The disintegrating-man stopped to have a Mocha Java before confronting the mortifying shame contained in every moment. Sebastian Morta was a scientist who strayed from the righteous path: he used government money to advance his own agenda rather than comply with the designated military project. Sebastian still used the lab at the top of the White House Corporate Tower. He had to be discreet. He was wanted by military police due to his transgression, but he was marginally protected by a shift in Time… he could go anywhere and phase in-and-out of perceived reality. Morta was one of a growing cadre of rebels investigating the mechanisms controlling time and life itself.
“Life is complicated. Time becomes an adversary, a cleaver ready to chop heads.”
Martina Vingard suffered from osteoarthritis. Her fingers curled, stunted by pain. Her bones ached. Sometimes she couldn’t remember people she’d known all her life. Names alluded her like cockroaches in a kitchen at night when the light is turned on. She was emaciated, reduced to flaps of cellulite. The years pushed down on her, causing her body to shrink. She often gasped in an effort to find words she could no longer comprehend. Once Martina worked as a librarian. Words and books were her life. No longer… Time stole her identity.
“Machines pass by my window. I am in prison; cut off from the Universal Wi-fi connection. My smart phone is dead. The machines are contractors and enforcers of the new world order. I was guilty of harboring criminals, men like Sebastian Morta and women like Martina Vingrad – others to numerous to mention: free thinkers and inventors seeking answers to the riddle of mortality. Without my universal connection I no longer have a presence in the world. My avatar is a blank box crossed with an X.”
Sebastian Morta was obsessed with Time. He didn’t care about politics or military projects. He put on a mask to wear in public, the face of cooperative complicity. His mask appealed to government authorities who were aware of Morta’s giant brain and scientific credentials. The Military Congress was convinced Morta could deliver bigger and more destructive weapons. Tax dollars were used as a lure to gain the scientist’s cooperation, but Morta had a better use for money than designing weapons. He wanted to build a Time Machine.
“Perhaps Sebastian was confused or simply distracted not to realize that controlling Time is the greatest, most destructive weapon ever created.”
Morta wanted to escape from the stormy world of trumpist america. He configured the formula for time-dilation that led to warp-field technology. He wanted to escape the ever encroaching approach of Death. Sebastian was given a state-of-the-art laboratory at the top of the White House Tower. He was watched by a man named Prince who had Black-Water credentials in surveillance.
No one knew how the world was uploaded from one virtual reality to another, and another. Life spent in VR was like stumbling through a hall of mirrors at a carnival. The Internet of Everything became the World Without End. Dissenters were easily absorbed into the virtual miasma. Hippies became corporate lawyers clinging to vestiges of their idealism by wearing Birkenstock sandals. There was no authentic opposition to virtual capitalism and corporate control.
Morta cracked the Time Barrier. It shattered like a mirror — the splinters of glass were fractured worlds frozen in the black hole of space. Sebastian discovered a nodule in the human brain that resonated with waves of Time. He used electromagnetism to activate the nodule, turning Time on-and-off like a switch, he became invisible, phasing in-and-out; and then he disintegrated. Morta became a ghost, a fractal in Time.
Captain Hijinks was svelte, fashion model thin coupled with devil-may-care. He was a high, rosy boy with sweet ambitions and a right-ruby whipster named Monica Dill. They cast a reckoning on everything and the people in the trap were dumbfounded. The Superluminal Patrol were Wave-Riders led by Hijinks and Monica Dill, trespassing across borders of mental awareness and instability, changing hearts and minds.
Sebastian Morta regarded the future world with dismay and confusion. It was all uploaded on a chip the size of a fingernail, worlds within worlds were recreated in virtual reality. The residents of these worlds were all ghosts, fractals in Time.
Amarosa was the springboard leading to strange and peculiar events. She opened a secret door that few people even knew existed. A great wind rushed through the open door on the wings of sulfur and corruption. Jeremy Hidelwink was caught in the torrent. He had no interest in politics or government. He was an innocent bystander. Jeremy’s brush with the wind changed everything. He gained a super-power, “critical perception.” His power grew and Jeremy became the vortex at the center… exposing political corruption and scandal. He became the most convincing witness for the prosecution. His sojourn in Russia made his testimony air-tight. He had the evidence revealing what really happened in that Moscow hotel room.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” the wind whispered in Jeremy’s ear encouraging him to step forward with the proof.
