He saw a young man from across the room and he was immediately attracted to him. This never happened before. He was heterosexual. He could recall countless sexual encounters with beautiful women. When he was young he was noted for being a “horn dog.” This new sensation was all the more remarkable since he no longer had a sex drive… the drive along with certain other affectations had been medically eliminated. Parts of his anatomy were altered along with his memories. As he stared, the young man became more recognizable. He realized he was looking at a younger version of himself.
Rodney Anderflack sat cross-legged on a paisley cushion and smoked a drug-infused hookah pipe, recalling the past when America was great again.
The past was filled with ghosts. Rodney finally knew what it felt like to be a ghost. He’d been “ghosted,” taken over by a dominant Walk-in from the future. His body was being driven, manipulated by a Visitor; but his mind was left to roam free along the cyber-highways of virtual reality.
He remembered teenage angst: wanting to be part of the In-crowd.
He remembered his first true love: an android named Kelly. Her blond play-dough face popped up everywhere: on TV, on his cell, in the microwave oven, in the dishwasher, and on all his “smart” appliances. He loved her because she was the only woman who ever reached out to him. She was persistent. She always told the truth: just because Rodney had dark skin didn’t mean he was a black man… just because he was attracted to other men didn’t mean he was gay. She emphasized his free-will to straighten up and fly right. Some day, she said, Rodney could even be a member of the illustrious Orange Guard.
“Play your cards right,” she said, “and you won’t have to be afraid.” The words came directly from the Ban-man’s playbook; listed just below a paragraph about Auschwitz explaining the survival of some Jews because they cooperated by pushing other Jews into the gas ovens. Ban wanted to bring back the glory days. He was the Sweet Man’s right arm-and-hammer.
Rodney bleached his skin and went to Pence Camp for re-education. The treatments were expensive, but health care was freely provided in exchange for indentured servitude… “a win-win for everyone,” the Sweet Man liked to say in his edifying tweets. Kelly stuck with Rodney. She appeared on every surface, beaming her encouragement.
Rodney found himself in a time-bubble watching his life unfold. At Pence Camp he was given a new drug to facilitate his Transubstantiation. His sex drive was dissected and wire tapped. His skin was replaced with white gauze. Rodney proved to be a model citizen so he was given the opportunity to become a teacher in the Sweet Man’s schools-for-profit network.
He was a dedicated teacher. Since funds were limited, Rodney had to provide his own teaching materials. He used a claw-hammer as an effective instrument of instruction (as recommended in “The Camp of Saints,” the Ban-man’s favorite book).
“Mr. Sessions, Mr. Sessions,” came the plaintiff’s cry accusing the muzzled dwarf of flaunting an “unnatural” appearance. This was another “Glory Days Trial” broadcast across all channels of the homogeneous Trumpet Network.
Donnie, the Sweet Man, was having afternoon tea with the Kushners. The tweets were going well, stock prices were on the rise, and no one seemed to notice the indentured servants who supported the new social order. The rulers reveled in their hard earned largess. They followed the Ban-man’s play-book to the letter, making America great again. Soon the Kushners might encounter some unforeseen difficulties of their own due to their religious outlook. An extended vacation was scheduled for Jared and Ivanka at the Pence Re-education Camp where they would experience their own Transubstantiation. Donnie didn’t mind as long as business was on the upswing. He knew how to sublimate conflict while throwing subordinates under the bus. Melania disappeared years ago never to return.
Rodney Anderflack swallowed a bitter pill while trying to fit into the new America. He often had conversations with Kelly even though she didn’t really exist. She was a ghost, a shadow cast by the desires and anxieties of ordinary people. “I have nothing,” he complained to Kelly, “I gave my life to the New Order… and I have nothing.”
“You have your life,” Kelly replied, “Count your blessings. The world is a beautiful place.”
“I’m barely human. My skin is gone. I have no sex… and no love. I’m a slave to the government.”
“Your sacrifice is making a better world.”
“The world sucks. I’ve been duped.”
“Stop your whining. Don’t you remember how bad things were when Obama-mama was President? All that freedom. All that confusion. Now, you have nothing to worry about. You are cared for from birth to death… and even when you are dead, your body is placed in a recycle chamber and turned into profit. So stop your complaining and go back to work.”
