Pride’s End: The longer, short story

I would like to preface this Longer Short with some information. If this were to ever become a book it would have to have on the cover, written by TLBanks (me) and TGMack ( my ex). Our writing process went as follows: We got totally drunk. I said, ooh lets write a novel together and sell it and get rich when they turn it into a movie we can stay drunk forever. He said, sure. I said what should we write about? He said, what if God was an alien? Let’s write about that. I put finger tips to keyboard. He looked over my shoulder. He would say, I think it should be this street instead of that street. I think the character should laugh, right there. So basically I did all of the work. And actually, I fucking hate this story. I fucking hated him for making me write it every day after work. I wrote it like I hated someone. I’m sure you will pick that up. We broke up before it could be finished and I will not add another word. And I have a feeling, if I die before I am canonized, that somehow, this piece is what the world will remember me by-The drunken idea I had to get to do what I love with a boyfriend I hated just so we could spend some time together and his only contribution to it was random analogies, the original premise that we got away from by the third chapter and getting his mom to buy me a computer to type it on.

 

 

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

Blurry

Evaporation: The process by which liquid water is transferred into the atmosphere.

 

 

 

I fucking hate my wife…

Look at her over there, dancing around like an idiot with no shoes on.  She knows how I feel about going barefoot outside.  All the germs and shit. All the cigarette butts and broken glass. Public places are the womb of disease.

Infection on those manicured toes.

She does it just to spite me.  She smiles and waves at me, like nothing is wrong. Her teeth are white like frozen pearls.  Thanks to me.  Well, at least thanks to my checkbook. She’s a mosaic of expensive body parts nipped ,tucked and sewn in. A billion dollar rag doll. I feign a smile back. I’m sure we will fight about it later while I’m trying to watch anything interesting on tv.

My heart is telling me that is Tuesday but I’ve been wrong before.

Deborah. 

Deborah is beautiful, don’t get me wrong…and as she stands in front of me I almost regret that I don’t love her.  According to everybody at my office she is 93.3% perfect. 

They showed me their Excel spreadsheet on her after a conference call last month.

They showed me their charts and graphs two weeks ago.  According to them, she was a wise investment. Thinking about the office brings a tired laugh to my throat as I rub my eyes. They feel painfully heavy and hot. My mind is blank and I feel tired. 

My phone is ringing but I can’t answer it. I feel lost all of sudden.

My arms are hanging by my sides and I can feel my fingertips. They feel injected with lead. I’m leaning forward and my  skin feels waxy.  I start thinking about taking a shower and as I turn my head I realize…   Wait a damn minute…we’re not in our yard….

  Where the hell has she taken me this time?

Another lost plane ride?  Did we go on a trip and I don’t remember again? Was it for something special? Another forgotten anniversary? I try to get my bearings.

It feels like early morning but the sky is clouded with layers of thick gray purple smoke.  I can still tell that the sun is shining though.  I can feel it shining in my chest. The ground beneath my feet is covered with sand. I can barely make out a huge billboard in the background, probably some sign directing idiots on the free way to this tourist trap. I hear music.  Maybe not music, maybe chanting. Aboriginal jibber jabber of some sort. Knowing Deborah, who never let go of her wild college days, there are probably all kinds of heathens around taking drugs and chanting. In her empty head, existentialism on the weekends is cool. Meditating after a volunteer fund raiser is chic. Kind of a bitchy move in my opinion.

I know now.  Without being told I know now that we’re at the beach. The beach.  Deb knows I fucking hate the beach. Look at her, shoeless on the beach, dancing.

My phone won’t stop ringing.

The silk spagetti strap dress she has on looks expensive. I don’t remember when I bought it. Its long crispy white and blowing in the breeze.  It seems to be floating around her like an aura or essence instead of a garment. It looks magnificent against her shiny dark brown skin. She looks happy at least. Unfortunately as soon as I go over there she won’t be. The sound of my voice seems to make her nauesous lately. Maybe it’s because I told her if I get a promotion we’d have to move away from Diamond Bar. Maybe it’s because of something else. I won’t pretend to know.

I need some whiskey now like a plastic surgeon needs millions of flat chested patients.

I’m so thirsty. I sigh wondering how I got dragged into taking another vacation. But I must admit, most days have blended together since I have taken this new job. I should be apologetic but I don’t have the energy. Our relationship has been dissolving for years I know,  but now I feel like I’m disappearing too.

Dissolving.

 My legs feel like tree trunks.  And suddenly my heart is racing. The smoke is wafting over the billboard sign and all I see are big black letters. I still can’t make it out.  Is this Myrtle Beach?  I’m not sure because I can see factories on the horizon and from the looks of it trees are jumping out of the windows.   Trees? I rub my eyes.  Did someone slip me something I ask myself.  Where am I? Mission Beach?  No, can’t be, too many dead fish on the sand.  I lean down to pick one up but it dissolves between my fingers into a gelatinous ooze. Great.  Jell-O fish.  What kind of party is this, I ask myself feeling a bit dizzy.

 Then it hits me. I know where we are..Oh, yeah knowing Deb… probably Venice Beach in LA. Its the only place she can go to be seen and still look down on other people. I’m laughing at my own thoughts, yet out of my right eye I can feel tremendous heat.  Some idiot has started a fire on the beach.  I call to Deb but  she can’t hear me.

My heart is telling me that is Wednesday but I’ve been wrong before.

She is dancing faster now. Just like her to try and put on a show for the crowd. My feet feel stuck to the ground.  Where is she going? Why is she running toward the fire? I say in my head. “Deborah, No!” I scream.

She doesn’t respond.  The wind blows hard against the back of my neck. My body feels like stone. Why the fuck should she start listening to me now anyway? I can see her dancing in circles.Free.

 Ignoring me.  As usual.

Words are flowing out of my mouth but I can’t hear them. My mouth is moving, what the hell but there is no sound. The billboard is on fire and now I can see the sign clearer as the smoke and flames shoot up toward the heavens- the words on the giant burning paper are  in bold black thick letters …. Sterben Sie einfach jetzt. What the hell does that mean?  Where are we is echoing through my brain…

I feel frightened which is rare for me. I’m scaring myself into consciousness.

I feel like a child now. Am I dead?  I’m not moving I say. Sterben Sie einfach jetzt  floats across the violet sky. I’m moving, but I’m not walking normally… its more of a glide. I’m sliding.  I’m sliding across the sand and I can see millions of Deborahs, all running toward the fire.  Young Deborahs and old Deborahs. Fat Deborahs and skinny Deborahs.  White Deborahs. Naked ones. Heading toward the flame that will surely kill them.

The phone rings.  I see there is a text.  It reads,  Apendas ahora muera. I don’t speak Spanish.

I feel like I’m floating.  Like I’m looking down now on myself and on the crowd below. But I’m not, my toes are still in the sand.  I can see where the fire is coming from now, faintly. There is a giant cave in the middle of the beach spewing purple smoke. And everyone is dancing toward it.  Not just Deborahs, but everyone… My boss Max is here.  He has on the exact same dress that Deb is wearing.  I chuckle because I’m not surprized.  I see my college roommate, Steven and his wife.  There is my mom, and my girlfriend before I met Deb, all in the same flowing gown, dancing like they are hypnotized, headed for the cave.

My heart is telling me that is Doomsday but I’ve been wrong before.

I can see a little girl passing out flowers. All of the naked Deborahs are eating the lilies and roses, pointing at the sky. The billboard is crashing to the ground to the cheers of the crowd. The mountains in the background are falling down like collapsible cardboard cut-outs.  For some reason it looks like there are monstrous bulldozers mowing down the hills.  The crowd laughs and dances and points at the destruction. All I feel now is dizzy. I can make out the chanting now, they are screaming Liberty, Libertas, Liberty, Libertas!

A little asian girl with no fingers  and no teeth is gumming a knife. She runs up to one of the naked Deborahs, jumps on her back and stabs her in the left temple.  The naked Deborah turns into gel, just like the fish.  The crowd roars with excitement. My eyes widen like saucers. The chanting gets louder. They begin to line up headed toward the fiery cave.  I attempt to move backward, but before I know it, two guys are pushing me forward, laughing hysterically toward the maniacs in dresses.  I see myself as I float over my body. I’m wearing the same dress.

Liberty, Libertas, Liberty, Libertas!

 The crowd marches rhythmically toward the cave in single file. Their skin is glowing orange. Millions of orange warning signs….headed toward their death.  Laptops are raining from the sky.  Some of the people singing and dancing are being smashed by them, and the crowd laughs.  They are laughing themselves to tears.  The tears turn to a milky white film and fall from their faces like tiny pebbles.  They are drooling and sweating profusely like giant dress wearing pigs and everything that is touched by their rocky tears is gone. Unconsciously, they murder.Apendas ahora muera.

Liberty, Libertas, Liberty, Libertas!

Thousands of dogs and wolves are eating the pebbles and dying instantly.  The pebbles fall onto flowers and they disappear into vapor. I see animals scurring everywhere, birds, frogs, snakes and dogs. Some of the dogs and snakes are being swung around peoples heads and thrown toward the cave. I guess they didn’t want to go willingly.

Like me.

 I can see in the distance some people in dancing robes sitting in a circle, eating lions like vultures would. They catch me staring and point in the direction of the cave chanting Liberty, Libertas!

As I fight the two brutes holding my arms I fight myself.  I want to go into the cave, I don’t know why, but I’m terrified.  Deborah is right in front of me and I can smell her shampoo. It smells like burning flesh. My heart is telling me I am not going to make it but I have been wrong before.

 

I need a shot of whiskey now like two lesbian chicks need a dildo.

 

As we get closer to the cave, I can see everybody.  Greeks, Ghanians, Chinese. I feel like all of the people here from all over the world are my family now. My eyes see double. I see myself reflected in all of their faces. For some reason we are one and the same. They all cry death pebbles. Its raining now. It’s raining oxygen and the funny thing is I can see it. I can see my own breath. I can see all of our breath and it is the purple smoke I once thought was coming from the fire. It is coming from us. The animals near the entrance of the cave are turning into pools of blood.  People stop to drink the blood but its not red.  It looks like water. The chanting is so loud now that it feels like an earthquake.  My eyes are jumping and everything around me is shaking on its foundations. Toasters, curling irons, cell phones and tiny microwave ovens are streaming from the heavens to the ground. Every time one hits one of us, the crowd chants louder.

I kick my feet up screaming and out of the corner of my left eye I see two little black boys fighting over a gun.  One stabs the other in the left temple, and as he falls the boy holding the gun starts chewing it like its food.  Sterben Sie einfach jetzt. He smiles at me, a toothless grin and points toward the cave. I yell for his help but I feel his response. Liberty, Libertas.

I’m in the cave now and the chanting is thunderous, we’re all walking single file and I feel asleep. Mesmerized. I can see Deborah now in the distance toward the end of the tunnel. She is stripping off her dress and raising her arms above her head. As if she is praying. As if she ever prayed.  As soon as she does, I can see her orange skin changing colors. My wife turns and faces me as her pebble tears become gas.  Her toes disappear and the crowd awaiting its turn to evaporate starts to clap.

I hear bells. They seem happy for her, as if she has been freed.  I break away from the guys holding me to try and save her and knock down everyone in my path and as soon as I am close enough to touch her hand…There is nothing left. All I see is the oxygen where she was, the purple smoke.

I can hear bells, loud bells. My hand is gone…wait, I say, where is my hand? Everyone cheers and I am losing myself. I feel free and trapped simultaneously.

Wake up I say to myself, Avery, wake up!  But no one hears me. My phone, my legs, my eyes are gone. I can see my demise as I hover over me.

The bells!  I hear the bells. I’m choking and gasping and dying while I am still alive. I’m happy about this, and again, I don’t know why.

Maybe I don’t need any whiskey.

Maybe Deborah was right about one thing, I probably should quit drinking.

The bells were my alarm clock. My alarm has been sounding for 45 minutes.

6 am. I’m in bed and Deborah is snoring. I’m sweaty and exhausted. Deborah looks peaceful as she sleeps and her curly hair smells like jasmine and chamomile. I hug her tightly.

“You’re on me.  Move. You had the dream again?” she mutters, facing the wall.

“No, I slept great,” I lie and roll over. I open my desk drawer and take out a tiny notebook.  Day 37, I write. Same dream.

 

Chapter 2

Revolting

Destruction: The termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists.

 

“Car unlock.” I say.

The car replies, “I’m sorry I do not recognize your command.”

“Car unlock!” I yell.

” Hello Mr. Pride30684557.  Good Afternoon. “The door opens and I collapse inside.

“Fasten seatbelt.” I say.  The car complies.

“Where to Mr. Avery Pride, 30684557?” The car asks, “Your most recent destination was 1150 North Broadway. Would you like to go to the same location?”

I can see myself in the reflection of the car window. I wouldn’t say I look like a chump but I’m not the most handsome man in the world either.  I guess I take after my father, an American Egyptian national. He was small in stature, but stocky and strong. He had the most intense blue eyes and olive skinned complexion and they only thing different between us is my eyes…mine were just a shade different…brown.

“No…Dr. Wes Nicholas office please, thanks.”

“Dr Wes Nicholas 42588740, Psychiatrist or Dr. Wes Nicholas 88859647, Physical Therapist?”

“I’ve told you this a million times, damn it, 42588740…please thank you.”

The car replies, “I’m sorry I do not recognize your command.”

” 4258870. Thank you.”

” You’re welcome. Prepare for ignition. Going to 3650 Wilshire Boulevard.  Sit back and enjoy the ride Mr. Pride 30684557.”

I reach for my newspaper over the visor as the car takes off out of my drive way. I’m exhausted after another sleepless night. Most people don’t have an old bottle of Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey under the director’s seat of their cars. I wouldn’t go anywhere without one. Driving makes me nauseous now because its just riding like in a roller coaster, and I hate those rides. I go to pull out my favorite shot glass from the glove compartment and pour myself a dose of medicine but realize I have a flask. Lack of sleep makes you imagine things that aren’t even there.

My car used to tell me to stop drinking while we drove, but I pulled out the alcohol sensor three days after I got married.  I tend to drink whiskey more frequently on the days I need to meet with Wes even though I prefer Bourbon. Either takes the edge off everything.

Now more than ever I miss photography. Imagine a sepia snapshot- drunk guy tearing out installed features from his car with his bare hands.

Unfortunately for me, Wes’ video conference portal is in the shop so I actually have to make my way through traffic to go into Dr. Nicholas office.  In our last session he told me I was curled up in the fetal position waiting on my mother to stroke my ego.

“Sorry to bother you Mr. Pride30684557…Mrs.Pride30684558 is calling. Shall I answer or ignore?”

” Ignore.”

“Thank you. Enjoy your ride.”

Fortunately I was able to hear that shit about fetal positions and my mom from the comfort of my own couch.  I might have hit him for saying that if we were face to face.  Honestly though I rarely know what the fuck he is talking about anyway.  He must have noticed that I’m clueless because now in our virtual sessions whenever he uses one of his million dollar medical terms he posts a link to the definition on the video conference portal screen. All I have to do is click the link and it shows me what every 4 credit word means.

“Sorry to bother you Mr. Pride30684557…Mrs.Pride30684558 is calling…”

“Ignore.”

But since I have been having the dreams he’s asked me to attend sessions twice a week. The only thing I can think about is that it costs 5.99565 credits a minute for me to tell him shit about my life that I don’t even care about anymore.

The office park where his practice is looks like a 1950’s coffee shop in Beverly Hills. The parking lot is crowded with Stunner Ferraris. Stunner Ferrari’s change color based on the color of the shirt the director is wearing. Its the latest thing for people who have god awful money and nothing to do with it.  All of the Stunner Ferrari owners in Southern California seem to be here… searching for some peace. It must be so draining for them to screw people out of their life savings only so they can by a car that changes color with their fashion moods. I admit, I’m skeptical about everything lately. And the fatigue is killing me. The hallway to Wes’ office always smells like talcum powder and rubbing alcohol. He used to have a favorite scent sensor on the wall . You press it and a scanner runs across your eyes. Instantly you smell whatever your favorite scent is in the air.  He took it out and he told me he did it because some people’s favorite smells were counterproductive to his sessions.

The flowers and indoor trees look silk but they aren’t.  Funny I haven’t seen a real tree for 20 years.  Most of the ones that line the roads are virtual. Wes’ degrees and certifications line the left wall, and movie posters and copies of gold albums line the right.  He seems to be obsessed with Movie memorabilia from the past when actors weren’t simulations. He says I need a hobby too to distract myself from autophobia.  I’m still not convinced I have that. Lack of sleep makes you imagine things that aren’t even there.

Wes opens the glass door to his office seconds before I turn the handle. He hugs me like you would a long lost brother. I could have sworn that door was oak the last time I came here, but it might have a Stunner generator on it…like everything else.

“There he is..” Wes bellows. His voice is deep and loud for such a small frame. His small beady eyes scan my face as if it looks completely different than the last time he saw me. His tan is overdone and I can only tell because the gray hair around the edges of his face looks sprayed a little orange. It’s funny to me that people still use those self tanners after all these years. I guess vanity will never go out of style.  Wes is incredibly clean shaven for an old man and muscular for a guy his age. He looks like a walking headshot of my grandfather’s favorite actor, Yul Brynner. He looks less brilliant in real life though like a wax museum version.

I see a magazine on his desk from upside down. How Ear Chips are revitalizing the Psychiatry Industry is the cover story. He calmly places it in the desk drawer out of view.

“Have a seat.” he offers changing his tone. It’s almost as if he was expecting someone else. The tiny office smells like auto air freshener had been recently injected into the room to cover up the aroma of a fine cigar. Must have expected one of his Hollywood celebrity voice over patients. They probably pay 16.99565 dollars a minute as far as I could guess.

He sits in his leather chair facing me with his hands on his cordoroy slacks. No notebook today I noticed. Golf shoes instead of leather ones.  My appointment must have conflicted with his tee time. The entire city of Watts was turned into a golf course 3 years ago.  It’s where all of the elite seem to spend their free time.

“Avery Avery Avery… 30684557 right? ” he says, “Let’s focus today on when you felt exultant and contented last shall we?” He pulls a tiny notebook out of the breast pocket of his sweater.  The whiskey feels good in my chest and as much as I would like to lie down, I sit on the sofa staring at the picture of Wes on his desk hugging some president who was an actor a few years back.

Contented…I think…hmm.

Wes pokes his lips out and taps a pencil from his desk on his tiny notebook to get me to focus on this.

” Yes…” He offers impatiently.

I start thinking about when I was 18. My parents had just given me a Mustang for graduation and my friends and I were driving all around San Francisco without a care in the world. It was amazing because we drove ourselves.  I wrecked that car.  Ran it right into a tree. Probably nicked a few squirrels. It was astonishing how much power I was in control of when I used to be able to drive myself.

” I don’t know Dr. Nicholas. I haven’t felt like that in a long time.”

My father used to make me show up at Mass for thirty seconds so he could see me in the pew.  He didn’t care if I stayed, but If I came somehow I would still be blessed.  I always obliged him of this until he died. Every Sunday my friends would wait in the car until I ran out of the church and we would drive to Sacramento to hit on freshman college foreign exchange students all night. Girls didn’t have to meet you through a Cyber match maker back then.

“Think hard, Avery.  This is important.”

It was when I got my first camera, right after the car. I had saved up for months for the camera. I was going to be the next Ansel Adams. I took pictures of everything in sepia tones and black and white. I was happy and facinated with every aspect of life. Funny because there aren’t any cameras anymore. They were outlawed 6 years ago now.

” I guess probably back in 2010, before I started college.”

” Ok, ok, now we are getting somewhere…why?”  Before he can speak the hologram alarm on his watch goes off. It’s Amber, his secretary. She stands there in the room with us being broadcast on the wall from a chip in Wes’ watch. Her breasts look bigger.

“Doctor, sorry to interrupt but remember the taping is at 3:30.  Hello Mr. Pride.”

I stiffly wave. I don’t notice it, but I’m sighing…loudly.

“You’ve tensed up, ” Wes remarks turning off his watch.

“It’s just that Doc, that right there.” I mumble.

“What?”

“Shit like that, like your watch. Do you really need to see Amber by hologram when she is in the very next room?”

“Sounds like you are upset.  Go on.”

“No it’s just everything. I mean I haven’t been contented for a while to be honest. Are you? Is anybody anymore? There is just so much stuff.  I just feel overwhelmed all the time..now these fucking dreams…”

“You’re an influential man with lots of responsibilities. Is this being derived from anxiety surrounding your new job?”

I miss photography I think to myself. Imagine a sepia snapshot angry patient body slamming his doctor to the floor.

“No, no listen.. I mean …look at kids for example Doc, seriously. Nobody has kids anymore.  We buy em.  Designed just like we want.”

“Do you have a problem Mr.Pride with getting what you want out of life?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying…so much has changed… I mean.. .and what about microwaves?”

“Microwaves?”

“Yeah fucking microwaves! Remember those big ridiculous contraptions our moms used to have in the kitchen?  Man they made such good food… but now, look at this…Do I really need a pocket microwave to heat up tofu taco pills? I mean seriously it’s starting to get pathetic…Look around us…it’s like we’re nothing anymore.”

Wes scribbles furiously in his notebook.  Bastard probably isn’t listening.  He always does that when I start to whine.  Probably playing virtual footsies with Amber on a tactical contact pad that I can’t see.

“And the numbers.  All the fucking numbers now behind our names. It didn’t use to be this way.”

 

“Hmm.” Wes remarks. “You’re unique, Mr. Pride.  You are a very special individual. The numbers represent which Avery Pride you are.  You are special, don’t you know that?” He gets up and touches the wall next to the window overlooking the parking lot.  You can’t see any of the cars because the window is on a landscape timer.  The background at this moment, is the beach. The wall turns into a pharmacy window.

“Hello Dr. Wes Nicholas42588740 what prescription would you like to have filled today?”

” For Mr. Pride 80 mg of alprazolam stickers and 50 ccs of THC stickers.”

The wall opens up and a drawer pops out.  Wes takes out the stickers and hands them to me thanking the virtual pharmacist.

Wes turns to me.  “Think this will help. Put them under your eyelids whenever you feel anxious. They should dissolve within seconds. Give me your dream journal and on Thursday during our next session we will start analyzing what you have been seeing in your sleeptime.  No…” he interrupts himself, “How about Friday instead same time?  I’ve overbooked myself for a talk show during our session Avery, my apologies.”

I shrug. The background at this moment is a fountain in Rome.

“Whatever.”

“What..does, whatever mean?” Wes asks genuinely. I know he has heard the word before he’s older than I am.

“Nevermind.” I answer taking the stickers and excusing myself from the office.

“Before you go,” Wes adds,” Use this from now on.  He hands me an ear chip.  When you go to bed, use the ear chip for me ok would you, pal? This way I can see the dreams you are having and can match it with the data from your journal….Thanks.”  He pats me on the back the way a person pets a strange dog…cautiously.

Earchips.  I throw them out the car window as the car drives me to my home.

Chapter 3

Demise

Virus: A small particle which can  infect other biological organisms. Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites meaning that they can only reproduce by invading and taking over other cells as they lack the cellular machinery for self reproduction.

I’m in the cave now and the chanting is thunderous, we’re all walking single file and I feel asleep. Mesmerized.The smoke is so thick that I can see shadows. I can see Deborah now in the distance toward the end of the tunnel. She is stripping off her dress and raising her arms above her head. As if she is praying. As if she ever prayed.  As soon as she does, I can see her orange skin changing colors. My wife turns and faces me as her pebble tears  become gas.  Her toes disappear and the crowd awaiting its turn to evaporate starts to clap. The words enkel matrijs are scrawled all over the cave walls in blood. The blood is moving as the ground shakes. It all seems connected somehow.

 

I hear bells. They seem happy for her, as if she has been freed.  I break away from the guys holding me to try and save her and knock down everyone in my path and as soon as I am close enough to touch her hand..there is nothing left. All I see is the oxygen where she was, the purple smoke. I’m disappearing again. The world feels like it is swallowing itself. I can feel it in me and I’m the cause.  Some how I’m making this happen. Everyone looks like they are praising God.  All of the people are shouting and chanting with raised hands. Some are sitting on dead buffalos and eating the flesh with their teeth. The cave is collapsing and I feel relief. The sand is breaking in the distance and water pours through the grains and swallows buildings whole. I see New York City on the cave walls and it is melting like liquid mercury. I can see the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janiero being pulled under the water. I’m floating, and on the ground simultaneously. I try to force myself to wake up but all I hear is the chanting LIBERTY LIBERTY…LIBERTAS.

I’m gone but still there. I’m everyone else. I’m in everything. A particle of this destruction.

The alarm jarrs me. 6:30.  I don’t even bother to tell Deborah. Even while she is sleeping she has a face that always looks like it is flirting- big doe eyes and soft edges around them like its been airbrushed.  She has shifted away from me so I am sure she knows I’ve had the same dream. I reach for a mini bottle of Bourbon that I have in my nightstand with my eyes still closed.  I don’t feel it, so I must have drunk it all already. Damn.

I’ve been trying to ignore the dreams lately I really have. I call my brother every weekend and ask him how my nephews are since they have moved to Houston.  I go to the gym after work with Rich the VP of Aquisitions and have phony conversations about trips we’d like to take to Tijuana if we weren’t married. I even scheduled sex with Deborah for three weeks from Thursday. I couldn’t help the fact that I missed certain parts about her…like her eyelashes.  They were long enough to touch your face when you kissed her so it was almost like getting a second hug.

All of the virtual trees in my yard blow in the imaginary breeze. It looks comforting as the car pulls into the street and down the road. Neighbors don’t wave. No one looks up. I’m alone.

As the car safely enters the merging lane, an animated billboard crossing the 60 freeway catches my eye. I ask the car to roll down the window and I can see that it’s a picture of New York City where the caption reads…send money for the survivors….the scroll goes on…3000 others have been pronounced dead after the Flight 417 crash of German Airliner Lufthausen’s newest model the LIBERTY into the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art…a picture is displayed of two little black boys fighting over a gun in the rubble.

