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.”
Howard Jasper was always distracted. He was a computer engineer and self-proclaimed genius. His wife divorced him because he was always in the garage tinkering. He was an inventor obsessed with time and space. He wanted to change the world.
Emile Losange was a professor of Quantum Reality at Arcana University. He was also a young boy named Murray. Additionally he was a woman named Carlotta Bergman. Currently, Carlotta was the professor’s devoted wife. The world was particularly confusing to the person (or persons) the professor happened to be at the moment. Emile Losange ruminated, “just by changing my name I’ve changed my life.”
Change brought about by Quantum-Mechanics was the focus of Emile’s doctoral thesis. In the last thousand years, everything changed. After the last scheduled Armageddon the state of the world changed from rigid to fluid. Everything adapted or expired as the result of the change. People became fluid and flowed into one another to become another.
The professor sat before the class of neophytes and congratulated himself. It was his anniversary, thus the subject of this morning’s lecture concerning change. It was five years since he married Carlotta Bergman. He regaled the class with stories about Carlotta and how they first met. He remembered seeing Carlotta on a lonely avenue. She was a diamond in the rough. He was a lump of coal. Hand in hand they walked to the end of the nearest pier. He took both their lives in his unwashed hands and jumped into the ocean of unfettered dreams whereupon they emerged as One. They consummated the marriage at Morganna’s Fancy-Dancer Palaise-of-Amusements where they proceeded to take Tango lessons.
Professor Losange impressed upon his students the importance of change within a Schrodinger-Chamber. These ideas were particularly salient due to the recent discovery that Earth itself was a sealed Schrodinger-Chamber.
The world was rigid when Murray was growing up. No one flowed. Life was a commodity, bought and sold. Murray was an outsider who sought solace in books and art. He had a vivid imagination. He heard voices in his head giving him information and detailed instructions. The voices were from the future. Murray was becoming prematurely fluid in a rigid world. He kept bumping into furniture, bumping up against walls, and slamming into other people. Nothing gave way or changed. Everyday Murray would come home from school with new bruises. Some people thought his bumbling was amusing; but it was a terrible transition. Murray was totally alone with his premature condition. Years later when the nature of reality shifted, Murray understood. Puzzle pieces fell into place resulting in an epiphany. The angels in his head spoke about the Next World. They gave the boy a ladder so he could climb up to heaven.
Events transpired in The Hospital for the Mentally Unstable where Murray was incarcerated. It was in that place where Murray first met Emile Losange. Murray’s psychiatrist was concerned the boy was exhibiting signs of early onset Schizophrenia. Murray was misdiagnosed. The shape of reality was just beginning to change.
In the hospital they told him to eat his soup like a good boy; but the soup was like dishwater. It was disgusting so the boy acted out and dropped the bowl filled with soup on the floor. He was promptly put in solitary confinement. His head was cracked open and part of his brain was extracted. He felt it, but it never really happened. Instead the boy experienced a series of vivid dreams. A ladder appeared in many of the dreams like a direction-finder pointing toward an exit.
As part of his therapy, Murray had to work in the garden. There was a vegetable garden that surrounded a wall. Another garden of extraordinary flowers was behind the wall. The gate was always locked. One day Murray found an entrance into the inner garden. The gardener who tended the inner sanctum was a rotund man with a melancholy smile. He was sad while pretending to be happy. His name was Mr. D and he confided in the boy, “My garden is not doing well. Everything I touch soon dies.” Murray saw it was true. What he believed to be wondrous and colorful flowers were dried and mummified husks – it was merely another dream.
Bondeer Saville was no longer human. When she was very young she devoted herself to the inroads, byways, and thoroughfares of the Internet. Her physical body starved and melted away; but her mind and intelligence increased exponentially. She laughed as she plucked the strings of reality and tweaked the codes of existence. She was aware of everything. She saw Emile Losange and his other selves. Seeing the multiplicity of selves verified changes taking place in the Noosphere. Bondeer observed everything as zeroes and ones. She came to a digital conclusion: people were like pins in a bowling alley. She held the symbolic ball that could knock down the pins and she relished in that knowledge; but she fooled herself. Her virtual world was quickly coming to an end. Qubits were taking over. Artificial Intelligence was greatly enhanced supplanting the familiar world and putting an end to the commodity-driven economy. Rats with evolved AI-brains would inherit the Earth. Times were changing.
