Sammy opened a door in the wall and entered a game room called, Kingpin. There were many rooms in the Stone Edifice on Pennsylvania Avenue. Sammy played at being several characters in the game. In the hall-of-mirrors he saw himself as Leonora Mangrove. She was a knockout manufactured from Fractal-Coherence and anti-matter. Sammy studied Quantum Physics. He wanted to learn how to shine like the light from a nuclear blast. He talked rhapsodic to himself. Many characters emerged. Leonora hummed a tune and Sammy cracked jokes trying to dispel a growing feeling of dread.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had a stable life with a lover and good friends. He could depend on his job as a salesman… it was boring but paid the bills. Sammy wondered when his life became so heated, so complicated. He remembered getting married. It was finally legal to marry another man. He always believed he was heterosexual. He changed somewhere along the line, but he did not know where or when. Making love to Tommy was like being immersed in molten lead. Tommy broke through the barrier that separated Sammy from the rest of the world.
Leonora interjected, “you are a confused man, Sammy. You got it all wrong.”
For a moment Sammy looked like he was about to cry; then, he resigned himself to the situation and asked, “how did it happen?”
Leonora reacted, “Don’t you remember being an astronaut… the first person to fly faster than the speed of light? Don’t you remember being stoned by Roger? Don’t you remember the Kingpin?”
“No… none of it. I thought I sold shoes and lived a simple life with Tommy.”
“You did for awhile,” Leonora interjected, “then all hell broke loose.”
A synapse lit up in Sammy’s brain… He remembered a news report about Al Loyd Benson. He was an astronaut nicknamed Lightning. It was reported that Al Loyd crossed the barriers of Time to go beyond corporeal existence. He was a time-traveler from the future. But, Al Loyd was never a man. A human body could never withstand the stress inflicted by Time Travel. Al Loyd was a machine, a robot.
Sammy shouted at Leonora, “pain… doesn’t that make me a man!”
Leonora modulated the color spectrum on her new acetate skin. “Maybe,” she responded, “maybe not.”
Sammy suffered. He was never free of a sense of dread. How was it possible to survive in such a frail human body? He was living in a Hell-world. There was mortal danger everywhere: on streets, in traffic. thieves and bullies roamed the neighborhood. He could fall and break his bones. Collusion and murder were commonplace. His only relief came from his lover’s touch, hand to brow.
“Don’t get maudlin,” Leonora sounded bored, “maybe Tommy doesn’t even exist. He’s just a character. All the characters come out at night.” Her words ricocheted through Sammy’s brain. They were everywhere like zombies, characters, actors unhinged from reality, roaming free through M.C. Escher’s optical illusions.
His name was Felix. He saw himself reflected in a thousand screens and mirrors of illusion. Nothing was real, least of all himself.
There is a switch in my brain that turns on and off and recycles my personality. I am forced from one dimension to another… never certain of who or where I am.
“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress.
Donny Trident was the mastermind behind a plan to upgrade the human race.
“Am I part of a Hive?”
“My name is Morton Slope and I’m part of a conspiracy.“
Madam Celia-Quark conducted a séance. She attempted to channel the spirits of Time and Space.
Benda Creamola looked like Elsa Lancaster in the movie, Bride of Frankenstein.
Starling was a Polysexual-biomorph who could be any sex or gender depending on the mood of the moment.
“I’m the man who wanted to save the world.”
The last time Joey saw his therapist he cried.
Rabbit had a vicious smile and a spine-tingling laugh.
Bondeer Saville was going to the Masquerade Ball. She pranced across the electronic fast-lanes like lightning incarnate.
“My name is Marvin Naivan and I don’t belong here.”
Miss Blossom enjoyed her work at the Night Station. It wasn’t too difficult as long as you kept your mind to yourself and followed orders.
The actor was silently staring at the worm in the bottle of tequila, hoping to forget everything.
Electra Glomm reset her life several times, changing her colors like the lizard slithering across the kitchen floor. Plastic surgery helped.
Roxy Box was a semi-intelligent reporter working for News Corpse, the Internet conglomerate. Roxy was not a woman or man – Roxy was IT, “information technology.”
Chan-X was a skinny teen, a member of the Red Gang, an incestuous family of throwaways, lost and unwanted souls.
Samantha Lux came to the party with a Versace handbag loaded with anti-personnel weapons.
