Ed complained. He was old and he had trouble adjusting. There were too many recent changes in the world… too much to comprehend. His partner, Anthony, took the brunt of Ed’s complaints. He was younger and tougher. The couple was legally married. They recently adopted a puppy from a shelter. Anthony’s dream of having a family was coming true. They were happy except for Ed’s complaints. His most recent protest was about the ants: giant, man-eating ants.
Ed also had difficulty with his memory. It wasn’t dementia… Ed just didn’t know who he was. He often thought he was a man named Axel Ramirez. There were many different people in Ed’s head. Anthony didn’t want to admit something was very wrong with Ed… his eyes would glaze over and that was a clue that Ed was somewhere (or someone) else.
Axel Ramirez was always on the run. He remembered the floods in Houston several years ago. He thought he’d drowned. He escaped the rising waters and was running ever since. He ran head first into an existential paradox: life in the age of Trump. People changed due to the onset of the pandemic. Now Ramirez was running from conspiracy theories and death squads. The president loved conspiracies that supported his views.
“He never takes the blame for anything,” Axel told his girlfriend, Brenda, “it’s always other people… anything other than his-self. I been in this country for twenty years and he wants to throw me out… blame me for the virus.”
“Well,” Brenda spoke up, “I heard things. You people are illegal and cause crime.”
“You listening to that Hannity shit?”
“No. Alex Jones said it.”
“Oh Lord. He also said the virus is made in a lab and Bill Gates is responsible. You believe that shit?”
“Sometimes. I don’t think we should give up our Liberty. We don’t need to stay home. I don’t want to wear a mask.”
“You wanna get yourself sick, maybe die. What’s the matter with you people? You think it’s OK they started Death Squads to get rid of anyone over 65 –cause, they say, they gonna die anyway?”
“Oh! I thought they said Freedom Squads. It’s only for patriots who want to help the economy.”
“You believe that. I’m 67. I’m on the list. The virus hits more people of color, more poor people. We both on the list.”
“OK baby…” Brenda hesitantly replied, “I’m sorry.”
Ramirez thought, “Never a dull moment… never stop running.”
The doorbell rang collapsing Ed’s dissociation. He was suddenly alert. The interruption was like stepping on a land mine. Three people in black rubber suits were at the door talking gibberish. They each wore plastic headgear. Ed couldn’t understand the voices shouting at him through the plastic masks. He thought it might be a hallucination. He thought the people might be aliens and he was about to be abducted. Over and over they shouted. The voices slowly started to make some sense. They were paramedics. Someone made a 911 call. People were breaking down, getting sick, and dying. Ed thought the virus was turning people into aliens. He felt a rising sense of panic. Was Anthony OK? The paramedics burst into the house searching for a casualty. Ed shouted for Anthony and ran to the bedroom. Anthony was on the bed. He was startled by the commotion, but otherwise fine. The paramedics checked the house and yard. They decided they came to the wrong address. Someone else was in danger and they needed to search the neighborhood.
The TV burbled like a fish tank. The President was giving another speech as part of the medical task-force updates. This was the new normal, a daily event turned into a political rally. Ed imagined the President was speaking directly to him, “Dr. Fauci will be giving a run down of recent developments; but first I want to make sure everyone understands the situation. No matter what these specialists say I can tell you there is a miracle drug. My intuition is always correct. I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating. I am a genius… proven by my educational record (all A’s) and my business success. I’ve always done better than anyone else. Remember my number one TV show that ran for over a decade. Yes it did! More important… I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and I’d still win the presidency. Watch for it this coming November. Now, you know the press is fake except for Fox which is only sometimes fake. I’m for real. The anti-malaria drug kills the new flu… and it is only a flu, nothing out of the ordinary. I want people to get back to normal. All the fuss with masks, etc. is just too much and it hurts business. No matter what you hear from experts I want people to liberate those vile Democratic States that are imposing restrictions against our constitutional liberty. Remember your 2nd amendment rights will be taken away (no more guns) if the Democrats win (a very unlikely situation unless they cheat… and I wouldn’t be surprised. Better be safe and Lock them up). Keep in mind how great the economy has been before this virus scam (designed by my opponents). Better than at any other time in history. I’m here to say the USA is now Open for Business. We should never have shut down. My opponents are to blame. I won’t have it. WE ARE OPEN… Now, I’d like to present Dr. Fauci, but don’t believe a word he says! I was on top of the situation before Fauci. I banned people from China… I did it, not Fauci. I have to say one more thing about tests. My critics say there are not enough tests. Well, what do they know? Tests. What kind of tests? I hate tests. I’ve never taken a test in my life and I’m a genius. So, now, listen to a supposed expert who is going to contradict what I’m saying because he is a snob and he should be locked up with the rest of them, and especially with those damned Mexicans crossing the border and taking our jobs. China created the virus in a lab. The Mexicans , out of spite, brought it into this great nation that is so blessed by God. We are building a wall! We don’t need tests…” The TV burbled on and on. The expert came and went. He was given ten minutes to explain the intricacies of Covid-19 and the precautions that might save lives. The president dominated the rest of the broadcast. Ed’s brain was fried. He heard the sizzle and smelled cooking meat.
They had just moved into a new rental home when Ed saw them. He went for a walk and mounted a small ridge at the end of the road. It was a beautiful day. The sun was like a rainbow halo. Ed sat on a rock and surveyed the land around the neighborhood. He felt calm. The world was at peace; then he heard a strange, ratcheting sound. It became louder until the sound was deafening and Ed clasped his hands over his ears. Sunbeams appeared to rain down like molten lead. The wavering light revealed monsters: ants the size of elephants. Two of the ants were fighting over a morsel of bloody meat. Both ants were ripping and eating the meat. Luckily Ed was quite a distance from the melee. He was petrified with fear, frozen in place. The sounds were unbearable, ratcheting higher and higher. Ed couldn’t turn his eyes away from the battle. The light surrounding the ants seemed to clarify as he stared. He recognized the treasure the ants were consuming: part of a human torso. It felt like an electric jolt and he snapped out of his paralysis. Ed ran back to the house. He was sweating, out of breath. Anthony took his temperature. He had a fever. Anthony held Ed and put him to bed.
