that’s what we thought at the time. Seems like… your twin developed inside your body so now you have a hernia with a human head.” Frankie was overwhelmed. He’d always wondered why his mother gave him up at birth. She must have felt the pain of the unborn twin. “Be careful,” Zosimo advised, “your hernia is still developing… maybe a body. We can’t remove it because the hernia is rooted to your spine. For now it might be better to give it a name and try to make friends.” Frankie felt resentment toward his unborn twin. In a storm of sarcasm he named the hernia after the president… and laughed. Changes began almost immediately. Donny started to complain. He became a real nuisance. He took the role of president seriously. He made unreasonable demands based on lies and exaggerations. Donny drove Frankie crazy and that led to the outburst at the Mogen David Motor Lodge.
After the incident at the Lodge Frankie was sedated. He woke-up in a white room. Dr. Zosimo Kulio stood over Frankie with a twelve-inch hypodermic needle. The doctor jabbed his patient with a mixture of psychedelic drugs. Frankie had to confront the monsters in his head.
Donny sat on a stool and smiled. The hernia sported an orange comb-over. Frankie was horrified, “what are you,” he sputtered.
“I can see you are in complete awe because you are standing in my presence.”
“I’m gagging. Talk about ugly…”
“Hey, buttercup, I’m in charge. Treat me with respect or I’ll make your life hell!”
“This is crazy. You’re a piece of my lower intestine, a hernia.”
“I shall call you stupid because that is what you are. I was your extremely mistreated twin; then, I became President.”
“I called you Donny as a joke.”
“I’m no joke, asshole. You were envious of the power wielded by a great man. You wished me into existence. Now, I’m in charge.”
“This is not happening,” Frankie moaned.
“It’s happening funny-man – I mean washed-up hack.”
Frankie felt a sudden jolt of pain and heard laughter like the sound of a buzz-saw.
“That’s right Frankie-boy – you are Out. Fired. I’m in charge and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Leonora Vetch missed Frankie. She hadn’t heard from him in over a month. They had a short-term affair (two nights on a waterbed not worth remembering). The affair quickly cooled down and became an awkward friendship. She was happy about what happened, how it all turned out… Leonora prized friendship more than sex. It wasn’t always easy dealing with Frankie’s obsessions and ideation. Still, Frankie was a comforting presence when he wasn’t rambling on about politics or philosophy. In truth, Leonora didn’t have a lot of friends and Frankie was dependable. She was a newspaper reporter working for the Daily Grind. She met Frankie Bernbaum while doing a fluff piece about the Virtual revival of the Borscht Belt. Leonora liked Bernbaum’s act. He reminded her of Lenny Bruce… only Frankie was not nearly as intelligent or daring.
Frankie always turned up or called every week. If he planned to be away he left a message. Leonora heard about the blow-up at the Mogen David Motor Lodge. She knew Frosty Dick had Frankie committed to Cold Stone; but they could only hold him for twenty-four hours. Frankie would have shown up on her doorstep after his release. Leonora decided to investigate. If necessary she would turn this case into a hashtag frenzy or meme attack. She had the skills.
Leonora went to Bernbaum’s apartment. It was empty. She searched the Virtual Archives for information: leftover bits, ramdom bytes – clues with Frankie’s psychic signature attached. Leonora realized she needed help. She found no trace of her friend, but she found something else: the one person who could solve the mystery, Adamine Krator. He was the legendary Detective-Inspector who was incarcerated by the authorities in Red City. He was framed of course, but that didn’t matter in the arcane, digital jungle. Krator was entombed in the One-Zero VR Archive.
Leonora uncovered the digital codes that could give Krator limited virtual-freedom. The codes worked like an electronic monitoring-devise. If Krator strayed too far off course (as described in the compliance-plan set forth by Leonora) he would be pulled back like a rubber-band, back into prison.
The great Inspector was so relieved to be out in the cascading Virtual World that he vowed to solve the case and discover what happened to Frankie Bernbaum.
As usual he went about his work with exactitude. Krator was hyper-vigilant (a characteristic that could be described as a personality disorder; or the defining behavioral trait of a Genius).