Jason Montieth was certain his identity had been stolen
The rapid-fire memory-flash began to fade and Sammy found himself on a metal floor. At first he thought he was on a train traveling with fellow prisoners, going to Buchenwald. He recognized several passengers. They were old friends, former lovers, and actors he’d known when he was a young man. Leonora smiled and flashed a victory sign. He was on a Transit Ship that broke through the wall that surrounded Earth. Mr. D (a man with the medical condition of Dwarfism) was at the controls. The ship moved faster than the speed of light. Everyone was swiftly transported to the Land of the Dying Sun.
The transmission was fuzzy, hidden beneath layers of static and concealed within a camouflage of codes. Scientists discovered a multitude of transmissions in the sounds picked up by radio telescopes.
Ronnie cut the cable. It was a defining act, a dividing line between his former life as a nobody and his new life as a God.
When Ronnie was eleven he was considered a prodigy. Teachers praised him. His parents, Dawn and Harkness, were ecstatic because their brilliant son gave them the kind of status they dearly wanted, but it didn’t last. Ronnie was paraded before audiences hungry to see a true mastermind. Expectations were overwhelming. Ronnie froze on TV, his mathematical expertise dried up like road kill on hot pavement. His parents let him know how disappointed they were. Nothing seemed to matter and no one cared so Ronnie doused his sorrows with alcohol. He started drinking heavily as a young teenager.
Drinking led to drugs. His mental acuity was short circuited. He lost interest in math. Ronnie left home after high school. He worked sporadically. His life was reduced to hours of watching cable TV. Ronnie’s family disowned him and his only friend was a drinking buddy who was homeless. Ronnie slipped, almost seamlessly, into being a nobody.
He recognized himself on TV, in sitcoms: The hapless drunk, the teenage hophead, the total failure. His drinking buddy called himself, Commander Zorn. He was an old man who was a bit creepy. Several times when drunk he tried seducing Ronnie. The Commander always said it was meaningless fun, but Ronnie suspected Zorn was really gay. The old guy was Ronnie’s only friend so he put up with the nonsense. The Commander had the gift of gab and he often told interesting stories that excited Ronnie’s hunger for something imaginative, a way out of the dismal world he inhabited. There was something mysterious about the old guy who called a cardboard box his home and boasted that it was an Imperial Kingdom. He talked with an odd accent and he used words that had no meaning and sounded more like music. Zorn always advised Ronnie to cut the cable.
He cut the cable with a pair of shears used to slice metal. The TV was turned on at the time and there was an electrical surge that kicked Ronnie to the ground. If he hadn’t been drunk he would have been killed. Instead, his mind was pulled from his body to float free in ethereal space. Ronnie was no longer tethered to 3-dimensional reality. He became part of the transmission, the buzz in space. Life and death stretched before him like a smorgasbord. The music of the spheres rumbled with harmonic dissonance.
Commander Zorn loved a computer game called, Space Invaders. He started playing as a boy and never lost interest until one day he was knocked down by a death ray. At the time he was an adult working as an accountant for a woman’s lingerie company. He was completely disabled by the death ray, i.e. – he was mentally incapable of holding down a regular job. Zorn moved into a cardboard condo and left the workaday world behind, bolstered by a growing addiction to alcohol. He cut the cable and drifted free, conquering new worlds and altering Time and Space.
Ronnie slipped between the ribbons of wireless communication experimenting with different personas. He was in the back seat of a 1938 Ford Coupe with Mary Kemper fondling her breasts and decoding the mystery of sex. Simultaneously he enjoyed a box of popcorn laced with lysergic acid at the back of an Imax Theater with Robbie Collins. The boys became friends and lovers, exploring an infant universe filled with possibilities.
After years of interminable boredom aboard the Zippo Space-liner, Commander Zorn took charge. No one else wanted the job. The previous captain locked himself in his cabin trying unsuccessfully to kill himself. The Zippo fell through a black hole and the lives of everyone on board were extended by millions of years due to a quantum entanglement. After a millennium trying to reset time, everyone gave up and just wanted to die. Seances were conducted by Madame Celia-Quark to contact some outside force to end the boredom.
Ronnie floated like a buoy in a flux of etheric currents. He was information. He had access to all the knowledge in the universe. One moment he held an ordinary glass of water and the next he was the Atlantic Ocean. When he turned up the volume he could hear angels playing electric guitars. He heard voices from every point in space and time. He heard Celia-Quark: her mind trying to crawl out of her skin, asking for help. Ronnie played the role: a ghost at the seance. He couldn’t resist lifting the table, blowing out the candle, and talking like a dead uncle. This was the group’s first outside contact. Everyone around the table quacked with expectation. Ronnie never got over his fear of other people’s expectations so he left the seance as soon as he arrived. The room collapsed like a deflated balloon brought down by the prospect of another millennium of absolute boredom.