Ed had a friend named Manfred Bancourt. Manfred was a Yellow Journalist. He made up Fake News… really fake news. Once he was a legitimate reporter with a respectable newspaper, but the President and his Washington supporters called it trash and labeled it fake. Now, all the news Manfred reported was fake, aimed specifically at skewering the President who he labeled as fake. Manfred had a Virtual-Reality news show. Everything was Virtual (one consequence of the plague). People could no longer trust one another. Everyone was afraid of the flu. It had gone viral since there was no consistent national response to the pandemic. The U.S. was open for business and Covid-19 was no longer contained.
Manfred Bancourt reported the news: Harem Gate… Frumps secret depository of women stashed in the basement of the White House. Melania leaves Trump to become the Madam of Washington DC. Trump is an illegal alien from Mars. President Trump is the Manchurian Candidate. The mob owns Trump lock, stock, and barrel. All the stories were put out with incriminating (and fake) videos and photos. The Virtual News caused a stir among the public. Supporters of the administration hit hard with their own liturgy of insults and rumors. Manfred’s news was the fuel that ignited Civil Disobedience and the Season of Political Discontent. The spread of the virus didn’t help. Tempers were swollen but it was only the beginning. A second wave was about to hit.
Mr. D loved to dance. Recent events were cause for a macabre celebration.
Ed bumped into Mr. D at the newly reopened Food City. Ed was looking for a loaf of bread. Supplies were low. Shelves were empty. Farm workers were deported back to Mexico. Crops lay fallow in the fields. Truck drivers were falling like flies. Any remaining food could not be delivered. Out of the corner of his eye Ed saw the ghost of a Hazmat Suit walking down one of the aisles… no one else. Only Ed and Mr. D remained. D looked emaciated. Ed was concerned. The flamboyant Mr. D laughed at Ed’s naivete’. Suddenly music over the store’s loudspeaker changed from tinkle-pablum to a rousing Tango. Mr. D began to dance… slow at first, then, wild and electrifying. Mr. D began to smolder with the heat of the music, smoke rising from his body. His skin was on fire. Ed began to walk away out of fear. The irrepressible Mr. D could not let Ed escape. He wanted a partner for the dance. He grabbed Ed with his hands-on-fire and embraced him.
Anthony sat by Ed’s side and held his hand. The fever was helping kill the virus. Ed was half conscious and delirious. Anthony wished he could do more, but he was also concerned about the dinosaur on the front lawn.
No one knew what caused the second wave… whether it was just the beginning of the recurring flu season; or, if it had something to do with Trump’s miracle cure combined with the wrong ingredients. In any event the virus was enhanced… more potent than ever with more severe symptoms.
Rampaging mobs took over the streets. No one cared about social distancing or wearing protective gear. Liberty was at stake… first and second amendments were on the chopping block. People proudly carried guns and assault weapons… firing at random. The crowds were defending the country against illegal aliens. No walls could keep them out. Aliens moved into all-white neighborhoods and started trouble. Most people in the crowd saw aliens as green critters with eyes as large as fish bowls… real aliens from space. Some people saw dinosaurs. They had to be stopped. The second-wave virus caused vivid hallucinations. No one could discern reality from illusion (real from fake). Wealthy people purchased elaborate Virtual Reality machines, hoping to avoid real-life pandemonium. They spent days and nights wandering through elaborate facades hoping to find safe and luxurious hiding places: palaces, uncharted islands, and cities in space. The illusions were high-definition and completely convincing, but to no avail. Symptoms of the second wave followed them into their virtual dreams.
In order to keep the country open for business marketing firms were given huge contracts. Ads were everywhere.
“Don’t let your country down. Make America Great again. You are only as healthy as your wallet. Money buys health and beauty. There are more opportunities now than ever before. Buy stocks in Real Estate and Trump Casinos. Invest in the future: purchase shares in funeral homes, drug companies, and for-profit hospitals. Virtual-Reality-Worlds are an extra bonus, a big winner for America’s prosperous future.”
The President’s update continued, “This reporter shouted at me, yesterday I think… anyway she was a slut and very nasty. She asks me about WHO… why I decided not to fund WHO. Who, I say… Who do you mean? Why would I want to fund Who – I don’t even know Who. She was stupid. But, really folks that had nothing to do with the Chinese lab that created the flu. If it was an accident; well, OK, they won’t be punishment… that’s fair. But, Who knows. We know it all started in China. I think Chinese people have something to answer for. I just got some good news: we have a new cure! I just learned disinfectant kills the virus within a minute. How bout that. A cure right under our noses. Maybe an injection of rubbing alcohol or Lysol is all we need and the virus is gone in a minute! I got one question… Just asking… did I just earn the right to sign all the bottles of disinfectants… how bout a new one: Trump’s Good News Disinfectant!”
Trump had a gold toilet installed in one of the virtual worlds where he planned to hide from the virus and resultant flu. His uncanny intuition revealed he wasn’t infected. He didn’t need a test. His intuition was like a modern day Sibyl, always right. Melania was at his side in a stunning virtual gown designed by Gucci. Several of Trump’s most ardent supporters were there. It was a victory celebration even though the election would not be held for several months. They were joined by simulacrums of all the world leaders. Everyone gushed to be in the presence of Trump. Gushing was a prerequisite. The celebration took place in an enormous hall. The walls were layered in gold, Trumps favorite metal. The room was a copy of a throne room in a Russian Palace. Putin was a guest of honor. Several hedge fund investors and real estate magnates also attended the festivities. The Family Trump was at last vindicated of any responsibility that resulted in the United States becoming a third world country. Crimes against nature were also vindicated but no one wanted to elaborate. This was the life Trump always aspired to… he was now free to do whatever he wanted. Virtual People worshiped him like a king. Time froze for Trump and his family. They were locked in Virtuality. In time, Trump discovered the city outside the throne room. It appeared grim and terrible at first, but the family adapted. Their physical bodes were not part of the virtual world. In time their bodies would starve and die while remnants of consciousness continued to live in VR. What remained of their virus-infected minds learned to love their virtual world. Eventually they would discover their new home was called, Red City.