I flinch and turn to the left.  I can see a woman on the other side of the freeway holding incense sticks in her hands and dancing around in her yard. She has on a spagetti strap dress and appears to be chanting. The smoke from the incense is purple.

I put the THC stickers under my eyes. They dissolve instantly.  Its going to be a fucking long day.

The car stops abruptly.

” I apologize Mr. Pride30684557 there appears to be a traffic collision ahead.  I will pull over to the side of the road until a safe passage appears.”

I ask the car to let me out so I can walk.  I haven’t walked in forever and we’re only 2 blocks from C&C where I work.

“Go to the office when the traffic clears.” I tell the car as I grab my newspaper and walk down the street.

The headline reads on page one Top ten eye colors for kids this year blue-black.

The headline reads on page ten Canada is at war.

The headline reads on page four eating plants causes cancer.

The reminder feature on my watch tells me that I have an appointment with Wes today after work. Wes looked like the guy you always wanted to be when you turned 65.  Except he was only 45.  His video conference is fixed so I can make my session from home. Apparently he has made some headway with my journal. I’m still not convinced this psychiatry mumbo jumbo is working but as long as he keeps prescribing THC, I’ll probably keep going to see him. I can’t see how this shit was ever illegal.

I can see the C&C Building across the park. The 14th floor is Accounting. My floor, is the 15th. All of the Vice Presidents are congregated together up on 15 and from what I understand not much gets done on floors 16 and higher. The sidewalks are extremely clean for a Thursday in LA and the air smells new. My mouth is dry. I mean it is my first day with a title longer than my entire name and number. Avery Allen Pride30684557, VP of Consumer Financial Marketing, South West Division. I was glad that I had worn my Ignacio Lauren shirt today.  I felt confident. But my thoughts are interrupted by a yank on my sport coat.

” Hey man, spot me twenty.”

I turn to look. At first I was furious mind you. I just have this thing about being touched. Dirty Public. Filthy hands. But the guy yanks again. I can tell by how low he is wearing the bill of his hat that he is trying to look older. He couldn’t have been more than 16.

Imagine a sepia snapshot crazy kid robs the guy on the sidewalk in the suit.

“Are you gonna give me the money or what?” The kid demands.  He keeps wringing his sticky little hands and staring over his shoulder as if someone were chasing him. He’s making me nervous and standing here is making me late. His hands are stained. Looks like ink or maybe… maybe some kind of blood?

“Hey kid are you ok?” I ask, concerned. The last thing I need is to contract some fatal disease from some poverty stricken teenager on my first day as the boss.

” Yeah no, I’m ok…but that cat…that cat probably won’t make it.” He smiles crookedly, snickering to himself.

“Ever seen a fucking cat fly?” He asks checking over his shoulder.  I shake my head no.

” Shove a fucking M-80 salute from the old days up its ass and it will take off like a hairy rocket. Boom!”  The kid begins to get antsy and I can’t make much out of his face ( in case he tries to rob me and I need to ID him for the police) except that he has a nose like a seagull that hooks down toward his lip.

I normally don’t feel sorry for people but there was something about this kid, standing there in his ripped up alien teeshirt that made me want to help him. He probably needed the money for beer, a habit I could support. The tee shirt he has on is faded black as if it has been worn every day and night for a month straight.  The alien on the front is unusual because the face is green but the features… the eyes- nose and mouth look like any other guy you’d see on the street. The antenna protruding from the forehead are the dead give away. I guess the band is called, GOD.

“What’s your name kid?” I offer, trying to make the mood lighter.

“Why, you wanna date?”  He sighs and puts his hands on his hips to mock me. I guess that whole good deeds get punished saying is probably true and I decide to let the kid go on with his extremely happy afternoon blowing up housecats. I scramble for the cash so I can be on on my way and to this day, I still wish that I hadn’t stopped to talk to him at all. I rifle through my pockets for spare cash. No one carries paper money anymore because of the waste conservation bill of 2019, but I try to keep at least twenty dollar bill somewhere on me, for nostalgia’s sake. Used to be able to get a lottery ticket, a shot of Maker’s and two tickets to the movies for a twenty back when I was his age.  Now that just about covers the one beer he wants.

” What’s with the shirt?”  I ask him searching the back pockets in my pants. He lifts the bill of his hat so that I can see his eyes, one purple…one blue. His right eye is jumping furiously and leaking . Conjuntivitis I think and back up cautiously. The virtual trees sway on a loop. Every fifteen seconds they blow to the right and then to the left.

“Ah , yeah its a rock band you know, musicians….” He starts wiping the sweat from his hands on the legs of his pants.

” Sorry kid, I’m looking. You in a hurry or something?”

“Damn mister whats with the twenty questions? If you don’t have the dough then you don’t… fuck off!”

The kid starts to shuffle away and I find a folded up twenty in my breast pocket. As I turn around to catch him, I notice the back of his teeshirt as he walks away.  It reads,  Apendas ahora muera.  Where do I know that from? I ask myself.

The trees sway again, left…then right.

“Here you go,” I say as I hold out the money. He walks back scratching his eye.

” What’s that saying mean on the back of your shirt?”  I ask.

” I don’t know asshole. Its just a fucking tee-shirt.” He walks ahead of me bumping my shoulder without so much as a thank you or excuse me.  Perhaps before he got to the corner he had a change of heart because he looked back the same way he probably looks back at his mom when she tells him not to stay out too late.

“Twirl.”  He yells back.

“What?  I say.

“Name’s Twirl.”

Before I can blink he’s dodged around the corner, completely gone.

The streets are quiet again. C&C looks like a safe haven from here.

*                         *                                  *

After work all I wanted was a sandwich.  Two pieces of bread and some ham.  Real ham not the virtual pill ham sandwich but actual flesh. It was hard to come by after the last President’s animal salvation bill. A craving is a craving though so I supplemented with a vanilla bourbon pill. It was disgusting. Nothing like simulated alcohol to ruin a mood. Kids like Twirl are lucky. They’ve been taking these pills from birth and have no idea about cravings. Little selfish bastards. But you can buy them at any drug store drive thru if you’re over 18, so what do they care?

The events of the past few weeks swirled in my head and a text message appeared from Deborah.  Deborah. I shook my head and kicked off my shoes. Thursday’s special night was pushed back to Friday. As if it mattered.  As soon as I opened the the bourbon pills, my reminder feature on my watch  says its time to log into my session with Dr. Wes. I guess it was appropriate because the closest thing I had to ham was thinnly sliced white rabbit from two weeks ago. I hate white rabbit.

Funny thing was this week when I was looking Wes up on the internet at work, it turns out his brother is Neil Harrison the famous actor. And his father is Orleans Harrison. Orleans was powerful in the remake of Top Gun. He should have won the Oscar in 2022, no doubt.  I guess what makes it so funny is that  it seems Wes would have changed his name and gone into the business too but I guess, maybe…he just had a different kind of talent. Maybe he is too short and rude.  Who knows?

” Avery…Avery…Avery… Mr. 30684557…” Wes says from the window by my sofa.  The wall looks like the inside of his office and I’m glad to see it with my shoes off in front of my own couch. I guess I was already dialed in from the last session since I did not have to sign in. His face loomed large on my living room wall. He looked waxed and bronzed like a statue. A Wax figure of himself. Ready for a closeup. The Ben Hur of Medicine.

“After I reviewed your journal…” He begins, and then corrects himself, ” How are you by the way?  Sleeping well?” I can see him putting out a cigar on the edge of the screen. The smoke wafts back into the frame and he shoos it away like one of the flies that used to buzz around when I was a kid. Not sure why he hides this, but I guess its not professional in his world. Are flies outlawed?  I hadn’t kept up. I see Amber walking across the back of the screen adjusting her shirt.  Hmm… That doesn’t surprise me either I think.

“Fine Doctor, nothing a little Xanax couldn’t fix.” I said staring at my living room wall.

“Tsk..Tsk.. ” He started, There are no brand names anymore…it’s Alprazolam.”

“Yeah. That.”

“Yes, yes… Alprazolam Avery,  and it’s good for you, its the the same thing as a vitamin in this working man’s world…. it will only help your digestion and sleeptime..So  now to the journal.  Interesting read, good job, Avery,  a lot of description here.  But I will need to review the video footage from the ear chips… so you can send that to Amber Cromwell404321578, My Assistant..before the end of our session, because I have a conference call with several Doctors in Beijing  and we would like to compare notes.”

” You mean compare ear chips.”

“Precisely.  Of Course. It’s the latest technology in Psychiatry.” He gulps guiltly.

” Oh yeah about those, lost them,” I stammer, “I  might need to get another set. Sorry.” I say trying not to smile obviously into the camera I have embedded into my fireplace.  Twirl could have those earchips for all I know.

I can see the neighbor setting their virtual sprinkler alarm from the window. No real grass. No real water. Only simulations.

“No worries,  new ones will be delivered tomorrow. Now I must ask based on your entries  your passive aggressive dreams  looks like an end of the world catastrophe  caused by fire and, you,.. can’t save Deborah, is that right?”

I start to remember my first kiss. The girl was so eager and young. What was her name?

” Well as background”, he continues ignoring any response from me,  “Fire destroys but it also cleanses and purifies. It can illuminate but also cause pain. Its energy is a potent symbol of eternal life or eternal damnation. Fire is a powerful yet ambivalent dream symbol.”

 

Water flows. But nothing gets wet.

She lay there beside me in my parent’s bed and giggled at episodes of Friends. I reminded her of Chandler. She tasted like cinnamon and hope.

“Avery, are you focusing? Focus….This is critical to your self healing. I’m working with an international group presently that has a group of followers with very similar dreams…America may be able to crack this…Now,  back to interpretations…like I was saying in dreams, fire can signal a new beginning, spiritual illumination, sexual passion or disruptive emotions such as the flames of passion or envy. Do any of those intepretations sound familiar for your waking life?”

She had lips.  Big pouty lips. Always pink and puckered.

“Right now, sorry no..” I said, distracted.  Honestly, if I had focused like he said, maybe things wouldn’t have happened they way they did…but who knows when it comes to karma?

I see sprinkling water but the world is dry.

“Have you ever heard of the band doc, God? God, the band?  The ones with the strange alien tee shirts?”
I could see Wes pretending to smile as he made arrangements for another appointment during my session. He was getting good at it but still obvious.

” Yes, Its unrelated but my nephew is a big fan…”

” They have a song, Apendas ahora muera. Know what it means?”

“Sounds like something the southern states of Mexico would say, but it’s 2030 Avery, use the internet for your random queries.  Remember, this time is dedicated to your recovery…”

I see sprinkling water but the world is dry.

Other than bad dreams, I had no idea what I was recovering from yet.

 

Chapter 4

 

  Lobotomy

Demise: to pass by descent or bequest …

 

My arms are hanging by my sides and I can feel my fingertips. They feel injected with lead. I’m leaning forward and my  skin feels waxy.  I start thinking about taking a shower and as I turn my head I realize…   Wait a damn minute…we’re not in our yard….I cannot sleep. I cannot wake.

The beach the beach the beach…

My mouth is moving, what the hell as loudly as I can but  yet there is no sound. The billboard is on fire and now I can see the sign clearer as the smoke and flames shoot up toward the heavens- the words on the giant burning paper are  in bold black thick rotating letters …. Sterben Sie einfach jetzt. What the hell does that mean I ask myself watching the people dancing in mystical circles alive and already dead.

I can see Twirl in his God the Rock band black alien tee shirt drinking a beer at the edge of the cave. A giant Indian lady cracks Twirl in the skull with a crowbar. The crowd roars as the cheering grows louder and Twirl falls over on the ground shivering and seizing. I try to reach him but before I’m near enough he is gone. Evaporated. Dissolved away into a smoke that carries his essence deep into the darkness of the cave walls.

The beach.. the earth… the beach…

Just beyond the cave, a massive explosion comes from the rocks near the water. The earth quakes furiously, almost like it is fighting back. An enormous tidal wave washes ashore drowning thousands of the dancers. I run toward the water and am engulfed by it’s weight. My breathing does not change.Liberty Libertas. I feel the aching relief of dying as I see people, lots of people floating by still chanting, and swimming back toward the cave in millions of black alien teeshirts. I feel my chest…I have one on too burned on my skin.

Deborah is here…I’ve never been so excited to see her,her alien teeshirt floating just above her breast to reveal her nakedness. Her eyes glow purple as she swims away from me laughing…

Some how I’m making this happen. I can’t reach her. Everyone looks like they are praising God.  I can’t touch anything. All of the people are shouting and chanting with raised hands. I scream Deborah’s name to no answer. The water appears to subside and my feet are dug deeply into the sand. I see 7 volcanoes splewing lava and carbon monoxide and skulls begin to rain from the sky mixing with the lava on the ground only becoming a tremendous blob of gel. Life ooze. I want to collapse but I can’t. I race toward the comfort of the cave. I feel like I’m flying face first over the others. Twirl has reemerged and is there by the cave, pantless  scream laughing with his multi-colored eyes, Liberty!

The earth.. the earth… the beach…And on the edge of the cave, dining alone on a giant elephant carcass I see Wes covered in the animal’s blood  and its so dark…so dark you can barely make out the green alien on his chest.  Its glowing. He looks content and bewildered. He doesn’t know me. He stands up and holds his arms out to me and within the blink of an eye he becomes fire and spontaneously explodes right in front of my face. I can feel the heat rise from his ashes like the volcano debris. He is gone. Liberty surrounds me. Wes’ ashes fly into the tunnel of the cave and everyone is lined up to meet their demise, dressed in only black teeshirts chanting and dancing to a song only heard in the heart, not aloud. They all glow together as one.

The earth.. the earth… the earth…begins to fade away softly like a water colored painting disappearing with the heat of the volcanoes and earthquakes and tidal waves all occurring simultaneously, all killing us, all making us happier. I catch the reflection of the face on the alien shirt in the water puddles near the cave. The face is me. I cannot sleep. I cannot wake.

I hear the bells.

Deborah is tapping her foot and staring at me from the edge of the bed with her arms akimbo. She is actually quite beautiful when she is pissed. Like that hot chick in all those blacksploitation movies of the seventies. She only has on a robe. And its open.

The room is decorated with vanilla scented candles and the drapes are drawn shut.

” I told you not to take a nap. We had plans tonight and you’re just going to claim you have a headache now right or worse…you had the fucking dream again!”

I can feel my mouth aching for alcohol and none is within arms reach. I could use a shot of bourbon right now like Deborah could use a real fucking job.

Her face snarls. She closes her robe and ties it so tight it looks like she has no waist.

Did I say that outloud?

She stomps her foot and throws a pillow at me.

“That was an awful thing to say! You don’t think I work hard for my money, you bastard? This night is so cancelled, I’m just not in the mood anymore, asshole.”

“ No you just misunderstood me, I mean you have a great job, but you could do better, I mean you have a law degree…”

“ Oh you’re a big shot now,  you get a new gig and now you think that I do nothing all day? Christ!  Whatever.”

Imagine a sepia snapshot hot wife murders her husband.

Still need that shot…

“Wait wait wait…” I say stumbling out of bed and half chasing her down the hallway of our condo.

” I’m sorry.” The carefully decorated walls make our place look like a museum.

” No!” She screams,” Obviously your therapy isn’t working, I’m calling Wes tomorrow!” She starts wiping the makeup off her face.

” Hey I never asked you to call that guy in the first place, I mean damn they are just bad dreams,” I say right behind her.

“Right, Avery, bad dreams you have been having every night for nearly two months. Now youre having the dreams during naps! What the hell?” She heads toward our living room. It reminds me of the episode of the Twilight Zone from when I was a kid. The one where the people were exhibits in a zoo. Everything is organized in threes. Three throw pillows. Three vases. Three photos of Deborah in college on the wall. None of me.

“Listen, I say softly as I put my arm around her waist,” I’ve been a little stressed with work and everything thats all..I don’t mean to take it out on you.”  I kiss the back of her neck softly and I remember when that used to make her shiver just a little bit. Nothing.

“But I have to ask…” I say turning her to face me. She looks like she wants a kiss but doesn’t want to initiate. She backs up and unravels her robe to reveal her glossy naked  hairless body to me.

“Don’t ask…you wanted to know when I shaved right? Well I thought tonight would be special…” She says in her best sing songy voice. She blinks three times. Her eyelashes kiss her face.

“No, actually,” I giggle in a playful way, ” no um I wanted to know…why him?”

“Why who?”

“Why Dr. Nicholas. I mean the guy is a quack. I don’t think that guy is really interested in helping me.” She looks like I just hit her with a bus and closes the robe again- this time so tight that she coughs a little.

“You know why! Orleans owed me a favor so I asked him to have his son see you…god you know how to ruin a fucking good mood.”  She heads to the kitchen to drink from a glass of champagne on the counter. One of two.

“Orleans? I say, oh on a first name basis now..what kind of customer is he?”

I regretted it as soon as I said it.

“Oh shut up creep..I think his kid is doing a fucking bang up job don’t you? 37 damn consecutive nightmares! You can’t be cured,  you’re still fucked up so I might have to have you committed instead!” She throws the glass into the sink and it breaks.  Not the first time that’s happened.
She goes into the bedroom we share and closes the door. I hear it lock.

Looks like another night of porn for me…and the couch.

 

Chapter 5

 

Muted

Explosion: A release of mechanical, chemical, or nuclear energy in a sudden and often violent manner with the generation of high temperature and usually with the release of gases.

 

Fifteen minutes before my board presentation I popped a Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich pill in my mouth and then a stick of gum.  I’m ridiculously full but I have to focus.

Yet I feel like I did the day I got my first camera.I had saved up for months for the camera. I was going to be the next Ansel Adams. I took pictures of seagulls by the bay and children playing in the sand.I felt real. I felt immortal.

Today is my presentation for a major account on  creating a customized strategic marketing plan for the ZingHuanan Bank merger. ZingHuanan wants to buy two American banks, but they want to make sure that we can make the transition seamless. Trust me, I’ve been slaving over the fine details..brand development, retail merchandising, media planning and I have to say, they are going to be blown away.

The meeting is on the 19th floor of the C&C building. There are only tyrants and CEOS up here. The air smells different too. Seems like the vents are pumping pure oxygen as I exit the elevator. I see Max from the glass conference room smiling.

I instantly feel as if I don’t belong and I suck on my tongue for the remnants of any alcohol I can taste. I’m not sure why.  Max is smiling because he has either been talking me up for the past few minutes, or putting me down. The facial expression is the same. His head is tilted toward the tile floor. Obviously bad.  Then the obligatory compliment.  I’m right.

I see her face. That girl. The girl I liked when I was younger. Round and special. It comforts me but only momentarily.  All I have to do today is explain to the executives of ZingHuanan that our portfolio meets their criteria and answer any questions. As I enter the hushed conference room I see all of their smiling faces. Sheep. Sheep waiting to be slaughtered.

I hear the bells.

Its my phone.  I ask Max if I could have a few minutes before starting since it’s my wife.  Corporate executives love it when you pretend to be a family man.  Makes them feel better about how much of a facade they are putting on.

I step into the hallway as passersby and underlings nod hello.

“Yeah, What?” I semi scream into the receiver.

” I want to speak to Max.” Deborah bellows.

“I have a presentation that starts right now, what’s going on?” I ask.

“You’re a fucking lunatic that’s what’s going on, hand the goddamn phone to Max!”

” For what?”

“Do you realize how you are going to ruin me, I mean us?  You need help Avery and these dreams do you remember what you did?”

“No..” I stammer..”Can’t this wait?”

“No…You wrote Deborah is going to die, the whole world is going to die on our bedroom mirror in my lipstick, Avery! This is the third time you’ve pulled this nightmare kill Deborah shit. Someone needs to talk some sense into you damnit! I want to speak to Max!”

I disconnect and take a deep breath.

3:00 PM. Show time. I walk in and the stench of pretending crowds the room so no one notices me.

“Just like no two people are the same, no two clients are the same….” I begin.  All of the gigantic paintings in the conference room are of beaches.  Some with light houses, some with piers that stretch far into the water. The overhead projector buzzes and I have everyone’s full attention.  I explain our strategy and then Max’s phone vibrates on the table.   While I speak and point to the presentation on the wall with the electronic pointer, Max leaves the room. I want to belch Chicken Cordon Bleu but, nothing comes out but my words fortunately. I can see the beach at Barcelona on the north wall.

The clients are nodding their heads. They are tapping their pencils on the desk and blinking affirmatively.  I continue and Max comes back into the room, sneaking in like a cheshire cat, smiling and resumes his seat for only a moment, before his phone rings again.

3:15 PM.

I keep reciting the words I  have practiced….

Solutions…

Mutual Organizations…

Defining Advantages….

Max looks like Santa Claus. That is if Santa Claus had a fence of white hair around his head, but none on top.  That is if Santa was extremely short for his age, with only a jolly belly to show for it, wobbling on tiny chicken legs.  Max’s forehead is always sweating tan juice and it seems like it comes to a point right above his eyes, like he just had an idea he can’t articulate. His glasses sit far down on his nose and leave a red line under his eyes. He looks frustrated as he walks in and out of the room to answer the phone.He looks like you would if you were a model once and then gorged yourself on icecream pills and crack. I hope his dog isn’t sick again. I hope his twin daughters that go to college at USC aren’t getting virtual tattoos and deciding to shack up with some truck driver.

Knowledgeable professionals I say…

Intergrative marketing objectives…

Effective campaigns…

Max is standing at the back of the room now, face red, looking as if he could shit a iguana. His face is bloated now and bulbous, almost like it was when I used to beat him at bowling before I got this job.

3:30 PM. I can see the beach at Harbour island in the Bahamas on the south wall.

Imagine a sepia snapshot giant christmas elf losing his cool and kicking the toys.

At the end of my presentation the room was overwhelmingly silent.  I was afraid of no questions from the executives but the nodding never stopped. Their english translator head sets must have been amazing.

I feel a celebration drink coming on but before I can leave the conference room, Max grabs my arm like I owe him money. A lot of money.

” Is everything ok at home, Avery Pride30684557?”

“Sure, ” I lie, since I have no idea what he is talking about.

” I don’t think so” he says, pushing my arm down into the seat. I’m assuming he wants me to sit down for this but since I’m two feet taller than him, I oblige. He doesn’t realize that if I really wanted to I could just sit on top of his head. Bosses.

” How’s therapy?” He asks blatantly. He begins to stamp his left foot in the rhythm of his heart beat. “When the hell were you going to tell me you were seeing somebody for something?”

4:00 PM

Deborah. I can’t believe she did this. But then again I can.  She didn’t hesitate to tell my mother I was having trouble with ejaculating too quickly and we couldn’t have a baby.

She didn’t hesitate to tell my father that I was only pretending to be Catholic.

So as much as I am disgusted, I am not surprised.

” Therapy is fine and I’m actually all done with it. I had some issues sleeping and now I’m fine.” My breath tastes like chicken and mint.

Max stares at me. He is looking for any indication that I am lying. My eyes are holding his gaze intently.

I can see the Oahu beach on the east wall.

” It’s just  Avery, well we have alot of hopes for you here at C&C and with your wife calling during a presentation making these kinds of accusations, I have to admit….it looks bad…” He pulls a card out of his jacket. It looks like a tight Christmas sweater on a huge cranky elf.

The card reads, Dr. Wes Nicholas, Psychatrist, 42588740, 3650 Wilshire Boulevard.

He pushes the card into my breast pocket.

“I know you aren’t seeing anybody anymore, but this guy, he’s the best.  Go see him, ok, for me?”

I’m so mad I could flip this conference table over on Max’s face but I don’t think that would make a good impression on the ZingHuanan executives heading for the elevators.

“Listen, I’m fine ok, trust me…I tried therapy and its not for me. I’ve been able to cure myself and I’m ok.  I apologize about Deborah…”

Oh Man..I say to myself, I could use a dump truck full of bourbon right now…or hell, just a barrel full of whiskey…”

“What are you saying?” Max asks.

“Nothing, nothing…yeah Deborah she gets carried away…”

Max looks unconvinced. Just like all of my teachers in high school when I tried to explain why I didn’t have time to complete the extra credit assignments.

4:12 PM

Santa Jr. touches my shoulder. ” Avery, I need you to be 100%, kid ok? Take the number, and call the guy alright? I mean it’s not that I believe your wife but she sounds pretty hysterical…I mean 5 calls in 5 minutes, what could I do?  Humor me, ok? Go see him, maybe once a week… see if it doesn’t help alright?”

I slam my briefcase down on the table and before I think I yell, ” I already see that jack ass twice a week and it hasn’t helped yet!”

It felt like the time stopped.

It was 4:15 PM.

All of the passersby and suck ups seemed stuck at the conference room window, glaring at the crazy guy. And they weren’t looking at Max this time. They were looking at me.

Every cell phone in the office was buzzing. Before 4:16 the suits from the 21st floor were on the 19th floor in the conference room to talk to me.

That’s when it was decided by the executive committee at C&C that I needed to take some time off.. to rest apparently before this goes any further. Before I destroy not only my reputation but C&C’s.

I feel disgruntled as I take one final glance at the Tulum Beach in Cancun on the west wall.

I shuffle out to the only haven a guy has in this world anymore. The closest bar out of the county.

 

*                                            *                                  *

 

It’s funny to me that some fast food restaurants and vending machines have pill form meals but no one has been able to craft a worthwhile popable alcoholic beverage.

I try to distract myself from my own life.

If you want to get trashed you still have to do it the old fashioned way, one glass at a time. I figure that in order to sort things out my best bet is to finally have a stiff drink or two. So I have the car take me to a little spot called Wet Willie’s I used to go to in Anaheim right before I got married.  Deborah came with me a couple of times but I couldn’t bring her anymore after she broke her heel outside of the place trying to run from a small bar fight. Two guys were arguing about a basketball game and it got a little heated.

Now that I think about it somebody did get shot.

But in the past few years since Disneyland moved to Hollywood right next door to Universal Studios there hasn’t been as much traffic, it’s out of the way now and secluded. Which is just what I need to think and decide what to do when the offical hammer comes down. And no, I don’t mean getting fired. I mean Deborah knowing I’m laid off technically.

