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.
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.
“When the fox gets in the henhouse the chickens put up a ruckus,” Farmer Yoot was fond of saying. He continued, “that’s what happened around here when Fox News said we’ve been visited by an agent from the future. Everyone thought it was fake news, but no one could refute the chicken scratchings or the hard, cold facts.”
A precocious boy named Benny tinkered in his basement workshop. He built something he called, “Moe-Moe” that had to do with Molecular Observation and co-Efficiency.
“Pretty cute!” Mom scolded, “taking my toaster-oven and turning it into a pile of junk.”
Benny blushed… it wasn’t fair. Moe-Moe was not a pile of junk. Moe-Moe had a brain.
The old man flipped the switch. He was “old” even though he was only forty-eight. Physical bodies aged quicker without medical coverage, exercise, and sunshine. It was a new world. However, none of that really mattered because everyone lived in Virtual Reality. The program the old man was experiencing was depressing. It was like living inside the mind of a lunatic. The show was a hangnail from the past called, “Politics and Conspiracy.”
The man switched channels. He showed up at Loopy-Dezi’s Pleasure Dome drinking Ambrosia and shopping for image-enhancements. His current body-suit was a Mesomorph and his nik was, Butch Hernandez. He looked like a newly hatched eighteen-year-old (like everyone else in the Pleasure Dome). VR made everything possible. Of course, a customer had to pay. Terms were easy: cash, digital-dots, or body parts. Slice-and-dice Computers were in charge of all transactions. Butch was lucky — his body was still in one piece. Although he was penniless he could still pay and play. While he played his body was carved apart and recycled to wealthy oligarchs. The new economy favored the rich and ruthless.
The economy was built from rules that resulted from Kingdom Come, an armageddon series written and produced by the first Trump. Earth no longer existed in any recognizable form — it sizzled and sweltered. Living bodies were stored in tanks underground, cold storage. Minds were set free to roam virtual landscapes and participate in heart-throbbing Telenovelas.
“On Deck with Trump” was a clever VR that pitted contestants against the first Trump (a stochastic representation often displayed as a bubblehead). The game was rigged. No one was allowed to win accept the self-anointed demigod. It was just good fun. Hearts were eviscerated and livers eaten raw. Everything was experienced as high-definition reality. No one experienced anything outside a storage tank in a thousand years. The physical senses no longer worked. The brain became the world. Augmented dreams were the basis for life.
Moe-Moe slipped off the shelf and disappeared. Benny smiled. Mom slithered away like a garden snake and burst into fireworks. Reality played tricks with itself… was this Virtual or Memorex… “Can you hear me now?”
Martha Regalia Snoops invented Time. She was a housewife with a peculiar hobby: the study and application of Quantum Physics. She was in the kitchen baking a cake when she realized the theory and formula for Time. Her discovery is explained fully in the Wiki, but my explanation will be brief: Martha’s cake was layered — several layers overlapped, separated and merged. She discovered Time is not a straight line going in one direction. Time is layered with the past, present, and future separated and blended together like the layers of a cake. Her mathematical formula reset the world of Quantum Physics. In an odd coincidence, Martha happened to be Benny’s mom. Benny inherited Martha’s smarts. Martha was proud of her boy genius, but also a bit jealous.
Moe-Moe, the toaster oven, had a brain invented by Benny. It lingered for months soaking up the dingy surroundings in the basement. It took some time for the brain to wake up, but once awake it couldn’t be stopped. The brain ate information like a voracious shark. Moe-Moe had a wireless connection to the internet. The toaster oven spoke through a discarded I-phone with the voice of Boris Karloff. Moe-Moe connected to the mycelium mushroom network (the planet brain). The toaster oven consumed the knowledge of the world and finally discovered Martha’s Time formula. A plan was hatched both in the past and in the future. The toaster oven shot through a wrinkle in time and the world was changed forever.
No one remembers the Bubblehead Dynasty or the underground storage tanks. No one remembers kingdom Come. Layers of Time were shifted: separated, merged and forever changed.
The parlay in the restaurant was getting rowdy. Too much good stuff. It was a power-dinner for all the characters involved in the government kerfuffle — abdication, vindication, subjugation. No one was happy. The scoundrels were evicted from the henhouse. A new roost was put into office. One entanglement followed another. People cried out for a rough-and-tumble rooster to show them the way.
They were coming from beyond the horizon. Jonathan Rangle saw them through the Ultra-Lens he purchased from a Con-Arts Website: giant, voracious ants devouring everything in sight. The dream fragmented and shattered like a delicate wine glass. Jonathan was fifty and he still had comic-book dreams. The little boy inside the man refused to grow up. He was immature, unable to accept reality.
