He’d always been a strange child… he was even stranger as an adult. People said Alexander seemed to focus on something outside his line of sight. Alexander Pogue was focused on the future. The world he lived in was too painful: nationalism and bigotry were carried over from the past and all the hatred was given a facelift and a new, benign name.
He grew up to be an archaeologist, an explorer unearthing relics from the past. But, he always had his eye on the future. His physician prescribed pills to cure his obsessive-compulsive disorder, but Alex never took them. He was searching for a mythical city. On one of his digs, he discovered a stone tablet that described a lost city. Alexander was convinced the city was from the future, a metropolis that traveled through time. It made no logical sense, but it became an idee fixe.
No one believed his story. He never showed the stone tablet to anyone. He was afraid revealing the tablet would put his life in danger. He memorized the information and shattered the stone. Now, he was no longer certain the tablet ever existed; but he continued to search for a possibility that was little more than a delusion.
He was aware of the warring factions within himself: the believers and the heretics. The city was not his only obsession. He was obsessed with design-elements: colors that did not belong together, a chandelier that hung slightly too low. he wondered why no one else was effected and why no one seemed to see the defects that caused him so much distress. He was only content when he was on a dig… when he was hunting for the future.
As a young man he was more adept at hiding his symptoms and he worked as a university professor. He lived in a rented basement and hoarded the money he earned. Piles of newspapers and reports filled his living space. He believed the printed material on scraps of yellowed paper might show him the way… might open the gates of hidden knowledge.
The affair he had with a student and the ugly aftermath drove Alex into a deeper hole of disintegration. A carnal relationship between a professor and a younger man was an anathema to the Regents of the university. Sucking dick was not condoned (even in a country where the president bragged about grabbing pussy). Alexander was fired in disgrace. He was convinced his lover committed suicide, but he never knew for certain. At the time, there were too many voices and contradictions in his mind as his grip on reality disintegrated.
All the while his obsession with the lost-city became more entrenched and it gave Alexander the purpose he needed to survive. He had money stashed in several bank accounts. His uncle known as “the peacock” added to Alexander’s wealth when he suddenly expired in a rumored orgy of hedonism and left his fortune to Alex, his closest relative.
The money was an expedient allowing Alexander to assemble a team of semi-professionals and novice treasure hunters. The team would hunt for the lost-city.
Sabrina Cataract joined the team as a diversion from boredom. She was tired of playing games with overwrought men… besides she had a brilliant mind and enjoyed mental stimulation. She knew Alexander from his time at the university and thought he was a fool; but he offered a salary she couldn’t turn down.
“White Smoke” was the team’s Guide. He said he was an American Indian, but he was a white man who was out of a job so he re-invented himself.
Orlow Fabricatum came along for the ride into unfamiliar territory. Orlow described himself as a fly on the wall… he was a hack reporter who wrote for slander-sheets. He needed money so he joined the team.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio was on board to monitor the health of the team. He was avoiding prosecution for over-prescribing highly addictive medications. If no one could find him, no one could prosecute.
Roxy Wentworth brought up the rear. She was an engineer and cook… about to reach her expiration date: both her heart and liver were artificial and replacement parts were no longer available. She craved one last adventure.
The team came to the conclusion that Alexander Pogue was deranged. He constantly fidgeted and often babbled in a foreign tongue. They joked behind his back; but, like lackeys they encouraged him and catered to his whims because the pay was good.
Sabrina smoked like a furnace. Kulio warned her about the dangers, but she liked living on the edge.
White Smoke often disappeared. He was addicted to porn on his I-pad.
Orlow Fabricatum was more complicated than he appeared. He worked undercover for a group of power-brokers who manipulated the public’s perceptions of reality.
Roxy Wentworth was an agent from a virtual future. She had an important mission to carry out, but the details alluded her.
Alexander Pogue recognized the symbols on the cave wall, deep within the earth. Someone left a calling card, a special invitation and only Alex could decipher the message.
The others laughed behind his back while Alex shed layers of neuro-linguistic programming in order to discover the gateway that would lead to the lost-city.
He finally perceived a crack in the cave wall that expanded as he watched. Golden light flowed from the opening. A doorway appeared in the black heart of space.
He stepped across the threshold and entered a radiant city. The light poured into Alexander Pogue and he was transported back-and-back in a chain of lives that merged and exploded like a nova.