Max was pretty adamant about me taking some time off and I am sure it’s one of those indefinite things.

Vice Presidents are role models.

Vice Presidents are stable.  I have not been either one of those lately. I probably should have just used the damn ear chips then.  But I’ll admit to myself that being stubborn is one of my best qualities.

As the car pulls up to Wet’s there are only 6 cars in the lot which gives me a little relief…especially since none were Stunner Ferrari’s. To the left of the bar is a Tapas Restaurant that is always closed, and to the right an old movie theatre that shows ancient movies from the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Tonight, it looks like they are playing Little Shop of Horrors.  I think its a musical. I’m admittedly not a big fan of music, but I can hear some drums playing inside Willie’s.  I don’t mind all of the banging as much if I have a bottle of George T. Stagg in front of me in a dimly lit room full of strangers.

I pony up to the bar and order my first round. There is only one bartender tonight and two waitresses. The bartender is moving fast like he has somewhere else to be in a few minutes.  The waitresses look like they have second jobs at some seedy stripping establishment that keep them up all night and away from their kids.  The drummer is taking five and the few people in the place are off alone at their tables probably contemplating suicide…again.

The television is on behind the bar playing the news.

I drink.

“The drummer from the band G.O.D. was in the fatal  Flight 417 crash into the Museum. Well wishers and fans were gathered at the base of the stairs today throwing rings of flowers and alien teeshirts into the street stopping traffic for 3 hours.”  The newscaster reports.

No one in the bar looks up from their lonely glasses of misery and solitude. I like this place.

” The average American preteen is now at risk of a heart attack simply because their parents fail to provide them with the appropriate nutritious food pills.” The announcer continues.

 

I started thinking about how I was going to explain this to the wife. She was so proud of this new job and the new house that came with it, even if we were going to move.

I started thinking about when she was probably going to serve me with divorce papers and take the stupid house off my hands.

I drink.

I wonder how we lasted this long considering the only thing we have in common is the hope that I have a long and lucrative career. I keep trying to remember what I loved about her most, but everything about her had been carved into something she squealed for in a magazine and then had sown onto her body.

Imagine a sepia snapshot a wife counting insurance money on a yacht.

I’m not sure how much I had to drink but I could have sworn the news anchor said,

” The ten freeway is on fire again after a massive shipment of micro computers spill out onto the roadway, hundreds stranded and injured.”

I’m not sure how long after that it was, but Amber from Wes’ office walked in clearly looking for one more. She recognized me from across the bar and it’s one of things I remember happening that night, if nothing else. I should have gone to the bathroom. I should have just paid my bill and left. She ran toward me and gave me a huge bear hug like we had been friends for a long time. I was immediately fascinated by how she could fit her entire body into such a small dress, not that she was in anyway out of shape, but the dress was really small and did not leave much to the imagination.

“It’s Amber Cromwell404321578!” She nearly screamed. The bartender waved hello to her and quickly began to make her a Cosmo and a tequila shooter.  She must be a regular. Great.

I saw her lips moving as she yapped on and on about  buying new sweatshirts and losing 3 more pounds and some other such nonsense.

I drank more. I checked my phone but Deborah hadn’t bothered to call. That alone was a celebratory cause for another round.

The news had gone off a while ago and the  worn out waitresses were standing around watching the tv and guffawing at some sketch comedy show when the worst thing in the world that could have happened to me, happened.

I fucking pass out.

 

The earth.. the earth… the earth…begins to fade away softly like a water colored painting disappearing with the heat of the airplane crashes and earthquakes and raining electronics all occurring simultaneously, all killing us, all making us happier. I catch the reflection of the face on the alien shirt in the water puddles near the cave. The face is me. The face is screaming Liberty Libertas!  I feel like an echo must feel, invisible and light.I feel naked and one with the universe..complete.  I float over the earth as I watch it crumble beneath the weight of thousands of beach caves exploding with people, all combusting into gel. And from this height we all look the same. Like a million pitiful ants charging in one direction. The billboard that was on fire cascades to the ground in a billion ashes and as the paper floats to the sand it reads Our Freedom Cometh…

I don’t hear the bells. I hear some woman calling my name.  She has on a cream hat and an ivory dress. She is smiling with a giant gapped tooth grin and a clipboard.  Her name tag reads Amiri and she is wearing too much pink lipstick.

” Are you ok? Are you awake?” She asks putting the back of her tiny hand on my forehead.

I think I mumbled something but I couldn’t hear my own voice.

“Don’t try to talk.” Nurse Amiri offered pulling a ghost white hankerchief from her dress pocket.  ” You busted your lip open last night and its very swollen, ok? You’ve been asleep for a while and you have been medicated to calm you.”

My eyes are heavy as they move around the room. Its an intensive care patient room. The pearl colored walls were not soothing.  I’m a little scared because I don’t have on my work clothes- only an open back lime green hospital gown. Lipstick nurse tries to comfort me by fluffing my pillows.

I can hear the newscaster.

” Local C&C Ex Vice President, Avery Pride30684557 is alive and well everyone after his unusual night at Wet Willie’s in Anaheim last evening.”

The screen showed a crazed maniac in my clothes waking up from a drunken stupor.

In this exclusive footage you can see the senior executive apparently in a somnambulistic state throw a chair and start screaming JUST DIE NOW in several  foreign languages before he hits his head on the edge of the bar and collapses.”

There was Amber backing away from the table clutching her purse.  The guy who looks like me has blood shot eyes and is stumbling and yelling Liberty!!! Libertas!!  The two stripping waitresses run to the back of the bar and as the bartender tries to help the guy, the drunken idiot punches him in the face saying Sterben Sie einfach jetzt  and taking off all his clothes.  Once the creep gets naked he stands on top of one of the bar tables as the few patrons run outside.

“Luckily local authorities were in the area…”

My twin is pulling at his hair and chanting something in Spanish half crying and kind of laughing too. He looks desperate, sick and ready to faint. Unfortunately he was still asleep when the police arrived and tazed him.

I touched my hair. A patch was missing in the same place.  Two nurses are in the hall way giggling at me as they walk by. I hear Amiri tell them before she slams the door that  I was the funniest celebrity patient she had in her life. This is before she comes back in pretending to be concerned about my welfare.

Lipstick nurse scrambles, searching for the wall remote to turn off the tv.

“Tht ws mff?” I try to mumble.

Lipstick nurse smells like ammonia and peroxide as she cracks a smile.

“Yes, but you’ll be ok, don’t worry about it alright? Your wife did call but she can’t make it …she called your Doctor Wes and he will be here in no time, ok, Mr. Pride so just relax…”

She has a sing-songy voice. For a guy that doesn’t dig music its funny that I like that about her.

The last thing I need when I can’t speak is a psycho quack pulling the rest of my hair out in attempt to make me do the one thing I can’t…talk.

 

Chapter 6

Unbalanced

 

Calamity: a state of deep distress or misery caused by major misfortune or loss.

 

I ask lipstick nurse to play the messages on my cell phone. The room seems smaller and my leg hurts from the catheter.

Beep!

Hey, Bro, it’s Steven. Wow man I hope you’re ok. I feel terrible for not calling in so long but you know with the kids and all…well anyway I saw what happened on CNN. I still can’t believe it…man I promise… If I didn’t have to work I’d certainly fly in to check on you. Take care of yourself buddy…we’ll talk soon when you are better…

Beep!

Avery, this is Max. Call the doctor alright? Do it. Rich will be working the account for now. We’ll talk soon.

Beep!

Mr. Pride30684557 this is your virtual pharmacist. Dr. Wes Nicholas 42588740, Psychiatrist has prescribed 50 CCs of THC. Press pound to accept. They will be delivered to your room by Nurse Amiri Hasujabi8590015 at 0500 hours. Have a great day.

Beep!

Av…yeah uh this is Rich, you know from Accounting…yeah man, uh about going to the gym this week..I’ve got so much going on, and clearly you… well.. I’m going to cancel our raquetball session and …uh just go with Cale so I don’t lose the deposit fees, ok…don’t worry about it, you just get yourself better ok…

I put the phone down just as lipstick nurse appears and puts soothing stickers under my eyes.

” Dr. Wes will be here at any minute ok?” Nurse Amiri says calmly, pulling stage make up out of her smock and coating my face with it.

“Whsss thss fr?” I ask.

” Rest…you won’t be able to speak until the THC kicks in.  I’ve given you a sedative and inserted your earchips. The make up is for your big interview. Close your eyes and it will all be over soon, ok?”

She backed away out of the room nearly tripping over herself to go gossip with the other nurses.

I slept for a while.

When I woke, I thought the tv was back on. The room was covered in stage lights and I felt I was melting into the bed. Wes was standing over me, arm on my shoulder like I was a recent deer he killed and was ready to mount on his wall. He was in a business suit with a stethoscope around his neck like the old timey doctors used to wear. The room was crowded with onlookers virtually broadcasting real time feed to their watches.

I could hear a newscaster.

” Welcome to the Paula Payne 78965420 Show, Friends!   Today our top medical expert is Dr. Wes Nicholas 42588740, Psychiatrist and his first earchip patient, Avery Pride30684557, Former VP of Consumer Financial Marketing, South West Division for C&C Corporation right here in Southern California.”

Former? I kept thinking…Former?

Wes is going to show us the latest advancement in Psychiatry for the United States and demonstrate how he has helped hundreds with this revolutionary product and intends to help the masses in the future everywhere that have similar mental issues.”

Red head Paula Payne was bigger than Oprah was when I was a kid. Actually the story goes Oprah supposedly hired Paula in 2015 to get her coffee, and by 2020, Paula was able to buy Oprah’s entire production company. She was one of the last television anchors left that was not a virtual host. America loved her. She looked like she never aged. Her eyes were wide and always interested, dark and piercing. Her hair flowed all over her head like it was afraid of a brush. She was the mad scientist of television. Her hair was on billboards and virtual wall posters. She was constantly demanding loyal viewership. If you went to a department store, Paula’s voice would greet you at the door by name and say tune in at 6 p.m. She was the most famous person on the planet and she knew it. When Madonna got cancer the only person she would let interview her was Paula.  Paula was an orator at Barbara Walters funeral and supposedly the executor of her estate. Paula looked like she was constantly smiling even if she was disappointed in you.  She had a long face that seemed to stretch into her neck. Her pale skin and freckles were unheard of anymore. A dying breed. And I still couldn’t understand why she was standing in front of me.

Paula, with her rowdy red hair hands the mic to Wes who takes a deep breath before speaking. He pats my shoulder as he says, “Avery is an ideal patient for the earchips we were discussing in last segment. He has used the chips recently and now before a live national audience I will show you the results. These images are direct from Avery’s brain.They are not simulations but exactly what he sees when he sleeps. Be cautious audience, some of this material is not for children.”

I feel sick and used.

Within seconds on the tv monitor propped above my bed I can see the dream I have been having for the past 43 days. The purple smoke. The billboard. The cave. Deborah. Max. Twirl. The volcanoes. The gelatinous ooze. The alien teeshirts. The whole thing.

I’m not the only person watching. Paula has the highest ratest show in North America. The entire world was watching my nightmare on the screen.

Lipstick nurse turned away from the screen and vomited a little into her dress.  Two orderlies in the hallway began to yell turn it off, and started crying and holding each other. Paula’s smile was huge and deafening. Wes was primping in front of small ladies mirrored compact.

“Sleepwalking tycoon turns vicious, ” Paula adds, ” What is the diagnosis after this emotional medical procedure, Dr?”

The light shines on Wes and he soaks it up like it is a live audience because it is. All over the globe people were listening to the sound of his voice and the stars in his eyes were unmistakable.

” Avery here is suffering from not only somnabulism, but as you are all aware very revealing dreams. For example thanks to the earchip we can clearly see he has volcanic dreams which typically mean he is unable to control his emotional state of mind. Based on our conversations in our one on one sessions and this footage it appears that Avery could easily be diagnosed as a border line sociopath who psychopathic and dangerous.”

I didn’t know I disconnected the IV.  I didn’t realize the THC stickers had dissolved already and I was able to move. I didn’t know that I had jumped from the bed and hit Wes on his lower left jaw, shattering it. I didn’t know that when Wes fell he accidently kicked the vomiting lipstick nurse who then fell into a camera and broke her rib. I didn’t know the falling camera would hit Paula in the head, cancelling the broadcast and blacking one of her eyes either.

Beep!

“Avery, its me, Deborah.  This is so bad. Honey, I think the only thing to do now is get you around the clock help. This little hospital incident is not only going to cost us your job but my clients too. Its’ gone too far and its time for me to step up and take action before the  television network sues us, Wes sues us, and the hospital sues us. I’ll  be there first thing tomorrow after my tennis lesson and manicure to have you admitted to a local mental facility before the spin on this gets out of control and our names are ruined by your actions. I still have to live, Avery, do you understand that? I’m not mad that you are crazy, ok, I’m not.. crazy people aren’t liable right?  This is such a huge mess…I love you…”

Public places are the womb of disease.

Chapter7

 

Deranged

 

 

Hideous: Horrible or frightful to the senses; repulsive.

All of this could have been easily prevented I kept thinking on the day that I was admitted to the Novgorod State Facility for the Mentally fucked. The hospital as they lovingly like to refer to it as is located 50 miles north east of my hometown of Vallejo. It was the worst homecoming to date as you could imagine. The newspapers ran photos of my face all over the front pages. The internet was buzzing about my bar assault.  The newscameras were at the facility when my wife pulled up. It was a circus. I wasn’t expecting to be fingerprinted like a damn thief let alone photographed, but apparently the state can take photos of whatever the hell they choose, but us crazies, we can’t its illegal.

They needed our fingerprints in case we killed someone there or ourselves.

They needed our photos for obitiuary columns.

 

Imagine a sepia snapshot psycho corporate vp enters psych ward.

If only I had never told Deborah about the dreams.  Perhaps if I hadn’t told her prior to that about me having strange hallucinations while we were on my birthday vacation.  I never remembered going on that trip and still don’t.

I shouldn’t have told her about the time I felt like my tongue was made of hair and I couldn’t swallow.  Or when I thought everyone of her clients were really zombies. At least thats what I thought at the time. Everytime one of them would come to the house for dinner or to her office for a meeting, their eyes would start to bleed and the blood ran down their faces.

Unfortunately for me, no one else saw it so everytime I jumped to run out of the room to throw up, or accused them of poking their own eyes out, people suspected I must be a lunatic.

I imagine the woman couldn’t take much more, she probably thought I was doing all of this to prevent her from getting half of everything in a divorce. I wasn’t. I still am not.  I probably just need time away I tell myself.

 

Just some me time.

 

Novgorod doesn’t seem so bad from the outside.  The virtual landscape was designed so that all of the trees were cut in circular patterns and the drive way to the door looked like cobblestones. They weren’t anything other than regular rocks but to keep the cobble stone feel a click sensor was inserted wherever you walked. Made the ambiance much friendlier.You could hear your shoes click and you felt important and safe. It was a nice trick. The lobby was decorated with soothing and calming watercolor paintings and faintly smelled of cinnamon and roses. The intake nurses and the human resource personnel were certainly kind to Deborah when we arrived. Clean bright smiling faces. Open palms. Soothing. They are solely there to try to convince your loved ones that you are just at an extended stay at a fine get away resort so that you can relax and come to your senses. This is all a facade.

No sooner than Deborah was on the circular driveway headed for the freeway did their faces change from glowing smiles to unfriendly smirks. One of the orderlies commented under his breath, “You could have at least tried to off yourself, man. You would have gotten your own room.”

All of this could have been easily prevented I keep thinking as they go through my luggage checking for sharp objects and alcohol. The rooms had no windows and the walls were colored a pale vomit green. The beds looked like thinnly mattressed prison cots used a million times over and over by every wanna be Charlie Manson and pathetic loser in California. And now me….which according to Max, I’m a little bit of both now.

Some grumpy old bitch with a wart on her nose threw a folded paper on my unmade cot, rolled her eyes at me and walked out of the room.

The paper read:

Welcome to Novgorod, where healing begins with the mind.

6:00 AM Shower

6:30 Breakfast in the Mess Hall

7:00 Group

7:35 Team Activity time

8:35 Case Studies with your doctor

9:35 Morning Snack in the Parlor

10:35 Exercise in the Mess Hall

11:35 Free Time. You can read books or take a nap in your room only.

12:00 Lunch in the Mess Hall

12:30 Group

This is all a facade.

The paper detailed our daily routine much like the schedule on a cruise. All in all it was comforting in a way because I wouldn’t have to worry about what was next like in the real world.

Before Deborah left she said, ” So do you know how long they are going to make you stay in here?” Her hair was done in a ponytail for tennis and she was dressed like she was missing her scheduled time in a short white tennis skirt, tennis shoes and a tank top. All she needed was the headband and the racquet.

“Hi” some guy said talking to an arm chair.

“Probably six months.” I lie.  ” I mean the treatment in here is extensive. I will get daily therapy from a real doctor not a celebrity schmoozer.” I knew for a fact that treatment here was only 90 days long. I was hoping a tan in Tahiti might make up for this nonsense I had gotten myself into. A trip I decided on, for once, without Deborah was probably all of the rest and relaxation I needed to get over the stupid dreams and visions.

“Don’t talk that way.” She said in her most falsetto voice. ” Wes is a good guy.” She checked her skirt to make sure it was pulled down far enough, which was just above her ass.

“Yeah well so am I,” I responded. ” But you’re leaving me here.” I guess it might have sounded sad, although that was not what I was going for.

” Its for your own good, and you know it Avery. If you spend some time away from the public maybe they will all think you went on sabbatical, or even better rehab. You’ll come back stronger, Just like Tiger Woods remember him? He came back from some scandal when we were kids and look at him he became Governor of Illinois!” I was pretty famous because of all this. Apparently Paula’s ratings went up by 10% after my little drunken fiasco. Like she needs any more people following her like sheep.

I didn’t want to argue with Deborah. I mean this was better than jail.

“Hi”  the same guy said to the vending machine.

“This is better than jail.” She commented at the same time.  “We have a reputation Avery.”

The warty nosed nurse came in and grabbed Deborah by the hand and escorted her out of the lobby.  I’m sure that she would have kissed me if she had thought about it.

I could hear her nearly running on the cobblestones toward the car. I semi felt relieved.

It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment… For as long as I have to be in here, I will have to be sober.

If it wasn’t the norm to see a grown man cry in a mental institution, I would have bawled hysterically right then. But no one would have noticed or cared.

“Hi.” Said a man to the window. He was standing there with his hand extended ready to shake hands with the vomit green drapes.

“Hi.” He said again.

I stood behind him. There was no one outside the window. No one in front of the drapes. No one for the guy to be talking to.

“Hi.” He kept saying ready to shake the invisible person’s hand. I looked around the room to see that none of the patients were actually in the same location. Yes we were all at fucking Novgorod but none of us were here other than physically. Some were on the moon. Some were in the past. Some wished they could have prevented all of this from happening…like me.

I hate facades.

*                                                       *                                                     *

Tuesday.  Tuesday at every psych ward in America was Meatloaf day. It wasn’t even the meatloaf we liked but on Tuesday they always put gravy on the mashed potatoes.  The gravy was like crack. It was better than anything else on the menu. As you can imagine, I’ve never been to prison but psych-house gravy was like crack was in the 1900’s. If you had extra gravy people would give you their Jell-o for it, or let you have the phone for an extra 5 minutes, or better yet, give you one of their towels. We were only allotted 5 towels for every 7 days. To get extra towels at Novgorod, you had to do favors. Like give up your tv time or your colored pencils or your gravy. It was a barter system. It was funny but I didn’t want to admit how much I liked the structure of the place. Everyday all day I knew exactly what I was expected to do and when. There was no wrong way, no wrong answers, no one unacceptable. Chet thought little people lived in his nose and that his boogers were the pods for their unborn nose children. Jamie painted her eyelids black with nailpolish so that they monsters in her purse always thought that she was awake. Barry was the most entertaining. He looked like a mild mannered accountant from the midwest but he thought he was a mutant like from comic books. His power was to take the form of all the other mutants so he constantly repeated everything anyone said. It was always hilarious in group.

The second group session for today was something I was sure I could nap through, but hook nose nurse made sure I was present. Our afternoon group leader, Devin McDonald 87555412 was leading a session on dreams. He looked like he was 15 and 35 at the same time. Frail little body and old eyes.

Imagine a sepia snapshot, tall toddler teaching crazy people.

I guess I finally was starting to accept that maybe I wasn’t Vice President material. Shit, maybe I wasn’t even normal society material. I had been able to hold it in for a while because most group sessions were about not biting others or not cutting yourself. Today’s session was supposed to be a stress reliever but I felt a huge amount of pressure. I figured I just wouldn’t participate like Jack. No matter what was happening Jack just sat on the floor with his legs crossed and stared at a wall. He never spoke and I had never even seen him eat. He just stared. I was going to steal his thunder today and be the staring champion in group. Devin had a huge bottom lip so it always looked as if he were frowning, or in disapproval of the situation. He was morbidly thin and way to happy to be a county therapist. I could tell he was a butt pirate right off with his tight shirts and feathery bangs.  Its damn near illegal to call someone a fag so I won’t even think it. But the guy goes “tsk” alot.  You know what I mean.

At group we all gathered in the great room and the televisions were turned off during the Paula show. We sat in a circle facing each other waiting to spill our guts. The aluminum chairs were greasy and old. You really had to plant your feet to not slide to the floor. Something that I was never made aware was that the sessions were taped and reviewed by psychologists, lawyers and court judges as evidence.

” Hey Gang,” Devin smiled, and started pulling his Vee neck teeshirt so far into his pants that you could see the chest hair poking through the top of it.

He motioned his arms toward all of us to come and sit down.

” Listen everyone,” He lisped, “Today’s session is going to be super special.  Today we are going to confront our dreams and worst nightmares.” He covered his mouth with both hands as if he were frightened that he said nightmares and then he let out a squeeky chuckle. He had on 5 friendship bracelets made of yarn.

” So who would like to start?” He asked eyes wide, staring around the group for his first victim. The cameras buzzed and whirred overhead quietly, but I could feel them.

Chet took his hand out of his nose and raised it in the air to get attention.

“Who would like to go?” Devin asked again to the group, ignoring Chet.

Black eyelid Jamie raised her hand.

” Ok so this is what happened.  And I don’t care if you worthless bastards don’t believe me, its true, alright?”

Devin, hopped up and wrapped his arms around Jamie.

“It’s ok Poobear don’t get all excited. We’re all friends here, right gang?” Everyone nodded in agreement, except Jack who had switched it up today and was staring at his lap.

” Ok So like I have been having this dream since I was like 15.  I’m out at this fancy restaurant with my alcoholic mom and my fucking molester dad, right?  And my father, the piece of shit that he is, orders me and my mom these cheap as salads, and orders himself the largest steak on the menu.  So the waiters come out and its like 5 of them, and they are carrying this large slab of burned meat on this huge tray. It’s asshole’s steak, right?  I mean this steak must have weighed like 30 pounds cause these jerks were struggling to carry it.  Pops was stupid excited. He put his napkin in his shirt collar and was licking his lips the way he had done in my room at night so many times before.  And then when they put the steaming pile of decaying flesh on the table in front of this asshole, he starts to tear into it like a savage, you know?  And what he doesn’t realize is that the steak has eyes. I mean big fucking cow eyes. And its all staring at him like, please you fat bastard, please don’t eat me. Help, somebody any body help.  And my mom, she is just sitting there eating her salad all dainty trying to ignore the eyeballs. And then they turn and stare right at me.  They go, Jamie, please. Help us. Save us. I’m watching this clown stuffing his face and he is waving at the other people in the restaurant like, look what I’m eating, you know?  And as soon as he put the next mouthful into his fat face, I jump across the table and stab him in the heart with my drinking straw.  I sware to god.  Thats the dream everytime.

Chet starts clapping.  I gripped the sides of my chair to prevent from sliding off.

Devin holds onto his sweater as if he is going to throw up but he feigns a smile.

“Uh, Thank you Jamie, Darling thank you so much for sharing, everyone let’s give Jamie a big hand for sharing today.”

“You guys think I’ma whore don’t you?” Jamie screams nearly in tears.

“No honey,” Devin offers eyes wide and blinking fast. “We are so grateful that you participated, it means so much, dear.”

The cameras buzzed and whirred overhead quietly, but I could feel them.

Jamie sinks down into her seat and closes her eyes as if we can’t see her anymore.

“Ok, gang, you’re doing great…who is next?”

Chet raises his hand again and waves it around like what he is, a madman.

Again, he is ignored.

Barry looks from left to right pushing up his glasses.

“I’ll go Devin. Uh, I have a dream that might mean something.”

“Go for it,”Devin says, in his best I wish I could get the fuck outta here voice.

“I don’t know it, might be too crazy…”

One of the orderlies across the hall pipes up, “You’re in a psych ward moron, you are crazy!”

No one laughs and if I am not mistaken I think Barry took a shit in that guy’s lunch box later.

Devin nodded for Barry to continue and after 15 deep breaths he began.

” See the weird thing you guys is that in this dream I’m this hot bad ass chick. And I know I am because I can see myself in the mirror and I’m not me, you know what I’m saying? I’m in a business suit with my hair all in a business bun and I have huge business boobs.”

“Those corporate bitches don’t have big tits, Barry.” Jamie interjects.

“It’s a fucking dream ok, I thought we were talking about dreams!!”

Devin stands up. His tight plaid pants are annoying me.

“Please gang, let’s not interrupt each other, everyone’s sharing is the most important thing, okay?”

He says ok for so long it seems like 15 minutes go by. I’m hanging onto the aluminum chair for dear life, and so to avoid any future embarrassments, I sit on the floor.

“So anyway,”Barry continues, ” I got these big knockers and long ass bunned up blond hair and I’m going for this job interview. So I slather on some pretty pink lipstick and I go to meet the man right?  And in the lobby they make you fill out an application and I’m all writing my shit out, and like then after that i’m like there should be a question on there but I can’t find it.”

“What?” Jamie asks leaning forward in her chair. “If you’re a dumbass or not?”

