Tom Bisant dream’t he was an astronaut who just returned from a twenty year journey to Enceladus, Saturn’s moon. He rode a Super Stegosaurus rocket… It slipped through time on the wings of a Proton-Drive Engine.
Space surrounded Tom like a cold, black room. He saw a gray shadow, a stand-in for death. The shadow staggered across a make-shift stage while struggling to perform a song-and-dance routine. When he was a teenager Tom wanted to be a comedian, but he was never ready to perform in public so he became an astronaut instead. The dark hole of space gave him time to think and revise his comedy act.
When the ship landed on Enceladus Tom was met by a younger version of himself.
“Look… they see me coming and they want me to screw them. I’m a celebrity. Women let me do whatever I want.”
“Obviously,” Doctor Zosimo Kulio replied, “the stress of your new job is making you feel inadequate so you compensate with bravado.”
“Hey, what gives… I’m here for your support. I thought we had a deal.”
“Oh, dear… no deal… you were ordered by your manager to get an evaluation and, in my professional opinion, all your man talk is covering up a deep seeded sense of inadequacy and most likely homosexual tendencies.”
“Fake news!! You must be working for the networks. I’ll sue!!”
When Tom Bisant returned to Earth he was old. No one remembered him. People were no longer interested in space flight. Everyone retreated into Virtual Reality, self-contained versions of Paradise. Real world scenarios were too complicated to understand, let alone manage. The real world was binary and everyone was sold on digital. The binary world was characterized by conflict, opposites, compromise, and adjustment. The digital world was always perfect and seamless.
The memo slithered out of congress like a viper. The ruling party was committed to building a bigger, better swamp. The memo was a distraction meant to inhibit enforcement of the law.
There were aliens on Enceladus living beneath the ocean that covered the moon.
Tom was a relic. He tried to talk to his estranged lover who he hadn’t seen for twenty years. It was impossible to bridge the gap. She was no longer present. She slipped the moorings of time-and-space and hung quiescent in some VR holding cell. What can you say to an empty shell?
Tom faced disaster everywhere. Space was an escape. Back on Earth disaster loomed large. The doctor prescribed pain-killers and anti-anxiety medication. Thoughts of suicide increased (a side effect caused by the drugs). A dark street hid malicious intent: strangers suddenly appeared like ghosts, asking questions and demanding information. He worried constantly about unlocked doors and faulty electrical-wiring. The plumbing in his home moaned like a wounded elephant. The house creaked. The TV assaulted him with ads and news about government shut-downs and social unrest. Tom longed for the peace of Enceladus.
We all crave attention. We are obsessed with celebrities on TV. We are social creatures so we create terrifying acts of mass murder. We want to be remembered. It is impossible to escape danger. The sun gives Cancer. The air contains contaminants that lead to COPD.
There is no way to justify an abduction in the middle of this narrative; still, it happened. Millie Vincent from Moorpark, Idaho was reported missing on the morning of February Fifth. Although she returned two days later, many unanswered questions remained. Where did she go and why? No one believed she was abducted by a UFO, but that’s what she described. UFO abductions are as common as cattle mutilations and crop circles, but no one believes those events occur either. Millie’s story had a strange twist. She recalled everything that happened on the UFO. Her description of the alien ship was like nothing ever reported before. The inside of the craft looked exactly like a karaoke bar with decor from the 1960’s. Rock music was blasting. A few gray aliens were also in attendance. Most surprising to Millie were the people in the bar. She recognized many government officials led by the Commander-in-Chef who let loose a disco rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The officials cheered, bowed, and praised his glory. The aliens took notes.
On Enceladus Tom Bisant confronted his younger self. The boy was fragile and insecure. He tried being the class clown in order to make friends. His comedy hung in the air like flatulence and Tom ended up in the Principal’s office. The boy was humiliated and wanted to commit suicide. His mother’s pills mixed with alcohol would do the trick. At the final moment the boy had a vision of himself as an astronaut. His life was saved.
Corporations gained profits and the stock market hit greater highs since the new president was elected. But, it was all negligible. There were rumors of a pole shift. The president was beginning to feel trapped by the fake news hammering him from every media outlet along with low poll ratings. A new plan was hatched. When in doubt spread the wealth, shore up the base, and lower taxes for power brokers and lobbyists. .