An old friend sat on the other side of the secret door. He held playing-cards in his bony left hand and a scythe in his right hand. A Cheroot dangled from his lipless mouth. Each card in his hand represented a character in the drama. The First Family were caught between his thumb and forefinger gasping for air. Amarosa dangled precariously from a small finger-bone. Jeremy was in a prime location at the center of the hand of cards. With a slight twitch of bone, Jeremy was suddenly gone as if he never existed and new cards came into play. Mr. Death chuckled at the turn of events.
Death wondered what was real and what was fake. He perceived himself to be a philosopher, therefore he questioned everything. He wondered why he existed… he was not certain he was even real. He had to constantly test reality. He had to make people die in order to substantiate his own existence. Mr. Death often partnered with misfortune, disease, and corruption. He particularly enjoyed the current climate, the turn of events in the White House. The lies gave Death confidence. He would enjoy deflating the tiny humans who claimed to have power. They were as insignificant as bloated balloons. One prick could erase them from the face of the planet.
Sierra Quantro was a time-traveler who tried to discover the meaning of life. Sierra was a multiple, several personalities existed in his head. He-or-She was part of a Collective Dream, a digitally composed aria enacted in Hyper-Reality.
Sierra crossed the line and entered the Trumpet Cafe in Devastation Alley where he met other searchers from the Collective Dream. The neon night was visible through the glass ceiling. Bolts of lightning lit the interior of the cafe.
Perhaps it was in another dimension where they found a body on the moon. We don’t know the particulars. The discovery made no sense until the body was recovered and analyzed. It was preserved, frozen, and inert. The body was an outlier, a true anomaly. Rumors went viral. The President had a science advisor who coordinated a special X-group to explore the possibilities of extreme life extension. The newly appointed Head-of-Science was publicly viewed as atavistic: anti global-warming, anti birth control, and anti science… this was part of a government campaign to deceive the public with fake news. In fact, the President secretly supported big science projects: Black Projects to develop laser weapons, super soldiers, and life extension. The world-leader was concerned with his legacy and his mortality. He wanted to live forever. The scientists involved in the President’s projects were not very skilled. Several had a limited education, receiving degrees from Trump University. The experimental projects all failed. The corpse on the moon had nothing to do with the President’s quest for immortality — that was just fake news. No one knew anything for certain concerning the corpse. It could have been human, alien, or a mutant cyborg.
“You are working with hypotheticals and none of this is real,” Sierra Quantro blurted in frustration. A major disturbance rippled through the Collective Dream. They had just experienced a visitation from a spirit who called himself Jesus. It was Christmas eve, but no one expected a miracle. The face of Jesus went viral. Everyone was mesmerized. Coincidentally, many unidentified flying objects were seen everywhere across the world… and governments started releasing reports about UFOs that were once hidden from the public.
The soap factory down the block was developing a cosmetic scrub made from skin retrieved from corpses. People were rounded up and put to work on resident farms till they died from exertion and lack of food. Some ne’er do wells were put in ovens and gassed. Bodies were recycled. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” was the government motto used to circumvent the law. The soap factory was just one new enterprise that relied on human recycling. Critics agreed it was good for the economy.
Sierra Quantro became melancholy. He offered a suggestion, “couldn’t there be an alternative scenario as a counterpoint? Perhaps two teenage boys meet at the playground and inexplicably fall in love. How’s that for melioration? Love could be an anodyne to political upheaval and destabilization.”
Everyone had to wear an Eye-Cam, grafted on to the skin of the forehead. It was the law, newly authorized by the Attorney-General in order to monetize moral turpitude (another way to boost the economy). Even the President had a Cam, but all eyes in the White House were discreetly blocked. Eye-Cams were promoted as fashion accessories. Citizens became Keepers of right-behavior. The stock market boomed. Right-behavior was good for society and good for business. Women were no longer allowed to complain. Men were, once again, in charge… led by the Commander-in-Chief who now ruled the nation like a personal harem. Women were recruited from every town to service the White House.
Bondeer Saville entered the Dream Collective. She was followed by Jeremy Hidelwink who was disincorporated. Bondeer spent her life surfing the waves of digital information, adding and subtracting megabytes in order to create a perfect world; but now she detected a disturbance in the force. Hidelwink was no longer corporeal, but he had knowledge of alternate Dimensions that might ameliorate errors in the Hyper-verse.
