Dying Sun (relapse) 5/14/2023
There was a total eclipse of the sun… at the moment when the moon devoured the light, sepulchral events were triggered. It became more difficult to rationalize one’s life and easier to accept death.
The tall-man stood on a bridge that spanned a crack in the earth. He smiled. The bones in his throat rattled like the engine in a broken-down car. He was a ruler: King in the Land of the Dying Sun.
Arthur Rambluster was having a grim day. His best friend, Veronica Delfacto, was dying. She developed Septicemia, a blood infection with no known cause. Arthur did not want to think about Veronica so instead he thought about his name. He never liked the solemnity of his given name; he preferred to be called by his nickname, Artie. His mind kept shifting back to Veronica. Artie was feeling guilty because he didn’t want to visit his dying friend. He had his own problems to consider.
First off, he thought he was prematurely dead. He’d been trying to concoct a more powerful cleaning-formula to attack the dirt he saw everywhere in his one bedroom condo. People often called Artie a “clean freak.” It all began when he was a child as a way of coping with stress. Symptoms continued to get worse as he grew older. Without thinking Arthur mixed several products that combined to produce chlorine gas. The smell was like a blast from an acetylene torch. He thought his eyes were dissolving in acid. He ran screaming from the house. The cool air revived him, he no longer felt dead. This was a reprieve so he decided he’d better visit his dying friend.
Arthur was upset by mendacity, lies everywhere. Everything was fake. There was no escaping the news. Computer screens never shut down. Arthur grappled with chaos. He wanted the world to be as clean and white as porcelain. Everyday he had to face disasters: hurricanes, wars, and massacres.
Veronica Delfacto lived in an old house that was left to her by an unconventional aunt, Mademoiselle Felicity. At one time the house was a ravishing, rainbow-hued beauty. Now the house reeked of remorse for better days and lost lives… it had fallen into itself like the carcass of a butchered cow. Veronica was an artist. Although she was mediocre at best, she was intent on acting as if she was a genius who created masterpieces. The drama, the fiction, excited her to no end. She pretended to devote every living moment to her art. Nothing else mattered. Housecleaning was the least of her interests. Repairing the roof or rebuilding the ramshackle porch did not concern her in the least. She owned two cats for company, Ezma and Cora. The cats took care of the house.
Artie always felt tortured when entering Veronica’s house… but she was dying and time was running out. The stench repulsed him. The moth eaten drapes covered with cob webs nauseated him. Veronica’s paintings reminded him of moldy food covered with worms. How, he wondered time and again, did he ever befriend this mad woman.
They met at the Homeopathic display-rack in Pieta’s Health Emporium. They were both interested in staving off death for as long as possible… both seeking better outcomes than what life already provided. Both were hypochondriacs.
The Land of the Dying Sun comes closer everyday. During the total eclipse, the Dying Sun slipped its’ moorings and began to drift… drawn like a magnet… across the bulkheads of Time and Space.
Arthur sat with Veronica, holding her hand. “I’m dying,” she spoke through a haze of green smoke. Her voice was weak, but filled with drama. The old drugs, prescribed by doctors, never worked. Veronica preferred the promises offered by marijuana and psychedelics. In her mind she was painting a masterpiece. It was called, The Last Gasp. Veronica vaguely registered Arthur who frantically held her hand as if he were clinging to his very own life.
Artie was upset and still feeling guilty. He couldn’t take it anymore. He had to leave. There was so much to do … so much cleaning that had to be completed. If he could put things back in order, sanitized and dirt-free, he would feel better. He had to clean himself as well, especially after visiting the hell hole where his friend was dying. He had to attain purity.
Weeks passed. Artie no longer heard from Veronica, perhaps, she passed away. It didn’t matter anymore. Things were getting cleaner. Arthur tracked every speck of dust and mopped it away.
Once, his parents sent him to a therapist to get to the bottom of his obsessions. Dr. Mortis Hem was a tall man, a gaunt man. He had pictures of the End Times on his office walls. Artie was withdrawn; but Dr. Hem cracked his shell and sucked him out like a boiled lobster.
When Arthur was four he was traumatized by the sight of a black rat rummaging through the garbage that spilled on the kitchen floor. The trauma was burned in his subconscious and became the root of his obsessive behavior. The doctor told Artie he could never avoid rats. He said Artie could never avoid dirt. The natural world was dirty and filled with rats. Arthur was traumatized even more. He felt threatened. He felt cursed.
Veronica never called again. Artie dreamt his friend was laid out on a large table. She was the banquet. Rats consumed her body. Artie woke up screaming.
Synchronicity played a horrible trick. Perhaps it was the shifting of light that caused the ensuing events. When Arthur woke from his nightmare he went into his spotless bathroom. A rat sat on top of the toilet tank. Fear froze both rat and man like a wall of impenetrable ice. As unexpected as a snapping icicle piercing flesh, Arthur was shocked back to his senses. He ran from the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
He could not reconcile reality. It couldn’t be happening.