The administration supported a new Black Label miracle beverage to be marketed to all segments of the population. It was a scientific breakthrough that promised a universal cure-all and remedy for the ailments of old age. If people couldn’t afford to purchase the drink it would be given out for free. A Day of Reckoning and Reconciliation was declared when everyone (as one) would drink the Black Label.
Tom Bisant knew it was a sham. The life he led was make believe. He tried and failed would be written on his tombstone. His career as an astronaut and the journey to Enceladus happened in his brain after taking LSD while listening to Jimmy Hendricks. He confronted himself in his head… Time seemed to stop. When his turn came he would gladly sip the beverage along with everyone else.
Amarosa was the springboard leading to strange and peculiar events. She opened a secret door that few people even knew existed. A great wind rushed through the open door on the wings of sulfur and corruption. Jeremy Hidelwink was caught in the torrent. He had no interest in politics or government. He was an innocent bystander. Jeremy’s brush with the wind changed everything. He gained a super-power, “critical perception.” His power grew and Jeremy became the vortex at the center… exposing political corruption and scandal. He became the most convincing witness for the prosecution. His sojourn in Russia made his testimony air-tight. He had the evidence revealing what really happened in that Moscow hotel room.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” the wind whispered in Jeremy’s ear encouraging him to step forward with the proof.
An old friend sat on the other side of the secret door. He held playing-cards in his bony left hand and a scythe in his right hand. A Cheroot dangled from his lipless mouth. Each card in his hand represented a character in the drama. The First Family were caught between his thumb and forefinger gasping for air. Amarosa dangled precariously from a small finger-bone. Jeremy was in a prime location at the center of the hand of cards. With a slight twitch of bone, Jeremy was suddenly gone as if he never existed and new cards came into play. Mr. Death chuckled at the turn of events.
Death wondered what was real and what was fake. He perceived himself to be a philosopher, therefore he questioned everything. He wondered why he existed… he was not certain he was even real. He had to constantly test reality. He had to make people die in order to substantiate his own existence. Mr. Death often partnered with misfortune, disease, and corruption. He particularly enjoyed the current climate, the turn of events in the White House. The lies gave Death confidence. He would enjoy deflating the tiny humans who claimed to have power. They were as insignificant as bloated balloons. One prick could erase them from the face of the planet.
Sierra Quantro was a time-traveler who tried to discover the meaning of life. Sierra was a multiple, several personalities existed in his head. He-or-She was part of a Collective Dream, a digitally composed aria enacted in Hyper-Reality.
Sierra crossed the line and entered the Trumpet Cafe in Devastation Alley where he met other searchers from the Collective Dream. The neon night was visible through the glass ceiling. Bolts of lightning lit the interior of the cafe.
Perhaps it was in another dimension where they found a body on the moon. We don’t know the particulars. The discovery made no sense until the body was recovered and analyzed. It was preserved, frozen, and inert. The body was an outlier, a true anomaly. Rumors went viral. The President had a science advisor who coordinated a special X-group to explore the possibilities of extreme life extension. The newly appointed Head-of-Science was publicly viewed as atavistic: anti global-warming, anti birth control, and anti science… this was part of a government campaign to deceive the public with fake news. In fact, the President secretly supported big science projects: Black Projects to develop laser weapons, super soldiers, and life extension. The world-leader was concerned with his legacy and his mortality. He wanted to live forever. The scientists involved in the President’s projects were not very skilled. Several had a limited education, receiving degrees from Trump University. The experimental projects all failed. The corpse on the moon had nothing to do with the President’s quest for immortality — that was just fake news. No one knew anything for certain concerning the corpse. It could have been human, alien, or a mutant cyborg.
“You are working with hypotheticals and none of this is real,” Sierra Quantro blurted in frustration. A major disturbance rippled through the Collective Dream. They had just experienced a visitation from a spirit who called himself Jesus. It was Christmas eve, but no one expected a miracle. The face of Jesus went viral. Everyone was mesmerized. Coincidentally, many unidentified flying objects were seen everywhere across the world… and governments started releasing reports about UFOs that were once hidden from the public.
