Tagged: sci-fi

Incidental Effects

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?”

“Nemesis… you!”

“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.

Advertisements

Pathos

“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!

Transport Ship

Sammy opened a door in the wall and entered a game room called, Kingpin. There were many rooms in the Stone Edifice on Pennsylvania Avenue. Sammy played at being several characters in the game. In the hall-of-mirrors he saw himself as Leonora Mangrove. She was a knockout manufactured from Fractal-Coherence and anti-matter. Sammy studied Quantum Physics. He wanted to learn how to shine like the light from a nuclear blast. He talked rhapsodic to himself. Many characters emerged. Leonora hummed a tune and Sammy cracked jokes trying to dispel a growing feeling of dread.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had a stable life with a lover and good friends. He could depend on his job as a salesman… it was boring but paid the bills. Sammy wondered when his life became so heated, so complicated. He remembered getting married. It was finally legal to marry another man. He always believed he was heterosexual. He changed somewhere along the line, but he did not know where or when. Making love to Tommy was like being immersed in molten lead. Tommy broke through the barrier that separated Sammy from the rest of the world.

Leonora interjected, “you are a confused man, Sammy. You got it all wrong.”

For a moment Sammy looked like he was about to cry; then, he resigned himself to the situation and asked, “how did it happen?”

Leonora reacted, “Don’t you remember being an astronaut… the first person to fly faster than the speed of light? Don’t you remember being stoned by Roger? Don’t you remember the Kingpin?”

“No… none of it. I thought I sold shoes and lived a simple life with Tommy.”

“You did for awhile,” Leonora interjected, “then all hell broke loose.”

A synapse lit up in Sammy’s brain… He remembered a news report about Al Loyd Benson. He was an astronaut nicknamed Lightning. It was reported that Al Loyd crossed the barriers of Time to go beyond corporeal existence. He was a time-traveler from the future. But, Al Loyd was never a man. A human body could never withstand the stress inflicted by Time Travel. Al Loyd was a machine, a robot.

Sammy shouted at Leonora, “pain… doesn’t that make me a man!”

Leonora modulated the color spectrum on her new acetate skin. “Maybe,” she responded, “maybe not.”

Sammy suffered. He was never free of a sense of dread. How was it possible to survive in such a frail human body? He was living in a Hell-world. There was mortal danger everywhere: on streets, in traffic. thieves and bullies roamed the neighborhood. He could fall and break his bones. Collusion and murder were commonplace. His only relief came from his lover’s touch, hand to brow.

“Don’t get maudlin,” Leonora sounded bored, “maybe Tommy doesn’t even exist. He’s just a character. All the characters come out at night.” Her words ricocheted through Sammy’s brain. They were everywhere like zombies, characters, actors unhinged from reality, roaming free through M.C. Escher’s optical illusions.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

His name was Felix. He saw himself reflected in a thousand screens and mirrors of illusion. Nothing was real, least of all himself.

There is a switch in my brain that turns on and off and recycles my personality. I am forced from one dimension to another… never certain of who or where I am.

“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress.

Donny Trident was the mastermind behind a plan to upgrade the human race.

“Am I part of a Hive?”

“My name is Morton Slope and I’m part of a conspiracy.

Madam Celia-Quark conducted a séance. She attempted to channel the spirits of Time and Space.

Benda Creamola looked like Elsa Lancaster in the movie, Bride of Frankenstein.

Starling was a Polysexual-biomorph who could be any sex or gender depending on the mood of the moment.

“I’m the man who wanted to save the world.”

The last time Joey saw his therapist he cried.

Rabbit had a vicious smile and a spine-tingling laugh.

Bondeer Saville was going to the Masquerade Ball. She pranced across the electronic fast-lanes like lightning incarnate.

“My name is Marvin Naivan and I don’t belong here.”

Miss Blossom enjoyed her work at the Night Station. It wasn’t too difficult as long as you kept your mind to yourself and followed orders.

The actor was silently staring at the worm in the bottle of tequila, hoping to forget everything.

Electra Glomm reset her life several times, changing her colors like the lizard slithering across the kitchen floor. Plastic surgery helped.

Roxy Box was a semi-intelligent reporter working for News Corpse, the Internet conglomerate. Roxy was not a woman or man – Roxy was IT, “information technology.”

Chan-X was a skinny teen, a member of the Red Gang, an incestuous family of throwaways, lost and unwanted souls.

