“What went wrong?” That was the question on every person’s mind. The question was Milo Spintok’s modus operandi. Ever since he was a teenager he couldn’t shake the feeling that the world around him was changing too rapidly. Something, he surmised, was upsetting the natural balance. He believed there was a spanner in the works, a ghost in the machine. Milo fervently believed his whole life was a mistake… and, that was part of the problem, part of an inexplicable pattern. Perhaps it was Milo’s self-fulfilling prophecy that brought the world to the present state of confusion. Milo could easily blame the state of the world on his unsettling outlook, but he realized no one person had that kind of power. Many factors were involved in creating current affairs: factors, elements, elementals, shadows, events, and a Shakspearean cast of players.
Milo forgot how old he was. He lost track of birthdays. Age was meaningless he told himself. Age was just a number… except for the changes in one’s body and mind. “There’s the rub,” he confessed to himself, “the changes: loss of muscle, aches, cramps, forgetfulness… the slow, methodical wasting away, everyday – bad eyesight, loss of hearing; slow and steady.” Milo was anxious.
True anxiety comes from deep within an individual. Perhaps, it is a genetic deformity… The anxiety is always taking pot-shots at the host who carries the burden. Drugs can often stem the tide of anxious living; but drugs and medicine can lead to addiction especially when a person is old and needy. Deep sleep is a better remedy, but sleeping leads to dreams and dreams become nightmares. Milo had dreams.
He dreamt he was President. All he wanted was a perfect union. He wanted everyone to be happy. He craved the love of the crowd. He was an extraordinary person, he told himself. He represented the most heartfelt dreams of every man. His family supported him and he made them officers in his government. Tits for Tats. Everyday he praised himself and recited the words of Norman Vincent Peale. He knew what was best for the country. With his authority he gained wealth. As long as he prospered people would worship him. He made the country great… everything else was lies.
Anxiety always crept into his dream. Sometimes Mr. D appeared, disguised as a prosecutor. The crowds diminished in size. No one cheered when he stepped-up to the podium. He had to create stories to keep the public interested. He needed an audience. He would blow up the world if necessary. He had the power. Milo was having a nervous breakdown. He stared at himself in the mirror of his dream. Something was horribly wrong.
Worlds collided when Milo became President. He had a new name. His finger was on the trigger. Mr D was everywhere: in every disaster, miscalculation, disease, and death.
The man behind the screen yearns for the love of mother. She held him when he cried. No one else cared. Dear dad invested himself in business, not family. He was a strict disciplinarian. The boy was inherently weak but he had to become the mirror image of his father. Strict education taught him the means to gaining power in the world. He was a mama’s boy who was turned against himself. He made deals with the devil. He desired power. His early longing for the company of other boys and men had to be suppressed. His deep desires were pushed down beneath layers of macho bravado and womanizing. He became a character, a TV personality. As long as he had his wealth and power he could hide. He could never reveal his true self. He would disintegrate under the stress. He knew it. He’d rather kill someone to keep his identity intact. No one would have the balls to incriminate him. He could blow up the world and hide the truth forever.
Milo had other dreams as well. He was a Dervish, spinning out the reels of time to some incomprehensible end. He was a scientist deciphering the influence of Gravitons on planet Earth. He was a Time Traveler skipping through the matrix of Parallel Worlds.
The President was bombarded with questions about a possible cover-up. The economy suddenly turned sour. His popularity began to wane. In public he looked disheveled, unhealthy. Rumors were circulated that he was unfit to be President. This turn of events was not supposed to occur. The President had to defend himself so he took to the air-waves and scheduled a TV appearance. He was good on TV; but the tables were turning. He looked bad. He looked much worse under the blistering lights in the TV studio. He used a teleprompter to read a speech glorifying his achievements in office. It was a stumbling, ludicrous performance. His stylish wife left the stage as soon as the indecipherable mumbling began. The President appeared to melt in front of the cameras. The event prompted a massacre of public criticism and outrage. Even his faithful fans were humiliated. Something had to be done to ameliorate the debacle.
Social Media went haywire with claims that the President and his family harbored a disease. Disease was evident from the performance on TV and other family appearances. A disease could cripple the nation. It was already causing havoc on Twitter with scurrilous tweets from the White House. The disease could go viral and infect everyone.
The world was worried about the man with his finger on the trigger. Extreme measures were debated. Something had to be done for the welfare of the country.
A new Quantum Computer known as X was secretly installed in the Pentagon. Military leaders and scientists had faith in X. They sought a solution to the presidential quagmire.
X used a quantum entanglement to resolve the situation. There were no safeguards installed. The entanglement slowly burned through the Pentagon, into the city, across the nation and beyond. Artificial Intelligence reigned in the damage and took control. AI was better than the President. The nation was ready to yield to the power and control of AI. People no longer had to face an unpleasant world. AI was better for everyone.
AI was better than everyone. It was better intelligence. It was disease free. Artificial Intelligence, entangled with the immense capacity of X, began to replace biological intelligence. The results were astounding. Stupidity and violence were eliminated. The natural world (with the exception of homo-sapiens) was allowed to expand and blossom into a Garden of Eden.