The exterminator was quick and efficient. Arthur no longer had to worry. He was pest free.
The months that followed were like fleeting images in a dream. The Dying Sun sucked color from the world. Everything turned gray and dirty.
Arthur began to change. At first everything seemed better. He felt more relaxed. He had more energy. His appetite improved. He enjoyed taking long walks. Objects seemed to glow as if he was seeing the world through infrared lenses. He no longer sensed the Dying Sun.
Soon Arthur noticed something peculiar. He became enthralled with the night. He craved small, dark places where he could hide. He stopped cleaning his home. He reveled in the dust. He enjoyed garbage.
He no longer recognized himself. His eyes were small, beady coals of incendiary red.
Satan’s Spark (2016 before the election of trump)
“I met Michael Robinet one year before the onset of the global Crisis. It was the best year of my life. It was the only year worth remembering. The Crisis destroyed everything else. I thought love dried up years ago like a desiccated corpse. At my age something as precious as love seemed impossible. I’m seventy-five, active and healthy; but still seventy-five. Mike is sixty, a relative juvenile compared to me. He is athletic and very beautiful. I am not! He is also good-natured and protective; but no one could protect any of us from the Crisis. I am Doctor Lydia Thornwall and I am responsible… responsible for everything!”
Lydia Thornwall was a neuro-scientist. She was studying the effects of aging on the brain, especially as it related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The work was very intense and she needed a break so she took a Virtual Trip to the Retro Club where she could get a jolt of brain-boost.
The Club was a neon amusement park. It brought back memories of a wild period when she explored the parameters of sex and drugs. At the time she told herself it was an analytical investigation, but with age she knew she was just having fun. Now… she was the oldest person in the Club. She still reveled in the culture of youth. She could flip back in time and experience the thrills of abandonment to prurient desires. Her recent discovery of a new brain-gene could wait awhile longer. She needed to experience a wave of ecstasy. She met Michael at the roundabout on the second floor.
The night poured into Lydia like a flood of Lysergic Acid. The walls melted and she awoke cradled in the arms of Michael Robinet. Love burrowed into her psyche like a velvet hummingbird probing a Venus Flytrap. That night, Lydia felt a fortress of solitude crumbling from within. The Venus Flytrap was deflowered and Lydia broke free from the prison of time. From that moment, Lydia was bonded to Michael.
She returned to her laboratory on clouds of scented bouquets. She also had an added gift: the solution to the diseases of old-age, a way to activate the new brain-gene.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Onstate University not far from the hospital lab where Lydia Thornwall worked on her new formula. Politics went viral on the internet like thousands of newly engineered viruses. Video Screens exploded with profanity. No one was certain if the back-alley talk was due to a viral infection or due to political maneuvering. Lydia lost interest, but she couldn’t avoid the talk. Computers were always on. There were whispered innuendos about spies — no one felt safe. There were accidents set off by exploding phones adding to the paranoia. Discord was everywhere.
Lydia hid beneath her desk trying to work on the new formula. She longed for Michael to help her through the current crisis. The man on TV yelled at Lydia and called her an ugly, old whore. She bit her lip determined to complete the formula. The TV man was somehow connected to the numbers. She wondered if he had access to her information. A loud speaker shook the room with a reminder for Dr. Lydia Thornwall. Her next client arrived and was waiting in the Green Room.
He said his name was Satan and he wanted to make a deal. Lydia didn’t believe in the supernatural or in religious dogma; besides, deals with Satan always ended badly. The man was likely suffering from late onset Schizophrenia. He babbled like a politician.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over oil rights, military might, and locker room etiquette. Surrogates gushed with praise for their powerful bosses, condoning everything that dripped like grease from the mouths of their leaders. Clandestine contracts were signed in corporate backrooms, souls were bartered and sold. Money greased the wheels of political power.
It meant nothing to Lydia. She was a devoted scientist trying to make the world a better place. “Help the children,” she whispered, “help the old and frail.”
She signed a contract with Michael on the night of her deflowering. The rain fell like quicksilver from a cobalt sky. It was magical; but, unfortunately, it was caused by global warming. Lydia sighed and pursued her work. She dismissed Satan who seemed to devolve into a curious Bonobo Chimpanzee sitting in the corner of her lab.
“Curious,” she thought, “the way things change.” It was, indeed, very odd. Reality appeared to shift and warp. Layers of perception were superimposed over one another like virtual dreams, worlds within worlds.
As she worked, she pondered recent discoveries in Quantum Physics. They found the “God Particle” as hypothesized over fifty years ago. They smashed atoms to find the particle. It was a major discovery.
Dr. Thornwall was also looking for a particle, part of the human genome. She knew the brain-gene existed and now she needed to expose it. If her calculations were correct the gene she sought would cure the disease of old age and unlock the potential for immortality.