“That’s it!” Barry says, ” If you’re a dumbass or not..”

“Don’t repeat after me turd.”

“Don’t repeat after me turd, “Barry says mocking her voice.

“Jamie, please” Devin begs. “Go ahead, Barry.”

Barry shakes his head a dozen times and then begins again.

“So I’m wearing the lipstick and then, I’m filling out the form and I’m looking for the question that says what is your gender.”

Even I was confused.

” There was no place to put down that I’m a smoking hot babe, right? So I go ask the man, I’m like, there is no gender question on here isn’t that discrimination? And the guy gets this chalky look on his face and goes, excuse me, what the hell is gender?”

Devin looks intrigued.

“So the guy asks me, and I’m all like, you know if you are a boy or a girl. And this guy looks at the guy next to him and they look confused like I just said something unheard of. So the guy asks me what do you mean and calls for security. I’m like no, I just wanted to know if you guys cared that I was a girl. Both of the creepy guards come in and grab me and take me to the bathroom and the bathroom wasn’t like it was before now everybody is in there, guys and girls, you know?”

“So what happens?” Devin asks tugging on his suddenly uncomfortably tight plaid pants.

” Next thing I know they are pulling off my hot shirt and everybody is vomiting because I have a vagina only. See in the dream everyone has both parts and I’m like a freak to them cause I only have one and then I’m on the run.”

Devin takes a deep breath and shakes his head. “You poor thing.” He says and then jumps up to hug Barry. “You poor thing,” Barry repeats and scoots his chair back against the column. Jamie laughs and slaps her knees.

“Ok,gang we’re doing a great job today.  We have enough time for two more dreams. Anyone else?”

Chet stands up and wipes his hands on his shirt. He has green dried splotches all over the pockets and his pants. I give him a high five. He hugs me for like ten minutes.

Devin can’t ignore him anymore and finally calls on Chet.

“Thank you Devin.” Chet says and clears his throat. He doesn’t return to his seat, he just stands to tell his dream to the group.

“We’re all dead.”

“What?”  Devin says.

“We’re all dead and we don’t know it yet.”

“What does this have to do with your dream?”

“In my dream, we’re all dead. I’m dead. I’m dead and I’m at my own funeral and I can see all my family crying over my casket. But I can see them so even though I’m dead I’m still alive.”

Everyone stops moving, including jacked nose nurse and the orderlies. They all stand around the prescription desk listening and giggling. They don’t realize how close they are to being residents for a while like me.

” I’m in the casket and everyone else who is almost dead is crying over me. The thing is I feel healthier than I ever have. I feel free. And I feel sorry for them.  They close the casket and take me to my burial plot and bury me 6 feet under. I can feel the days passing as I’m laying there with nothing to do. After a few months I can see an army of maggots marching toward my face. They are so precise and orderly. They inch up to my remaining flesh and start to feed off me. They suck of pieces of my skin and I’m decaying but I’m still alive.”

“Do you feel it?” Jamie asks. Her black eye lids make me dizzy.

“The cool thing about it all Jamie is that it doesn’t hurt at all. It feels like an otherworldly massage to get devoured by millions of tiny creatures. I feel at peace like I’ve finally contributed something to life, you know? And those maggots, they seem pretty smart. I mean they followed orders and a leader and everything. When they start to eat my eyeballs I can hear the crunch of the bone breaking under the thousands of maggots chewing me alive and I don’t even want to scream. I’m dead. I can’t move and I just lie there as they crawl into all my holes. It tickles like love. I’m finally happy. Its the best fucking dream I’ve ever had.”

I probably looked really stupid when I threw up.

Probably too much gravy.

“Anybody else willing to go, how about the new guy?”

The cameras buzzed and whirred overhead quietly, but I could feel them.

I don’t know what happened. But the next thing I know I was speaking. I was explaining in detail the dreams I was having for the past 66 days. I had the attention of nearly everyone within ear shot. I saw some people nodding and some people frowning. But no one looked convinced or happy to hear me share. I talked about the gelatinous ooze, the caves, the billboard. I told them about the alien teeshirts and the horror and destruction of the earth.

I think this is when Devin touched my shoulder which should have meant shut up now because it’s too much to bear but I kept going.  I brought up the fact how good all of this made me feel. How valuable. How safe. I watched the faces of the group. They all looked interested at first and then Chet started to cry. he cried big helpless gypsy tears. He acted like I had hit him in the stomach with an anvil. He was so distraught. But for some reason my mouth kept moving. I couldn’t stop until I was done. I talked about the beach  and the falling electronics from the heavens. I mentioned my wife exploding and the children eating the raw animals. Barry held onto his stomach tightly and doubled over in his seat. He shot ad evil glance at me and starting rocking back and forth. I talked about the purple smoke and all of the chanting about liberty. I was feeling better as I explained how I ended up there because of the dreams but the guy who only stared at the walls or the floor piped up.

” Hey you’re the antichrist!” He yelled into the group.  2 Members of the art group got up when they heard that and ran to their rooms. 4 people watching a movie in the other parlor came in to hear more. Devin crossed his torso like Catholics do when they are about to pray. Hook nosed nurse threw her coffee mug at the wall. Fortunately it was empty.

When I stopped talking the entire hospital seemed silent. I could not hear the fake cobblestones. No virtual trees blew in the simulated breeze. They all stared at me, like I had egg on my face.

“I should kill you!” Jamie screamed and lunged at my face with her fists. I didn’t even realize that I  had fallen backward in my chair and hit my head on the ground.

“Calm down everybody” Devin tried to say as he whispered instructions to the orderlies into his watch. He was telling them to bring the calming needles. He was telling them to bring THC patches.

Staring guy stood over me peering directly into my eyes.

“You are the antichrist, aren’t you?” I could hear him mumbling as I tried not to pass out from a concussion. He began to shout and scream and hollar. He ran around in circles kicking chairs and laughing.

“I finally found you!” he echoed. ” I know what to do now!!”  Before I could shake off the dizziness, staring dude had run himself right into the glass window. It shattered into a million pieces as his legs lay dangling from the inside. I killed him. My dream killed him. The orderlies helped me up and instantly stuck 3 THC patches under each eye. I felt weak when they carried me back to my room. I lay there on the cot watching the ceiling regretting everything. I never know when to keep my big mouth shut. The fact that I had no whiskey made my fingers itch. I wanted to sleep but all I kept thinking was about Wes.  And Paula. And Max. And  my wife. And Staring guy.

If I were braver I would have committed suicide. But I really would have missed the gravy.

The Director of Novgorod explained, “What happened was that your story caused a pyschotic break in some of the other patients.” The Director was a tiny pale faced man who looked sickly and lonely. He looked like all he ever did was sign his name to paperwork and maybe read the funnies on line on sundays.  He also looked scared of all of us. He used a cane for his slight limp and whenever a patient neared him, he gripped the cane so tight his knuckles turned white and stiff. No one knew his name. We just called him Director or Doc. He probably hated this place when he left each night. He probably told the women that he met that he was a cat trainer or an accountant. Who says, Hey baby I work as a Director or a psych hospital, want to catch a movie?  I felt more sorry for him more than I did for some of the people in my dreams group.

“But I wasn’t making it up.” I explained when I sat in his office. The office had no decorations. No diplomas no windows. Just an oak desk, a pencil and a mini desk fan. And The Director.

” Sure, Sure I know Avery, but what is a dream to you is real to many of the other people here. They couldn’t handle it, and it is important that everyone feel safe here.” I think the Doctor used to be a patient. I can’t prove it but, I think its true.

” I understand.” I said plainly. I couldn’t understand what happened. Some of the dreams I was told freaked me out but I didn’t cry. I did throw up but thats it. I didn’t feel warned. They were just dreams.

“Do you really believe that the entire world is going to be destroyed and that you are the catalyst?” The Director asked me hoping that I would say no.  He hoped I would smile and  shake my head no. He hoped my middle name was no. I did what he hoped.

“Its just a dream, doc. I Just shared with the group is all. They were all saying crazy shit.”

” No one here is crazy Avery.”

” I know I mean,I just came here to get help and not cause any problems.”

“From what I understand,” The Director started, “You are a problem.” He got up from his desk and walked out of the room . When he came back he had an old school manila folder with my name on the tab.” Your so called dreams have lost your job, and practically your wife, and embarrassed everyone you know on national television.” The Director commented offically. “Why would you continue to share these radical ideas if you are truly seeking treatment?”

I had no answer.

I was assigned to solitary confinement  right then, for the first time of many. I didn’t mind as much being alone. This meant I got no outside time, no tv time, no phone time and no mail. I kind of liked being a badass and being forced to stay away from the others. Especially Naomi since she liked to pull a string out of your hair for her collections. Her hair collections protected her from demons she said during breakfast.  And Jamie was no picnic. She thought everything should be black, not just her eye lids.  When I was alone no one got hurt or confused. So whenever they let me out I did whatever I could to go back. I mean the solitary room was padded and all white just like in every movie I ever saw as a kid. It was sound proof and calm. I enjoyed lying there and thinking about being a teen ager driving my mustang and taking pictures of hot chicks on the beach.

So to get sent back  I would steal the psych house jell-o off someone’s lunch tray.  I would walk out of my room in just my teeshirt to get send back. I’d tell the wackiest person I could find that morning about my dreams and they would lose their shit. They would throw food or get on their knees and start worshipping me. Or worse, they would grab someone nearby and assault them claiming it was my fault. Everything else seemed to be my fault too. It was almost worth it to get sent back to solitary for the peace alone.

The cameras buzzed and whirred overhead quietly, but I could not feel them anymore in solitary. I was not myself. I was the guy who did extra  credit in school . I was the guy picked first for every team. I was the guy promoted way before he deserved to be. I was a mover and a shaker. And now I was reduced to throwing shoes at people in a psych ward.

This week I was all out of schemes to get sent back to solitary. I had done everything I could think of twice already.  Since I was back in the general population hook nosed nurse handed me all of the mail I missed.

I had four letters. All addressed to me from some dude named Murph. Return address Virginia Tech University. All postmarked from the same day three weeks ago.

Letter one said,Stop.

Letter two said, Acting.

Letter three said, Crazy.

Letter four said, I’m coming.

“AntiChrist!” The Staring guy yelled and pointed as he was being dragged back to his quarters. Not the same staring guy, a new one, just processed the Tuesday before.

Maybe I did need some help.

I acted like nothing could phase me for a few days. I didn’t cause any trouble and sat quietly in groups. Chet was talking to me again. I shared my gravy with Barry. And then out of nowhere, the next week another letter from Virginia Tech.

Letter Five said. Good Avery. Behave Avery. You are on the right track Avery. I know you.

 

Chapter 8

                                                            Comrade

 

Plague: A sudden destructive influx or injurious outbreak.

 

I am able to wake myself up now without an alarm. I never even look at my phone. I started to miss fucking.

A lot.

I mean Deborah was never really into it, so we scheduled it for crying out loud but it was nice that at least I knew every once in a while it was coming. She would always buy something special for the occasion, a new negligee or a silk teddy, Something I had never seen before and to this day couldn’t remember. She always got a pedicure and a wax like I was a strange john and she was a high class prostitute. She would always lay on her back and nothing more because she didn’t like how her face hung when she was on top. She checked in a mirror once and said that on her back was a more flattering position. I often wondered if the fancy underwear actually were for me but I was grateful to be having sex since that kind of intimacy was few and far between with us.

We had sex at Christmas or on one another’s birthdays. That was it besides new years or whenever I got a raise. I didn’t realize why I had worked so hard for those until now. AfterI would pass out after a 15 minute romp, in the morning we would be strangers again. Simply roommates. Its funny that I never cheated on her. Maybe secretly I liked the torture. I don’t know it was something about seeing my parents together for all those years that it just seemed wrong. My father and his religion were dead set against adultery and 15000 other fun things to do with your life. Damn, I’m starting to headshrink myself. But here at the mental institution, we weren’t allowed to fraternize.

10:35 Exercise in the Mess Hall

11:35 Free Time. You can read books or take a nap in your room only.

12:00 Lunch in the Mess Hall

12:30 Group

Sex with fellow patients was too dangerous to our recovery. No conjugal visits from spouses either.

Too Dangerous. Nothing. And who would want to fuck any of the crazies around here, anyway? Even the hottest of the nut jobs in the place was scratching herself constantly or cutting herself every other Tuesday for attention. Not worth the headache. Worst of all, if you masterbated you had to document it in a journal and have that very journal approved by a group of intern physicians. They shook their heads a lot in disbelief whenever I came around but I am sure that the interns loved me. Whenever they came to Novgorod for their clinical sessions, I was pulled away from lunch or group or whatever so I could sit in a room while they asked me questions for their research papers. Sometimes I was asked questions from interns via satellite.

” So Mr. Pride30684557, have you ever killed a small animal?” they would ask.

Some of them were writing about phobias.

” Mr. Pride, how do you feel about your mother?”

Some were writing about dream interpretations.

“Are you an alcoholic, Avery 30684557?”

Some were writing about sociopaths.

“Would you like for the world to end Avery?” A young intern would ask.

I probably shouldn’t have said that I just wanted to fuck was all. The interns would scribble furiously. It probably wasn’t a good idea to mess with their minds by saying random shit.

” Yes, I killed a cat by setting it on fire.” I lied.

The letters from Virginia kept coming.

” I think my mother was a stone cold bitch but man did she look killer in a two piece.” I would say.

In one of the letters this Murph character said that I was causing problems for myself by lying so much to the interns. It never occurred to me how this guy could know this, but Ididn’t stop.

I was being entertained. I try to distract myself from my own life.

” I would love for the world to end actually, three minutes after I took a swig of the world’s finest bourbon.”

I was acting rogue. So out of character. Wes would not have approved. Neither would Deborah. Apparently neither did Murph.

The letter before the last letter I got on a Wednesday. The tenth letter read:

You don’t know me. You don’t know yourself. I am on my way to help. I have the answers. I will see you soon, Murph.

So cryptic. I figured some fat guy in a lab somewhere had become a fan of all of the stories being told about me in the tabloid rags. Max called to check on me twice but that was it from the outside besides the letters.  Apparently according to the media I engineered the crash into the museum. Apparently the lead singer of G.o.d who died was on my payroll. Apparently I was the leader of a small southern californian cult which sprang up because of the dreams I had about the end of the earth. Apparently I was an alien sent to the planet to monitor the self destruction of the human race.  I was becoming a bigger celebrity than Orleans in his heyday.

The most beautiful thing about being in the psych ward was when you slept nothing came to mind. The drugs I was on were so potent, I had an inability to dream. The THC they kept me on in the day kept me so mellow that if I had dreamt, I wouldn’t have been able to recall.

I thought a lot about the girl at night, the girl I liked before I got married. She made my dick inappropriately hard a lot these days lying alone in my dark room on my cot staring at the walls. I would think about being a teenager, hustling the nerds for answers to easy homework assignments that I couldn’t finish because I had driven all night long up and down the coast with my friends. I met the girl at a cyber cafe standing outside with her dog, feeding it in the street. She was incredibly plain and not special at all and to me at the time extremely attractive. It was unusual when I was growing up to see girls who didn’t have plastic parts, and its still the case now, but this girl was perfectly imperfect.

I was acting rogue. So out of character.

 

Imagine a sepia snapshot. Horny VP jacking off under thin psych ward blankets.

The girl had a mole on her face that most California girls had removed in their teens. She had a

little gap in her front two teeth which at my highschool indicated poverty but I loved it. All of her hair was her own and her eyes were blue green. Most importantly it seemed that she never wore a bra so her nipples stuck out of her thin teeshirts like rock hard perfectly shaped pearls. I still could not recall her name. But I do remember for the short while we were together, she was completely and totally into me. Something Deborah never was. Something I would trade my fancy titles and degrees for now. Just the desperate closeness. I sound like a girl. I needed to get outta here.

I was bored and decided to write back to the psycho at Virginia Tech.

I bartered some paper from Barry for a pair of tube socks and wrote,

Hey Fuck lick, Why do you keep harassing me? Kill the cryptic notes alright I have enough problems.

Avery

I did not think I would hear back but within  a week I got the last letter.

” If you want my help the doctors need to think you are well. Pretend to be or they will keep injecting you with their narcotic prescriptions. Do not wear anymore earchips. I can see you from here. I can help if you will let me. Straighten up Avery and get out of there. Meet me at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, The first of the month. They will discharge you by then if you follow my instructions. Check in at 10 am. Ask for Murph. I’ll get your life back for you.

A Real life.

Murph

*                                                                            *                                                            *

They ask you to wear sunglasses on the plane. When you fly into Vegas, you have to wear regulation sunglasses because the light beams that project from the strip will blind you in the daytime. The beams came from e very casino hotel and they competed for sky time. Some of the beams displayed the name of the hotel resort they wanted you to visit like aerial commericals and some of the others were constant fireworks. They were on a fifeten minute explosion rotation.  It was enough to make you epileptic. The place disgusted me. It was like a neon lit playground for perverts I kept thinking as we neared the landing strip and the pilots reminded us the sunglasses were federal regulation.  It was beyond me why Murph picked this place to meet me and I still wasn’t sure why I was going. After I got that last letter, I have to be honest, I was a little scared. How the hell could this dude know so much about me when we never even met?  Maybe he was some kind of government spy or something. Maybe he was some mafia boss I pissed off by being crazy. That last one didn’t really make any sense but my life wasn’t making much sense either. I didn’t want to stay at Novgorod forever and I really didn’t want to go home yet, so what did I have to lose except my life in death valley?

Nothing.

Everyday after I received the letter I did what I was asked. I colored my rainbows on chalk outlines like I was asked. Even hooknosed nurse smiled at me when I ate my fruit cup.  I participated in groups like I was normal and did not cause a distraction. I told them that I didn’t think the dreams were real at all and even the manic interns were impressed. I even accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior which really helped when the review board was deciding if I was sane again. I was released but not free. Wes had told the staff that Deborah demanded that I was to still wear the earchips on the outside so that his research could continue on my condition. Fucking manpulative bastard. He was making me wear them to see if she could get more in a divorce settlement. He wouldn’t get me so I gave them to Barry as a parting gift.

Las Vegas.

Hardly the place anymore that anyone worth while would be seen. The only people who came now were rich slobs looking to score on desperate junkies, or aging hack celebrities trying to revitalize their dying careers. I was neither. Deborah was invited to come for a volunteer event a few years ago and she pretended that she had some kind of flu to get out of it. She thought it would adversely reflect on her reputation to be seen around obsessive drunks and gamblers even if it was for charity. The performers were all robots or anomatrons. I didn’t even think I would run into a live person unless it was a sheriff. But others still loved the draw. It was the number one city for violent crime in 2025 yet die hard sickos still flocked to the place from around the world. My boss Max, or well my former boss talked about how much he loved Vegas all of the time. It made everyone at C&C uncomfortable.

“I’m a high roller you see, ” Max would gloat. “So since I spend more than 2 grand in credits a hand, I get a cocktail waitress assigned to me. A live one, not the anomatrons. She is at my beck and call.” He would laugh and then inadvertantly rub his balls. “Gotta love the waitresses.” He would reminisce staring off into space. I’m sure that his wife was unaware since he probably told her he was on a business trip. Fake business trips were the reason why the place never turned into a wasteland in all these years.

That’s all I thought Vegas was. A bunch of anomatrons coercing drunken tourists to spend their live savings in two hours. A bunch of dreamers hoping for a lucky break. A bunch of clowns unwilling to look at the desperation of their lives head on. A criminal’s paradise.

And I was on my way.

” I play poker from a remote control when I’m at the bar.” Max used to say. Apparently if you were a big fish they would give you a remote at check in into your casino hotel.This was to make sure that you had a third mortgage before you checked out I guess. You could virtually play anywhere in the casino no matter if you were at a concert or at the pool.The money was automatically drafted from any checking account you had, and winnings were deposited instantaneously. Sometimes Max would win money during the middle of an important meeting or merger. You could tell on his face. His chest would poke out of his santa sweater jacket and then lunch was on him. It seemed like a place where the unimportant who happened to be wealthy could feel valued. You’d think Id have gone before just based on that. But even if I wanted to Deborah would have smelled the plastic anomatrons on me. So I had never gone before.

Even the flights into Las Vegas were different from regular flights. On planes to Vegas you could flip the seat down in front of you and play slots at any casino on the strip and as soon as you touched down an anomatron dressed like the celebrity of your choosing would congratulate you on your win at the gate and walk with you to your Stunner limosine taxi waiting at baggage claim.

Some people had their bags carried into the casino by an anomatron that looked like Michael Jackson or the current Pope. Some chose other pop stars or movie icons. You probably wouldn’t believe it but the majority of the patrons chose Elvis Presley. I’m still not sure why.

The place was a den of thieves. But I figured since I was here I would at least choose an anomatron to make the horrible trip worth while. Mine looked like Halle Berry. Not how she looked now but before she became a senator. I’m nostalgic.

I was no high roller though don’t get me wrong. On flights to Vegas, high rollers flew first class, and they had cabins. There cabins came equipped with porn, complete with half dressed anomatrons and thousands of credits to play at the casino of their choice from the air. I felt like a heathen for even going. I didn’t know for sure from Max if anomatrons put out but I was kinda hoping mine did.  I was hoping for a lot.

Imagine a sepia snapshot. Psych ward patient fucking a robot that looked like a celebrity from the past.

I guess I was hoping this Murph person could really give me a new life which was my true motivation for coming. But I was betting that he was a producer for Paula’s show or some other such bullshit and I was only making shit worse. I guess I’m no optimist.

Or even worse than that, Murph was probably an intern for Dr. Wes. Just trying to catch me doing something else he could put in his next book on sociopathic behavior. Or even worse yet Murph was yet another sick psychopath who needed an excuse to get famous.

As you could see I had my doubts.

It was 11 am when I arrived at Caesar’s and the lights from the Casino were so bright that I could feel the heat generating off of them. Anomotrons were everywhere packing luggage into taxi cabs for guests, or escorting little old lady gamblers across the strip. Some of  the cheap ones looked like robots but the ones in front of the palace looked like fancy show girls from when I grew up.

“Welcome to Las Vegas.” My anomatron of Halle smiled with her plastic fake face.

“Beinvenido a Las Vegas.” The Selena Gomez anomatron would say to Latino guests.

“Onthaal aan Las Vegas.” the blonde athletic anomatron would say to the Dutch.

The Chinese anomatrons just bowed. Sexy in an abnormally grotesque kind of way.

No one had to speak the language of the location anymore. Everyone was greeted like they would be if they were arriving in their homeland which I guess increased spending tremendously. The infamous American Mafia had stepped their commerical game up.

The worst thing I could do now was fucking enjoy myself.

Murph was expecting me according to the Raven haired anomatron at the front desk and we were to meet at the Lounge in 20 minutes from now. The robot busboy anomatrons that looked like George Clooney and Brad Pitt took my bags to my room for 56.37 credits and I felt I was already being cheated out of money. But if there was ever a place for a guy who just faked his way out of a psych ward to get a stiff drink this was the place to do it. It was crazy to me that I was nervous I mean just a few months ago I was a captain of industry. The cold hard facts though were just a few months ago I was also  a stupid drunk guy in an LA county bar losing his shit because he had bad dreams. And hallucinations. People only remember the fucked up shit you do. And I needed help apparently. If I was going to get past this snag someone was going to have to intervene. Maybe this Murph had the answers.

I simply figured I’d go to the Lounge early, drink a few dark ones before the crazy guy I was to meet got there and watch the scenery.  I guess one of the coolest things about the anomatrons were that if you were really rich you could get one that looked like you. You would have a surrogate sitting at the Blackjack table losing all of your money while you were at a buffet or upstairs banging a hooker. I was having trouble figuring out who was real because some of them were so lifelike. I bumped into one on accident and he said, Excuse me sir. Polite robots. Great. Fortunately, Halle was able to point the other anomatrons out to me, while she fetched me constant whiskey shooters.

While I was sitting there at the Lounge bar laughing at all the people or their anomatrons that I thought might have benefitted from three weeks at Novgorod, I saw her.

It was the girl.

The one I dated when I was younger.

She had her blonde hair dreaded with sea shell beads on the end of each braid. She was wearing a tight vest over an ever tighter blue cotton teeshirt. I guess people used to call the shirts wife beaters but I have no idea why. The skirt she had on was longer than I remember and the hippie sandals would have thrown me off if she wasn’t so beautiful. She was looking at a photograph on her phone trying to find someone and a little perplexed.

I could tell that from a distance.  It was crazy how she stood out in a crowded room. She was sweating a little bit and the pout she did with her pink lips reminded me of all the times I tried to get her to suck my dick years ago.

I knew Murph would probably be late so after 3 shots of Maker’s Mark I figured what the hell there was a saying in this place, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I asked Halle to go get her for me.

I was hoping so much that it was her, I started fixing my hair and straightening my shirt. The funny thing was she looked relieved as she walked toward me. I don’t know how drunk I was but it seemed like she was staring right through me. She smiled a gap tooth smile to me and it was great to finally see someone imperfect.

Funny thing was that as she got closer I realized it wasn’t the girl I knew from when I was younger. My heart started beating way too fast. How drunk was I? How far had my fantasies gone that now I was imagining people?

The girl I knew had a tattoo of a butterfly on her shoulder. This hippie teeshirt wearing girl didn’t have one. As she neared I don’t think she had a bra on at all either. And she wore glasses. And most people don’t get those tattoos removed these days unless its the name of some creep they wanted to forget…not a butterfly. Even though you could go to Wal-mart and get a butterfly removal kit for less than 20 bucks, no one got rid of butterflies, right?

Before she had gotten close enough I had ordered the two of us 2 shots of Maker’s and I was halfway through the first one when she got close to me smelling of old fashioned THC,marijuana. The kind people used to smoke in papers.

“I’m Murph.” She said, grabbing the shot from my hand without touching me and taking it to the head.

“Just so you know, I don’t drink.” she said after gulping down my second shot as well. “Its all  poison.”

 

Chapter 9

 

Shock

 

Murder: the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.