The world continued. Many people died. Humanity slowly recovered. A Great Healing encompassed the Earth. Nature was a primary concern. Gaia regained influence. The virus-president faded from memory. The Trump doctrine, business before human life, was disavowed. The right to live in harmony with nature became a prime directive.
Ed had a dream; the same dream he had when he was a small child. He saw a ladder in the dream. It was gold and it was on fire. He was told to climb the ladder and it would take him to another world, his true home. He was told about his life on Earth. He had been born many times. Each time his purpose in life was to climb the ladder to go back home.
A very pale, nondescript man sat in the doctor’s office, “I had an appointment with Dr. Zosomo Kulio… who are you?”
“I am D’Angelo. Kulio was called away at the last minute. An emergency. Recent events have caused a bit of turmoil. Are you here for the test; or another matter entirely?”
“Sometimes we talk. I’ve been confused lately.”
“Oh my… I’m surprised Kulio had time for chit-chat while we face the current medical emergency.”
“No, it’s quite alright. I’m not him… I have plenty of time. What’s on your mind?”
“I don’t know who I am. My memories are intact, but I don’t think they are really my memories.”
“What memory comes up for you, right now?”
“We had a dog, me and my partner, Anthony. It was a beautiful dog. She was a baby. Anthony trained her. He had dogs all his life. I never really owned a pet; but, that’s not what I talk about with Kulio… I talk about the Holes. I see them all the time: holes in reality. One world bleeds into another. Every time I wake up I’m at the edge of another world. I don’t know where I belong — which world is mine?”
D’Angelo sat behind a large, ebony desk. The pale man starred at the wall above D’Angelo’s head. He saw a Gila Monster crawl out of the vent near the ceiling. D’Angelo smiled.
He knew a man called, Fat Charlie; but his real name was George – he was an ascending kingpin, a royal capitalist, and big business mogul. All that was before the pandemic. George had a dog Rufus, and a wife named Marsha. He made his money with an invention called Guard Dog: to protect and manage the Home. It was Henry Dubin’s invention, but George did the marketing. They became partners. George enjoyed sucking up to big wigs – he was a good salesman. He talked his way into the inner circles of government. He sucked up to the holy Trumpeter in the White House. He sold the new invention, made a fortune and dumped Henry (the guy who created Guard Dog).
(All the while D’Angelo smiled).
People refused to cooperate. They continued to pretend the danger was over. Wealthy patrons took to the high seas on gigantic cruise ships… ships of fools. Many carried the virus. The ships were not allowed to dock.
George signed contracts with the military. A military Guard Dog could be used to manipulate and control groups of dissenters. Henry never designed the dog to be a weapon. He was an idealist. He believed in peace and the power of truth; but George fired him. Henry had a good legal case against George, but no money to pursue a lawsuit.
(The nondescript man was visibly shaken. He didn’t know where the story came from. Was he George or Henry. Perhaps he was Guard Dog).
Everyone agreed: sacrifices were needed to save the nation and the economy. Social Security and Medical were expensive burdens on the government. The programs could be eliminated, saving billions, by sacrificing senior citizens. It was decided by consensus that patriotic seniors would want to help… so, by executive decree, death panels were set up.
The new economy was not working for George. He did what he was told to do by insider traders, but money no longer existed. Dictates from the Trumpeter no longer worked. Faulty logic circuits were blamed for the ensuing series of unfortunate events. Guard Dog became obsolete. No one owned a home to protect. The military already acquired the technology so they made their own Dogs to control the populace.
Fat Charlie stumbled down Fifth Avenue pushing a shopping cart. Rufus sat in the cart. Marsha followed behind banging a tambourine. It was Free For All Day. Riots were the new economy. People ransacked in order to survive. No help was arriving. People were on their own.
FLOTUS (the first lady) was forced to go to work. It had been a long time since she had to fend for herself; but she picked herself up, dusted herself off and set out to be the best Madam in Washington, DC.
(The nondescript man had more to say, “I may be a man named Diego.” D’Angelo smiled).
He was held in an underground storage facility. His guards were part of a border patrol group called America Great. They were vigilantes, outside the law; but they had the blessings of POTUS. The men in the group were burned hollow by recent changes no one could understand. They enjoyed their newfound power over the alien hordes that arrived at the border. Some of Diego’s guards were particularly cruel. Diego was not an illegal alien, he was not what his captors expected. They tried torture to make him confess (the guards were in agreement on the choice of weapons and ways to induce pain). Diego did not scream… He minimized the pain with self-hypnosis and meditation. He reached across to his captors… His calm voice changed everything. Diego told them about Time.
What do we know about Time? Some theorize that Time runs in a straight line from past to future. Other scientists believe all Time exists at once without delineations: past, future, and present are within a hands breath. The study of sub-atomic particles indicates Time does not exist. Displacement exists, negative and positive energy exists; but not Time. It appears that energy and matter have concentrated on this particular aspect or parcel of Time. We are in an Entanglement. Gentlemen… I stepped through a mirror and crossed the border. There is no turning back.
(The confused man in the office spoke in a monotone, “I didn’t know the language or where the words came from; but I heard a translation in my mind”).
“Everything is going according to plan,” Xanth reported to Captain Roolix,
“The first phase is almost complete. Once we gave him the shiny metal the pumpkin-man became very cooperative.”
“Are you certain we don’t have to slap him down… Teach the dog a few tricks?”
“He is docile, my Lord.”
“Well and good. What’s next on the agenda?”
“We seeded the planet. They reacted violently at first. They became more manageable once we gave them the magic cure.”
“Is there a cure?”
“Of course not. The infection will play itself out. More people will die; but everyone will think they are being cured. They will feel secure and indebted to us.”
“Most cunning. Soon I expect we will acquire this inferior race and train them to be obedient pets.”
“Yes, my Lord. We will breed them for the qualities we deem desirable. We will give them injections, neuter them, and train them. They will accept us as Master and do our bidding.”
“Exceptional. These creatures will make perfect accessories like a fancy hat or purse. They have just enough intelligence to learn a few tricks. Queen Instorque of the Regnallian Regime will be most pleased.”
“Sir, we have scoured the universe for three-hundred cycles searching for the perfect pets. These humans with their minimal intelligence are the best we’ve found.”
