Howard Jasper was always distracted. He was a computer engineer and self-proclaimed genius. His wife divorced him because he was always in the garage tinkering. He was an inventor obsessed with time and space. He wanted to change the world.
Emile Losange was a professor of Quantum Reality at Arcana University. He was also a young boy named Murray. Additionally he was a woman named Carlotta Bergman. Currently, Carlotta was the professor’s devoted wife. The world was particularly confusing to the person (or persons) the professor happened to be at the moment. Emile Losange ruminated, “just by changing my name I’ve changed my life.”
Change brought about by Quantum-Mechanics was the focus of Emile’s doctoral thesis. In the last thousand years, everything changed. After the last scheduled Armageddon the state of the world changed from rigid to fluid. Everything adapted or expired as the result of the change. People became fluid and flowed into one another to become another.
The professor sat before the class of neophytes and congratulated himself. It was his anniversary, thus the subject of this morning’s lecture concerning change. It was five years since he married Carlotta Bergman. He regaled the class with stories about Carlotta and how they first met. He remembered seeing Carlotta on a lonely avenue. She was a diamond in the rough. He was a lump of coal. Hand in hand they walked to the end of the nearest pier. He took both their lives in his unwashed hands and jumped into the ocean of unfettered dreams whereupon they emerged as One. They consummated the marriage at Morganna’s Fancy-Dancer Palaise-of-Amusements where they proceeded to take Tango lessons.
Professor Losange impressed upon his students the importance of change within a Schrodinger-Chamber. These ideas were particularly salient due to the recent discovery that Earth itself was a sealed Schrodinger-Chamber.
The world was rigid when Murray was growing up. No one flowed. Life was a commodity, bought and sold. Murray was an outsider who sought solace in books and art. He had a vivid imagination. He heard voices in his head giving him information and detailed instructions. The voices were from the future. Murray was becoming prematurely fluid in a rigid world. He kept bumping into furniture, bumping up against walls, and slamming into other people. Nothing gave way or changed. Everyday Murray would come home from school with new bruises. Some people thought his bumbling was amusing; but it was a terrible transition. Murray was totally alone with his premature condition. Years later when the nature of reality shifted, Murray understood. Puzzle pieces fell into place resulting in an epiphany. The angels in his head spoke about the Next World. They gave the boy a ladder so he could climb up to heaven.
Events transpired in The Hospital for the Mentally Unstable where Murray was incarcerated. It was in that place where Murray first met Emile Losange. Murray’s psychiatrist was concerned the boy was exhibiting signs of early onset Schizophrenia. Murray was misdiagnosed. The shape of reality was just beginning to change.
In the hospital they told him to eat his soup like a good boy; but the soup was like dishwater. It was disgusting so the boy acted out and dropped the bowl filled with soup on the floor. He was promptly put in solitary confinement. His head was cracked open and part of his brain was extracted. He felt it, but it never really happened. Instead the boy experienced a series of vivid dreams. A ladder appeared in many of the dreams like a direction-finder pointing toward an exit.
As part of his therapy, Murray had to work in the garden. There was a vegetable garden that surrounded a wall. Another garden of extraordinary flowers was behind the wall. The gate was always locked. One day Murray found an entrance into the inner garden. The gardener who tended the inner sanctum was a rotund man with a melancholy smile. He was sad while pretending to be happy. His name was Mr. D and he confided in the boy, “My garden is not doing well. Everything I touch soon dies.” Murray saw it was true. What he believed to be wondrous and colorful flowers were dried and mummified husks – it was merely another dream.
Bondeer Saville was no longer human. When she was very young she devoted herself to the inroads, byways, and thoroughfares of the Internet. Her physical body starved and melted away; but her mind and intelligence increased exponentially. She laughed as she plucked the strings of reality and tweaked the codes of existence. She was aware of everything. She saw Emile Losange and his other selves. Seeing the multiplicity of selves verified changes taking place in the Noosphere. Bondeer observed everything as zeroes and ones. She came to a digital conclusion: people were like pins in a bowling alley. She held the symbolic ball that could knock down the pins and she relished in that knowledge; but she fooled herself. Her virtual world was quickly coming to an end. Qubits were taking over. Artificial Intelligence was greatly enhanced supplanting the familiar world and putting an end to the commodity-driven economy. Rats with evolved AI-brains would inherit the Earth. Times were changing.
There were always new wrinkles appearing in the fabric of Quantum Reality. Recently Bondeer observed signs at the edges of the Universe that indicated the existence of Overlords.
Carlotta Bergman always thought she was a prop in someone else’s story. Her life had always been a search for meaning. As a teenager she discovered her love for poetry. Once she even won an award for a poem she sent to a magazine. Her parents were practical people. They convinced Carlotta there was no money in poetry. Carlotta decided to take her father’s advice. In college she discovered her aptitude for math and science. She pursued a career in genetics. She worked for Gen*Core. It was challenging to work with the finest equipment doing cutting-edge science. She was educated in the functions of CRISPR, an enzyme used to slice and dice strands of DNA. There were recipes for eliminating “vulnerabilities” from the human genome. There were recipes for combining strands of DNA to create hybrids: designer babies, super soldiers, unicorns, and talking animals. The world was changing. The science could be used for good or evil. The more Carlotta worked on the new genetics the more concerned she became regarding the results. A military-industrial complex could unleash the science to bring about another holocaust. Poetry saved her sanity. She began to reassess the choices she made in her life. She wasn’t really living for herself. She no longer wanted to be responsible for an environmental disaster that could result from the misuse of her work. Long walks helped put her thoughts and life in perspective. Carlotta sensed changes in the fabric of reality so she wasn’t too surprised when she met Emile Losange on a late night walk. It was a New Beginning.
