Allison Fornay was a slim, more attractive version of herself. She used to weigh four-hundred pounds and she was unable to move off her bed. She had a caretaker and received a living wage from disability insurance. She subsidized her income by letting news-cams into her bedroom to expose her obesity on national VR.
Everything changed when Allison met Fonderoy Thomas. He was a lifestyle guru who owned a virtual reality network. Fonderoy heard about Allison from a fake-news outlet. He wanted to help.
At this time, everyone had a Neural Net that covered the cerebellum. The net increased intelligence and enabled instant communication. Every Neural Net was stamped with an expiration code and date. The code was unique and worked like an old fashioned cell-phone number. Fonderoy connected with Allison.
“I love you, Allison,” Fonderoy gushed, “with love you can do anything!”
“Who the hell are you?” Allison replied. She didn’t know because she never tuned into the Guru channel.
After a stimulating conversation Allison submitted to Fonderoy’s life changing regimen. She submitted to mental massage and invasive chemical therapy.
Fonderoy seeded Allison’s brain with Neuro-linguistic cues and Virtual Reality Instagrams.
Allison was fucked; but, she did lose the excess weight. The process opened a Pandora’s Box. In the end Allison had no idea who she was or what she wanted.
Guru Thomas called upon Shambala, Bannon, and Mumbo-jumbo to steer Allison in the right direction. The process was trial-and-error. Allison slipped from one lifestyle to another, trying-on personalities that were injected into her brain.
She remembered munching on fruit, sitting in a Banyan Tree. She felt pleasantly stoned living like an ape. She lurched into another memory of rampaging male energy that comes with being a teenage boy. The ride continued as she became a drug addicted super model. She slammed into a tsunami of facts-and-figures as a highly regarded astrophysicist. Allison was a banker and real-estate mogul. She saw herself as a wife and mother. The experiences were overwhelming and she shattered like a glass vase.
Guru Thomas flipped through his commodified fact-sheets and randomly picked a code to permanently insert into Allison’s Neural Net.
Detective Allison Fornay was called whenever a case turned into a sticky wicket. Music swelled as she stared down at the body of a man who was vaguely familiar. The music was out of place and Allison wondered why there was music at the scene of the crime. The crime was ordinary… the music was not. The dead man was a TV personality known for his bombastic rhetoric. The man was in his seventies and he looked as if he was in terrible anguish at the time of his demise. Allison donned the obligatory rubber gloves and did the appropriate touching on the dead man’s body. She already surmised he died of a heart attack brought on by too much stress, but she had to be professional. The body would be left for the coroner who would confirm the detective’s conclusion. So much for the dead man, but the music was the real mystery. Did the other officers hear it or was she the only one? The music was vaguely familiar like the soundtrack from a TV show. It was bright and tinkly like game show music. Did the music have something to do with the corpse? “Perhaps,” Fornay whispered to herself, “I need to reassess the situation. If the man on the floor was not a victim of foul play; then who was the victim and why the sticky wicket?”
The music was counting down. A memory suddenly lurched into Allison Fornay’s brain — the memory of a man who wielded great power. He was guru Fonderoy Thomas and he infected her mind.
When lurch comes to shove, Allison was very good at hiding the facts of the murder. She concealed it from herself. The guru with his empire of zombie followers deserved to die. He tinkered with people’s souls. His pop psychology was an excuse to rewire brains and perform sadistic experiments. She smiled as the music continued to count down. Allison knew what to expect, what the music meant. The guru inserted a unique code and date in her Neural Net… and she was about to expire.
They named him Thorax because they were hippies and the word sounded unique. He preferred Thor, but that seemed a bit grandiose so he settled for Ted. He was raised on “magic mushrooms” and organic food in a commune. On weekends, his parents played music in a local bar. His parents were part of the first major shift in consciousness in the late Twentieth Century, but Ted never felt right with his parents lifestyle.
His bohemian upbringing only made him long for more conventional values: McDonald’s, television, fast cars, and conspicuous consumption. Ted settled for a standardized life and he was relatively happy. His laissez-faire parents supported his decisions even though they felt momentary pangs of pain and rejection. They even supported Ted’s lifestyle with money they inherited from wealthy relatives. Ted became a computer jockey in the customer service department at a high tech firm, Global Triad. Ted’s contract partner was named Desmond. They had two “In Vitro” children conceived to meet the requirements of their very high standards for beauty and intelligence. Ted’s life was entwined in the second greatest shift in human consciousness.
At work, Ted was given a surprise party when he turned forty — that’s when he realized how much he enjoyed his life. Soon he would be eligible for retirement. He had more free time now that Desmond and the kids were enrolled in “Family Care,” the new application that re-engineered relationships and supported several time-saving sub-routines. Ted’s surprise party was held in the Cornucopia. He was enjoying drinks and canopies with several friends from work. He missed Desmond and the children, but they would see him when he returned home that evening. The cake was extraordinary and everyone sang “happy birthday” in fake falsetto. Ted sat at table # 9 in Cloud Mode where most activities were archived and saved. Manager One (named D’vid), made a working toast to Ted, “On this most auspicious occasion you are noticed and remembered. Happy Birthday, Ted, may you never grow older than you are today.”