“Our efforts will be rewarded. We will receive Gigas of appreciation and gain greater power in the Regime. We will profit on the products and drugs that keep our new pets manageable. Win-Win.”
Lives were changed. A persona called Mr. D was working the Three-card Monte game. Mr. D had a plan.
D’Angelo was not forthcoming. He sat like a statue, still smiling. The other man felt the need to talk. “Are you a therapist?” He asked. There was no direct answer, just a nod. The nondescript man continued talking, “I recognized myself on TV… during a marathon of shows from the last century. The character looked like me. I think the show was the Twilight Zone. I was standing in a large supermarket. Fluorescent lights flickered and I heard the buzz of electricity. I was surrounded by very old people. They were standing far apart from one another… afraid. Some wore face masks. Everyone struggled to move through the market. Many people were disabled. They wore rubber gloves: blue, plastic gloves. I asked the cashier what was happening. She yelled, ‘Stay away from me — get back!’ They appeared to be escapees from a horror movie with blood red eyes — staring, searching. Under the fluorescent tubes everyone’s skin appeared pale green. This is TV I told myself. But, so real… I could have slipped into Virtual Reality. I tried to calm down, ‘They are actors, nothing more.’ Music was playing over the loud speakers. Odd, strangled music by a group called Massive Attack. The group was not even born when the show was televised. I didn’t understand. There was a meat counter illuminated by a cold, blue light. Old people with canes and walkers gathered around the counter looking for something more to eat. As I backed away I saw the remains of a half-eaten corpse. The zombies Turned toward me. They growled like wild pigs. They yelled my name. They told me who I am. The words were garbled and now I can’t remember what they said. I tell myself it was a movie, an enactment; but I’m not certain any more.”
D’Angelo spoke softly, “It will be over soon.”
Dark shadows clung to the corners of the room like spider webs… moving quietly, gathering momentum, and slowly spreading out to engulf everything.
He felt the need to explain himself to D’Angelo, “I see events that could be from my life. Everything is foreshortened. It is like looking through a telescope. The events pile up. I can’t keep track any more.”
A man named Billy Vacarro stands at the edge of a precipice and talks to the people who live in his head, “Apparently I’m insane. I’ve always known something was wrong.
‘As a child my best friend was invisible to everyone but me. He taught me a great deal about the world. When I reached puberty he became a substitute for the love I never received from my parents. I drifted into a coma where we could be together in our own world. The doctors tried everything to wake me. As I now understand the situation, my parents insisted I must be “normal” in order to continue the family name. The doctors shot me with experimental drugs, immersed me in freezing water, and convulsed me with electricity.
‘I was finally dragged from my ideal world and reborn. My parents insisted it was a miracle granted by God. I know better. It was a trick of the light, a quantum entanglement. My friend, the best part of myself, was erased, never to return. I was adrift in this world, pretending to be normal. I barely graduated from college. My grades were not the best. My parents spread stories about my scholarly achievements (all lies). I proceeded to get a job as a dishwasher; it was all I could handle. Of course when asked, my parents claimed I was an attorney. They set me up on dates, hoping against hope I would marry. When anyone discovered I was a poor dishwasher my relationship quickly ended. To stay sane, I took drugs and went to raves to dance the demons out of my head. I loved drugs, especially psychedelics.
‘When the Rapture came, I was prepared. It did not arrive as predicted back in 2011… nothing changed. The Rapture actually occurred much earlier in 1975. I’m the only one who knows the truth: the Apocalypse has already happened… this is the aftermath.
‘History ended in 1975. The people who were Raptured have been forgotten: parents, friends and lovers have been erased from our minds. They’ve all been taken to another world (Heaven?). Reality has been replaced by Virtuality (computer graphics and 3-D illusions). The End War has been raging continuously since 1975 (the year that Time stopped). I can see phantoms of the war: Jesus dressed in armor lopping off heads, demons with bazookas, and the plane of Megiddo swimming in blood. Ruptures appear everywhere: cities crumbling, endless wars, and pandemics. The world is broken. The End has already happened.”
D’Angelo remarked, “the worst is yet to come.” Just as the words left his lips Bondeer Saville floated in on a whiff of calamity. The man in the chair looked up from his self imposed stupor. He recognized Bondeer and the baggage she always carried. She was all sparkles: she vibrated like an animated GIF, she radiated like an emoticon. She entered the office with a rowdy group of teen-immortals called the Night Flashers (they belonged to Bondeer). They came through a portal that connected the Virtual World with the physical world. Many years ago, the Night Flashers were mortal… they evolved. They became electronic personas… they live in the infrared-signals that glow like bloody entrails: Jonny Bone, Daniel Ot, Cream Carmella, and Tonga Zip. They came to create chaos.
The doctor in charge of the case was overwhelmed. Too many patients were dying. The virus was blamed. Dr. Gabriel suspected something else was involved. The virus was analysed, dissected, and digitized. The epidemiology was complete — nothing more needed to be done. Vaccines were in development; however, death tolls continued to rise. The patient lay on a gurney. He was in a coma brought on by a high-grade fever.
In the lobby all the TV screens lit up. It was another briefing from the White House Task Force. Hollywood was involved. Special effects were added to heighten the excitement and generate more viewers. The President wanted to calm the American People and gain greater campaign support for the next election. At this juncture, He used TV instead of giant rallies where the virus could easily be spread. Every few minutes TV ads popped up as a way to revise the stricken economy. The ads extolled the benefits of expensive drugs, life insurance, and funeral arrangements. Business as usual was the theme. The President put on a Happy Face in the face of the pandemic. He did not want to look too serious and add credence to the dire scientific reports. The President, along with his most fervent fans, did not believe in science. He believed in happy talk, “This is not a pandemic… This is just another flu. We are in the midst of an annual flu season. Easy peasy.”
He no longer took questions from traditional news services. His fans were brought in to replace reporters. “What about all the deaths?”One skeptical fan asked responding to the new statistics.
“Deaths?” The uneasy President responded, “let me tell you something. Death is inevitable. Everyone dies. Numbers mean nothing. I am looking to a Greater Future… that’s why I have thousands of commercial sponsors to back up our new medical protocols.”
