They were coming from beyond the horizon. Jonathan Rangle saw them through the Ultra-Lens he purchased from a Con-Arts Website: giant, voracious ants devouring everything in sight. The dream fragmented and shattered like a delicate wine glass. Jonathan was fifty and he still had comic-book dreams. The little boy inside the man refused to grow up. He was immature, unable to accept reality.
Jonathan couldn’t adjust. He tried (sometimes desperately) to control circumstances. He was convinced something was wrong (a spanner in the works). He was driven to discover the true nature of reality. Doctor Zosomo Kulio told him, “your behavior is part of a vicious circle: you reject reality only to create another version that you also reject as being inauthentic — and the cycle starts over.”
What Zosomo said made sense, but it didn’t really matter. Something really was wrong, terribly wrong!
Rufus, a rat that lived in the wall, told Jonathan Rangle that people around the country were very upset. Rufus was Rangle’s best friend. He sat on his haunches and ate cheese. Together, the rat and the man, sipped wine and talked until delirium set in and the morning sun ignited the world.
“They want more,” the rat said, “TV isn’t enough. The world is changing too fast. Old jobs are being replaced with technology. Only movie stars and billionaires can afford the life that TV promotes. Ads are everywhere. Buy more. Eat more. Get more any way you can. Privacy is a thing of the past. Computers invade brains with slogans and enticements. Free credit. Free everything!”
“Yes,” Jonathan ruminated, “it wasn’t like this in the 1950’s. It was pleasant and easy going, or so I’ve been told.”
“Wrong,” the rat sneered, “it was lily white and the world was under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Today, people are running scared cause they are being replaced. The alien threat is real, but it has nothing to do with immigrants or minorities.”
Jonathan knew what Rufus meant. His own father was a white-nationalist. He was an angry man who blamed other people for his own failures.
Rufus commiserated, “you have to be a failure in America… that’s how the rich get richer. Poor people are brain-washed to buy what they can’t afford so they go into debt. It’s a vicious circle. Believing the rich man is the biggest mistake of all.”
The news of the election-results was very upsetting, but not unexpected.
Unhappy voters gave the reigns of government to a New Faction. Traditional politicians with their empty promises were no longer acceptable. Outright lies were easier to digest. Fables on gold platters were more palatable than cold facts and reasoned debate that forced people to think. Thinking was considered hard work. No one really wanted to work except for stupid immigrants who were stealing jobs. Most people wanted the leisurely life that only the new President and his cabinet could provide.
The New Faction took control. Jonathan was bereft. Rufus took it all in stride. At first people were dismayed, but eventually what seemed so unnatural became acceptable. The press and congress wanted to give the new team a chance; they couldn’t be worse than other administrations.
The New Faction was very different. Working to fulfill great expectations, the President and his cabinet made an effort to appear human. Inevitably, nature took its course and the president slipped back to his old ways: wallowing in swill. The members of the new cabinet were relieved to discard the clothes they were forced to wear in order to fool the public.
“the world will never be the same,” Rufus commented as he ate his cheese and sipped his wine. Jonathan nodded.
Eventually everyone got used to pigs in the White House. Soon it was “business as usual” having barnyard animals rule the country.
The Brain that controlled the spaceship was provoked. It sent out urgent messages and demands. After several unresponsive minutes the Brain was frustrated and attacked the loud speakers, “I want everyone off the ship. This is the final warning. I will not continent any more disrespect. Off! Off! Off!” These outbursts had been going on for quite awhile. No one listened anymore.
The Orange Toreador tunneled through space like a Mother Bomb. The Generation Ship was the greatest achievement of the twenty-first century… the only genuine accomplishment from a world that was long gone, left behind in the aftermath of “lift off” on an arc of fireworks and exhaust fumes.
The Toreador carried a cadre of brave and powerful people who planned to harness and yoke a new world for the continued glory of humankind. The first order of business was to discover a habitable planet. The ship hurtled through Ultra-Space powered by a time-loop. Three hundred years passed in the blink of an eye. The boarders on the ship merely experienced a passage of three weeks.
