Farsighted

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the near future, in a broken world sculpted by the elites, Donald Avers, a struggling father and husband, pursues a job opportunity...but not all is as it seems.

Submitted: October 30, 2016

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Submitted: October 30, 2016

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Farsighted

 

By Abel McBride Jr


















 

1


 

It was the fifteenth anniversary of the christ riots, the skies filled with busy clouds hiding away the sun. The grey shadows of morning outlined the purple hued mountains, white splotches of snowfall could be seen etched into their slopes; miles and miles away and yet a presence undeniable, even here in the middle of the city.

Donald sat outside in the cold, at a bus stop about four blocks from his apartment. The bench was painted teal, but underneath you could see the grey metal where the paint had chipped away. Built into the bench was a real estate advertisement, one with the realtors face all blown up. There was a crudely drawn penis by his teeth, donkey-esque. Don shrugged off the wind and huddled up in his jacket. He wore a brown coat, faux leather that attempted to block the wind. This city was oddly cruel with its weather in autumn; deep, dense cold made worse by the racing winds.

He sat slumped on the bench, staring down at the sack lunch in his hands. I must look like a child, ready for his first day of school. He sat up, looking around, to see if anyone had seen him in his boyish constitution. There was a steady stream of cars coming and going, but no one on this side of the road. Across the street was a man shuffling down the sidewalk, strapped into his Allegory Inc. Virtual Reality headset. Playing an Augmented Reality game, one that used the outside world as its map and environment; those were becoming increasingly popular. Don watched him make his way down the street, stopping occasionally to look around, using the response gloves to interact. The headset covered his eyes, but there were two 8K cameras on the front face of the headset; his new eyes with which to see the world.

A bus pulled up and stopped right in front of Donald, screeching and hissing and opening its doors to let out a small group of commuters. He noticed one person sporting a “Jerome was right” sweater. Why a bus stop? he wondered, and not for the first time since accepting the interview. Arden had been eager as a puppy about it, explaining how she'd met some higher-up kind of people at this party her “classmate-slash-study-buddy” had invited her to.

"This'll be good for all of us, Donnie.” she said, leaning in for a kiss that Don could never refuse. He wrapped his arms around her and looked down at her face. Arden was a good head smaller than Don, her hair a sandy haze of brown and gold. He put his nose into it and gave it a good whiff. Home, he thought, as she squeezed him back. The memory faded violently as a black sedan pulled right in front of him and gave two quick honks of the horn. The windows were a dark tint, impossible to see into. Here we go. He entered the vehicle and they flew off.

Inside was a creamy leather interior with dark wood paneling on the doors and dashboard. It smelled fresh and new. A vibrant cyan shone from the HUD that projected on the windshield. Donald looked to the driver, waiting for him to sense his gaze; he was wearing what looked to be sunglasses, although Don could see they had their own internal lens displays. A more elite version of the Allegory VR headsets, expanded functionality for a broader scope of applications, such as vehicle interfacing. Surely that's what he's doing. The driver was fashioned in a nice suit of some sort, an ashy grey coat with a black undershirt, the tailored pants the same as the coat. Donald coughed and the driver gave him the quickest of glances, before returning his attention to the myriad screens. He was speeding.

"Sorry, no talking to the clientele––" he turned the wheel left and right, gliding in and out of traffic before hitting the gas again, "I'm just the driver." Abruptly, the driver tapped a few buttons on the side panel of his glasses and music came to life; loud and fast, to match his driving.

A short ride later they came upon a small shopping plaza. The driver pulled into a parking spot in front of an office space and quickly exited the vehicle. They were much closer to the mountains Donald noted as he stepped out of the car; there was a sharp angle when one looked up at them. The mountaintops were hidden away inside an avalanche of grey; a colossal wave, frozen upon the precipice, impending. The sun had yet to find its way out of the clouds.

Their destination was placed between a thrift store called Jerry’s Things, and a mexican restaurant named El Quesito Quedito; there was no visible name or logo on the middle store front. Seeing the thrift store sparked a notion in Donald’s head, igniting old threads of thought; things left behind, feelings he hadn't felt since before Arden, before the pregnancy. I wonder if they have any––

"Come on, man. People are waiting for you,” The driver said, his hand waving Don to the door. He was still wearing his Internal Lens Display glasses. Donald chuckled and nodded as he followed the driver through the door.