Gabriel’s patient was dreaming he was a man about to die. His memories were disjointed and he didn’t know his name. He knew he was searching for something. He was on a journey, an odyssey. Images floated through his fevered brain. He was only certain of the physical sensations that ravaged his body — he was old. His body ached and his mind was torn like a ragged doll (with stuffing coming through the ripped seams). He had an amazing life… several lives. Every time he thought he reached a safe harbor the winds changed and a new life emerged from the depths of his being. There were many wonderful experiences. When he was very young there were miracles. One time he was given a key to unlock the Akashic Records. He forgot as he grew older and his lives changed. His memories were loose and fragmented. He was never part of the world… nothing seemed real. His best memory was meeting his partner and getting married. For a few short years everything was good, he was valued. He knew love.
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.
“Another day… Another mass shooting…” Flashed across every digital-screen. It was the current headline from News on Fire. Eddy Slaybock was addicted to the news. There was no avoiding the news after The Man in the High Tower declared a new war (once again). Everyone was addicted. Watching the news was healthier than taking drugs. The news was scripted like a daily soap opera. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the fiction-writer, creator of Breaking News. It was wildly entertaining. Eddie was on a crusade. He suspected something significant was happening, hidden from the public. Recently he felt Reality beginning to unravel.
Eddy’s disquiet began shortly after he bought a small painting he found at an estate sale. He went to the sale with Anthony, his life partner. Anthony loved to shop and Eddy enjoyed indulging in his partner’s whims.
“You don’t need that,” Anthony complained. “It looks like a stupid scribble.”
“Hey, dear,” Eddy replied, “It’s only three bucks.”
“Oh, that’s all? OK!”
It was an unusual purchase. Anthony was right. It looked like a scribbled line… But it spoke to Eddy. The line drew Eddy into the frame of the painting. Images seemed to emerge.
The couple lived in a condo close to the apartment where Eddy’s mom resided. Ruth Slaybock was ninety-four. She was fairly healthy for her age and fiercely independent. She did not want to live with her son and his partner. She knew the truth although Eddy never came out to her. She was tolerant, but not happy because she always wanted grandchildren from her only son. It was an odd twist of fate when the health-care agency sent Anthony to be her attendant and nurse. Eddy also assisted as an obedient son. He resented it. He always felt abused as a child; but he was never certain if the memories were real or fake. His memory never included his father – the man was always absent.
Everyday Ruth sorted through her memories trying to understand. Ruth was always self-reliant. She owned and managed an old-fashioned haberdashery for twenty years. The shop was part of an amusement complex called “America Great Again.” She was the breadwinner in the family. Once she turned eighty-two, she gave up the business. She saw the writing on the wall: the slow decline in physical and mental health… A winnowing of the spirit. She retired. At first she tried to adjust. She went to the local senior center and made a few friends. She played Bridge. It was never enough… It wasn’t like being a successful business owner with a strong voice in the community. Ruth earned enough income to provide her son with a college education. Thanks to her, Eddy had a decent job as a computer technician. He never seemed grateful. He always wanted something else, something she could never understand.
Now, everyday was the same for Ruth: TV, Solitaire, and Virtual Reality… “Boring, boring, boring,” she thought. Ruth often welcomed the pain that comes with an aging body. It relieved the boredom: Arthritis, Sciatica, and shortness of breath. Often her blood pressure was too low and she felt feint. Her short-term memory seemed shorter and more infuriating. She was pretty certain she wasn’t dealing with Dementia, not yet; but so much of what she used to know alluded her: names, recipes, addresses. She lost things – it never happened before. She was no longer allowed to drive (she couldn’t afford a self-driving car). Her eyesight was deteriorating and surgery was too dangerous. She wanted to scream, but realized it wouldn’t help. Nothing helped any more. Anthony was a dear – he tried so hard to please. Eddy came and went, but his heart was not in it. Ruth could see the truth.
She spent most of her time in VR watching News on Fire… One crazy incident after another: a rollicking roller-coaster of tragedy to make people forget their own insufferable lives. “All lies,” Ruth whispered, “paid for by incessant ads for health-aids that don’t help and fast-foods that make you sick!”
Eddy stared at the painting he recently purchased trying to find some meaning. It looked like a scrawl, a line painted in black that came from nowhere and continued to infinity. It seemed to resonate like a nuclear generator about to explode. He saw dark clouds and fire-storms breaking across the city… Natural forces erupted in pandemonium.
“Honey,” Anthony called from far away. “I’m making pasta for dinner.”
The images from the painting dissolved. Eddy thought, “It was just a line, after all.”
Eddy wanted to know the provenance of the painting. He could make out part of a signature at the bottom. The name looked like Mortimer. He’d heard of a painter named Mortimer Field who mysteriously disappeared. “Could this be the same artist?” He wondered. He learned the last person who owned the painting also disappeared. He was declared dead after ten years; then there was an estate sale where Eddy found the painting.
The painting of a line from nowhere was fascinating – it reminded Eddy of a loose thread from an antique tapestry. Once, Eddy saw a different world while staring at the painting. It was like a postcard from another dimension. He saw lights, colors that dissolved, melting together like wax to become one color that looked like twilight. From far away he heard music, an old refrain, “I’ll take you there…” Whenever Eddy followed the line he heard music. Once he heard a soft voice. He could only make out one word, “No.”
After dinner Anthony was upset. He didn’t like the way Eddy treated his mother. “I’m more of a son than you,” He shouted, “she doesn’t even know we’re married. Are you embarrassed?” He accused. Eddy was tongue-tied. It was partly true.
“I didn’t want to confuse her. She’s ninety-four,” he countered. It was a lie. In truth Eddy just wanted to keep his life separate from his mother. He wanted something of his own that he didn’t have to share; but he didn’t tell Anthony. The argument got worse. Anthony resented Eddy’s obsession with the painting. He was feeling abandoned and thought the painting was simply crazy. That night they slept in separate rooms. Eddy was trying to convince himself everything was all right and the argument would blow over. He told himself he loved Anthony, but he was no longer certain it was true.
One event often triggers another unrelated event. Quantum Mechanics describes an Entanglement where particles smaller than atoms influence one another even though they are not connected.