Morton Sedlack could no longer see himself in a mirror. He could no longer identify himself. He was a dying man sinking into a memory-foam mattress on the way down to a coffin in the ground. He awoke suddenly and found himself in the evacuation chamber of a starship. He was being evicted, cast into the vacuum of space. The Brain began the eviction process. It dismantled the failsafe and took total control.
Initially the Brain merely wanted to initiate money saving measures by cutting back on environmental safeguards. Oxygen deprivation ignited a series of citizen protests. The Brain could not abide any criticism. It decided drastic measures were necessary to keep the ship on course.
The sons-and-daughters of the Brain were frantic. They could see the same scenarios play out always ending in disaster. They were gathered in the Strategic Armaments Room — staring down at a holographic projection of “things past” and ” things to come.” The conference room was an exact replica of the glitzy showroom on Earth where major military decisions were authorized over a slice of chocolate cake. What disturbed the advisors was the lack of fashion-sense among the passengers on the Father-Ship. The lack of oxygen and total loss of control were also very problematic.
When Morton Sedlack was ejected into space he was filled with remorse. Sedlack wasn’t sad because his life was over, he was bereft because he left someone behind. He loved a cyborg named Phantom Limb. As his body blew up in the vacuum of space he remembered his last night with Limb.
Lights were flashing erratically due to the latest outburst from the Brain. A hellish rant of vitriol overflowed from the life-sustaining pool where the Brain was stored. Some people said the pool was a cage. Others said the Brain deserved to be in a cage. Morton and Limb relived beautiful moments together knowing the end was near. They tripped in enhanced VR, more real than life itself: the electrifying first kiss, metal to flesh… the fireworks of internal combustion and quivery intestines… the high-voltage synapse of brain cells conjoined with silicon chips… the ultimate experience being together when the sky exploded and the rocket launched into space.
Morton’s last wish was to be remade in molten metal and poured into his beloved, Phantom Limb. His wish and memories burned down to a tiny cinder.
Phantom Limb railed against the night. He was more than a metal arm or leg… more than a limb; but Morton was the only person who ever treated him like an equal, like a whole human being. Limb was hoping to receive a final message from Morton. Finally his I-phone-chip burped. The message was short: a spark dying in the night. It cut Limb to the core. He was immobilized. Frozen in grief.
The sons-and-daughters were devoted to the Brain. All life and power flowed through them from the Brain. But, now, it was acting erratically: evicting passengers without space suits. As advisers and enablers they needed to calm the Brain down. The brilliant children of the Brain were befuddled and uncertain. It was always difficult for them to make a decision that didn’t involve inanimate objects like money. Unfortunately the family never understood the reality of other people which (of course) led to the initial debacle back on Earth. Now the children had to save the survivors on the ship. They downloaded suggestions from the computer archives. They contacted Alex Jones and Sessions-Page. They discovered a great recipe for Hemlock Tea from Stephen Bannon. They were advised to sooth the Master by massaging the Brain. No one wanted to get into the warm, viscous fluids in the life-sustaining pool. It was too uncomfortable and slimy.
The children bickered. The Brain was very uncomfortable sitting in a slimy pool without a proper body and that was the real reason for his obstreperous behavior. The Navigator was conferring with the sons-and-daughters. No one was piloting the ship.
The barrier between life and death is paper thin. No one even noticed when the Father-ship crossed over, tumbling helter-skelter down into the land of the dying sun.
Allison Fornay was a slim, more attractive version of herself. She used to weigh four-hundred pounds and she was unable to move off her bed. She had a caretaker and received a living wage from disability insurance. She subsidized her income by letting news-cams into her bedroom to expose her obesity on national VR.
Everything changed when Allison met Fonderoy Thomas. He was a lifestyle guru who owned a virtual reality network. Fonderoy heard about Allison from a fake-news outlet. He wanted to help.
At this time, everyone had a Neural Net that covered the cerebellum. The net increased intelligence and enabled instant communication. Every Neural Net was stamped with an expiration code and date. The code was unique and worked like an old fashioned cell-phone number. Fonderoy connected with Allison.
“I love you, Allison,” Fonderoy gushed, “with love you can do anything!”
“Who the hell are you?” Allison replied. She didn’t know because she never tuned into the Guru channel.
After a stimulating conversation Allison submitted to Fonderoy’s life changing regimen. She submitted to mental massage and invasive chemical therapy.
