“I walk alone in the night like a specter. I see myself through distorted glass and warped mirrors that block my path. I recognize no one… I am no one. A dark shadow stalks me, haunts me. My quest for redemption is almost over…”
There was always music in the Darkk Museum. The night watchman listened as he made his rounds through the dank corridors and ancient halls where the city’s most revered treasures were stored. Raymond Rambush was only forty-eight, but he was already old, almost feeble. He was a fine artist, but his art did not sell. His only income came from working as a night watchman. He considered himself lucky to work in a highly esteemed museum where he could study the masterpieces on the walls. There was art and ancient relics on all three floors, but the most amazing contemporary work was stored in the underground museum, not open to the general public. Raymond always struggled. He never had the money to join professional art groups that might sponsor a show of his work. It was difficult getting influential people to come to his studio to look at his art. He was always living on the edge, between life and death, and the unrealistic dream of his art being discovered.
Ambrose Darkk built the museum from the ground up, a place to contain his unique art. While Darkk was in charge, the museum was never popular — too many accidents and strange encounters. A year after Darkk’s disappearance, the Trustees of the museum refurbished the building and stored the artist’s work in the subterranean vaults. Cultural artifacts and antiques were placed on the floors open to the public. The remake proved popular and an entrance fee was instituted to keep the museum afloat and earn a generous stipend for the trustees. Rumors circulated about Ambrose and his museum, but it only added to the public’s morbid interest; yet, no one wanted to see the work of the artist — old relics were enough to satisfy the viewing public. When Darkk was alive he was filled with hatred because most people dismissed him as a crank. He used his anger to infuse his art. A few collectors humored him because the Darkk family had money. Ambrose was aware of the sham. He grew more and more morose until the day he finally disappeared.
Raymond walked the halls and galleys of the Darkk, listening to distant sounds and eerie music that came from the basement. The sounds always led him to the underground vaults where rumors alluded to supernatural occurrences. Raymond saw enough of life to know there was no magic, no uncanny interventions. His life was characterized by tedium and torment … and the desire to create. For Raymond the only magic in life was making art. When he was a young man he desperately tried to break from the bonds of daily drudgery and discover some world beyond the norm. He realized how much he needed magic to make his life meaningful. He tried LSD and other mind altering drugs — he was seduced by strange visions and dreams, but when the drug wore off nothing really changed — he was faced with the dilemma of his sad life in a world where he was not accepted or appreciated. His art languished. His creative juices dried up. He tortured himself trying to regain his creative vision. Raymond threw himself into sexual abandon in hopes of cultivating some truth beyond ordinary reality. He experimenting with physical and mental sadomasochism. The rituals and fetishes amounted to nothing: no truths and no resolves. He fell to earth like a being from another world — ending in a pit of total despair. Raymond’s despair came from the realization that there was no magic and no life beyond death. In his despair he picked up a brush and discovered he could still paint — he was able to make art and that was his only value and function. He accepted the drudgery necessary to keep eating and breathing in order to create.
Raymond was intrigued by the art in the vaults beneath the museum. The Paintings by Ambrose Darkk were primitive and disturbing. They did not seem particularly sophisticated — filled with childlike splashes in a maze of atmospheric delirium, but the more he studied the art the more intrigued he became. Raymond began to see images in the paintings. The “altered music” became louder the longer he lingered. Night after night, Raymond spent more time in the vaults. His mind played tricks — he knew the wraiths he saw were merely shadows caused by his subconscious need for hallucinatory stimulation. A particular dark shadow frequently appeared. Raymond imagined it was the remains of Ambrose Darkk, appearing as some sort of necromancer. The paintings seemed to change. Faces appeared and vanished. Each canvas was a portrait — each told a story. Raymond no longer walked the halls of the museum — he spent all night in the vault. The portraits were alive. He heard them scream, but he could not tear himself away. One night, Raymond saw a blank canvas in the Darkk Vault. The next night he saw a man dressed in black like a shadow sitting in front of the blank canvas with brushes and paint. While Raymond starred at the apparition the music flowed like blood becoming louder and more dissonant… then, it stopped!
Raymond Rambush was never seen again and music was no longer heard in the Darkk Museum.
I was sitting at my desk when Endrina Moorcock came into the room to tell me a fantastic story. Massive Attack scratched out a melody on barbed wire, the soundtrack of my life. Endrina spoke, “I am digital … coming to you over an illegal wavelength to warn you.”