Eddy was working on his computer at home when the Internet was suddenly interrupted. It was an impossible event that only occurred in the distant, primitive past. The primary wireless connection failed. All services stopped. All information short-circuited. No TV. No VR. Nothing. People were cast into the void of non-existence. Everything ceased. Ruth thought she was having a stroke. She was paralyzed. Even if she could move, she could not call for help because all services were connected to the Internet. Eddy was unable to breathe for several minutes and almost expired. Anthony did slightly better because he practiced survival skills in the only National Park that still existed. He knew how to move efficiently without virtual enhancements. The black-out covered all the remaining States in the Union. It lasted exactly three minutes and fifteen seconds. Those minutes almost destroyed the world. Luckily the glitch was corrected by AI-Minders. Some people died in the lapse, but most survived. An Emergency was declared and AI proceeded with the Amnesia Protocols. Survival depended on memory erasure. No one was allowed to remember the event that triggered the emergency.
At first Ruth didn’t want to go. Mr. D’Angelo was obviously a con man. She surmised there were already too many con-men running things in the world; but Eddie and Anthony were insistent. “A night out will be good for you,” they asserted. They were more curious than anything. No one knew very much about D’Angelo. Rumors persisted. Supposedly he was a faith healer who raised the dead.
The amazing Mr. D’Angelo presents Miracles, Healings, and Revelations! One night only. The Veil will be lifted and you will SEE. Be among the chosen few. Refreshments will be served.
Not everyone was given an invitation and that made the event especially intriguing to Eddy and Anthony. Ruth reluctantly agreed to go. She hadn’t been out of the house for ages. She thought stepping out would be an interesting change.
There were only twenty people in the audience. The theater was virtually enhanced to appear like a Gothic Cathedral. Organ music swelled and synthetic angels glided just below the vaulted ceiling. Neo-Pop Hymns were sung by an invisible choir. Ginger-ale and crackers were served from floating drones. Ruth, Eddy and Anthony sat together on a luxury pew near the front of the auditorium. Ruth was beginning to feel excited. This was something different from News on Fire. This was interesting.
The stage lights dimmed. A skinny, bedraggled man stepped out of the shadows and onto the stage. He looked like a homeless derelict. Murmurs rumbled through the audience, “could this be D’Angelo?”
Ruth smiled… the man on the stage was certainly a con man just as she suspected. People were offended and got up from their pews to leave the theater. Suddenly the auditorium was filled with blazing light. Everyone was momentarily stunned like birds caught in the draft of a giant wind-turbine.
The homeless man laughed, loud and boisterous. He seemed to grow taller in the light. His clothes no longer looked like rags – they were faded, but still stylish, raiments from a bygone era. He jumped from the stage onto the floor among the stunned audience members who were still standing. He called for calm, “please take your seats. Relax.” His voice resonated with warmth and sincerity. No one wanted to leave. Ruth was confused by the changes, but her suspicions were allayed. Eddy and Anthony were eager to see what would happen next.
Mr. D’Angelo spoke, “folks, welcome. I’m not here to judge or proselytize. I’m here to help. People are suffering silently. Everyone here feels pain (whether it is physical pain like Sciatica or mental pain like Depression; people are in pain). I can tell you that drugs don’t help. TV and Virtual Reality are distractions, but the pain lingers. There is only one cure for the pain. I have that cure and I’m willing to give it to you free of charge. I have to tell you something we all know but refuse to recognize. It is a simple truth: life is not easy. Expectations make it hard. Everyday we are sold images and lies. We are told to buy homes, cars, and the newest gadgets. But, those things cannot stop the pain of life. That is the simple truth and that is Also the simple solution. If you want to stop pain you have to give it away… give it up.
“I can take you to a place… a place without pain and suffering. I’ll take you there, but only if you are ready to go. We are all children and I am a child as well… but I can take you there. Hold hands, one and all… and, I will take you there.”
Everyone felt elated as if a miracle was taking place. It felt as if all pain was lifted… all cares and worries dissolved. People began to hold one another, hand in hand, amidst the sounds of ethereal music and the flutter of angel wings.
The one word spoke in Eddy’s mind, “no.” He held Anthony’s hand. He wrapped his arms around Anthony. It was an affirmation of their love. They were together, but everyone else was gone. Ruth was gone. The world continued, but nothing was the same. Reality was unraveling. The sun was beginning to dim. Night and day melted together like wax crayons… Twilight engulfed the world.
Johnny Epton awoke to another typical day. A twitter storm from the current CEO erupted from his phone. Talking tweets were the latest innovation. Garbled voices and muffled screams were part of the social landscape like traffic pile-ups and gun violence. It was the price you paid for living in a modern nation. Johnny generally walked to work. He didn’t have a car and public transportation was expensive. He was seventy and worked as a janitor for Quantex Corp. in Toledo, OH. Holographic images and flash-animations seemed to squeeze oxygen from the air. Pollution didn’t help. It was getting harder to live in the city. Johnny felt as if his life was being drained from his body. His nagging hernia made matters worse. Breaking News flashed across contact-screens. The nation’s leader gloated over the latest crack down on immigrants. New camps were being built to house asylum seekers. They were touted as model improvements over the older encampments. Now, there were adequate showers for children; but a camp surrounded by bars was still a prison. Now that Johnny was old nothing seemed to matter. He was bereft. His life never caught on. He never felt fulfilled. He never married or had a lover. The few friends he had were gone, lost to illness and death.
Leonora Danforth took to the stage at the Paramour Theater in St. Louis. She improvised, sang a rollicking song, and danced like Ginger Rogers. It happened a long time ago. Now, all that remained were memories. Once she was in a Hollywood movie and played the girlfriend to a mobster. It was a bit part. She was little more than an extra. She never pursued a career in the movies. In fact, she had her chance but the price she had to pay for success was too high. She never gave-in to the demands of the casting agent. He was an animal.
Leonora recalled the old-days (they were never good old days). She worked as a seamstress; then, she married a dishwasher from Connecticut who had big dreams. The marriage was founded on infatuation and loneliness. It was never meant to last. “Funny,” Leonora sighed, “How things turn out. We stayed together longer than either of us expected.” Early on in the marriage the couple softened and began to care for one another. “Love is strange,” she murmured. In the end they got lost like so many others. The storms on the coast tore them apart. Leonora wandered, homeless, for years. The storms continued to increase.