The doctor and others examined the patient who had a recent episode. He’d gone off-line. He disconnected from the virtual womb. Alexander Pogue was another fatality from the plague of “Mass-Alzheimers” that affected billions in a forgotten world.
Johnny’s body lay supine in the cushions of a Barka-Lounger. The body developed a mind of its’ own due to the fact that Johnny was elsewhere, no longer in his body, but somewhere in Cyberspace. Johnny’s body contemplated suicide due to an existential crisis after being reduced to a sack of blood and bones with no real purpose. Johnny no longer used a body. Of course Johnny was physically dead without a body, but his mind would still be alive like a zombie roaming the web in search of another body to steal and exploit. Something else bothered Johnny’s body: everything in the physical world was changing and worms were everywhere, giant rapacious grubs.
Meanwhile, Johnny Biggie Wang couldn’t be happier as he rose to prominence and a life of virtual luxury. He wielded a scepter and shouted insults at his minions. Everyone watched his channel. He was becoming a true Super Nova; then, everything got even better. Biggie found his soul mate, Benda Creamola. She looked like Elsa Lancaster in the movie, Bride of Frankenstein. She had real entertainment value and a large following. Johnny was immediately drawn to her as if she was the missing rib that god used to make a woman. She fancied herself more like Caitlyn Jenner than a missing rib. She never wanted an operation, but it didn’t matter in the Virtual World. Johnny and Benda bonded and virtually became one individual. Originally it was a crisis that moved Johnny (who was once Earl Stump) to give up his body and don the VR helmet. He had body dysmorphia, never satisfied with his physical appearance and not certain of his sexual prowess. He was also fixated on The Donald which added to his insecurities about being a man. He was still fixated, but now he could commiserate with the stunning Benda Creamola while he tried on her devilishly glamorous clothes — all this added to his entertainment appeal and his valuation kept rising until he came to the attention of the man himself, The Donald.
The Donald had grown immense due to his spewing of incendiary vitriol, gold to an audience hungry for virtual stimulation. He built himself a kingdom based on false accusations and innuendos. He was rolling in entertainment-credits and reality show franchises. But, he was not satisfied. He needed a new challenge to reassert his superiority and he saw Johnny as the perfect dupe. Although he could never admit it, he worried about Johnny’s growing popularity. The Donald was also a troubled man. He felt drained as if some force were working through him, using him for some inexplicable purpose. Although, up till now, his life was absolutely fabulous, The Donald harbored a deep sadness which weighed heavily upon him in the current atmosphere of stress. He still missed his beloved Ivana. As a result, The Donald wanted nothing more than to kick someone’s ass.
Johnny’s body was dreaming of a white worm. Legions of worms slithered across the landscape, melting everything in a bath of acid. They came from space, drawn by the wars and torment that embroiled the earth. The worms grew fat on the emotions that violence triggered. A worm was eating Johnny’s foot. It had a repugnant face. Each worm had the same face, still recognizable as human.
Johnny Biggie Wang was ecstatic to receive an invitation from the man himself. It was a cryptic verse, “come to my chateau to be dinned, wined, and judged.” Signed The Donald. Benda Creamola gushed with joy. The pair would go as one, in an ankle length gown materialized from a rainbow cloud.
The Donald planned a ruse. He wanted to trick Johnny into being an absolute bore with very little entertainment value, thus increasing his own popularity. The hungry crowd loved take-down battles to the death. However, when Donald saw Johnny Benda, he was stunned — his heart could be heard like thunder throughout cyberspace. He had seen her from a distance, appearing like an ancient movie icon, but up close, she was the perfect image of Ivana. “You’ve done something with your hair,” Donald blurted. “Yes,” she said, ” subdued it with apricot to bring out the blond. Do you like it?”
A moment of truth arrived like a locomotive with a warp drive traveling through a worm hole. Nothing turned out as expected. The encounter could go one of two ways: The Donald might make love to Johnny, seeing him as his beloved Ivana, and ending in mutual bliss; or, The Donald would be incensed by Johnny’s rainbow cloud and sweet adoration, thus ending in angry invective or worse.” After a pause that went on for a century, The Donald exploded, “you’re fired!” And that was the end of the encounter.