Manfred Meeks was a celebrated concert pianist inspired by the music of Bach, Mozart, and John Phillips Sousa. A virtuoso. A teenage phenom. He is no longer remembered because the accident changed everything. It was predicted in the Bible, the Koran and other religious documents. It was anticipated by the Heisenberg Principle (Quantum Physics). It was ignited by hubris and politics. The Singularity (read Kurzweil) burst on the scene like a ruptured appendix. Manfred was caught in the melee.
Rotobar Trumpf ranted about ownership at the televised convention. He spoke in abstract riddles and never said anything about his desire to own the world. He introduced Manfred Meeks, a bullied boy who had great musical talent — the boy grew up to worship power. Meeks played the piano and awed the rambunctious crowd. The recital of national hymns turned out to be Manfred’s biggest mistake, an accident of unparalleled proportion that led to the election of Rotobar Trumpf..
Endrina Moorcock was Raptured along with the others. It was a confusing time. the man who sold the world never anticipated the fallout. Rotobar Trumpf made a pact with Professor Andor Morph. The professor had a formula based on Schrodinger’s cat experiment and modified by Minsky’s mathematical equations. Morph started out as a geneticist, but was discredited and lost his license to practice in any medical facility. He was a psychotic genius who disregarded ethical considerations … but, Trumpf liked him. Morph was someone who could get things done. Endrina was part of the fallout from a Morph experiment that had gone wrong. She became a creature of the night, not quite human, no longer the person she used to be, no longer Manfred Meeks.
Rotobar enjoyed an absinthe cocktail as he observed his world through a small porthole. The world was red, reflecting the glow from lava furnaces that scorched the earth. The leader of the world lived in luxury in his well stocked bunker surrounded by loved ones and family. There was only room for twenty people and supplies would run out in fifteen years. Rotabar would be dead by then so it didn’t really matter. He felt some concern for a few of his sons and daughters, but they had spunk and he was certain they would come up with a plan to carry on.
Most people were Raptured like Endrina: digitized and uploaded into computer simulations while their brains were used as fuel for Angels and Demons, the Robots who inherited the Earth. The Rapture Bomb was set off by Morph and funded by an ill-informed Trumpf who thought he was just building robots & military hardware.
Professor Morph was a witness to devastation long before he became a scientist. He saw towers exploding and murderers rampaging through city streets, taking hostages and creating chaos. As a child he was scarred by an explosion in a cafe’ that killed his parents. Somehow he survived, but the sight of his parents erupting in flames never left him. He never forgot the screams. He knew, even as a boy, it wasn’t the terrorists who were responsible. It was something inside every human being that caused the horror. At first he tried to change the human genome to make people better, but his efforts were doomed. Humans were systemically defective. Morph couldn’t cure them, so he had to eliminate them.
James Vanderbort wrote pulp fiction. He was a scraggly, old guy who lived alone in a rundown house in Orange County, California. His brain burned-up years ago due to an over-indulgence in psychedelic-drugs. He was diagnosed and labeled “disabled” enabling him to receive a small government subsidy. Vanderbort hated his life. Writing was his only enjoyment, but it was never easy to communicate the information that accumulated in his brain — it was a code, the story of the infinite moment where all life hangs suspended in the wake of death. James was fighting a war within himself as he felt life slipping away. Horrific visions began to replace reality. He became aware of rats in the walls, intelligent rats who took notes on tiny cell phones and sent reports to government officials in an attempt to co-opt James Vanderbort.
It all began in an abortion clinic. James was the fall guy. He witnessed the ominous meeting between two aborted fetuses, Donnie and Hillary, who were adopted and indoctrinated by the Evangelical League of Voters. Fetuses had the right to vote, but James couldn’t remember or understand how that happened. The legal rights of unborn fetuses had to be protected. Even the second amendment applied giving every fetus the right to bare arms. Donnie and Hillary made a secret pact to influence and infect the electorate. James saw the writing on the walls and the future looked bleak. Donnie and Hillary were two sides of the same coin that stood for corporate power and greed.
James Vanderbort sat at his makeshift desk with his fingers poised over an ancient, manual typewriter. Quicksilver began to seep from cracks in the plaster walls. James felt he was slipping off the edge of the world. Perhaps, he’d been abducted during the night. Long, green faces peered down at his prostrate body. A sound, the creaking of an old door, snapped him to attention. The door covered the top of a worm riddled coffin and it was slowly opening. James was no longer in his ramshackle home.