Inside was a small waiting area; plastic, wine colored seats with wiry metal legs lined up against the front wall. There was a tall black front desk attended by two employees, and next to the desk was a tall green plant. It wasn’t real. At the desk was a short haired young man, with dark brows and a pronounced nose. To his left was an older woman, dark of complexion, with hazel eyes that had an amiable nature upon first glance. Her curly mane frizzled and frazzled in every direction, and it shook as she spoke. "Were you wearing those things while driving again?"

"I told you that it doesn’t affect––" She turned to Don, her curly mane swooping in the air.

"Did he drive you here with those glasses on?" she demanded. Don stood there, sack lunch in hand. Dark brows seemed unperturbed by the situation, never taking his eyes away from the screen in front of him. Tippity tap went the touchpad.

“Don’t listen to her,” the driver sighed, pulling out his phone; he flicked at the screen until the lenses on his glasses became clear and normal. The driver diverted his attention to dark brows. “As the old man has ordered, I have brought the clientele––”

"You know what he's doing under there?" She motioned a hand at the driver. "He ain’t interfacing with the car's display, oh no, he's watching some o’ that VR cuck––"

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” exclaimed the driver, hands waving through the air; Dark brows glanced up at the outburst, still typing. “Okay.” The driver cleared his throat, regaining composure before beginning again.

“Okay. Okay, here’s my question: How is that relevant in any way? These words you’ve chosen, are neither apropos nor efficient—nothing efficient about ‘em.” He adjusted his coat, toying with one of the buttons. “Bossman says to strive for efficiency, and here I see you acting completely contrarian to that.” Curly Mane chuckled, seemingly unaffected by his outburst, rather she wore a grin that Don could only describe as shit-eating. “Now I’m forced to ask myself, ‘What could lead a person to commit such an error? To undermine the boss himself––”

“All right, ‘Soliloqus’, point taken. I’m merely stating the fact thatyou watching ‘He’s Got Hair Down There: Volume Three’ while driving ain’t exactly what we––including the boss, I’m sure––would call efficient. Unless you’re trying to get the both of you killed?

Driver bristled and shot the quickest of glances over to Dark Brows, who again, seemed nary to notice the situation. Donald could feel an aura of tension binding itself to the room, crawling up the walls. Curly mane’s shit-eating-grin was...shittier. She leaned forward, resting her elbow on the desk, chin in hand. The driver took a calculated breath, walking away from the counter.

I’m here to fulfill a role.” His boots clacked against the floor in an old black-and-white-movie kind of way; cla-clack heel-toe, cla-clack heel-toe. He spun around suddenly, pointing to Curly Mane, “––as are you.” He walked back towards the desk, eyeing curly mane with a feral-like intensity. He leaned into the desk, coming close. “So please, don’t fuck this up. You know how important this is to head honcho.” Curly Mane’s lips went pouty. The slight movement made her hair giggle.

“Guess I missed my cue, huh?” Driver shook his head, as if offended.

“You’re becoming unprofessional, Katherine. How completely inappropriate of you to act this way,” He glanced over at Don. “Especially in front of clientele.”

Dark brows broke in, "That's not a client. He's replacing Brandon." Curly mane looked over at Don, while the driver looked away, visually perturbed; he flicked at his phone. Donald noted a sense of boredom in the man’s tone as Dark brows continued, "The boss wants to see both of you." He motioned with his head towards a door behind him, never taking his eyes off the screen. Kat was watching Don, closed lip smiling. What just happened? Donald thought, as the driver started heading towards the back.

"What'd you bring for lunch?" she asked, only half-joking. Don began to reply when the driver said, “She doesn’t care—come on.” and went through the door. He nodded at the two before following.

The door led into a small white hall, with three more doors on the right. The driver walked to the last door and swiped a card; a keypad materialized on the touch screen to the right of the door, and he input a sequence of numbers.