Bondeer Saville leered at Sierra Quantro, “I know a thing or two about boys in the schoolyard. Believe me, they are little piggies just like our current White House Pig.” She continued, “I invented Red City. I’m no shrinking violet. I know how to fight.”
Mr. Death chuckled, amused by the cross-talk (amused by the chivalry and cowardice). He believed in Democracy: everyone, rich or poor, died.
Government appointees (Watchers) were stunned when the corpse from the Moon awoke.
Thousands of UFOs emerged, unseen, above the Earth. The alien occupants came from unimaginable distances in order to observe the unfolding saga. There was no intention to interfere; but the events on Earth provoked an unexpected response, laughter. The whole world quivered, shook, and broke apart by the thunderous roar of uncontrollable laughter.
Volvina Complex was a wet dream. She sipped Green Hyacinth and nibbled gubber-fish with her companion, Professor Pangsong. The two were conjoined and very happy. The sex-wars were over, global warming evaporated, and the destruction caused by humans was effectively fumigated. Food was no longer necessary for survival, but it was still delightful to nibble when communing with friends. Musica LaMode was building a sub-routine of background dreams. Ecstasy floated through the cascading balconies of the Crystal Pagoda where Volvina and Pangsong reminisced. They were lovers. They were Androids. They lived in a virtual world, a perfect world where humans no longer existed.
Professor Seigfried Pangsong lectured a class of neophytes. He remembered what it was like in the human world before he became an Android. His lectures were popular and infamous. He could tell the newly formed neophytes what it was like to be mortal and to live under the onus of death. No one died anymore. As part of his lecture he introduced Volvina Complex and they had sex at the lectern. Human sex was driven by compulsion and obsession. A man adopted the persona of an animal, priding himself on violent domination. For an Android, “play” was more important than penetration. “Survival of the Species” no longer mattered — there was no longer a Species. Professor Pangsong continued his/her lecture by explaining the nature of existence.
“Now, we live in a virtual world,” he exclaimed, “but before this world another place existed and it continues to exist. Everything in time exists as a hologram. The surface of our lives is a very small aspect of the hologram. There are many levels of depth. The life we experience is like a low resolution jpeg. The deeper we go, the higher the resolution.”
At the close of the second world war a man identified himself as Renfield, Dracula’s slave. He was incarcerated and sent to a mental hospital. Renfield believed he was imprisoned in Bedlam. He spent his days-and-nights catching and eating insects that crawled out from the walls in his cell. Renfield constantly mumbled. His words revealed a vision of the future. Renfield was a true prophet.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio always felt he was in the wrong place. He fought against the guiding principles that defined insanity as incurable. He felt compassion for his patients at the hospital. He tried to help Renfield. Sometimes during their obtuse interactions Kulio caught a whiff of the future.
“No one listened when I said there are too many voices in my head. There are too many layers, levels of hell; plateaus of heaven. I have a lover now, but that only adds to the complexity of the situation. Questions bubble to the surface. Answers flicker and fade like ancient Polaroid photos.”
Renfield lay on a dirty mattress. Dracula, his master, kept changing like a silent film revealing different characters. Now, Dracula dripping with blood… now, Hitler goose-stepping through the meat-rack of history. Renfield, drifting and dreaming, steps from one abattoir to another. He delights in a sexual throw-down as commanded by Dracula. He forces himself on a young inmate. The intensity of the rape ignites his prophetic proclivity — his third eye burning he sees the future: the world engulfed in flames. The fires rain down on Renfield. He hears messages from a satellite known as “Black Knight” — it is thirteen thousand years old, circling the planet, waiting for the command to cleanse the Earth.
“California is burning. Jerusalem is burning. I am helpless in the face of the oncoming tsunami. The face of old age haunts me. I can feel my life draining away like blood from a severed vein.”
Sam Bolt couldn’t take it anymore. He was fed up. He wasn’t alone. Lots of men felt like him — he saw it on the internet. Men were screwed. White men were screwed. There was a time he could do whatever he wanted. Now, other people were getting in his way. They were taking what rightfully belonged to him. Sam’s only hope was the new deal-maker President. Sam thought a tough guy in power might make things easier but if nothing improved he always had his gun.
