I was cut off at the knees, ruptured… unable to resolve a problem that could mean life or death. A terrible wind was rising, threatening to engulf the world.
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 I am… or where I am.
What really happened in that Moscow hotel room?
Gordon Levy was an astronaut, happy and successful. He loved his family. His son, Timothy, wanted to be just like him. They played ball in the yard while Margie, his wife, watched with pride. Gordon was good at his job and he was rewarded with a special mission: to be the first astronaut to visit a habitable planet in another galaxy.
Moreau Manta reaches out to stroke the head of Piscador, his pet Peacock. The bird bites Manta’s hand. Blood oozes from the wound. It happens every time, but the ritual must be enacted. Manta is obsessed with order and repetition. He insists the bird will come around. At the same time, he relishes the pain as it represents the bound between him and Piscador.
He could never return from the dream.
Moreau is elderly. It has become more difficult to look at himself in the mirror. He is a gross character of the man he used to be, once trim and well-proportioned, now pushed and pulled out of shape by gravity. The years take a toll even on the rich and powerful. There is no escaping death.
Everything about the mission was top secret. Even Gordon was not privy to the exact technology that made the voyage possible. The mission was only supposed to last a year, an impossible objective since no one could go faster than the speed of light and the destination was hundreds of light-years away.
I’ve joined the legions of the dead in the land of the dying sun. I hang my head in shame for what I have done. I stood by while the world was dismantled. The machines came to my town and tore it apart.
Gordon was ecstatic to be chosen, but it meant leaving his family behind. Still, he couldn’t resist the challenge and glory of such a mission. On the morning of his departure, Gordon got a call from the President wishing him luck. His wife and son waved goodbye from the monitor in the cabin of the space craft. The countdown seemed to take longer than the actual trip through space. An incredible journey flashed through Gordon’s brain — faster than the speed of light.
I am drawn to young, teenage bodies, the warp and woof of skin over muscle, the surge of eroticism in every movement. Male or female… it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the expression of youthful grace and vulnerability. I am older and wiser so I can easily corrupt the innocents of youth, although I no longer believe anyone is truly innocent. Perhaps I am deluded thinking that I am still attractive and capable of love. It is a pleasurable delusion. What more can any one ask of life?
The new world was teeming with life. Furious colors, plants and creatures seemed to mutate before Gordon’s eyes like strange cartoon characters. Suddenly his silver space-suit began to ring. Gordon picked up the receiver and automatically responded, “Hello.”
“With new, improved PROPEL you are only limited by your imagination. Doctor recommended. Side effects may include PTSD and paralysis. Propel: don’t let life hold you back from your dream!”
“This is the voice of your on-board computer… this is not happening!” Gordon didn’t have time to understand the message because the world around him went totally dark. The dark absorbed all light, even the beam of his lantern was absorbed. There was only sound: chittering, snapping, gobbling noises that seemed to be closing in on Gordon.
What more can anyone ask… Unfortunately I am more complicated than that. I make trouble for myself. I indulge in pain. The painful search for understanding, for truth.
Back at mission-control there was applause and congratulations. Engineers managed to isolate Gordon’s brain, separate the brain from the body. The project was speculative, authorized by the Union of Cybernetic Scientists. Outer space was never the goal of the experiment. The scientists were concerned about “living space” on planet Earth. There were too many people on the planet and resources were limited.
I am constantly curious. I crave forbidden knowledge.
Gordon was the prototype… by taking the brain and recycling the body, more space would be available — space that could be sold for a profit. Gordon was never an astronaut. He was just an uneducated man collecting unemployment benefits. Billions of brains could be stored. Benefits would no longer be a drain on the economy. The brains would be treated well, preserved and allowed to live in virtual dreams. In time, the project was so successful most people vied for a brain transplant and eternal dreams. Of course, no one knew what kind of dreams would haunt the remains of humanity.
I am locked in a dungeon of my own creation from which there is no escape.
“I met Michael Robinet one year before the onset of the global Crisis. It was the best year of my life. It was the only year worth remembering. The Crisis destroyed everything else. I thought love dried up years ago like a desiccated corpse. At my age something as precious as love seemed impossible. I’m seventy-five, active and healthy; but still seventy-five. Mike is sixty, a relative juvenile compared to me. He is athletic and very beautiful. I am not! He is also good natured and protective; but no one could protect any of us from the Crisis. I am Doctor Lydia Thornwall and I am responsible… responsible for everything!”
