“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.”
Rabbit had a vicious smile and a spine-tingling laugh. When he wasn’t laughing or smiling he appeared mild and sweet. If you met Rabbit on the street you might think he was a common pet until he smiled and then you’d know he was a serial killer. You might not live to tell the tale.
Rabbit escaped from a movie about furry animals and talking toys. He never liked playing by the rules — never liked rules of any sort. He was a bad ass Rabbit who got off on robbing banks and killing hostages. No one expected a rabbit in a bank, least of all, a rabbit who was a bank robber. People compared him to Billy-the-Kid, but Rabbit never liked comparisons — he was one of a kind.
There are videos of Rabbit on You-Tube: Rabbit with a sawed-off shot gun shooting civilians in a bank like ducks in a penny arcade; Rabbit smiling viciously, lips pulled back revealing large, gleaming canines. Rabbit liked taking selfies with his phone and posting them on Facebook. He also uploaded videos taken with his web-cam showing a more down to earth, everyday rabbit (he wanted to be recognized by the world as a real person): getting drunk, smoking pot, screwing a local hooker, and watching television. Some of the videos show another side of Rabbit — someone with a philosophical bent who might lecture for hours on the meaning of Modern Art or the importance of Conceptualism. A few videos show Rabbit in a depressed, maudlin state, crying like a baby, bemoaning the state of the world; then, snapping out of it with a vicious laugh and the blast of a submachine gun. You have to ask if it was all a joke or some sort of performance layered with hidden meaning. He didn’t really care about fame or the money he stole… he just wanted to be bad and make the world take notice. The photos and videos were proof he existed.
Rabbit became very popular in spite of himself. He was another You-Tube wonder. People couldn’t get enough of his bad ass antics. He became a celebrity. He was invited to do the talk show circuit. Publishers were after him to write a book on any topic no matter how irrelevant — his name on the cover was all that mattered. Galleries were after Rabbit to exhibit bits and pieces from his life: doodles on napkins, bloodstained clothes, dirty underwear — anything with a Rabbit signature. At the same time, the body count continued to mount. Rabbit enjoyed killing. He enjoyed maiming and dismembering. He was becoming an aficionado of suffering. He documented the torment he inflicted on innocent bystanders. The public was fascinated. No one complained. Rabbit was an addictive, new form of entertainment that appealed to the masses. The police were reluctant to interfere. They feared a riot if Rabbit was ever arrested — they also enjoyed the entertainment value, watching rather than being part of the violence.
Companies paid exorbitant fees to use Rabbit’s image on all sorts of products from candy to home-security. At first his new found fame didn’t matter. Rabbit went about the business of maiming, robbing, and killing for fun. The change slowly began as his fame and fortune grew. In the beginning Rabbit was on his own, binging on malice and menace. In time, Rabbit felt the pressure to entertain a demanding public. Nielson kept track and Rabbit’s ratings were beginning to dip. He had to increase the level of violence. The Late Show massacre was the last time Rabbit had a ratings up-tick. Rabbit was covered in blood and gore, but the thrill was gone. The pressure to satisfy a famished public took the fun out of indiscriminate murder. Mayhem lost all appeal once it was sanctioned and promoted.
Rabbit withdrew from public appearances. He became a shut-in. He stopped posting photos and videos. He no longer updated his blog. He lost interest in committing violent crime. Rabbit became morose. His eyes were forever red with tears. He would have drifted away until there was nothing left if it wasn’t for his agitated fans. The people spoke and they wanted Rabbit back. The masses missed the thrill of virtual mayhem, the kind of comfortable violence that only Rabbit could achieve with a gun and butcher knife. The police were implored to locate Rabbit, arrest him and force him to make a televised appearance. Everyone wanted something from Rabbit: they wanted to blame him; they wanted to praise him; they wanted an admission of guilt along with an act of unspeakable violence. Rabbit only wanted redemption. In the grips of his agoraphobia Rabbit began to meditate. It soothed his soul and mollified his bad ass attitude.
Rabbit was forced out of his self imposed retirement — meditation helped in his transition. He appeared on the “Hour of Power” show with the famous TV Evangelist. He came to pray — he came to pray for peace. He looked like a furry, white Buddha — he looked like a cuddly pet. The audience booed, even the Reverend looked offended. Everyone expected some sort of action. The Reverend chided Rabbit, trying to pique his interest with Bible stories that glorified god’s wrath. Rabbit was provided with a knife and cudgel, but he was too disheartened to participate. The Reverend took the first shot and the audience swarmed the stage, out for blood. It was the beginning of the Easter Festivities and Rabbit would make a fine feast.