Renfield was forced to do his master’s bidding.
Talking heads dominated the Virtual Worlds. Conflicts fumed. Headless horsemen roamed the land. There was talk of collusion. The public was subdued and ensnared by fake-news.
“Mr. Gorbachev take down this wall,” jumped off the screen as people scrambled to steal a piece of history.
“Follow the money,” rumbled across the internet shaking the foundations of government.
“He is President Pussy Grabber,” was whispered in the backrooms of Congress.
Professor Pangsong was suddenly melancholy as he looked out at the sea of eager neophytes. He was filled with remorse. Something was missing. He sensed a remnant of quality that no longer existed: the essence of humanity. The hologram of existence had calcified. It was no longer possible to feel the pain and joy of being mortal — it was no longer possible to die.
Manfred Bancourt wrote short stories that got him in trouble. He was a manic typist on an old, IBM Selectric, pre-digital relic. Manfred produced ream after ream of young-adult science fiction, but his stories took a more opinionated twist with the election of the new president. He began to write articles critical of the new regime. They were uploaded to the internet and widely circulated, often going viral.
Elisa Trinity helped Manfred. She was a computer wiz, multi-cultural Transsexual who claimed to be from the planet Saturn. Elisa had a vivid imagination. She also had some rock solid, formidable computer skills. Elisa wanted to draw attention to Manfred’s stories and articles. She didn’t mean to get him in trouble.
Elisa used trolls and bots. She liked to play tricks. She started the “Harem” story that nearly brought down the government. She rationalized, “one dirty trick deserves another… they started it with Pizza-gate.” Elisa finished it with Harem-gate, Frump’s secret depository of women stashed in the basement of the White House. It went viral and caused great consternation in the halls of Congress. The unanticipated result was higher favorable ratings for President Frump, especially among men. Elisa was heart broken and that’s when she decided to promote Manfred’s articles that were both honest and damaging to the Frump Administration.
Tweets and articles, both true and false, led to a series of damaging rumors mostly aimed at Trump and his appointed allies: “Trump is an illegal alien from Mars,” “the president is the Manchurian Candidate,” “Trump is the head of an illegal cartel.” The flurry exploded into derisive combat. Supporters of the administration hit hard with their own liturgy of insults and rumors. Everyone blamed Manfred Bancourt. His articles were the fuel that ignited Civil Disobedience and the Season of Political Discontent.
“The weather isn’t helping,” Orlow Fabricatum observed as he talked with Elisa Trinity.
“Natural disasters are worse than ever,” Elisa replied, “it’s draconian. It’s apocalyptic. Global warming has been dismissed as fake news.”
“Yes,” Orlow sagely responded, “and biblical prophesy, god’s will, is blamed for the devastation.”
The island of Puerto Rico continued to sink into the ocean.
Parts of Houston were still under water.
Axel Ramirez was no longer cognizant. He was caught in the flood of circumstances. He continued to follow the suggestions of Harvey, his alcoholic beverage. He refused to forsake Harvey and that put Axel in a precarious situation as he sank beneath the waves.
Another rumor became viral based on an article by Bancourt… “Trump signed a contract with the devil.”
Twitter exploded, “Trump is in league with Lucifer.” “Trumpism is a satanic cult that rules the world.”
The president was extremely upset. His early morning twitters were no longer having an effect against the avalanche of counter-intelligence and breaking-news (no one could tell fake from real).
Something had to be done. It was concluded that Manfred Bancourt was the culprit who began the scurrilous landslide of articles that were damaging to the president. A presidential decree was signed releasing the Hounds-of-Hell to hunt down and terminate Manfred.
Elisa Trinity became increasingly distraught. She blamed herself for Manfred’s predicament. She consulted doctor Zosimo Kulio, eminent mentalist. He was sympathetic to the quest for truth. His advice was cryptic, “look no further than what your eyes can see. Follow the path like the flow of water in a stream.”
Manfred became more upset everyday. He was bothered by ordinary experiences. He heard voices and constant yelling. Advertising attacked him on the street and in his home. The news was incessant. The country was choking in smog. He listened to a report on the radio about the chicken of tomorrow. It was from the past about using antibiotics to make bigger chickens. Chickens grew to enormous size.