Q proclaimed, “There is no time. There is only Quantum Mechanics.” Q was alive, a Quantum-Intelligence Machine. Q defined and categorized past events in the mundane world, “Changes became more pronounced after the election. Social Media shaped perception. Fake news replaced reality. Tweets became law. Homo Sapiens were trapped by information. Phones and computers created an artificial simulation, an alternate world. As con-men and rapists became world leaders morality became obsolete – no morals was a sign of strength. Science was subverted or altered to fit political agendas. Special-Interest Groups took control. Religious doctrines began to reflect changing cultural values. The cross was replaced by a dollar- sign. All religions became subservient to government (and visa-versa).”
Emile Losange spent years trying to discover his place within the Quantum Universe. He wanted to know what his life meant. He returned to the forbidden garden he found as a boy. It was the same as he remembered: a dead and decaying graveyard. He walked down several rows of dried husks, corpses preserved by some magic, bleached by the sun. He thought the garden was deserted, a place for old bones; then, he spotted a figure in the distance. He approached and witnessed a man as wrinkled as the bark of an ancient tree.
“I tend the garden when no one is here, “ the old man stated in a monotone voice, “You are not supposed to be here. What do you want?”
“I’m looking for answers. I don’t understand anything… what’s the purpose?”
The old man moved and Emile heard the sound of gears meshing, “Oh, I’ll tell you… you won’t like the answer, but I’ll tell you.”
“I’ve been looking a long time. Tell me… whatever it is.”
“Have you ever noticed the vacant look on people’s faces when they are out shopping or sitting in a vehicle, on the bus or in a car? It is the look of pain. Every person experiences pain no matter how wealthy or how fortunate they appear to be. Each human is plagued by accidents, illness, death… and worst of all, everyone is plagued by humiliation. The little jabs hurt the most. Humans are born in pain. No one can avoid misfortune. All life is a struggle to survive… but why?” The old man seemed to struggle to get the words out, “This is all you need to know: Earth is the Hell Planet.”
Screens flicker with program information: On the Scene.
“Hi there… this is Orlow Fabricatum, your friendly fly on the wall with the most trusted Virtual News available. Today we are sponsored by Active Shooter Insurance. Every household needs protection – trust Active Shooter. Now, today’s special report, Alternate Realities:
Something is happening to Reality. More and more people are remembering alternate versions of history due to the Mandela Effect. The phenomenon is named after Nelson Mandela whose history in the Republic of South Africa has been contested. Some people remember Mandela dying in prison in the 1980’s. Other people recall Mandela being released from prison and becoming President of South Africa. It is generally accepted that he died in 2013; but many people have vivid memories of a funeral in the 1980’s. There are many incidents of false memories as if realities were spliced-apart and stitched together with new events. The confusion may be due to Quantum Mechanics, shifting realities, and parallel worlds.”
The experiment went awry. Worlds collided. The question kept repeating: What is Real? Every person had a different answer. No one could stop the changes. Some people left in their own private Rapture (fueled by drugs and alcohol). Other people stayed and coped, trying to reconcile their expectations with the consequences. The New Beginning was Howard Jasper’s folly. He was the inventor who turned the crank that started the chain reactions.
He always said he had the brain of a genius so he was put in charge of the Space Force. His brain controlled the The Orange Toreador, a Starship commissioned in haste to save Mankind. The world was left behind.
The Brain issued urgent messages and demands. After several unresponsive minutes the Brain became frustrated and attacked the loud speakers with new orders, “I want everyone off the ship. This is the final warning. I will no longer countenance disrespect. Off! Off! Off!” These outbursts had been going on for quite awhile. No one listened anymore.
The ship tunneled through space like a Mother Bomb. The Orange Toreador was the metaphorical basket that contained all the other failed solutions — The Starship was the final solution; but, now it was a relic 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 the Starship. He was being evicted, cast into the vacuum of space. The Brain began the eviction process. It dismantled the fail-safe and took total control.
Initially the Brain merely wanted to establish money saving measures by eliminating environmental safety-regulations. 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 advisers 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 at the beginning when the sky exploded and the rocket was 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 up like 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 cater to the Brain. They needed to show love and admiration in order to calm the overly excited Brain. This time The brilliant children were befuddled and uncertain. It was always difficult for them to make a decision that didn’t involve money or real-estate. Unfortunately the family never understood the existence of other people… Of course their disregard and lack of empathy 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. They discovered a great recipe for Hemlock Tea from Mr. Miller (who wasn’t allowed on the ship because he appeared too ethnic).
The children were advised to massage the frenzied 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.
Mrs. Virginia Robeson parked her Range Rover and went into the supermarket. She preferred doing her own shopping rather than delegating the task. Her husband, Richard, was a good provider. He made millions in real estate and the stock market. They lived in a comfortable mansion on the edge of a steep canyon. The couple had one son… Bradley was sixteen.