Lydia Thornwall was a neuroscientist. She was studying the effects of aging on the brain, especially as it related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The work was very intense and she needed a break so she took a Virtual Trip to the Retro Club where she could get a jolt of brain-boost.
The Club was a neon amusement park. It brought back memories of a wild period when she explored the parameters of sex and drugs. At the time she told herself it was an analytical investigation, but with age she knew she was just having fun. Now, she was the oldest person in the Club. She still reveled in the culture of youth. She could flip back in time and experience the thrills of abandonment to prurient desires. Her recent discovery of a new brain-gene could wait awhile longer. She needed to experience a wave of ecstasy. She met Michael at the roundabout on the second floor.
The night poured into Lydia like a flood of Lysergic Acid. The walls melted and she awoke cradled in the arms of Michael Robinet. Love burrowed into her psyche like a velvet hummingbird probing a Venus Flytrap. That night, Lydia felt a fortress of solitude crumbling from within. The Venus Flytrap was deflowered and Lydia broke free from the prison of time. From that moment, Lydia was bound to Michael.
She returned to her laboratory on clouds of scented bouquets. She also had an added gift: the solution to the diseases of old-age, a way to activate the new brain-gene.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Onstate University not far from the hospital lab where Lydia Thornwall worked on her new formula. 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. Lydia lost interest, but she couldn’t avoid the talk. 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.
Lydia hid beneath her desk trying to work on the new formula. She longed for Michael to help her through the current crisis. The man on TV yelled at Lydia and called her an ugly, old whore. She bit her lip determined to complete the formula. The TV man was somehow connected to the numbers. She wondered if he had access to her information. A loud speaker shook the room with a reminder for Dr. Lydia Thornwall. Her next client arrived and was waiting in the Green Room.
He said his name was Satan and he wanted to make a deal. Lydia didn’t believe in the supernatural or in religious dogma, besides deals with Satan always ended badly. The man was likely suffering from late onset Schizophrenia. He babbled like a politician.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over oil rights, military might, 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.
It meant nothing to Lydia. She was a devoted scientist trying to make the world a better place. “Help the children,” she whispered, “help the old and frail.”
She signed a contract with Michael on the night of her deflowering. The rain fell like quicksilver from a cobalt sky. It was magical; but, unfortunately, it was caused by global warming. Lydia sighed and pursued her work. She dismissed Satan who seemed to devolve into a curious Bonobo Chimpanzee sitting in the corner of her lab.
“Curious,” she thought, “the way things change.” It was, indeed, very odd. Reality appeared to shift and warp. Layers of perception were superimposed over one another like virtual dreams, worlds within worlds.
As she worked, she pondered recent discoveries in Quantum Physics. They found the “God Particle” as hypothesized over fifty years ago. They smashed atoms to find the particle. It was a major discovery.
Dr. Thornwall was also looking for a particle, part of the human genome. She knew the brain-gene existed and now she needed to expose it. If her calculations were correct the gene she sought would cure the disease of old age and unlock the potential for immortality.
The politician was having a bad day. He never should have signed the contract. His wishes were all granted: money, power, women and sex; everything – he was a major celebrity… but, he realized too late, there is always a price to pay.
Hatecore music was yelling over the 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. Politics were blamed for the ensuing violence; but political enmity was only one factor. Dr. Lydia Thornwall was successful. She exposed the brain-gene and there were unexpected consequences: once exposed, the gene became dominant. It was more than Dr. Thornwall anticipated; not a cure, but a disease: a link to psychosis that came to be known as Satan’s Spark. The Spark went viral.
Lydia had a room in the psychiatric ward at Resurrection Hospital. She suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion. No information was known about Lydia — one night she just turned up at the emergency room. No one knew where she came from or what she did. Michael Robinet worked as an orderly and he was very kind to Lydia. Michael was a guardian angel.
Magnus Stoneware was the keeper of the Lens. He lived in a cell deep in the bowels of Oculus House. People were wary when they passed the house. It was reputed to be haunted. It was both a home and prison for disturbed geniuses. Oculus House was conjured into place, melted from the bed-rock beneath the earth. Magnus stared into the Lens and the Lens stared back at him, changing his brain and revealing the codes that determined reality. One “code” was named, Aubrey Good.