Fonderoy seeded Allison’s brain with Neuro-linguistic cues and Virtual Reality Instagrams.
Allison was fucked; but, she did lose the excess weight. The process opened a Pandora’s Box. In the end Allison had no idea who she was or what she wanted.
Guru Thomas called upon Shambala, Bannon, and Mumbo-jumbo to steer Allison in the right direction. The process was trial-and-error. Allison slipped from one lifestyle to another, trying-on personalities that were injected into her brain.
She remembered munching on fruit, sitting in a Banyan Tree. She felt pleasantly stoned living like an ape. She lurched into another memory of rampaging male energy that comes with being a teenage boy. The ride continued as she became a drug addicted super model. She slammed into a tsunami of facts-and-figures as a highly regarded astrophysicist. Allison was a banker and real-estate mogul. She saw herself as a wife and mother. The experiences were overwhelming and she shattered like a glass vase.
Guru Thomas flipped through his commodified fact-sheets and randomly picked a code to permanently insert into Allison’s Neural Net.
Detective Allison Fornay was called whenever a case turned into a sticky wicket. Music swelled as she stared down at the body of a man who was vaguely familiar. The music was out of place and Allison wondered why there was music at the scene of the crime. The crime was ordinary… the music was not. The dead man was a TV personality known for his bombastic rhetoric. The man was in his seventies and he looked as if he was in terrible anguish at the time of his demise. Allison donned the obligatory rubber gloves and did the appropriate touching on the dead man’s body. She already surmised he died of a heart attack brought on by too much stress, but she had to be professional. The body would be left for the coroner who would confirm the detective’s conclusion. So much for the dead man, but the music was the real mystery. Did the other officers hear it or was she the only one? The music was vaguely familiar like the soundtrack from a TV show. It was bright and tinkly like game show music. Did the music have something to do with the corpse? “Perhaps,” Fornay whispered to herself, “I need to reassess the situation. If the man on the floor was not a victim of foul play; then who was the victim and why the sticky wicket?”
The music was counting down. A memory suddenly lurched into Allison Fornay’s brain — the memory of a man who wielded great power. He was guru Fonderoy Thomas and he infected her mind.
When lurch comes to shove, Allison was very good at hiding the facts of the murder. She concealed it from herself. The guru with his empire of zombie followers deserved to die. He tinkered with people’s souls. His pop psychology was an excuse to rewire brains and perform sadistic experiments. She smiled as the music continued to count down. Allison knew what to expect, what the music meant. The guru inserted a unique code and date in her Neural Net… and she was about to expire.
He saw a young man from across the room and he was immediately attracted to him. This never happened before. He was heterosexual. He could recall countless sexual encounters with beautiful women. When he was young he was noted for being a “horn dog.” This new sensation was all the more remarkable since he no longer had a sex drive… the drive along with certain other affectations had been medically eliminated. Parts of his anatomy were altered along with his memories. As he stared, the young man became more recognizable. He realized he was looking at a younger version of himself.
Rodney Anderflack sat cross-legged on a paisley cushion and smoked a drug-infused hookah pipe, recalling the past when America was great again.
The past was filled with ghosts. Rodney finally knew what it felt like to be a ghost. He’d been “ghosted,” taken over by a dominant Walk-in from the future. His body was being driven, manipulated by a Visitor; but his mind was left to roam free along the cyber-highways of virtual reality.
He remembered teenage angst: wanting to be part of the In-crowd.
He remembered his first true love: an android named Kelly. Her blond play-dough face popped up everywhere: on TV, on his cell, in the microwave oven, in the dishwasher, and on all his “smart” appliances. He loved her because she was the only woman who ever reached out to him. She was persistent. She always told the truth: just because Rodney had dark skin didn’t mean he was a black man… just because he was attracted to other men didn’t mean he was gay. She emphasized his free-will to straighten up and fly right. Some day, she said, Rodney could even be a member of the illustrious Orange Guard.
“Play your cards right,” she said, “and you won’t have to be afraid.” The words came directly from the Ban-man’s playbook; listed just below a paragraph about Auschwitz explaining the survival of some Jews because they cooperated by pushing other Jews into the gas ovens. Ban wanted to bring back the glory days. He was the Sweet Man’s right arm-and-hammer.