The politician was having a bad day. He never should have signed the contract. His wishes were all granted: money, power, women and sex; everything – he was a major celebrity… but, he realized too late, there is always a price to pay.
Hatecore music was yelling over the loud speakers and there were riots in the streets. Storm troopers marched through the city wearing orange berets and yelling obscenities against women. A new day was dawning. Politics were blamed for the ensuing violence; but political enmity was only one factor. Dr. Lydia Thornwall was successful. She exposed the brain-gene and there were unexpected consequences: once exposed, the gene became dominant. It was more than Dr. Thornwall anticipated; not a cure, but a disease: a link to psychosis that came to be known as Satan’s Spark. The Spark went viral.
Lydia had a room in the psychiatric ward at Resurrection Hospital. She suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion. No information was known about Lydia… one night she just turned up at the emergency room. No one knew where she came from or what she did. Michael Robinet worked as an orderly and he was very kind to Lydia. Michael was a guardian angel.
I was drawn to Red City even before I knew it existed. I was haunted by dreams. Dreams were an escape from my misery of suffocation caused by working odd jobs just to stay alive. No one cared about my negligible existence. When I lost my part-time employment as a dishwasher I had to give up my small room. I moved into the streets. I begged. At night I slept in dark alleys under the shelter of plastic sheets and cardboard. Children shrieked when they saw me — small boys threw rocks. I was only twenty-four but I looked like an old man. At twenty-four I had already forgotten my name and the promises that were told to me as a boy growing up in a middle class suburb. I spent my days in a walking-delirium. The only release from my tedium was sleep. I discovered 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. I realized how deeply connected I was to Red City. Somehow I had the power to wake up a city that lay dormant for thousands of years. I followed my dreams into another dimension. I could feel the blood of the city pulsing in my veins. I felt powerful. I began to live in Red City; at the same time, I was disappearing from the world of starvation and homelessness. I could be many different people, angels and demons, when I traveled in the Red City. I had many disguises. I was learning the secrets of ancient magic, secrets that explained the workings of the world. I sought the Philosopher’s Stone, true immortality. I learned that life was sustained by blood. Red City was a crucible of blood. The other world where I was born was nothing. The people in that world were selfish, greedy bugs that were less than nothing; they were flimsy images flashing on a screen of make-believe reality. Red City was the only reality, my true home. Whenever I skinned one of those false people the blood gave me life and Red City flourished.
A nondescript man babbled as if he were in a trance, “I saw several of us walking around… not realizing we were all the same person… then, we ran into one another on a corner in the bankrupt finance-district, off skid row. We were all the same… we were also different: individuals… part of the same organism. We looked the same… We talked the same. It was an epiphany to stare into the eyes of another person and realize that person was me. Am I part of a Hive? Is my mind being controlled? Hold on, I’m receiving a message from space… the archangels are calling. Same message everyday: Earth is off balance… Trumpet players are in control… Politics have gone viral.”
Jacob Latterly sat in a computer cafe’ having a conversation with himself in a VR chat room0 He was trying to figure out the codes that determine the human perception of reality. He was having no success. One conundrum let to another in an ever winding spiral of confusion. Dr. Zosomo Kulio stepped up to Jacob to reassess the situation and write a report. “Jacob,” he said, “you are having delusions.” The good doctor suddenly disappeared, but the lingering wisp of melange hung in the virtual air.
At this nexus in the story a new virus, one of many, was affecting Jacob’s brain.
Jacob grasped at the fragments and caught a whiff of Nostalgia (an intoxicant found in a mutant viper imported from Jakarta). A new sensation was born inside Jacob’s breast that led to a series of improbable circumstances. Against all odds, Jacob fell in love. His natural inclination was to wallow in depression. Love was not supposed to be in the mix. His lover was a metallic reflection, a bird on the wing deep within the jungle of digitally enhanced reality. The experience resonated deep within Jacob’s hypothetical soul. As far as he was concerned, the state of the world was no longer of any consequence. The incredible messages from space suddenly stopped without a trace. The archangels expired like pigeons dying from exhaust fumes. Politics continued to run amok. Devices continued to get smarter until they were too intelligent to stay on Earth — all the gadgets left the planet. Jacob, however, was happy. Depression evaporated. He found love. Nothing else mattered.
State of Affairs
Manfred Bancourt wrote short stories that got him in trouble. He was a manic typist on an old, IBM Selectric, pre-digital relic. Manfred produced ream after ream of young-adult science fiction, but his stories took a more opinionated twist with the election of the new president. He began to write articles critical of the new regime. They were uploaded to the internet and widely circulated, often going viral.
Elisa Trinity helped Manfred. She was a computer wiz, multi-cultural Transsexual who claimed to be from the planet Saturn. Elisa had a vivid imagination. She also had some rock solid, formidable computer skills. Elisa wanted to draw attention to Manfred’s stories and articles. She didn’t mean to get him in trouble.