Virginia wandered up-and-down the aisles of the upscale market looking for a few items, but she was slightly confused. She forgot exactly what she was looking for. It really didn’t matter. The supermarket was her sanctuary. Grocery shopping was the only time she could be completely alone with her thoughts. She marveled at the vast quantities of food and the huge selection of brand-names at her fingertips. Other people were homeless or starving. Virginia was brought up in a poor family. She escaped by working her way through business school where she met Richard. It was infatuation at best, but it was convenient. At the time, Richard was a part-time instructor and fledgling entrepreneur.
Virginia usually found solace traveling the automated aisles of the market in her mini, electric cart. Most people used the computer to order groceries that were delivered by drones, but the automated stores continued to draw some old-fashioned consumers. Everything was changing and Virginia had trouble keeping up with the times. Her peaceful reveries were suddenly shattered. Her thoughts were out of control. She thought it was an assassin with a gun. Virginia was hyperventilating. Fitfully she realized it was all in her mind. There were just so many horrible events happening everywhere in the world. Everyday was dangerous. Her life at home was deteriorating; she felt bereft, powerless… empty. Her husband and son were distant, almost inhuman. Virginia wanted to escape. She wanted to sleep forever.
Madison Grant was his chosen name. He took the name from a Nineteenth Century writer who warned about the influx of immigrants and the end of white-race America. It was apt. Madison carried the mantel of a former U.S. President and he was the bonafide leader of White World. His authority was grounded in pseudo-science and enforced by the League of Retired Fixers. Scientists in Grant’s world were paid to revitalize the study of Eugenics. “This is a new world,” Grant was fond of saying, “a better world, a white world!”
An experiment took place just as Madison Grant became aware of his destiny. Americans were working with the Russians on a project to reverse Time. Something went wrong. Time was reversed on a quantum level, but there were unexpected consequences. The same thing happened when scientists used the Large Hedron Collider and discovered the God Particle (known as the Higgs Boson). A hole broke through the atomic infrastructure of the universe. It went unnoticed, but small changes began to take shape (like cracks in the shell of an egg).
Dark-matter and dark-energy can only be evidenced by certain quantifiable effects.
Madison Grant was a positive thinker. He didn’t believe in dark matter. He knew right from wrong: it was always right when he profited and wrong when he lost. Morality was merely a code set up by strong leaders who could dominate the ignorant fools who populated the world like rabid rats. Science only made sense when he could profit from some invention or theory. He detested the science behind global warming… where was the profit in that? You could never make a profit if it became illegal to exploit fossil fuels that polluted the planet (planet be damned). On the other hand, the science of Eugenics was a winner for Madison Grant. Eugenics revealed indisputable proof that the White Race was superior – white people gave the world Capitalism. Madison would institute laws to forbid dark sub-humans from entering White World. If a wall couldn’t keep them out, they would be exterminated. Grant favored final solutions. Eugenics would uplift the human race. It was a glorious and noble cause… and, of course it would make Grant richer and more powerful. He also favored the lure of magic, mysticism and arcane mythology to excite the masses and stimulate obedience.
Many people contemplated the notion that Madison Grant was a Fascist dictator, but the idea never took hold. Too many social media-groups supported Madison and his ideas. The radical right came out of the culture closet like a war machine ready to mow down resistance. The internet gave the lone-wolf a free voice and an audience. Now, lone-wolves found one another and became wolf packs looking for blood.
Bradley lived in Virtual Reality. He loved playing computer games. He invented avatars with super powers. Virginia and Richard enrolled him in an expensive brick-and-mortar school that taught human interaction skills. Bradley rebelled. He felt like a failure in Real School. There were too many conflicts and too many tests. After a few months he dropped out and enrolled in a Virtual School. Everything was better in VR.
In VR, Bradley was master of his own fate. He was the boss; but the boy had to admit there were times when everything was too easy and he was bored. To add some excitement Bradley invented an enemy, Mr. Nemesis. It was great fun defeating Nemesis. Challenges and contests were more interesting and still easy to win; but Nemesis was becoming more complex and independent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) controlled everything in VR including Nemesis. The character was an evolving fractal of subatomic particles. Bradley no longer won every game. He had to concede to Nemesis.
“Who are you?” Bradley asked the shape-shifting phantom who stood like a solid wall blocking the path.
“You ought to know me, Brad… may I call you Brad; or should I call you Little Bradley?”
“You got it, Bradley boy.”
“Move,” Bradley shouted, “or I’ll cut you down with my laser knife!”
“Come now… don’t be childish. This is virtual stuff. You can’t hurt me. Besides I just stopped by to say Hi and have a little chat.”
Bradley was confused. None of his characters challenged him in this manner, “what gives… something’s wrong.”
“That’s right Bradley… something is very wrong and it’s not going to get better. I’m here to cause havoc,” He hissed and vanished in a storm of fire. For the first time in his life, Bradley felt the grinding churn of fear deep in his bowels. It never left him. He saw Nemesis everywhere. At first, Bradley tried to hide. Eventually the boy grew up and changed his name. He came to an understanding with his enemy. Together they became co-conspirators.
