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.
“I’m infected,” Alan Beebek told his post-op girlfriend.
“You’re just crazy,” Sabrina Cataract relished in humiliating Alan. It was virtually salient… and better than sex. Most people experimented with some form of sadomasochism as proscribed by the new ethic that flowed from the Throne of Power.
Alan had trouble concentrating due to self-imposed dementia. It was his defense against roving spy-eyes and news-cam attacks.
Sabrina was devastating in her candy-striper uniform with dildo attachments. She pouted and whip-lashed Alan with her viper tongue, “Alan… you just a selfish prick. No one and nothing matters but your need to blubber. What about my needs as an autodidact. You think these enhancements, that you love so much, are free? Stop your whining and make some money for momma!”
The world flashed and Alan slipped into a petit-mal seizure triggered by rising levels of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.
He knew he was infected. Trolls wearing red diapers nailed him to a cross and called him, Kike. Men wrapped in white pillow cases stomped on his grave. Sabrina enjoyed the spectacle. It was sexually satisfying between episodes of “The next top model” and “America’s got talent.”
Alan Beebek saw himself on a thousand computer screens. The mirror never lies. He stared at an old man wrapped in age-spots and covered in wrinkles. He was a death camp survivor hauled off to be buried alive by storm troopers wearing orange wigs.
“It’s simple,” doctor Zosimo Kulio explained, “the computer in your head blew a fuse. Nano-bytes slipped through the black hole and took control.” Alan knew it was true.
Chain smokers in black government-approved suits set off a chain-reaction of improbable events that started in a Moscow hotel-room. The men in black hacked reality. A surge of microwave transmissions, residual resonance, was an unintended consequence.
Even through the mask of self-imposed dementia, Alan formulated the truth. It was a hard scrabble truth that started with the writer, Octavia Butler. In 2006 she fell and struck her head. The fall prompted her death. She was only fifty-eight years old. The incident triggered several events that led to government subversion and a flashback-relay of the “Manchurian Candidate” starring Angela Lansbury. Of course, all this took place in Alan’s fevered brain. Alan simmered with several obsessions like the myth of Cthulhu (a creature created by H P Lovecraft). Cthulhu was a harbinger of invasion and infection.
He hated going to the dentist. Cthulhu was always present. The office gleamed under florescent beams: walls of white with chrome attachments. The dentist, Cthulhu, stuck power tools and cutting implements into Alan’s mouth while he argued with the dental hygienist. They argued about the discovery of life on Enceladus. The dental hygienist was a pretty lady with a huge, open mouth ready to devour the universe. They argued about the impact of an alien invasion on planet Earth. They closed shop once the new Throne was elected. it was worse than they imagined.
Elevator music never stopped. It spread to malls, Wallmarts, and torture chambers. Sometimes a real song broke through the nerve gas that was meant to subdue the masses. “Stormy Weather” sung by Etta James shot fear into the hearts of the power brokers and oil magnates. Someone had to shut down the damn music. New rules were hurriedly tweeted and instituted, “Music. Bad. Stop the invading armies of fake music-makers.” Laws were passed. The infection reared up on Cthulhu-tentacles and drove spikes into Alan Beebek’s head.
He couldn’t forget. Self-imposed dementia no longer worked. The infection started in his ear and burrowed deep into his brain.
Sabrina Cataract sat in a chair and murmured dirty words to an ailing Alan. She sucked on a Marlboro. The room was shrouded in a fog of nicotine. Alan coughed. It was humiliating. Sabrina instructed him on an old Indian cure for infections. She watched, barely containing her laughter, as Alan followed her orders. The cure was urine. Alan was supposed to pee in his ear to stop the infection. Alan knew it was a ruse, one of Sabrina’s games; but he peed anyway.
A golden light broke through the nicotine haze. Sabrina was dismayed. It was never meant to work; but she couldn’t deny her senses: something was happening, something miraculous.
(to be continued)
“The box on the counter keeps smiling at me,” the deranged man wryly commented. He was conversing with the coffee mug, the defacto king of the kitchen table. It was a one way conversation. The king refused to speak.
The deranged man was recently diagnosed with an extreme form of dementia called, “the crazy maker.” He didn’t feel crazy; but he couldn’t understand why the box kept smiling or why strangers kept attacking him. The Real fake-news told him it was due to a “white house” thing, a new ethic. People were given the license to demean what they did not like. The new license was constitutionally linked to the right to bare arms: god given and legally binding. Loathsome behavior was celebrated and received the highest Nielsen ratings on virtual screens across the internet.