Elisa used trolls and bots. She liked to play tricks. She started the “Harem” story that nearly brought down the government. She rationalized, “one dirty trick deserves another… they started it with Pizza-gate.” Elisa finished it with Harem-gate, Frump’s secret depository of women stashed in the basement of the White House. It went viral and caused great consternation in the halls of Congress. The unanticipated result was higher favorable ratings for President Frump, especially among men. Elisa was heart broken and that’s when she decided to promote Manfred’s articles that were both honest and damaging to the Frump Administration.
Tweets and articles, both true and false, led to a series of damaging rumors mostly aimed at Trump and his appointed allies: “Trump is an illegal alien from Mars,” “the president is the Manchurian Candidate,” “Trump is the head of an illegal cartel.” The flurry exploded into derisive combat. Supporters of the administration hit hard with their own liturgy of insults and rumors. Everyone blamed Manfred Bancourt. His articles were the fuel that ignited Civil Disobedience and the Season of Political Discontent.
“The weather isn’t helping,” Orlow Fabricatum observed as he talked with Elisa Trinity.
“Natural disasters are worse than ever,” Elisa replied, “it’s draconian. It’s apocalyptic. Global warming has been dismissed as fake news.”
“Yes,” Orlow sagely responded, “and biblical prophesy, god’s will, is blamed for the devastation.”
The island of Puerto Rico continued to sink into the ocean.
Parts of Houston were still under water.
Axel Ramirez was no longer cognizant. He was caught in the flood of circumstances. He continued to follow the suggestions of Harvey, his alcoholic beverage. He refused to forsake Harvey and that put Axel in a precarious situation as he sank beneath the waves.
Another rumor became viral based on an article by Bancourt… “Trump signed a contract with the devil.”
Twitter exploded, “Trump is in league with Lucifer.” “Trumpism is a satanic cult that rules the world.”
The president was extremely upset. His early morning twitters were no longer having an effect against the avalanche of counter-intelligence and breaking-news (no one could tell fake from real).
Something had to be done. It was concluded that Manfred Bancourt was the culprit who began the scurrilous landslide of articles that were damaging to the president. A presidential decree was signed releasing the Hounds-of-Hell to hunt down and terminate Manfred.
Elisa Trinity became increasingly distraught. She blamed herself for Manfred’s predicament. She consulted doctor Zosimo Kulio, eminent mentalist. He was sympathetic to the quest for truth. His advice was cryptic, “look no further than what your eyes can see. Follow the path like the flow of water in a stream.”
Manfred became more upset everyday. He was bothered by ordinary experiences. He heard voices and constant yelling. Advertising attacked him on the street and in his home. The news was incessant. The country was choking in smog. He listened to a report on the radio about the chicken of tomorrow. It was from the past about using antibiotics to make bigger chickens. Chickens grew to enormous size.
Bancourt never made money from the books he published. He did better as a journalist. He’d been upset by the cruel rhetoric and lack of compassion spewing from the White House. He became compelled to counter the lies. His friend’s life was threatened… Elisa Trinity was a Transsexual. The current administration was cracking down on LGBT People and every other minority.
Manfred’s days were numbered. The Hounds of Hell were targeting his soul. Trinity tried to protect him, but she was easily put down and labeled a wanton whore. Hannity and others verbally crushed the queers who refused to bow down and humble themselves. Independent women were another target. Free speech was becoming Alt Speech.
Manfred stood alone against the ferocious beasts. Dr. Zosimo retreated into his cavern of silence.
Mr. Death walked into the room smoking a cheroot. Death was always smiling. In any other circumstance Mr. Death could have been a good natured friend, a drinking buddy, or someone who listens as you unload your problems. Unfortunately, Mr. Death never exposed that side of himself. He was a workaholic who dispatched his assignments quickly and efficiently without chit-chat or comradery. Still, Mr. Death was deeply aware that something was missing, some part of Death was suffering from abject neglect. He hid all this from himself; but a spark ignited when Death looked into Manfred’s eyes. Mr. Death saw Manfred Bancourt’s life, every moment… and understanding began to dawn. Mr. Death found a friend.
Instead of eliminating Manfred from the world of the living, Death decided to change the rules. He would not take Manfred to his grave; instead he would hide him.
Manfred Bancourt was taken to the Land of the Dying Sun where he would continue to write articles and distribute them… He would continue to expose the truth.
Golden Parachute (Postmortem)
He heard the chirping of birds and knew it was his time… time to go. The dark man who was little more than a shadow stood in the doorway and waited patiently.
The Inspector General was due for a visit. He was interested in crimes and misdemeanors… particularly crimes against the state. He was armed. A person could be shot on site if he-or-she was considered guilty. The Inspector General carried out the wishes of the Boss.
Everyone was given a gun, but it was just for fun like a game on the computer. The game started in pre-school. It was called, “War Zone: USA.” Everyone played. The Inspector General had the biggest gun of all. He used Dreamers for target practice.