Aubrey was always confused by his last name, Good. He knew his ancestors were not all good. His great aunt, Magda, was a Nun who fell from grace when she got pregnant. Another relative was burned at the stack for conjuring black magic. As a teenager Aubrey prayed for guidance. He wanted to be good, so he became a scientist in an attempt to understand the mystery of human existence. He set up a laboratory in the basement of his ancestral home. It was dark and musty and there were rats in the walls. It wasn’t sanitary, but Aubrey was attracted to the Gothic quality of the underground cellar. He would bring the light of Good into the darkness. He wasn’t a real scientist, he was a conflicted personality trying to find meaning in his life. He failed in college, but lied to his mother. She adored Aubrey since the passing of her husband from some inarticulate disease. She had faith in her son.
Aubrey Good experimented on the rats he found in the basement. The rats, however, were not good subjects for his investigation into human consciousness and conscience. No good could come of his experiments so he killed the rats. Good decided he needed human subjects. Mother volunteered. Aubrey was driven by curiosity. He poisoned Mum with a cup of brutal tea while watching a Polo Match on television. The thrill of death invigorated Aubrey Good. He abandoned his laboratory and proceeded to replace scientific investigation with wanton murder.
Aubrey became a serial killer; but, he thought, that didn’t make him a bad person. He told himself he was driven to find answers to questions about life and death — in truth, he wasn’t convinced. Aubrey suffered an Existential Crisis. He asked God for help. The lack of an answer nudged him over the edge. He became committed to finding the most novel ways to incapacitate and decimate his victims. Aubrey could no longer consider himself a good person. He had a new reputation to uphold as a highly sadistic and unrepentant killer.
Mr. Polyps, a local numbers runner, was selected as the new Pope. He was deeply conservative and it was the hope of the Bishops that Polyps could halt the recent liberalization of the Church. This rather odd displacement of reality happened in Randy Hangarten’s kitchen just before a small UFO landed in the sink. Needless to say, Randy was in crisis; but not because of the UFO or the new Pope. No. Randy was in crisis because he was in love.
Love was something Randy never expected and it seemed like a miracle. He was bed ridden due to a sudden increase in weight. He could no longer walk because he was so obese. Randy had a very poor self image. He described himself as a sodden sack of fat. The events of the last twenty minutes (ie: the election of Pope Polyps and the UFO in the sink), as unlikely as they were, had no significance when compared to the fact that Randy was in love; and most important, someone loved him. His bed was stationed in the kitchen not far from the refrigerator and at the heart of recent unusual events. He would never have known about the UFO if he wasn’t situated in the kitchen, but he might have known about the election of Pope Polyps because it was announced on social media (or so it seemed).
Doctor Skrews was responsible for a great deal of misinformation and confusion in Randy Hangarten’s life. By day, Skrews was a kind professor at Strathmoor-Debuque Community College; but by night he cast off his kindly persona to become a megalomaniac intent on performing experiments on innocent students who needed money to pay off student loans. The professor was looking for the Keys that would unlock the nature of reality. The Keys would bestow the power and recognition that Skrews believed he deserved. Randy Hangarten was skinny and shy when he met Doctor Skrews. The Professor promised to unlock Randy’s hidden potential by putting him on a special diet composed of psychedelic mushrooms and junk food laced with Testosterone. Skrews believed any dramatic change in a person’s lifestyle could break through the barriers between quantum dimensions causing chaotic repercussions that could be used by a Mastermind (like himself) for personal gain. It was very risky business. So far the only breakthrough resulted in Randy’s weight gain and consequent immobilization, stuck in the kitchen in the prison of his own skull.
Randy’s brain was becoming a breeder reactor. Mushrooms, LSD, and Testosterone played havoc inside his mind. Neurons collided resulting in the manufacture of both Heaven and Hell. At the penultimate level of confusion, Randy made contact and gave birth to Amarillo Quintahra Super Hero with red, spiked hair and two sets of sex organs for greater versatility — the perfect Love God. Amarillow loved Randy, but it was not what the Doctor ordered or expected. Skrews felt betrayed by his own lies, misdeeds, and ambition.