This was some kind of joke I kept telling myself. I was pretty sure that this Murph character wasn’t some woman from college that I had fucked and was dragging me through this charade to get me back for never calling after a shoddy second date. She looked so familiar yet the more that I stared at her I realized I didn’t know her at all. I couldn’t figure out what her angle was but I figured I’d give it a couple of hours before I left this hell hole for a more peaceful retreat to a guy in my condition. A lonely beach some where in the south pacific.

Or Tulum Beach in Cancun.

Harbour island in the Bahamas.

” Hey, Pride30684557 wanna snap out of the day dream, star gazer?” The hippie teeshirt wearing girl snapped her fingers in front of my face and smiled.  She looked soft and incredibly calm for someone being introduced to a complete stranger. Brave girl or nuts I thought.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to be rude.” I said, extending my hand for her to shake it.

“Nah it makes sense, that’s probably why you were selected….listen.” Murph said waving my hand away, ” I don’t touch people at all ever ok? Not without gloves.”

I have to admit I was amazed at how closely she resembled someone I had known.  Or had I dreamnt her?

“Whatcha staring at bub?” She said squinting at me.  The crowded lobby  was packed with so many people that I had almost hoped their laughing and giggling would distract her from my staring. But she was focused. Like a doctor. Or a mutant with x ray vision.

” Again , I apologize, its just that I thought you would be, I don’t know.” I stammered.

” Manlier.”
She rolled her eyes and  pulled a yellow cleaning glove from out of her pocket. She grabbed my hand and walked me to the nearest table to sit down. I felt like a giant retard following this strange woman, in a strange town around a strange casino. She flopped down on a lounge sofa and  ordered an Evian and another two shots of whiskey from the golden era Halle anomatron.

“You know that means, Naive backwards right?” I asked, in my best Avery is so clever voice.

She sighed. It seemed like forever.

“Oh yeah, you definitely need my help…kiddo so… lets keep the introductions brief. I know you’re dying to do it so I will make it easy on you. You can ask me three questions and then its down to business alright there, Mr. funny guy?”

I was thinking at this point the three questions shouldn’t be have I ever fucked you? Whats your bra size and are you interested in making up for lost time right now?

Anomatrons scurried around the area and you could hear party music on the loud speaker from the early 2000’s. I laughed because no one ever knew what happened to Justin Timberlake.   The interactive slot machines whirred and buzzed and I couldn’t think of one thing to say.

” Alright, well I’m here already so I will go ahead and play your little game…so let’s see three questions…um here’s one..how the hell did a beautiful creature like you get the name Murph? I mean, its not very flattering.”

I think I just said beautiful creature out loud. I was starting to feel extremely drunk.

“Ok, right for the obvious. Name’s Sarai Murphy Wilson. I got the nick name Murph because of my thesis paper on Murphy’s law when I was at Cambridge as a pre teen.”

“Are you serious?” Even I was impressed. Cambridge as a teen? I figured then I was out of my league and it was probably a good idea to stop embarrassing myself.

“Of course not.” She answered. ” I never was a pre teen”.  Halle brought the drinks and we sipped silently for a moment as I tried to figure out how I got here.  I went from having random night mares about the end of existence to sitting in a lounge in Las Vegas with a fucking scholar named after a dude with some major issues when it comes to fate.

“So you are the one with the twisted sense of humor I see,” I said,” um, I guess I also want to know , uh..this is question two… Murph  is it? Tell me this.. why the hell am I in Las Vegas?”

“Easy one.” She replied chugging her water like she was the thirstiest person on earth.

“Its illegal to record conversations in casinos. Been a Nevada Law since 2015. I can threaten to murder you right now and it wouldn’t hold up in court. Its the only place we can discuss whats been going on without tipping off any three letter governmental organizations because of someone tapping the table or bugging your room.”

“What? Why the fuck would they care about my mental illness?” I said.

” You’re not ill. And they don’t they care. This thing is bigger than you. It’s bigger than your dreams.”

An elderly couple entered the lounge and sat down next to us flirting with each other like teenagers would. They looked disgusting to me, slobbing and kissing all over each other with their sagging wrinkly flesh. Murph seemed enamored. I knew for sure one thing. She was all girl, holding back the tears from watching the geriatric crowd in love.

“I have another question for you.” I said, scooting in closer.

Murph stood up.

“Sorry kiddo that was three. And I’m exhausted.”  She pulled her glove out of her pocket so that we could shake hands as she left.

” Hey, wait…aren’t you going to ask me anything?” I said almost desperate for her to stay.

“Why? You’re Avery Allen Pride, Son of Dominico Pride, Egyptian National and Frieda Davidson Pride, French Canadian born March 12, 1992 in Vallejo Ca. You have a Masters Degree in Project Management with a minor in Operational Systems. Married to Deborah Mason Pride, no offspring. I don’t need to ask you anything I contacted you. I know all about you Avery and they do too.”

“Who is they?”

“The outlanders.”

“The what the hell did you just say?” I said, standing up.  The old make out team sitting next to us never looked up and as the music blared, the greasy grandpa had already slid his liver spotted hand up grandma’s skirt.

“Its a lot to absorb and I need to get some sleep. So tell you what let’s meet at 0800 tomorrow and discuss it over some breakfast ok? We have a lot to cover and we have to come up with a game plan as soon as possible for your relocation.”

“My what? I’m not fucking going any place!” I grabbed her arm. “Listen you, I don’t know what kind of crack game you’re running here but I’m not going anywhere and neither are you until I get some god damn answers!”

She smiled a toothy grin and looked at me as if I had fallen onto her accidently trying to get off the bus. Murph’s glasses flew off and landed in the lap of pervy grandpa who handed them back without disengaging his face from his ancient wife’s earlobe.  Murph grabbed them with her gloved hand.

“Pushy, eh?” She said.

The damn near dead freak show behind us pulled his teeth out of his mouth and placed them on the table. Granny screamed in glee and stuck her tongue down his throat.

“Is there a problem here miss? Is gentleman bothering you?” One of the Clooney anomatrons asked. Several of them were headed in our direction to save her, but not one of them was interested in the molesting the 75 year old woman was getting right behind me. The one thing that Las Vegas wouldn’t tolerate is any crime that distracted from the show on the casino floor. The anomatrons were lined up behind me like a row of security guards and there wasn’t much else I could say before I got kicked out of another place which was the last thing I wanted to add to my already illustrious resume in the past few months.

The music resonated and I tried to stay calm.

“No, uh actually my friend here has just had a little too much to drink.” Murph offered.” Here’s

his key and a few extra credits for your trouble. Could you please escort him to his room, George? Thanks, man.”

He nodded and grabbed my arm harder than I had grabbed hers.

Her smile was wider as she turned on her heel to leave.

I guess I was drunk. Oh well.

” 9 am, right here.” She said pointing at the front desk.  She yelled back, welcome to Las Vegas, Avery, while tying her locks into a ponytail and heading for the elevators. She flashed me a peace sign before disappearing around the corridor wall.

I fucking hated Murph.

 

*                                                                *                                                    *

Some how I’m making this happen. Everyone looks like they are praising God.  All of the people are shouting and chanting with raised hands. Some are sitting on dead buffalos and eating the flesh with their teeth. The cave is collapsing and I feel relief.The earth.. the earth… the earth…begins to fade away softly like a water colored painting disappearing with the heat of the volcanoes and earthquakes and tidal waves all occurring simultaneously, all killing us, all making us happier. The beach grows sand hands that start dragging the chanting people into the sea whose waves lapped up the bodies like a huge vapid wet mouth. I could see now. There was a war going on. The people combusting into gelatinous sludge were weapons, each oozing mass destroying the ground beneath it and leaving a gaping hole. And the earth was fighting back. The tornadoes and hurricanes were the earth’s bullets drowning us into non existence.

 

Eating was out of the question. I hadn’t really slept, just had another one of my nightmares. They were getting more vivid and more realistic and I was sleeping less and less. Hopefully this Murph character had some answers. By the time I hit the front desk  one of the anomatrons had given me the message that Murph wanted me to meet her at the Marc Antony Buffet at the other end of the casino. As I walked through the corridor it looked like the middle of the night. Glass eyed slot players kept hoping for their big win. It wasn’t coming.

Murph was eating pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, fruit, a salad and biscuits with gravy. It wasn’t her first go around at the buffet either because the empty stacked plates were pilling up in front of her. She looked famished as she stuffed her face and it kind of turned me on to see a girl go gluttenous.

“You should eat.” she mumbled between bites and pointed at the steaming buffet line. I could never eat anything that was covered with a sneeze guard to protect it I reminded myself before saying no and sitting down. The entire buffet looked like a marbled cafeteria in ancient Greece. Its only flaw, bright fuscia table cloths.

“I’m not hungry.” I offered drinking the glass of ice water on the table. The buffet was crowded like everything else in the casino and I felt very uncomfortable. The best bet was to be polite, get some answers and get out of dodge. Two twenty something year old guys won a few credits at slots in front of the buffet and stood up to belly bump each other. I was the only person who noticed.

“You should drink then.” Murph suggested pointing to the Wine on Tap Bar. I was tempted, but drinking wine from a draught didn’t appeal either.

“Didn’t you say it was poison before?’ I asked snarkily, as I watched her heave three slices of bacon into her mouth.

“Like most of the food people eat isn’t?” She gulped a few swigs of orange juice and begin to dig in again.

“Listen lady, I hate to be ungrateful for your help from the hospital but I think Ive had enough of this. How do you know so much about me and what am I really doing here?” She wiped her gravy plate clean with the last piece of biscuit and then unbuckled her jeans. She sat back in the booth wiping her face three times with her napkin before letting out a comfortable sigh. She lit up a cigarette and tied her locks behind her head.

“Impatient too. perfect.” She said before a grotesque belch. As every second went by she was starting to seem more like one of the guys then one of the chicks I would normally want to bone. Yet if the circumstances were different I am sure I would have at least tried to get into her pants once. But now now. She was a fucking wack job.

“You’re Version 4 Avery.” She calmly said ashing fire into an unfinished pancake.

“Version 4? Of what?”

“The virus.” The clanking china plates and slurping all around me were a distraction. I knew I would need coffee for this. Fortunately I had a few left over coffee pills from the plane so I wouldn’t have to drink any of the sludge at the buffet. I popped them and asked, “Ok.. so I’m not mentally ill I am the illness, is that what youre getting at?”

“You’re the cure.”

I don’t know why but at that moment I wanted to punch Murph in the face. Now that I think back I probably should have.

“The virus is the cure?” I asked, irritated.

“Exactly.” was her reply. She finished waxing on her lipstick and dipped a napkin into the glass of water in front of me to wipe off her glasses.

“You’re not making any sense and you are starting to piss me off.” I said trying not to draw too much attention. But it was too late some snot nosed 4 year old at the booth across from us was staring at me like I was an elephant.  They had been extinct for so long he probably didn’t even know what one was.

“Do you work for Wes?” I asked as calmly as possible.

“No of course not, he’s a hack. He’s only version 3.”

“He is a virus too and how the hell do you know who I am fucking talking about?” I said, scratching my head. If only I hadn’t told Deborah about the dreams. None of this would be happening. I was facinated and panicked at the same time. I was sure at that moment that I was the victim of some elaborate television show prank.

“We all are. Let me make it plain for you. This planet must be destroyed. And its your job to do it.” She smiled a toothy grin and stared at me.

“Are you high?” I questioned. Seriously, I wanted to be on whatever this chick was taking.

“No, but you are unfortunately. Something in you is telling you mankind has a purpose on this planet right? ” She took out her yellow glove and began stacking the empty plates in front of her in rows of three.

“I guess I never really thought about it.” I said stupidly.

“Not consciously, but subconsciously people think about it all the time, stupid shit like why am I here? What is life all about? Noone knows the  answer, have you noticed that? Well I came to help you understand. You were sent here to destroy the place and thats it. And once the others find out…”

“Others find out what…what others?”

” Other people…as soon as they find out about their purpose then, well then.. the plan will be set in motion and the rest is all fate.”

I felt dizzy but I was already sitting. I must have made a whoosy motion with my head  because the snot nosed kid staring us started mocking me and spinning his head around really fast in circles.

“I think I will have that drink.” I said and ordered a whiskey sour from the anomatron waitress pacing near us. “I can’t believe you brought me here to tell me this shit, Murph, honestly,you should have been locked up in Novgorod instead of me!”

I feigned a gittery laugh. The dirty faced kid laughed too.

“Then explain the dreams Avery.” She stared through me.

“I can’t,” I stuttered,  “I’m just stressed out or something. If I could fucking explain the stupid dreams and god damned hallucinations I wouldn’t be here with you! I’d be in LA!”

“Really? This was designed. You are having dreams about people eating each other, destroying things, chanting Liberty right…right?” She said counting the 32 plates and saucers in front of her side of the table.

“How the fuck do you know what I dream?!” I shouted.

” How the fuck do you know…” Said the kid before his mother figure slapped his mouth with her hand and pulled him down in the booth. He started crying onto the hot pink tablecloth after that.

“Trust me, I know. Apendas Muera ahora, right?”

“Ok ok this is crazy!!! Who are you?!!” I stood up from the table walking backward. I must have looked like a nut. Nobody flinched. Nobody noticed. Nobody cared.

“It means Just die now, Avery. Just die now. Come sit down.”

“What the hell?” I yelled as I walked toward the exit of the buffet. I wasn’t going to listen to this bullshit anymore from this psychopath, I was headed for McCarran Airport and the first flight out of this desert hell.

“Congratulations Avery, you are the end of everything!” She said as I stormed off. She stood up and started clapping and not even knowing why,so did all of the  drunken patrons at every tables surrounding ours. The kid and his mom were clapping with glee. Everyone was standing and clapping for me, yelling, Congratulations!!

I didn’t say another word and bolted for a taxi. Fuck this.

*                                                             *                                                                *

I decided to check the messages on my phone while I waited for a ride. Calming myself was hard in a place full of dinging bells and bad lounge singers. Fortunately the taxi rides to the airport were a breeze.  In Vegas the taxi cabs rode on tracks like old cable cars in the past. You got in, typed in your destination on the head rest in the back seat, payed your credits and the car followed the right track to get you there. The cars didn’t speak like regular cars, they just played Top 40 hits and drove drunken disappointed bastards to the airport with enough time during the ride to come up with alibis.

All 15 of the texts were from Murph in only the time it took me to walk across Caesar’s Palace to the exit. She must have typed 100 words a minute or had a dication program. Either way it was annoying but I read some of them anyway.

New Texted Message:

Man is destroying the earth every day Avery. You’re designed to speed up the process and I’m sorry that you had to find out this way.

New Texted Message:

All Life on this planet is a graduated mutation of the same killing organism. The one inside you. You’re only a program to end a unexplainable horror to the universe. Let me help you.

New Texted Message:

Sterben Sie einfach jetzt. I know. It means Just die now. This is your destiny.

Why me, I kept thinking to myself. Why the fuck would she feel the need to do this to me? Was it karma? Had I pulled the pants down of too many fat kids in highschool? Had I disappointed someone at C&C with connections to ruin me?  I felt ill.

When I stepped outside the casino it was strange to see the sun after hours of darkness. I walked toward the Taxi station anomatron and asked when the next cab would arrive.

” Fifteen minutes sir. Please wait in line.” 3 people were ahead of me. Some girl who looked like a dancer popping gum while she waiting for a ride home after her shift as a floor dancer and two guys in business suits pretending they came here only for their company’s conference.

My life couldn’t get any more stupid. I started thinking about how it felt to be in college studying and all I had was hopes and dreams. I thought about what it felt like to touch Deborah for the first time as man and wife and how it seemed she had brand new skin I had never felt before. Silky. Mine.

What was bothering me the most is I was remembering some Kung Fu movie I watched as a kid where the moral of the story was, nothing is impossible.

New Texted Message:

Nothing is impossible.

Holding down vomit was almost an insult considering where I was but I held it back even though every five minutes in this place someone was regurgitating in public as an homage.

New Texted Message:

Human beings only use 10 % of their brains. What is the other 90% for Avery?  Its for destruction and inside somewhere you know this.

How the hell could I know this? I said out loud to myself.  Passersby pretended not to notice since they were talking to themselves too.

” I got jipped!” one would say!

” This place is rigged!” another would shout to the street sign.

The side walk was beginning to look like the Novgorod lobby.

New Texted Message:

Why do people with every material thing known to man still want to commit suicide? Because everything is nothing, Avery. They have another mission here. Death.

“Bastards!” some lady yelled to herself as she crossed the street.

I nearly threw my phone in the garbage after that. I could feel hate coursing through me and I wanted someone to be strangled immediately. I couldn’t remember the last time that I hated someone so much. I know there was some guy I hated in 7th grade who kicked over a hurdle I was trying to leap and I broke my ankle and was ineligible for the championships in track.  I I remember that I wasn’t that fond of my dentist or my Fencing Coach. My hate for them seemed minor. Even Deborah seemed  like a friend right now after all this. No one made me feel like exploding las much as this chick Murph and her psycho messages. I was tempted to call the police but a scene was the last thing I needed. I technically wasn’t supposed to even be here.

Just then Murph ran out of the casino screaming, her arms flailing in excitement, happiness all over her face.

” Avery, I just won! I won!”

She was jumping up and down like a twelve year old on a trampoline. Her locks were so long that she pretended not to notice when a few of them smacked her in the face. A few poor losers walked by in disgust watching her antics. I told her to shut up before she got mugged.

“Come with me to the cashier!” She shrieked, “So I can collect my winnings, big daddy!”

No one had called me that before and I paused to hear it.

Just then it happened.

She jumped in my arms and like we had been lovers for years and in one second she pulled my face in close to hers and kissed me hard on the mouth. I honestly had missed that kind of passion and for a second was blinded. She tasted like bacon and vodka but her neck smelled like chamomile.As much as I thought I hated her in that second I didn’t want to let go.

She was touching me.

I feel like I’m floating.

Without a yellow glove.

I don’t know why I kissed her back but after she jumped down and smiled, I let her pull me back in.

Imagine a sepia snapshot big dummy being dragged into a cave.

Public places are the womb of disease.

“How much did you win?” I asked.

“I didn’t win anything.” She mumbled holding my hand tighter as we marched.

“What? Wait a minute let go of me!You just did all of this so I wouldn’t leave?” I was flattered, and pissed.

“You can’t leave until I have spoken my peace. I came a long way to explain things to you and I’m not going to let you just walk about because youre scared!”

“I’m not fucking scared youre just a bonified lunatic! And Virginia Tech isn’t that fucking far you act like you traveled light years just to fuck with me!! I’ve been nice up until now you crazy bitch, but kissing me? Causing a scene? Whats wrong with you?!”

I’d have given anything for 5 THC stickers and a bottle of Jack Daniels right now.

“I’m fine with whatever you want to call me, Avery Pride, it doesn’t even matter! But only you determine how long mankind is going to be on this planet and without the facts you might fuck up even worse than you already have! Did you read all of my texts, the answers are right there!”

“No, I didn’t.. no one wants to read the ravings of a sicko who thinks there are really outlanders or fucking aliens! How old are you? 13?!”

A 13 year old kid wearing a G.O.D teeshirt shot me a dirty look when I mentioned aliens as he walked past so I flipped him off. Fuck him too I thought.

“Doesn’t matter what you think you know, I promise I will tell you the truth. Please Avery. Please. I have to debug you and then we can talk, ok?”

Something was wrong with me and I knew that for sure now.

I wasn’t a business executive headed to CEO Status.

I wasn’t a great guy that every one wanted to be friends with.

I wasn’t even a good husband.

I was simply a fucking character in some semi horror sci fi novel and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I have been wrong before.

Was I imagining all this I asked myself? I didn’t know what I was but I knew then I needed to take getting some therapy very seriously. I was thinking that maybe as much as I hated to admit it, I really needed to see Dr. Nicholas  before I completely lost my ever-loving mind.

 

10

Evolution

 

Cataclysm: A violent upheaval that causes great destruction or brings about a fundamental change.

Murph’s room felt like it was one million feet off of the ground. From her window I could see the spot lights covering the entire strip like it was 10 AM. All of the people were invisible. I was high as fuck. Everything looked miniscule. Tiny ants mascarading in darkness. I didn’t feel differently than normal, but Murph insisted I was being followed, and we were both unsure by whom. My first guess was Paula. I mean, who wouldn’t do something like this for a great story during sweeps week?

Supposedly I had been bugged at Novgorod so that my movements could be tracked. I felt like a celebrity. I remember when Paula Abdul was bugged during the 2024 elections. Too bad she died and it was an anamatron running for The Supreme Court.  I tried not to laugh at my own thoughts.  Some how this Murph chick was the only person who could remove the bug. So I figured I’d let her, if it wasn’t too painful.

“The only way to get the bug out of your esophagus Avery is for you to regurgitate.  Since you seem to be a drinker, I think this might be the answer.”  She pulled 3 bottles of brown liquor out of her suitcase. My heart did a gay cartwheel.

“Let’s get started shall we?” she asked, turning over one of the hotel cocktail glasses and filling it with ice cubes. She poured the elixir of life for me and handed me the glass.

“Don’t think.  Finish it. And don’t stop until they are all empty.” She sat on the bed and lit a cigarette.  I thought for a moment I had gone to heaven. If it was supposed to help, I said, in the name of science right? I took the first glass to the head within seconds and was ready for her to pour another.

“In the beginning, there was peace on all of the planets in existence. Every Universe functioned as it was designed and all was right with the galaxy.” She said pouring what tasted like Kentucky Bourbon into my glass.

“And then, out of no where a destructive force appeared. A raging ball of gaseous poisons and toxins that destroyed all real life in its path. In a matter of moments, all of the life that existed on every planet in the solar system where this destructive force appeared had ceased to exist.

Vanished.

In explicably.”

She turned on the air conditioning in the room and closed the drapes. The second and third glasses were incredibly smooth and went down easily.

“Outlanders from the nearest solar system took the necessary actions to prevent the destruction from spreading but they were too late. After a thousand years of permiating through the universe it was an unstoppable force. It was unable to be fixed.”

Imagine a sepia snapshot former VP drunk off his ass in Vegas with an alien expert as his bartender.

” They were not even able to mobilize fast enough to destroy it and now it was up to every other being in the galaxy to rectify the situation.”

She lay across the bed while I drank face up explaining truth to me. She was extremely sweaty and beautiful. I had questions but I was starting to be a little too drunk to ask them.

“Destroy the mysterious ball of destruction was their only hope. Fortunately the outlanders that sent us here were at least 20 light years away from the trauma that had befell other life forms, and to prevent it from getting closer to their planet they sent the virus.”

After my sixth glass of the brown wisdom I sat on the bed next to her. Wanting to touch her was my focus. Her legs glistened in the faint cream light of the room. I wanted to bite her but I couldn’t. Maybe after another glass I’d give it a try.

” A virus composed of most of the components the planet was made of, but with one simple difference. The virus had an explosive trigger to multiply rapidly and it was embedded with a mission to do only one thing….Destroy. Not only itself but everything around it. This place isn’t supposed to be here and it is getting too close to the rest of the sentient beings in the universe.”

Murph sat up and stroked my hair as I swallowed more alcohol. My sense of reality turned left and exited my mind’s train station.

“Think of the ozone. Here today and gone tomorrow right? Who did that? We did.” She said.

” Every version of the virus before you, succeeded in small amounts but nothing could combat the rejuvenative powers of the home you call Earth. The damn thing has been fighting back since the first virus arrived. It has emulsified the trees and destroyed dinosaurs with ice. And now it is coming for Version 3.”

I don’t know what happened to my shirt. I guess I had gotten hot. But it lay crumpled on the floor. I watched it on the floor for a few moments hoping it would move. But nothing happened.

” Millions of parasites are being destroyed in two ways,” She explained getting up and going to the bathroom,” by the natural disasters that they don’t know how to stop and more importantly by the earth’s  radio signal being transmitted into every part of your being…to SAVE mother Earth.”

When she reappeared she had on a black and red french maid inspired nightie. I could not believe that was what she slept in.  She must have put it on to keep my attention. It was working. The seconds it took her to change seemed like milleniums. I think I poured myself two more drinks.

“You are brain washed.  Your body is programmed to replicate. It is programmed with a trigger called the appendix.  It is called that because an appendix is a collection of supplementary material. Its the guide you have been embedded with from the outlanders.”

Murph came to me on the bed and straddled across my thighs. She had a bottle of the brown deliciousness in her hand and refreshed my glass. I noticed that she was rubbing my legs. But that could have been my imagination.

” Its your self destruct button.  And in version three it tended to burst because you were consistently failing.”

I put down the glass and grabbed her back pulling her into me closely. She felt extremely soft in my dizzy arms.  I kissed her and then forecfully turned over abruptly so that she was underneath me lying on the bed. Her lips were moving now but I heard nothing.  I could only hear my heart beating quickly and irratically. I reached down without asking permission and pulled her panties off and threw them at the sky. She didn’t complain.

” The time is now.” She said calmly, smiling holding onto my shoulders letting me caress her body like in a dream.

I buried my face between her legs, dropping my glass to the floor.

” Fight and die.” she swooned.

Her legs curled around my back and I lifted her body up to my face. I could hear her moan and the response was egging me on. She held onto the back of my head and stammered on explaining how fucked I was.  So was she I thought.

She pushed my face back and kissed my lips as if she loved me. She slowly pushed me off of her and grabbed my glass. It needed to be refilled. I got up and pulled off my pants. I tried to ignore the fact that she laughed a little out loud. I was hoping it was because I stumbled getting  my pant leg off and not because she caught a quick glimpse of what was in store.

” Once you are de-bugged we can check the make of the bug to see who was following you. Someone else knows you are a version 4 and is preventing your natural chemical reaction. If they can prevent you from triggering the mechanism in all of us to destroy the earth then we can all continue with this societal charade.  Maybe you being found is the best thing.”

She collapsed in the closest arm chair and grabbed the nightie arm strap with her teeth. She brushed her hair out of her face and stared at me.

My stomach started to convulse. I looked at the three empty bottles on the dresser and my eyes grew wide with horror. I felt like a teenager about to throw up in front of one of the prettiest girls in school.

Murph pulls a picture of the earth out of her bra.