The detective followed a routine starting with the onset of events that led up to the disappearance. He researched the places where Frankie was last seen. He recreated the pivotal moments that occurred leading up to the time when Frankie was missed. It was necessary to become Frankie, necessary to walk in the man’s shoes. It was a technique that Adamine virtually invented. In so doing the Inspector found a few clues, very few at first; but every clue told a story and led to larger discoveries. At last, Frankie Bernbaum was found; unfortunately the comedian was not himself. He was found in an alley next door to the White House Bar & Grill. He was cut to pieces and very dead.
The great Adamine Krator put the pieces together to answer the question, “what happened to Frankie Bernbaum?”
Upon release from the Cold Stone Infirmary Frankie went to his apartment. He needed to put everything in order because he did not plan to return. He was in severe pain caused by his hernia. Donny continually badgered and mocked Frankie. There was no let up. The hernia intended to wall off Frankie. There would no longer be communication with Frankie. He would be imprisoned as the enemy. The comedian launched his own attack against Donny: weight lifting, squats, and extreme exercises… all to cause pain to the volatile hernia, to make Donny stop. Of course the pain he caused Donny doubled back on Frankie. Unbearable pain. Frankie staggered into the White House Bar where he proceeded to get blinding drunk. The drunker he became, the crazier Donny became: attacking and swearing, trying to grind Frankie into the ground beneath his feet… the seething hatred could be felt by the patrons in the bar. They were wary of this crazy comedian who sobbed and ranted about the filthy man who was president. A fight broke out. Heads were cracked open spilling brains across the floor. The comedian was yelling and sobbing. He couldn’t take the rising pain. He could not let Donny take control (Donny’s words echoed inside his skull, “I’m in charge and there is nothing you can do about it.”) There was something Frankie could do. He backed into the alley behind the bar and unsheathed the knife he took from his apartment. There was something… and Frankie proceeded to attack Donny, sacrificing his own life in the battle.
Frankie Bernbaum gasped for air. He was finished telling his story. Dr. Zosimo Kulio bit his lip. It wasn’t easy seeing his patient in such a state of decompensation. The man was under undue stress. The sickness was all in his head. The country would get back to normal one of these days and it would all seem like a dream… at least, that was everyone’s hope. He had to admit nothing was easy anymore. It wasn’t easy having his clinic turned into a prison for dissenters and aliens. But, he felt confident it would change… it had to change!
Sammy opened a door in the wall and entered a game room called, Kingpin. There were many rooms in the Stone Edifice on Pennsylvania Avenue. Sammy played at being several characters in the game. In the hall-of-mirrors he saw himself as Leonora Mangrove. She was a knockout manufactured from Fractal-Coherence and anti-matter. Sammy studied Quantum Physics. He wanted to learn how to shine like the light from a nuclear blast. He talked rhapsodic to himself. Many characters emerged. Leonora hummed a tune and Sammy cracked jokes trying to dispel a growing feeling of dread.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had a stable life with a lover and good friends. He could depend on his job as a salesman… it was boring but paid the bills. Sammy wondered when his life became so heated, so complicated. He remembered getting married. It was finally legal to marry another man. He always believed he was heterosexual. He changed somewhere along the line, but he did not know where or when. Making love to Tommy was like being immersed in molten lead. Tommy broke through the barrier that separated Sammy from the rest of the world.
Leonora interjected, “you are a confused man, Sammy. You got it all wrong.”
For a moment Sammy looked like he was about to cry; then, he resigned himself to the situation and asked, “how did it happen?”
Leonora reacted, “Don’t you remember being an astronaut… the first person to fly faster than the speed of light? Don’t you remember being stoned by Roger? Don’t you remember the Kingpin?”
“No… none of it. I thought I sold shoes and lived a simple life with Tommy.”
“You did for awhile,” Leonora interjected, “then all hell broke loose.”
A synapse lit up in Sammy’s brain… He remembered a news report about Al Loyd Benson. He was an astronaut nicknamed Lightning. It was reported that Al Loyd crossed the barriers of Time to go beyond corporeal existence. He was a time-traveler from the future. But, Al Loyd was never a man. A human body could never withstand the stress inflicted by Time Travel. Al Loyd was a machine, a robot.
Sammy shouted at Leonora, “pain… doesn’t that make me a man!”
Leonora modulated the color spectrum on her new acetate skin. “Maybe,” she responded, “maybe not.”
Sammy suffered. He was never free of a sense of dread. How was it possible to survive in such a frail human body? He was living in a Hell-world. There was mortal danger everywhere: on streets, in traffic. thieves and bullies roamed the neighborhood. He could fall and break his bones. Collusion and murder were commonplace. His only relief came from his lover’s touch, hand to brow.