Samantha Lux came to the party with a Versace handbag loaded with anti-personnel weapons.

Jason Montieth was certain his identity had been stolen

——————————————————————————————————————————–

The rapid-fire memory-flash began to fade and Sammy found himself on a metal floor. At first he thought he was on a train traveling with fellow prisoners, going to Buchenwald. He recognized several passengers. They were old friends, former lovers, and actors he’d known when he was a young man. Leonora smiled and flashed a victory sign. He was on a Transit Ship that broke through the wall that surrounded Earth. Mr. D (a man with the medical condition of Dwarfism) was at the controls. The ship moved faster than the speed of light. Everyone was swiftly transported to the Land of the Dying Sun.

 

 

Adrift

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.

Click

 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.

Click

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.

Click

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?

Click

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.

Click

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.

Click

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.

Click

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.

The Star Hound Bar

Mortimer thought the bar looked like a black reflection-pool. Everything shimmered. Walls seemed to drip like burning sulfur. Faces floated around him like mephitic sea creatures. The girl seated next to him was a mermaid consumed in slow flames. Her name was Kimberly. She was a hooker. Mortimer had known her for several months. They never went to bed together. Mortimer wanted her too much to risk rejection; besides, he had no money to bargain with. They became friends who occasionally met at The Star Hound for a drink.

Kimberly was small and loud; she commanded respect. She had red hair that snapped with static electricity and green eyes that sank holes into a man’s brain. Her body was beautifully rendered like a painting by Caravaggio. She wore orange satin shorts and a lace halter.

“A person has a responsibility to experience all that life has to offer,” she said with brassy authority.

Mortimer responded, “you’re right, only some things are more important than others. All I’m saying is that a person’s got to make choices. No one-person can possibly experience everything.”

“A person doesn’t have to say no to anything that comes along,” she said, “in the end your experience is all that counts.”

“What about the results of your experience, the products and consequences of experience — that’s something isn’t it?”

“I don’t know. Nothing lasts forever. I like to live in the present.”

“Kimberly,” Mortimer sighed like a love sick child, “you’re beautiful.”

“Yeah, I know; and the world is a garden of eternal joy.” Her face twitched. “Oh fuck. Philosophy is bullshit. I suck cock for a living — that’s what really counts.”

The bar seemed to tremble as Mortimer sipped amber fluid from a glass that was surgically attached to his right hand. A warthog in a charcoal-gray suit walked up to the bar to order a drink. For a moment Mortimer saw Kimberly as she really looked: a sagging middle-aged prostitute trying to appear young with dyed hair and thick makeup. Dark mascara dripped like smudged blue-wax around red eyes. Her body puffed over the edges of satin and lace.

Suddenly she clasped his hand and drew it to her flaccid breasts. “I am the Dark Lady,” she whispered.

Mortimer gasped. The bar gleamed like melted silver. The naked bartender smiled with lizard teeth. Mortimer understood. He was inside the painting, the one he was currently working on. He was stuck beneath splotches of magenta and ocher, beneath a torn label from a Heineken Beer. He could feel Kimberly vibrate beneath his hand like something mechanical. Her skin had turned green and cold. She smiled as she spoke, “there is something behind all this, something absolute and permanent. There is something at the heart of chaos. Cluck… Cluck… Cluck!”

Mortimer withdrew his hand as if he’d touched molten lead. Kimberly collapsed to the floor. She shattered like thin crystal. Pieces struck Mortimer like razor blades, embedding themselves into his skin. The bartender bared his pointy teeth.

Mortimer pushed himself through the mob of drunken predators. They stank of swamp and their skins were bejeweled with fungus. He crashed into the barroom door. It was difficult pushing through the opening. He was met with a wall of resistance. He soon realized the barrier he faced was the painting, a barricade of jet-black oil paint —  and it was impenetrable.

Star Hound

 

The Solution

He laughed hysterically. He had to play the part. They said he was a crazy, old man; and, “yes,” he admitted to himself, “it’s true!”

He couldn’t stop laughing as he stared at the white, padded walls. Graham Gunther believed he was misunderstood… he was a scientist doing cutting edge work. Of course, he had a few personality quirks, but who didn’t. Dr. Graham Gunther hated other people: they smelled, stole from one another, committed murder, and screwed like giant insects… and worst of all, they died. He knew old age was a disease: a painful, debilitating disease that ended in oblivion. The human body was simply a rotting sack of flesh. Gunther couldn’t admit he was human, but old age still came calling and death was right behind. Dr. Gunther wanted to rid the world of the human disorder. He wanted to save himself. The experiments he performed on unwilling students eventually resulted in his incarceration and the designation of a new mental disorder, Gunther’s Syndrome.