“What do you see?” She asks.

My head is spinning.

“The earth” I slur.

“And what does it look like?”

“Beautiful.”I said thinking of her as well.

“What if this is a picture of poison? Poison that is killing the outlanders and has killed every living thing on every planet in our solar system?”

Then why do I think it is beautiful?” I asked reaching for her thigh and gulping down my lunch.

“Programming. You know a hamburger is just the rotting decayed skin and flesh of a once alive cow right? Well you have been programmed to think that those dead tendons and muscle are quite tasty haven’t you?  This is the same programming that makes you think you are a part of this earth and that your existence is helping this planet.”

My mouth was bubbling.

“But it isn’t. You, we, are on a mission. this is not our home. We are not special unique creatures. We are not earth’s greatest resource. We are the purveyors of cosmic death. The sooner you accept this, the sooner we can move to phase two.”

Just then my entire soul spewed out of my body onto the expensive comforter. I dry heaved for three minutes and then more gunk flowed.

Murph put on her yellow glove and sifted through the minced pieces of salmon and eggs.

“Here it is!” she shrieked holding up a strand of spagetti I didn’t know was still in me, “I found the bug.  Good job Mr. Pride.  Now lets get some sleep.”

Who could follow us now I thought as I passed out on the floor.

Chapter 11

Osmosis

 

Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).

I was surprised yet thankful that I hadn’t had nightmares. I awoke to drawn blinds and a smoke filled hotel room. Someone was talking.

” Mr. Pride30684557’s disappearance has alarmed the community..” blared from the television.

I sat up. My face was red from rug rash. I stared at the television but couldn’t see the announcer. Apparently Murph had stepped out, because there was a piece of paper stuck to the screen.

” The family is offering a reward for anyone with information about Mr. Pride30684557’s whereabouts.”

I read the note.

Call 13231587474 now.

” Hey Murph?” I said knocking on the bathroom door. It creaked open and no one was there. Her bag was gone. The tub was dry. How long had I slept?

No yellow gloves.

She was gone.

” Mr Pride has been escaped from a mental health facility and may be dangerous.”  The anchor tauted and then a clip played of my finest moments from the bar. My mouth felt nasty and thick and all I wanted at that moment was another drink so that I could think. The empty bottles from the night before had disappeared. The room looked as if no one had been in it all night long but me.

Apparently there was no respect  for viruses sent to the planet to monitor the self destruction of the human race anymore.

I picked up the phone and dialed the number. Perhaps whoever answered could tell me where the bug came from and why and how I was being followed. I was a little disgusted that she had evaporated into thin air.

” Hello?” Deborah laughed into the receiver.

” Uh…Deb?”

” Yeah, Who is this?” I could hear her giggling.  I hated that giggle. She only did it when she was ruining someone’s day.

Why would you answer that phone, Deborah, that is strictly a business line. Wes yelled in the background.  What the fuck? I was thinking…What the hell was going on?

” Oh stop being such a bully…Deborah whined. I could hear them kiss.  I picked up a pillow and shook it furiously pretending it was Deborah’s throat that I was choking the life out of.

” Please contact law enforcement if you see this man in your area.” The news exclaimed.

My picture flashed across the screen.

I was alone.

” Hello?” She said again. ” How do you know my name? This is Dr. Wes Nicholas special business line, who is calling please?” She thought it was funny. I could hear Wes trying to grab the phone from her.

” What the hell is going on?” I said trying to not draw obvious conclusions.

” Av…Avery?! Is that you?”

” So let me guess still doing favors for your fucking friend? Put Wes on the goddamn phone now.”

There seemed to be silence forever.  I waited. They mumbled and discussed. Silence. They panicked.  Well what do I say Wes whispered to her. She handed him the phone and I could hear him sigh before he spoke.

Bastard.

” Avery, how good to hear from you I am glad that you are alright…”

“Why did you bug me?”

The news had gone off and a talk show had come on. Someone was explaining how easily it was to become a cult member these days.

” Bug you? Avery, have you been taking your meds? Where are you?”

“Why did you bug me you son of a bitch?”

“I can explain, listen….”

” I’m on my way ,then you can explain it to me face to face.”

“About Deborah, you understand she has been through a lot with you in an institution and then the disappearance, and I was just…”

“Just what… fucking her brains out?”

” Just…ahem …trying to help the family.”

” Right. Meet me at your office in 2 hours…and you can let me know then if that bitch’s boob job is a discount towards my meds.”

I don’t think I packed. I called down to the hotel desk and asked for Stunner Limo to the airport.

I tried to be upset about Deborah but it wasn’t working. Being rid of her would be the least of my worries. I figured Murph would come back at some point and find me gone so I left her a note on the backside of the paper where she had written the number:

Went to LA. Come to my house if you want. Avery

 

*                                                                     *                                                     *

I feel sick and used.

A few months ago I thought that Vice Presidents were role models.

I thought that Vice Presidents were stable. But I guess when they are having bad dreams, shit goes bad.

Although Vegas was full of anomatrons, every one in LA was real. Or at least as real as you could be with 100% plastic parts.

Silicon parts.

Biodegradable removable arms, legs, hands.  Rarely would you ever see someone who actually looked the age that was listed on their driving license. Everyone looked 29.  Wes looked like he was 45 so in reality he was probably 95. You could never tell by looking at someone what was real or what was fake. It seemed like such an insignificant thought with all that was happening to me. But I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering as I went to see my former psychatrist.

I walked into Wes office confused and upset. I shook his hand. It was sweaty. Or at least I hoped it was sweat and Deborah wasn’t hiding in some closet pulling down her skirt.

“Last time I was here Dr, I think that I was complaining about microwaves.”

I tried to smile. Like a Vice President would. Although now I was an escaped mental patient.

Now I was a glorified virus.

” And I am sure this time you think I will be concerned about you fucking my wife.  I just excaped from a mental institutition by pretending to be sane Wes, so fornication is the least of my worries.”

Wes looked around the room unable to make eye contact with me. His movements were so deliberate that I almost thought he was a hologram. He took steady deep breaths. He was preparing. Wes was going to give me a fucking speech. He was going to prepare for a role as a sympathetic medical practitioner in some made for tv movie and today he was going to practice his lines on me.

I wish that I had a gun. I’d be more menacing if I had a gun.

Imagine a sepia snapshot: Buttondown former exec mows his doctor down with a sawed off shot gun from the 20th century.

“Why the fuck did you bug me?”

“I’ve been concerned about that accusation,” Wes said staring at his desk. ” I assure you the tracking device wasn’t my idea.”

“Oh this is gonna be good.” I said and sat down on the couch crossing my legs in amusement. After all I had heard in Vegas there really wasn’t anything that Wes could tell me that would surprise me. He could say that he had fucked Deborah in my house, in my bed, inmy robe and I wouldn’t have been shocked.  I’d have given anything for 7 THC stickers and a bottle of Canadian Whiskey right now.

” I have no intentions to lie to you, Mr. Pride.”

“Call me Avery.  you’re fucking my wife so feel free to call me Avery…”

Wes took deep breaths.

“Well Avery,  Deborah, well… she was worried.  She was worried that you were going to be considered unstable after leaving the institution and she insisted for insurance purposes that you were tracked.”

” Huh, guess I got more mileage out of that boob job than I thought right Wes..she was looking out forme eh?”

“Certainly, I mean she wants to best for your recovery”

This guy was stoic. It was almost as if someone had fed him my answers.

“You’re too fucking calm….” I whispered.

I don’t know what came over me.  I just kept thinking my life was over anyway. I started tearing photographs off of the office walls.

It was all over.

I started knocking over awards and vases. I needed to jump start some expression from Wes. I needed some emotion. I must have still been drunk or at least that is the excuse I am using.

Wes was terrified which really was more fuel than anything. I felt like a wolf. Or at least like the ones I had seen on tv. Id never seen one in real life. I kept throwing things. My life was over. What did it matter?

I grabbed his letter opener and pointed it at his face.

” Why did you really bug me?” I walked around his desk and started throwing knickknacks out of  the drawers. Mints.

Prescription forms.  Holographic newspapers. Photos of Deborah in a two piece. Tabloid rags. Staplers. Ear Chips. I tossed a virtual plant through his glass door and startled myself.

” Paula.” Wes screamed clutching his chest. He was afraid. That felt good.

“Paula? Paula… the tv show host? ”

“Yes,” Wes studdered. ” She had worked with Orleans on some projects and she said I had the makings of a medical show host, she said I had the look you know? Once your case hit the airwaves, what was I supposed to do? I mean you are case study for crying out loud! She said if I could record your information, see what happened after you were declared unfit, they’d cut me in a deal bigger than anything Orleans had ever seen. He’d have been so proud. I just wanted to make him proud. And well, Deborah thought you might run so she suggested I bug you.I mean that is all that is was, no one was supposed to get hurt. I really am sorry Mr. Pride. About everything. You trusted me as your physician and I let my own personal goals get into the way of providing care for a patient.”

In my head, I sliced through Wes’ neck tie with one swoop cutting it at the knot in his neck.

In reality I just shook my head and tossed his phone out the window.

What was the guy to do you know?  Fortunately he had a bar behind his book case. I threw a few books by Jung on the ground and poured myself a glass of hope.

My phone beeped.

Wes breathing was labored now. He huffed.

It was a text message from Murph.

He puffed.

The text message read: All Life on this planet is a graduated mutation of the same killing organism. The one inside you. You’re only a program to end a unexplainable horror to the universe. I see that you are taking matters into your own hands. Wes is lying. Call me back.

I turned to the doctor.

“So…I used to be a very understanding man Wes I really did. And I’m not above letting by gones be bygones Wes, I mean I knew you were a fucking quack the first time I laid eyes on you alright? But here is my question, and its been driving me crazy. ”

“I’ll do anything to help you Avery, Let me recommend an excellent Therapist on Broadway..”

“No no no , no more therapy, do you really thin another fucking doctor can help me man?  No thats out! This is all I want to know…I sipped my drink.

It was warm and soothing. I pressed the letter opener next to his cheek.

” How did you do it?”

” Uh well, let’s see…I….”

Wes voice trailed off.  He couldn’t catch his breath.

I didn’t feel like myself.

“See Wes, ” I said…” You’ve been in my nightmares.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Not yet you aren’t. Not yet. See I have dreamt about you…covered in animal blood. Dying. right next to Deborah. And if you lie to me, if you keep lying to me…it won’t be a dream anymore I can promise you.”

I had no idea where the words were coming from. I was yelling. If anyone had been in the office when I arrived they were gone now. I was on top of the desk now, in Wes face, waving the letter opener around like a mad man.

I had no objective other than not being embarrassed. And it was too late for that.

Wes obviously was a more fragile man even than myself because he pissed his pants right there in the chair.

I’d never really scared anyone so badly before that they pissed themselves. I felt sick and used. And proud.

” It wasn’t me Avery, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me.” Wes couldn’t breathe between tears.

“Then who was it, how did they do it?” I yelled.

” Ask Deborah please, she told me to lie, I have no idea what is going on just like you don’t I’m so sorry.”  He leaned into his desk drawer and started ripping out THC patches putting them all over his face and arms.

” Novgorod, someone at Novgorod..I got a call. All they said was play along. Play along. So we did. They said they would tell you about us. So we did! Please Avery! Please.”

16 patches. 18. 24. All over his skin.

Wes tears drizzled into snot as he collapsed over the side of the chair. I didn’t think to try his pulse. I was hoping that he was just really high. The last thing I needed was for people to say I killed a guy on top of everything else.

  Chapter 12

 

Delirium

 

Afterlife: the idea that the consciousness or mind of a being continues after physical death occurs. In many popular views, this continued existence often takes place in an immaterial or spiritual realm. …

The smoke is wafting over the billboard sign and all I see are big black letters. Big black letters. 

Letters. Letters.

The dream again.

I woke up on the couch in my house. I knew it was my house because it was peppered with Deborah’s three of everything. Three pictures of her, three pillows, vases.

The room was dark and I did not remember driving home. I didn’t remember anything much and the house seemed much smaller. So much had changed.

I could smell Deborah in the bed room. I could hear her humming. She sauntered into the living room in a negligee…one I had never seen  before.

Had she painted the walls?

” I didn’t know that you were awake.” She purred. She curled up on the sofa next to me like we were in love and said, I’m glad you’re home Avery.

I couldn’t have been more disgusted.

” Let’s watch some tv together ok? I’ll make us some popcorn and we will sit right here an enjoy each other’s company?”

Had she rearranged the mantlepieces?

I stared at her. She looked like Deborah but she wasn’t acting like her. . Her face was flirting as usual- big airbrushed doe eyes .

“Who are you?” I yelled. “Where is my wife?”

“Calm down,” she lulled, ” It’s me….you’ve just been away so long you’re still confused.  You’ve been such a bad boy lately.”

She put her arm around me and kissed me gently on the chest.

Had she changed the carpets?

I pushed her off me and grabbed the remote. I just needed something to be blaring in the background when I killed this woman. I knew I wasn’t going to do it really, but it wasn’t as if I hadn’t planned it in my head so many times before.

All of the times she had dipped into our savings to by a new clutch purse.

All of the times that she had embarassed me at work by acting like a spoiled little girl.

And especially now that she thought she was going to get all of my money by making me seem crazy.

The news was on.

Apparently the G.O.D. fans attempted to blow up a shopping park because there were not enough copies of the latest posthumous album in stock.

Deborah put her hands between my legs.

” I’m sorry about Wes darling, but I was just so lonely….now that you are home you can take care of me…”

I was starting to feel like  I was on one of those old cheesy television programs where someone tricks you and then pops out and yells surprise.

I gently moved her hand and turned the volume up on the television.

” Deborah, I want a divorce.”

” But Avery, you are becoming irrational. Your co-workers even told you how good of an investment I am for you. You can’t bow out now!”

“You knew about that?”

“Of course I knew, I know everything about you. And now you are trying to fuck things up!”

Her tone of voice changed. She was getting a small wrinkle in the middle of her forehead. Probably starting to show after all of the years of furrowing her brow at me. I knew then why the place felt smaller. I was done. It was over.

” I’m trying to fuck things up? Really? what things? Your dates with other men, am I fucking that up? Oh or do you mean the fame and fortune that comes with being married to a big shot? What am I fucking up?!”

The newscaster looked familiar but I couldn’t place him.

” Your stupid little pea brain. You are so stupid. Having all of these fucked up dreams, flipping out at that bar, getting sent to the crazy hospital, honey, this is the best thing that could have happened to this relationship!”

” Oh I see, so you thought that you could get me declared crazy and be executor of my estate? Now , not gonna happen. I’ll have my lawyers deal with you first.”

” There is not going to be any damn divorce so shut up about it. Not another word. This is going to make us fucking rich. We could get book deals, and tv shows, and movie deals…think bigger you small brained twit!”

“Oh is that what Wes told you? Wes the washed up wanna be filled you head with bullshit! Don’t think I’m not fucking suing that guy too. You  better go get with him because you are gonna be out on your ass!”

I recognized him. It was Chet.

Deborah got off the couch and was pacing  back and forth around the room. She was yelling  but I could barely hear her. How the fuck was Chet the crazy guy from Novgorod,  a fucking newscaster?

He smiled at me through the screen.

I heard Chet say ,” The Pride family is offering a ten million credit reward for any one with any information about the wearabouts of Avery Pride30684557.

Deborah was yelling and I couldn’t hear her.

I ran into the bathroom with my cell phone. I could hear her screaming incoherently through the door.

I called Murph.

No answer.

So I left a desperate message.

” I think I know who bugged me. It was Chet1 It was Chet from the fucking hospital! He’s a news anchor by the way, a fucking actor! I gave him a high five and he hugged me for like ten minutes. Please call me back. ”

I came out of the bathroom to see Deborah, exhausted from screaming crying on our sofa.

She was always so beautiful when she cried. She seemed human.

“Deborah, did anyone stop by, did anyone come over?”

“No no, what are you expecting someone? Are you gonna hire someone to kill me?”

” No one named Murph stopped by or left something? No one at all?”

” So is that her name? Is that the name of the woman that you are going to leave allof this for?”

“No that is not her name.”

“Well then who is the bitch thats breaking us up after all I have been through with you?”

“Her name is Deborah.”

No response from Murph. Chet winked at me through the screen. I needed to know what to do next and I was out of ideas.

” I’ll be at a hotel until you leave.” I said as I quickly dressed and left the house. I knew that I needed to talk to Murph right away but something was wrong. Why had she disappeared all of a sudden? Maybe someone was after her too. Or maybe I was right about her she waswas yet another sick psychopath who needed an excuse to get famous. But she was beautiful. And I missed her.

As you could see I had my doubts. I needed to distract myself from my own life. A drink would be my only respite.

 

*                                                                 *                                                       *

 

My hotel room was on the first floor. I was glad to be so close to the ground but the room was extremely cold. It was like a completely different man was living in my skin. A man with some serious problems. So many god forsaken things were happening to me all at once. I felt like someone had drawn a target symbol on my forehead.The patsy of the entire human race. Honestly, when my life was damn near perfect I was a little bit bored. Constantly looking for a new thrill. A new challenge. A new position. A new vice. And now I was feeling that maybe the reason I had been unfulfilled was the same reason that everyone else was. Because we were simply a scientific experiment. The human race was the equivalent of a can of mace. Each particle unfulfilled until it found something to burn itself on. I never though tthat I would miss the safety of my former life as much as I did. I even missed hating Deborah.

I missed working for Max and secretly despising him. I missed drinking in my car on the way to work without anyone noticing. I missed everything about my life before the fucked up dreams began. But this was me now. An intergalatic pawn.

Figures.

I couldn’t fathom why Murph hadn’t called. She was so adamant about helping. So determined to get me to see the truth and now, she was no where to be found. I sat in the cold hotel room destroying the mini bar. It was the only way I was going to collect my thoughts. The hotel clerk beeped into the virtual wall. There was no privacy. I remember my father telling me about business trips when he went to hotels and people actually knocked on the door if they wanted something. The bell man. Or the housekeeper. Now, you got beamed a message through the virtual wall. The clerk was texting on the wall to see if I needed additional provisions since the minibar sensor had indicated that all of the liquor was dispensed.

” Um, yes could you send refills? I’m having a small get together and I need six more of everything immediately.”

“Please confirm your identity.” The wall asked.

I got up and touched the wall.

“Identity confirmed AveryPride 30684557. Thank you.”

The hotel clerk confirmed my order and the refrigerator automatically dispensed my request.

No one was coming over but I needed enough to get me through the night.

I lie on the bed with my phone calling Murph. I had called at least 30 times. I was afraid something had happened to her. Had someone followed her to me? Had she also been bugged, and possibly captured? I missed her yellow gloves. I was afraid that my feelings for her had possibly grown into something else because everytime I thought about her smoking her cigarettes or telling me to shut up, my mind immediately went to seeing her naked. I wanted to see that again, at least once more.

I turned on the television for some company.

The only thing that seemed to be on constantly was the news.

Apparently a nuclear reactor in Lithuania had exploded and killed 600.

I missed my father.

Apparently G.O.D. fans had burned down a record store in Michigan and the government was afraid that there was becoming a pattern.

The government.

I drank some more and felt clarity.

Perhaps the government was involved I told myself. I mean my father did have connections, family members on the Egyptian Defense Board, a cousin who was an ambassador. Perhaps this was an effort to get information on him, I mused. Discreting me might be some kind of conspiracy, or a trap to get money or some secret from my father. It was a long shot but possible wasn’t it? I mean it was a more realistic explanation compared to alien survival.

Apparently the Panama Canal was being closed after a terrible typhoon in the ocean. 345 people were injured and 12 still not found.

I missed sessions at Novgorod.

I was smarter when I was drunk it seemed.

After I had consumed 3 more bottles of bourbon I thought Governmental Offices are headquarted in Virginia.

I missed my brother and his kids.

Apparently the entire island of Maui had to be evacuated because of radiation that no one could determine the source of.

After I consumed 3 more bottles of whiskey I thought Murph’s letters came to Novgorod from Virginia.

I missed playing raquetball.

Apparently all that was happening in the world was tragedy, one right after the other.

After the last two bottles of tequila I decided I would have to go to Virginia. At least  I could find out where Murph worked and perhaps find out where she had gone.

Maybe she was a part of it.

Maybe she was sent to fuck me up and not help me.  She was a spy. Maybe I could find out what I was beginning to suspect, that perhaps this was just the government’s way to get what it wanted from me. It was easy enough I could just give them what they wanted and move on. Who bugs people besides the government?

I missed my microwave.

After the last bottle of vodka in the mini fridge I figured that since Murph was the only person who knew how to remove the bug that Murph was responsible for putting it in. She had sent me all those letters to Novogorod, telling me how to act and what to do to get her clutches on me. She probably had promised stupid actor Chet some fucking head or something to get him to be in on it. It was all so simple.

I curled up into the dreaded fetal position.  I never had the dreams when I was completely smashed. I knew I could sleep now.

Once I could put the pieces together I could go back to my life and start over. Tomorrow I would go to Virginia. Tomorrow it would be over.

A fresh life. A new wife.

Apparently a death cult was started underground recently in Los Angeles and The police called them Libertas.

Tomorrow it would be over. A new company.

A beginning again. Constantly looking for a new thrill.

Still, it seems like a waste.

Chapter 13

Outlanders

Bludgeon: To strike or hit with something hard, usually on the head; to club; To coerce someone

 

 

I left the hotel headed for LAX.

As I went through the security check points I got a text from Murph. Finally I thought.  The text read, “Don’t.”

I texted back where are you? The response, “Don’t.” I texted again, “Don’t what?” By the time the plane was boarding she responded.

” Don’t search” She messaged. ” You will not find what you seek. You have the tools now. Do your fucking job Avery.”

I shut off my phone at the request of the flight attendant. Fortunately phones only had to be off for take off so there was no interference with ground traffic controls. By the time we were at a safe altitude of 39000, I had several texts from Murph. But only old familiar ones.

New Texted Message:

Man is destroying the earth every day Avery. You’re designed to speed up the process and I’m sorry that you had to find out this way.

I should have asked for an aisle seat. I was seated between the two fattest people left on earth. The woman was wearing what looked like a purple tarp dress. She had cookies stuffed in her purse and she was popping them like antacid.

New Texted Message:

All Life on this planet is a graduated mutation of the same killing organism. The one inside you. You’re only a program to end a unexplainable horror to the universe.

The fat man to my left was already drunk. He must have been afraid of flying. He kept squeezing the arm rail and touching my hand.

“She’s a handful isn’t she?” She said smiling at me. He looked terrified. I didn’t know if he was talking about the plane or the woman on the other side of me.

New Texted Message:

Human beings only use 10 % of their brains. What is the other 90% for Avery?  Its for destruction and inside somewhere you know this.

Tarp lady  had a never ending supply of cookies. I asked the man if he would like to switch seats with me so they could sit together. I really just wanted him to stop holding my hand.

” No, that’s ok” he smiled. But he was nodding instead of shaking his head. ” No, you are fine sonny, just fine, just stay put alright, stay put.” Cookie lady had crumbs on her face.

The captain announced that we would be arriving in five hours at Richmond International. Dulles and all of the other airports had been closed in the last year since the hurricanes had destroyed most of the shore. Virginia Beach was only a memory for old timers. I asked the flight attendant for alcohol but this was a non drinking flight.

I snuck a THC patch from my pocket to help me relax. I tried calling Murph but she wasn’t answering. I couldn’t have been more pissed that she was back to cryptic messages instead of just talking to me. Don’t search I thought. Yeah right. I must be on to something. When it was safe to unfasten seat belts the scared old geezer got up and ran to the lavatory. I’m sure he went in there to vomit because his face was as purple as his wife’s dress as he ran. I decided that wold call Novgorod before the flight ended pretending to be Dr. Wes. I would ask someone in registration who had signed for the letters I had received during my stay.  For some reason hook nosed nurse had answered the phone. Her voice was not one that I would soon forget. She told me who signed and said the letters had come from Virginia Tech University Earth Sciences Lab sent by a Ms. Sarai Murphy Wilson. Wilson. I had forgotten that. She had signed for them herself and asked if I needed anything else. I said no and then she replied, “You’re welcome Avery, and good luck.” I supposed my voice wasn’t one that she would soon forget either. I closed my eyes and my THC slumber lasted until we arrived in Virginia.

Virginia. Virginia is for Lovers. I never understood why the state was called that. People there didn’t seem any more in love than anyone else. Especially since their beaches no longer existed. I used the internet on my phone to get directions from Richmond International to Blackburg. Fortunately the Airport had an underground speed train subway that would get me to the school in less than an hour. Supposedly the train also made stops at Langley and D.C. after the hurricanes. Most all transport in VA was now underground.

The fat couple trotted behind me asking me to hold the train so they could board. I pretended not to hear them.

I took a taxi from the train to the school. The grounds were lovely. The landscape of Virginia was the exact opposite of LA. In LA the trees were virtual but out here the trees were real. You could tell by their smell. I tried not to be intoxicated by how fresh everything looked and smelled there until I noticed the olfactory dispensiries on the buildings. The trees were real, but the tree smell, much like everything else in the world was simulated.  Its hard to find anything thats fucking real in America these days. I visited the Bursar’s office looking for Murph. A scrawny man stood behind the desk looking as if today was the first day that he could tell he was growing a mustache.

” Welcome to Virginia Tech Sir, do you have an appointment with the Bursar?”

” No, My name is Mr. Pride and I am here to see a friend. Could you direct me to Sarai Wilson’s office?”

The teenage attendant, all pimple faced and pockmarked searched his computer for her name.

” I apologize sir, there are 324 Sarai Wilson’s on file. Do you have her ID number?”

I kept trying to think back. For some reason I could never remember her saying it or writing it down anywhere. I told him that I didn’t know it.

He scanned the computer again. This time I knew that he had come up with the same information but was stalling because he had no idea what to say. He scratched his head a few times, and giant dandruff flakes cascaded down onto the shoulder of his Virginia Tech sweatshirt.

“Do you know what she looks like?” He asked.

“Of course, she is a friend.”