The soap factory down the block was developing a cosmetic scrub made from skin retrieved from corpses. People were rounded up and put to work on resident farms till they died from exertion and lack of food. Some ne’er do wells were put in ovens and gassed. Bodies were recycled. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” was the government motto used to circumvent the law. The soap factory was just one new enterprise that relied on human recycling. Critics agreed it was good for the economy.
Sierra Quantro became melancholy. He offered a suggestion, “couldn’t there be an alternative scenario as a counterpoint? Perhaps two teenage boys meet at the playground and inexplicably fall in love. How’s that for melioration? Love could be an anodyne to political upheaval and destabilization.”
Everyone had to wear an Eye-Cam, grafted on to the skin of the forehead. It was the law, newly authorized by the Attorney-General in order to monetize moral turpitude (another way to boost the economy). Even the President had a Cam, but all eyes in the White House were discreetly blocked. Eye-Cams were promoted as fashion accessories. Citizens became Keepers of right-behavior. The stock market boomed. Right-behavior was good for society and good for business. Women were no longer allowed to complain. Men were, once again, in charge… led by the Commander-in-Chief who now ruled the nation like a personal harem. Women were recruited from every town to service the White House.
Bondeer Saville entered the Dream Collective. She was followed by Jeremy Hidelwink who was disincorporated. Bondeer spent her life surfing the waves of digital information, adding and subtracting megabytes in order to create a perfect world; but now she detected a disturbance in the force. Hidelwink was no longer corporeal, but he had knowledge of alternate Dimensions that might ameliorate errors in the Hyper-verse.
Bondeer Saville leered at Sierra Quantro, “I know a thing or two about boys in the schoolyard. Believe me, they are little piggies just like our current White House Pig.” She continued, “I invented Red City. I’m no shrinking violet. I know how to fight.”
Mr. Death chuckled, amused by the cross-talk (amused by the chivalry and cowardice). He believed in Democracy: everyone, rich or poor, died.
Government appointees (Watchers) were stunned when the corpse from the Moon awoke.
Thousands of UFOs emerged, unseen, above the Earth. The alien occupants came from unimaginable distances in order to observe the unfolding saga. There was no intention to interfere; but the events on Earth provoked an unexpected response, laughter. The whole world quivered, shook, and broke apart by the thunderous roar of uncontrollable laughter.
Volvina Complex was a wet dream. She sipped Green Hyacinth and nibbled gubber-fish with her companion, Professor Pangsong. The two were conjoined and very happy. The sex-wars were over, global warming evaporated, and the destruction caused by humans was effectively fumigated. Food was no longer necessary for survival, but it was still delightful to nibble when communing with friends. Musica LaMode was building a sub-routine of background dreams. Ecstasy floated through the cascading balconies of the Crystal Pagoda where Volvina and Pangsong reminisced. They were lovers. They were Androids. They lived in a virtual world, a perfect world where humans no longer existed.
Professor Seigfried Pangsong lectured a class of neophytes. He remembered what it was like in the human world before he became an Android. His lectures were popular and infamous. He could tell the newly formed neophytes what it was like to be mortal and to live under the onus of death. No one died anymore. As part of his lecture he introduced Volvina Complex and they had sex at the lectern. Human sex was driven by compulsion and obsession. A man adopted the persona of an animal, priding himself on violent domination. For an Android, “play” was more important than penetration. “Survival of the Species” no longer mattered — there was no longer a Species. Professor Pangsong continued his/her lecture by explaining the nature of existence.
“Now, we live in a virtual world,” he exclaimed, “but before this world another place existed and it continues to exist. Everything in time exists as a hologram. The surface of our lives is a very small aspect of the hologram. There are many levels of depth. The life we experience is like a low resolution jpeg. The deeper we go, the higher the resolution.”
At the close of the second world war a man identified himself as Renfield, Dracula’s slave. He was incarcerated and sent to a mental hospital. Renfield believed he was imprisoned in Bedlam. He spent his days-and-nights catching and eating insects that crawled out from the walls in his cell. Renfield constantly mumbled. His words revealed a vision of the future. Renfield was a true prophet.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio always felt he was in the wrong place. He fought against the guiding principles that defined insanity as incurable. He felt compassion for his patients at the hospital. He tried to help Renfield. Sometimes during their obtuse interactions Kulio caught a whiff of the future.
