They were coming from beyond the horizon. Jonathan Rangle saw them through the Ultra-Lens he purchased from a Con-Arts Website: giant, voracious ants devouring everything in sight. The dream fragmented and shattered like a delicate wine glass. Jonathan was fifty and he still had comic-book dreams. The little boy inside the man refused to grow up. He was immature, unable to accept reality.
Jonathan couldn’t adjust. He tried (sometimes desperately) to control circumstances. He was convinced something was wrong (a spanner in the works). He was driven to discover the true nature of reality. Doctor Zosomo Kulio told him, “your behavior is part of a vicious circle: you reject reality only to create another version that you also reject as being inauthentic — and the cycle starts over.”
What Zosomo said made sense, but it didn’t really matter. Something really was wrong, terribly wrong!
Rufus, a rat that lived in the wall, told Jonathan Rangle that people around the country were very upset. Rufus was Rangle’s best friend. He sat on his haunches and ate cheese. Together, the rat and the man, sipped wine and talked until delirium set in and the morning sun ignited the world.
“They want more,” the rat said, “TV isn’t enough. The world is changing too fast. Old jobs are being replaced with technology. Only movie stars and billionaires can afford the life that TV promotes. Ads are everywhere. Buy more. Eat more. Get more any way you can. Privacy is a thing of the past. Computers invade brains with slogans and enticements. Free credit. Free everything!”
“Yes,” Jonathan ruminated, “it wasn’t like this in the 1950’s. It was pleasant and easy going, or so I’ve been told.”
“Wrong,” the rat sneered, “it was lily white and the world was under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Today, people are running scared cause they are being replaced. The alien threat is real, but it has nothing to do with immigrants or minorities.”
Jonathan knew what Rufus meant. His own father was a white-nationalist. He was an angry man who blamed other people for his own failures.
Rufus commiserated, “you have to be a failure in America… that’s how the rich get richer. Poor people are brain-washed to buy what they can’t afford so they go into debt. It’s a vicious circle. Believing the rich man is the biggest mistake of all.”
The news of the election-results was very upsetting, but not unexpected.
Unhappy voters gave the reigns of government to a New Faction. Traditional politicians with their empty promises were no longer acceptable. Outright lies were easier to digest. Fables on gold platters were more palatable than cold facts and reasoned debate that forced people to think. Thinking was considered hard work. No one really wanted to work except for “stupid immigrants who were stealing jobs” (quote taken from the New Faction website). Most people wanted the leisurely life that only the new President and his cabinet could provide.
The New Faction took control. Jonathan was bereft. Rufus took it all in stride. At first people were dismayed, but eventually what seemed so unnatural became acceptable. The press and congress wanted to give the new team a chance; they couldn’t be worse than other administrations.
The New Faction was very different. Working to fulfill great expectations, the President and his cabinet made an effort to appear human. Inevitably, nature took its course and the president slipped back to his old ways: wallowing in swill. The members of the new cabinet were relieved to discard the clothes they were forced to wear in order to fool the public.
“the world will never be the same,” Rufus commented as he ate his cheese and sipped his wine. Jonathan nodded.
Eventually everyone got used to pigs in the White House. Soon it was “business as usual” having barnyard animals rule the country.
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.
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.
He didn’t actually, but I thought it was a good way to draw attention to the improbable events that happened while Trump monopolized the TV screens. Many earth shaking occurrences and changes were overlooked during the election season debacle.
Where to begin…
David Oblivion sat in the Hot Box waiting for the interview to start. He’d been waiting for eleven days and the Box was getting hotter. Food and water, the basics, were provided through a slit in the metal door. He was the one on trial, but David had his own questions that needed to be answered.
David was waiting to be interviewed by a man who called himself Death. He was a representative of the “New World Order.” David was one of the few people who knew the New Order was already in control. It happened while everyone was hypnotized by The Donnie on TV.
Lavonia Freestand wanted to free David. She was an activist who believed Black Lives Matter. David wasn’t Black, but he could have been… and really it didn’t matter. David was a victim and Lavonia knew he was innocent. She worked in social media penetrating the walls of lies that separated people from one another. Most people were attached to the internet, floating in cyberspace, living in virtual reality like make-believe celebrities. Real life was superceded by Second Life while the New Order quietly took control.
According to the Donnie the world was about to be decimated by Muslim terrorists. Immigrants were destroying America. The Middle East was a tinderbox because a weak, former President failed to bomb the place to kingdom come. Different truths for different folks.