Bancourt never made money from the books he published. He did better as a journalist. He’d been upset by the cruel rhetoric and lack of compassion spewing from the White House. He became compelled to counter the lies. His friend’s life was threatened… Elisa Trinity was a Transsexual. The current administration was cracking down on LGBT People and every other minority.
Manfred’s days were numbered. The Hounds of Hell were targeting his soul. Trinity tried to protect him, but she was easily put down and labeled a wanton whore. Hannity and others verbally crushed the queers who refused to bow down and humble themselves. Independent women were another target. Free speech was becoming Alt Speech.
Manfred stood alone against the ferocious beasts. Dr. Zosimo retreated into his cavern of silence.
Mr. Death walked into the room smoking a cheroot. Death was always smiling. In any other circumstance Mr. Death could have been a good natured friend, a drinking buddy, or someone who listens as you unload your problems. Unfortunately, Mr. Death never exposed that side of himself. He was a workaholic who dispatched his assignments quickly and efficiently without chit-chat or comradery. Still, Mr. Death was deeply aware that something was missing, some part of Death was suffering from abject neglect. He hid all this from himself; but a spark ignited when Death looked into Manfred’s eyes. Mr. Death saw Manfred Bancourt’s life, every moment… and understanding began to dawn. Mr. Death found a friend.
Instead of eliminating Manfred from the world of the living, Death decided to change the rules. He would not take Manfred to his grave; instead he would hide him.
Manfred Bancourt was taken to the Land of the Dying Sun where he would continue to write articles and distribute them… He would continue to expose the truth.
I was cut off at the knees, ruptured… unable to resolve a problem that could mean life or death. A terrible wind was rising, threatening to engulf the world.
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 I am… or where I am.
What really happened in that Moscow hotel room?
Gordon Levy was an astronaut, happy and successful. He loved his family. His son, Timothy, wanted to be just like him. They played ball in the yard while Margie, his wife, watched with pride. Gordon was good at his job and he was rewarded with a special mission: to be the first astronaut to visit a habitable planet in another galaxy.
Moreau Manta reaches out to stroke the head of Piscador, his pet Peacock. The bird bites Manta’s hand. Blood oozes from the wound. It happens every time, but the ritual must be enacted. Manta is obsessed with order and repetition. He insists the bird will come around. At the same time, he relishes the pain as it represents the bound between him and Piscador.
He could never return from the dream.
Moreau is elderly. It has become more difficult to look at himself in the mirror. He is a gross character of the man he used to be, once trim and well-proportioned, now pushed and pulled out of shape by gravity. The years take a toll even on the rich and powerful. There is no escaping death.
Everything about the mission was top secret. Even Gordon was not privy to the exact technology that made the voyage possible. The mission was only supposed to last a year, an impossible objective since no one could go faster than the speed of light and the destination was hundreds of light-years away.
I’ve joined the legions of the dead in the land of the dying sun. I hang my head in shame for what I have done. I stood by while the world was dismantled. The machines came to my town and tore it apart.
Gordon was ecstatic to be chosen, but it meant leaving his family behind. Still, he couldn’t resist the challenge and glory of such a mission. On the morning of his departure, Gordon got a call from the President wishing him luck. His wife and son waved goodbye from the monitor in the cabin of the space craft. The countdown seemed to take longer than the actual trip through space. An incredible journey flashed through Gordon’s brain — faster than the speed of light.
I am drawn to young, teenage bodies, the warp and woof of skin over muscle, the surge of eroticism in every movement. Male or female… it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the expression of youthful grace and vulnerability. I am older and wiser so I can easily corrupt the innocents of youth, although I no longer believe anyone is truly innocent. Perhaps I am deluded thinking that I am still attractive and capable of love. It is a pleasurable delusion. What more can any one ask of life?
The new world was teeming with life. Furious colors, plants and creatures seemed to mutate before Gordon’s eyes like strange cartoon characters. Suddenly his silver space-suit began to ring. Gordon picked up the receiver and automatically responded, “Hello.”
“With new, improved PROPEL you are only limited by your imagination. Doctor recommended. Side effects may include PTSD and paralysis. Propel: don’t let life hold you back from your dream!”
“This is the voice of your on-board computer… this is not happening!” Gordon didn’t have time to understand the message because the world around him went totally dark. The dark absorbed all light, even the beam of his lantern was absorbed. There was only sound: chittering, snapping, gobbling noises that seemed to be closing in on Gordon.
