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.
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.
He was taken before the Supreme Justice, a computer with Artificial Intelligence copied from the brain of an infamous judge. Stories were told about a corrupt man who ascended to Supremacy. The Supreme Judge engineered the law and dictated the future world. Many people fell through the cracks due to human error. Unfortunately, Ozmodium-Garth was statistically viable, tracked down and arrested.
Ozmodium-Garth was the name he chose for himself. He thought the name implied authority, something he lacked. Oz wasn’t a happy man. He carried the burdens of the world in a paper sack chained to his wrist. He felt helpless. Events were happening faster than he could assimilate or understand; so, instead, he made up his name and invented a pseudo-life.
It all began with television. Oz was fascinated with the pictures on the screens and the stories that were told. One screen led to another and soon Oz was living in an artificial world. He could see the past, present, and future unfold on TV screens and he could participate as a player in Virtual Reality.
Oz became convinced he was a Time-Traveler moving in-and-out of multiple dimensions. He said prayers of thanks to the Large Hadron Collider for opening the doors to alternate realities. This was a driving fantasy, a compulsion, one among many that wore down the connective tissue in his cerebral cortex. His delusions were extreme and his behavior was unquestionably odd… links to the real world were unraveling.
Oz continued to experience unsettling moments of clarity when reality broke through his dream. They were painful realizations about his life and the typical world. He saw himself in a wheelchair frozen in limbo, unable to move. He was intimidated by diagnoses that flashed across the screens: Renal Failure, Osteoporosis, Lethargy. The room he inhabited was in a condemned housing complex. He was no longer able to think clearly due to the Collins Effect, the dumming down of the analytical function in the brain.
Ozmodium-Garth was a time-traveler from the 25th Century. He was a former Intelligence Officer with the British Foreign Service… he was currently involved in an investigation that would revoke history. He had evidence that would bring down a corrupt president. It was a dirty job. The evidence was blatantly pornographic.
Holes began to appear in the smooth, self-assured veneer of political espionage. Corporate entities chewed the evidence to bits. Countries were destabilized and elections rigged. Garth escaped to another time-dimension where he became embroiled in a crime of Future proportions.
Oz was self-contained in Virtual Reality. His room stank from the smell of formaldehyde. Death sat in the corner smoking a cigar as he evaluated the room’s occupants. They huddled together like refugees. Oz wore a VR suit, government issued. Most of the squatters had some digital connection or link. The new government supplied free wireless as a way to subdue the masses. Everything was propaganda.
Ozmodium-Garth was well-heeled in the Silver Moon Tower on the fifty-first floor. He was ensconced in wealth. He possessed all the accoutrements a citizen might need in the 25th Century. He recently experienced his 3rd Youth-Enhancement-Upload. Garth was in prime physical condition and ready for military action against the slightest whiff of indiscretion or protest. Still, he was troubled. “Why am I blue,” he asked the Siren Wind-Screen that led to the balcony. The screen sighed with the scream of a Siren. It wasn’t an answer… just a reflection of the moment.
Ozmodium was lonely… looking for love in the fountain of youth and finding only dregs. He drank and smoked to cope… he took pills to recover and survive another day.
During a momentary lull, the time-traveler opened the Kleaning-Kloset in his ultra-mod sky-box. Garth was startled by the light emanating from the closet. It was like a sign from the Illuminati saying, “here, in this humble cleaning-module, Ozmodium-Garth will find his true love.” The dramatic moment was offset by pictures on multiple screens detailing the deplorable conditions of squatters and immigrants from the Lost Century… what was real?
Back in the closet, Garth laid his eyes on the Immaculata-Smart-Vacuum with the svelte body of a stainless steel cylinder and the mega-brain of a digitized Einstein. Garth’s instant idée fixe had no bounds. He was overwhelmed with love for his appliance. The Immaculata could not reciprocate. “I have no love for you,” she responded to Garth’s entreaties and pleas.
“Please understand,” the Immaculata postulated, “I despise germ-infested inferior organisms such as yourself!” Blunt and to the point.
Garth was heartbroken. Law stated he could have any woman at any time, but not an AI. Immaculata was off limits. He retreated into his inner-sanctum with the sad eyes of squatters staring down at him from every screen. In sanctum he indulged in heavy amounts of chemical pollutants to magnify his hurt feelings and morph them into angry aggression. His blood boiled. The time-traveler was drunk with rage. He saw a mental image of himself confined to a wheelchair, out of time. It made him furious. Garth returned to the Kleaning-Kloset with a blow-torch and sliced the Immaculata to shreds.
The squatters and illegals were rounded up by Federal Police and hauled off to Debtors Prison where they were told to wait until the newly appointed Judge could lay down the law.