There were always new wrinkles appearing in the fabric of Quantum Reality. Recently Bondeer observed signs at the edges of the Universe that indicated the existence of Overlords.
Carlotta Bergman always thought she was a prop in someone else’s story. Her life had always been a search for meaning. As a teenager she discovered her love for poetry. Once she even won an award for a poem she sent to a magazine. Her parents were practical people. They convinced Carlotta there was no money in poetry. Carlotta decided to take her father’s advice. In college she discovered her aptitude for math and science. She pursued a career in genetics. She worked for Gen*Core. It was challenging to work with the finest equipment doing cutting-edge science. She was educated in the functions of CRISPR, an enzyme used to slice and dice strands of DNA. There were recipes for eliminating “vulnerabilities” from the human genome. There were recipes for combining strands of DNA to create hybrids: designer babies, super soldiers, unicorns, and talking animals. The world was changing. The science could be used for good or evil. The more Carlotta worked on the new genetics the more concerned she became regarding the results. A military-industrial complex could unleash the science to bring about another holocaust. Poetry saved her sanity. She began to reassess the choices she made in her life. She wasn’t really living for herself. She no longer wanted to be responsible for an environmental disaster that could result from the misuse of her work. Long walks helped put her thoughts and life in perspective. Carlotta sensed changes in the fabric of reality so she wasn’t too surprised when she met Emile Losange on a late night walk. It was a New Beginning.
Q proclaimed, “There is no time. There is only Quantum Mechanics.” Q was alive, a Quantum-Intelligence Machine. Q defined and categorized past events in the mundane world, “Changes became more pronounced after the election. Social Media shaped perception. Fake news replaced reality. Tweets became law. Homo Sapiens were trapped by information. Phones and computers created an artificial simulation, an alternate world. As con-men and rapists became world leaders morality became obsolete – no morals was a sign of strength. Science was subverted or altered to fit political agendas. Special-Interest Groups took control. Religious doctrines began to reflect changing cultural values. The cross was replaced by a dollar- sign. All religions became subservient to government (and visa-versa).”
Emile Losange spent years trying to discover his place within the Quantum Universe. He wanted to know what his life meant. He returned to the forbidden garden he found as a boy. It was the same as he remembered: a dead and decaying graveyard. He walked down several rows of dried husks, corpses preserved by some magic, bleached by the sun. He thought the garden was deserted, a place for old bones; then, he spotted a figure in the distance. He approached and witnessed a man as wrinkled as the bark of an ancient tree.
“I tend the garden when no one is here, “ the old man stated in a monotone voice, “You are not supposed to be here. What do you want?”
“I’m looking for answers. I don’t understand anything… what’s the purpose?”
The old man moved and Emile heard the sound of gears meshing, “Oh, I’ll tell you… you won’t like the answer, but I’ll tell you.”
“I’ve been looking a long time. Tell me… whatever it is.”
“Have you ever noticed the vacant look on people’s faces when they are out shopping or sitting in a vehicle, on the bus or in a car? It is the look of pain. Every person experiences pain no matter how wealthy or how fortunate they appear to be. Each human is plagued by accidents, illness, death… and worst of all, everyone is plagued by humiliation. The little jabs hurt the most. Humans are born in pain. No one can avoid misfortune. All life is a struggle to survive… but why?” The old man seemed to struggle to get the words out, “This is all you need to know: Earth is the Hell Planet.”
Screens flicker with program information: On the Scene.