“Well the Registrar has pictures of everyone on campus. I recommend, he studdered that you walk across the campus to the Registrar. The Registrar’s office is where all Student Personnel work so if she is Sarai1254789 or Sarai 8896521 she would be there. If she was one of the 322s student they would have a picture of her there. ” He gulped and then smiled.

The Registrar’s office looked like a BMV. There were people everywhere in queues waiting their turn at the counter. I took a number and got in line. All of the service desks windows were closed but one. I couldn’t see if the associate was a man or a woman. I could hear the attendant’s voice though- it sounded impatient and husky like a former fisherman forced to work at an office now because there were no docks anymore in VA. I was surprised when I got closer at the extremely long hair. Must have been a man facinated with the drug culture of 60 years ago. When it was my turn I gasped in confusion. There before me stood an at least 6 foot long haired brad shouldered deep voiced long eyelashed woman. It had to have been a woman because her eyebrows were arched. It had to have been a woman because she had what looked like breasts poking out the top of her v neck sweater. No adam’s apple but peach fuzz stubble. When she saw me, you would have thought that I was a rock star. Her eyes widened like gigantic saucers. Her crumbly lipstick had smeared into the small beard growing on her chin.  How I hated androgyny I thought. Her name tag read Terry. She could have been in the middle of a sex change but I just couldn’t tell.

“Hello Terry.” I said politely.

She flung her ratted hair over her shoulder like a young girl would have and bellowed “Hello, how can I help you?”

” Right well I am here to see a friend and I don’t know her ID number. Ive been to the Bursar but they said to come here because you have ID pictures. I’d like to know where her office is because I’m here for a quick visit while I am in town.”

“Why don’t you just call her?” Queen Goliath asked batting her eyes at me.

“It’s meant to be a surprize you see so if you could just tell me where I could find…”

“She held her big hairy knuckle in my face and said shhh. She pulled a sign from her desk drawer that said out to lunch and yelled at every one behind me to take a hike and come back tomorrow.

“But I’ve got to get enrolled in class!” One brave youngster yelled from the back of the line.

“Excuse me”She said nicely to me…”Sir, What is your name? You in the back! The yeller!”

” Orin Oglivey 87542100″.

“She banged something into her computer.

“Since you couldnt wait until I got back from lunch Oglivey 87542100 guess what? You no longer attend this University. Your enrollment has been revoked. Better luck next year. Anyone else impatient?”

All of the children shook their heads no.

“I’ll help you find your friend.” She said turning to me. She coated her hairy lips with some sort of bright red gloss that made her look like the Bearded Lady from the Circus comic books. ” I’ll helo you right after you take me to lunch.” Queen Goliath grabbed her purse and locked up the desk. She sauntered around the counter and I could see she had on Bermuda Shorts and had never bothered to shave her legs. They were hairer than mine were.

“You ready?” She asked.

“I’m so sorry but there must be some sort of mistake, you see I am looking for Sarai Wilson, I just want to.”

“Yes I know” She rasped. “In due time. I’m starving. How about pizza? I know a fine little shop right off campus. Shall we?”  She grabbed my arm with the force of a linebacker and practically dragged me from the Registrar’s office to her car.

Oglivey was sitting on the steps in tears.

*                                                                     *                                                          *

When we got to the pizza joint, it was locked.

“Well I guess we won’t be having lunch, ” I laughed. “Sorry about that, so listen.”

“Nonsense.” Goliath said. She pulled a key out of her purse and unlocked the door.  The sign on the window read Big Terry’s Pizza Pies. Inside there was only one table. And two chairs. Terry put on her her Big Terry’s Pizza Pie apron and pulled a pizza fresh from the oven. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who had prepared it. She hummed as she cut the pizza and invited me to sit down.

Her arms were big enough that she was able to carry the entire pizza and two beers to the table in one hand.

“I can’t believe that you are here.” she told me.

“Me either.” I responded.

“Eat. You must be starving. Eat.”

Terry rolled two slices of the steaming pizza and stabbed herself in the mouth with them. I sat in amazement. It wasn’t long before she was on her 4th slice of pie.  If I had been hungry, my appetite was gone.

“Deborah should be so lucky.” Terry said.

“Sorry, what? say again?”

“I do more than work at the Registrar and make pizza you know.”

“I see, and how do you know my wife?”

“I am assistant professor in the Alien Sciences Department. Have been for 6 years.”

” But you never said…”

“I know why you are here.”

” I know I told, you to find my friend.”

She ate two more slices in only two gulps.

“Right right,code named Sarai Wilson right?”

“Code name, what do you mean?”

“Its the code name that the United Nations came up with for the Outlanders project.”

“You know about that?”

“Six years Mr. Pride, remember? They said you would come but I thought that you would have been here way sooner.”

” Oh well I guess Murph must have told everyone that I would come find her.”

“Murph who?”

“Sarai…you know knickname Murph?”

“Murph, like as in Murphy’s law?”

“Exactly, She told you.”

“Uh I’m a professor of course I have heard of Murphy’s law. But anyway, I’m sure you are looking for the Outlander file with instructions in it for Virus 4, right?”

“Of course.” I stammered.

” Well it was burned when you got arrested but I was advised to tell you all that you need to know.”

Goliath finished the pie.

” So shall we have sex here or later in your hotel room?  Have you checked in yet?”

“What?!”

” Well I assumed I would be getting some kind of payment for telling you all this, I mean its not like its my job or anything.  I was just so excited to meet you.

Terry ran her marinara stained man hands across my cheek.

” I couldn’t possibly, I mean I wouldn’t want to devour a beautiful woman like yourself and besides, I have a virus as I am sure you are well aware.”

” No. you are a virus.”

“Precisely. and very unstable. Very unstable. Its probably better that you just relay the information I would hate to disappoint you.”

I was afraid she was going to throw me over her shoulder and ruin my life.

Imagine a sepia snapshot..no wait…don’t.

” Plus I have no balls. Yes I am not sure if that is in your paperwork or not, but at the psych ward they cut off my balls so I can’t I can’t perform in that way anymore.”

She had heard this song and dance before.

” You got 15 days Avery. In 15 days your life as you know it is over. Nothing can stop it.”

“15 days, what do you mean? Im going to die in 15 days?”

” I wont kid you. I thought maybe you know, we could get it on since Armageddon begins in like two weeks, y’know?”

She looked like every man that I had ever seen pissing at a truck stop on tv before a long freight haul across the country.

” I mean there is no one to help us. Even the government knows, Avery.  In 15 days destruction becomes reality. All the people in power realize what we are. They accept what you must do. But I won’t ask you again. You have insulted me and now the offer is off the table.”

She got up and went into the kitchen. I could hear her big manly sobs.

“Don’t worry about me.” She yelled. ” If you fail, the Outlanders will just send something else.  That will be 12.50 for the pizza asshole.”

 

Just then my phone vibrated. New text message from Murph.

” I told you. Don’t.”

Chapter 14

Tragic

Broken: physically and forcibly separated into pieces or cracked or split

 

What I wouldn’t give for a Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich pill. I’d temporarily moved into a hotel in Blacksburg right off the VATech campus. The hotel only had a liquified version which only made me think of regurgitation. They only carried simulated alcohol pills instead of a mini bar. I figured starving was best. A little fast before the end of days couldn’t hurt anyone, right? This is the time that I started to think to myself, you know what, Avery? You’ve had a good run. This was it.

There was no reason to pack. No where to go.

This was it. There was no friend called Murph anymore. No Deborah anymore. No real reason to go back home since  I no longer belonged anywhere. I didn’t belong at the C&C building. I didn’t belong at Novgorod. So I had decided.

This was it. I would simply just stay here in Virginia. Maybe I would take up gardening and plant some tomatoes and wheat grass. Growing shit wasn’t completely illegal here yet. Maybe I would learn how to play a virtual guitar and perform solos on street corners for credits. Maybe I’d write a book about my whole life and hope that if some other life began to exist on this planet, that it would learn English and be able to read about my pain.

The television blared in the room.  Godlike, A G.O.D tribute band, was playing near campus. Tickets to the concert were only 20.879 credits if patrons also bought a 45.2145 credit G.O.D. alien teeshirt. The proceeds were supposed to be going to the Twirl Defense Fund. I had no idea what that was but it sounded like a toys for tots program. Kids needed more play time considering.  I didn’t have anything else to do, and although I wasn’t a fan of music much because having your emotions stimulated by shouting and banging didn’t seem like much of an intellectual thrill. I called the ticketing hotline number from my phone and was advised that I could pick up my G.O.D shirt at the box office. The concert was in 30 minutes so I figured I could easily take a taxi to the train and get there right before the show started. Why not? What the hell else did I have to do, considering? I figured, you know I will pull a Murph from now on and stop using my ID number, I was just going to be Avery, or maybe even Perry. Maybe I would try some new drugs and get my skin scarred with lazer pictures of household objects. Maybe I would take some piloting classes. It was all wide open all over again.

I started to leave the hotel room and realized that I couldn’t find my keycard. They were so small, that dropping it on the carpeting might have it lost for hours. I didn’t want to miss the taxi I made a door stop with a pencil I found in the desk drawer to keep the door slightly ajar. For all intensive purposes it looked closed. And that was good enough for me.

The noise from the concert hall was deafening even underground. I pulled my teeshirt on at the stands. The darkened room was full of alien teeshirt wearing kids all chanting and shouting together. At least they looked like they were enjoying themselves even though more than likely they would all suffer partial deafness by the time they got to be my age. Concerts were notorious for drinking and carousing, so I ordered up several Bourbon pills and decided to get two THC patches from the cart on the edge of the crowd.

“I’m out of that lightweight shit, man” The cart owner said, eyes glossed over, staring at the ground.

” I only got skimmers and quids,man.” He offered.

“What do skimmers do?”

“Make you willing to fuck anything that walks man, they are the ultimate high, bro.”

I instantly thought about being on a skimmer and getting trapped in an alley by Big Terry.

” Give me a quid instead ok?  Thanks.”

“Awl man, we don’t take credits here. Dude that would make it a legal transaction and quids definitely ain’t legal. We’re gonna have to barter bro.”

” I don’t have anything else.” I said.

” Is that a real life Ignacio Lauren shirt you got on man, under your tee shirt?”

I had to admit that it was.

” I could sell that shit for at least two quids so here, I’ll give you another and you give me the rich guy blouse and we’ll call it even.”

I gave him the shirt and put the second quid in my pocket. I put the first one on my neck and went into the concert. After first song I could feel my body shaking. By the second song I couldn’t tell which was the bigger mistake, popping some adolescent household drugs or listening to vulgar headbanger music. They were playing a song called  Kill yourself and the crowd was going insane.

You know you want to, the song screeched, you know you want to die! My head was spinning and I was ready to go.

The song made no sense to me. The singer was yelling, “Killing isn’t easy cause death is hard to climb! Find, find find, the fucking time to free your mind!” I was the eldest person in the hall and the last thing I wanted was to fall onto some teenage chick and get arrested again.

The kids were chanting the lyrics, “You know you want to, you do, you have to let it be. Take it out take it out take it out on you and me!” I turned around to walk out and some overgrown 16 year old grabbed my arm.

“Hey you look just like him.” She said stroking my shoulder.  She had cut up her alien teeshirt at the sleeves and the waist and tied it up around her boobs so they looked like they were on an alien head serving tray.

“Well I’m not him.”‘ I said pulling away from her. I figured the science teacher at her highschool that she wanted to bone must have looked like me in a dark concert hall surrounded by drug induced libidos on a rampage.

“Killing isn’t easy cause death is hard to climb! Find, find find, the fucking time to free your mind!”  I was tempted, thanks to the quid to go back and fondle her a little bit, but it would have taken entirely too much energy to turn back now so I made my way to the taxi.

I could still hear the Kill yourself song in my head.

You know you want to, you know you want to die!

Taxicabs were lined up outside the concert hall but after a concert they always used human drivers. Drunkened and drugged people always punched in the wrong directions.  They might start out in Virginia and end up in Maryland, refusing to pay the 2145.23659 credit fare.

The taxi driver looked nervous as if his last concert fare had tried to rape him. He fortunately didnt want to make small talk and asked if it is ok if he listened to the news. I didn’t care because I felt so fried it didn’t matter.

” Self proclaimed leader of the Los Angeles based Cult Compound Libertas is scheduled to testify today in the explosion of a Hollywood highschool that killed 6 students. Twirl, as he has been called by his followers has said in his preliminary statements to the press that the reason for the bombing was the Avery Pride Movement Libertas is based on. Twirl has indicated that Avery Pride, former Vice President at C&C told him to do it and that together they have planned other destuctive events in the next 15 days to kill more innocent people in the area.  The supposed ringleader of these violent activities is a possible escaped mental patient and was alledged to have  had a nervous breakdown in a Southern California night club establishment spouting comments similar to that of the Libertas compound’s agenda. Mr.Pride’s ID number has not yet been released to local authorities. If he does not appear for questioning he will be considered a federal fugitive. More news after this commercial break.”

The taxi driver adjusted his mirror so he could see my face.

” The next corner is good, the next corner.” I said to him. He pulled over quick swerving through traffic, happy to let me out. I didn’t pay and he sped off into the darkness as if he didn’t care. I was extremely intoxicated and tipsy. Every person walking on the sidewalk looked like Murph. Murph in dreads. Murph on a skateboard. Murph tying her shoes and holding a coffee cup in her teeth.

Fortunately I was close to my hotel. I ran up to the room and noticed the door was wide open. I remembered not locking it because  I didn’t have my key earlier, but did I leave the door open? I couldn’t remember. The quid was killing me.

The room had been ransacked. Like every old British rocker was accusing of doing. The lamp was in the comode. The blankets from the bed were dangled out the window. My clothes were gone. All that I had with me had been in the room, and the only thing left was the alien teeshirt on my back and the wallet in my pocket. It was a terrifying freedom. Had Terry robbed me? Murph? Had Wes caught up with me? Was it the government? The Quid had me reeling.

I turned on the television for more information.

I recognized Twirl from LA. He had asked me for 20 bucks once. I thought that had been our only exchange but not according to him. Paula was interviewing him from a hotel room where he  waited to appear before court.

Twirl with the crazy eyes. He had on the same teeshirt that I was wearing right now.

Paula leaned in and asked, “How well do you know Avery Pride?”

“He’s my mentor.” The kid replied. ” We met by happenstance actually. I was getting ready to rob this local store and he stopped me. He gave me twenty dollars, like old school cash money and told me to go into the place like I was a customer and it would be easier. It was the simpliest trick ever.

“So he told you how to rob the store?”

“Basically. I mean he had to know what I was going to do. Honestly, I thought he was trying to hit on me at first because he was real gayish with the suit he was wearing but I could tell it was a cover because he asked about my teeshirt.”

“What teeshirt?”

“My G.O.D. shirt. He was letting me know right then that he was really into their music, and like me he was robbing the world in his suit as a costume. The man is brilliant. I felt a connection to him instantly.”

“So when did he tell you to take your criminal activities to a higher level?”

“It was the day he flipped out in the pub. It was priceless how he let go like that. He told me that day that Libertas was the only way and he was right. Total freedom man.  I was listening to the G.O.D cd and it was speaking to me, like he was saying the same shit you know? all that talk about destruction made my friend and founder famous. He was right.”

“Right about what?”

I saw the footage from his dreams on your show Paula. It looked beautiful to me. I got nothing you know and I’m happy. Everyone else is fucking suffering. So Libertas is here to help the world and chapters are springing up all over LA. Destroying everything is the only way to be free and what better way to demonstrate that than destroy a building full of false religion, a fucked up school. They teach you to be followers there, but Avery man, Avery is like me Libertas is the only way. Like the song says, You know you want to, you know you want to die! That guy is a legend. Hey if you’re listening man, thanks. Keep the fight going wherever you are. You rule!”

I tried to be disappointed about the robbery but I wasn’t. I tried to be upset about the bullshit this Twirl asshole was telling Paula but the smile on my face wouldn’t go away.  I was more upset because I did not want to go back to California but I had to now.

Paula said, ” In an exclusive we showed you all the dreams directly from this man’s mind. Let’s review the footage again.

I turned off the television. This Libertas group was accusing me of helping them blow up a school that I had nothing to do with. I had to go back., I had to clear my name.

The purple smoke. The billboard. The cave. Deborah. Max. Twirl. The volcanoes. The gelatinous ooze. The alien teeshirts. The whole thing. My fucking fault.

But I was high. Just  as soon as I was sober enough to take a taxi to the train to the airport, I’d head back to LA to face the music.

Chapter 15

Pain

Disillusionment: A feeling that arises from the discovery that something is not what it was anticipated to be, commonly held to be stronger than disappointment especially when a belief central to one’s identity is shown to be false; The act of freeing from an illusion, or the state of being freed therefrom.

2:00 PM

I could hear Deborah’s voice in the airport. Her voice was everywhere coming out of the walls. She sounded like god would sound if god was an asshole. She was doing an interview with Wes on Paula’s show and it was being broadcast when I arrived back in California. Fucking great. They were both wearing Ignacio Lauren sweaters, that I probably paid for. They were holding hands. Wes was consoling her as she pretended to cry. Acting classes, on me. She would have become a famous dramatic actress after this if anyone was to survive. I’m kind of glad no one would. Wes would be a revered producer of her high class porns if the world wasn’t about to end. I hated them both.

Paula asked, ” So Deborah, tell me, how are you coping?”

Deborah stared directly into the camera. She looked as if she had loved me once. She stared into the camera as if she had passion for me still. One solitary tear dripped from her overly made up eye. I was waiting for someone to yell cut. The scene was beautiful.

2:15 PM

Imagine a sepia snapshot: Animated drama queen mourns crazy ex on daytime tv.

“Barely.” She muffled into her sweater mic. ” I almost feel as if all of this is my fault.”

“Explain” Paula said.

“Well when he said that he was having those nightmares, I am the one who pushed him to go see a professional, like Wes. When the treatment stopped working- my only option was to have him comitted to a health facility where he could get around the clock care. I thought that I was doing the right thing at the time, Paula, I really did.”

“What happened?”

“He didn’t stay with the program as you all know.”  Wes was itching to speak.

“Comment, Dr?” Paula asked. She knew he was about to burst.

He pulled his glasses out of his pocket before he started talking. See if you still wore old fashioned glasses you looked more credible to viewers.

‘Yes well, Mr. Pride is obviously a dangerous man. He is completely delusional. The last time that I saw him , he jumped on my desk and destroyed my office in a fit of rage. It was terrifying, even for me and I have seen some severe cases. For some reason the man had imagined that his lovely wife and I were having an affair.” Wes giggled a bit under his breath. Rat bastard.

“Aren’t you?” Paula asked.

“We weren’t then,”Wes stammered.  Deborah jumped in, “But Wes has been the only one that I could turn to.”  The fuckface touched her shoulder. Lying assholes.

“This is why, ” Wes stated, ” Its so important for therapists to recommend ear chips. This technology allows you to see images of what your patients are unable to describe. It is an in depth look into their psyche and helps any doctor worth his salt determine which treatment will  be the most successful, especially for mental patients.”

“And for this endorecment you are being paid over a million credits, isn’t that correct?” Paula accused. I  was starting to like her.

2:20 PM

Before Wes could lie again, I noticed the security guards and TSA in the airport grabbing billy clubs the police were handing them. The fire department was there unloading water hoses.  Some creepy guy was yelling on a bull horn at some kids making out in the food court. I grabbed my bag from the carosel and headed for the exit. Everyone was scampering and little kids were crying and screaming. The television program was interrupted for an all airport announcement: Effective Immediately all passengers departing and arriving must evacuate the airport terminals right now. Do not delay. There has been an emergency threat. Please leave everything and exit the closest way out of the airport to the street. If you do not leave you will be removed. The airport is closed until further notice. Find the nearest exit and evacuate in an orderly fashion. The message came on again in Spanish. And then again in French.  I was being pushed out the door by the so called orderly mob. I grabbed one of the security guards who looked like he was about to shit himself. There was no way he was being paid enough credits for this.

“Hey man, what the fuck is going on?”

The security guard took out a cigar and lit it in the airport. He was so frightened that his face had turned blood shot red trying to direct people to the doors.

“God damn kids,” He yelled pushing me out. “The fucking Libertas freaks are trying to blow up the damn airport. Get the hell out of here!”

2:30 PM

I stood on the curb trying to hail a cab but no one was stopping. I saw an old lady trying to get her bag into the trunk of a yellow cab and I decided to help her out. I grabbed her bag from her and smiled. I put the bag on the curb and put my own bag in the trunk.

“Why you little bastard!” I heard her say when I got into the car.

“Catch the next one, grandma.” I yelled back. Normally I would have felt horrible for stealing some old lady’s cab. But today, I didn’t give a shit.

I typed in my address. I guess I was going home. To the house I shared with the devil woman. I needed a suit and a lawyer worse than I ever needed a shot of brandy.

It normally took an hour to get to my house from LAX when traffic was good, but with everyone evacuating I knew that I would be sitting in that car for a while. The crowd was maddening. Throngs of people streamed out of the airport in a panic, no one knowing exactly what to do. I knew I didn’t want to be seen. If someone recognized me and thought  I had some kind of association with these little homeland terrorist twerps I was finished. I had nothing else to do but think about a survival strategy and I didn’t want to do that right now. So I called myself going to

sleep. I tried counting sheep. I took deep breaths. I really was tired.

After I dosed off I saw her.

Her stupid gloves.

Her stupid cigarettes.

Her stupid lips.

“Its alright,”Murph said. “I’m here.” She was wearing an orange dress like in my destruction dreams. I was spooked but I couldn’t wake up.

“That’s wonderful. You’re here in my dreams. Great. Why aren’t you ever around when I’m awake anymore. What happened?”

“Nothing happened. You’re not that bright are you? I guess thats why you are perfect for this.” She took the cigarette out of her mouth and put it out on my hand. In real life it would have hurt but in my dream I didn’t feel it at all.

“Yeah I remember. The virus. All that. They even have an alien department at VTech, did you know that?”

“Of course I did. She walked over to me and kissed me on the forehead.

“Yeah, but they never  heard of you. No one has ever heard of you.”

“You have, and thats all that matters. Remember Noah?”

“No, who the hell is that?”

“You know from the Bible.”

“No not really. ”

“Well the Outlanders tried to destroy everything then.  He was basically you. They told him to collect two of everything and get to higher ground. He had to collect two of every other virus so if the plan did not work, they still had specimen on the planet to work with. They no longer need the other versions now, just the human kind. So its your turn. You have 13 days to get to higher ground. Get someone. Anyone. Go. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to help you. Especially when you are awake.”

I was having the dream again.

Doomsday.

I can see a little girl passing out flowers. The billboard is crashing to the ground to the cheers of the crowd. For some reason it looks like there are monstrous bulldozers mowing down the hills.  The crowd laughs and dances and points at the destruction. I can make out the chanting now, they are screaming Liberty, Libertas, Liberty, Libertas!

A little asian girl with no fingers  and no teeth is gumming a knife.  They begin to line up headed toward the fiery cave.  I attempt to move backward, but before I know it, two guys are pushing me forward, laughing hysterically toward the maniacs in dresses.  I see myself as I float over my body. I’m wearing the same dress.

 

I woke up and my hand was throbbing. I had an open wound all of a sudden. Cigarette burn.

I was home.

*                                                               *                                                                *

Deborah had moved in with Wes so I went to our old home. I knew this because the garage door was closed and there was no car in the driveway. Deborah loved to show off her car, and how clean and organzied our garage was for all of the neighbors. Even if it was closed, the car would be out front if she was still living here. Plus the mailbox was full. Deborah hadn’t changed the locks thankfully, so I went in to change. She hadn’t throw my clothes out quite yet, but they were in a box in a closet marked Salvation Army. I grabbed my baseball hat, some jeans and a teeshirt.

The kitchen was empty. I decided to walk to the closest market for some food. A walk will do me some good I thought, and give me a chance to think.

It was so humid outside my collar was sticking to my skin. Unusual for LA. It started to dawn on me how wrong I was when I passed the neighborhood music outlet.It was a tiny vintage store that I had seen a million times before, but since I’m not an aficionado of music, I never went in. Plus they sold old music, records, cds, cassettes and those square block track things from a billion light years ago. I wouldn’t have noticed it, except for the poster on the door. From a distance the woman on the poster looked vaguely familiar, and when I got closer to it I realized it was Murph. On the poster she was the lead singer of a band called Cosmic Explosion. She was strumming a guitar, with her yellow gloves on, winking one eye with a cigarette dangling between her red painted lips. Apparently they had a show at the Paladium two days ago. I don’t know how long I stood and stared at that poster because Murph’s picture moved. The head was bobbing to music that I couldn’t hear. Was I hallucinating again? I touched the poster and Murph giggled.

What the fuck? I thought stepping back. It was so hot and humid outside I could feel water rolling down my thigh.

The passersby didn’t notice. They kept going whereever they were headed, ignoring me having a minor freak out.

Do you feel high yet? The poster asked. I hadn’t taken any THC or had any alcohol, so I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to start talking outloud to a photograph.

Do you feel high? Murph asked again.

I thought the word no.

You will, the picture said, you will. Your appendix will begin its normal functioning in a few hours. It will burst. You will not feel any pain, but you will feel intoxicated and possibly paranoid.

And delusional? I said aloud.

“Excuse me?” Said the woman walking past me fanning herself.

” I’m not talking to you.” I replied staring at the picture. Murph ashed her cigarette and kept bobbing her head.

You’re already delusional, dumbass, you’re talking to a poster on the door of a music store. The dreams, the hallucinations, the conversations with inanimate objects are signs.

So going crazy is apart of the fucking plan? I wiped the sweat off my face. I couldn’t understand the humidity.

It might be the only way. She said back. Being crazy will make it all easier. Its humid because it’s going to rain soon.

I could hear my father. He was yelling help in my inner ear. I clutched my head.

Are you alright? A little asian girl asked that was standing behind me.

No no..no this is not fair!

“I just want to get into the store sir, it’s hot out here, excuse me please.”

No ..why don’t they just blow the earth up? Why don’t they just make an explosive or something? Why do I have to be like this? Why do they  need me?