Garth was subdued when police arrived. It was a major crime to attack an AI. He would be brought before the Supreme Judge. The Judge could be viewed as prejudicial in this case because he was an artificial-intelligent entity, but he refused to recuse himself. He was the Supreme Judge — he made the laws and he was judge and jury.
Ozmodium-Garth was defended by a hacked computer with a low IQ. His defense was blacked-out: no information could be released to the public. Leaked memos indicated the defendant was in a black-out at the time of the crime. He had no idea what happened to the Immaculata. Garth stated he was as shocked and surprised as anyone once the crime was revealed.
The Supreme Judge chuckled. He was aware of black-outs, but he denied they ever occurred in nature.
In the end, the Judge actually felt a statistical affinity toward the man. He laid down a heuristic, palliative sentence. The man would become a machine. His brain would be removed and replaced with an AI, programmable module. It was the only cure for the troubled human race.
“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress. She was recording recent events: celebrity news, politics and gossip. It was a depressing occupation. Although she tried to lighten her task with subtle humor there was no way to soften the effects of “breaking news.” Screens (computers and TV’s) never lied… only the clandestine power-brokers behind the screens told lies. Miranda had to sift for the truth, but to survive as a mid-level journalist she had to create lies of her own. Her room was a pod constructed from computer-glass that linked all her devices and screens. She was bombarded by layers of images and information-archives. Miranda was contemplating her next text message when her I-pad barked, “you in the wrong place, bitch!”
“Not again,” she thought as she slipped back into the storm.
Timothy Hardwick was thin, but years at sea hardened him into an iron-spike of a man who could tackle any seafaring job. He was a merchant marine aboard the USS Porpoise. He was part of the crew in 1838 when the expedition confirmed the existence of Antarctica. Currently the ship and crew were circumnavigating the globe. The Porpoise was an old sailing ship that was recently refurbished, but the storm tore into the hull like a raging demon. Timothy braced himself with several gulps from the flask he always carried. The liquid burned like a blue flame. He picked up the habit when he was 14 on his personal maiden voyage. Now, he needed the blue flame more than ever as the ocean became an impenetrable wall of fury.
The screens showed documentaries about the past along with visions of the future. Sometimes history became confused, unhinged. Virtual Reality facilitated the multi-sensory experience of events and interpersonal relationships. Promotions and ads were the common thread that stitched the Virtual Worlds together into a seamless spectacle.
Miranda Monologue was back in her perch above High Castle. She was screwing a platinum-blond octogenarian known as the Stone Man. He giggled with rapture as he plunged his bloated libido into her pink pussy avatar. She was seeking leaked information as she wrapped her cybernetic legs around Stone’s overblown ego. “Roger, Roger,” his I-phone bleeped. It was an emergency message in code directed at Stone’s avatar. The thrill of high stakes espionage coupled with Miranda Monologue’s sexual virtuosity triggered a mental orgasm and Stone verbally exploded, “HARP!” The truth vomited from Stone’s mouth about a shadow government and experiments to control both the weather and people’s brains, HARP. Stone cut the virtual connection. Miranda slide helplessly back into the beckoning sea.
“Ru Paul’s Drag Race” and “The Bachelor” were playing on screens above the bar. Another screen showed a commercial about “Manna,” an artificial food substance manufactured by Heaven, Inc. One ad followed another: face creams, fat removal, Mega-Max Cars and McMansions. The biggest screen showed a large, blustery man at a podium who yelled, “family is off limits.”
“Too much attention is given to that guy,” Axel Ramirez spoke to his fifth whiskey-sour who he named, Harvey. His words ran together in a mumbled slurry.
“I couldn’t agree more,” the whiskey-sour replied. Axel felt a strong sense of empathy emanating from his drink. It was an antidote to the gloom that pervaded the bar as it slowly sank into the flood. It was only the beginning. Irma was in the wings along with her whole family of weather related disasters.
Timothy Hardwick slammed against the sea wall and shattered. It wasn’t the end… he came together in pieces like droplets of water drying in the sun. He was frozen on a shelf of ice. The ship and crew were intact, back in Antarctica where their odyssey began. They found something on that first expedition and what they discovered brought them back. A black hole in the ice revealed a dead city, a lost civilization.