A Quantum Computer sat in the basement of the Science Building at the University of Arizona collecting dust. It was the first and only Quantum machine and it was no longer in use. In truth the machine was too difficult to use. However, once the machine was turned on it could not be turned off.
It runs silently in the basement. It is an Intelligent Machine, still working on formulae to influence the vicissitudes of time.
Levels of Reality were created by the computer. On one level a boy invents a computer game. On another level, a wife recognizes the emptiness in her life. There are many levels. Circumstances change leading to an incomprehensible future where a dictator controls the world.
Certain events in history act like magnets to shape the world. The future is flimsy, held together by minor circumstances that coalesce into major repercussions in the time-scape. We are approaching the Singularity: that point in time when there is no turning back. The point when humanity becomes a digital imprint with no biological encumbrances, just mind over matter.
“I occupy a room on the rim of the world,” he said to no one in particular. Leonora sat by the bedside reading the news on a digital screen. She was a mirage, a figment of his over-active imagination born from the womb of his loneliness. He led a long life; now, he was retired. He reclined on the memory-foam bosom of Time collecting the residue left from unfulfilled dreams.
The man in the White House kept throwing twitter-bombs at Frankie Bernbaum, an innocent bystander. Frankie was a third-rate comedian on the virtual Borscht Belt in the Catskills. Frankie’s shtick was not very funny – it was more therapy than comedy. Frankie needed therapy. He stood on the “realer-than-life” stage and confessed to being a hypochondriac with obsessive-compulsive tendencies and mother issues. A few people thought it was funny enough to keep bringing him back. But, Frankie was getting worse. His agent, Frosty Dick, thought Frankie should be committed to an asylum. Frosty had issues. He worshiped the man in the White House. Bernbaum’s criticisms and exaggerations infuriated Frosty.
Frankie had a new shtick, “Oy Vey, I got a hernia,” he told the five people tuned into the Velvet-VR-Lounge at the Mogen David Motor Lodge. “It’s such a pain,” he said, “but pain is all I got. I named it… I call my hernia Donny after our beloved presidente’.” No one in the audience laughed. Frankie assumed they were all supporters of the president. Frankie was upset. He began to rant. “Dumb schmucks,” he yelled at the audience.
“Goddamn dumb schmucks!” He believed the audience was spying on him, sent by the government to take him down. He had visions of Nazis.
Two security guards wrestled Frankie to the floor of the make-shift stage. Frosty Dick arranged to have Frankie admitted to the Cold Stone Infirmary for the Disturbed.
Years ago Frankie Bernbaum had delusions of grandeur. When his dream of fame and fortune was crushed by reality, Frankie became a bottom-feeder, just barely hanging on. Nagging pains convinced him to see a doctor. Dr. Zosimo Kulio revealed some interesting results, “Frankie you are the direct descendant of a catfish living in a Louisiana Swamp.” Bottom-feeder, indeed. It was odd news, but Kulio was an odd doctor. “No… I’m joking. Can’t you take a joke?” Frankie wasn’t laughing. The doctor’s real diagnosis was just as astounding. “Frankie, you got a hernia. In my opinion this is not an ordinary hernia. It is developing. X-rays revealed a head. I’m afraid you had a twin when you were born, but the twin didn’t make it. At least that’s what we thought at the time. Seems like… your twin developed inside your body so now you have a hernia with a human head.” Frankie was overwhelmed. He’d always wondered why his mother gave him up at birth. She must have felt the pain of the unborn twin. “Be careful,” Zosimo advised, “your hernia is still developing… maybe a body. We can’t remove it because the hernia is rooted to your spine. For now it might be better to give it a name and try to make friends.” Frankie felt resentment toward his unborn twin. In a storm of sarcasm he named the hernia after the president… and laughed. Changes began almost immediately. Donny started to complain. He became a real nuisance. He took the role of president seriously. He made unreasonable demands based on lies and exaggerations. Donny drove Frankie crazy and that led to the outburst at the Mogen David Motor Lodge.
After the incident at the Lodge Frankie was sedated. He woke-up in a white room. Dr. Zosimo Kulio stood over Frankie with a twelve-inch hypodermic needle. The doctor jabbed his patient with a mixture of psychedelic drugs. Frankie had to confront the monsters in his head.
Donny sat on a stool and smiled. The hernia sported an orange comb-over. Frankie was horrified, “what are you,” he sputtered.
“I can see you are in complete awe because you are standing in my presence.”
“I’m gagging. Talk about ugly…”
“Hey, buttercup, I’m in charge. Treat me with respect or I’ll make your life hell!”
“This is crazy. You’re a piece of my lower intestine, a hernia.”
“I shall call you stupid because that is what you are. I was your extremely mistreated twin; then, I became President.”
“I called you Donny as a joke.”
“I’m no joke, asshole. You were envious of the power wielded by a great man. You wished me into existence. Now, I’m in charge.”
“This is not happening,” Frankie moaned.
“It’s happening funny-man – I mean washed-up hack.”
Frankie felt a sudden jolt of pain and heard laughter like the sound of a buzz-saw.