The TV time-machine reminisces rhapsodically, “Mr. Dillon, I got the latest psycho-sexual enhancement pills and I feel great! I got it all in the handy pocket-sized container that includes a powerful body make-over and lots of pearly-white-teeth — All for just pennies per day.” “But, wait! There’s more…”

Graham Gunther admitted to the list of crimes against humanity. He pleaded guilty with extenuating circumstances… he claimed he was mentally ill, driven by obsessive-compulsive urges he could not control. He was sentenced and spent the remaining years of his life in a prison for the criminally deranged. After his death he was pardoned by an aging President who sought radical cures for his newly diagnosed mental instability. Pardoning Dr. Gunther opened the floodgates for continued experiments that were developed by the recently dead doctor. Student volunteers were forced to run a gauntlet of physical endurance tests… forced to ingest poisonous chemicals… and forced to submit to mutagenic processes.

The abandoned Biosphere 2 (near Tucson, AZ) was refurbished. It became the laboratory for radical experimentation. Groups of scientists and ill-informed volunteers assembled in the new laboratory. The Biosphere was brought back online as a self-sustaining environment. The new inhabitants were disconnected from the outside world. A community was established based on the principles of B.F. Skinner. The scientists designed the experiments and managed the community. The volunteer subjects were prodded, poked, and analyzed. Huge monographs were published describing the results and failures of manifold experiments. Old age was slowly on the decline, eradicated from human existence.

The years unfolded like the bellows on an accordian. President Riley Dunbar moved into the Biosphere to join the intrepid group of scientists and their much maligned volunteer-subjects. The leadership viewed the volunteers as guinea pigs and servants. Some of the early experiments failed resulting in congenital freaks who now lurked in the dark recesses of the Biosphere. Eventually the experiments bore fruit. Infirmities resulting from old age completely disappeared. People got older without any debilitating illnesses. A breakthrough solution was substituting ailing organs with replacement parts using a Virtual Reality interface (the technique was suggested in Dr. Gunther’s notes). President Dunbar relished his newfound freedom from age-related afflictions. People rejoiced. Everyone continued to get older, but without pain.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

“It’s all for the best,” that’s what they said to anyone who questioned authority. Zack always had questions. He always wrestled with angels — they appeared at night in order to impress Zack with their luminescence. Zack thought it was just a parlor trick: putting a flickering flashlight under a white gown. Still, it was impressive — even Zack had to admit it (and he did as he bowed before the Eminences while snickering under his breath). The angels weren’t impressed so they patted Zack on the head and said, “it’s all for the best.” Then, they strapped the lad to the midnight-bed and proceeded to attach wires to his brain and inject Prime Directives into the Hypothalamus and other soft-core tissues. It was a dream. When he awoke Zack no longer saw angels, but he kept hearing the Prime Directives in his head. The Directives mapped his life. It was like having a GPS inside his brain telling him where to go and how to get there.

Zack was living the good life. Murna, his AI interface, reassured him by repeating the message several times an hour. Everything was predictable except for the lights on the Motherboard that flashed at Zack and confused him. He couldn’t understand the code. He often found himself in the Liquid Web running between the hell zone of wireless transmissions trying to decipher the code. He was obsessed with the lights. His family and friends shared personal avatars and shadow surrogates so he was never alone, but he rarely knew them in person. Everyone cherished the solitude of self containment. It was easier and safer to interact from behind a wall.

The Directives told Zack the blinking lights were a mistake, a misguided principle.

Every Saturday he drove to the Liquid Web in his Loganda Flying-Swan and went searching for Happenstance, the thrill of discovering something unexpected or alien. He was also looking for the meaning of the blinking code. The routine was reassuring, but there was no longer anything interesting to discover.

“No time like the present,” warbled the giant, exploding pigeon at the Information Exchange. The greeting summoned a new day of trading Information for Time. Everyone was a Time trader. Stories and lies amounted to valuable information that could enhance life. Time was ever present, but it existed as a form of currency (never backed by gold — backed by nothing but Time). Zack no longer cared about Time or Information. He wasn’t paying attention when he tripped on a web browser that catapulted him into a meditation lounge where he bumped into a media celebrity named Zendora who was wearing purple snap-chat pantaloons. She radiated bombshell.