What more can anyone ask… Unfortunately I am more complicated than that. I make trouble for myself. I indulge in pain. The painful search for understanding, for truth.
Back at mission-control there was applause and congratulations. Engineers managed to isolate Gordon’s brain, separate the brain from the body. The project was speculative, authorized by the Union of Cybernetic Scientists. Outer space was never the goal of the experiment. The scientists were concerned about “living space” on planet Earth. There were too many people on the planet and resources were limited.
I am constantly curious. I crave forbidden knowledge.
Gordon was the prototype… by taking the brain and recycling the body, more space would be available — space that could be sold for a profit. Gordon was never an astronaut. He was just an uneducated man collecting unemployment benefits. Billions of brains could be stored. Benefits would no longer be a drain on the economy. The brains would be treated well, preserved and allowed to live in virtual dreams. In time, the project was so successful most people vied for a brain transplant and eternal dreams. Of course, no one knew what kind of dreams would haunt the remains of humanity.
I am locked in a dungeon of my own creation from which there is no escape.
There was a total eclipse of the sun … at the moment when the moon devoured the light sepulchral events were triggered. It became more difficult to rationalize one’s life, and easier to accept death.
The tall-man stood on a bridge that spanned a crack in the earth. He smiled. The bones in his throat rattled like the engine in a broken-down car. He was a ruler: King in the Land of the Dying Sun.
Arthur Rambluster was having a grim day. His best friend, Veronica Delfacto, was dying. She developed Septicemia, a blood infection with no known cause. Arthur did not want to think about Veronica so instead he thought about his name. He never liked the solemnity of his given name — he preferred to be called by his nickname, Artie. His mind kept shifting back to Veronica. Artie was feeling guilty because he didn’t want to visit his dying friend. He had his own problems to consider.
First off, he thought he was prematurely dead. He’d been trying to concoct a more powerful cleaning-formula to attack the dirt he saw everywhere in his one bedroom condo. People often called Artie a “clean freak.” It all began when he was a child as a way of coping with stress. Symptoms continued to get worse as he grew older. Without thinking Arthur mixed several products that combined to produce chlorine gas. The smell was like a blast from an acetylene torch. He thought his eyes were dissolving in acid. He ran screaming from the house. The cool air revived him — he no longer felt dead. This was a reprieve so he decided he’d better visit his dying friend.
Arthur was upset by mendacity, lies everywhere. Everything was fake. There was no escaping the news. Computer screens never shut down. Arthur grappled with chaos. He wanted the world to be as clean and white as porcelain. Everyday he had to face disasters: hurricanes, wars, and massacres.
Veronica Delfacto lived in an old house that was left to her by an unconventional aunt, Mademoiselle Felicity. At one time the house was a ravishing, rainbow-hued beauty. Now the house reeked of remorse for better days and lost lives… it had fallen into itself like the carcass of a butchered cow. Veronica was an artist. Although she was mediocre at best, she was intent on acting as if she was a genius who created masterpieces. The drama, the fiction, excited her to no end. She pretended to devote every living moment to her art. Nothing else mattered. Housecleaning was the least of her interests. Repairing the roof or rebuilding the ramshackle porch did not concern her in the least. She owned two cats for company, Ezma and Cora. The cats took care of the house.
Artie always felt tortured when entering Veronica’s house … but she was dying and time was running out. The stench repulsed him. The moth eaten drapes covered with cob webs nauseated him. Veronica’s paintings reminded him of moldy food covered with worms. How, he wondered time and again, did he ever befriend this mad woman.
They met at the Homeopathic display-rack in Pieta’s Health Emporium. They were both interested in staving off death for as long as possible … both seeking better outcomes than what life already provided. Both were hypochondriacs.
The Land of the Dying Sun comes closer everyday. During the total eclipse, the Dying Sun slipped its’ moorings and began to drift … drawn like a magnet … across the bulkheads of Time and Space.
Arthur sat with Veronica, holding her hand. “I’m dying,” she spoke through a haze of green smoke. Her voice was weak, but filled with drama. The old drugs, prescribed by doctors, never worked. Veronica preferred the promises offered by marijuana and psychedelics. In her mind she was painting a masterpiece. It was called, The Last Gasp. Veronica vaguely registered Arthur who frantically held her hand as if he were clinging to his very own life.