“No one listened when I said there are too many voices in my head. There are too many layers, levels of hell; plateaus of heaven. I have a lover now, but that only adds to the complexity of the situation. Questions bubble to the surface. Answers flicker and fade like ancient Polaroid photos.”
Renfield lay on a dirty mattress. Dracula, his master, kept changing like a silent film revealing different characters. Now, Dracula dripping with blood… now, Hitler goose-stepping through the meat-rack of history. Renfield, drifting and dreaming, steps from one abattoir to another. He delights in a sexual throw-down as commanded by Dracula. He forces himself on a young inmate. The intensity of the rape ignites his prophetic proclivity — his third eye burning he sees the future: the world engulfed in flames. The fires rain down on Renfield. He hears messages from a satellite known as “Black Knight” — it is thirteen thousand years old, circling the planet, waiting for the command to cleanse the Earth.
“California is burning. Jerusalem is burning. I am helpless in the face of the oncoming tsunami. The face of old age haunts me. I can feel my life draining away like blood from a severed vein.”
Sam Bolt couldn’t take it anymore. He was fed up. He wasn’t alone. Lots of men felt like him — he saw it on the internet. Men were screwed. White men were screwed. There was a time he could do whatever he wanted. Now, other people were getting in his way. They were taking what rightfully belonged to him. Sam’s only hope was the new deal-maker President. Sam thought a tough guy in power might make things easier but if nothing improved he always had his gun.
Renfield was forced to do his master’s bidding.
Talking heads dominated the Virtual Worlds. Conflicts fumed. Headless horsemen roamed the land. There was talk of collusion. The public was subdued and ensnared by fake-news.
“Mr. Gorbachev take down this wall,” jumped off the screen as people scrambled to steal a piece of history.
“Follow the money,” rumbled across the internet shaking the foundations of government.
“He is President Pussy Grabber,” was whispered in the backrooms of Congress.
Professor Pangsong was suddenly melancholy as he looked out at the sea of eager neophytes. He was filled with remorse. Something was missing. He sensed a remnant of quality that no longer existed: the essence of humanity. The hologram of existence had calcified. It was no longer possible to feel the pain and joy of being mortal — it was no longer possible to die.
I was cut off at the knees, ruptured… unable to resolve a problem that could mean life or death. A terrible wind was rising, threatening to engulf the world.
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 I am… or where I am.
What really happened in that Moscow hotel room?
Gordon Levy was an astronaut, happy and successful. He loved his family. His son, Timothy, wanted to be just like him. They played ball in the yard while Margie, his wife, watched with pride. Gordon was good at his job and he was rewarded with a special mission: to be the first astronaut to visit a habitable planet in another galaxy.
Moreau Manta reaches out to stroke the head of Piscador, his pet Peacock. The bird bites Manta’s hand. Blood oozes from the wound. It happens every time, but the ritual must be enacted. Manta is obsessed with order and repetition. He insists the bird will come around. At the same time, he relishes the pain as it represents the bound between him and Piscador.
He could never return from the dream.
Moreau is elderly. It has become more difficult to look at himself in the mirror. He is a gross character of the man he used to be, once trim and well-proportioned, now pushed and pulled out of shape by gravity. The years take a toll even on the rich and powerful. There is no escaping death.
Everything about the mission was top secret. Even Gordon was not privy to the exact technology that made the voyage possible. The mission was only supposed to last a year, an impossible objective since no one could go faster than the speed of light and the destination was hundreds of light-years away.
I’ve joined the legions of the dead in the land of the dying sun. I hang my head in shame for what I have done. I stood by while the world was dismantled. The machines came to my town and tore it apart.
Gordon was ecstatic to be chosen, but it meant leaving his family behind. Still, he couldn’t resist the challenge and glory of such a mission. On the morning of his departure, Gordon got a call from the President wishing him luck. His wife and son waved goodbye from the monitor in the cabin of the space craft. The countdown seemed to take longer than the actual trip through space. An incredible journey flashed through Gordon’s brain — faster than the speed of light.
I am drawn to young, teenage bodies, the warp and woof of skin over muscle, the surge of eroticism in every movement. Male or female… it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the expression of youthful grace and vulnerability. I am older and wiser so I can easily corrupt the innocents of youth, although I no longer believe anyone is truly innocent. Perhaps I am deluded thinking that I am still attractive and capable of love. It is a pleasurable delusion. What more can any one ask of life?
