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…
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.
Tom Bisant dream’t he was an astronaut who just returned from a twenty year journey to Enceladus, Saturn’s moon. He rode a Super Stegosaurus rocket… It slipped through time on the wings of a Proton-Drive Engine.
Space surrounded Tom like a cold, black room. He saw a gray shadow, a stand-in for death. The shadow staggered across a make-shift stage while struggling to perform a song-and-dance routine. When he was a teenager Tom wanted to be a comedian, but he was never ready to perform in public so he became an astronaut instead. The dark hole of space gave him time to think and revise his comedy act.
When the ship landed on Enceladus Tom was met by a younger version of himself.
“Look… they see me coming and they want me to screw them. I’m a celebrity. Women let me do whatever I want.”
“Obviously,” Doctor Zosimo Kulio replied, “the stress of your new job is making you feel inadequate so you compensate with bravado.”
“Hey, what gives… I’m here for your support. I thought we had a deal.”
“Oh, dear… no deal… you were ordered by your manager to get an evaluation and, in my professional opinion, all your man talk is covering up a deep seeded sense of inadequacy and most likely homosexual tendencies.”
“Fake news!! You must be working for the networks. I’ll sue!!”
When Tom Bisant returned to Earth he was old. No one remembered him. People were no longer interested in space flight. Everyone retreated into Virtual Reality, self-contained versions of Paradise. Real world scenarios were too complicated to understand, let alone manage. The real world was binary and everyone was sold on digital. The binary world was characterized by conflict, opposites, compromise, and adjustment. The digital world was always perfect and seamless.
The memo slithered out of congress like a viper. The ruling party was committed to building a bigger, better swamp. The memo was a distraction meant to inhibit enforcement of the law.
There were aliens on Enceladus living beneath the ocean that covered the moon.
Tom was a relic. He tried to talk to his estranged lover who he hadn’t seen for twenty years. It was impossible to bridge the gap. She was no longer present. She slipped the moorings of time-and-space and hung quiescent in some VR holding cell. What can you say to an empty shell?
Tom faced disaster everywhere. Space was an escape. Back on Earth disaster loomed large. The doctor prescribed pain-killers and anti-anxiety medication. Thoughts of suicide increased (a side effect caused by the drugs). A dark street hid malicious intent: strangers suddenly appeared like ghosts, asking questions and demanding information. He worried constantly about unlocked doors and faulty electrical-wiring. The plumbing in his home moaned like a wounded elephant. The house creaked. The TV assaulted him with ads and news about government shut-downs and social unrest. Tom longed for the peace of Enceladus.
We all crave attention. We are obsessed with celebrities on TV. We are social creatures so we create terrifying acts of mass murder. We want to be remembered. It is impossible to escape danger. The sun gives Cancer. The air contains contaminants that lead to COPD.
There is no way to justify an abduction in the middle of this narrative; still, it happened. Millie Vincent from Moorpark, Idaho was reported missing on the morning of February Fifth. Although she returned two days later, many unanswered questions remained. Where did she go and why? No one believed she was abducted by a UFO, but that’s what she described. UFO abductions are as common as cattle mutilations and crop circles, but no one believes those events occur either. Millie’s story had a strange twist. She recalled everything that happened on the UFO. Her description of the alien ship was like nothing ever reported before. The inside of the craft looked exactly like a karaoke bar with decor from the 1960’s. Rock music was blasting. A few gray aliens were also in attendance. Most surprising to Millie were the people in the bar. She recognized many government officials led by the Commander-in-Chef who let loose a disco rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The officials cheered, bowed, and praised his glory. The aliens took notes.
On Enceladus Tom Bisant confronted his younger self. The boy was fragile and insecure. He tried being the class clown in order to make friends. His comedy hung in the air like flatulence and Tom ended up in the Principal’s office. The boy was humiliated and wanted to commit suicide. His mother’s pills mixed with alcohol would do the trick. At the final moment the boy had a vision of himself as an astronaut. His life was saved.