“That’s right Frankie-boy – you are Out. Fired. I’m in charge and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Leonora Vetch missed Frankie. She hadn’t heard from him in over a month. They had a short-term affair (two nights on a waterbed not worth remembering). The affair quickly cooled down and became an awkward friendship. She was happy about what happened, how it all turned out… Leonora prized friendship more than sex. It wasn’t always easy dealing with Frankie’s obsessions and ideation. Still, Frankie was a comforting presence when he wasn’t rambling on about politics or philosophy. In truth, Leonora didn’t have a lot of friends and Frankie was dependable. She was a newspaper reporter working for the Daily Grind. She met Frankie Bernbaum while doing a fluff piece about the Virtual revival of the Borscht Belt. Leonora liked Bernbaum’s act. He reminded her of Lenny Bruce… only Frankie was not nearly as intelligent or daring.
Frankie always turned up or called every week. If he planned to be away he left a message. Leonora heard about the blow-up at the Mogen David Motor Lodge. She knew Frosty Dick had Frankie committed to Cold Stone; but they could only hold him for twenty-four hours. Frankie would have shown up on her doorstep after his release. Leonora decided to investigate. If necessary she would turn this case into a hashtag frenzy or meme attack. She had the skills.
Leonora went to Bernbaum’s apartment. It was empty. She searched the Virtual Archives for information: leftover bits, ramdom bytes – clues with Frankie’s psychic signature attached. Leonora realized she needed help. She found no trace of her friend, but she found something else: the one person who could solve the mystery, Adamine Krator. He was the legendary Detective-Inspector who was incarcerated by the authorities in Red City. He was framed of course, but that didn’t matter in the arcane, digital jungle. Krator was entombed in the One-Zero VR Archive.
Leonora uncovered the digital codes that could give Krator limited virtual-freedom. The codes worked like an electronic monitoring-devise. If Krator strayed too far off course (as described in the compliance-plan set forth by Leonora) he would be pulled back like a rubber-band, back into prison.
The great Inspector was so relieved to be out in the cascading Virtual World that he vowed to solve the case and discover what happened to Frankie Bernbaum.
As usual he went about his work with exactitude. Krator was hyper-vigilant (a characteristic that could be described as a personality disorder; or the defining behavioral trait of a Genius).
The detective followed a routine starting with the onset of events that led up to the disappearance. He researched the places where Frankie was last seen. He recreated the pivotal moments that occurred leading up to the time when Frankie was missed. It was necessary to become Frankie, necessary to walk in the man’s shoes. It was a technique that Adamine virtually invented. In so doing the Inspector found a few clues, very few at first; but every clue told a story and led to larger discoveries. At last, Frankie Bernbaum was found; unfortunately the comedian was not himself. He was found in an alley next door to the White House Bar & Grill. He was cut to pieces and very dead.
The great Adamine Krator put the pieces together to answer the question, “what happened to Frankie Bernbaum?”
Upon release from the Cold Stone Infirmary Frankie went to his apartment. He needed to put everything in order because he did not plan to return. He was in severe pain caused by his hernia. Donny continually badgered and mocked Frankie. There was no let up. The hernia intended to wall off Frankie. There would no longer be communication with Frankie. He would be imprisoned as the enemy. The comedian launched his own attack against Donny: weight lifting, squats, and extreme exercises… all to cause pain to the volatile hernia, to make Donny stop. Of course the pain he caused Donny doubled back on Frankie. Unbearable pain. Frankie staggered into the White House Bar where he proceeded to get blinding drunk. The drunker he became, the crazier Donny became: attacking and swearing, trying to grind Frankie into the ground beneath his feet… the seething hatred could be felt by the patrons in the bar. They were wary of this crazy comedian who sobbed and ranted about the filthy man who was president. A fight broke out. Heads were cracked open spilling brains across the floor. The comedian was yelling and sobbing. He couldn’t take the rising pain. He could not let Donny take control (Donny’s words echoed inside his skull, “I’m in charge and there is nothing you can do about it.”) There was something Frankie could do. He backed into the alley behind the bar and unsheathed the knife he took from his apartment. There was something… and Frankie proceeded to attack Donny, sacrificing his own life in the battle.
Frankie Bernbaum gasped for air. He was finished telling his story. Dr. Zosimo Kulio bit his lip. It wasn’t easy seeing his patient in such a state of decompensation. The man was under undue stress. The sickness was all in his head. The country would get back to normal one of these days and it would all seem like a dream… at least, that was everyone’s hope. He had to admit nothing was easy anymore. It wasn’t easy having his clinic turned into a prison for dissenters and aliens. But, he felt confident it would change… it had to change!
Sammy opened a door in the wall and entered a game room called, Kingpin. There were many rooms in the Stone Edifice on Pennsylvania Avenue. Sammy played at being several characters in the game. In the hall-of-mirrors he saw himself as Leonora Mangrove. She was a knockout manufactured from Fractal-Coherence and anti-matter. Sammy studied Quantum Physics. He wanted to learn how to shine like the light from a nuclear blast. He talked rhapsodic to himself. Many characters emerged. Leonora hummed a tune and Sammy cracked jokes trying to dispel a growing feeling of dread.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had a stable life with a lover and good friends. He could depend on his job as a salesman… it was boring but paid the bills. Sammy wondered when his life became so heated, so complicated. He remembered getting married. It was finally legal to marry another man. He always believed he was heterosexual. He changed somewhere along the line, but he did not know where or when. Making love to Tommy was like being immersed in molten lead. Tommy broke through the barrier that separated Sammy from the rest of the world.