“Don’t get maudlin,” Leonora sounded bored, “maybe Tommy doesn’t even exist. He’s just a character. All the characters come out at night.” Her words ricocheted through Sammy’s brain. They were everywhere like zombies, characters, actors unhinged from reality, roaming free through M.C. Escher’s optical illusions.
His name was Felix. He saw himself reflected in a thousand screens and mirrors of illusion. Nothing was real, least of all himself.
There is a switch in my brain that turns on and off and recycles my personality. I am forced from one dimension to another… never certain of who or where I am.
“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress.
Donny Trident was the mastermind behind a plan to upgrade the human race.
“Am I part of a Hive?”
“My name is Morton Slope and I’m part of a conspiracy.“
Madam Celia-Quark conducted a séance. She attempted to channel the spirits of Time and Space.
Benda Creamola looked like Elsa Lancaster in the movie, Bride of Frankenstein.
Starling was a Polysexual-biomorph who could be any sex or gender depending on the mood of the moment.
“I’m the man who wanted to save the world.”
The last time Joey saw his therapist he cried.
Rabbit had a vicious smile and a spine-tingling laugh.
Bondeer Saville was going to the Masquerade Ball. She pranced across the electronic fast-lanes like lightning incarnate.
“My name is Marvin Naivan and I don’t belong here.”
Miss Blossom enjoyed her work at the Night Station. It wasn’t too difficult as long as you kept your mind to yourself and followed orders.
The actor was silently staring at the worm in the bottle of tequila, hoping to forget everything.
Electra Glomm reset her life several times, changing her colors like the lizard slithering across the kitchen floor. Plastic surgery helped.
Roxy Box was a semi-intelligent reporter working for News Corpse, the Internet conglomerate. Roxy was not a woman or man – Roxy was IT, “information technology.”
Chan-X was a skinny teen, a member of the Red Gang, an incestuous family of throwaways, lost and unwanted souls.
Samantha Lux came to the party with a Versace handbag loaded with anti-personnel weapons.
Jason Montieth was certain his identity had been stolen
The rapid-fire memory-flash began to fade and Sammy found himself on a metal floor. At first he thought he was on a train traveling with fellow prisoners, going to Buchenwald. He recognized several passengers. They were old friends, former lovers, and actors he’d known when he was a young man. Leonora smiled and flashed a victory sign. He was on a Transit Ship that broke through the wall that surrounded Earth. Mr. D (a man with the medical condition of Dwarfism) was at the controls. The ship moved faster than the speed of light. Everyone was swiftly transported to the Land of the Dying Sun.
Once Lilly was a white-supremacist, a Nazi named Lennard. Before her transformation she was a great fan of the current pussy-grabber in the White House. Lilly wasn’t sure how she changed. She wasn’t certain if it was a government authorized transformation to punish Lennard for his suspected crimes. “No,” she decided. She always wanted to be a woman and that was the reason she acted like a thug. No one would suspect Lennard. No one knew Lennard was really a woman inside a pig’s body.
She couldn’t remember taking hormones or having any surgery. Lilly decided it was the codes that deleted Lennard and allowed her true self to emerge. A secret-service agent supplied the transformation-codes. She realized it was part of a conspiracy; or, perhaps it was merely fake news.
The high profile lawyer declared, “it wasn’t a real crime… nobody got killed.” It was the corporation’s latest defense. “Even if it was murder,” he stated, “the corporation can’t be held responsible.”
Lilly was watching the news on a portable screen. She was having tea with her companion, Sylvia Tungsten. They sat at a pink, marble table in the Washington Annex. They were in close proximity but preferred to communicate over a wireless connection. “More fake news,” Lilly typed.
“OMG… will it ever end,” Sylvia tweeted.
“Is this a closed channel?” Lilly retweeted.
“OMG… yes! It is Facebook safe.”