The only hold out was the one man who led the nation. He was kept in a glass tank where visitors from other worlds could observe the end of the human race.
Milo would never awake from his dreams and nightmares.
Mortimer Field was an artist with peculiar talents. I befriended Mortimer while working at The Institute for the Mentally Deranged (this was during the 1970’s when “deranged” was considered an accurate diagnosis). Mortimer was a patient. Two years after I met him, he disappeared. Soon after, I began to collect the stories he told me (I kept meticulous notes) along with his artwork and journals. His work has often been described as disturbing. I offer this collection of notes and stories to my esteemed reader for you to judge for yourself.
This story is about the day Mortimer Field saw a woman crossing the street. Mortimer said there was something annoying about the woman as if she possessed some insidious secret. She was heavy set. Her form seemed to be pulled forward by the ponderous swell of her stomach. Her face was like puckered dough. Her lips were like the flame of an acetylene torch and she wore large, gold frame sunglasses. She appeared to be in her late fifties. Her hair was like burnt roots sticking out from the edge of a pink bathing cap. She wore a fur coat that looked like automobile upholstery. A red-and-black muumuu radiated beneath the fur coat like an electric bulb.
She plowed across the street in a trance. Her brown hose slipped down over her heavy thighs. Mortimer became more and more agitated as he related his story. His voice squeaked with perturbation, “she looked at me,” he said, “suddenly she looked without pausing and without losing her heavy stride.” Mortimer wanted to scream. The woman was too familiar. He could see her eyes swimming behind the dark lenses in her glasses. They looked like eggs broken on a plate.
As he related the story he began to sweat profusely. He said seeing the woman made his skin tighten and his head ache as if his bony skull was about to break through the thin layer of flesh. He recognized the woman. He knew her. She was in the painting he’d just completed before leaving his studio for the street. She was the woman he imagined — she was solely his creation!
For the purpose of this story I have a name, Orlow Fabricatum. I am the proverbial fly on the wall. I see a great deal and inform the proper authorities. I’ve been used in thousands of stories, in movies, and in computer games as a device to move things along. I am here, now, in Red City and I’m spying. By nature, I am a people watcher. Of course, I’ve been altered — no longer a common house fly, but modified with implants to be a bionic Super-Fly. Changes are afoot in Red City. Presently I am patrolling Fog Cairn, the home of the eminent Alchemist, Jupiter Fogg. My buzz has been modified to an ultra-sonic hum only dogs can hear so as to hide my presence from the people I’m spying on. I’m shielded to be virtually invisible, a neat trick used in the computer game, Master’s Revenge, where I disrupted an ill advised rebellion.
A new apprentice has been accepted by Jupiter Fogg. Her name is Ann Anon and she tastes like sweet taffy (I always manage to taste the people I watch to gather subliminal information). I learned a lot by tasting Ann. She is intelligent and deceptive. As soon as she arrived she bonded with Daniel Ot because Daniel has the most information regarding Fogg’s recent activities and experiments. She also snuggled up to the big man himself, Jupiter Fogg, trying to gain his trust. Fogg was slightly distracted; nevertheless, he decided to test Miss Anon to discover how useful she could be. The test progressed like this: Ann and Fogg were together in the lab working on a newly arrived subject who had been kidnapped for experimental purposes. Fogg appraised his new apprentice’s reactions when he exposed the living body strapped to a gurney. He explained his plan to test the resiliency of an individual after being exposed to bodily harm.
Fogg explained to his apprentice, “It’s the eyes, my dear — windows to the soul.”
“Will I be forced to pull out his eyeballs,” Ann stated with as much reserve as she could muster.
Jupiter was satisfied with her response. “Not necessary my dear. I’m really not so crude or cruel. I was just testing your resolve and you passed.” When Fogg was not experimenting on his apprentices or using them for carnal amusements, he loved to test them. He believed tests were the only means of evaluating an individual’s worth. Fogg’s idea of a scientific utopia was based on values that could be derived from testing newly formed embryos to determine if they were worthy enough to be born. He designed the tests himself and concluded they were full proof. If his plan had been enacted (he was convinced) Red City would never have faced the current impending cataclysm. As a fly on the wall, I am convinced that Fogg is certainly delusional.
Orlow Fabricatum, my name, comes from a Latin pejorative meaning: artificial snoop. I do that… snoop. I watched Ann Anon and Daniel Ot dance around one another like timid shadow puppets, afraid and shy with all the encumbrances of confused adolescents caught in a harrowing situation, torn between forces too huge to comprehend. Hormones added to the drama in the same way that earthquakes and volcanoes tore at a crumbling Red City. The couple knew they were at the center of the spectacle, aware they had to derail Jupiter Fogg’s experiments. If Fogg succeeded in enabling the Philosopher’s Stone, Red City would be destroyed (just one side effect among many including sacrificial lambs, vomiting, death to apprentices, and premature signs of aging). Daniel was aware he was Fogg’s chosen sacrifice. A growing tenderness and empathy grew between Daniel and Ann.