Jonathan couldn’t adjust. He tried (sometimes desperately) to control circumstances. He was convinced something was wrong (a spanner in the works). He was driven to discover the true nature of reality. Doctor Zosomo Kulio told him, “your behavior is part of a vicious circle: you reject reality only to create another version that you also reject as being inauthentic — and the cycle starts over.”
What Zosomo said made sense, but it didn’t really matter. Something really was wrong, terribly wrong!
Rufus, a rat that lived in the wall, told Jonathan Rangle that people around the country were very upset. Rufus was Rangle’s best friend. He sat on his haunches and ate cheese. Together, the rat and the man, sipped wine and talked until delirium set in and the morning sun ignited the world.
“They want more,” the rat said, “TV isn’t enough. The world is changing too fast. Old jobs are being replaced with technology. Only movie stars and billionaires can afford the life that TV promotes. Ads are everywhere. Buy more. Eat more. Get more any way you can. Privacy is a thing of the past. Computers invade brains with slogans and enticements. Free credit. Free everything!”
“Yes,” Jonathan ruminated, “it wasn’t like this in the 1950’s. It was pleasant and easy going, or so I’ve been told.”
“Wrong,” the rat sneered, “it was lily white and the world was under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Today, people are running scared cause they are being replaced. The alien threat is real, but it has nothing to do with immigrants or minorities.”
Jonathan knew what Rufus meant. His own father was a white-nationalist. He was an angry man who blamed other people for his own failures.
Rufus commiserated, “you have to be a failure in America… that’s how the rich get richer. Poor people are brain-washed to buy what they can’t afford so they go into debt. It’s a vicious circle. Believing the rich man is the biggest mistake of all.”
The news of the election-results was very upsetting, but not unexpected.
Unhappy voters gave the reigns of government to a New Faction. Traditional politicians with their empty promises were no longer acceptable. Outright lies were easier to digest. Fables on gold platters were more palatable than cold facts and reasoned debate that forced people to think. Thinking was considered hard work. No one really wanted to work except for “stupid immigrants who were stealing jobs” (quote taken from the New Faction website). Most people wanted the leisurely life that only the new President and his cabinet could provide.
The New Faction took control. Jonathan was bereft. Rufus took it all in stride. At first people were dismayed, but eventually what seemed so unnatural became acceptable. The press and congress wanted to give the new team a chance; they couldn’t be worse than other administrations.
The New Faction was very different. Working to fulfill great expectations, the President and his cabinet made an effort to appear human. Inevitably, nature took its course and the president slipped back to his old ways: wallowing in swill. The members of the new cabinet were relieved to discard the clothes they were forced to wear in order to fool the public.
“the world will never be the same,” Rufus commented as he ate his cheese and sipped his wine. Jonathan nodded.
Eventually everyone got used to pigs in the White House. Soon it was “business as usual” having barnyard animals rule the country.
Gordon “Snaptrap” wondered if that was his real name or a pseudonym. He wondered if he was an investigator or a journalist who wanted to keep his real identity concealed. Of course, it no longer mattered because he was enjoying his most recent lobotomy. He was under the knife and loaded with drugs.
Gordon sat in a high-powered dentist chair while a computerized Bum-Bot took control of his brain. It was all for the best. This wasn’t his first lobotomy. Every operation had benefits as well as unpleasant side effects. The Robo-Doc assured Gordon that benefits would outweigh the pain. Gordon briefly recalled inconsolable sobbing, but the pain had subsided considerably since his last lobotomy.
The current operation was given as a bonus. This time the lobotomy would free Gordon from all his doubts, depression, and negativity. Before the lobotomies Gordon was, indeed, an investigator. He had damning evidence of government corruption. All the facts, names and dates, were locked in the safest place he could find: in his mind. Political hacks authorized the “operations.”
At first Gordon disparaged himself for being careless. After the first lobotomy he forgot all the details and no longer blamed himself. He forgot the evidence he hid in his mind. All that remained were flashes of memory: manipulators, roving Proctologists, and military drones.
Gordon was decommissioned — body parts farmed out. His brain was deconstructed. Reality was hijacked, crowd sourced, and replaced.
Frank Larson boarded the Aero-Jet and disappeared. No one noticed. No one saw him come on board. He was gone in the blink of an eye.
Larson, a lanky fifty-year-old with receding hair, was a detective doing field work for Internal Affairs. The department had gone viral, federalized and in charge of several agencies throughout the nation.
He was investigating the case of Emmy-Mae Parsons. She was supposedly a defenseless bag lady who was shot and killed by a fellow officer. Frank followed orders and did his job, but he always fudged in favor of the officer being investigated. This case was different, involving national security because someone blew up Hoover Dam. The lucky survivors inevitably adapted seeking rafts and house boats instead of McMansions. The bag lady was never a suspect, but strings were pulled to nullify the situation and lessen the damage to the police department (two birds, one stone). This current case smacked Frank in the head like a rotten mackerel.