The new world was teeming with life. Furious colors, plants and creatures seemed to mutate before Gordon’s eyes like strange cartoon characters. Suddenly his silver space-suit began to ring. Gordon picked up the receiver and automatically responded, “Hello.”
“With new, improved PROPEL you are only limited by your imagination. Doctor recommended. Side effects may include PTSD and paralysis. Propel: don’t let life hold you back from your dream!”
“This is the voice of your on-board computer… this is not happening!” Gordon didn’t have time to understand the message because the world around him went totally dark. The dark absorbed all light, even the beam of his lantern was absorbed. There was only sound: chittering, snapping, gobbling noises that seemed to be closing in on Gordon.
What more can anyone ask… Unfortunately I am more complicated than that. I make trouble for myself. I indulge in pain. The painful search for understanding, for truth.
Back at mission-control there was applause and congratulations. Engineers managed to isolate Gordon’s brain, separate the brain from the body. The project was speculative, authorized by the Union of Cybernetic Scientists. Outer space was never the goal of the experiment. The scientists were concerned about “living space” on planet Earth. There were too many people on the planet and resources were limited.
I am constantly curious. I crave forbidden knowledge.
Gordon was the prototype… by taking the brain and recycling the body, more space would be available — space that could be sold for a profit. Gordon was never an astronaut. He was just an uneducated man collecting unemployment benefits. Billions of brains could be stored. Benefits would no longer be a drain on the economy. The brains would be treated well, preserved and allowed to live in virtual dreams. In time, the project was so successful most people vied for a brain transplant and eternal dreams. Of course, no one knew what kind of dreams would haunt the remains of humanity.
I am locked in a dungeon of my own creation from which there is no escape.
“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress. She was recording recent events: celebrity news, politics and gossip. It was a depressing occupation. Although she tried to lighten her task with subtle humor there was no way to soften the effects of “breaking news.” Screens (computers and TV’s) never lied… only the clandestine power-brokers behind the screens told lies. Miranda had to sift for the truth, but to survive as a mid-level journalist she had to create lies of her own. Her room was a pod constructed from computer-glass that linked all her devices and screens. She was bombarded by layers of images and information-archives. Miranda was contemplating her next text message when her I-pad barked, “you in the wrong place, bitch!”
“Not again,” she thought as she slipped back into the storm.
Timothy Hardwick was thin, but years at sea hardened him into an iron-spike of a man who could tackle any seafaring job. He was a merchant marine aboard the USS Porpoise. He was part of the crew in 1838 when the expedition confirmed the existence of Antarctica. Currently the ship and crew were circumnavigating the globe. The Porpoise was an old sailing ship that was recently refurbished, but the storm tore into the hull like a raging demon. Timothy braced himself with several gulps from the flask he always carried. The liquid burned like a blue flame. He picked up the habit when he was 14 on his personal maiden voyage. Now, he needed the blue flame more than ever as the ocean became an impenetrable wall of fury.
The screens showed documentaries about the past along with visions of the future. Sometimes history became confused, unhinged. Virtual Reality facilitated the multi-sensory experience of events and interpersonal relationships. Promotions and ads were the common thread that stitched the Virtual Worlds together into a seamless spectacle.
Miranda Monologue was back in her perch above High Castle. She was screwing a platinum-blond octogenarian known as the Stone Man. He giggled with rapture as he plunged his bloated libido into her pink pussy avatar. She was seeking leaked information as she wrapped her cybernetic legs around Stone’s overblown ego. “Roger, Roger,” his I-phone bleeped. It was an emergency message in code directed at Stone’s avatar. The thrill of high stakes espionage coupled with Miranda Monologue’s sexual virtuosity triggered a mental orgasm and Stone verbally exploded, “HARP!” The truth vomited from Stone’s mouth about a shadow government and experiments to control both the weather and people’s brains, HARP. Stone cut the virtual connection. Miranda slide helplessly back into the beckoning sea.
“Ru Paul’s Drag Race” and “The Bachelor” were playing on screens above the bar. Another screen showed a commercial about “Manna,” an artificial food substance manufactured by Heaven, Inc. One ad followed another: face creams, fat removal, Mega-Max Cars and McMansions. The biggest screen showed a large, blustery man at a podium who yelled, “family is off limits.”