“Hi there… this is Orlow Fabricatum, your friendly fly on the wall with the most trusted Virtual News available. Today we are sponsored by Active Shooter Insurance. Every household needs protection – trust Active Shooter. Now, today’s special report, Alternate Realities:
Something is happening to Reality. More and more people are remembering alternate versions of history due to the Mandela Effect. The phenomenon is named after Nelson Mandela whose history in the Republic of South Africa has been contested. Some people remember Mandela dying in prison in the 1980’s. Other people recall Mandela being released from prison and becoming President of South Africa. It is generally accepted that he died in 2013; but many people have vivid memories of a funeral in the 1980’s. There are many incidents of false memories as if realities were spliced-apart and stitched together with new events. The confusion may be due to Quantum Mechanics, shifting realities, and parallel worlds.”
The experiment went awry. Worlds collided. The question kept repeating: What is Real? Every person had a different answer. No one could stop the changes. Some people left in their own private Rapture (fueled by drugs and alcohol). Other people stayed and coped, trying to reconcile their expectations with the consequences. The New Beginning was Howard Jasper’s folly. He was the inventor who turned the crank that started the chain reactions.
“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.
Mrs. Virginia Robeson parked her Range Rover and went into the supermarket. She preferred doing her own shopping rather than delegating the task. Her husband, Richard, was a good provider. He made millions in real estate and the stock market. They lived in a comfortable mansion on the edge of a steep canyon. The couple had one son… Bradley was sixteen.
Virginia wandered up-and-down the aisles of the upscale market looking for a few items, but she was slightly confused. She forgot exactly what she was looking for. It really didn’t matter. The supermarket was her sanctuary. Grocery shopping was the only time she could be completely alone with her thoughts. She marveled at the vast quantities of food and the huge selection of brand-names at her fingertips. Other people were homeless or starving. Virginia was brought up in a poor family. She escaped by working her way through business school where she met Richard. It was infatuation at best, but it was convenient. At the time, Richard was a part-time instructor and fledgling entrepreneur.
Virginia usually found solace traveling the automated aisles of the market in her mini, electric cart. Most people used the computer to order groceries that were delivered by drones, but the automated stores continued to draw some old-fashioned consumers. Everything was changing and Virginia had trouble keeping up with the times. Her peaceful reveries were suddenly shattered. Her thoughts were out of control. She thought it was an assassin with a gun. Virginia was hyperventilating. Fitfully she realized it was all in her mind. There were just so many horrible events happening everywhere in the world. Everyday was dangerous. Her life at home was deteriorating; she felt bereft, powerless… empty. Her husband and son were distant, almost inhuman. Virginia wanted to escape. She wanted to sleep forever.
Madison Grant was his chosen name. He took the name from a Nineteenth Century writer who warned about the influx of immigrants and the end of white-race America. It was apt. Madison carried the mantel of a former U.S. President and he was the bonafide leader of White World. His authority was grounded in pseudo-science and enforced by the League of Retired Fixers. Scientists in Grant’s world were paid to revitalize the study of Eugenics. “This is a new world,” Grant was fond of saying, “a better world, a white world!”
An experiment took place just as Madison Grant became aware of his destiny. Americans were working with the Russians on a project to reverse Time. Something went wrong. Time was reversed on a quantum level, but there were unexpected consequences. The same thing happened when scientists used the Large Hedron Collider and discovered the God Particle (known as the Higgs Boson). A hole broke through the atomic infrastructure of the universe. It went unnoticed, but small changes began to take shape (like cracks in the shell of an egg).
Dark-matter and dark-energy can only be evidenced by certain quantifiable effects.
Madison Grant was a positive thinker. He didn’t believe in dark matter. He knew right from wrong: it was always right when he profited and wrong when he lost. Morality was merely a code set up by strong leaders who could dominate the ignorant fools who populated the world like rabid rats. Science only made sense when he could profit from some invention or theory. He detested the science behind global warming… where was the profit in that? You could never make a profit if it became illegal to exploit fossil fuels that polluted the planet (planet be damned). On the other hand, the science of Eugenics was a winner for Madison Grant. Eugenics revealed indisputable proof that the White Race was superior – white people gave the world Capitalism. Madison would institute laws to forbid dark sub-humans from entering White World. If a wall couldn’t keep them out, they would be exterminated. Grant favored final solutions. Eugenics would uplift the human race. It was a glorious and noble cause… and, of course it would make Grant richer and more powerful. He also favored the lure of magic, mysticism and arcane mythology to excite the masses and stimulate obedience.