“Now, listen, don’t say shit until the boss speaks to you.” What is this place? Don wanted to ask, but the door slid open and in they went. Inside was a relatively dank cement stairwell, the standard fire extinguisher placed on the adjacent wall. The driver made his way up the steps, Don following. The stairs went up for sixteen steps, before turning right ninety degrees and going up another sixteen. The stairs plateaued into a well-lit hallway, leading to a final door.

The carpet down the hall deadened the driver’s old-movie-clack aesthetic; it was a muted shuffle now. Exposed piping, running along the ceiling, emitted a low hum. The door looked to be made of some exotic wood; korina was Donald’s first guess. It was a fringe thought, meant to distract himself from what was shaping up to be a strange situation. The driver walked up to the door and gave it a unique knock that consisted of quick knuckle rolls and finger taps. In the waiting, Don looked up and saw a small security camera in the corner. The automatic lock reacted and Driver opened the door.

Inside was a lavish looking desk with a wooden finish akin to a cello; two vacant chairs sat in front of it. The carpet from outside the door continued into the office.The back wall was entirely bookshelves, deftly organized by book height. Not one book was out of place. Two ultra-wide displays sat on each corner of the desk, facing towards the imposing figure; in the middle was a perched tablet. The man behind the desk had a black, skin-tight response glove on his right hand, sliding and tapping against a screen built into the desk; he flicked, tapped, and typed again before looking up at Don and the driver. He took a deep breath from his nose and sat back into his chair, folding his hands together in his lap. He was looking directly at Donald—right into his eyes. Don had trouble reading the expression on the man’s face; it was a strange mix of quiet observation and…he couldn’t place it. At the end of the man’s out breath, he spoke.

“Sit”, he said, still staring into Don’s soul with his pale blue eyes. The driver casually walked over to the left chair, Don taking the right. Aside from the displays, the only light came from a small window above the bookshelves, cutting through the room. It reminded Donald of his youth, when he would go see a movie with his friends and look up to see the shining beams of the film projector. The immaculate bookshelves, the ray of light projecting the sun’s slow ascension in the sky and the luminosity of the screens creating patterns upon the tall man’s face; all of it came together and stirred something inside Don...a dash of fear, mixed with the vertigo of not knowing one's immediate future. Keep it together, Don thought to himself, the brown bag ruffled in his hands as he shifted in the chair. The driver sat patiently, unaware and outside of the experience.

Finally the tall man broke his gaze, grabbed the tablet from the desk and began. “Mister…”, he glanced down at the screen, “Donald Avers. I apologize for the brevity of this meeting and for the bluntness of my words...but my time is short, and my foresight of the situation dictates that I set off this…”, he did a slight shrug with the tablet in his hands, “bomb, of sorts, right now—rather than letting the situation explode at a time of, well, your choosing. A choice that, more often than not, leaves us––that is to say, the company I work for and all its associates––in a precarious position.” His tone betrayed tedium. Don was lost. I thought this was a job interview?

“Yes, yes...I see the confusion on your face. Too plainly I might add, you’ll have to work on that for the––”

“Wait wait wait,” Don finally butted in,“what the hell are you talking about? A bomb?” Tall man made a face, but Don was too inside of himself to try and interpret its meaning, although he knew what he felt: apprehension. The tides of anxiety began to rise. Tall man began again, speaking slower, but with the same listlessness.

“No. There is no...bomb. Forgive my wording. I’m merely speaking of your reaction to the information I am about to give you. And, seeing as how I’ve never met you before, I have no way of calculating how you will take this...news.”

Don’s mind stilled entirely. Tall man took a breath. “Your wife––a Mrs. Arden Avers––is currently having an affair with our boss...the man you now work for.”

The words flowed into him, rolling around a few times before realization set in. Don balked and sat back into the chair, craning his head upwards. His neck popped at the atlas vertebra, sending awareness down his spine. He looked up at the light splitting the room and could see the dust motes floating through the air—a final moment of solace, like an archer poised before the arrow is loosed.

His mind then took off, launching thousands of thoughts all at once and in every direction. He sat there and watched the thought processes arc and soar through his mindscape, crashing and ricocheting off one another, spreading the fires of revelation and consequence. Not only was he receiving first time information of his wife’s infidelity, but he also felt the ensnarement behind the words. The man I now work for. It was all coming together right now; the new job, the “Study-Buddy”, Arden. Fucking fuck. He wondered how far back it stretched.