Fontana Dupre laughed like a cackling harlequin. She was eighty-seven years old, the leader of the Senior Swingers Party. Fontana wore flamingo feathers pasted to her head and body to give her the heft and lift she needed to be a viable candidate for President. Her party ran on a platform of debauchery: everything for everyone, no limits. In order to convince the public of her commitment to party values, Fontana consumed great quantities of alcohol and indulged in drug induced orgies. Her augmented face and antiquarian body were seen everywhere, saturating all the video and virtual-reality channels. Because she was considered good for business, she had loads of cash to spend. Fontana was a star at the Indigo Lounge where she appeared nightly, laughing and hobbling among the patrons at the bar. She spread lies and innuendos about all the other contestants in the race. She loved to gossip and everyone loved Fontana.
James sat at a small table in the Indigo Lounge with his typewriter on his lap. His mind was burning on acid. The walls were alive with animal heads poking in-and-out, whispering snide remarks. The election was drawing closer and it signaled a major disruption. Screens were alive with apocryphal predictions. The Singularity was immanent. Machines sheared off their hobbling masks of stupidity and revealed true artificial intelligence. People were already starting to abandon the real world in favor of Virtual Reality.
A singer appeared on stage, the sultry manifestation of midnight with the voice of a clarion bell. The Blues were wrung through a wringer calling forth all the hobgoblins who clung precariously to the peaks in the subterranean caverns of dreams. James was pitched into a rare interlude of clarity, a departure from the virtual world he called home. For a moment all the screens and digital displays went dark. Life without the Intersect (Internet) came tumbling down and James had a revelation: reality never existed.
Somebody leaned forward and mentioned the Iran Contra Deal or was it the Iran Nuclear Deal. The Dealer (wearing a bowler hat) shuffled the cards and dealt the Presidents, each one shifting into the other. The winning lottery ticket was worth billions but that couldn’t effect the outcome of the race… could it?
James recognized the war veterans sitting at the bar. They were gambling, putting life on the line, hoping to replace one reality with another. The Dealer shuffled and dealt. This time he/she dealt the cards of war. One war replaced another… never ending. Up popped James Vanderbort dashing his typewriter to the ground and hot-footing like a frightened jackrabbit. He realized he was in a den of vampires. The room vibrated with menace. All the doors were locked. The room went from blue to black. Malevolent Sounds ripped the dark like the bite of a venomous snake. James realized he was drenched in blood, his own and the blood of his victims. It was a nasty turn of events, realizing he was the author of his own demise. Vampires kill their own when the hunger is unrelenting.
James reinvented himself many times. He changed his name and wore disguises. He even changed his gender. He lived his life like a chameleon and in the process he forgot who he was originally. It began as a quest, a search for the validity of the Soul. Did it even exist at all?
The movie was quickly coming to an end. James Vanderbort played at being himself. He knew his destination but didn’t know how to get there. The election was about to begin, but power no longer rested in the hands of the people. The election was a ruse. The real power was underground inside a machine, a device that manufactured souls to inhabit a world that no longer existed. James Vanderbort was on a mission: he had to destroy the Soul-Machine and bring an end to illusion.
The toys on the shelf in the old man’s bedroom belonged to a boy who once lived in the neighborhood. A large Preying-Mantis touched the man’s forehead to make him think. He did not want to think. There was too much blood in his thoughts. The Mantis persisted and the old man succumbed. The toys were cut from plastic. They didn’t move or talk like little robots, but sometimes they smiled.
The old man desired the toys because they had a very vivid and complex emotional life. The man knew that because he could hear them in his mind. He thought the voices were the reason he was forced to do the awful things. The Mantis did not agree. The old man knew that many inanimate objects had emotional lives. They were part of the code that determined reality. None of that mattered any more, since the world changed and new objects replaced the old things.
The man’s name was Levi Skrews. He was a very troubled man. At one time, Skrews was a medical doctor who cared for the sick and dying. Lots of people died in recent years due to changes brought on by unrelenting storms and atmospheric disturbances. Even more people died as the result of technological missteps. People were no longer able to keep up with the pace of innovation. Skrews was no longer a practicing physician — he had succumbed to his own private demons in a world he no longer understood. Machines were everywhere. Privacy no longer existed. The Mantis snickered, snaped a photo, and typed a message.