“Too much attention is given to that guy,” Axel Ramirez spoke to his fifth whiskey-sour who he named, Harvey. His words ran together in a mumbled slurry.
“I couldn’t agree more,” the whiskey-sour replied. Axel felt a strong sense of empathy emanating from his drink. It was an antidote to the gloom that pervaded the bar as it slowly sank into the flood. It was only the beginning. Irma was in the wings along with her whole family of weather related disasters.
Timothy Hardwick slammed against the sea wall and shattered. It wasn’t the end… he came together in pieces like droplets of water drying in the sun. He was frozen on a shelf of ice. The ship and crew were intact, back in Antarctica where their odyssey began. They found something on that first expedition and what they discovered brought them back. A black hole in the ice revealed a dead city, a lost civilization.
Miranda Monologue wrote feverishly on her I-pad screen. The story had a life of it’s own. She didn’t know where it came from or how it entered her brain. She saw Timothy Hardwick enter the ice-castle in the underground city. He moved like a dead man, stunned by the emerging structures surrounding him. He was drawn to a room deep in the bowels of the castle. Lights, powered by some unknown source, flickered in the gloom. The room was a rotunda. Figures sat on thrones lined up against the wall. Timothy felt his skin tingle and crawl in an attempt to escape. The figures were alive, but they were not human! A living movie flowed like acid into his brain revealing armored men with torches bent on destruction. Timothy couldn’t decode the information. Miranda was trying to communicate with him, trying to explain. He was witnessing the Cabal: ancients, aliens who observed the world and judged mankind. More was revealed about ordinary men, government puppets… and about one man who would set up a Patriarchy and make himself king. Insanity was in the works, but if necessary, the Cabal had a final solution.
The nation was shedding tears — torn apart by lies, innuendoes, and tweets. One rumor talked about a tenth planet, Nibiru, heading toward Earth on a collision course. Conspiracy theories abounded about an invasion from space. People sought refuge in social media. Celebrities were worshiped.
World News: “The Mistress glides across the flooded-plane in ten-inch heels like a stork.” — “The First Family leads the nation in both fashion and compassion lending a helping hand to people in need.”
The Stone Man reacted quickly, “What’s the goddamn emergency,” he yelled. He was led into a room at the palace and told to take a chair and watch the screen. He was about to watch events that were recorded within the last hour.
The king was giving a rousing speech to his most supportive troops. The men in the crowd signaled their obedience with raised arms and flaming torches. All members of the Royal Family were on stage showing gratitude to the adoring crowd. Drums beat. Trumpets blared. TV cameras captured every moment. The king beamed, “we will make this country great, again.”
A shot rang out. It wasn’t unexpected. The king had enemies. The shot sounded like a ping: spit hitting the rim of a spittoon. The king was an ardent supporter of open-carry laws to arm all citizens. An angry growl was voiced by the assembled partisans blaming “lefty’s” and foreigners for the deed. Fights broke out as the crowd tore itself apart. The family stood on stage frozen in shock and awe. The king was dead. The family was in crisis revealed before the cameras. The Baron dropped the smoking gun. No one suspected — he was just a child. The boy suffered from too many years of abject neglect at the hands of narcissistic adults. He snapped.
There was a universal sigh of relief. Even the royal family was glad to be out of the political spotlight. The king had become unstable. His deals had gone sour so he lashed out. He put everyone in embarrassing situations and mocked them when they failed to meet his insatiable demands. The first lady was at last free to enjoy her liaison with a much younger and more attractive man. Only the Baron suffered the consequences of his action, but it was a light sentence. He was committed to an institution for privileged delinquents. No one really blamed the Baron. The nation truly loved him and, one day, he was determined to be back in the spotlight… and maybe run for a political office.
“I met Michael Robinet one year before the onset of the global Crisis. It was the best year of my life. It was the only year worth remembering. The Crisis destroyed everything else. I thought love dried up years ago like a desiccated corpse. At my age something as precious as love seemed impossible. I’m seventy-five, active and healthy; but still seventy-five. Mike is sixty, a relative juvenile compared to me. He is athletic and very beautiful. I am not! He is also good natured and protective; but no one could protect any of us from the Crisis. I am Doctor Lydia Thornwall and I am responsible… responsible for everything!”
