He’d always been a strange child… he was even stranger as an adult. People said Alexander seemed to focus on something outside his line of sight. Alexander Pogue was focused on the future. The world he lived in was too painful: nationalism and bigotry were carried over from the past and all the hatred was given a facelift and a new, benign name.
He grew up to be an archaeologist, an explorer unearthing relics from the past. But, he always had his eye on the future. His physician prescribed pills to cure his obsessive-compulsive disorder, but Alex never took them. He was searching for a mythical city. On one of his digs, he discovered a stone tablet that described a lost city. Alexander was convinced the city was from the future, a metropolis that traveled through time. It made no logical sense, but it became an idee fixe.
No one believed his story. He never showed the stone tablet to anyone. He was afraid revealing the tablet would put his life in danger. He memorized the information and shattered the stone. Now, he was no longer certain the tablet ever existed; but he continued to search for a possibility that was little more than a delusion.
He was aware of the warring factions within himself: the believers and the heretics. The city was not his only obsession. He was obsessed with design-elements: colors that did not belong together, a chandelier that hung slightly too low. he wondered why no one else was effected and why no one seemed to see the defects that caused him so much distress. He was only content when he was on a dig… when he was hunting for the future.
As a young man he was more adept at hiding his symptoms and he worked as a university professor. He lived in a rented basement and hoarded the money he earned. Piles of newspapers and reports filled his living space. He believed the printed material on scraps of yellowed paper might show him the way… might open the gates of hidden knowledge.
The affair he had with a student and the ugly aftermath drove Alex into a deeper hole of disintegration. A carnal relationship between a professor and a younger man was an anathema to the Regents of the university. Sucking dick was not condoned (even in a country where the president bragged about grabbing pussy). Alexander was fired in disgrace. He was convinced his lover committed suicide, but he never knew for certain. At the time, there were too many voices and contradictions in his mind as his grip on reality disintegrated.
All the while his obsession with the lost-city became more entrenched and it gave Alexander the purpose he needed to survive. He had money stashed in several bank accounts. His uncle known as “the peacock” added to Alexander’s wealth when he suddenly expired in a rumored orgy of hedonism and left his fortune to Alex, his closest relative.
The money was an expedient allowing Alexander to assemble a team of semi-professionals and novice treasure hunters. The team would hunt for the lost-city.
Sabrina Cataract joined the team as a diversion from boredom. She was tired of playing games with overwrought men… besides she had a brilliant mind and enjoyed mental stimulation. She knew Alexander from his time at the university and thought he was a fool; but he offered a salary she couldn’t turn down.
“White Smoke” was the team’s Guide. He said he was an American Indian, but he was a white man who was out of a job so he re-invented himself.
Orlow Fabricatum came along for the ride into unfamiliar territory. Orlow described himself as a fly on the wall… he was a hack reporter who wrote for slander-sheets. He needed money so he joined the team.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio was on board to monitor the health of the team. He was avoiding prosecution for over-prescribing highly addictive medications. If no one could find him, no one could prosecute.
Roxy Wentworth brought up the rear. She was an engineer and cook… about to reach her expiration date: both her heart and liver were artificial and replacement parts were no longer available. She craved one last adventure.
The team came to the conclusion that Alexander Pogue was deranged. He constantly fidgeted and often babbled in a foreign tongue. They joked behind his back; but, like lackeys they encouraged him and catered to his whims because the pay was good.
Sabrina smoked like a furnace. Kulio warned her about the dangers, but she liked living on the edge.
White Smoke often disappeared. He was addicted to porn on his I-pad.
Orlow Fabricatum was more complicated than he appeared. He worked undercover for a group of power-brokers who manipulated the public’s perceptions of reality.
Roxy Wentworth was an agent from a virtual future. She had an important mission to carry out, but the details alluded her.
Alexander Pogue recognized the symbols on the cave wall, deep within the earth. Someone left a calling card, a special invitation and only Alex could decipher the message.
The others laughed behind his back while Alex shed layers of neuro-linguistic programming in order to discover the gateway that would lead to the lost-city.
He finally perceived a crack in the cave wall that expanded as he watched. Golden light flowed from the opening. A doorway appeared in the black heart of space.