The big, white house was in disarray. No one could hide from the reigning terror. All factions were aligned with chaos… worse than a soap opera… worse than a B-movie.
Retirement and old age are pushed together back to back. The need for control becomes an issue when life is foreshortened.
We were together for several years; but becoming a couple was still an issue. It meant sacrificing an old identity for a less certain future. We weren’t alone in our distress. The world broke free from its axis and hurtled into the dangerous Unknown. We awoke in a quantum entanglement, virtual-world.
The Halloween Dance at the old-folks home was the event of the year. It was a scene from an old, science-fiction movie. Monsters and aliens collided on the dance floor. “I did the Monster Mash…” Blasted from speakers, creating a wall of sound. The scene became a psychedelic dream fueled by adrenaline and a concoction of pharmaceuticals. An ancient recording of the Bee Gees, Staying Alive, pumped new life into the celebration. Everyone was old, frozen within webs of wrinkles, age spots, and goiters. Wigs, make-up and costumes were part of the fun, creating a layer of fantasy where anything was possible from vampires and witches to a momentary illusion of youth and good health. No one was unwittingly fooled in the Home for the Aged & Assisted Living. The elderly were revered on Halloween. They had no need for costumes. The senile (the bent and crippled) could be themselves without shame on Halloween. The hall where the event took place was decorated like a ghostly swamp. A White, Federal Style Castle floated at the edges of the deceit. It was sinking into the swamp. Mr. D, the perennial angel of death stood on the sidelines playing a violin.
The nation plunged ahead on promises of gold. Tariffs were imposed. Walls, bunkers, and bomb shelters were built with American Steel. Spousal abuse and infidelity were awarded Medals-of-Honor (even as the controversy set tongues wagging). Climate change was denied as coal and oil were promoted as clean, new energy sources.
The Executive Branch was in disarray. The man at the top shouted misogynistic insults and pushed for a more aggressive stance. North Korea was either friend or foe depending on the executive’s mood. Predatory relationships were established with old enemies. Self Interest was the new modus-operandi as typified by Quid-Quo-Pro contracts.
The Inspector General carried out the President’s plan. The secret society was finally revealed as an extension of the NRA. Culture wars ignited into Civil War. Everyone owned a gun. It was essential: own a gun or die.
It was time for a Golden Parachute and the man in the White House clapped his hands with glee over the benefits he had accrued.
the Quantum Engine
Barry Hartock was an abused child. He remained silent. No one knew what happened, but people knew he rarely talked. He never looked directly into another person’s eyes. He avoided contact. When he was very young mechanical toys were his only friends. He listened to them and marveled at the way the toys moved, spinning and racing across the playroom floor. As he grew older, his love for toys developed into a love for computers and robots. When he turned eighteen he was given a sex-bot. He grew to love Andor-bot. She/He provided the most intimacy he’d ever known. Andor was non-threatening and easy to love. Andor encouraged Barry to study computer science and quantum mechanics. The robot had minimal Artificial Intelligence, just enough to persuade Barry to build a Quantum Engine.
When Barry began his work the world was in turmoil, sliding into the abyss of one man’s megalomania.
The work provided meaning and purpose. Barry became obsessed with the riddle of Quantum Mechanics. He came to believe true magic existed in particles like the Higgs-Boson. He saw the whole universe as an entanglement. He studied during the day, taking classes online just to absorb information. The desktop computer was his most formidable teacher, answering questions about theory and practice. Once, Barry asked about the existence of the soul, it was a different kind of riddle that always confused him. His father was a Deacon in the church. Barry had a deep seeded hatred toward his father and everything his father represented including religion. The computer could not answer questions about the soul.
At night he tinkered. Barry worked tirelessly on the engine described by Andor… a Quantum Engine. The device grew exponentially. Layers of reality appeared to collide as the machine materialized. Barry saw multiple versions of himself exploding through the mantel of time. From the first moment he began assembling the machine the power was on… it was working from some off-world energy source. Barry realized there was no off switch.
It sparkled like a million-watt glow-worm; but it was only partially materialized. The machine existed in a pocket universe. During the birth process Andor began to change… radiating energy like an angel. Barry began to weep. He was in touch with the deep wounds from his past. The room was bathed in electric blue-light. Barry brought the Quantum Engine into existence. The music of the spheres rang out across the Earth. Barry’s mind was focused on one sound, a soft clicking. The count-down had begun…
The Perfect Line
Roland Dell was a successful artist. His work was featured in several galleries. Many of his paintings were bought by exclusive interior designers and displayed in model homes. His agent brokered a contract with Hollywood for Roland to supply art to movies and TV shows. He was living the good life. Nora, his model wife, loved him with all her heart. Nora had expensive taste and Roland made lots of money. He designed and executed art to fit in the most elaborate and expensive environments. He was praised for his technique and earned several awards. In the wake of his success, a nagging doubt began to plague Roland. At first it was just a small irritant, but it was persistent — the irritant became a conviction in his own mind that he was really a fake.