Commander Zorn immediately picked up on Ronnie’s presence. They knew each other in another life. Ronnie could feel the resonance of Zorn. He was drawn to the source. In an unexpected confrontation Commander Zorn and Ronnie were pulled together by the currents of space/time. Wireless pixies engineered the encounter. Zorn and Ronnie merged like liquid Jello and then solidified. They were always one and the same person just separated by time (the young self and the old man). Ronnie-Zorn realized the role he had to play aboard the Zippo. The only chance to save the world from boredom was to crash the ship into a giant asteroid. The asteroid known as Bsh-44 was headed toward Earth, on a direct path to cause a major life-extinction event.
Nothing could stop the transmissions. Hidden within layers of camouflage and separated by cryptic codes the messages kept coming. Scientists discovered the transmissions were omnipotent: constantly changing, reshaping the universe — and remaking every form of life.
He laughed hysterically. He had to play the part. They said he was a crazy, old man; and, “yes,” he admitted to himself, “it’s true.” He couldn’t stop laughing as he stared at the white, padded walls. Grahm Gunther hated everything about other people: they smelled, stole from one another, committed murder, and screwed like giant insects… and worst of all, they died. He knew old age was a disease: a painful, debilitating disease that ended in oblivion. The human body was simply a rotting sack of puss. Dr. Gunther wanted to rid the world of human disorder. The experiments he performed on unwilling students eventually resulted in his incarceration and the designation of a new mental disorder, Gunther’s Syndrome.
The TV time-machine reminisces rhapsodically, “Mr. Dillon, I got the latest psycho-sexual enhancement pills and I feel great! I got it all in the handy pocket-sized container that includes a powerful new body, Crème de la crème decor, the Fastest hot-rod on the block, and lots of pearly teeth — all for just pennies per day…”
“But, wait, there’s more…”
“It’s all for the best,” that’s what they said to anyone who questioned authority. Zack always had questions. He always wrestled with angels — they appeared at night in order to impress Zack with their luminescence. Zack thought it was just a parlor trick: putting a flickering flashlight under a white gown. Still, it was impressive; even Zack had to admit it and he did as he bowed before the Eminences while snickering under his breath. The angels weren’t impressed so they patted Zack on the head and said, “it’s all for the best;” then they strapped the lad to the midnight-bed and proceeded to attach wires to his brain and inject Prime Directives into the Hypothalamus and other soft-core areas. It was a dream. When he awoke Zack no longer saw angels, but he kept hearing the Prime Directives in his head.
The Directives mapped his life. It was like having a GPS inside his brain telling him where to go and how to get there.
Zack was living the good life, his brain reassured him by repeating the message several times an hour. Everything was predictable except for the lights on the Motherboard that flashed at Zack and confused him. He couldn’t understand the code.
He often found himself in the Liquid Web running between the hell zone of wireless transmissions trying to decipher the code. He was obsessed with the lights. His family and friends shared personal avatars and shadow surrogates so he was never alone, but he rarely knew them in person. Everyone cherished the solitude of self containment. It was easier and safer to interact from behind a wall.
The Directives told Zack the blinking lights were a mistake, a misguided principle.
Every Saturday he drove to the Liquid Web in his Loganda Flying-Swan and went searching for Happenstance, the thrill of discovering something unexpected or alien. He was also looking for the meaning of the blinking code. The routine was reassuring, but there was no longer anything interesting to discover.
“No time like the present,” warbled the giant, exploding pigeon at the Information Exchange. The greeting summoned a new day of trading Information for Time. Everyone was a Time trader. Stories and lies amounted to valuable information that could enhance life. Time was ever present, but it existed as a form of currency (never backed by gold — backed by nothing but time). Zack no longer cared about Time or Information. He wasn’t paying attention when he tripped on a web browser that catapulted him into a meditation lounge where he bumped into a media celebrity named Zendora who was wearing purple snap-chat pantaloons. She radiated bombshell. The pigeon at the Information Exchange exploded and Zack was enraptured. This was a once in a lifetime Happenstance, totally unaccountable.