The pigeon at the Information Exchange exploded and Zack was enraptured. This was a once in a lifetime Happenstance, totally unaccountable. There was no physical interface, but information was exchanged. Zendora was an intriguing creature who seemed to fluoresce like an angel. It wasn’t love (no such concept existed), but there was understanding and a hint of mutual empathy. That’s when the horror show began. Zendora discarded her glowing flesh to reveal a host of flashing lights under the hood. The lights were blinking in code. This time, Zack understood.

The old man in the video was talking directly to Zack, “My brain was digitized allowing me to speak from beyond the grave. I made a mistake and you are the result. After my death, my experiments were continued. I was redeemed, but my work was the beginning of the end. I couldn’t accept my own humanity. I was rash… now, the human race is gone. You are all that remains: a web-browser, a robot who believes he is human.”

 

Fractured

Fractured

It was Mr. Mongoose, a 300 pound man, who tipped the scales resulting in a fracture in time. Mongoose was a mobster/businessman who owned The House of Blue Lights where Miss Silica Wayfarer sang for her supper. She was a frail damsel in distress. When she wasn’t singing the blues she was selling her body at cut-rate prices. It was an addiction. Perhaps, Silica was a victim of abuse; maybe she was under the influence of powerful subliminal suggestions; or, perhaps, she simply loved sex. Mongoose knew the story and he catered to her addiction with the glee of a 14 year old boy; but it wasn’t sex he was after… it was control. Mr. Mongoose was driven by the compulsion to have power over everything: people, sex, drugs, and money. He wanted the whole mega-metropolis to kneel down before his mighty girth. He was nicknamed The Coyote because he slinked through the city always ready to pounce.

The blue lights in the house were iridescent and alive with radiation. Mongoose enjoyed toying with his customers. He irradiated them to make them more receptive to robocalls and subliminal messages.

Silica was propped-up on stage. Her naked body glistened in the blue lights. Smoke poured off her reinforced breasts as she fornicated to the electronic beats. The audience was transfixed by the blue emanations streaming from cell phones and computer screens. No one watched the stage. Everything had to be an offshoot of the original. The ideal launching pad was six degrees from reality. Mongoose was in his element, controlling the masses. He wanted fodder for his new endeavor: destruction on a mass scale. He would have to harness the energy of a particle accelerator. It would give him control over Time itself; but even in his addled brain it seemed like an outlandish plan. Mongoose wondered if he was being controlled by some entity outside himself… that was his worst nightmare. He often had dreams that featured blue aliens — three creatures that looked like puppy-dogs except for their color, Yves Klein Blue. In the nightmare, the aliens crossed the barrier that surrounds Earth. At first they appeared like fluffy balls of light… Mongoose was not an easy man to scare, but fluffy balls of light horrified him. He had to bring his bizarre plan to fruition in order to save himself from the aliens.

Music was always a distraction. It was supposed to calm the patients, but it often had the opposite effect. The music sounded like cats drowning in a barrel. The voice of Silica Wayfarer overflowed in atonal waves from the loud speakers. Patients began to riot. The only person who sat calmly and quietly was Pomeroy-Zen. He wasn’t certain if his name was fiction or non-fiction; but he subscribed to his apparent name with the entirety of his mental capacity. Pomeroy’s life was festooned with riddles. He wasn’t certain if he was in a hospital or jail. He didn’t know if he was a slave to a corrosive addiction which may have resulted in his incarceration; or, if he simply slipped from the moorings of reality with a nervous breakdown. He relied on his digital Sidekick for answers. After meditating in the midst of the riot, Pomeroy questioned his Sidekick, “where am I?”

“Thomas,” the Sidekick always addressed Pomeroy as Thomas, “you are in a Transpersonal Environment built from the expectations of a majority of disenchanted Homo sapiens.”

“Why am I here?” Pomeroy tweeted.

“People have been brought to this node as a protection from the harm they may cause to themselves, other people, or institutions. A legal precedent has just been uploaded and approved.”

“Is there a way out?”

“There is no way out, but there is a way In. The further In you go, the more distance you will travel from the current situation.”