Determined to prove himself genuine, Roland began to experiment. He wanted to discover a more unique form of expression. He started with basic mark-making and simple lines. He became fascinated with pencil strokes on paper. His artistic quest evolved to a search for the perfect line. Nothing could distract him from his quest, not even sex with Nora. Her complaints hung in the air like dried husks from a former life. His agent’s calls were never returned. The flow of money dried up. Roland was oblivious. His search finally appeared to get results. He discovered a line that drew itself and in the drawing created life. Roland clutched a pen and let his hand glide across the paper. He would not, could not, lift his hand from the page. The line had to be complete: one continuous line traveling across reams and reams of paper. Even at night Roland held the pen and drew in his sleep, his hand could never leave the page. The line drew Roland as Roland drew the line.
Many years passed. Roland’s perfect line was discovered at an estate sale. New York art critics proclaimed The Line a masterpiece of contemporary art; but no one knew what happened to the artist.
The new government was generously taking responsibility for a person’s right to life. Babies were assets. Every baby had the innate right to be born. Society was built from the life-blood of babies.
For the first twelve years of his life Daniel Wrightridge was supported by the government. When he turned thirteen he graduated. A farewell party was arranged. Daniel was granted the legal responsibility of caring for himself. Mom and Dad, Thelma and Sidney, were on Ice. They could no longer afford to pay the rent necessary to stay alive. Ice was cheaper than life. Ice was hope (dim as it was) providing the possibility that things might be different after they were defrosted in thirty or forty years. Mom and dad barely knew Daniel. They chose Ice when he was three years old. Rent was going up. Each new living-day had to be paid for. Sidney was out of work. He used to work as a Hack Inspector at Robards Security Agency, but AI replaced him. AI was cheaper and better than human inspectors.
Thelma made jewelry at home. She sold some of her wares at flea markets on weekends. The money she earned was not enough to pay for life and provide for Daniel. For the next ten years the boy would be supported by the government and cared for by virtual nannies. He lived in a solitary cell with computer generated walls that provided views of the surrounding city. His social life was virtual.
Everything was rented under the new economy. The very rich used digital currency. They rented everything on a generational basis and passed their accumulated assets down to the lower ranks of family. Cash was not owned, it was passed along and only the very wealthy had that kind of cash-flow.
Dahlia Pennyworth was living on borrowed time; but she didn’t know it. Her parents were life-brokers, insurance actuaries. They calculated an individual’s most likely span of life. They bet on their statistical results. The markets were booming. Life extension was shrinking for people in the middle and at the bottom of the well of mortality. Digital cash was hoarded by family hierarchies. Some family members lived into their hundreds and longer due to life extension procedures most people could not afford. The super-rich could pay for the accumulation of days and years. Hierarchies were extended through time with the introduction of clones. Clones were fake humans, therefore illegal, but no one could tell a clone from an original.
The Bellhop at the Tramador Hotel was only 23, but he only had four days to live. He relied on tips. Hotel salaries were minimum. Lately tips were scarce. Most people paid to stay alive. When the Bellhop first got the job the hotel catered to wealthy patrons. Money meant nothing to them and tips were generous. Good times didn’t last and the hotel became a disheveled ghost of better times. Now, the Bellhop was reduced to paying for a few hours at a time, just to see the light of day, just to breathe the air. He obsessed about robbing a store or even killing someone to get money. He soon realized he didn’t have it in him. He wasn’t a killer. He would die instead.
Zachary was a very old man and very wealthy. He had extreme cash-flow backed by the family Hierarchy. He rented his life at Golden Horizons Chateau. He lived in an elegant suite. His main bathroom featured gold trappings with a marble spa. He had personal attendants night and day. For the last forty years Zachary exhibited symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. His mind was gone. He had to be fed. An attendant helped him in the bathroom. He no longer had an identity, but he refused to die. He left a will backed by cash flow. He wanted to live forever. He wrote the will fifty years ago at the age of 110, before he had symptoms, before he was diagnosed. The law was on his side. His will was iron-clad.
Abraham sat with his partner, Mike, at a café on Monteith Street. They met to discuss the situation. Living together was not working out as planned. They were being watched by government agents. Time was running out for both of them.
“Mike,” Abraham broke the silence, “How are you? I think the house is bugged. That’s why I wanted to meet here. I saw the news. They are talking about Time Shares.”
“I know. I can’t get my head around it. The whole rent thing is crazy. They are out to get everyone, put us in a cage and let us rot.”
“I’ve heard there is an underground. Mikey, we have to reclaim our lives.”
Mike looked surprised, “What’s happening, Ab. You were never radical.”
“I can’t take it any more. Life isn’t something you buy and sell. I have to take a stand, do something.”