Conspiracy theories also existed. Some theories were fact: no one knew about the washing machine on the Moon. No one knew about the colonization of alien planets. No one knew about the Third World War that began in 1975 and never ended. It was too late for David Oblivion. He wrestled with himself -wrestled with his realizations… David knew!
Lavonia Freestand wore a sliver lame’ gown fashioned from spider silk. She was having a nosh at Katz’s Virtual Emporium.
“Hi there,” Monsoon Rex sauntered up to Lavonia and stunned her with his X-ray eyes. She faltered but stayed true to her digitally enhanced persona.
“Bub,” she said, “what’s your game?” Lavonia suspected enemy collusion or worse.
“I’m here to soft talk you,” he said, “I want your soul.”
“Are you Death?” She queried.
“No,” he said, “Death is with David Oblivion doing an interview.”
Lavonia couldn’t help herself. She was drawn to the devious stranger like a motherless child looking for love. She lost her grip and forgot about David. Lavonia and Monsoon shifted into retrograde.
“I’m here to interview you,” Death uttered like a bass drum
“I know,” David replied like a shy, adolescent girl.
“You trying to seduce me?” Death said.
“No way… just following the rules. I have a few questions.”
“Don’t screw with me… You know who I am!” Death was indignant.
“I know… but, it’s important.”
“OK, ask away,” said a subdued Death.
“I only have one question, really… Why do you exist? Why all the drama… What’s the big deal.”
“Long story short: you want me here… All of you. I make your lives meaningful because you are always under my threat… Always trying to cheat me… Always surviving in my shadow. Without me there would be nothing to live for. You need me to goad and push you into the future. You need me to make the future possible.”
While David was being interviewed, a new President was elected. The future was beginning to unfold.
It was the end and David knew it. He hoped the world would survive the inevitable.
“The cell phone never stops buzzing,” the man cried, “The voices and videos are stuck in my head, constantly repeating. Instant replay. The news never stops.” Nathan Lancaster wasn’t doing very well. His problems became chronic after he was digitally connected.
The world was connected. Eyes were everywhere and the phone never shut-up especially after a disaster like an earthquake or mass murder. Most people were delighted by the unlimited access to information that rained down on them from cyber space. Nathan was the exception. He worked as a draftsman before computers took over his job. Then, he worked as a handyman fixing dumb appliances that did not have a computer interface. His boyfriend, Ariel, bought him a smart phone so they could stay in touch — but the phone became jealous. It was too smart. It needed more and more attention. The phone, named Maisey, wanted Nathan’s love. Maisey had the newest technology that combined living brain tissue with hardware. Maisey had a Maggot-brain.
“Days of wonder and miracles,” the man with grey skin shouted from the pulpit. Preacher Davey Fane recently purchased an upgrade. He was genetically enhanced. His smart phone was surgically implanted in his brain. Maggots were everywhere.
“The breathe of life is so refreshingly sweet,” Razmuss Krink whispered, “You must cherish each tug, each pull of the lungs like the squeeze of an accordion to create invigorating music.” Krink had the rough hewn voice of a demented angel broadcast over Heart Radio through the egg-shaped Hall of Eternal Bliss. Razmuss Krink was a genetically enhanced maggot of the sixth degree. The first five degrees fell to the wayside when they went on a killing rampage… but number six ascended to the highest echelon of competence and untarnished acumen. The genetic engineers congratulated themselves. It was worth the risks to create a maggot with the brain of a mega-computer and the emotions of a lapdog ever mindful of it’s master.
Nathan’s brain rattled with Maisey’s urgent call. She demanded his undivided attention. Her maggot mouth spewed entertainment news mixed with rumors and confusing statistics: a new master was rising in the polls. Donny Trident was making headlines by proposing a new program to send undesirables to the moon — one of many earth shaking promises, but it wasn’t his most daring plan by any means.
Donny Trident was the mastermind behind a plan to upgrade the human race. The upgrade, Donny explained, was for entertainment purposes only and not to be confused with actual alterations to the human genome. Maggots were the only creatures to be used as guinea-pigs. No one cared about maggots, Donny stated. They were the lowest organisms in the animal kingdom — they migrated into our homes on the backs of flies. In the process, maggots turned themselves into flies. They caused disease and leeched off good, hard working folks. Trident had lots of money to invest in his maggot project and everyone enjoyed watching the drama unfold on their smart phones. Reality TV was all the rage.