Corporations gained profits and the stock market hit greater highs since the new president was elected. But, it was all negligible. There were rumors of a pole shift. The president was beginning to feel trapped by the fake news hammering him from every media outlet along with low poll ratings. A new plan was hatched. When in doubt spread the wealth, shore up the base, and lower taxes for power brokers and lobbyists. .
The administration supported a new Black Label miracle beverage to be marketed to all segments of the population. It was a scientific breakthrough that promised a universal cure-all and remedy for the ailments of old age. If people couldn’t afford to purchase the drink it would be given out for free. A Day of Reckoning and Reconciliation was declared when everyone (as one) would drink the Black Label.
Tom Bisant knew it was a sham. The life he led was make believe. He tried and failed would be written on his tombstone. His career as an astronaut and the journey to Enceladus happened in his brain after taking LSD while listening to Jimmy Hendricks. He confronted himself in his head… Time seemed to stop. When his turn came he would gladly sip the beverage along with everyone else.
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.
Gordon “Snaptrap” wondered if that was his real name or a pseudonym. He wondered if he was an investigator or a journalist who wanted to keep his real identity concealed. Of course, it no longer mattered because he was enjoying his most recent lobotomy. He was under the knife and loaded with drugs.
Gordon sat in a high-powered dentist chair while a computerized Bum-Bot took control of his brain. It was all for the best. This wasn’t his first lobotomy. Every operation had benefits as well as unpleasant side effects. The Robo-Doc assured Gordon that benefits would outweigh the pain. Gordon briefly recalled inconsolable sobbing, but the pain had subsided considerably since his last lobotomy.
The current operation was given as a bonus. This time the lobotomy would free Gordon from all his doubts, depression, and negativity. Before the lobotomies Gordon was, indeed, an investigator. He had damning evidence of government corruption. All the facts, names and dates, were locked in the safest place he could find: in his mind. Political hacks authorized the “operations.”
At first Gordon disparaged himself for being careless. After the first lobotomy he forgot all the details and no longer blamed himself. He forgot the evidence he hid in his mind. All that remained were flashes of memory: manipulators, roving Proctologists, and military drones.
Gordon was decommissioned — body parts farmed out. His brain was deconstructed. Reality was hijacked, crowd sourced, and replaced.
David Oblivion met Mr. Hamm on the Street of Dreams in Angel City. Hamm was an ambassador from Hell. Nothing could change the present. The outcome was inevitable.
Marty Mekum could hear the dream resonating in his brain like a land-mine about to explode. He told himself, there is no such place as Hell. The characters in his mind were as flimsy as used tissue.
Marty consistently asked questions trying to justify his life. His hands were frozen, stiff with age. He could no longer paint the images that populated his mind. His days working as an artist were over.
Marty left his lover in the past. They stood on a precipice overlooking the Arizona Desert. It was a tumultuous period in their lives. The world seemed to be drowning in a golden-shower of crass abuse and excess. The only way to live was to escape.
Protest marches and benefit concerts became routine. Demonstrations were another form of escape… bolstering a false sense of security. Drug overdoses became commonplace. The lovers lived in a haze of chemical enhancement… on the precipice — suddenly, Marty jumped, leaving his partner & lover behind.
“How are you, Marty?” The cyborg-appliance asked.
“How’s the weather?” Marty replied.
“Same as always… gray.”
Marty Mekum was from the future, but no one believed him. He wanted to save the world, but no one listened. By the time he recorded this story, he was very old. He came of age in the future by giving birth to himself. The Home cared for Marty. The Home was a network of prosthetic extensions that fed, manipulated, and recorded Marty’s existence to use as a merchandising incentive. People had inherent (but limited) monetary value. When inherent value was used up everything could be recycled and reused. All accounts were itemized and reviewed on Twitter. Capital gains and losses were tweeted daily.
Angina Splint was an account executive in the Golden Tower. She didn’t know Marty. She wasn’t concerned with other people’s problems or predicaments. Angina lived for the bottom-line. She loved her job. Perks were numerous. Gold Cadillacs abounded. Designer drugs sweetened the pot. Zombies moved into the cubicle across the hall, but Angina wasn’t bothered. Her office suite was large enough to flatten any zombie invasion.