The driver had pulled out his phone earlier, trying to distract himself from the huge vibrational cloud that was amassing from Donald. Tall man sat patiently, knowingly; glancing at the screens from time to time, a tap here and a swipe there.

Don didn’t know what he felt; his anticipation of the job and the potential roads he envisioned––the future paths for his life––were all working in contrast with the unconscious internalizing of this disclosure. The calamity of convergent feelings had yet to take full effect. He was, in a word, stunned.

All roads of thought now led to nothing but horror, pain, loss. Thinking provided no comfort, no exit from the harsh lashes of internal revelation. Deep down, somewhere inside, he understood more than his stunned self could currently grasp; and with each lash he could feel the light within choking.

“I can see you understand,” Don’s eyes flashed to the old man, “that your anger would be misplaced here, with me or with this man. A lesser man would have given in to his baser urges, resorting to a sort of abject violence—a childish gesture. But I can see that you...you are different. You grasp not onto what has been, but rather look forward to what comes next—and in this, I can assure you, we are here to help. From this...unfortunate circumstance, there is still opportunity. A chance to start again. We can give you new purpose. Our boss is very kind to those who assist with...his needs. And understand this: we here, in this building, are the tip of the spear to such needs. Needs that are to be dealt with...”, he shrugged that sorry shrug again, “in a different fashion. With discretion. Efficiency. And sometimes...with smite.”

Don wasn’t taking any of it in anymore. Thoughts previously launched into the abyss of mindscape returned, infused with ego: She’s...She’s fucking...Other people...Fucking. Other. People. How long? Even before this return to college phase? Cunt ass tuition––

“I can see you’re perturbed, and in anticipation...we have a gift.” He passed an envelope across the desk. “A crude gift, to be sure, but this is the sort of kindness given to those up to the task of assisting with the boss’...needs. Whatever they might be.”

Don found himself staring at the tall man, his mouth slightly open. He glanced down at the open envelope in his hands. Inside was a credit card, colored with the likeness of a scarab beetle—that ever changing green-blue. And next to that, raw cash. An uncommon sight nowadays, after The Great Bank Amalgamation of 2033, bringing with it the statute for unified currency, all digital. Physical tender was to be traded in at 1:1.2 value, as encouragement.

This denotes transactions that take place outside of the eyes of the banks. Transactions of an illegal nature. Donald felt oddly calm, aside from the hot pincer reminder of my-wife-is-fucking-other-people.  

“Now, the inevitable question is this: Are you willing to put aside your wife’s choices, your emotions towards those choices, and start anew?”

The stuttered echo-ings of the word “cunt” bounced through Don’s mind. He could almost see it. Half of his awareness was being used to dam the waters of hate. He managed a slow nod. The old man was staring hard at him, noting the clenched jaw and tight muscles of Don’s face. Donald could feel the judgement, but had no will to interpret the why of it. Don was still losing the battle for equanimity, his mind relentless with its mental computations. She never loved you, fucking waste of space. Who knows where she went while I was at work. Can’t fucking see what's happening right in front of you. “Going back to fucking school”. Of all the infinite mistakes you’ve made, how could you think she was any different? Idiotic down to the tiniest iota.

The barbarous thoughts circled around again and again, each time tearing more and more through his failing composure. She doesn’t care about our marriage. She doesn’t care about you anymore. She never did. There was no love, only the love of the fuck. She doesn’t care about you. She doesn’t care about our child. And one thought came unbidden, reaching the surface of awareness from the depths: Neither do I. Donald’s eyes began to well. The driver coughed suddenly, unable to ignore the chaotic vibrations in the room. He looked over to the tall man; they shared a look. The tall man acknowledged flatly and clapped his hands together before speaking.