He awoke in the middle of the night bothered by dreams and memories. He went into the living-room and sat in the recliner. It was 3 a.m. His name was Blue and he was covered in faux fur. Blue was an oversized Teddy Bear. Blue never felt comfortable as a Teddy Bear. There were too many expectations and obligations. He was expected to be cuddly and always friendly, but Blue was not a convivial stereotype. He was different. He always knew it, but he never knew how different he was until he murdered his first victim, a frog that lived by the pond in the back garden. He never intended to harm the frog, but “Froggy” was a pest — always complaining. Blue could never stop Froggy’s squawking, so one day Blue stepped on the small amphibian, crushing it to death. It felt good. The faux bear would never be the same again. Blue took an interest in anatomy and the art of dissection. No creature was safe in Blue’s garden. The word spread quickly and soon there were no animals anywhere near Blue’s home. The bear didn’t really mind because he had matured and developed other interests — he was dating a doll named Sasha who came from a cabbage patch. She was everything a Blue Bear could want: beautiful, intelligent, and sweet natured. Sasha always wore pink, a color that perfectly complimented Blue’s faux fur. The couple loved going on picnics. Sasha always packed Blue’s favorite foods: honey and pie. Blue was falling in love. He wanted more than honey and pie. Blue wanted to get between Sasha’s pretty legs, but she refused. Sasha was a virgin, saving herself until she was safely married. She always dreamed of a silver wedding, celebrated with pink lemonade, candied fairies, and lollipop desserts. Blue could never afford such an elaborate wedding and he sulked. Sasha couldn’t understand Blue’s depression. The bear was making her feel sad. She couldn’t stand being sad so she began to play around. Sasha just wanted to have some fun. Blue caught them in the hot tube together. It was foolish for Sasha to bring the Tin Soldier to the hot tube in Blue’s back yard. She just wanted to make Blue a little jealous so he would snap out of his funk. Blue was enraged. He had Daddy’s gun tucked away in Moma’s old dowry chest. First he’d get the gun, then he’d go on a rampage. He’d kill the Tin Soldier and Sasha — he’d kill everyone! A tear appeared in the corner of his eye. It was the last tear Blue would ever shed.
Talking to yourself can be a dangerous enterprise – that’s what Beverly Orangehaze found out. Beverly was a petite woman with an enormous talent and a raging imagination. Her iron gray hair was coiffed high on her diminutive head. Beverly was an artist. She created cocoons sewn from detritus and silk. Often she thought about crawling into a fetal position and sewing herself into one of her elaborate cocoons … that’s when she started to talk to herself. Beverly was driven by loneliness. The success of her art did not help. She lost June five years earlier, a woman she loved dearly. Everything changed after her lover was shot by a stray bullet. She had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Beverly’s grief became a hard knot that would never be broken. She longed for company. Her friends knew Beverly Orangehaze as an artist. They didn’t know the real person. Beverly had become a commodity like her art. As her loneliness increased she began to talk more frequently to herself. She asked herself questions and received answers as if there was another person who lived inside her mind. She talked about the weather and gossiped about people she passed on the streets. It was an exercise of the imagination. Her inner voice was comforting and seemed to enjoy the conversations. On the anniversary of her partner’s death a new element entered into her conversations. Her inner voice became surly and rather aggressive. Beverly suspected the person she talked to was not just a voice in her mind. She began to identify the voice as Jim. Not only was Jim a man, but he seemed to be a brute. He was no longer interested in answering Beverly’s mundane questions. He wasn’t interested in made-up gossip. Jim began asking his own questions: “Why are you so weak?” “Why do you let people walk all over you? “Why is your art so meaningless?” Jim began to badger Beverly. Arguments broke out. Beverly was no longer able to concentrate on her work, or on anything other than her conversations. She suspected Jim was evil – that he was trying to make her do something illegal. Sure enough, Jim blamed Beverly for her partner’s death. He said it wasn’t just a stray bullet that killed her. He whittled at Beverly’s confidence and morality. She begged him to stop. Jim would have none of it. He kept mocking Beverly. He told her there was a gun that had been hidden in the house by a former owner. Jim wanted her to use the gun and kill the people responsible for June’s death. It got worse. Beverly was seeing Jim, a troll of a man with the build of a wrestler. She couldn’t discern reality from images in her mind. Was he real? During a terrible wind storm, Beverly confronted Jim. He was standing in her art studio. He smiled like a smarmy lizard. Jim was holding the gun. She didn’t want to take it. She didn’t want to kill anyone, but he was so insistent and she knew he was evil so she took the gun. He laughed because he knew he was in total control. He would watch her murder innocent victims and he would be triumphant. Beverly thought about June, she held the weapon as her eyes filled with tears. She was not a murderer. None of this was her fault, but she knew Jim had to die. She fired. The bullet was aimed at her head.