Rodney bleached his skin and went to Pence Camp for re-education. The treatments were expensive, but health care was freely provided in exchange for indentured servitude… “a win-win for everyone,” the Sweet Man liked to say in his edifying tweets. Kelly stuck with Rodney. She appeared on every surface, beaming her encouragement.
Rodney found himself in a time-bubble watching his life unfold. At Pence Camp he was given a new drug to facilitate his Transubstantiation. His sex drive was dissected and wire tapped. His skin was replaced with white gauze. Rodney proved to be a model citizen so he was given the opportunity to become a teacher in the Sweet Man’s schools-for-profit network.
He was a dedicated teacher. Since funds were limited, Rodney had to provide his own teaching materials. He used a claw-hammer as an effective instrument of instruction (as recommended in “The Camp of Saints,” the Ban-man’s favorite book).
“Mr. Sessions, Mr. Sessions,” came the plaintiff’s cry accusing the muzzled dwarf of flaunting an “unnatural” appearance. This was another “Glory Days Trial” broadcast across all channels of the homogeneous Trumpet Network.
Donnie, the Sweet Man, was having afternoon tea with the Kushners. The tweets were going well, stock prices were on the rise, and no one seemed to notice the indentured servants who supported the new social order. The rulers reveled in their hard earned largess. They followed the Ban-man’s play-book to the letter, making America great again. Soon the Kushners might encounter some unforeseen difficulties of their own due to their religious outlook. An extended vacation was scheduled for Jared and Ivanka at the Pence Re-education Camp where they would experience their own Transubstantiation. Donnie didn’t mind as long as business was on the upswing. He knew how to sublimate conflict while throwing subordinates under the bus. Melania disappeared years ago never to return.
Rodney Anderflack swallowed a bitter pill while trying to fit into the new America. He often had conversations with Kelly even though she didn’t really exist. She was a ghost, a shadow cast by the desires and anxieties of ordinary people. “I have nothing,” he complained to Kelly, “I gave my life to the New Order… and I have nothing.”
“You have your life,” Kelly replied, “Count your blessings. The world is a beautiful place.”
“I’m barely human. My skin is gone. I have no sex… and no love. I’m a slave to the government.”
“Your sacrifice is making a better world.”
“The world sucks. I’ve been duped.”
“Stop your whining. Don’t you remember how bad things were when Obama-mama was President? All that freedom. All that confusion. Now, you have nothing to worry about. You are cared for from birth to death… and even when you are dead, your body is placed in a recycle chamber and turned into profit. So stop your complaining and go back to work.”
The conversations took place in a Cyber Wasteland. Rodney’s body was elsewhere, manipulated by the Visitor from the future. Rodney’s conversations with Kelly were irrelevant. Pieces were falling into place to change the present. The world was off balance, skewered on the edge of an Event Horizon. The Reality Stream was broken and the Visitor had to make a correction.
Gordon “Snaptrap” wondered if that was his real name or a pseudonym. He wondered if he was an investigator or a journalist who wanted to keep his real identity concealed. Of course, it no longer mattered because he was enjoying his most recent lobotomy. He was under the knife and loaded with drugs.
Gordon sat in a high-powered dentist chair while a computerized Bum-Bot took control of his brain. It was all for the best. This wasn’t his first lobotomy. Every operation had benefits as well as unpleasant side effects. The Robo-Doc assured Gordon that benefits would outweigh the pain. Gordon briefly recalled inconsolable sobbing, but the pain had subsided considerably since his last lobotomy.
The current operation was given as a bonus. This time the lobotomy would free Gordon from all his doubts, depression, and negativity. Before the lobotomies Gordon was, indeed, an investigator. He had damning evidence of government corruption. All the facts, names and dates, were locked in the safest place he could find: in his mind. Political hacks authorized the “operations.”
At first Gordon disparaged himself for being careless. After the first lobotomy he forgot all the details and no longer blamed himself. He forgot the evidence he hid in his mind. All that remained were flashes of memory: manipulators, roving Proctologists, and military drones.
Gordon was decommissioned — body parts farmed out. His brain was deconstructed. Reality was hijacked, crowd sourced, and replaced.