The UFO in the kitchen sink was a non sequitur, an aberration caused by the sexual tension between Randy and Amarillo. The UFO had no basis in reality … in any case, reality was breaking down. Doctor Skrews (or Professor Drews, as he often called himself within the sanctified halls of Community College) was at wits end with nowhere to turn. His experiment had literally gone wrong when it seeped out of Randy’s skull and got up on two legs. It whacked Skrews in the head causing a concussion that resulted in a coma.
Randy and Amarillo were detained at the State Hospital for the Mentally Damaged. Doctor Skrews was sentenced to eternity inside the impenetrable walls of his traumatic coma. Reality continued to shift and dimensions collided. When the walls turned to jello, Randy and Amarillo escaped from the asylum. They were happily entwined, oblivious to the disintegrating world, and free to create a new reality.
Pope Polyps rested on his laurels. He was not the cause of disintegration, but he applauded the results. At last he could cast off the shackles of conformity and tradition. At last he could set off on a journey of true decadence and debauchery.
Valerian Bortta was fascinated by detritus, especially the parts of himself that flaked off his body like garbage. He was always leaving pieces of himself wherever he went; and he was always traveling — exploring new cities, countries, different time-zones and “other” dimensions. Valerian was a time traveler; but that wasn’t so unusual because everyone travels through time starting at birth and ending in death.
Valerian convinced himself that he controlled time — it was a delusion. In fact, Valerian Bortta was an ordinary man who simply and inevitably got old. He saw his life spread before his eyes as if peering through the wrong end of a telescope, everything appeared far away and very small.
He had no one who could take the pain of aging away, no one to soothe his tired body and overwrought emotions. His life had become frozen in amber, self effacing. His world was a crumbling relic.
Two lovers kiss on a beach. Their bodies glisten like melted butter oozing from lumps of boiled lobster
A young man and an old man kiss triggering a massive landslide that completely obliterates a small town known as “the village of the damned.”
A stranger stands erect on the other side of a door. He cannot be seen directly. His body glows with green fire.
A young man sits in a chair. He is naked — sobbing as he remembers a dear friend who suddenly disappeared.
A woman gazes at her reflection as it changes before her eyes from sweet innocence to embittered regret. Her body responds by breaking down into soft dollops of clay.
Valerian could not understand the language or the visions. It wasn’t his life. Nothing was real anymore. he was consumed with self doubt as he watched his body peel away, shaking off flakes of skin, nail clippings, phlegm, and droplets of piss. He could no longer hold his body together. Valerian wanted to split apart and pass silently into the still air.
Before he began, he was assured by Dr. Mortis that nothing would change. He would be returned safely with no harmful lasting effects. Valerian realized too late that nothing ever works out exactly as planned. There are always consequences — always a heavy price to be paid. Time was the focus of the experiments. Valerian Bortta paid the price: locked in a prison of immortality.
He was having a difficult time adjusting to his current situation. A few days ago, Curtis Mangrove was a young adult with every possibility that life can offer spread before him like a banquet; but, now he was an old man with no options. His condition was called: Collapsed Phase Containment. He wasn’t certain where the diagnosis came from and he didn’t know what it meant.
All he had were memories that did not belong to him. It seemed his brain had become a device to record other people’s lives. Curtis Mangrove’s life ended… as quickly as flipping a switch he became a hollow vessel with other people stuck in his head.
Monty Slayback was having great fun with his new boy-toy. The toy was built from liquid nanites that could be programmed into any shape or personality Monty desired. With just the twist of a dial the boy-toy would become a giant vagina with the voice of Boris Karloff. Monty was having megatons of fun!
The recording device observed Monty Slayback as he was swallowed by a giant, mechanical vagina. Curtis was barely able to decipher the difference between himself and Monty, but the memory was real. Curtis wondered if he was seeing the future through some distorted lens.
They all went to church. It was the only activity that brought the entire community together. Jen bowed her head in prayer. She was consumed by waves of electricity as the sounds of the sermon swept through the auditorium. Jen was certain her faith would bring peace and harmony into the world. Music flooded the chamber as voices rose in a cacophony of sound. Curtis Mangrove watched and remembered. There were no people in this church, only machines who thought they were human.
Curtis was plagued by memories that were not his own.