Murph strummed the guitar and laughed.

The earth is fighting back silly boy. Its going to try to kill you.  Probably a hurricane soon. Don’t you see that this is the last resort? You will never understand the Outlanders plans in their entirety. Your brain can’t conceive of it. Think about all you would do if your survival was threatened. You were not designed to worry about these things. Your only purpose is destruction. You have 5 days before its all over. You’re the new Noah. Higher ground is the answer. Go.

I hadn’t felt the little girl push past me and go inside. I didn’t hear her complaining to the manager that some nutjob was standing outside talking to a picture. I didn’t know he had recognized me as the inspiration of the Libertas Cult and had already called the authorities.

I stared at the poster.

It had never moved. It had never spoken. And now a small crowd was forming around me.

I could hear the whispers.

Is that the guy? Some old man shouted.

Go. Murph said in my head.

I could hear Deborah laughing.

I pulled the baseball cap down over my eyes and started speed walking to the edge of the crowd.

You’re the guy aren’t you? Some snot nosed kid asked.

I started growling at him like a rabid dog. I didn’t mean to make him cry I just wanted him to move out of the way.

I can’t be sure, but I think that I ran for at least a mile. I had forgotten I was hungry. I ducked into the first store I could find. I was out of breath so I sat down at a table. There was a news paper so I opened it up to hide behind. The headline story described the apparent suicide of crazy eyed Twirl yesterday. After being accused of blowing up the school and bombing LAX, the teen had gone into a local liquor store and shot the cashier and two customers. Instead of shooting himself, he had gone home and blew his own head off with one of the same M80’s he used to use to blow up cats. He’d left a note for all of the Libertas cult members to do the same. Since then 9 other city landmarks including the Staples Center, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Griffith Observatory had been set on fire. According to the article it was happening everywhere.

I knew then I wasn’t ever going to be able to clear my name.

I knew then this crazy leader mania was never going to go away.

I was tempted to check myself back into Novogorod, but I couldn’t for the life of me think of a reason. What good would that do? Whatever was going to happen, was going to happen no matter what I did I thought.

Why hadn’t I tried Greek food? Why hadn’t I tried more drugs? Why hadn’t I slept with every woman that made my dick hard? Why did I work so desperately all of those years for nothing but a bunch of toys and trinkets?

I could hear bells ringing.

Why was it so humid? I felt a huge raindrop hit the bill of my cap. Fuck.

So this was it. I had resigned myself. I was nothing more than a sickness someone had given the earth hoping that it would catch a big enough cold to die from. My thoughts and steps were directed, and nothing I owned was my own. Even Murph was probably a hallucination.

Or my subconscious.

“Sir, Can you hear me? Would you like to order something? Our mochachinos are great.” The coffee shop waitress was tapping her foot. I put down the paper.

No I’m fine. I stammered.

“You sure?” She asked again.

It was all over. It was over for me and Twirl and this beautiful waitress. Why not do everything I was afraid of before? I went to a rock show, why not seduce a stranger? I said to myself.

It started to pour outside. Some kids seemed relieved and started dancing around in circles.

” I don’t think what I want you got behind that counter…what’s your name?”

She turned to face me so that I could see her name tag.

Sarai.

Two drenched cops walked into the coffee shop. I knew they were looking for me, so I told the waitress to sit down.

“Hey, I’ve got other customers!” She said, sitting anyway.

I stared into her eyes.  She was extremely beautiful. And I felt like I knew her.

” Sir, listen is there something wrong?”

“Sarai, what time does your shift end?” I checked her hands. No wedding ring. No wedding ring tan line. She blushed.

” In ten minutes, why?”

The wind picked up and the cops had been given towels by the kitchen staff. They were facing the counters, back to us now, which was a perfect time for us to leave.

“Well, I know this sounds corny, but you are just so beautiful and I was hoping that if you weren’t busy, maybe I could take you out for , I dunno, a cup of coffee.?”

“Absolutely not!” She responded.

“Oh..I said, well….”

She leaned into the table and touched my hand.

“I serve coffee. How about a good old fashioned shot of whiskey and a sweet Alprazolam?” Sarai smiled.

“Do I know you?” I asked her as we sat across from each other. I hadn’t noticed how quickly we had begun holding hands.

” I thought you didn’t remember, with you being so famous and all.”  She leaned back and instinctively began wiping off the table. She had the cutest little gap between her two front teeth.

“I do know you, I’m so sorry Sarai, I just didn’t remember where from right away..” I was hoping that she would take the hint that I had no clue how  I knew her and now would be the best time to help me out with some details.

She opened her eyes wide. Blue green eyes. So familiar.

The rain was so heavy now that the droplets on the windows sounded like tiny pebbles being tossed against aluminum.

“You met me at a cyber cafe standing outside with my dog, remember? You couldn’t have been more than, a teenager then Avery, I’m not surprised that you would forget me…I’m not really all that special…” I could tell that she wasn’t pulling a Deborah- making a self depreciating comment as a way to fish for compliments. She really didn’t feel special. I imagine working as a waitress in a coffee shop would do that to you. But she was still perfectly imperfect, just like I had remembered.

” I so adored you but I don’t know what happened. We went out for like two weeks and then you just disappeared. I thought that you were dead at first, but then I realized, you just didn’t like me so…”

” Again Sarai, another cheesy comment coming your way and I know you won’t believe me, but I never stopped thinking about you. And you are special. I’m so glad that I ran into you again.”

Sarai stood up.

” I don’t know Avery, that was a long time ago” She whispered. ” I  mean you’re wanted now. People think you are crazy now. I don’t think this is a good time to get involved, do you? ”

I remembered: The rock hard perfectly shaped pearl nipples.

Fortunately the cops didn’t over hear.

“If you knew what I knew, you would know that now is the only time. I know I disappeared before Sarai, but I can promise you right now, from this moment forward, I want to be with you, and only you, until the end of the earth. And a shot of old fashioned whiskey would make my day, darling.”

She told me to wait by the back door while she clocked out and got her sweater and umbrella. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t care. It felt good. Like nothing had felt for years.

Sarai suggested for old time sake that we go to a closeby cyber cafe for a little while until the rain slowed down. She kept a flask on her of Irish whiskey, that we sipped in the rain, strolling arm in arm down the street like she had been with me for the past 15 years. I tried to pretend that as we were walking I could only hear her voice. But it wasn’t true.

I kept hearing Deborah sniffle.

We entered the cafe and set down at two virtual computer stations right across from each other. The shop was empty naturally because people had the internet on their watches now, in their cuff links, on their newspapers. the place was more nostalgic, and Los Angeles was notorious for drawing tourists from the middle of the country who loved to take their family digital photos next to out of date memorabilia.

“Do these monitors still function?” I asked the anamatron at the counter.

“Yes. You can use them for 51 credits, sir.”

“I can’t use my credits.” I informed Sarai. “Its just that…”

“Shhh I know…you can use mine.”

I loved her.  Completely.

I wanted to explain to her fully everything that was going on so I decided to look up the Alien Study group at Virginia Tech and explain backwards. The only problem is, that according to the website and the Registrar’s email, there was no such department. I knew that there was really no Murph but it had turned out that there was no such person as Big Terry either.

“Are you ok, Sarai Allison, 4587963?” The anamatron asked. She was the one using the credits, so I guess the anamatron thought I was her.

“I’m fine I replied.” I imagine my face had gone ghost white when I typed in Wes Nicholas to a search result of zero.

” You can search for whatever you are looking for at my place, If you want..” Sarai offered.

“Earlier, when you said that I was in trouble, and you understood that I couldn’t use my credits, Sarai, I have to know..how did you?”

“Avery everyone knows that you tried to blow up LAX.”

” Everyone knows Sarai?” I yell-whispered. “Everyone? Cause I didn’t know that!”

I turned to the monitor and looked up that little suicidal maniac, Twirl.

Search results: 0

“Were you on something Avery? I had just assumed that you were on something, I mean you trying to destroy all of those other monuments..It didn’t sound like you.”

“Thats because it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me, I haven’t done anything wrong.”

You’re a wanted man for starting that Libertas group! Now if we are going to be together we have to be honest with each other. When you got fired from C&C you flipped out and started that Libertas, gang. It was on all the news networks. Now if you tell me that there is not a manhunt to find all of the remaining libertas gang members, why were you hiding from the police back there?”

The rain wasn’t letting up. And the wind seemed to be blowing so fast that it was picking up small objects outside.

I could feel myself sweating.

“Sarai. I did not start Libertas. I do not have any idea what is going on. If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. I’ve been sitting here looking up people and places and things that I used to know and none of it is here, none of it even existed. I was in a psych ward for a while in a place called Novogorod. Look….” I typed in Novogorod.  The only search hit. One. some dead city in former Russia.

“See?” I told her.

“Maybe, you have had a little too much to drink. I’m so sorry, noone drinks this stuff any more, Its all  poison.”You’re probably just going to need to lie down and get a bit of rest, ok…Tell you what I’ve got a couple of things at my place you could wear and you know what you could hide out there, make a disguise or something.” She kissed me.

“Ok, Ok… you’re right Sarai, I might just be on the brink right now…Let me just check one more thing before we go, please.”

She nodded and went to put on her rain gear.

I typed in Deborah Pride30684558.

No Results Found.

 

 

Chapter 16

Life

Resurrection: The act of rising from the dead or returning to life.

 

It had taken 4 hours to get back to Sarai’s cabin in the rain. She didn’t press me to talk while we drove, and I’m glad because my head was spinning. The storm wasn’t letting up and the curvy mountain roads were even more dangerous when they were slick. Sarai drove like a pro.  I tried not to stare at her as she drove so that she wouldn’t be distracted but it was hard imagining how different my life would have been now, had I chosen to stay with her. I mean the world would still be ending of course, but would I have enjoyed my short few days in it even more?

I only had questions.

It seemed I could smell the end now on the wind of the rain. Was everything happening, just like Murph said, or had I just hallucinated it all? I mean there obviously was no Murph or Terry. Was I ever anything but a lonely overworked misunderstood man? The rain was thinning the higher we got into the hills and I felt a little bit relieved. I just didn’t understand the dreams. Or why me? Were the dreams a personal warning for me that doomsday was afoot or vision of destruction soon to come that I should share? Or was it all something I just made up to cope with my empty existence?

I only had questions.

Sarai lived north of Victorville, in the San Gabriel Mountains. Even though it was humid and storming down in LA, it was cool and dry up here, as if it were on a completely different planet.

I just couldn’t understand. Deborah wasn’t on the internet. No one with a birth certificate on earth was obscure enough that they didn’t have any information online. Even incarcerated people had Facebook pages.

Sarai’s cabin looked like something from a frontier documentary. There was no virtual television no phone lines or modems- no chips or simulated flowers. Nothing that said this cabin wasn’t built 100 years ago in the 1930’s.

The floors and walls were made out of wood that had been alive once, and the house was decorated with hand stitched afghans and rugs made out of animal hairs. All that you could see from any window was mountain ridges and trees and rocks and more mountains. There was a hole in  he wall that was all dirty and sooty, which I assumed was where real fire came from because there was burned tree limbs sitting inside. The cabin was quite secluded and beautiful. I couldn’t help but feel that that maybe I could relax here.

” I’m sure that you haven’t ever gone this long without being connected to the information superhighway Avery, so I have this little radio that broadcasts a couple of network news stations. I only pull it out when I have company and as you can imagine, I don’t really have much of that.”

She sat the radio in front of me and went into the kitchen to make some hot toddys. At that moment I felt the rush of love well up in my chest again. My grandmother used to make those, and I pretended like I had a scratchy throat every Sunday night just to get one. The warm whiskey lemon tea always made me feel safe. Maybe I had mentioned it to Sarai many years ago, I don’t know. I almost couldn’t be sure about anything and that was what worried me the most. I wanted to forget about anything before this night. I wasn’t even sure anymore if any of it mattered.

We sat on the sofa while Sarai stoked a fire, drank our hot toddys and talked for hours.

“Alright, one last question Avery, and then I’m going to bed.”

“Ok, Ok, go for it..I promise I won’t lie this time…”

“Sure…”Sarai smirked, ” Ok…If you could be anything you wanted to be and you knew that you would be successful at it, what would it be?”

I sipped from my mug and stared at her eyes.

I had done that. I thought to myself. I had become the Vice President of a Multinationalconglomerate. I had married the prettiest girl in Southern California. I had the best house the best car the best chef and even the best shrink. I had more credits than I could ever spend.

“Well?” Sarai said.

And now that life was over. I thought hard and closed my eyes but I still didn’t miss any of it. The stress and anxiety, the drugs to stay calm, the fighting over appearances was worthless.

” I would be a world famous flamenco guitar player!”

“What?” She hit me with a throw pillow. “You are such a liar!You promised you wouldn’t lie this time!”

“Right, right, “I’m sorry I teased. “Ok so I know I will be successful at it right?”

“Yes, that was the question.” She took off her slippers and curled her feet underneath her.

“I would be…your husband.”

She rolled her eyes. ” If you are not going to play fair I’m going to bed.” I grabbed her before she could get off the couch and whispered in her ear, ” I couldn’t want anything more.”

I was such a romantic. It was rather sickening.

” I’m sure that you want something more…” she said pulling off her sweater. She motioned for me to follow her into the bedroom and I did.

The one thing that I knew for certain before the end of the night was that Sarai Allison was definitely real.

 

*                                                                    *                                                                   *

Sarai’s radio had announced a major tropical storm was heading up the pacific coast and it didn’t even matter to me. I was reeling. This is what all those lonely housewives were talking about. This is what all those nerds pining over cheerleaders really wanted. This feeling. Sarai was sleeping and I couldn’t help but crawl back into the bed and watch her. Now mind you I would never tell this fruitcake shit to anyone, and I would deny it in a court of law, but the sex that she and I had made me want to stay with her, forever. It was almost like, every other sexual experience seemed distant somehow, like I was a voyeur watching porn. But if it was all happening in my mind then that makes sense…I wasn’t ever really there.

Imagine a sepia snapshot…no wait don’t…Sarai’s log cabin came equipped with an antique camera that dispensed pictures as soon as you took them. So I took 12 of her with the old film left in it and it came out looking….sepia.

Maybe I ought to explain to her whats going on I thought. She woke and stretched and smiled at me. She then leaned her naked body over to the night stand and pulled out a lighter and tiny rolled cigarette. It was for lack of a better term, cute actually. Her hair was all over her head and she had  little sweat on her neck as she let the blanket fall and took a drag.

“What is that?” I asked.

“You know those THC patches the doctor’s prescribe?”

“Of Course.”

“This is the actual plant where it comes from. A long time ago people used to simply inhale it to get the desired calming effect. So I do too. No added preservatives….. Would you like to try?”

I took my clothes off and got back into the bed. We smoked 3 of the little rolled THC cigarettes and I had felt better than I had in a while. Everything felt in perspective. I wasn’t terrified of the future.

I lay my head on Sarai’s breast caressing her nipple with my tongue while I thought. I knew I had to tell her, so I let it out.  I explained the dreams and then going to the psych ward. I told her about the ear chips and Wes and how he wanted to use me to make himself famous and how my wife left me for him. I told her all about Murph and the Outlanders and the Alien Department at Virginia Tech. I even confessed about meeting Twirl before he started the Libertas group and how I wasn’t involved with it directly- but what was necessary of all of us.

“You sure?” She asked with a scared innocence on her face.

I nodded.

“Ok.”She said, and stroked my hair. “It’s going to be ok now.”

“I can’t understand you Sarai. I mean I just told you the craziest shit possible, and you aren’t running. You don’t think I’m crazy? I mean, come on…”

“I accept you Avery.”

“Yes, but I just told you that we’re a virus. We have no real hope. We’re here to destroy this planet. Thats completely unbelievable, and yet you aren’t phased.”

“I never thought the Earth liked us.” She said, ” I mean or any animals for that matter. The ice age was totally not a nice way to treat living creatures.”

” Oh I see, you think all of this is a joke.” I grabbed the blanket to cover myself.

” No it’s just that. I know Avery. I know what its like to be dismissed. I know what its like to need love.”

” How could you possibly? I mean it looks like you did alright for yourself.”

” Yeah, well it took awhile to get on the otherside of vanity, Av. Like you said, wanting to be the best and having a bunch of bullshit, were all trained to be that way. Not everybody makes to the other side where they realize that shit,doesn’t matter, you know?”

We had real fruit in bed and listened to the radio explain that anyone on the beach needed to move inland before the storm arrived.

Sarai explained to me that after I had met her, things had gotten really hard. That she had ended up taking synthetic drugs and she became a prostitute. It wasn’t until she stopped chasing money, cars and clothes and went to a rehabilitation facility that she found a new perspective. Her grandfather had owned this cabin and left it to her along with 42 million credits. She donated credits to a woman’s shelter in town,and although she didn’t have to, worked at a coffee shop to make ends meet. She never wanted to become an ungrateful person again. I could tell that she valued being humble.

“No I get it,” She said. ” People were sent here as a disease to slowly claw away at this planet from the inside thus destroying it and ourselves simultaneously for the good of the aliens right?”

I nodded.

” Wow, I mean that means we’re like all individual little earths.”

“How so?”

“Well we’re like the earth, struggling to survive with a billion parasites growing on you and inside you trying to destroy us, giving us the flu and typhoid and cancers, amazing!”

And I accepted her. Just like she had done for me.

“It is kind of. I mean now that I understand this Sarai, its like my life never truly existed until now. All of the things I hated didn’t really exist and more importantly didn’t matter. I spent my life chasing money and status when in actually I wasn’t supposed to get comfortable here. People have inadvertently been trying destroy each other and this planet since we came on the scene. War makes sense now. Hatred makes sense now. Rape, and the destruction of natural resources, slavery it all makes sense.”

She hugged me close.

“What doesn’t make sense, is why me?”

Just then the radio announced that the tropical storm in the pacific was a hurricane headed directly up the california coast with over 100 mile winds. Beach front property had already been destroyed and the ocean was flooding the shore. Billboards were floating out to sea. Thousands had already drowned and there were no signs that the storm was going to stop anytime soon. Government rescue planes were being shot out of the sky by violent Liberatas members on rooftops. It was the beginning of the end the announcer stated and then said this would be his last broadcast.

Chapter 17

Grovel

Existence: The fact or state of continued being; life: our brief existence on Earth.

 

We hadn’t come down from the mountains for weeks. I was beginning to like the simple life, but there was so much happening everywhere. Every day a new radio announcer would describe what was going on in the city, and every night he or she would say it was their last broadcast, and some one new would be begin again the next day, detailing the horrific images of rioting and destruction- storms and death. This was no longer just happening in LA. I drank my tea fast and paced the room while I listened. It was every where now. Maybe I felt intoxicated and possibly paranoid.

I could hear Murph in my mind: You have 13 days to get to higher ground. Get someone. Anyone. Go. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to help you.

That was at least 7 days ago. And here we were, me and my new eve…in the mountains.

An announcer advised that debris such as signs, roofing material, and small toys left outside become flying missiles in hurricanes and that boarding up the windows would help you couldn’t get out.

Sarai didn’t seem as scared as I was. She sat on her mat in the middle of the cabin- practicing yoga.

An announcer advised emergency city managers did not have enough time to evacuate certain areas before the tropical winds began and many on the shore were probably already deceased.

Instead of panicking, I told Sarai that I was going into town for supplies.

She breathed deeply and nodded at me. I kissed her on the forehead and she smiled.

The winds had picked up and it was still raining out. I got in the car and drove a little ways down the hill. The wind blows hard against the back of my neck. The car started shaking and  stalled on the side of the road. I pulled over and noticed that I was out of gas. Fortunately the store was only half a mile, and I could get gas there. I grabbed the gas can and looked over the mountains. The sky was purple and darkened by fire smoke. I ran to the edge to see where it was coming from. I started thinking I was sleeping because out of my right eye I can feel tremendous heat. I couldn’t make out what was happening but it looked like a fire and chanting. It looked like a million tiny ants were dancing around the purple smoke and smiling. I knew what was next. The raindrops tickled my face. People were going to start walking into that fire. Just like the dream. I had to do something and now. I raced to the store. My legs felt like they were bleeding because I ran so hard. I was hoping for anyone who could drive us down there to help those people. I just wanted to see Sarai smiling at me once more. But I couldn’t go back.

I got to the store out of breath and nearly collapsed.

“Somebody, please help…them..”

“Whoa there son, and elderly gentleman in a frayed fishing cap said. His beard was thick and yellow from nicotine patches. His nose was red from crying, and he leaned over me with a cup of water.

“Calm down and drink this.”

Where is he from someone asked in the back. It seemed like everyone in the town over 60 was in the store. Standing around gossipping.

One woman with a firey red wig and broken reading glasses on said,” Hey did you make it up here from the storm? Are there others coming? We dont have room up here for others!”

I sat down on the ground drinking the water.

Another frail older man leaning against the door frame in a plaid shirt whispered, “My niece just got up here last night. She said that people were throwing all kinds of electronics out of their houses into the street. It was like the sky was raining laptops and cell phones she said. Apparently they started that big fire down there.

Whats crazy is those winds haven’t put it out yet…did you guys here about what happened in New York? Same thing. Big storms and fires. Everywhere.

They looked around helplessly at each other and sipped their coffee.

” I need gas.” I said. ” I need to go down there those people are dying. Aren’t any of you going to help?”

Fishing cap looked at his old crotchty buddies and they had a hearty laugh at my expense.

Red wig piped up, ” Son we are all dying. I aint going down there to die. I’m gonna die right here.”

Plaid shirt added, ” I can’t reach any of my other family. No one who aint crazy aint still down there. Those folks is toast.”

“Jimmy…Toast? You are just sick!” Fishing cap exclaimed shaking his finger at plaid shirt.”You gonna go on and scare the boy!”

“Well he is one of them big city no it alls, talking about ain’t you going to help…he’s on something Paul, he’s probably a just a rich druggie who got a little paranoid!”

” Can I use someone’s phone?! I need to call my brother please.”

“You ain’t scared to die are you? Paul asked. You want some more water?”

“No, thank you I just need a phone please.”

Red wig pushed her glasses up and said, “Hey rich druggie, you can use my phone. I hope your brother’s not dead.” She handed me her phone and sipped her coffee staring out the window, “But he probably is.”

“Delores you are just as bad as Jimmy! Come on now!” Fishing cap pleaded.

They all laughed together, enjoying the day.

Plaid shirt said matter of factly and very calmly, ” Its the end of days gentlemen. Its all gonna be over soon..Hey, now who wants some of these doughnut pills huh? Sure are good with coffee.”

“Hello?”
“Rosalita! Its so good to hear your voice, are you ok?”

“Is this Mr. Avery?”

“Yes, Rosie Hi!”

“Oh Mr. Avery you are alright! I thought that you had died! Oh Praise the Lord!”

” No I’m fine, Let me speak to the family I am sure they are worried too.”

“What are you talking about sir?”

“Are they gone? Did they get somewhere safe?”

“Who?”

“What do you mean who, Rosie what is going on? Where’s my brother?”

Rosalita paused. She was so quiet that I could hear the wind rusling against the windows at the house.

” Mr. Avery, is this some kind of a strange joke because it is horrible and not appropriate at all.”

I was baffled.

” I just want to know that they are ok is all, that is the only reason I called.”

“I am so sorry Mr.Avery I thought that you knew already. Dios Mio!”

“Knew what?”

“They are gone. I can not believe noone called you. It makes sense to me now you were not at the funeral back then. I am again so terribly sorry.”

” Back then? What are you saying Rosie? Something happened? When?! Oh my God,

this can’t be happening right now! My brother is dead?!Did he get caught in the storm please tell me, is everyone else ok?”

“Mr. Avery this is so hard. I am so sorry for you . I know you do not want to hear this from me. The whole family passed away. They died in an automobile collision ten years ago, remember? Before you got the big job I called you and Deborah said she would tell you to come to the funeral. But you didnt come. We got the flowers but not you. They gave me the house for my family in a will. Now it will  be destroyed too by this storm. I”m so very sorry Mr. Avery really I thought you knew.”

I could hear her apologizing but it sounded cold and distant. Ididn’t remember hanging up. I didn’t remember standing out in the rain. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t there.

Red Wig had snatched her phone in the middle of the call and Iwas back on the road inthe hurricane. It amazed me and I kept blinking thinking to myself this was so much like the dream that had tortured me, the end of the word. Chaos, Typhoons flood, murderous children, dancing murderers none of it was imaginary. It was happening.

I knew then I wasn’t ever going to be able to clear my name.

I knew then this crazy leader mania was never going to go away.

I headed toward the fire.

 

I woke up.

Deborah was holding my hand and crying. I was in a hospital bed plugged into tubes and wires. The doctors were conversing in the corner. The woman looked like Sarai. The man looked like Wes.

When Deborah made eye contact with me for a second. And then I think she must have fainted because her whole body disappeared.

Dr. Murphy tended to Deborah. Wes came for me.

*   *   *

“Welcome back, Pride.”

“What happened? Where am I?” I thought I asked. I felt foggy and tired but healthy and strong.

“You’ve been a coma here at Liberty Hospital.” Wes started.

I could feel myself peeing.

“A coma that has lasted, well nearly two years, so far, thank goodness.” Wes was smiling.

I was peeing.

There were wires everywhere. Wires coming from my nose and under my covers. Wires in my arms and my neck.

Imagine a sepia snapshot- guy with enough wires streaming from him he looks like a human tree.

“A coma that will continue to last for the safety of, well everyone.” Wes was mic-ed.

“I’m better aren’t I?” I seemed to say.

Deborah was wiping off her cashmere sweater and Sarai was handing her some water.

“It’s because of you that any of us are even alive, Pride.” Wes stated.

I didn’t understand.

But had I ever?

“If you ever wake up, actually wake up, the earth will be destroyed.”

 

Bourbon was the answer.

“What happened to the people?” I asked. I begged.

Sarai came over.

“Have a shot of Bourbon. I know you love the stuff.”

My mouth felt like metal. She pried it open with her finger tips and put the shot glass up to my lips.

Funny, I knew there was a reason I love this stuff.

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