All day at work, Filtered Music purred in the recesses of Ted’s mind. There was always music. Occasionally avatars appeared. They offered ideas and apps to make life more enjoyable. Often, Ted felt displaced as the screen suddenly changed or a new layer appeared, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable sensation — it was more like a dream than anything else. His work shifted from customer relations to customer appropriations. He had to gain information on the people who used the company’s products. Information was the most valuable commodity. Privacy no longer existed; but, everyone agreed, privacy only isolated people from one another and restricted choices. Information could only be comprehensive if people were totally open. Private lives were now public and that helped the economy. When Ted shifted to his home module, he immersed himself in virtual environments. If he felt like an adventure, he could step into another person’s head-space and become that person. On every screen he was given options to purchase enhancement applications. The apps could be expensive, but leasing arrangements made them easier to acquire. He had purchased Desmond with a lease and that turned out to be a great investment. Some sacrifices had to be made to acquire the children, but now he could never give them up for all the joy they brought into his life.
Turning forty was a major mile-stone for Ted. Events from his life appeared like a flash animation in high contrast. He wondered what happened to his parents and the commune they struggled to maintain after the economy tanked. Ted never stayed in contact — he used email and his parents never owned a computer. He couldn’t remember if they ever owned a phone. In fact he never wanted to stay in touch — they had nothing in common except some lingering physical characteristics. Ted wanted to become his own person, separate from his family. His memories were making him depressed so he decided to disconnect and leave the house. People rarely wandered the streets anymore. They stayed home, immersed in the entertainment matrix.
He saw a large, yellow box out of the corner of his eye. It didn’t fit so Ted avoided looking at the object. He found himself inside a dark bar sitting at a small, round table. He was talking to himself. He sat across from himself staring into his own face. People were singing happy birthday. the song was mixed with static, broadcast from an ancient radio. “Who are you,” he heard himself ask. The other Ted asked the same question. When he returned home, Desmond and the children were nowhere to be found; instead, a large arthropod sat at the dinner table. Ted could feel the edges of his mind start to slip and unravel. The large insect was eating leftovers: pieces left over from Desmond and the children. The computer screen went blank. Ted was compromised. His life was turned into an application, bought and sold. “I’m no one,” he heard himself answer, “Just code, computer code and nothing more.”
Milton Farbin dreamt he was “the Fast-moving Man.” It was a recurring dream, part of a campaign to promote particular products and services. The Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman were cultural icons, pop stars with the highest appeal-rating according to the new, Trump Index. They were loved and adored. They slipped into people’s dreams by means of a new phone app given out for free. The glorious couple demonstrated new, American-made merchandise that was on sale for bargain prices.
In the dream, Milton was a charismatic leader with blistering eyes and orange hair, a man of wealth and power. When he awoke he was penniless and depressed having spent all his money on goods and services he did not need or want. Once he left the Virtual Dream, Milton was a rag man, no longer capable of keeping a regular job. In the past he was a beautician. He was in high demand and he loved his work, but everything changed once he fell in love with the Alluring Woman. Milton wanted to please her so he bought whatever she sold. He became desperate and sought the services of surgeons and therapists to gain the looks and appeal of the Fast-moving Man.
Corporations invested in the business of “Addictive Proprieties” whereby individuals were subliminally seduced to become the Pop Icons they worshiped. Lots of people desired to be the Fast-moving Man. Other consumer apps were developed to hound consumers with ads targeting individuals based on their past choices and personal histories (privacy no longer existed). The Hounds-of-consumption were let loose regularly and continually. There were Hounds for cosmetics, fashion, and real estate — emulating the lifestyle of the Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman who lived together in perfect bliss. Face creams and fast-food promised the consumer a better life. New cars and luxury apartments were the ingredients for true happiness.
Milton Farbin lived in an abandoned bookstore. He couldn’t break the cycle of desire. He was tormented by dreams. The Hounds were relentless, barking like banshees, wailing like sirens. The Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman lived with Milton in the bookstore. They were everywhere, wrapped in each other’s arms, trying out the newest deodorant or the best hair depilatory. They had sex in front of Milton just to torment him with their obvious bliss.
He tried everything to escape. He starved himself hoping the Hounds would die from lack of sustenance, but they were invincible. Milton went on long hikes, trudging through the worst areas of the city where drug addicts and murderers hid from spying eyes. He was hoping he might be murdered… hoping the Fast-moving Man and the Alluring Woman would not follow him, but they never left his side.
Milton was driven to distraction. He knew the drugs he collected for the last five years were deadly. He sat down against the moldy wall at the back of the abandoned store. Looters found his body and proceeded to dismantle the corpse and recycle the parts.
Milton was dead. It was very dark. He could sense icy fingers caress his body. He felt peaceful and began to drift away like a cloud of dust. But, before the dust could disappear, Milton heard the shrill barking of the Hounds. He saw the neon glow of the Alluring Woman and the Fast-moving Man. They followed Milton Farbin into death and they would never leave.