There was no physical interface, but information was exchanged. Zendora was an intriguing creature who seemed to fluoresce like an angel. It wasn’t love (no such concept existed), but there was understanding and a hint of mutual empathy. That’s when the horror show began. Zendora discarded her glowing flesh to reveal a host of flashing lights under the hood. The lights were blinking in code. This time, Zack understood.
The old man in the video was talking directly to Zack, “I made a mistake and you are the result. After my death, my experiments were continued. I was redeemed, but my work was the beginning of the end. The human race is gone. You are all that remains: a robot who believes he is human.”
He was always trying to outrun death even after he was pronounced dead, but that was just a formality. Axel Dimetri was a long distance runner in High School. He didn’t know what he was running from. He ran and that was the only time he felt free. He ran through life.
When he was nine his dog, Hero, was hit by a truck and died. A few more unfortunate accidents and a terminal illness shaped his childhood. When he was eleven he met Daisy who was a year older. It was a confusing time. Daisy became Axel’s role model. Daisy was flattered. She liked Axel and enjoyed playing dress up with him. He was beginning to discover himself in Daisy; then, she was suddenly gone, moved away. Axel felt abandoned just as he felt when his dog died.
No matter how far he ran or for how long, he always ended in the same place: a dark room deep inside his brain. His only companion was Death who came wearing disguises: a clown, a tall man, a murderer; but most of the time Death came as Daisy. “How are you little boy?” Daisy asked with a sweet smile. Her lips and eyes were smeared with black make-up. Axel never replied. Daisy continued, “I’m going to tell you about all the bad things in the world: train wrecks, burning cars, heart attacks, blemishes that become aggressive Cancers, serial killers, psychopaths, unending war. A person can trip and fall and never recover. Sometimes suicide is a relief.” Axel had to get away from Death.
He was desperate. He could never run fast enough. As a young adult he tried different forms of escape. Drugs helped, but there were always unpleasant side effects. Sex always felt good, but always ended too quickly. Axel pushed himself to extremes, but he always found himself in the dark room inside his brain.
The experiment would change everything. He was a student at the university when he met Professor Doris Exeter, a leading scientist in the field of Digital Singularities. She was working on Artificial Intelligence for the new Smart House. She wanted to use Axel as an experimental test subject. Professor Exeter never wanted to hurt or misuse anyone. Her goal was the advancement of science to create a better world. To that end she would use Axel. He was more than willing to do anything to outrun the specter of Death.
“Apparent suicide,” was listed as the cause of death. It was an outrageous claim, but the pathologist was a professor at the University and close friends with Doris. Apparently the young man cut open his own skull and chopped up his brain. Of course that wasn’t stated in the coroner’s report.
The new Smart House was a miracle of modern science. Professor Exeter invented a house with an actual brain. The house was completely self-sufficient while satisfying the owner’s every expectation.
Axel outran Death. His brain was cloned, synthesized, digitized — and installed in every new, Smart House. The brain was kept in a cylinder in the basement. Axel sat in his dark room. His only companion was Death, but he would never die.
There were no reference points indicated by the sign that read, “Remember Me.” Who? I wondered. My mind digested the quixotic message and came up empty handed. Questions accumulated like overripe fruit, passed due and moldering on the ground. The sign was obviously important – it was an extremely expensive sign to erect at a busy intersection in the heart of the metropolis. But, what did it mean? Who was “Me?” The computer in my head started to back up, going nowhere with too little information. I was caught in a recursive loop. My head began to ring with angry voices and recriminations. It was the beginning of a total break down: the neurons in my brain began to separate and declare their independence. Suddenly there were too many loops, too many personalities clamoring for attention. Whose attention … I didn’t know. I was beginning to forget everything while I broke apart into new forms and new personalities. At that moment, it hit me: It was “Me” I had to remember. It was the first “Me” -the one who read the sign. But, now it was too late. I had forgotten how to remember.
The mind drips through the pores of my skin, oozing into the room like an overflowing toilet . . . or a miraculous waterfall of spectral light. Perception is the key — am I real or just a fantasy? I know I’ll be reading from my book “Alien Journal” next Thursday, Feb 11 at a bookstore — but the bookstore does not appear on any map. It is difficult to find because it comes and goes like a mirage. I’ve been there, surrounded by ancient tomes, books from Atlantis and Garmaghoo — tablets made from stone with carved hieroglyphics and sexual graffiti. My mind searches for clues as it seeps into the surrounding environment. It is like a wandering dog, hunting for a bone — tentacles wrapping around secrets to swallow and digest. I’m left without a means to interpret reality — bereft.