“Now you sound like me. I told you this would happen.”
Abraham coughed and spoke up, “What do we do?” The question hung in the air like a deadly fog: fumes from the near-by coal factory.
Daniel Wrightridge was homeless when they picked him up… homeless, disheveled, unsightly and poor. He had no phone, I-pad, or tele-screen; that was reason enough to incarcerate him… But, he exhibited other symptoms as well. He was mumbling, talking to the people who lived in his head. They took Daniel to the Eugenics Clinic where his symptoms would be burned out of his brain. With less brain, Daniel would become the ideal citizen. It was part of a new program that crept into American Society. Eugenics was the wave of the future. This time there would be no turning back from the ideals of a Greater Society, a more homogeneous society. The debates had no effect on the outcome. The economy looked good and that won the election. Citizens were conjoined to consumerism. The new manifesto was “Art of the Deal.”
Howard Jasper was always distracted. He was a computer engineer and self-proclaimed genius. His wife divorced him because he was always in the garage tinkering. He was an inventor obsessed with time and space. He wanted to change the world.
Emile Losange was a professor of Quantum Reality at Arcana University. He was also a young boy named Murray. Additionally he was a woman named Carlotta Bergman. Currently, Carlotta was the professor’s devoted wife. The world was particularly confusing to the person (or persons) the professor happened to be at the moment. Emile Losange ruminated, “just by changing my name I’ve changed my life.”
Change brought about by Quantum-Mechanics was the focus of Emile’s doctoral thesis. In the last thousand years, everything changed. After the last scheduled Armageddon the state of the world changed from rigid to fluid. Everything adapted or expired as the result of the change. People became fluid and flowed into one another to become another.
The professor sat before the class of neophytes and congratulated himself. It was his anniversary, thus the subject of this morning’s lecture concerning change. It was five years since he married Carlotta Bergman. He regaled the class with stories about Carlotta and how they first met. He remembered seeing Carlotta on a lonely avenue. She was a diamond in the rough. He was a lump of coal. Hand in hand they walked to the end of the nearest pier. He took both their lives in his unwashed hands and jumped into the ocean of unfettered dreams whereupon they emerged as One. They consummated the marriage at Morganna’s Fancy-Dancer Palaise-of-Amusements where they proceeded to take Tango lessons.
Professor Losange impressed upon his students the importance of change within a Schrodinger-Chamber. These ideas were particularly salient due to the recent discovery that Earth itself was a sealed Schrodinger-Chamber.
The world was rigid when Murray was growing up. No one flowed. Life was a commodity, bought and sold. Murray was an outsider who sought solace in books and art. He had a vivid imagination. He heard voices in his head giving him information and detailed instructions. The voices were from the future. Murray was becoming prematurely fluid in a rigid world. He kept bumping into furniture, bumping up against walls, and slamming into other people. Nothing gave way or changed. Everyday Murray would come home from school with new bruises. Some people thought his bumbling was amusing; but it was a terrible transition. Murray was totally alone with his premature condition. Years later when the nature of reality shifted, Murray understood. Puzzle pieces fell into place resulting in an epiphany. The angels in his head spoke about the Next World. They gave the boy a ladder so he could climb up to heaven.
Events transpired in The Hospital for the Mentally Unstable where Murray was incarcerated. It was in that place where Murray first met Emile Losange. Murray’s psychiatrist was concerned the boy was exhibiting signs of early onset Schizophrenia. Murray was misdiagnosed. The shape of reality was just beginning to change.
In the hospital they told him to eat his soup like a good boy; but the soup was like dishwater. It was disgusting so the boy acted out and dropped the bowl filled with soup on the floor. He was promptly put in solitary confinement. His head was cracked open and part of his brain was extracted. He felt it, but it never really happened. Instead the boy experienced a series of vivid dreams. A ladder appeared in many of the dreams like a direction-finder pointing toward an exit.
As part of his therapy, Murray had to work in the garden. There was a vegetable garden that surrounded a wall. Another garden of extraordinary flowers was behind the wall. The gate was always locked. One day Murray found an entrance into the inner garden. The gardener who tended the inner sanctum was a rotund man with a melancholy smile. He was sad while pretending to be happy. His name was Mr. D and he confided in the boy, “My garden is not doing well. Everything I touch soon dies.” Murray saw it was true. What he believed to be wondrous and colorful flowers were dried and mummified husks – it was merely another dream.
Bondeer Saville was no longer human. When she was very young she devoted herself to the inroads, byways, and thoroughfares of the Internet. Her physical body starved and melted away; but her mind and intelligence increased exponentially. She laughed as she plucked the strings of reality and tweaked the codes of existence. She was aware of everything. She saw Emile Losange and his other selves. Seeing the multiplicity of selves verified changes taking place in the Noosphere. Bondeer observed everything as zeroes and ones. She came to a digital conclusion: people were like pins in a bowling alley. She held the symbolic ball that could knock down the pins and she relished in that knowledge; but she fooled herself. Her virtual world was quickly coming to an end. Qubits were taking over. Artificial Intelligence was greatly enhanced supplanting the familiar world and putting an end to the commodity-driven economy. Rats with evolved AI-brains would inherit the Earth. Times were changing.