The conversations took place in a Cyber Wasteland. Rodney’s body was elsewhere, manipulated by the Visitor from the future. Rodney’s conversations with Kelly were irrelevant. Pieces were falling into place to change the present. The world was off balance, skewered on the edge of an Event Horizon. The Reality Stream was broken and the Visitor had to make a correction.
“I’ve been called many names, none of them flattering, all of them accurate. The litany of names is too exhausting for me to repeat — just call me Mr. Death.” The dark, stick figure stepped out of a niche in the wall and into the dim light of the corridor where Ann Anon and Daniel Ot were shielding one another from the sudden frigid-air. Death continued, “I’m not here for you, not yet. I must say I’m simply intrigued by your venturesome and confused lives. Most people are insignificant. Some people have important roles to play that can alter current and future events.” Mr. Death stepped back and disappeared like a dying spark. Before the interruption, Ann and Daniel were plotting ways to survive the machinations of Jupiter Fogg and Rufus Thyme. In many ways Daniel and Ann were similar, but there were complications. Daniel did not know Ann was really Aaron Keepx sent by Thyme to spy on Fogg. A heavy undertone of confusion began to mix with the boiling hormones of adolescents. As for Aaron, he was never certain whether he was really a boy or girl… and he never understood his role as spy. He wanted to believe it was all a game or costume party. Aaron played along as Ann because he didn’t know what else to do… and, as Ann he began to rely more and more on Daniel. Mr. Death added another ingredient to the plot. They could not take Death for granted. Ann/Aaron felt Death was the only reality in a game where nothing else was real.
Rufus Thyme was arguing with Alaina Shore, the other person who inhabited his body. “I want to kill the boy,” Rufus shouted, “I want to peel off his flesh and grind up his bones.”
“No,” Alaina Shouted back, “You mustn’t! The boy is useful. He is sending information about the culprit Fogg.”
“Useless information!” Thyme aspirated, “He is a dolt. He says Fogg is building a machine — so what — I already know that. Big deal — I’m allowing him free reign and he tells me nothing of value.”
“But,” Shore whined, “I like Aaron. He consoles me in my sorrow — trapped as I am in this wretched body with a monster like you!” Her voice rose louder and louder till she was screaming. Rufus backed down. He knew when to placate Alaina Shore. If he didn’t submit to her the outcome might be death to both of them. Rufus retreated to his laboratory to commiserate with his own project, a metal-behemoth that could forcibly suck the consciousness out of any living brain. Thyme was convinced that brains from hundreds of living souls were the only means to access the powers of the Philosopher’s Stone. His machine would give him the means to rid himself of the meddling Alaina Shore… and, more importantly to assume the mantle of Immortality. The Philosopher’s Stone would give him the authority and power of a true God.
Blood was running in the streets of Red City. People panicked. Earthquakes rumbled daily. A tidal wave appeared out of nowhere… there was no ocean surrounding the city, but the wave was as huge as a Tsunami washing away hundreds of lives. Alarms shrieked like banshees — mean’t to warn people the sirens only created more panic. Looters and rapists rampaged through the city. War raged in the outer zones — tribal skirmishes exploded into full scale war exasperated by Red City Magistrates. Laser weapons were used to incinerate people who lost their homes and roamed the streets begging for help. Open sewers became the breeding ground for plagues and genetic mutations. Television reported the carnage along with programming as usual. Ad rates were increased. Business was booming. Parts of the city behind protective barriers continued to prosper and thrive. The people behind the walls watched the devastation on TV as if it was a game show or soap opera. A breakout of Zombies was seen as breakthrough television. The living-dead were not allowed to intrude on the lives of the wealthy and powerful — the walls were electrified to keep the riffraff out. Blood flowed like water — the city was collapsing — but, Red City thrived on blood!
Sindhar sat in a sparse, cold room: a monk’s cell. He eschewed ordinary, mortal life and joined the order of Golgol Monks. A rumor contended that Sindhar was the founder and leader of the Monks. The monastery hung in the heavens above the tallest geological peaks. Sindhar used a mathematical language called RB to calculate and code everything in existence. This became his mission and obsession. Once the calculations were complete Sindhar could rename the world and everything in it.