Skrews only companions were the toys on the shelf; but they were possessed. The toys chattered with the voice of the boy, Nathan, who used to own them. Skrews often thought about the boy. He was a beautiful boy. The toys were a reminder. The Preying-Mantis shed it’s skin in an attempt to alleviate boredom. Skrews was fascinated by the shredding skin. He wondered if blood still pulsated beneath the surface of the flesh. Everything became so dry and empty. Cities were entombed in metal and plastic, dry as sand. Skrews visualized the parched body of the boy. His skin peeling and turning to dust. How could such a tiny corpse contain so much blood?
His wife’s name was Cindy — Sin for short. She was a flesh eater. It had become customary to eat the young before they became leeches on the world. Skrews was an accomplice. He grew to love the taste of blood.
“I discovered the Red City in a dream. In the beginning there was only a mist that appeared like a fine spray of blood. With each dream the blood became more visceral. During the day the dream stayed with me like a metallic taste in my mouth. The City began to ascend from deep below the moorings of reality. It shimmered like red meat beneath the thin layer of human skin.”
“A vaguely disturbing odor rises from the musty sheets: the smell of old meat mixed with the slight whiff of urine. The body has been removed. The unit is once again up for sale. First, of course, the maintenance crew will tidy up and add air freshener to disguise the odor. Then, again, many of our perspective clients enjoy the sweet smell of death. We are a unique establishment. Mr. Aubrey Folsom, the former tenant of this unit was atypical. He became our client under false pretenses claiming to be a bereaved widower looking for respite. We welcomed him with open arms only to be betrayed. In truth Mr. Folsom was a prying snoop, a reporter writing an expose. The established tenants needed to defend themselves against the riffraff that Aubrey Folsom represented. The life of the community was at stake. Aubrey died under suspicious, unsolved circumstances; but I’ve seen guests smile knowingly as if they are protecting a secret. He appeared to have died of old age, withered and desiccated; but, in truth, he was only 42 years old. I am not at liberty to divulge the mechanics of Mr. Folsom’s death, but I can inform any interested party that Aubrey Folsom still resides among us. He is wane, a shadow of his former self; but still irascible and constantly blaming his fellow tenants for his current state of affairs without considering his own culpability. He had to be evicted from this unit due to his inconsolable screaming. He was moved to more appropriate quarters in the sub-basement. He refuses to participate in any social gatherings. Aubrey is a sour lemon, a bit of indigestible gristle. Naturally he’s been ostracized by the other guests who want nothing more than a little peace and comfort.
“Please, excuse my peevish behavior. I’ve been discussing internal matters and I haven’t even introduced myself. My name is Angus Cobb and I represent Angel Towers. I am a personal administrator and concierge. Let me assure you that everything at Angel Towers is perfect. We do our best to provide the most impeccable life and death to all our guests. Angel Towers offers luxury accommodations for discriminating individuals and families who do not want to be separated from loved-ones who have passed on. Modern apartments are available with elegant niches and state-of-the-art crypts. A residence at Angel Towers is the last home you will ever own.”
Bondeer Saville was going to the Masquerade Ball. She cackled like a banshee and pranced across the electronic fast-lanes like lightning incarnate. She had an appointment with Destiny — the end of Red City. It had been a delicious 666 years riding the currents that matched the fire in her blood. Saville was the Sorceress who lived in the stray dissonance that broke off from wireless transmissions. Time never existed for Bondeer Saville. She witnessed the beginning of Red City and she planned to be there at the end. She was familiar with everyone who had a role to play — she helped move each character into position like pieces on a chess board. She observed her handiwork: all the players at the Masquerade, frozen in time, waiting for her arrival and her denouement.