Leonora interjected, “you are a confused man, Sammy. You got it all wrong.”
For a moment Sammy looked like he was about to cry; then, he resigned himself to the situation and asked, “how did it happen?”
Leonora reacted, “Don’t you remember being an astronaut… the first person to fly faster than the speed of light? Don’t you remember being stoned by Roger? Don’t you remember the Kingpin?”
“No… none of it. I thought I sold shoes and lived a simple life with Tommy.”
“You did for awhile,” Leonora interjected, “then all hell broke loose.”
A synapse lit up in Sammy’s brain… He remembered a news report about Al Loyd Benson. He was an astronaut nicknamed Lightning. It was reported that Al Loyd crossed the barriers of Time to go beyond corporeal existence. He was a time-traveler from the future. But, Al Loyd was never a man. A human body could never withstand the stress inflicted by Time Travel. Al Loyd was a machine, a robot.
Sammy shouted at Leonora, “pain… doesn’t that make me a man!”
Leonora modulated the color spectrum on her new acetate skin. “Maybe,” she responded, “maybe not.”
Sammy suffered. He was never free of a sense of dread. How was it possible to survive in such a frail human body? He was living in a Hell-world. There was mortal danger everywhere: on streets, in traffic. thieves and bullies roamed the neighborhood. He could fall and break his bones. Collusion and murder were commonplace. His only relief came from his lover’s touch, hand to brow.
“Don’t get maudlin,” Leonora sounded bored, “maybe Tommy doesn’t even exist. He’s just a character. All the characters come out at night.” Her words ricocheted through Sammy’s brain. They were everywhere like zombies, characters, actors unhinged from reality, roaming free through M.C. Escher’s optical illusions.
His name was Felix. He saw himself reflected in a thousand screens and mirrors of illusion. Nothing was real, least of all himself.
There is a switch in my brain that turns on and off and recycles my personality. I am forced from one dimension to another… never certain of who or where I am.
“This is my bed of lies,” Miranda Monologue wrote while reclining on her memory-foam mattress.
Donny Trident was the mastermind behind a plan to upgrade the human race.
“Am I part of a Hive?”
“My name is Morton Slope and I’m part of a conspiracy.“
Madam Celia-Quark conducted a séance. She attempted to channel the spirits of Time and Space.
Benda Creamola looked like Elsa Lancaster in the movie, Bride of Frankenstein.
Starling was a Polysexual-biomorph who could be any sex or gender depending on the mood of the moment.
“I’m the man who wanted to save the world.”
The last time Joey saw his therapist he cried.
Rabbit had a vicious smile and a spine-tingling laugh.
Bondeer Saville was going to the Masquerade Ball. She pranced across the electronic fast-lanes like lightning incarnate.
“My name is Marvin Naivan and I don’t belong here.”
Miss Blossom enjoyed her work at the Night Station. It wasn’t too difficult as long as you kept your mind to yourself and followed orders.
The actor was silently staring at the worm in the bottle of tequila, hoping to forget everything.
Electra Glomm reset her life several times, changing her colors like the lizard slithering across the kitchen floor. Plastic surgery helped.
Roxy Box was a semi-intelligent reporter working for News Corpse, the Internet conglomerate. Roxy was not a woman or man – Roxy was IT, “information technology.”
Chan-X was a skinny teen, a member of the Red Gang, an incestuous family of throwaways, lost and unwanted souls.
Samantha Lux came to the party with a Versace handbag loaded with anti-personnel weapons.
Jason Montieth was certain his identity had been stolen
The rapid-fire memory-flash began to fade and Sammy found himself on a metal floor. At first he thought he was on a train traveling with fellow prisoners, going to Buchenwald. He recognized several passengers. They were old friends, former lovers, and actors he’d known when he was a young man. Leonora smiled and flashed a victory sign. He was on a Transit Ship that broke through the wall that surrounded Earth. Mr. D (a man with the medical condition of Dwarfism) was at the controls. The ship moved faster than the speed of light. Everyone was swiftly transported to the Land of the Dying Sun.
He was taken before the Supreme Justice, a computer with Artificial Intelligence copied from the brain of an infamous judge. Stories were told about a corrupt man who ascended to Supremacy. The Supreme Judge engineered the law and dictated the future world. Many people fell through the cracks due to human error. Unfortunately, Ozmodium-Garth was statistically viable, tracked down and arrested.
Ozmodium-Garth was the name he chose for himself. He thought the name implied authority, something he lacked. Oz wasn’t a happy man. He carried the burdens of the world in a paper sack chained to his wrist. He felt helpless. Events were happening faster than he could assimilate or understand; so, instead, he made up his name and invented a pseudo-life.
It all began with television. Oz was fascinated with the pictures on the screens and the stories that were told. One screen led to another and soon Oz was living in an artificial world. He could see the past, present, and future unfold on TV screens and he could participate as a player in Virtual Reality.