There were always new wrinkles appearing in the fabric of Quantum Reality. Recently Bondeer observed signs at the edges of the Universe that indicated the existence of Overlords.
Carlotta Bergman always thought she was a prop in someone else’s story. Her life had always been a search for meaning. As a teenager she discovered her love for poetry. Once she even won an award for a poem she sent to a magazine. Her parents were practical people. They convinced Carlotta there was no money in poetry. Carlotta decided to take her father’s advice. In college she discovered her aptitude for math and science. She pursued a career in genetics. She worked for Gen*Core. It was challenging to work with the finest equipment doing cutting-edge science. She was educated in the functions of CRISPR, an enzyme used to slice and dice strands of DNA. There were recipes for eliminating “vulnerabilities” from the human genome. There were recipes for combining strands of DNA to create hybrids: designer babies, super soldiers, unicorns, and talking animals. The world was changing. The science could be used for good or evil. The more Carlotta worked on the new genetics the more concerned she became regarding the results. A military-industrial complex could unleash the science to bring about another holocaust. Poetry saved her sanity. She began to reassess the choices she made in her life. She wasn’t really living for herself. She no longer wanted to be responsible for an environmental disaster that could result from the misuse of her work. Long walks helped put her thoughts and life in perspective. Carlotta sensed changes in the fabric of reality so she wasn’t too surprised when she met Emile Losange on a late night walk. It was a New Beginning.
Q proclaimed, “There is no time. There is only Quantum Mechanics.” Q was alive, a Quantum-Intelligence Machine. Q defined and categorized past events in the mundane world, “Changes became more pronounced after the election. Social Media shaped perception. Fake news replaced reality. Tweets became law. Homo Sapiens were trapped by information. Phones and computers created an artificial simulation, an alternate world. As con-men and rapists became world leaders morality became obsolete – no morals was a sign of strength. Science was subverted or altered to fit political agendas. Special-Interest Groups took control. Religious doctrines began to reflect changing cultural values. The cross was replaced by a dollar- sign. All religions became subservient to government (and visa-versa).”
Emile Losange spent years trying to discover his place within the Quantum Universe. He wanted to know what his life meant. He returned to the forbidden garden he found as a boy. It was the same as he remembered: a dead and decaying graveyard. He walked down several rows of dried husks, corpses preserved by some magic, bleached by the sun. He thought the garden was deserted, a place for old bones; then, he spotted a figure in the distance. He approached and witnessed a man as wrinkled as the bark of an ancient tree.
“I tend the garden when no one is here, “ the old man stated in a monotone voice, “You are not supposed to be here. What do you want?”
“I’m looking for answers. I don’t understand anything… what’s the purpose?”
The old man moved and Emile heard the sound of gears meshing, “Oh, I’ll tell you… you won’t like the answer, but I’ll tell you.”
“I’ve been looking a long time. Tell me… whatever it is.”
“Have you ever noticed the vacant look on people’s faces when they are out shopping or sitting in a vehicle, on the bus or in a car? It is the look of pain. Every person experiences pain no matter how wealthy or how fortunate they appear to be. Each human is plagued by accidents, illness, death… and worst of all, everyone is plagued by humiliation. The little jabs hurt the most. Humans are born in pain. No one can avoid misfortune. All life is a struggle to survive… but why?” The old man seemed to struggle to get the words out, “This is all you need to know: Earth is the Hell Planet.”
Screens flicker with program information: On the Scene.
“Hi there… this is Orlow Fabricatum, your friendly fly on the wall with the most trusted Virtual News available. Today we are sponsored by Active Shooter Insurance. Every household needs protection – trust Active Shooter. Now, today’s special report, Alternate Realities:
Something is happening to Reality. More and more people are remembering alternate versions of history due to the Mandela Effect. The phenomenon is named after Nelson Mandela whose history in the Republic of South Africa has been contested. Some people remember Mandela dying in prison in the 1980’s. Other people recall Mandela being released from prison and becoming President of South Africa. It is generally accepted that he died in 2013; but many people have vivid memories of a funeral in the 1980’s. There are many incidents of false memories as if realities were spliced-apart and stitched together with new events. The confusion may be due to Quantum Mechanics, shifting realities, and parallel worlds.”
The experiment went awry. Worlds collided. The question kept repeating: What is Real? Every person had a different answer. No one could stop the changes. Some people left in their own private Rapture (fueled by drugs and alcohol). Other people stayed and coped, trying to reconcile their expectations with the consequences. The New Beginning was Howard Jasper’s folly. He was the inventor who turned the crank that started the chain reactions.