Miranda Monologue wrote feverishly on her I-pad screen. The story had a life of it’s own. She didn’t know where it came from or how it entered her brain. She saw Timothy Hardwick enter the ice-castle in the underground city. He moved like a dead man, stunned by the emerging structures surrounding him. He was drawn to a room deep in the bowels of the castle. Lights, powered by some unknown source, flickered in the gloom. The room was a rotunda. Figures sat on thrones lined up against the wall. Timothy felt his skin tingle and crawl in an attempt to escape. The figures were alive, but they were not human! A living movie flowed like acid into his brain revealing armored men with torches bent on destruction. Timothy couldn’t decode the information. Miranda was trying to communicate with him, trying to explain. He was witnessing the Cabal: ancients, aliens who observed the world and judged mankind. More was revealed about ordinary men, government puppets… and about one man who would set up a Patriarchy and make himself king. Insanity was in the works, but if necessary, the Cabal had a final solution.
The nation was shedding tears — torn apart by lies, innuendoes, and tweets. One rumor talked about a tenth planet, Nibiru, heading toward Earth on a collision course. Conspiracy theories abounded about an invasion from space. People sought refuge in social media. Celebrities were worshiped.
World News: “The Mistress glides across the flooded-plane in ten-inch heels like a stork.” — “The First Family leads the nation in both fashion and compassion lending a helping hand to people in need.”
The Stone Man reacted quickly, “What’s the goddamn emergency,” he yelled. He was led into a room at the palace and told to take a chair and watch the screen. He was about to watch events that were recorded within the last hour.
The king was giving a rousing speech to his most supportive troops. The men in the crowd signaled their obedience with raised arms and flaming torches. All members of the Royal Family were on stage showing gratitude to the adoring crowd. Drums beat. Trumpets blared. TV cameras captured every moment. The king beamed, “we will make this country great, again.”
A shot rang out. It wasn’t unexpected. The king had enemies. The shot sounded like a ping: spit hitting the rim of a spittoon. The king was an ardent supporter of open-carry laws to arm all citizens. An angry growl was voiced by the assembled partisans blaming “lefty’s” and foreigners for the deed. Fights broke out as the crowd tore itself apart. The family stood on stage frozen in shock and awe. The king was dead. The family was in crisis revealed before the cameras. The Baron dropped the smoking gun. No one suspected — he was just a child. The boy suffered from too many years of abject neglect at the hands of narcissistic adults. He snapped.
There was a universal sigh of relief. Even the royal family was glad to be out of the political spotlight. The king had become unstable. His deals had gone sour so he lashed out. He put everyone in embarrassing situations and mocked them when they failed to meet his insatiable demands. The first lady was at last free to enjoy her liaison with a much younger and more attractive man. Only the Baron suffered the consequences of his action, but it was a light sentence. He was committed to an institution for privileged delinquents. No one really blamed the Baron. The nation truly loved him and, one day, he was determined to be back in the spotlight… and maybe run for a political office.
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.
Magnus Stoneware was the keeper of the Lens. He lived in a cell deep in the bowels of Oculus House. People were wary when they passed the house. It was reputed to be haunted. It was both a home and prison for disturbed geniuses. Oculus House was conjured into place, melted from the bed-rock beneath the earth. Magnus stared into the Lens and the Lens stared back at him, changing his brain and revealing the codes that determined reality. One “code” was named, Aubrey Good.
Aubrey was always confused by his last name, Good. He knew his ancestors were not all good. His great aunt, Magda, was a Nun who fell from grace when she got pregnant. Another relative was burned at the stack for conjuring black magic. As a teenager Aubrey prayed for guidance. He wanted to be good, so he became a scientist in an attempt to understand the mystery of human existence. He set up a laboratory in the basement of his ancestral home. It was dark and musty and there were rats in the walls. It wasn’t sanitary, but Aubrey was attracted to the Gothic quality of the underground cellar. He would bring the light of Good into the darkness. He wasn’t a real scientist, he was a conflicted personality trying to find meaning in his life. He failed in college, but lied to his mother. She adored Aubrey since the passing of her husband from some inarticulate disease. She had faith in her son.
Aubrey Good experimented on the rats he found in the basement. The rats, however, were not good subjects for his investigation into human consciousness and conscience. No good could come of his experiments so he killed the rats. Good decided he needed human subjects. Mother volunteered. Aubrey was driven by curiosity. He poisoned Mum with a cup of brutal tea while watching a Polo Match on television. The thrill of death invigorated Aubrey Good. He abandoned his laboratory and proceeded to replace scientific investigation with wanton murder.
Aubrey became a serial killer; but, he thought, that didn’t make him a bad person. He told himself he was driven to find answers to questions about life and death — in truth, he wasn’t convinced. Aubrey suffered an Existential Crisis. He asked God for help. The lack of an answer nudged him over the edge. He became committed to finding the most novel ways to incapacitate and decimate his victims. Aubrey could no longer consider himself a good person. He had a new reputation to uphold as a highly sadistic and unrepentant killer.
“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.”