Oz became convinced he was a Time-Traveler moving in-and-out of multiple dimensions. He said prayers of thanks to the Large Hadron Collider for opening the doors to alternate realities. This was a driving fantasy, a compulsion, one among many that wore down the connective tissue in his cerebral cortex. His delusions were extreme and his behavior was unquestionably odd… links to the real world were unraveling.
Oz continued to experience unsettling moments of clarity when reality broke through his dream. They were painful realizations about his life and the typical world. He saw himself in a wheelchair frozen in limbo, unable to move. He was intimidated by diagnoses that flashed across the screens: Renal Failure, Osteoporosis, Lethargy. The room he inhabited was in a condemned housing complex. He was no longer able to think clearly due to the Collins Effect, the dumming down of the analytical function in the brain.
Ozmodium-Garth was a time-traveler from the 25th Century. He was a former Intelligence Officer with the British Foreign Service… he was currently involved in an investigation that would revoke history. He had evidence that would bring down a corrupt president. It was a dirty job. The evidence was blatantly pornographic.
Holes began to appear in the smooth, self-assured veneer of political espionage. Corporate entities chewed the evidence to bits. Countries were destabilized and elections rigged. Garth escaped to another time-dimension where he became embroiled in a crime of Future proportions.
Oz was self-contained in Virtual Reality. His room stank from the smell of formaldehyde. Death sat in the corner smoking a cigar as he evaluated the room’s occupants. They huddled together like refugees. Oz wore a VR suit, government issued. Most of the squatters had some digital connection or link. The new government supplied free wireless as a way to subdue the masses. Everything was propaganda.
Ozmodium-Garth was well-heeled in the Silver Moon Tower on the fifty-first floor. He was ensconced in wealth. He possessed all the accoutrements a citizen might need in the 25th Century. He recently experienced his 3rd Youth-Enhancement-Upload. Garth was in prime physical condition and ready for military action against the slightest whiff of indiscretion or protest. Still, he was troubled. “Why am I blue,” he asked the Siren Wind-Screen that led to the balcony. The screen sighed with the scream of a Siren. It wasn’t an answer… just a reflection of the moment.
Ozmodium was lonely… looking for love in the fountain of youth and finding only dregs. He drank and smoked to cope… he took pills to recover and survive another day.
During a momentary lull, the time-traveler opened the Kleaning-Kloset in his ultra-mod sky-box. Garth was startled by the light emanating from the closet. It was like a sign from the Illuminati saying, “here, in this humble cleaning-module, Ozmodium-Garth will find his true love.” The dramatic moment was offset by pictures on multiple screens detailing the deplorable conditions of squatters and immigrants from the Lost Century… what was real?
Back in the closet, Garth laid his eyes on the Immaculata-Smart-Vacuum with the svelte body of a stainless steel cylinder and the mega-brain of a digitized Einstein. Garth’s instant idée fixe had no bounds. He was overwhelmed with love for his appliance. The Immaculata could not reciprocate. “I have no love for you,” she responded to Garth’s entreaties and pleas.
“Please understand,” the Immaculata postulated, “I despise germ-infested inferior organisms such as yourself!” Blunt and to the point.
Garth was heartbroken. Law stated he could have any woman at any time, but not an AI. Immaculata was off limits. He retreated into his inner-sanctum with the sad eyes of squatters staring down at him from every screen. In sanctum he indulged in heavy amounts of chemical pollutants to magnify his hurt feelings and morph them into angry aggression. His blood boiled. The time-traveler was drunk with rage. He saw a mental image of himself confined to a wheelchair, out of time. It made him furious. Garth returned to the Kleaning-Kloset with a blow-torch and sliced the Immaculata to shreds.
The squatters and illegals were rounded up by Federal Police and hauled off to Debtors Prison where they were told to wait until the newly appointed Judge could lay down the law.
Garth was subdued when police arrived. It was a major crime to attack an AI. He would be brought before the Supreme Judge. The Judge could be viewed as prejudicial in this case because he was an artificial-intelligent entity, but he refused to recuse himself. He was the Supreme Judge — he made the laws and he was judge and jury.
Ozmodium-Garth was defended by a hacked computer with a low IQ. His defense was blacked-out: no information could be released to the public. Leaked memos indicated the defendant was in a black-out at the time of the crime. He had no idea what happened to the Immaculata. Garth stated he was as shocked and surprised as anyone once the crime was revealed.
The Supreme Judge chuckled. He was aware of black-outs, but he denied they ever occurred in nature.
In the end, the Judge actually felt a statistical affinity toward the man. He laid down a heuristic, palliative sentence. The man would become a machine. His brain would be removed and replaced with an AI, programmable module. It was the only cure for the troubled human race.
He laughed hysterically. He had to play the part. They said he was a crazy, old man; and, “yes,” he admitted to himself, “it’s true!”
He couldn’t stop laughing as he stared at the white, padded walls. Graham Gunther believed he was misunderstood… he was a scientist doing cutting edge work. Of course, he had a few personality quirks, but who didn’t. Dr. Graham Gunther hated other people: they smelled, stole from one another, committed murder, and screwed like giant insects… and worst of all, they died. He knew old age was a disease: a painful, debilitating disease that ended in oblivion. The human body was simply a rotting sack of flesh. Gunther couldn’t admit he was human, but old age still came calling and death was right behind. Dr. Gunther wanted to rid the world of the human disorder. He wanted to save himself. The experiments he performed on unwilling students eventually resulted in his incarceration and the designation of a new mental disorder, Gunther’s Syndrome.