Once, Lilly believed she was a time-traveler and she confided in Sylvia. Her friend confessed to having panic attacks due to the investigations. Lilly was dumbfounded. She had no idea she was being investigated, but Sylvia was convinced even though they both had security clearances. Lilly pondered her last thoughts. When did she get a security clearance and why? She recalled being unemployed with no access to sensitive information of any kind. Her memory had been causing problems lately, since the transformation. Lilly assumed she wasn’t completely adjusted to her new lifestyle. Suddenly, she had an outrageous idea coupled with the horrific image of a pig. Sylvia stared as if in shock… her eyes were very large and brown like the eyes of a doe. Lilly thought her friend might have been a deer at one time, but she couldn’t be certain. The transformation codes were called CRISPR. The codes could have changed her from a pig into a woman. Fake news and fake histeria were leaking all over the pink, marble table from cell phones and smart screens.
Orlow Fabricatum popped up with a digital notepad. He was the fly on the wall reporter with a nose for news, gossip, and fashion trends. The lady heffers were definitely trendy. Orlow specialized in smear campaigns.
“Hello Ladies,” Orlow hissed, “may I be of some assistance? I can easily rub out problems… and turn turds into roses. I have a nose for news.”
“Hitler was a basket case!” The talking-head kept yelling while he pointed at the president. Lilly and Sylvia were comatose from too much tea. Orlow took notes and reported to the new Kavanaugh Bureau of Decency. There was an elephant in the room and it gave off a sour smell. Someone expectorated, “conflicts of interest.” There was a public outcry that was muffled by empty promises of free money. Growing panic became commonplace. A small war was considered (hush, hush) to distract the masses? An elected official could start a war of distraction by creating a phony incident.
Lilly straddled worlds between the living and dead trying to make sense out of absurdity. Was she married, she asked herself for no particular reason; but she could not recall. She was bombarded by too much information. Holiday cheer spread across the internet like a virus. Everyone wanted something… hands reached out and tore ribbons of flesh from her body. She had to buy gifts: trinkets, decorations, slow cookers, coffee pots, etc, etc. Insults and assaults flashed across floppy-screens demanding attention. “Drain the swamp. Lock her up!” Lilly was afraid. Did they want to put her in jail? What was her crime?
Lilly came back from her dream. She yawned and snorted, “there are too many conspiracy theories… how can I keep up?” It was true. There was a man named Otis T. Carr who built a flying saucer. His invention was hidden and he was disappeared. Lilly skimmed the internet and discovered the lost city of Atlantis. She researched Bill Lazar who said he worked for the government building a machine with Alien technology. Did he talk to the Aliens, she wondered. Lilly saw cities on Mars and Pyramids beneath Antarctica. She was dazzled by the revelations. There was no longer any reason to live an ordinary life. There was no reason to get distracted by political news or government corruption — it was all fake! Lilly binged on YouTube following reliable news about alien contacts, big foot, and leprechauns. She forgot about Crispr. She repressed any thoughts about a pig. Lilly suspected her new found interests and revitalization had to do with Orlow Fabricatum who rewrote history with the nub of his digital pen. Sylvia’s panic was no longer relevant. Nothing mattered any more except images on the screen and encounters with the arcane.
Lilly had a small-death epiphany. She heard the pounding and clamoring at the doors of perception. It was an obvious trick of reality. She realized there was no reality — it was all fake. From birth to death everyone exists in a Virtual World. Lilly could see the glitches that flickered at the edges of her vision. It made her wonder if any real world ever existed.
She soon forgot her epiphany because she couldn’t remember who she was. Her only concerns were the images on the screen. One image became dominant: a new friend, a little girl in a yellow dress who sat in the corner sucking on a lollypop and smiling. She was so sweet and friendly. Sometimes she flew into a TV-screen. She pirouetted and blew kisses. She always encouraged Lilly to explore the digital signals that fluoresced across the screens. The sweet girl said her name was Little Miss.
Lilly never discovered who she was or if she really was transformed from a pig. She floated on the wavelengths of electronic signals with her little friend along side. One morning Lilly awoke to discover she could no longer remember her name. She had no memory. Lilly just stared at the screens in her room. Moving images piled up and overflowed. Yammering voices slammed together to become a garbled cacophony. Little Miss wrapped her arms around Lilly’s waist. It was a long hug and Lilly slowly eased her way far from the world. Little Miss delivered Lilly to the Land of the Dying Sun.
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.
Mortimer thought the bar looked like a black reflection-pool. Everything shimmered. Walls seemed to drip like burning sulfur. Faces floated around him like mephitic sea creatures. The girl seated next to him was a mermaid consumed in slow flames. Her name was Kimberly. She was a hooker. Mortimer had known her for several months. They never went to bed together. Mortimer wanted her too much to risk rejection; besides, he had no money to bargain with. They became friends who occasionally met at The Star Hound for a drink.