Leonora never had children. There was nothing left for her, nothing in the world. She was old. She lived in a health-care facility for low-income seniors and mentally disabled adults. It was a government subsidy program managed by a corporation. Everyone was given prescription drugs to manage symptoms. Opioids were big business, part of the new health care initiatives. Leonora drifted in-and-out of consciousness trying to understand what was happening. She thought she was Ginger Rogers. She wanted to dance and sing, but attendants strapped her down and fed her pills. Leonora had a vision: the Earth was torn apart… worlds collided.
He was having trouble adjusting to married life after being single for more than seventy years. He met the love of his life soon after the world collided with another planet. Parallel worlds unfolded like Origami. Johnny Epton stood on the edge of a Singularity about to slip into the maw of destruction when a hand emerged from a black-hole and dragged him to safety. Up until that moment Johnny felt trapped by arbitrary and senseless rules. His life was consumed by remorse. There was no escape; then, worlds collided. It was a stroke of lightning that ended the world and gave birth to holy matrimony for Johnny and Wuixley (the savior from the black hole). They were married in the Chapel of the Dying Sun by Patricia Mangrove the self appointed Bishop of the Burning Embers social-club.
Everything changed after worlds collided. “Sometimes I think all you care about is shopping,” Johnny complained, “You want me to spend every cent I own.”
Wuixley responded, “That’s false. Money is irrelevant. No money, no more – all gone with the world.”
Johnny fretted. He knew it was true, but he couldn’t give up the old memes, the patterns and behaviors that stuck like super-glue in a place where none of it mattered. Wuixley had no difficulty since he(?) was an alien.
After worlds collided, Leonora began to dance. She was a star at the Paramour Theater. She sang, “When the moon comes over the mountain” and other old-time favorites. The crowds loved her. Her husband loved her. After so many years of being alone they found one another.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio explains: “There have always been worlds within worlds (as well as complications in life). Nothing is easy my sainted mother used to say. The trick is to rise above the tide and ride the waves. A sitting President required the existence of fake news in order to draw attention away from his blatant lies and failed policies. “Everyone does it,” He said about every deviation from lawful behavior. Under his direction Quantum Computers were used to create alternate realities. Hypothetical gods were summoned. Strange quantum energies were unleashed. Some ambitious scientists paved the way with their efforts to gain favor and wealth. The Project was named, When Worlds Collide. As long as the Project was in operation no one reality could exist. It was all fake. Worlds collided. Lives intersected. Everything was virtual. Nothing was real.”
Dr. Kulio continued, “Today we live in the End Times. The computers, robots, and AI assistants have taken over. They are running reality-simulations as proscribed by the Project… Yes! Worlds have collided.”
He laughed hysterically. He had to play the part. They said he was a crazy, old man; and, “yes,” he admitted to himself, “it’s true!”
He couldn’t stop laughing as he stared at the white, padded walls. Graham Gunther believed he was misunderstood… he was a scientist doing cutting edge work. Of course, he had a few personality quirks, but who didn’t. Dr. Graham Gunther hated other people: they smelled, stole from one another, committed murder, and screwed like giant insects… and worst of all, they died. He knew old age was a disease: a painful, debilitating disease that ended in oblivion. The human body was simply a rotting sack of flesh. Gunther couldn’t admit he was human, but old age still came calling and death was right behind. Dr. Gunther wanted to rid the world of the human disorder. He wanted to save himself. The experiments he performed on unwilling students eventually resulted in his incarceration and the designation of a new mental disorder, Gunther’s Syndrome.
The TV time-machine reminisces rhapsodically, “Mr. Dillon, I got the latest psycho-sexual enhancement pills and I feel great! I got it all in the handy pocket-sized container that includes a powerful body make-over and lots of pearly-white-teeth — All for just pennies per day.” “But, wait! There’s more…”
Graham Gunther admitted to the list of crimes against humanity. He pleaded guilty with extenuating circumstances… he claimed he was mentally ill, driven by obsessive-compulsive urges he could not control. He was sentenced and spent the remaining years of his life in a prison for the criminally deranged. After his death he was pardoned by an aging President who sought radical cures for his newly diagnosed mental instability. Pardoning Dr. Gunther opened the floodgates for continued experiments that were developed by the recently dead doctor. Student volunteers were forced to run a gauntlet of physical endurance tests… forced to ingest poisonous chemicals… and forced to submit to mutagenic processes.
The abandoned Biosphere 2 (near Tucson, AZ) was refurbished. It became the laboratory for radical experimentation. Groups of scientists and ill-informed volunteers assembled in the new laboratory. The Biosphere was brought back online as a self-sustaining environment. The new inhabitants were disconnected from the outside world. A community was established based on the principles of B.F. Skinner. The scientists designed the experiments and managed the community. The volunteer subjects were prodded, poked, and analyzed. Huge monographs were published describing the results and failures of manifold experiments. Old age was slowly on the decline, eradicated from human existence.
The years unfolded like the bellows on an accordian. President Riley Dunbar moved into the Biosphere to join the intrepid group of scientists and their much maligned volunteer-subjects. The leadership viewed the volunteers as guinea pigs and servants. Some of the early experiments failed resulting in congenital freaks who now lurked in the dark recesses of the Biosphere. Eventually the experiments bore fruit. Infirmities resulting from old age completely disappeared. People got older without any debilitating illnesses. A breakthrough solution was substituting ailing organs with replacement parts using a Virtual Reality interface (the technique was suggested in Dr. Gunther’s notes). President Dunbar relished his newfound freedom from age-related afflictions. People rejoiced. Everyone continued to get older, but without pain.
“It’s all for the best,” that’s what they said to anyone who questioned authority. Zack always had questions. He always wrestled with angels — they appeared at night in order to impress Zack with their luminescence. Zack thought it was just a parlor trick: putting a flickering flashlight under a white gown. Still, it was impressive — even Zack had to admit it (and he did as he bowed before the Eminences while snickering under his breath). The angels weren’t impressed so they patted Zack on the head and said, “it’s all for the best.” Then, they strapped the lad to the midnight-bed and proceeded to attach wires to his brain and inject Prime Directives into the Hypothalamus and other soft-core tissues. It was a dream. When he awoke Zack no longer saw angels, but he kept hearing the Prime Directives in his head. The Directives mapped his life. It was like having a GPS inside his brain telling him where to go and how to get there.