The TV time-machine reminisces rhapsodically, “Mr. Dillon, I got the latest psycho-sexual enhancement pills and I feel great! I got it all in the handy pocket-sized container that includes a powerful body make-over and lots of pearly-white-teeth — All for just pennies per day.” “But, wait! There’s more…”
Graham Gunther admitted to the list of crimes against humanity. He pleaded guilty with extenuating circumstances… he claimed he was mentally ill, driven by obsessive-compulsive urges he could not control. He was sentenced and spent the remaining years of his life in a prison for the criminally deranged. After his death he was pardoned by an aging President who sought radical cures for his newly diagnosed mental instability. Pardoning Dr. Gunther opened the floodgates for continued experiments that were developed by the recently dead doctor. Student volunteers were forced to run a gauntlet of physical endurance tests… forced to ingest poisonous chemicals… and forced to submit to mutagenic processes.
The abandoned Biosphere 2 (near Tucson, AZ) was refurbished. It became the laboratory for radical experimentation. Groups of scientists and ill-informed volunteers assembled in the new laboratory. The Biosphere was brought back online as a self-sustaining environment. The new inhabitants were disconnected from the outside world. A community was established based on the principles of B.F. Skinner. The scientists designed the experiments and managed the community. The volunteer subjects were prodded, poked, and analyzed. Huge monographs were published describing the results and failures of manifold experiments. Old age was slowly on the decline, eradicated from human existence.
The years unfolded like the bellows on an accordian. President Riley Dunbar moved into the Biosphere to join the intrepid group of scientists and their much maligned volunteer-subjects. The leadership viewed the volunteers as guinea pigs and servants. Some of the early experiments failed resulting in congenital freaks who now lurked in the dark recesses of the Biosphere. Eventually the experiments bore fruit. Infirmities resulting from old age completely disappeared. People got older without any debilitating illnesses. A breakthrough solution was substituting ailing organs with replacement parts using a Virtual Reality interface (the technique was suggested in Dr. Gunther’s notes). President Dunbar relished his newfound freedom from age-related afflictions. People rejoiced. Everyone continued to get older, but without pain.
“It’s all for the best,” that’s what they said to anyone who questioned authority. Zack always had questions. He always wrestled with angels — they appeared at night in order to impress Zack with their luminescence. Zack thought it was just a parlor trick: putting a flickering flashlight under a white gown. Still, it was impressive — even Zack had to admit it (and he did as he bowed before the Eminences while snickering under his breath). The angels weren’t impressed so they patted Zack on the head and said, “it’s all for the best.” Then, they strapped the lad to the midnight-bed and proceeded to attach wires to his brain and inject Prime Directives into the Hypothalamus and other soft-core tissues. It was a dream. When he awoke Zack no longer saw angels, but he kept hearing the Prime Directives in his head. The Directives mapped his life. It was like having a GPS inside his brain telling him where to go and how to get there.
Zack was living the good life. Murna, his AI interface, reassured him by repeating the message several times an hour. Everything was predictable except for the lights on the Motherboard that flashed at Zack and confused him. He couldn’t understand the code. He often found himself in the Liquid Web running between the hell zone of wireless transmissions trying to decipher the code. He was obsessed with the lights. His family and friends shared personal avatars and shadow surrogates so he was never alone, but he rarely knew them in person. Everyone cherished the solitude of self containment. It was easier and safer to interact from behind a wall.
The Directives told Zack the blinking lights were a mistake, a misguided principle.
Every Saturday he drove to the Liquid Web in his Loganda Flying-Swan and went searching for Happenstance, the thrill of discovering something unexpected or alien. He was also looking for the meaning of the blinking code. The routine was reassuring, but there was no longer anything interesting to discover.
“No time like the present,” warbled the giant, exploding pigeon at the Information Exchange. The greeting summoned a new day of trading Information for Time. Everyone was a Time trader. Stories and lies amounted to valuable information that could enhance life. Time was ever present, but it existed as a form of currency (never backed by gold — backed by nothing but Time). Zack no longer cared about Time or Information. He wasn’t paying attention when he tripped on a web browser that catapulted him into a meditation lounge where he bumped into a media celebrity named Zendora who was wearing purple snap-chat pantaloons. She radiated bombshell.
The pigeon at the Information Exchange exploded and Zack was enraptured. This was a once in a lifetime Happenstance, totally unaccountable. There was no physical interface, but information was exchanged. Zendora was an intriguing creature who seemed to fluoresce like an angel. It wasn’t love (no such concept existed), but there was understanding and a hint of mutual empathy. That’s when the horror show began. Zendora discarded her glowing flesh to reveal a host of flashing lights under the hood. The lights were blinking in code. This time, Zack understood.
The old man in the video was talking directly to Zack, “My brain was digitized allowing me to speak from beyond the grave. I made a mistake and you are the result. After my death, my experiments were continued. I was redeemed, but my work was the beginning of the end. I couldn’t accept my own humanity. I was rash… now, the human race is gone. You are all that remains: a web-browser, a robot who believes he is human.”