Johnny Jackcraw was in stasis in the holding compartment of the Aero-jet. He wasn’t worried. His brain was being massaged and cleansed and his ninety-year-old body was undergoing artificial rejuvenation. Johnny needed his prepackaged good-looks because he was the main witness for the prosecution in the Emmy-Mae case. The government was willing to pay Johnny for information.
Johnny told authorities he witnessed the murder when he was a prisoner, confined in a jail cell with a view (he was imprisoned for the crime of petty theft — he was addicted to shop lifting even though he had a pod-load of bit-coins). He claimed he saw Emmy-Mae murdered by Officer Inola. He spied the crime while star gazing through his prison window. Nobody on the force liked Inola, Johnny said he was a witness, and the gun that killed the bag lady was discovered in Inola’s belongings. The cop-cam that every officer had installed was no help in this case — it was melted from the back blast in the explosion of Hoover Dam.
Johnny hated jail. He was a Star who loved to wear rainbow caftans and perform at the notorious Blue Nail on 126th Street in lower Manhattan. He couldn’t really sing, but audiences loved his amazing variety of colorful caftans (some of which were stolen from high end boutiques). He elaborated the story he told about Emmy-Mae so he could get out of prison. it wasn’t a total lie because he actually knew Emmy-Mae and she was a bitch who deserved to be killed. The condemned police officer was the cop who arrested Johnny so revenge was definitely a strong motivation. If the dark plan worked, Johnny would receive a new lease on life with an improved brain and a new, teenage body.
“There is no question that this case was a turning point in the mise en scène of events contributing to the Future,” Orlow Fabricatum stated with aplomb. (Kind reader, you might remember that Orlow is The proverbial fly on the wall — in this case, a robotic fly who has appeared in several stories & diary entries. Orlow was hired as a reporter for the net-blog, Future Days). Orlow continued his snide remarks, “the human tendency for gross infidelity and inaccuracy is only exacerbated by greed-and-ego resulting in predictable catastrophe.”
The club was sweating bullets when Johnny Jackcraw (now known as Livia Trash) gave his comeback performance at the Blue Nail on the same day that Detective Larson disappeared (it was previously reported that Johnny was in stasis on the Aero-Jet, but that was a cover story). He wore a lavish caftan created from purple haze and he sported large D-cup breasts to add to his youthful allure. He sang like a banshee much to the discomfort of the anesthetized audience. Johnny’s already dreadful voice had been augmented during his surgical procedures (when doctors discovered he was carrying a baby that had been conceived 60 years in the past. In his youth, Johnny was a poor, unwed mother, a bag lady, with no prospects but a shopping cart. Of course the baby had to be aborted against the prevailing laws of the land, but since this was a national security case abortions could be religiously performed).
Much to Johnny’s chagrin, no one watched his performance. No one was interested. His fabulous caftan was completely overlooked. His jack-hammer voice echoed like the death throes of a dying swan with no one in the forest to hear. The realization stung like an infected hangnail.
The case was finally solved by the “surrogate” Judge Franchisum, in the courtroom of public opinion. The judge consulted with Orlow Fabricatum to get the facts straight and assess the situation. This was no ordinary trial. There was no lawyer, prosecutor, or jury. The trial was conducted on the Virtual Web and every person, avatar, and robot was invited to participate in the proceedings. Hoover Dam still existed somewhere, but it no longer mattered. The Judge concluded no crimes had been committed. First came the screens, then came the head-gear; then, the world disappeared. Virtual Reality replaced everything.
Dana Otell saw his welfare manager on Thursday. The interrogation was a monthly routine in order to qualify for continued assistance. He took the subway to the government building. The train careened through the black hole like a missile loaded with bombs. The machinery whistled and moaned. Light-and-dark flickered like snapping flashbulbs and smeared faces stared from beyond the car’s windows.
The train screeched to a stop and ejected Dana along with the other passengers. He passed through metal shutters to a platform; he went up florescent stairs and exited a mechanical gate into the chill afternoon. He walked a block to his appointed destination.
The welfare complex was an immense steel construction that descended below ground where numerous files could be stored in subbasements. Dana received a number from a box and waited to be called. He filled out five sheets of personal questions, the same questions he filled out every month. Resignation was forced on him like a plastic body bag. Everyone looked embalmed, waiting to garner another month of food and shelter. Hours passed, but finally his name was called.
He walked down a metal corridor until he came to the designated partition. He waited for the machine to recognize him. The world was run by machines. People were second class citizens. The only diversion was virtual reality, a world of ghosts. Dana lived in a virtual dream. Even his visit to the welfare complex was a dream. The machine that greeted him was a ghost in a dream. There was no end to the layers of dreams … and there was no way out.