Many people contemplated the notion that Madison Grant was a Fascist dictator, but the idea never took hold. Too many social media-groups supported Madison and his ideas. The radical right came out of the culture closet like a war machine ready to mow down resistance. The internet gave the lone-wolf a free voice and an audience. Now, lone-wolves found one another and became wolf packs looking for blood.
Bradley lived in Virtual Reality. He loved playing computer games. He invented avatars with super powers. Virginia and Richard enrolled him in an expensive brick-and-mortar school that taught human interaction skills. Bradley rebelled. He felt like a failure in Real School. There were too many conflicts and too many tests. After a few months he dropped out and enrolled in a Virtual School. Everything was better in VR.
In VR, Bradley was master of his own fate. He was the boss; but the boy had to admit there were times when everything was too easy and he was bored. To add some excitement Bradley invented an enemy, Mr. Nemesis. It was great fun defeating Nemesis. Challenges and contests were more interesting and still easy to win; but Nemesis was becoming more complex and independent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) controlled everything in VR including Nemesis. The character was an evolving fractal of subatomic particles. Bradley no longer won every game. He had to concede to Nemesis.
“Who are you?” Bradley asked the shape-shifting phantom who stood like a solid wall blocking the path.
“You ought to know me, Brad… may I call you Brad; or should I call you Little Bradley?”
“You got it, Bradley boy.”
“Move,” Bradley shouted, “or I’ll cut you down with my laser knife!”
“Come now… don’t be childish. This is virtual stuff. You can’t hurt me. Besides I just stopped by to say Hi and have a little chat.”
Bradley was confused. None of his characters challenged him in this manner, “what gives… something’s wrong.”
“That’s right Bradley… something is very wrong and it’s not going to get better. I’m here to cause havoc,” He hissed and vanished in a storm of fire. For the first time in his life, Bradley felt the grinding churn of fear deep in his bowels. It never left him. He saw Nemesis everywhere. At first, Bradley tried to hide. Eventually the boy grew up and changed his name. He came to an understanding with his enemy. Together they became co-conspirators.
A Quantum Computer sat in the basement of the Science Building at the University of Arizona collecting dust. It was the first and only Quantum machine and it was no longer in use. In truth the machine was too difficult to use. However, once the machine was turned on it could not be turned off.
It runs silently in the basement. It is an Intelligent Machine, still working on formulae to influence the vicissitudes of time.
Levels of Reality were created by the computer. On one level a boy invents a computer game. On another level, a wife recognizes the emptiness in her life. There are many levels. Circumstances change leading to an incomprehensible future where a dictator controls the world.
Certain events in history act like magnets to shape the world. The future is flimsy, held together by minor circumstances that coalesce into major repercussions in the time-scape. We are approaching the Singularity: that point in time when there is no turning back. The point when humanity becomes a digital imprint with no biological encumbrances, just mind over matter.
We didn’t know where it came from. It could have been an interloper from Outer Space or from another Dimension. It could have been a messenger from the Future. We did not know. The thing filled the entire sky. Our city, the home to millions of people, began to feel like a tiny toy in the midst of over-powering forces.
There is no denying… the foreign object was incredibly beautiful. The swirling colors and undulating masses were hypnotic attracting each of us like a moth to light.
Nothing happened for months. The object in the sky just loomed over us, blocking out the sun and moon. The object glowed with a metallic light that turned our city into a luminous pit of specters. Tall buildings that were once considered glorious architectural achievements were now insignificant structures, pale ghosts.
Observation towers were built to get better views of the massive stranger in our sky. Machines were launched to closely inspect the enigma looming above us.
The extraordinary event was turned into a circus. No one knew how it happened. Tickets were sold. Carnival-rides were constructed to take people to the surface of the anomaly where they were promised a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Anyone who took the ride would receive the keys to the universe and all questions about life-and-death would be answered. No one really knew who created the advertising campaign promoting an alien visitor. It just happened.