Fantone Glix wore a cloak and mask to disguise his body and face. He spoke in Asemic symbols and vocal glitches, but Curtis understood because Fantone Glix was inside his head.
Glix thought of himself as a scientist, but he lived in a world where science was excoriated, blamed for mistakes that led to moral degeneration. Glix had to contend with many problems and distractions in his meager life. He had considerable trouble determining who he was in a world where he was rejected by everyone, even his family. Sometimes he thought he was born into the wrong body. He was Dysmorphic. He often thought he was an Alien and he was often in trouble with the authorities. His one shining light was an an uncanny ability to understand higher mathematics which was both a blessing and curse.
Glix was the master-builder who designed the phase-containment unit. For his efforts, he was condemned as a heretic. No one wanted such a diabolical mechanism to be built. Glix was cast out, forced to live and work in a sulfurous wasteland by a lake of liquid mercury. Glix lived in shame, but he still managed to survive and build a workshop to further his experiments. Misfortune led to success. In the wasteland, Glix discovered the ingredients to make his machine functional: sulfur and mercury. Once processed, the ingredients would generate a reaction in the unit that would break a hole in space and prove that other dimensions existed. The discovery was accidental, totally dependent on his banishment to the place where he found the compounds necessary to complete his project. Another accident entangled Curtis Mangrove in the collapsed phase containment event.
Curtis was twenty-four when his life was preempted. He was preparing for an exam in theoretical physics, contemplating a particularly difficult equation. He didn’t see the stop sign. The equation determined the amount of time it takes before two disparate objects collide. The answer was a fraction of a second.
They put Jack McRoy on ice because he had a brain tumor, but that was a lie; they just needed someone to experiment on. Actually, they put Jack in a tank. They weren’t performing an experiment — it was a transformation.
They picked Jack because he was a fifty year old delinquent. He wrote papers and pointed fingers. He uncovered and exposed unpleasant truths that should always be kept secret.
They saw themselves as good guys, concerned citizens: the Guardians of Order. They ran a small diagnostic firm that was really an elaborate laboratory where experiments were conducted on hapless miscreants. They had several government contracts. No one asked questions. The work continued twenty-four hours a day.
Jack McRoy was not his given name. He was eight-years-old when he crossed the border from Mexico. His family sent him to live with his successful uncle in the U.S.. Jack was an illegal alien, something he forgot. His uncle imprinted a new identity on the alien boy’s brain and named him Jack. His uncle was a scientist working for the government.
Jack McRoy loved to surf naked in the early hours just before dawn. There was no reason not to — he was young and athletic. People loved him. He often saw colored lights blinking in the sky like signals from a far off future. The water would always protect him. Suddenly he was sweating profusely. He body was drenched, smothered in an offshore oil spill. He recalled the spill that destroyed the beaches in Santa Barbara in 1959 and again in 2015. He was no longer a young surfer. He was something that lived in the water, dying from poison that stuck to his skin. Too many animals perished and many more would become extinct.
A tiny machine always followed Jack around. It clacked. The clacking never stopped. The machine was collecting information. Jack began to think the machine was an overseer who watched his every move.
Jack was always aware of duplicity: the state of being two fold or double. There was the “clean” side and the “dirty” side. He wanted to be clean, but he always felt dirty. Jack couldn’t avoid the noxious fumes or the oily residue.
The Overseers watched intently as Jack McRoy banged his head against the side of the tank. It wasn’t an unexpected reaction. The man believed he was drowning in oil. The Overseers had large, black eyes and gray skin. They smiled because the transformation was succeeding. Jack would never bother anyone again. He would be tame. The contract with the government gave the Overseers freedom to experiment on persons who were considered dangerous. Jack was getting too close to the truth about government infiltration and a program to implant every newborn with a chip. The chip collected information that could be used to control behavior.
Jack was baptized when he was thirty-two years old. It was his wife’s idea. He loved her. Estelle was religious and Jack just wanted to make her happy. The Priest poured oil over Jack’s naked body. The oil was black and shiny, it stuck to his skin and it smelled like death.
When Jack emerged from the tank he smiled. The Overseers were his friends. He could see that with his new eyes, large and black. The Aliens were never from outer space. They were all created in a tank — part of the government program to make a better human race.