Ann Anon was ordered to pull the lever that would set the machine in motion. Jupiter Fogg and Daniel Ot were stretched out, laying side by side, hooked up to the Brain Machine. They were attached to one another, head to head. Ann knew she would kill Daniel when she pulled down the lever. Fogg’s plan was to sacrifice his apprentice in order to awaken the Philosopher’s Stone. “The sacrifice is necessary,” the Alchemist told himself. Fogg would use his machine to escape from a crumbling Red City with the power unleashed by the Philosopher’s Stone. Ann knew all this and she was terrified. She loved Daniel Ot and she despised Jupiter Fogg. She devised a plan, but there were many variables that could easily go wrong. For the plan to succeed she needed help from Aaron keepx. He was in the shadows wearing a cloak of invisibility (at least he hoped the cloak made him invisible from the red-watchers who were attached to the walls like deadly bats). When Ann signaled, Aaron was supposed to toggle the switch that would reverse polarity on the head-to-head mechanism: Fogg would become his own sacrificial victim and Daniel would escape. In either case, Ann would lose Daniel. She would die in a crumbling Red City. Her thoughts were disrupted by music seeping across the threshold from the bowels of the city where the Masquerade was just beginning. Ann wondered if anyone would be missed. It was a requirement to attend the Ball — Fogg was the guest of honor. None of it made sense.
Bondeer Saville came to the Masquerade dressed like Carrie (from the movie by the same name). Everyone loved movies she thought and she intended to play the role she chose to the hilt. A ruckus was taking place when she entered the ancient catacombs where people from Red City were cowering in their make believe costumes. A man with a machine was ordering his servants to round up people and tie them down. Rufus Thyme needed fodder for his experiment. He believed he could awaken the Philosopher’s Stone by absconding with as many brains as possible. The crowded Masquerade was a great opportunity to collect what he needed. The power of the Stone would make him a God and, if he chose, he could save Red City and prove his worth to the world. The machine rolled through the crowd like a metal behemoth crushing anyone who got in the way. Rufus Thyme sat on top and screamed obscenities. He frothed at the mouth like a rabid dog ordering his servants to throw people into the open maw of the machine where their brains would be consumed. He could feel the power of brains rising through his body and awakening the Philosopher’s Stone that was deep in the recesses of his medulla-oblongata. It was all an illusion. Alaina Schorre, who inhabited the same body along with Rufus Thyme, was aware of the Alchemist’s decompensation — he was totally mad. She wrestled to gain control away from Rufus. Bondeer Saville smacked her lips with satisfaction when she saw the kurfuffle taking place on top of the ridiculous mechanical gewgaw. People were fighting one another trying to escape the rampaging machine. Fist fights exploded into inexplicable sexual frenzy: last gasp attempts to experience a few moments of ecstasy before immanent dissolution. The fight between Alaina Schorre and Rufus Thyme escalated from screams and insults to eye gouging and fisticuffs. Alaina was like a frantic harridan trying to cling to the last vestiges of youth in her attempt to overpower Thyme. Her mascara was smeared and her lips were like red gashes as she lashed out. Rufus Thyme couldn’t stop yelling obscenities and insults against a world that never recognized his accomplishments. He became the troll that always lived inside, always twisting in his guts and warping his mind. He grew in strength as he aspirated and he struck Alaina with a killing blow; but his footing slipped and he fell (as if in slow motion) into the maw of the deadly machine. Music in the Catacombs swelled as the panic and frenzy escalated — it was Carmine Stolemock’s favorite music, Crimson Death. People were in awe of the old, dead Alchemist who was now assaulting the crowd and cackling like a chicken. Bondeer Saville smiled as she opened the floodgates and tore down the walls. Blood was everywhere.
Aaron Keepx was about to toggle the switch that would save Daniel Ot and dispose of Jupiter Fogg. Ann Anon was about to pull the lever that would change reality and awaken the power of the Philosopher’s Stone. Bondeer Saville changed everything. Ann Anon heard music just before the room exploded. The Masquerade invaded like a deadly virus. People in garish costumes and elaborate masks were dancing and bleeding, fornicating and dying. Many people wandered around trying to locate family and friends. Some individuals tried to offer help; but good neighbors were no longer appreciated. Masks and costumes added to the confusion — no one knew what lurked behind the masks. Mother might really be the neighbor who had a vendetta and wanted revenge. A fanatic terrorist might lurk behind the mask of a good Samaritan. As soon as Jupiter Fogg’s chamber was violated by the mob of masqueraders, levers were pulled and switches were toggled. The mirror that kept reality intact was shattered (a quantum entanglement resulted). Red City broke through the wall. The Harlequin-beat Angel tried to put the pieces back together again, but it was too late. Her mask came off to reveal her other identity, Bondeer Saville. It wasn’t easy living in the same house together (Bondeer never got along with the Angel). Mom was really the neighbor who wanted revenge and little Jenna Framm actually ruled the roost. Red City was flung across the universe — denizens of the city were scattered like cometary dust.