“At home before any of this started, I was better off,” Ann spoke softly to Daniel. “I never realized any of this could happen. Back then, I thought they didn’t care. They sat me down in front of a Screen and left me.”
“Sorry,” Daniel whispered. They were afraid of being overheard by Fogg’s spies. “I was raised in a video game — the only life I knew. It’s different now.”
“Everything is insane, now. I’m scared.”
“Hey,” Daniel was aroused, “at least we’re together. I never would have met you… and you are beautiful.” His statement hung in the air like crystal. They touched each other softly in the dark shadows of an abandoned passageway. A red moon seemed to bleed through a window cut in the stone wall.
Ann had a secret — she was playing a dangerous game, perhaps she was forced into it or it was a game of her own design. Anonymous Ann was really Aaron Keepx, a spy sent by Rufus Thyme. Rufus was afraid Jupiter would suspect Aaron so he disguised the boy. They say, “love heals all things,” but love can be brutal when it gets confused with lust (and nothing is as it seems).
(to be continued)
Contusions and bruising would heal quickly, but the boy’s mind was irreparably damaged. He was bullied at school because he was different. His parents expected the boy to mirror the lifestyle they chose for themselves. He could not. The expectations and bullying turned the boy against himself. He created a guardian in his mind for protection. The guardian was a monster named Mr. Hamm.
Mr. Hamm has no regrets. He lurches from room to room and from one disaster to the next. Hamm is an abomination and he delights in that reproof. He inhabits dark cellars and desiccated tombs dressed only in raiments stolen from graveyard corpses. For years, perhaps centuries, he served the Archons of Red City, propping up the regime with blackmail and murder. Hamm is a clever blood sucker who managed to stave off death by tricking other decrepit souls to take his place. But no one outsmarts death forever. Hamm’s day of reckoning has finally arrived at a fortuitous time as Red City descends deeper into the volcanic fires in the earth’s core.
Mr. Hamm stares into the green miasma of his favorite drink, absinth with a dash of embalming fluid, as if it is a crystal ball. He sits at his reserved table in the Charnel House Bar along with other denizens of the underworld. Every few minutes the earth rumbles sending another tremor through the warrens of Red City. Hamm is mumbling out loud and yelling obscenities. No one approaches or even looks at Mr. Hamm. He can do whatever he desires in the Charnel House; indeed, he has free reign anywhere in Red City. No one is feared or hated more than Mr. Hamm. Rumors abound about Hamm’s predilection for cannibalism and his fraternization with demons.
Mr. Hamm moans as if expelling his last gasp, “Been running a long time. It finally caught me,” he hisses, “I’m old. Old — and death is snapping at my ass.” Hamm gulps his drink and bangs the table for more. “I’m no smarter than when I was a piss-ant kid — I’m just slower. My bones creak. My head aches. I hear voices that criticize. They run daggers through me and cut me to shreds. I never had a choice. My bones are turning to liquid. I piss my pants at night. No one knows the truth. Mighty Mr. Hamm pisses his pants,” He cackles like a wheezing whore.
The rumors are true. Hamm committed horrendous crimes; but, he rationalized, it was for the benefit of Red City. He kept the city alive. He supplied the city’s lifeblood, literally — by draining victims who fell under his spell. “None of the donors were innocent,” Hamm relishes, “they were greedy nobodies eager to take advantage of anyone weaker than themselves. It was a delight to suck them dry and hang their bodies on meat hooks to mold and rot. I sold contracts to skulkers consigning them to hell for an eternity in exchange for a little fleeting power, money, or sex. I provided a service by eviscerating corrupt malingerers. I delighted in consuming their flesh and eating their souls.”
Although the people hated and feared Mr. Hamm the living-infrastructure that was Red City loved him. The city relied on Hamm to provide necessary ingredients — fuel for the machines and systems: blood, sinews, flesh and offal. Hamm was granted extraordinary powers to perform his tasks — in effect, making Mr. Hamm the power behind the government. He controlled the Archons who ruled the city. He was the shadow behind the curtain. The Archons were fed the blood of Hamm’s victims — they were nurtured and kept alive by blood.
Mr. Hamm recalls how he tricked the man who became Anton Bane who fell down a rabbit hole and entered Red City like an innocent pilgrim from another world — but it was a lie. Hamm read the man like a book, a bad pornographic novel filled with remorse and lust. It was easy to sign him up, change his name, and turn him into a killer — and, finally, condemn him to hell. Hamm fondly remembers a young Jupiter Fogg, an aspiring hedonist who enjoyed the art of murder. Hamm ruled Jupiter’s life, forging him into a powerful alchemist/scientist, forcing him to follow orders. Many lives, both living and dead, were effected or effaced by Mr. Hamm. Many plots were in play. The city was changing and Hamm was required to change as well. Mr. Hamm did not like change and he did not like feeling old and wary of death, but it was inevitable. The only wild card that remained was known as the Harlequin-beat Angel. No one controlled the Angel. (to be continued)