Kimberly was small and loud; she commanded respect. She had red hair that snapped with static electricity and green eyes that sank holes into a man’s brain. Her body was beautifully rendered like a painting by Caravaggio. She wore orange satin shorts and a lace halter.
“A person has a responsibility to experience all that life has to offer,” she said with brassy authority.
Mortimer responded, “you’re right, only some things are more important than others. All I’m saying is that a person’s got to make choices. No one-person can possibly experience everything.”
“A person doesn’t have to say no to anything that comes along,” she said, “in the end your experience is all that counts.”
“What about the results of your experience, the products and consequences of experience — that’s something isn’t it?”
“I don’t know. Nothing lasts forever. I like to live in the present.”
“Kimberly,” Mortimer sighed like a love sick child, “you’re beautiful.”
“Yeah, I know; and the world is a garden of eternal joy.” Her face twitched. “Oh fuck. Philosophy is bullshit. I suck cock for a living — that’s what really counts.”
The bar seemed to tremble as Mortimer sipped amber fluid from a glass that was surgically attached to his right hand. A warthog in a charcoal-gray suit walked up to the bar to order a drink. For a moment Mortimer saw Kimberly as she really looked: a sagging middle-aged prostitute trying to appear young with dyed hair and thick makeup. Dark mascara dripped like smudged blue-wax around red eyes. Her body puffed over the edges of satin and lace.
Suddenly she clasped his hand and drew it to her flaccid breasts. “I am the Dark Lady,” she whispered.
Mortimer gasped. The bar gleamed like melted silver. The naked bartender smiled with lizard teeth. Mortimer understood. He was inside the painting, the one he was currently working on. He was stuck beneath splotches of magenta and ocher, beneath a torn label from a Heineken Beer. He could feel Kimberly vibrate beneath his hand like something mechanical. Her skin had turned green and cold. She smiled as she spoke, “there is something behind all this, something absolute and permanent. There is something at the heart of chaos. Cluck… Cluck… Cluck!”
Mortimer withdrew his hand as if he’d touched molten lead. Kimberly collapsed to the floor. She shattered like thin crystal. Pieces struck Mortimer like razor blades, embedding themselves into his skin. The bartender bared his pointy teeth.
Mortimer pushed himself through the mob of drunken predators. They stank of swamp and their skins were bejeweled with fungus. He crashed into the barroom door. It was difficult pushing through the opening. He was met with a wall of resistance. He soon realized the barrier he faced was the painting, a barricade of jet-black oil paint — and it was impenetrable.
Mortimer Field was an artist with peculiar talents. I befriended Mortimer while working at The Institute for the Mentally Deranged (this was during the 1970’s when “deranged” was considered an accurate diagnosis). Mortimer was a patient. Two years after I met him, he disappeared. Soon after, I began to collect the stories he told me (I kept meticulous notes) along with his artwork and journals. His work has often been described as disturbing. I offer this collection of notes and stories to my esteemed reader for you to judge for yourself.
This story is about the day Mortimer Field saw a woman crossing the street. Mortimer said there was something annoying about the woman as if she possessed some insidious secret. She was heavy set. Her form seemed to be pulled forward by the ponderous swell of her stomach. Her face was like puckered dough. Her lips were like the flame of an acetylene torch and she wore large, gold frame sunglasses. She appeared to be in her late fifties. Her hair was like burnt roots sticking out from the edge of a pink bathing cap. She wore a fur coat that looked like automobile upholstery. A red-and-black muumuu radiated beneath the fur coat like an electric bulb.
She plowed across the street in a trance. Her brown hose slipped down over her heavy thighs. Mortimer became more and more agitated as he related his story. His voice squeaked with perturbation, “she looked at me,” he said, “suddenly she looked without pausing and without losing her heavy stride.” Mortimer wanted to scream. The woman was too familiar. He could see her eyes swimming behind the dark lenses in her glasses. They looked like eggs broken on a plate.
As he related the story he began to sweat profusely. He said seeing the woman made his skin tighten and his head ache as if his bony skull was about to break through the thin layer of flesh. He recognized the woman. He knew her. She was in the painting he’d just completed before leaving his studio for the street. She was the woman he imagined — she was solely his creation!