Artie was upset and still feeling guilty. He couldn’t take it anymore. He had to leave. There was so much to do … so much cleaning that had to be completed. If he could put things back in order, sanitized and dirt-free, he would feel better. He had to clean himself as well, especially after visiting the hell hole where his friend was dying. He had to attain purity.
Weeks passed. Artie no longer heard from Veronica, perhaps, she passed away. It didn’t matter anymore. Things were getting cleaner. Arthur tracked every speck of dust and mopped it away.
Once, his parents sent him to a therapist to get to the bottom of his obsessions. Dr. Mortis Hem was a tall man, a gaunt man. He had pictures of the End Times on his office walls. Artie was withdrawn; but Dr. Hem cracked his shell and sucked him out like a boiled lobster.
When Arthur was four he was traumatized by the sight of a black rat rummaging through the garbage that spilled on the kitchen floor. The trauma was burned in his subconscious and became the root of his obsessive behavior. The doctor told Artie he could never avoid rats. He said Artie could never avoid dirt. The natural world was dirty and filled with rats. Arthur was traumatized even more. He felt threatened. He felt cursed.
Veronica never called again. Artie dreamt his friend was laid out on a large table. She was the banquet. Rats consumed her body. Artie woke up screaming.
Synchronicity played a horrible trick. Perhaps it was the shifting of light that caused the ensuing events. When Arthur woke from his nightmare he went into his spotless bathroom. A rat sat on top of the toilet tank. Fear froze both rat and man like a wall of impenetrable ice. As unexpected as a snapping icicle piercing flesh, Arthur was shocked back to his senses. He ran from the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
He could not reconcile reality. It couldn’t be happening.
The exterminator was quick and efficient. Arthur no longer had to worry. He was pest free.
The months that followed were like fleeting images in a dream. The Dying Sun sucked color from the world. Everything turned gray and dirty.
Arthur began to change. At first everything seemed better. He felt more relaxed. He had more energy. His appetite improved. He enjoyed taking long walks. Objects seemed to glow as if he was seeing the world through infrared lenses. He no longer sensed the Dying Sun.
Soon Arthur noticed something peculiar. He became enthralled with the night. He craved small, dark places where he could hide. He stopped cleaning his home. He reveled in the dust. He enjoyed garbage.
He no longer recognized himself. His eyes were small, beady coals of incendiary red.
“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress. She was recording recent events: celebrity news, politics and gossip. It was a depressing occupation. Although she tried to lighten her task with subtle humor there was no way to soften the effects of “breaking news.” Screens (computers and TV’s) never lied… only the clandestine power-brokers behind the screens told lies. Miranda had to sift for the truth, but to survive as a mid-level journalist she had to create lies of her own. Her room was a pod constructed from computer-glass that linked all her devices and screens. She was bombarded by layers of images and information-archives. Miranda was contemplating her next text message when her I-pad barked, “you in the wrong place, bitch!”
“Not again,” she thought as she slipped back into the storm.
Timothy Hardwick was thin, but years at sea hardened him into an iron-spike of a man who could tackle any seafaring job. He was a merchant marine aboard the USS Porpoise. He was part of the crew in 1838 when the expedition confirmed the existence of Antarctica. Currently the ship and crew were circumnavigating the globe. The Porpoise was an old sailing ship that was recently refurbished, but the storm tore into the hull like a raging demon. Timothy braced himself with several gulps from the flask he always carried. The liquid burned like a blue flame. He picked up the habit when he was 14 on his personal maiden voyage. Now, he needed the blue flame more than ever as the ocean became an impenetrable wall of fury.
The screens showed documentaries about the past along with visions of the future. Sometimes history became confused, unhinged. Virtual Reality facilitated the multi-sensory experience of events and interpersonal relationships. Promotions and ads were the common thread that stitched the Virtual Worlds together into a seamless spectacle.
Miranda Monologue was back in her perch above High Castle. She was screwing a platinum-blond octogenarian known as the Stone Man. He giggled with rapture as he plunged his bloated libido into her pink pussy avatar. She was seeking leaked information as she wrapped her cybernetic legs around Stone’s overblown ego. “Roger, Roger,” his I-phone bleeped. It was an emergency message in code directed at Stone’s avatar. The thrill of high stakes espionage coupled with Miranda Monologue’s sexual virtuosity triggered a mental orgasm and Stone verbally exploded, “HARP!” The truth vomited from Stone’s mouth about a shadow government and experiments to control both the weather and people’s brains, HARP. Stone cut the virtual connection. Miranda slide helplessly back into the beckoning sea.