He stepped across the threshold and entered a radiant city. The light poured into Alexander Pogue and he was transported back-and-back in a chain of lives that merged and exploded like a nova.
The doctor and others examined the patient who had a recent episode. He’d gone off-line. He disconnected from the virtual womb. Alexander Pogue was another fatality from the plague of “Mass-Alzheimers” that affected billions in a forgotten world.
“I’m infected,” Alan Beebek told his post-op girlfriend.
“You’re just crazy,” Sabrina Cataract relished in humiliating Alan. It was virtually salient… and better than sex. Most people experimented with some form of sadomasochism as proscribed by the new ethic that flowed from the Throne of Power.
Alan had trouble concentrating due to self-imposed dementia. It was his defense against roving spy-eyes and news-cam attacks.
Sabrina was devastating in her candy-striper uniform with dildo attachments. She pouted and whip-lashed Alan with her viper tongue, “Alan… you just a selfish prick. No one and nothing matters but your need to blubber. What about my needs as an autodidact. You think these enhancements, that you love so much, are free? Stop your whining and make some money for momma!”
The world flashed and Alan slipped into a petit-mal seizure triggered by rising levels of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.
He knew he was infected. Trolls wearing red diapers nailed him to a cross and called him, Kike. Men wrapped in white pillow cases stomped on his grave. Sabrina enjoyed the spectacle. It was sexually satisfying between episodes of “The next top model” and “America’s got talent.”
Alan Beebek saw himself on a thousand computer screens. The mirror never lies. He stared at an old man wrapped in age-spots and covered in wrinkles. He was a death camp survivor hauled off to be buried alive by storm troopers wearing orange wigs.
“It’s simple,” doctor Zosimo Kulio explained, “the computer in your head blew a fuse. Nano-bytes slipped through the black hole and took control.” Alan knew it was true.
Chain smokers in black government-approved suits set off a chain-reaction of improbable events that started in a Moscow hotel-room. The men in black hacked reality. A surge of microwave transmissions, residual resonance, was an unintended consequence.
Even through the mask of self-imposed dementia, Alan formulated the truth. It was a hard scrabble truth that started with the writer, Octavia Butler. In 2006 she fell and struck her head. The fall prompted her death. She was only fifty-eight years old. The incident triggered several events that led to government subversion and a flashback-relay of the “Manchurian Candidate” starring Angela Lansbury. Of course, all this took place in Alan’s fevered brain. Alan simmered with several obsessions like the myth of Cthulhu (a creature created by H P Lovecraft). Cthulhu was a harbinger of invasion and infection.
He hated going to the dentist. Cthulhu was always present. The office gleamed under florescent beams: walls of white with chrome attachments. The dentist, Cthulhu, stuck power tools and cutting implements into Alan’s mouth while he argued with the dental hygienist. They argued about the discovery of life on Enceladus. The dental hygienist was a pretty lady with a huge, open mouth ready to devour the universe. They argued about the impact of an alien invasion on planet Earth. They closed shop once the new Throne was elected. it was worse than they imagined.
Elevator music never stopped. It spread to malls, Wallmarts, and torture chambers. Sometimes a real song broke through the nerve gas that was meant to subdue the masses. “Stormy Weather” sung by Etta James shot fear into the hearts of the power brokers and oil magnates. Someone had to shut down the damn music. New rules were hurriedly tweeted and instituted, “Music. Bad. Stop the invading armies of fake music-makers.” Laws were passed. The infection reared up on Cthulhu-tentacles and drove spikes into Alan Beebek’s head.
He couldn’t forget. Self-imposed dementia no longer worked. The infection started in his ear and burrowed deep into his brain.
Sabrina Cataract sat in a chair and murmured dirty words to an ailing Alan. She sucked on a Marlboro. The room was shrouded in a fog of nicotine. Alan coughed. It was humiliating. Sabrina instructed him on an old Indian cure for infections. She watched, barely containing her laughter, as Alan followed her orders. The cure was urine. Alan was supposed to pee in his ear to stop the infection. Alan knew it was a ruse, one of Sabrina’s games; but he peed anyway.
A golden light broke through the nicotine haze. Sabrina was dismayed. It was never meant to work; but she couldn’t deny her senses: something was happening, something miraculous.
(to be continued)