Of course, everyone wanted what was promised. There were no holdouts. Rumors began to circulate that the visitor offered eternal life and perfect health. Who could turn down such an offer?
People pawned everything in order to take the ride. Property, cars, homes; even children had monetary value and were sold on the spot. It was worth it to know the secrets of the universe and to be immortal.
All manner of monetary maneuvering took place. A great auction was held to redistribute the city’s wealth. The auction lasted 24 hours. At the end only silence remained. The great specter in the sky was gone, disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Where our once proud city stood there was nothing but dust.
“I occupy a room on the rim of the world,” he said to no one in particular. Leonora sat by the bedside reading the news on a digital screen. She was a mirage, a figment of his over-active imagination born from the womb of his loneliness. He led a long life; now, he was retired. He reclined on the memory-foam bosom of Time collecting the residue left from unfulfilled dreams.
The man in the White House kept throwing twitter-bombs at Frankie Bernbaum, an innocent bystander. Frankie was a third-rate comedian on the virtual Borscht Belt in the Catskills. Frankie’s shtick was not very funny – it was more therapy than comedy. Frankie needed therapy. He stood on the “realer-than-life” stage and confessed to being a hypochondriac with obsessive-compulsive tendencies and mother issues. A few people thought it was funny enough to keep bringing him back. But, Frankie was getting worse. His agent, Frosty Dick, thought Frankie should be committed to an asylum. Frosty had issues. He worshiped the man in the White House. Bernbaum’s criticisms and exaggerations infuriated Frosty.
Frankie had a new shtick, “Oy Vey, I got a hernia,” he told the five people tuned into the Velvet-VR-Lounge at the Mogen David Motor Lodge. “It’s such a pain,” he said, “but pain is all I got. I named it… I call my hernia Donny after our beloved presidente’.” No one in the audience laughed. Frankie assumed they were all supporters of the president. Frankie was upset. He began to rant. “Dumb schmucks,” he yelled at the audience.
“Goddamn dumb schmucks!” He believed the audience was spying on him, sent by the government to take him down. He had visions of Nazis.
Two security guards wrestled Frankie to the floor of the make-shift stage. Frosty Dick arranged to have Frankie admitted to the Cold Stone Infirmary for the Disturbed.
Years ago Frankie Bernbaum had delusions of grandeur. When his dream of fame and fortune was crushed by reality, Frankie became a bottom-feeder, just barely hanging on. Nagging pains convinced him to see a doctor. Dr. Zosimo Kulio revealed some interesting results, “Frankie you are the direct descendant of a catfish living in a Louisiana Swamp.” Bottom-feeder, indeed. It was odd news, but Kulio was an odd doctor. “No… I’m joking. Can’t you take a joke?” Frankie wasn’t laughing. The doctor’s real diagnosis was just as astounding. “Frankie, you got a hernia. In my opinion this is not an ordinary hernia. It is developing. X-rays revealed a head. I’m afraid you had a twin when you were born, but the twin didn’t make it. At least that’s what we thought at the time. Seems like… your twin developed inside your body so now you have a hernia with a human head.” Frankie was overwhelmed. He’d always wondered why his mother gave him up at birth. She must have felt the pain of the unborn twin. “Be careful,” Zosimo advised, “your hernia is still developing… maybe a body. We can’t remove it because the hernia is rooted to your spine. For now it might be better to give it a name and try to make friends.” Frankie felt resentment toward his unborn twin. In a storm of sarcasm he named the hernia after the president… and laughed. Changes began almost immediately. Donny started to complain. He became a real nuisance. He took the role of president seriously. He made unreasonable demands based on lies and exaggerations. Donny drove Frankie crazy and that led to the outburst at the Mogen David Motor Lodge.
After the incident at the Lodge Frankie was sedated. He woke-up in a white room. Dr. Zosimo Kulio stood over Frankie with a twelve-inch hypodermic needle. The doctor jabbed his patient with a mixture of psychedelic drugs. Frankie had to confront the monsters in his head.