Lydia Thornwall was a neuroscientist. She was studying the effects of aging on the brain, especially as it related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The work was very intense and she needed a break so she took a Virtual Trip to the Retro Club where she could get a jolt of brain-boost.
The Club was a neon amusement park. It brought back memories of a wild period when she explored the parameters of sex and drugs. At the time she told herself it was an analytical investigation, but with age she knew she was just having fun. Now, she was the oldest person in the Club. She still reveled in the culture of youth. She could flip back in time and experience the thrills of abandonment to prurient desires. Her recent discovery of a new brain-gene could wait awhile longer. She needed to experience a wave of ecstasy. She met Michael at the roundabout on the second floor.
The night poured into Lydia like a flood of Lysergic Acid. The walls melted and she awoke cradled in the arms of Michael Robinet. Love burrowed into her psyche like a velvet hummingbird probing a Venus Flytrap. That night, Lydia felt a fortress of solitude crumbling from within. The Venus Flytrap was deflowered and Lydia broke free from the prison of time. From that moment, Lydia was bound to Michael.
She returned to her laboratory on clouds of scented bouquets. She also had an added gift: the solution to the diseases of old-age, a way to activate the new brain-gene.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Onstate University not far from the hospital lab where Lydia Thornwall worked on her new formula. 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. Lydia lost interest, but she couldn’t avoid the talk. 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.
Lydia hid beneath her desk trying to work on the new formula. She longed for Michael to help her through the current crisis. The man on TV yelled at Lydia and called her an ugly, old whore. She bit her lip determined to complete the formula. The TV man was somehow connected to the numbers. She wondered if he had access to her information. A loud speaker shook the room with a reminder for Dr. Lydia Thornwall. Her next client arrived and was waiting in the Green Room.
He said his name was Satan and he wanted to make a deal. Lydia didn’t believe in the supernatural or in religious dogma, besides deals with Satan always ended badly. The man was likely suffering from late onset Schizophrenia. He babbled like a politician.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over oil rights, military might, 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.
It meant nothing to Lydia. She was a devoted scientist trying to make the world a better place. “Help the children,” she whispered, “help the old and frail.”
She signed a contract with Michael on the night of her deflowering. The rain fell like quicksilver from a cobalt sky. It was magical; but, unfortunately, it was caused by global warming. Lydia sighed and pursued her work. She dismissed Satan who seemed to devolve into a curious Bonobo Chimpanzee sitting in the corner of her lab.
“Curious,” she thought, “the way things change.” It was, indeed, very odd. Reality appeared to shift and warp. Layers of perception were superimposed over one another like virtual dreams, worlds within worlds.
As she worked, she pondered recent discoveries in Quantum Physics. They found the “God Particle” as hypothesized over fifty years ago. They smashed atoms to find the particle. It was a major discovery.
Dr. Thornwall was also looking for a particle, part of the human genome. She knew the brain-gene existed and now she needed to expose it. If her calculations were correct the gene she sought would cure the disease of old age and unlock the potential for immortality.
The politician was having a bad day. He never should have signed the contract. His wishes were all granted: money, power, women and sex; everything – he was a major celebrity… but, he realized too late, there is always a price to pay.
Hatecore music was yelling over the 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. Politics were blamed for the ensuing violence; but political enmity was only one factor. Dr. Lydia Thornwall was successful. She exposed the brain-gene and there were unexpected consequences: once exposed, the gene became dominant. It was more than Dr. Thornwall anticipated; not a cure, but a disease: a link to psychosis that came to be known as Satan’s Spark. The Spark went viral.
Lydia had a room in the psychiatric ward at Resurrection Hospital. She suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion. No information was known about Lydia — one night she just turned up at the emergency room. No one knew where she came from or what she did. Michael Robinet worked as an orderly and he was very kind to Lydia. Michael was a guardian angel.
He’d always been a strange child… he was even stranger as an adult. People said Alexander seemed to focus on something outside his line of sight. Alexander Pogue was focused on the future. The world he lived in was too painful: nationalism and bigotry were carried over from the past and all the hatred was given a facelift and a new, benign name.