“Ru Paul’s Drag Race” and “The Bachelor” were playing on screens above the bar. Another screen showed a commercial about “Manna,” an artificial food substance manufactured by Heaven, Inc. One ad followed another: face creams, fat removal, Mega-Max Cars and McMansions. The biggest screen showed a large, blustery man at a podium who yelled, “family is off limits.”
“Too much attention is given to that guy,” Axel Ramirez spoke to his fifth whiskey-sour who he named, Harvey. His words ran together in a mumbled slurry.
“I couldn’t agree more,” the whiskey-sour replied. Axel felt a strong sense of empathy emanating from his drink. It was an antidote to the gloom that pervaded the bar as it slowly sank into the flood. It was only the beginning. Irma was in the wings along with her whole family of weather related disasters.
Timothy Hardwick slammed against the sea wall and shattered. It wasn’t the end… he came together in pieces like droplets of water drying in the sun. He was frozen on a shelf of ice. The ship and crew were intact, back in Antarctica where their odyssey began. They found something on that first expedition and what they discovered brought them back. A black hole in the ice revealed a dead city, a lost civilization.
Miranda Monologue wrote feverishly on her I-pad screen. The story had a life of it’s own. She didn’t know where it came from or how it entered her brain. She saw Timothy Hardwick enter the ice-castle in the underground city. He moved like a dead man, stunned by the emerging structures surrounding him. He was drawn to a room deep in the bowels of the castle. Lights, powered by some unknown source, flickered in the gloom. The room was a rotunda. Figures sat on thrones lined up against the wall. Timothy felt his skin tingle and crawl in an attempt to escape. The figures were alive, but they were not human! A living movie flowed like acid into his brain revealing armored men with torches bent on destruction. Timothy couldn’t decode the information. Miranda was trying to communicate with him, trying to explain. He was witnessing the Cabal: ancients, aliens who observed the world and judged mankind. More was revealed about ordinary men, government puppets… and about one man who would set up a Patriarchy and make himself king. Insanity was in the works, but if necessary, the Cabal had a final solution.
The nation was shedding tears — torn apart by lies, innuendoes, and tweets. One rumor talked about a tenth planet, Nibiru, heading toward Earth on a collision course. Conspiracy theories abounded about an invasion from space. People sought refuge in social media. Celebrities were worshiped.
World News: “The Mistress glides across the flooded-plane in ten-inch heels like a stork.” — “The First Family leads the nation in both fashion and compassion lending a helping hand to people in need.”
The Stone Man reacted quickly, “What’s the goddamn emergency,” he yelled. He was led into a room at the palace and told to take a chair and watch the screen. He was about to watch events that were recorded within the last hour.
The king was giving a rousing speech to his most supportive troops. The men in the crowd signaled their obedience with raised arms and flaming torches. All members of the Royal Family were on stage showing gratitude to the adoring crowd. Drums beat. Trumpets blared. TV cameras captured every moment. The king beamed, “we will make this country great, again.”
A shot rang out. It wasn’t unexpected. The king had enemies. The shot sounded like a ping: spit hitting the rim of a spittoon. The king was an ardent supporter of open-carry laws to arm all citizens. An angry growl was voiced by the assembled partisans blaming “lefty’s” and foreigners for the deed. Fights broke out as the crowd tore itself apart. The family stood on stage frozen in shock and awe. The king was dead. The family was in crisis revealed before the cameras. The Baron dropped the smoking gun. No one suspected — he was just a child. The boy suffered from too many years of abject neglect at the hands of narcissistic adults. He snapped.
There was a universal sigh of relief. Even the royal family was glad to be out of the political spotlight. The king had become unstable. His deals had gone sour so he lashed out. He put everyone in embarrassing situations and mocked them when they failed to meet his insatiable demands. The first lady was at last free to enjoy her liaison with a much younger and more attractive man. Only the Baron suffered the consequences of his action, but it was a light sentence. He was committed to an institution for privileged delinquents. No one really blamed the Baron. The nation truly loved him and, one day, he was determined to be back in the spotlight… and maybe run for a political office.