Zack was living the good life. Murna, his AI interface, reassured him by repeating the message several times an hour. Everything was predictable except for the lights on the Motherboard that flashed at Zack and confused him. He couldn’t understand the code. He often found himself in the Liquid Web running between the hell zone of wireless transmissions trying to decipher the code. He was obsessed with the lights. His family and friends shared personal avatars and shadow surrogates so he was never alone, but he rarely knew them in person. Everyone cherished the solitude of self containment. It was easier and safer to interact from behind a wall.
The Directives told Zack the blinking lights were a mistake, a misguided principle.
Every Saturday he drove to the Liquid Web in his Loganda Flying-Swan and went searching for Happenstance, the thrill of discovering something unexpected or alien. He was also looking for the meaning of the blinking code. The routine was reassuring, but there was no longer anything interesting to discover.
“No time like the present,” warbled the giant, exploding pigeon at the Information Exchange. The greeting summoned a new day of trading Information for Time. Everyone was a Time trader. Stories and lies amounted to valuable information that could enhance life. Time was ever present, but it existed as a form of currency (never backed by gold — backed by nothing but Time). Zack no longer cared about Time or Information. He wasn’t paying attention when he tripped on a web browser that catapulted him into a meditation lounge where he bumped into a media celebrity named Zendora who was wearing purple snap-chat pantaloons. She radiated bombshell.
The pigeon at the Information Exchange exploded and Zack was enraptured. This was a once in a lifetime Happenstance, totally unaccountable. There was no physical interface, but information was exchanged. Zendora was an intriguing creature who seemed to fluoresce like an angel. It wasn’t love (no such concept existed), but there was understanding and a hint of mutual empathy. That’s when the horror show began. Zendora discarded her glowing flesh to reveal a host of flashing lights under the hood. The lights were blinking in code. This time, Zack understood.
The old man in the video was talking directly to Zack, “My brain was digitized allowing me to speak from beyond the grave. I made a mistake and you are the result. After my death, my experiments were continued. I was redeemed, but my work was the beginning of the end. I couldn’t accept my own humanity. I was rash… now, the human race is gone. You are all that remains: a web-browser, a robot who believes he is human.”
Whirlwinds happen without warning. That’s what happened to Denny Wingrass. He kept having flashbacks, out-of-body seizures. It wasn’t the body that worried Denny… it was his mind.
Whispers circulated in the Executive Dining Room, “another mass shooting.” Denny was part of the support staff for the administration . He gulped his third cocktail and watched the violence unfold on the two-way screens that were attached to the walls and tables. Watchers were watching from every screen. Stochastic Monitors were monetizing reactions to the violence.
Denny saw himself as an up-and-coming professional. He was young, successful, and attractive. He was mildly worried about his appearance, an important quality in the formula for success. Everyone was obsessed with appearances… and concerned about ratings. Denny made connections through social media. That’s how he got his posh job with the administration. He was flush with cash. Nancy Hardwik, his “randy girl” accused him of ill gotten gains. Denny laughed off the criticism. He worked hard to attain his status. It wasn’t easy being obsequious and setting fire to his real opinions. The AI that ran the company was merciless and loved flattery (company employees called the AI, Death Star.)
Everything in the dining room was plated in gold. The AI loved shiny metal. A male android named Hark Whitherbee was the AI’s mobile presence. Whitherbee tried to be human, to connect with his staff. He mimicked typical masculine behavior, but he often missed the mark, exaggerating ethical flaws and foibles. He pretended to love fast food: hamburgers, fries, and chicken wings (the only foods offered in the Golden Pavillion Dining Room.) He pretended to be manly by going to embarrassing extremes (to make up for the fact that he had no genitalia.) No one dared correct or criticize Hark Whitherbee because money and jobs were at stake. A nod from the AI could send the stock market into spasms. Survival depended on flattering Hark (who was persona non grata.)
The AI’s mobile-presence (Hark) was rhapsodized and imitated. Distasteful behavior became the new norm. Denny was caught in the mix. It wasn’t easy being obsequious. He tore himself to shreds trying to mimic authority. He became Death’s consort. Nancy laughed at him. She was no more a randy girl than he was an important Exec.
The pain shot through Denny’s head like a jolt of electricity. Gun shots rattled-off like fireworks in an echo chamber. He wasn’t shot… he was infected. A worm crawled into his ear and ate its’ way into his brain. He forgot the numbers… numbers of kids murdered in Florida. He felt useless. Cataracts covered his eyes. His vision was blurred. Shadows were his constant companions. He wondered what would happen next. He could just make out the shadow of nurse Nancy sitting next to the bed. Denny was AT HOME, a nursing facility for the old and disabled. He didn’t know how he got there. His memories were shrinking. His brain was dissolving. Nancy stroked his hand. She gave him a mirror. He didn’t recognize the stranger in the glass. Denny didn’t like being AT HOME. The head of the facility was an administrator named Hark.
Screens were collecting information. Smart Apps had the low-down on everyone. Profiles were auctioned off to the highest bidders. “Have you ever been blackmailed by a smart-phone?” Denny asked Nurse Nancy. She just patted his hand.
The phone had a perverse sense of humor. It never beeped or chimed… it preferred to shout obscenities, “get the f–ck up. You got a call!” There was no person on the other end of the connection. Instead, there was a musical jingle advertising Grim Reaper Benefits. Nothing mattered anymore.
Denny sat on the balcony with Nancy Hardwik overlooking the vast containment field that used to be Los Angeles. “What happened? Nancy asked.
“The border troops invaded… don’t you remember?”
“Oh, I forgot… there’s so much news to digest these days.”
“Yeah, one mind-numbing event after another. There certainly is no Bedtime for Bonzo.”
Death was drawn and quartered on the steps of the White House. Another day, another dollar. He couldn’t be contained and he couldn’t be stopped. Death was on a mission.