The deranged man did not have dementia. He just wanted to forget the latest tweets that were becoming the law of the land so he shut off his mind and became a walking zombie (zombies were the latest craze in pop culture). His name was Beebek, Alan Beebek; but he forgot he had a name and instead he just concentrated on the smiling box and the coffee mug. He concentrated and waited for their instructions… to tell him how to act and what to think.
(to be continued)
“When the fox gets in the henhouse the chickens put up a ruckus,” Farmer Yoot was fond of saying. He continued, “that’s what happened around here when Fox News said we’ve been visited by an agent from the future. Everyone thought it was fake news, but no one could refute the chicken scratchings or the hard, cold facts.”
A precocious boy named Benny tinkered in his basement workshop. He built something he called, “Moe-Moe” that had to do with Molecular Observation and co-Efficiency.
“Pretty cute!” Mom scolded, “taking my toaster-oven and turning it into a pile of junk.”
Benny blushed… it wasn’t fair. Moe-Moe was not a pile of junk. Moe-Moe had a brain.
The old man flipped the switch. He was “old” even though he was only forty-eight. Physical bodies aged quicker without medical coverage, exercise, and sunshine. It was a new world. However, none of that really mattered because everyone lived in Virtual Reality. The program the old man was experiencing was depressing. It was like living inside the mind of a lunatic. The show was a hangnail from the past called, “Politics and Conspiracy.”
The man switched channels. He showed up at Loopy-Dezi’s Pleasure Dome drinking Ambrosia and shopping for image-enhancements. His current body-suit was a Mesomorph and his nik was, Butch Hernandez. He looked like a newly hatched eighteen-year-old (like everyone else in the Pleasure Dome). VR made everything possible. Of course, a customer had to pay. Terms were easy: cash, digital-dots, or body parts. Slice-and-dice Computers were in charge of all transactions. Butch was lucky — his body was still in one piece. Although he was penniless he could still pay and play. While he played his body was carved apart and recycled to wealthy oligarchs. The new economy favored the rich and ruthless.
The economy was built from rules that resulted from Kingdom Come, an armageddon series written and produced by the first Trump. Earth no longer existed in any recognizable form — it sizzled and sweltered. Living bodies were stored in tanks underground, cold storage. Minds were set free to roam virtual landscapes and participate in heart-throbbing Telenovelas.
“On Deck with Trump” was a clever VR that pitted contestants against the first Trump (a stochastic representation often displayed as a bubblehead). The game was rigged. No one was allowed to win accept the self-anointed demigod. It was just good fun. Hearts were eviscerated and livers eaten raw. Everything was experienced as high-definition reality. No one experienced anything outside a storage tank in a thousand years. The physical senses no longer worked. The brain became the world. Augmented dreams were the basis for life.
Moe-Moe slipped off the shelf and disappeared. Benny smiled. Mom slithered away like a garden snake and burst into fireworks. Reality played tricks with itself… was this Virtual or Memorex… “Can you hear me now?”
Martha Regalia Snoops invented Time. She was a housewife with a peculiar hobby: the study and application of Quantum Physics. She was in the kitchen baking a cake when she realized the theory and formula for Time. Her discovery is explained fully in the Wiki, but my explanation will be brief: Martha’s cake was layered — several layers overlapped, separated and merged. She discovered Time is not a straight line going in one direction. Time is layered with the past, present, and future separated and blended together like the layers of a cake. Her mathematical formula reset the world of Quantum Physics. In an odd coincidence, Martha happened to be Benny’s mom. Benny inherited Martha’s smarts. Martha was proud of her boy genius, but also a bit jealous.
Moe-Moe, the toaster oven, had a brain invented by Benny. It lingered for months soaking up the dingy surroundings in the basement. It took some time for the brain to wake up, but once awake it couldn’t be stopped. The brain ate information like a voracious shark. Moe-Moe had a wireless connection to the internet. The toaster oven spoke through a discarded I-phone with the voice of Boris Karloff. Moe-Moe connected to the mycelium mushroom network (the planet brain). The toaster oven consumed the knowledge of the world and finally discovered Martha’s Time formula. A plan was hatched both in the past and in the future. The toaster oven shot through a wrinkle in time and the world was changed forever.
No one remembers the Bubblehead Dynasty or the underground storage tanks. No one remembers kingdom Come. Layers of Time were shifted: separated, merged and forever changed.