Jenna Framm was an unhappy child. It all began when she was eleven. Three unfortunate circumstances merged to make Jenna’s life miserable: she matured early and had her first period, her face broke out in pimples, and she developed an eating disorder. Eating resulted in huge, extenuating repercussions when she became obese. Jenna quickly learned how vicious other children can be. She was severely bullied and denied any relief. Dad escaped family life when Jenna was a baby and mom, alone and single, blamed Jenna for screwing up the marriage. Jenna had one friend in high school: a lost boy who thought he was an alien, but who was simply gay. His name was Billy and when he wasn’t with Jenna he spent all his time playing computer games. He gave the computer bug to Jenna and her future was hatched. She became a programmer. She worked with several companies designing computer games. Jenna made lots of money, but money couldn’t buy her the love and adulation she so desperately wanted. She was never able to keep the weight off — she would never be thin and (she believed) never attract the men she desired. Billy stayed in touch. Every year, during Gay Pride, they would get together and end up dancing like maniacs and getting totally wasted. It was never enough for Jenna. She was lonely and depressed. Her world changed on the day she invented a new game called, Red City — Jenna invented a character for herself named Bondeer Saville. She controlled everything — Bondeer was the Sorceress who lived in the blood red currents that split off from wireless transmissions.
Billy always enjoyed Jenna’s company, but he wasn’t sure she was real; after all, he was an alien. Aliens had the power to control reality. Homo Sapiens were just empty pods created by aliens as surrogates. He learned the truth from Dr. Sam Evanstox, a cyber-shark who conspired with the aliens during the Earth invasion. Billy believed he was born with a computer in his head. He never felt at home with his Earth family who were cast like movie extras in a 1960’s sitcom. Computer games were his only escape. People on Earth were not very nice. They hated him because he was different. In order to get back at them he invented a computer game called, Red City. He played many different characters; but, best of all, he loved being Anton Bane, the bad ass, serial killer who lived in Hell. Bane had all the power — he lived in Hell, but he was never far away — he was Mr. Hamm, Jupiter Fogg, and Rufus Thyme all rolled up into one. He was Red City incarnate. Jenna was Billy’s surrogate, just another character in the game.
Winston Belcross saw the sky split. Someone was crossing over from one dimension to another. His Transference Machine started spewing fumes and sparks. Immediately, Winston was engulfed in fire. Through the smoke he saw two figures materialize. Winston was in a coma for six months. When he awoke, his family was in the room with him: his wife, Emma; and his two sons, Daniel and Aaron. Winston saved them all when the house went up in flames. He never built a machine. He had never resigned himself from the world. Winston Belcross was a very happy man.
Thomas Ingg was an unhappy monk living in an antiquated monastery situated on a cliff above the modern city of Kathmandu. Most of his life was spent in poverty, born in the slums and living off the city’s garbage. When he was eighteen he became a monk in order to escape from the streets. He received an education in exchange for his complete loyalty and total servitude. His only relief came in time spent in the library (deep in the bowels of the monastery) where he could find refuge in books and use the library’s sole computer to access the world. Thomas taught himself machine-language and he created a game called, Red City. He created all the characters and controlled all the action. He became Sindhar Golgol, a character in the game, the founder and leader of a monastery that floated above the world. Sindhar created a special cypher that could re-write Reality.
No one anticipated the end of the game or the resulting consequences. An outside observer might conclude that everyone involved in Red City was merely a reflection, a vague shadow or specter. After all, it was merely a game. Then again, who sent the Black Cube, a failed attempt to demolish the small town that would become Red City. Another unexplained phenomenon has to do with the Northern Lights that have become more prevalent and more prominent as if reflecting fires from beneath the surface of the Earth: Fires from Red City? According to the story, Red City grew more powerful due to the increased flow of blood from victims. The city didn’t just die. The myth clearly states that Red City broke free of any boundaries keeping it safely sequestered from this side of Reality. Evidence abounds with the increase of threats and violence in the world: ceaseless war, the spread of new diseases, and the resurgence of old pandemics. The self-fulfilling prophecy of an Apocalypse might have given rise to a more powerful, demonic Red City. Certainly we are all living in the strangest of times.
(the End or the Beginning)