Angina’s mom lived at the Home a few doors down from Marty Mekum. There was a cost incentive to visit mom once a year. Values were exchanged and increased. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Mom was always changing, trying to increase her value. She was a programmer from the last century so she knew her business. Mom’s brain was mush, puree — it didn’t matter as long as she could offer some amusing entertainment. She had to adapt. Capital gain was the name of the game. She often mimicked Hitler and harassed the “Juden.” Mom was a member of the Baby Generation. Baby clones ruled the world. The unborn were silent no longer.
Angina loved visiting mom — the money kept pouring in. Mom wore a blue hat and began to tick like a time-bomb — pure entertainment. Angina gushed.
The prosthetic appliances at the Home were plugging holes with stoppers trying to halt the flow of effluvium from the newest, Last War. Marty Mekum would have none of it. He began to rant, “the mad man in the tower is becoming more powerful each day writing new edicts, shaping the world into his own chthonic image. I hear the death rattle throttle.”
Angina caught the drift of Mekum’s riff. She was briefly mesmerized, cauterized by words she never heard. Meanings were resplendent.
Dr. Zosomo came to the rescue with an enema plunger to eradicate the excess verbiage.
Marty bespoke, “this is a drift into dark-matter. There are Nine Levels.”
No one understood. Angina and mom were determined to continue espousing the words of the baby prophet. It was a disaster: Matricide with suicidal tendencies.
“No one is free,” Marty sneezed, “we are all Him subject to the same corruption.”
The aliens took notes, gleefully observing the debacle. Too late it was revealed: He was controlled by dark servitors from beyond the veil. Dorian Gray lisped in brilliant decay.
A poet scrawled new codes on a bathroom wall.
“This is David Oblivion reporting from the basement of a deserted building in New Jerusalem. I’m tired and hungry. I’ve been running for three days. I’m trying to escape the future. I am able to send these messages due to an anomaly, a black-hole called Queer-time. Listen up… I am sending messages, images and stories from the future, your future… and, no, it isn’t a pretty “Norman Rockwell” picture… and, it isn’t the future Donny Trumpit predicted: the Global Utopia of Family Values, full employment, and the American flag. A friend once called this Queer-time a human manufactured Rapture… but, in fact, no one appears to be going to heaven. Instead, we are living in hell.
The internet has been banned; but it can’t be stopped. It seeded itself from simple viruses that were used to infest computers. The result was the birth of monsters. The Net has become self-aware and ubiquitous… capriciously sliding between power brokers, helping or destroying on a whim… but, always seeding itself and creating more monsters. The little war the U.S. started in Iraq never stopped… it spread to Syria … fueled by religious fanatics and Russian avarice. Our President’s Russian ties earned him billions while the country sank into a swamp of corruption that spread to the Net, becoming part of the Net, fed by corporations and mega-industries. America has become New Jerusalem… born of the internet!
America, “that shinning city on the hill” — now, we live in enclaves and barricaded communities… or in hovels and abandoned buildings. People stay indoors because the streets are too dangerous. War exists everywhere. Most people are plugged into the Net discovering virtual worlds and virtual pleasures. Nothing is safe. Spy Eyes are everywhere… bugs, on search and destroy missions, are relentless. Many enclaves must submit to the New Puritans. There are many powerful missionary groups that demand compliance to the “Word of God.” Missionaries use the internet for their own purpose, to ensnare unsuspecting “sinners” into virtual porn-palaces where their minds are dismembered and cannibalized. People no longer care about the dangers because the Net offers the only pleasurable distraction in a world where there is no place to escape.
Sometimes, demons roam the streets in search of targets to pick off like ducks in a shooting gallery. They go to deserted warehouses or back-alley bars and hunt for prey; or they sign-up for the war where it is easier to get weapons and where there are rewards for hunting and killing. War makes all things possible. A demon can become an officer and help mold a policy of rape and torture. A demon in a uniform can influence the minds of impressionable youth… and sucker the “poor” into fighting the war for the “rich.”
The only hope lies with the artists and poets of The Manifest, an underground group struggling to reveal the truth. As a member, my life is in jeopardy. I’m being hunted. At any moment …” Screen goes dark and Gunshots ring out.