He grew up to be an archaeologist, an explorer unearthing relics from the past. But, he always had his eye on the future. His physician prescribed pills to cure his obsessive-compulsive disorder, but Alex never took them. He was searching for a mythical city. On one of his digs, he discovered a stone tablet that described a lost city. Alexander was convinced the city was from the future, a metropolis that traveled through time. It made no logical sense, but it became an idee fixe.
No one believed his story. He never showed the stone tablet to anyone. He was afraid revealing the tablet would put his life in danger. He memorized the information and shattered the stone. Now, he was no longer certain the tablet ever existed; but he continued to search for a possibility that was little more than a delusion.
He was aware of the warring factions within himself: the believers and the heretics. The city was not his only obsession. He was obsessed with design-elements: colors that did not belong together, a chandelier that hung slightly too low. he wondered why no one else was effected and why no one seemed to see the defects that caused him so much distress. He was only content when he was on a dig… when he was hunting for the future.
As a young man he was more adept at hiding his symptoms and he worked as a university professor. He lived in a rented basement and hoarded the money he earned. Piles of newspapers and reports filled his living space. He believed the printed material on scraps of yellowed paper might show him the way… might open the gates of hidden knowledge.
The affair he had with a student and the ugly aftermath drove Alex into a deeper hole of disintegration. A carnal relationship between a professor and a younger man was an anathema to the Regents of the university. Sucking dick was not condoned (even in a country where the president bragged about grabbing pussy). Alexander was fired in disgrace. He was convinced his lover committed suicide, but he never knew for certain. At the time, there were too many voices and contradictions in his mind as his grip on reality disintegrated.
All the while his obsession with the lost-city became more entrenched and it gave Alexander the purpose he needed to survive. He had money stashed in several bank accounts. His uncle known as “the peacock” added to Alexander’s wealth when he suddenly expired in a rumored orgy of hedonism and left his fortune to Alex, his closest relative.
The money was an expedient allowing Alexander to assemble a team of semi-professionals and novice treasure hunters. The team would hunt for the lost-city.
Sabrina Cataract joined the team as a diversion from boredom. She was tired of playing games with overwrought men… besides she had a brilliant mind and enjoyed mental stimulation. She knew Alexander from his time at the university and thought he was a fool; but he offered a salary she couldn’t turn down.
“White Smoke” was the team’s Guide. He said he was an American Indian, but he was a white man who was out of a job so he re-invented himself.
Orlow Fabricatum came along for the ride into unfamiliar territory. Orlow described himself as a fly on the wall… he was a hack reporter who wrote for slander-sheets. He needed money so he joined the team.
Dr. Zosimo Kulio was on board to monitor the health of the team. He was avoiding prosecution for over-prescribing highly addictive medications. If no one could find him, no one could prosecute.
Roxy Wentworth brought up the rear. She was an engineer and cook… about to reach her expiration date: both her heart and liver were artificial and replacement parts were no longer available. She craved one last adventure.
The team came to the conclusion that Alexander Pogue was deranged. He constantly fidgeted and often babbled in a foreign tongue. They joked behind his back; but, like lackeys they encouraged him and catered to his whims because the pay was good.
Sabrina smoked like a furnace. Kulio warned her about the dangers, but she liked living on the edge.
White Smoke often disappeared. He was addicted to porn on his I-pad.
Orlow Fabricatum was more complicated than he appeared. He worked undercover for a group of power-brokers who manipulated the public’s perceptions of reality.
Roxy Wentworth was an agent from a virtual future. She had an important mission to carry out, but the details alluded her.
Alexander Pogue recognized the symbols on the cave wall, deep within the earth. Someone left a calling card, a special invitation and only Alex could decipher the message.
The others laughed behind his back while Alex shed layers of neuro-linguistic programming in order to discover the gateway that would lead to the lost-city.
He finally perceived a crack in the cave wall that expanded as he watched. Golden light flowed from the opening. A doorway appeared in the black heart of space.
He stepped across the threshold and entered a radiant city. The light poured into Alexander Pogue and he was transported back-and-back in a chain of lives that merged and exploded like a nova.
The doctor and others examined the patient who had a recent episode. He’d gone off-line. He disconnected from the virtual womb. Alexander Pogue was another fatality from the plague of “Mass-Alzheimers” that affected billions in a forgotten world.