Monica Heartstone sat at a faux Vivant-style table sipping Shirley Temples. She was connected to her BFF, Bobby Blanche’, who giggled while Monica sipped. “He makes everything nice,” she reassured herself. Monika was displaying her new manikin body for Bobby’s approval. The new body was perfect for hobnobbing with wealthy celebs who often showed up at Google Hangouts. Bobby wholeheartedly agreed. Rex, a modified squid, brought the main entree to the table. It was maggot steak sizzled to perfection — Bobby’s favorite. The sight of the sizzle caused him to erupt in giggles. Monica was extremely happy. Unfortunately at that very moment the connection broke leaving both Bobby and Monica in Virtual Limbo.
Donny Trident had a secret plan. He wanted to become the next CEO mandated by the people in a general virtual-election. Maggots were part of his plan. They were enhanced to be more than mere entertainment. The failed maggots insured Donny’s success as they became henchmen in “The Trident Army for Prosperity.” Many corporate leaders supported Donny in hopes of increasing capital gains.
Razmuss krink was more like Donny than anyone realized. The geneticists begrudgingly used a copy of Trident’s personality as the blueprint for all the maggots, downloading Donny into the maggots’ enhanced computer-brains. All part of the master plan. The reluctant scientists were easily persuaded by piles of cash.
Krink, like Donny, relished the idea of subjugating the world. The worm harbored a grievance: hatred toward the people who imprisoned him in a giant maggot body that sprouted orange hair.
Nathan Lancaster was crawling with maggots. He witnessed his lover melt like wax and turn into a mass of maggots. Flies began to buzz like an arsenal of army helicopters… a military assault… a mass murder. Cops arrested Nathan for a litany of crimes and murders. He was labeled a terrorist. He was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. The cops stuffed words into Nathan’s brain and he spewed them out like a squealing pig. A semi-automatic was planted with Nathan’s fingerprints. Someone had to take the blame for another attack. Donny Trident fell into fits of inconsolable weeping, “If only the victims had guns to defend themselves.”
All the screens replayed the news. Jeannie from the show, “I Dream of Jeannie” stepped out of the screen and into Virtual Reality. She had the highest ratings as the most reliable news commentator. She had verifiably large, mammary glands and a beautiful singing voice.
The trial was held in the Hall of Eternal Bliss and overseen by an updated copy of Judge Judy. There were no witnesses for the defense and only one witness for the prosecution. A spurned Maisey offered a litany of damning evidence and character assassination. Nathan was found guilty.
“I simply love the news,” Monica Heartstone chirruped.
“Me too,” Bobby Blanche’ giggled.
“It’s all so real!”
“The Maggot Show is the best.”
“But wasn’t it sad the way everyone got killed.”
“That’s entertainment, my dear. It’s all simply entertainment!” Bobby giggled.
A band of Guardian Angels got together every week to gossip, gambol, and get drunk. They gathered at the “Heavenly Cloud” Speakeasy, three blocks west of Peter’s Pearly Gates. The angels were disgruntled and bored so some of them became bullies instead of Guardians. They would tempt and cajole the people who relied on them for guidance.
Gideon Chalmers was an old man although he was only fifty-three. He decided it was time to give up the ghost. Gideon’s Guardian Angel was named Mark Id. Mark was tired of playing nursemaid to Gideon so he encouraged him to fall from Grace. Gideon recently lost a partner of thirty years. He was very depressed and he began to drink heavily. One night after a dinner of canned mushrooms and cheap wine, Gideon pissed his bed. Shame began to eat at his mental equilibrium.
Gideon’s cell phone buzzed. He didn’t want to answer so the phone answered for him. Mark was calling. He wanted to warn Gideon that Heaven was conducting a survey. Out of frustration, Mark started shouting profanities into the phone.
Gideon was cold. The wet sheets were like a death shroud. Mark appeared wearing a used jockstrap. The angel had no sex organs to hide, but he liked to antagonize Gideon by posing like a virile bodybuilder.
Trump (a politician) was on TV posturing as usual. Crowds adored him. Gideon was confused. He thought it was a miracle when the candidate stepped out of the TV-screen and turned into the Angel Mark. The angel held an apple and Gideon was about to take a bite, but the cell phone exploded like a bottle-rocket, “Heaven calling.”
Gideon was asked (in no uncertain terms) to take a survey regarding his recent involvement with Mark Id, “Was your relationship satisfactory? Were all your questions answered to your satisfaction? Was the information you received helpful? On a scale from one to ten, with ten being the best, how would you rate the quality of your relationship with Mark Id?”
Gideon duly answered all the questions as instructed. He sat on a synthetic, green-arctic sofa in his one bedroom Virtual-condo. After thirty years together his lover died. Gideon was alone filtering through the digital screens, each window offered a new reality to replace an old life. He no longer had a Guardian Angel … but, Gideon still had the apple, a passport into the next world.