David Oblivion met Mr. Hamm on the Street of Dreams in Angel City. Hamm was an ambassador from Hell. Nothing could change the present. The outcome was inevitable.
Marty Mekum could hear the dream resonating in his brain like a land-mine about to explode. He told himself, there is no such place as Hell. The characters in his mind were as flimsy as used tissue.
Marty consistently asked questions trying to justify his life. His hands were frozen, stiff with age. He could no longer paint the images that populated his mind. His days working as an artist were over.
Marty left his lover in the past. They stood on a precipice overlooking the Arizona Desert. It was a tumultuous period in their lives. The world seemed to be drowning in a golden-shower of crass abuse and excess. The only way to live was to escape.
Protest marches and benefit concerts became routine. Demonstrations were another form of escape… bolstering a false sense of security. Drug overdoses became commonplace. The lovers lived in a haze of chemical enhancement… on the precipice — suddenly, Marty jumped, leaving his partner & lover behind.
“How are you, Marty?” The cyborg-appliance asked.
“How’s the weather?” Marty replied.
“Same as always… gray.”
Marty Mekum was from the future, but no one believed him. He wanted to save the world, but no one listened. By the time he recorded this story, he was very old. He came of age in the future by giving birth to himself. The Home cared for Marty. The Home was a network of prosthetic extensions that fed, manipulated, and recorded Marty’s existence to use as a merchandising incentive. People had inherent (but limited) monetary value. When inherent value was used up everything could be recycled and reused. All accounts were itemized and reviewed on Twitter. Capital gains and losses were tweeted daily.
Angina Splint was an account executive in the Golden Tower. She didn’t know Marty. She wasn’t concerned with other people’s problems or predicaments. Angina lived for the bottom-line. She loved her job. Perks were numerous. Gold Cadillacs abounded. Designer drugs sweetened the pot. Zombies moved into the cubicle across the hall, but Angina wasn’t bothered. Her office suite was large enough to flatten any zombie invasion.
Angina’s mom lived at the Home a few doors down from Marty Mekum. There was a cost incentive to visit mom once a year. Values were exchanged and increased. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Mom was always changing, trying to increase her value. She was a programmer from the last century so she knew her business. Mom’s brain was mush, puree — it didn’t matter as long as she could offer some amusing entertainment. She had to adapt. Capital gain was the name of the game. She often mimicked Hitler and harassed the “Juden.” Mom was a member of the Baby Generation. Baby clones ruled the world. The unborn were silent no longer.
Angina loved visiting mom — the money kept pouring in. Mom wore a blue hat and began to tick like a time-bomb — pure entertainment. Angina gushed.
The prosthetic appliances at the Home were plugging holes with stoppers trying to halt the flow of effluvium from the newest, Last War. Marty Mekum would have none of it. He began to rant, “the mad man in the tower is becoming more powerful each day writing new edicts, shaping the world into his own chthonic image. I hear the death rattle throttle.”
Angina caught the drift of Mekum’s riff. She was briefly mesmerized, cauterized by words she never heard. Meanings were resplendent.
Dr. Zosomo came to the rescue with an enema plunger to eradicate the excess verbiage.
Marty bespoke, “this is a drift into dark-matter. There are Nine Levels.”
No one understood. Angina and mom were determined to continue espousing the words of the baby prophet. It was a disaster: Matricide with suicidal tendencies.
“No one is free,” Marty sneezed, “we are all Him subject to the same corruption.”
The aliens took notes, gleefully observing the debacle. Too late it was revealed: He was controlled by dark servitors from beyond the veil. Dorian Gray lisped in brilliant decay.
A poet scrawled new codes on a bathroom wall.
“At first there was the hum of the machine: a constant buzz and yammering, voices in my head: TV news, commercials, and pleas for money.”
The psychiatrist was attentive. He spoke with the thunder of boom and bluster, “I understand you need help. Recent traumas have had a negative effect. But… I sense there is more. I believe you are fundamentally flawed. You are dealing with several different personalities, all residing in the same corpus.”
The screen went dark. On the other side of the wall a political rally was dividing the country. An Angel appeared: a flash of light too brief to be noticed. There were others, but they were as silent as shadows fading into the wall.