There was never a clear-cut answer about anything. It was frustrating, but also illuminating in a Zen kind of way.

Pomeroy hooked up with Silica Wayfarer. No sex was involved. The hook up was purely for practical considerations and survival was a top priority. They had reasons to escape the current situation. Mr. Mongoose and his thugs appeared at every intersection.

The besieged couple had credentials (facsimiled by Pomeroy’s Sidekick). For their own protection they became different people, a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Arturo and Monica Bracket — no longer addicted to sex or Zen. Consequently (for all intents and purposes) they were archeological explorers purportedly searching for an ancient artifact known to be buried in the Amazon Jungle. Previously they lived in the city of Amazonia, not far from the jungle. All the evidentiary facts fit like a glove.

Mongoose was discouraged. He got sidetracked by other concerns, devastation being his main objective. The scales were already tipped and Time was running out. The aliens, whether real or imagined, yapped and barked like feral dogs.

—————————————————————————–

In 2018 a digital article was published stating the mathematical proof of Time Travel and the possibility of building a Time Machine. All that was missing were the exotic materials necessary to construct the device. In the ensuing years, new exotic-materials were developed and made available.

Mr. Mongoose was a businessman with a bad comb-over. He was an interloper who lusted after power.

——————————————————————————

Arturo and Monica were having tea on the veranda. They were visiting Professor Kulio’s country home in Patagonia.

“We have to settle our accounts before heading off to the jungle,” Arturo whispered to Monica.

“Yes, darling. We are lucky the professor has agreed to back our expedition.”

“He loves antiquity. He believes the past is buried in the Amazon along with a key to our very survival.”

———————————————————————————

An end is another beginning (Zen Koan).

We are plagued by funerals. We aspire to slip into a future beyond death.

The jungle is riff with dangers. There is always a man with a big gun.

———————————————————————————-

Arturo and Monica Bracket checked the want-ads through the Talking Drum Network in order to find a guide. Harry Numumba fit the bill. He was a member of the Baka tribe of Pygmies. He had a degree from Oxford and he was well versed in myths concerning lost cities and ancient artifacts. Harry was well traveled and he had a map of the Amazon tattooed on his back.

The Brackets conscripted several native bearers and a boat ironically named, The African Queen. They set out on the seventh day of the seventh month at the seventh hour.

“The artifact you seek,” Harry Numumba succinctly spat out the words, “is most likely located in the lost city of Akuna Gimba near the mouth of the great Amazon River.”

Arturo and Monica were shocked and surprised. They heard of Akuna Gimba. The name translated as The Land of the Dying Sun.

The river boat excursion unraveled like the slippery back of a giant sea serpent. Nights on the river were fierce with the maniacal sounds of predators and the glistening lights reflected off the eyes of beasts along the river’s edge. The journey on the African Queen wound down to a stuttering silence as Lands End rose from the murky depths.

The group disembarked at the mouth of the Amazon. Several of the native bearers were too frightened to continue into the rain forest. The native word for devastation was repeated again and again.

The remaining group traveled through a jungle-web of intolerable conditions. Harry led the way. Monstrous plants seemed to rise up and attack the group with poisonous thorns. Mosquitoes the size of fists pummeled the group with unrelenting stings. Two native bearers succumbed to the devastating perils. Monica suffered from a bout of life threatening dysentery. Arturo was put out of commission for several days after wrenching his back. Thereafter he had to be dragged along on a makeshift stretcher.

In the early dawn of the seventh week the ruins of a city rose out of the blue mist. The city appeared to welcome the remaining travelers, but it was a grisly welcome. Death was all that could be seen. The city was a tomb consisting of shattered buildings and petrified bones.

Arturo and Monica continued undaunted to the site of the artifact rumored to be a network or large cave shielded by a pitch black monolith. The stone marker was visible from where they stood. The monolith offered protection (or a warning), but the entrance into the cave was unobstructed.

The inside of the cave appeared to glow with an acidic blue light. The source of the light could have been the luminous fungus that covered the walls of the cave, but that was not the case. There was a sarcophagus in the middle of the floor. It wasn’t made of stone. It was metal. It was stainless steel and it glowed blue. A clear glass visor covered the top of the sarcophagus. A face was clearly visible behind the visor. It was a face out of Time, from a long lost century. Monica and Arturo stared at one another as Time began to unravel. They turned back to the machine. They recognized the face of the 300 pound man, the man who fractured Time.