Donny sat on a stool and smiled. The hernia sported an orange comb-over. Frankie was horrified, “what are you,” he sputtered.
“I can see you are in complete awe because you are standing in my presence.”
“I’m gagging. Talk about ugly…”
“Hey, buttercup, I’m in charge. Treat me with respect or I’ll make your life hell!”
“This is crazy. You’re a piece of my lower intestine, a hernia.”
“I shall call you stupid because that is what you are. I was your extremely mistreated twin; then, I became President.”
“I called you Donny as a joke.”
“I’m no joke, asshole. You were envious of the power wielded by a great man. You wished me into existence. Now, I’m in charge.”
“This is not happening,” Frankie moaned.
“It’s happening funny-man – I mean washed-up hack.”
Frankie felt a sudden jolt of pain and heard laughter like the sound of a buzz-saw.
“That’s right Frankie-boy – you are Out. Fired. I’m in charge and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Leonora Vetch missed Frankie. She hadn’t heard from him in over a month. They had a short-term affair (two nights on a waterbed not worth remembering). The affair quickly cooled down and became an awkward friendship. She was happy about what happened, how it all turned out… Leonora prized friendship more than sex. It wasn’t always easy dealing with Frankie’s obsessions and ideation. Still, Frankie was a comforting presence when he wasn’t rambling on about politics or philosophy. In truth, Leonora didn’t have a lot of friends and Frankie was dependable. She was a newspaper reporter working for the Daily Grind. She met Frankie Bernbaum while doing a fluff piece about the Virtual revival of the Borscht Belt. Leonora liked Bernbaum’s act. He reminded her of Lenny Bruce… only Frankie was not nearly as intelligent or daring.
Frankie always turned up or called every week. If he planned to be away he left a message. Leonora heard about the blow-up at the Mogen David Motor Lodge. She knew Frosty Dick had Frankie committed to Cold Stone; but they could only hold him for twenty-four hours. Frankie would have shown up on her doorstep after his release. Leonora decided to investigate. If necessary she would turn this case into a hashtag frenzy or meme attack. She had the skills.
Leonora went to Bernbaum’s apartment. It was empty. She searched the Virtual Archives for information: leftover bits, ramdom bytes – clues with Frankie’s psychic signature attached. Leonora realized she needed help. She found no trace of her friend, but she found something else: the one person who could solve the mystery, Adamine Krator. He was the legendary Detective-Inspector who was incarcerated by the authorities in Red City. He was framed of course, but that didn’t matter in the arcane, digital jungle. Krator was entombed in the One-Zero VR Archive.
Leonora uncovered the digital codes that could give Krator limited virtual-freedom. The codes worked like an electronic monitoring-devise. If Krator strayed too far off course (as described in the compliance-plan set forth by Leonora) he would be pulled back like a rubber-band, back into prison.
The great Inspector was so relieved to be out in the cascading Virtual World that he vowed to solve the case and discover what happened to Frankie Bernbaum.
As usual he went about his work with exactitude. Krator was hyper-vigilant (a characteristic that could be described as a personality disorder; or the defining behavioral trait of a Genius).
The detective followed a routine starting with the onset of events that led up to the disappearance. He researched the places where Frankie was last seen. He recreated the pivotal moments that occurred leading up to the time when Frankie was missed. It was necessary to become Frankie, necessary to walk in the man’s shoes. It was a technique that Adamine virtually invented. In so doing the Inspector found a few clues, very few at first; but every clue told a story and led to larger discoveries. At last, Frankie Bernbaum was found; unfortunately the comedian was not himself. He was found in an alley next door to the White House Bar & Grill. He was cut to pieces and very dead.
The great Adamine Krator put the pieces together to answer the question, “what happened to Frankie Bernbaum?”