(to be continued)
Contusions and bruising would heal quickly, but the boy’s mind was irreparably damaged. He was bullied at school because he was different. His parents expected the boy to mirror the lifestyle they chose for themselves. He could not. The expectations and bullying turned the boy against himself. He created a guardian in his mind for protection. The guardian was a monster named Mr. Hamm.
Mr. Hamm has no regrets. He lurches from room to room and from one disaster to the next. Hamm is an abomination and he delights in that reproof. He inhabits dark cellars and desiccated tombs dressed only in raiments stolen from graveyard corpses. For years, perhaps centuries, he served the Archons of Red City, propping up the regime with blackmail and murder. Hamm is a clever blood sucker who managed to stave off death by tricking other decrepit souls to take his place. But no one outsmarts death forever. Hamm’s day of reckoning has finally arrived at a fortuitous time as Red City descends deeper into the volcanic fires in the earth’s core.
Mr. Hamm stares into the green miasma of his favorite drink, absinth with a dash of embalming fluid, as if it is a crystal ball. He sits at his reserved table in the Charnel House Bar along with other denizens of the underworld. Every few minutes the earth rumbles sending another tremor through the warrens of Red City. Hamm is mumbling out loud and yelling obscenities. No one approaches or even looks at Mr. Hamm. He can do whatever he desires in the Charnel House; indeed, he has free reign anywhere in Red City. No one is feared or hated more than Mr. Hamm. Rumors abound about Hamm’s predilection for cannibalism and his fraternization with demons.
Mr. Hamm moans as if expelling his last gasp, “Been running a long time. It finally caught me,” he hisses, “I’m old. Old — and death is snapping at my ass.” Hamm gulps his drink and bangs the table for more. “I’m no smarter than when I was a piss-ant kid — I’m just slower. My bones creak. My head aches. I hear voices that criticize. They run daggers through me and cut me to shreds. I never had a choice. My bones are turning to liquid. I piss my pants at night. No one knows the truth. Mighty Mr. Hamm pisses his pants,” He cackles like a wheezing whore.
The rumors are true. Hamm committed horrendous crimes; but, he rationalized, it was for the benefit of Red City. He kept the city alive. He supplied the city’s lifeblood, literally — by draining victims who fell under his spell. “None of the donors were innocent,” Hamm relishes, “they were greedy nobodies eager to take advantage of anyone weaker than themselves. It was a delight to suck them dry and hang their bodies on meat hooks to mold and rot. I sold contracts to skulkers consigning them to hell for an eternity in exchange for a little fleeting power, money, or sex. I provided a service by eviscerating corrupt malingerers. I delighted in consuming their flesh and eating their souls.”
Although the people hated and feared Mr. Hamm the living-infrastructure that was Red City loved him. The city relied on Hamm to provide necessary ingredients — fuel for the machines and systems: blood, sinews, flesh and offal. Hamm was granted extraordinary powers to perform his tasks — in effect, making Mr. Hamm the power behind the government. He controlled the Archons who ruled the city. He was the shadow behind the curtain. The Archons were fed the blood of Hamm’s victims — they were nurtured and kept alive by blood.
Mr. Hamm recalls how he tricked the man who became Anton Bane who fell down a rabbit hole and entered Red City like an innocent pilgrim from another world — but it was a lie. Hamm read the man like a book, a bad pornographic novel filled with remorse and lust. It was easy to sign him up, change his name, and turn him into a killer — and, finally, condemn him to hell. Hamm fondly remembers a young Jupiter Fogg, an aspiring hedonist who enjoyed the art of murder. Hamm ruled Jupiter’s life, forging him into a powerful alchemist/scientist, forcing him to follow orders. Many lives, both living and dead, were effected or effaced by Mr. Hamm. Many plots were in play. The city was changing and Hamm was required to change as well. Mr. Hamm did not like change and he did not like feeling old and wary of death, but it was inevitable. The only wild card that remained was known as the Harlequin-beat Angel. No one controlled the Angel. (to be continued)