Dieter Rosenquist was sedated, recovering from a recent fall that split open his forehead. Modern science sealed the wound and put him on the path to recovery. He lay on his newly purchased, massive bed that rose up and lowered with the touch of a button. Dieter had his I-pad and I-phone to keep him company. The computers revealed the world through filters and fake news reports. Dieter was ninety-two, quickly approaching his Year of Ascension when he would receive his first pair of angel wings. He was ready. He had seen enough of the Twenty-First Century and the New World Order. Dieter already felt the flutter of wings as he settled into a virtual healing session with Godfather Ken, the spokesperson for Cthulhu on Earth.
Readers may remember Cthulhu as a character in H.P. Lovecraft novels from 100 years ago. Of course, time no longer has any significance. Time was declared irrelevant by the President of the Apprentice Nation. Who am I to judge… I’m just an obedient reporter working for the Cthulhu contingency of Alien Observers.
Dieter awoke with a jolt of electricity and immediately left his old body behind. He climbed into a golden chariot. The self-driving Behemoth took him to Sound-Stage Eleven, the lap of luxury, where he would encounter Terpsichord Renatta. Terpsichord was a mash-up, a mix of characters from Dieter’s past. Tonight she/he represented a fling in the hay and a love-gone-wrong. As ever, Renatta was stunning beyond belief, optimized with alluring filters. It was an explosive experience being in his/her close proximity. They were attending the inauguration of television’s most vaunted celebrity.
The party was just beginning. On the surface everything was orderly and precise. The event proceeded without a hitch, but something peculiar stirred in the depths. Tersichord was not allowed to use the bathroom of his choice. Dieter was bleeding profusely. The Orange Guard infiltrated local communities. Church leaders were seen taking bribes and kissing ass. Real news was banned. Pussy grabbing was all the rage.
The confusion began with a crash on the 405. It could have been a hit-and-run that resulted in a misstep, a terrible tumble. One moment Dieter was driving his car and the next instant he was sliding into oblivion. He skimmed the Event Horizon and fell through a Black Hole. He thought he saw the face of God: tentacles screaming out of the void… a momentary flash of orange hair in a comb-over.
The President tweeted about a new TV event, a Network Spectacular. The name of the show was, Smash, and the whole world was encouraged to attend. The Billionaires Club hosted the Virtual Extravaganza. Party favors were delivered by drones to every household in the country. Dieter received an AK47 signed by the President. Corporations provided chemically infused fast food, a feast of enormous proportions. Arenas and Pleasure-Domes were packed to overflowing. The event began with patriotic songs and a parade of unemployed workers from coal mines and uranium fields. Crowds cheered as gladiators were forced to perform Herculean tasks. Consumer goods were praised. Russian roulette and other games-of-chance were promoted by celebrity shills. Nothing was too devious, crass, or outrageous. Television ratings soared. A war ravaged world watched in shock and awe.
The men and one woman at the Billionaire’s Club watched and laughed. Smash generated Trillions. Attention was focused on the violence perpetrated by the hordes attending the event. Everyone was fascinated. No one was complaining. the masses were subdued. Members of the Club laughed like hyenas ripping apart a corrupt carcass.
Cthulu also watched; enormous, bloated and vengeful, Cthulu rose up from the darkest depths, blotting out the sky, devouring the universe… all the while laughing, always laughing (the hum… constant buzz and yammering… a sound like the shredding of entrails).
The land of the dying sun was not far away. The white-gold disc glowed softly behind a curtain of mist. A woman lay on a hospital bed refusing to give-in to the doctor’s diagnosis: old, beyond years, but still beautiful… still ferocious… a face to be reckoned with… facing life and death. Everyone else faded away like gauze, ghosts in the fog. Nothing mattered anymore. Cthulu and the others receded into the background. The Angel lingered briefly and vanished. Virtual Realities evaporated, as insubstantial as tissue. She wondered if she was crazy… and why nothing made sense. Commercials still intruded: TV voices hammered, but no longer threatened. The beasts lost their teeth. Machine-men, doctors and nurses, hovered around the patient like sentinels… prophesying death. But, she smiled, happy to be done with the overwrought world of men… Glad to be in the land of the dying sun.