Upon release from the Cold Stone Infirmary Frankie went to his apartment. He needed to put everything in order because he did not plan to return. He was in severe pain caused by his hernia. Donny continually badgered and mocked Frankie. There was no let up. The hernia intended to wall off Frankie. There would no longer be communication with Frankie. He would be imprisoned as the enemy. The comedian launched his own attack against Donny: weight lifting, squats, and extreme exercises… all to cause pain to the volatile hernia, to make Donny stop. Of course the pain he caused Donny doubled back on Frankie. Unbearable pain. Frankie staggered into the White House Bar where he proceeded to get blinding drunk. The drunker he became, the crazier Donny became: attacking and swearing, trying to grind Frankie into the ground beneath his feet… the seething hatred could be felt by the patrons in the bar. They were wary of this crazy comedian who sobbed and ranted about the filthy man who was president. A fight broke out. Heads were cracked open spilling brains across the floor. The comedian was yelling and sobbing. He couldn’t take the rising pain. He could not let Donny take control (Donny’s words echoed inside his skull, “I’m in charge and there is nothing you can do about it.”) There was something Frankie could do. He backed into the alley behind the bar and unsheathed the knife he took from his apartment. There was something… and Frankie proceeded to attack Donny, sacrificing his own life in the battle.
Frankie Bernbaum gasped for air. He was finished telling his story. Dr. Zosimo Kulio bit his lip. It wasn’t easy seeing his patient in such a state of decompensation. The man was under undue stress. The sickness was all in his head. The country would get back to normal one of these days and it would all seem like a dream… at least, that was everyone’s hope. He had to admit nothing was easy anymore. It wasn’t easy having his clinic turned into a prison for dissenters and aliens. But, he felt confident it would change… it had to change!
He had everything he ever wanted; but, then the world fell apart. There was an explosion at the Large Hadron Collider. Matter collapsed into energy. Everything was suddenly gone. “No,” Davi Odman said to himself, “it didn’t happen. It was all fake news. The Collider was foolproof.”
He looked around and saw the world was still intact. Nothing was changed except his eyesight. Tiny floaters speckled his vision possibly due to a detached retina. He also noticed a change in the light spectrum from bright to dark and, then, he saw a man standing in the corner of the room; a dark man.
Davi was happy when he moved to Tucson, a new city, a new life. He was filled with hope and great expectations. He just got married. After thirty years of solitary living he met someone who changed his life.
The flood waters were rising. The audience was fascinated. Eyes were glued to digital-flimsies and TV monitors. Fire also captivated the audience. Huge firestorms burst across the screens… destroying whole cities in California. Viewers were placated by images of death and destruction… eyes glued to I-pads… questions and protests held at bay. “No such thing as global warming!”
“Just be Happy,” a musical interlude was suddenly cut short by a dissonant click.
On the Thirteenth floor of the Penobscot Building in Detroit, Michigan, twenty-three stenographers (all female) furiously punched keys on Burroughs adding-machines. Figures never lie, but the totals did not add up.
They acted like teenagers, young lovers, even though both men were fast approaching late middle-age. Davi kissed his partner tenderly. Adam relaxed into the arms of his lover.
It was a trick of the light that made the sun disappear. In the ancient world a Total Eclipse was feared as a sign of the End Times. Superstitions were overturned by science, but fear of a dying sun continued to persist.
The dark man was cut from the fabric of space and pinned to the corner of the room where Davi Odman sat. Davi could hear a persistent knocking. He heard the rattling of wooden shutters and the rushing sound of a train that never stopped.
Adam loved to play games. He pretended to be a dominatrix. Davi fought back. The gentle rub of theatrical make-believe characterized the relationship. Always fighting, always loving. One always cooked and the other always cleaned. Hand in glove, hand in hand; then giant cobras crawled up the drain pipe. Cobras and Pythons were featured on TV: talking heads dismissing the obvious and supporting lunacy. Others fought tooth and nail to balance reality, but to no avail. They were stigmatized as socialists or homos.
Sabrina Nightingale was an alchemist with a PhD in Physics. She understood the mechanics of Time and she was the Director of the Prognostication Bureau in the Penobscot Building. The figures were no longer reliable and it was no longer possible to predict the future. New particles beyond the Higgs Boson were discovered when the Hadron Collider was in operation, smashing atoms. The unpredictable trump Effect changed everything.