The white worms grew fat on The Donald’s angry outbursts. When the worms first arrived they were drawn to the aggressive anger spewed by The Donald. The worms loved incendiary insults. It was assumed he was the leader — his face was everywhere, in all the media. The worms attached themselves to The Donald and made him their titular leader. White worms fed on Donald’s invective until they were able to branch out and feed on other humans. Soon they were feeding on whole towns and communities. It was a feeding frenzy and the worms grew fat and large. The worms were psychically connected through The Donald. He was the lynchpin.
The Donald was trumped by his compulsive need to hold the winning hand. The reviews were glowing for both Donald and for Johnny Biggie Wang Benda Creamola. The virtual world loved the “encounter of no return” (as it came to be known). Entertainment value for all the participants almost shut down cyberspace in a tsunami of accolades. What followed was a predictable soap opera of heartache for Johnny and self hatred for The Donald, enough turmoil to keep ratings astronomically high.
The earth was devoured by giant grubs. The white worms gorged on the emotions radiating from festering bodies in the throes of dying. Everything else was eliminated in an ocean of acid that was expelled like urine from the menacing worms. The virtual world continued to be an entertainment bonanza, the pinnacle of human civilization. The engines of cyberspace were all underground so they were not effected by the rain of acid. With no physical body each persona in the virtual world became a zombie. The virtual avatars barely noticed any changes, except they felt lighter and less prone to jags of uncontrollable weeping.
Eventually the giant grubs turned into beetles and flew away. The earth slowly began to heal. People in the virtual world started to disappear, fading from existence. The Donald was one of the first to fade out. He’d been sustained by the worms until they left in search of new prey. Johnny just lay down, consumed by a broken heart. (The end)
The physical body was neatly disposed of, eaten by voracious bacteria developed for the specialized purpose of digesting organic material. The brain was processed, turned into a slush of neurons, synthesized and digitized; then fed into the computer-matrix. Everyone was connected. The operation was intended to breach the barriers of scientific inquiry by finding answers to all the questions that plagued mankind from the beginning of time. The computer-mind expanded exponentially as the newly departed were digitized, but the computer was not satisfied with the minds of the dead … living brains were necessary to complete the task of finding answers to the ultimate questions. Every computer-screen lit up with a blinking demand, “the computer wants brains.” What did it mean people asked. The computer-matrix instigated a growing panic that radiated from tablets, I-phones, and other devices. Panic led to looting and violence, riots and murder. Controlled chaos was orchestrated by world leaders who were motivated by greed and encouraged by Microsoft and Apple to move forward with the digital revolution. A campaign was created to mollify the populace. Citizens were promised immortality within the digital cloud — there would be no more loneliness — people would be engaged with one another exploring the universe through the eyes of satellites and robots — searching for ultimate truths — discovering god or creating God where none exited. It was a bold venture and a great promotional campaign. Everyone would be connected forever. People flocked to the digi-toriums to be processed and flushed into eternity.
“Hello, is anybody there?” A tiny voice reverberated in the dark. The dark surrounded the voice like a cowl, smothering the words, choking the sound. The voice came from a speaker that was disembodied and floating in space. It was a peculiar sensation, the sensation of “nothingness.” The voice had to refer to itself in order to have someone (or something) to interact with. At first, the voice referred to itself as a “he” so that a conversation could be facilitated — so that the voice could think in terms of “he said – etc. – and so on.” The “he” took on a life of its’ own. Conversations were animated and often aggressive, delving into the structures of reality and the matrix of consciousness. “What does structure have to do with it?” He would say. The speaker was at a loss for an explanation and the conversation collapsed into a cacophony of fragmented ideas and disparate voices. Flathead said, “reality is built on structures that are intrinsic.” Pucker-face added with a sneer, “to say that structure is the basis for reality substitutes one nonsequitur for another and means nothing.” Anna Biotica complained, “nothing makes no sense. There has to be something otherwise what’s it all for — what does it mean?” Cowboy Joe stated succinctly, “there is no god.” “How did god get mixed up in this?” squawked Miss Nomer. So it went, on and on for an eternity until the speaker became unduly provoked. The conclave of cacophonous voices touched a funny bone of contention that ticked the primal voice into overdrive eliminating the artifacts of consciousness until there was no one but One… who proceeded to ask, “is anybody there?” Darkness eclipsed the question mark. The screen went dark.