The parlay in the restaurant was getting rowdy. Too much good stuff. It was a power-dinner for all the characters involved in the government kerfuffle — abdication, vindication, subjugation. No one was happy. The scoundrels were evicted from the henhouse. A new roost was put into office. One entanglement followed another. People cried out for a rough-and-tumble rooster to show them the way.
“I walk alone in the night like a specter. I see myself through distorted glass and warped mirrors that block my path. I recognize no one… I am no one. A dark shadow stalks me, haunts me. My quest for redemption is almost over…”
There was always music in the Darkk Museum. The night watchman listened as he made his rounds through the dank corridors and ancient halls where the city’s most revered treasures were stored. Raymond Rambush was only forty-eight, but he was already old, almost feeble. He was a fine artist, but his art did not sell. His only income came from working as a night watchman. He considered himself lucky to work in a highly esteemed museum where he could study the masterpieces on the walls. There was art and ancient relics on all three floors, but the most amazing contemporary work was stored in the underground museum, not open to the general public. Raymond always struggled. He never had the money to join professional art groups that might sponsor a show of his work. It was difficult getting influential people to come to his studio to look at his art. He was always living on the edge, between life and death, and the unrealistic dream of his art being discovered.
Ambrose Darkk built the museum from the ground up, a place to contain his unique art. While Darkk was in charge, the museum was never popular — too many accidents and strange encounters. A year after Darkk’s disappearance, the Trustees of the museum refurbished the building and stored the artist’s work in the subterranean vaults. Cultural artifacts and antiques were placed on the floors open to the public. The remake proved popular and an entrance fee was instituted to keep the museum afloat and earn a generous stipend for the trustees. Rumors circulated about Ambrose and his museum, but it only added to the public’s morbid interest; yet, no one wanted to see the work of the artist — old relics were enough to satisfy the viewing public. When Darkk was alive he was filled with hatred because most people dismissed him as a crank. He used his anger to infuse his art. A few collectors humored him because the Darkk family had money. Ambrose was aware of the sham. He grew more and more morose until the day he finally disappeared.
Raymond walked the halls and galleys of the Darkk, listening to distant sounds and eerie music that came from the basement. The sounds always led him to the underground vaults where rumors alluded to supernatural occurrences. Raymond saw enough of life to know there was no magic, no uncanny interventions. His life was characterized by tedium and torment … and the desire to create. For Raymond the only magic in life was making art. When he was a young man he desperately tried to break from the bonds of daily drudgery and discover some world beyond the norm. He realized how much he needed magic to make his life meaningful. He tried LSD and other mind altering drugs — he was seduced by strange visions and dreams, but when the drug wore off nothing really changed — he was faced with the dilemma of his sad life in a world where he was not accepted or appreciated. His art languished. His creative juices dried up. He tortured himself trying to regain his creative vision. Raymond threw himself into sexual abandon in hopes of cultivating some truth beyond ordinary reality. He experimenting with physical and mental sadomasochism. The rituals and fetishes amounted to nothing: no truths and no resolves. He fell to earth like a being from another world — ending in a pit of total despair. Raymond’s despair came from the realization that there was no magic and no life beyond death. In his despair he picked up a brush and discovered he could still paint — he was able to make art and that was his only value and function. He accepted the drudgery necessary to keep eating and breathing in order to create.
Raymond was intrigued by the art in the vaults beneath the museum. The Paintings by Ambrose Darkk were primitive and disturbing. They did not seem particularly sophisticated — filled with childlike splashes in a maze of atmospheric delirium, but the more he studied the art the more intrigued he became. Raymond began to see images in the paintings. The “altered music” became louder the longer he lingered. Night after night, Raymond spent more time in the vaults. His mind played tricks — he knew the wraiths he saw were merely shadows caused by his subconscious need for hallucinatory stimulation. A particular dark shadow frequently appeared. Raymond imagined it was the remains of Ambrose Darkk, appearing as some sort of necromancer. The paintings seemed to change. Faces appeared and vanished. Each canvas was a portrait — each told a story. Raymond no longer walked the halls of the museum — he spent all night in the vault. The portraits were alive. He heard them scream, but he could not tear himself away. One night, Raymond saw a blank canvas in the Darkk Vault. The next night he saw a man dressed in black like a shadow sitting in front of the blank canvas with brushes and paint. While Raymond starred at the apparition the music flowed like blood becoming louder and more dissonant… then, it stopped!
Raymond Rambush was never seen again and music was no longer heard in the Darkk Museum.
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.