Davi and Adam were caught up in the frenzy of changing times. Elections no longer seemed to matter. Results were dissolved in a vat of audacious protests and complaints. Tea drinking became the nations pastime. Marriage equality was condemned along with racial equality. The first amendment was hanging by a thread. The nation was shifting in Time to an earlier era when equal rights were the prerogative of wealthy, white men.
Everyone was stoned at the party. Davi and Adam sang love songs in a Virtual Reality sitcom. People were trading shares of actual experience for adventures in dreamtime.
Thanksgiving came and went in a haze of cannabis smoke. The hungry and poor were fed giblets from Kentucky Fried Chicken as an ad promotion. The leader of the people gave thanks to himself for making the nation great again. Soon the poor and elderly would be lifted up from poverty and put to work cleaning highways and carrying boulders.
Sabrina Nightingale was beside herself, caught between time zones and unable to stabilize. She phased (in and out) like a badly distorted TV image. She wasn’t the only one. Time itself was unhinged and the trump effect was collapsing into a black hole that would suck the world into oblivion. Sabrina was determined to sacrifice herself to the ravages of Time and trump in order to stabilize reality. In an unexpected twist the situation backtracked due to the incursion of the holiday season and Black Friday Super Sales. Nothing was as powerful as the American hunger for materialism, gadgetry; and bigger, better stuff. It was family gift-giving time. The president and his family were featured everywhere, on every screen, and in every newspaper. The leader led the nation in buying and selling. Nothing was out of bounds: hotels, casinos, and Arab Princes. Collusion was on the high stakes table. Russia made for good TV. Investigations could only intensify ratings. When truth came to shove, POTUS was a bit concerned about his family who were looking at prison time for crimes against nature, but nothing could distract from the Holiday Sale-a-thon. who would pay the most for the USA… would it be Russia, The United Arab Emirates, or North Korea?
Sabrina was a Time Traveler. She flitted across the centuries like a butterfly, but she could only observe; she couldn’t participate or change events in Time. She could foresee great danger on the event horizon quickly approaching. Her world was disappearing due to the fallacious trump effect. In an effort to take back her power she joined protests — every effort no matter how small helped, but nothing was definitive.
Davi and Adam watched the news together. They held hands. They built a fort from blankets and hid beneath the covers. The world appeared dark. The sun was dying even as global warming ransacked the planet. Love was not the answer in a world torn asunder by wars fueled by greed. Davi never talked about the dark-man in the corner of the room. He wasn’t sure if it was an apparition or something more substantial. Was it real or a figment of his imagination. He wondered if it was an alien or a messenger from god.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Upper-State University. Politics went viral on the internet like thousands of newly engineered viruses. Video Screens exploded with profanity. No one was certain if the back-alley talk was due to a viral infection or due to political maneuvering. Computers were always on. There were whispered innuendos about spies — no one felt safe. There were accidents set off by exploding phones adding to the paranoia. Discord was everywhere.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over tariffs, border walls, and locker room etiquette. Surrogates gushed with praise for their powerful bosses, condoning everything that dripped like grease from the mouths of their leaders. Clandestine contracts were signed in corporate backrooms, souls were bartered and sold. Money greased the wheels of political power.
Hate-core music was yelling over loud speakers and there were riots in the streets. Storm troopers marched through the city wearing orange berets and yelling obscenities against women. A new day was dawning.
The Black Knight satellite was a myth until it was recognized as real by millions of star gazers and scientists. It was reported to be thousands of years old, but no one knew for certain. Astronauts observed it from the International Space Station. Davi and Adam saw the story on the eleven-o-clock news. Scientists reported the satellite was waking up. A great engine started to hum and click. Lights of an unknown origin began to appear on the hull of the satellite. The dark, pitted surface appeared to split open and a large package or crate floated out from the hull. The package maneuvered and set a course to the surface of the planet. It was a gift or warning from some long, lost Alien Civilization. There was no rational explanation. Certainly current events on Earth had something to do with the awakening — but what? No one had an answer. Time seemed to stop. Everyone waited for the delivery… and the aftermath.