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.
The family sat around the kitchen table in the small cottage on Stolmock Street not far from Ruby Mansion. Every evening the group was serenaded by screams that seemed to emanate from the dungeons that were rumored to exist in that ancient domicile. The terrifying sounds served as a soundtrack for the family drama enacted around the dinner table. Everyone knew Ruby Mansion was haunted. It was once owned by Carmine Stolmock, the notable scientist who disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Presently, the mansion was owned by Ransumm Rotobar, a man with an insatiable appetite and powerful connections. The family paid rent to Rotobar, other than that they were not concerned about the squalid stories told about the man. They had their own drama to contend with. Mother was the star of the show. She was a good mother except when she was angry. Anger seethed in her bones like a bubbling volcano – she called her outbursts “tough love.” She seldom used extreme measures – usually Mother was silent, smoldering and slowly turning red. Dinner was a ritual. The three children always sat at the table with mother. They followed her instructions, cooking and serving – then, they all sat and spoke the “prayer of obedience” before eating the results of their labors. At sixteen, Alec was the oldest, somber and intelligent but not very brave. Sister Kim was fourteen, asserting her independence at every opportunity and always being punished. The youngest, Hank, was thirteen and brain damaged. Hank was always confused. Alec spoke first, “What does it mean, Mother?” She did not answer at first so Alec continued, “This letter – didn’t you write it?” Alec felt a cold wind blow across his bones as Mother stared with incomprehension. He knew not to press the issue. Mother wanted the meat served on pink, plastic plates – her choice whenever she was angry. The lump of meat looked bruised and bloody. Sister Kim couldn’t take the impasse so she changed the subject, “I saw a girl with a purple tattoo – it was beautiful.” Mother turned her attention to the girl – eyes like pointed spears, face red. Sister Kim was an artist and that only added to Mother’s ire. The girl’s eyes glazed over like candied yams. No telling what Mother might do. In the next room, the radio burbled: “More crime promotes increased sales of lethal weapons.” Mother smiled. Alec felt safe enough to go back to the topic of the letter, “It says there was an accident. Did something happen to dad?” At last Mother replied, “Children, your father is fine. You know how upset he makes me sometimes. He is in the closet. We won’t be bothered again.” Young Hank moaned, “Is this real.”
“No Hank, this is not real – of course THIS IS REAL, you idiot.” Mother was red again. “Your sweet, worm-of-a-dad is hanging on a hook in the hall closet – and there is a hook waiting for each one of you so you better behave!”
The screams from Ruby Mansion followed Mother’s outburst like the finale to a dirge. The children sat stone-faced with ice water replacing the blood in their veins. At last, Mother broke the silence, “Eat!” she gushed with an encouraging smile. Alec, Sister Kim, and Hank lifted forks, each child moving like an automaton. Wind moaned like a banshee plucking a harp made from fish bones. Mother hated fish but was drawn to the bones. She smiled, but it didn’t last. There was something disturbing about the wind – something that irritated Mother. The wind was sniffing at the front door, mewling and whimpering … reminding Mother of her newly departed husband. The wind called out to her … suddenly the door smashed open. The frightened children were embraced by the light that flowed into the cottage on the wings of a ferocious storm. Light was everywhere. Light burned down the walls of the house and the children were free. No one knew what happened to Mother. No one remembered her. In the same moment when the light poured into the cottage, Rangle Ditmouth entered the Red City. He returned with the Harlequin-beat Angel. Rangle brought the storm and he was about to confront his judge and master, Ransumm Rotobar.