“Very well. With your acceptance of the position, we are done here. The supposed ‘red tape’ can start tomorrow. Once again, I apologize for the manner and execution of this situation. Change can be...painful, but it is our hope that the gift we have given you will make the process a bit less excruciating.” He stood up, extended his hand towards Don. Reluctantly, Donald stood up and shook the tall man’s hand. A smile materialized on the man’s face; long, unsettling, and fake, fake, fake. “Now go home and relax, Mister Avers. Jason here will drive you back to your place of living, and we can begin the real work tomorrow. Forget your woes for this day, and enjoy your newly acquired freedom. You’ll find that credit card will more than cover whatever expenses you may have.”

Don stood there looking at the ground through tears, trying to listen and remain present, despite the unending onslaught of negativity generating from within. Tall man threw some vigor to his tone: “This is a good thing, Mr. Avers! You’ve made it through the fire, quelled it from within, and now,” he paused with intention, making Donald look up at his face, “you can begin again, like the phoenix of fable.”

Something in the way the tall man spoke reached Donald, breaking through the mental roarings. And almost just as suddenly, they subsided. Everything around him became quiet, his inner-self tired from the dance of self-abasement. He acquiesced to the moment, and followed Jason towards the door. As they headed out, the tall man gave his final bit, “We’re looking forward to working with you, Mr. Avers. You’ll be a fine replacement for Brandon.” Don gave his best attempt at a smile, and turned back to the door. Jason was holding the door open for him, the light beaming directly on his face. Luckily, the internal lens displays on his sunglasses were on, and he was unaffected. As Don walked out of the room, Jason and the tall man gave each other one final look of acknowledgement before Jason shut the door.

The tall man sat back down and stared at the two empty chairs for a moment.  “Feh.” The word was a projectile coming from the man’s mouth, his hand gesture dismissive. He shrugged off the strange, familiar energy before returning to his duties.

Don opened the door that led back into the front office, hugging the items in his hands. He had no strength to face the other humans, but there they went––

“Sooo....how did it go?” Katherine with the curly mane asked, all grins. Don couldn’t respond. The images inside were getting clearer and increasingly more vulgar. Skin on skin. Epidermal friction. Arden’s moaning bouncing through his skull in adulterous rhythms. All to this mysterious conductor’s cock. My new Boss. It was all he could do to keep from weeping. Jason, in a strange show of compassion, stepped in: “Alright, alright. The man’s been through enough. He doesn’t need your extra goadings.

“Who’s goading? I just asked the man a simple question.” She flipped her hair. “Here, let me simplify it foryou, so that we all know there ain’t no subtextual happenings...happening.” She gave Jason a face, and went on, “Did you get the job, Mr. Avers?”

Don was immediately stirred to awareness, staring hard at Katherine. That closed lip smile again. She knows my name. She must know the situation. It was a rare moment of insight. Suddenly he knew…that they all knew. Fuck. It was all that could be conjured. He had no strength left to face any of it. He walked out the front door, the bell chiming his exit. Jason watched Donald leave, and turned back to Kat. He shook his head, reaching for his phone. Kat was quick to the punch.

“Get the fuck off your porn for a minute and tell us what’s happened.” A wry smile materialized on Jason’s face before putting his phone away. He took off his glasses, and looked directly at Katherine. Dark brows continued to type. Tippity tap.

“You know, all you have to do is ask if you want some porn, Kat. No need to play the false-prude, denying that base desire we all have.” She sat back into her chair, crossing her arms, exuding sass. “My guy over at The Brown Eye has all the newest POVR’s, both men and women perspectives. You can get fucked by celebrities, aliens, fictional characters—fucking super heroes for crying out loud. Or, if you need that real physicality, you can go into one of their ‘glory rooms’ in the back—get really nasty. Just don’t take off that headset little kitty, otherwise you might find your partner to be considerably less fantastic than you’ve imagined. Or, you know, we could just skip all this bullshit and I could fuck you—you like being choked, right?”

All she had for a response was a thick, healthy laugh. Her head flew back in a jolting fashion, and her body undulated satisfaction. After a long hearty sigh, she said, “Come on Jason, tell us what the fuck happened already.”

Dark brows looked up and sat back in his seat. Jason’s shit-grin subsided as he looked out the windows, making sure Donald was nowhere within earshot. This made Kat chuckle again. He cleared his throat, “He’s replacing Brandon, allright? No-the-fuck-thanks to you.

Katherine rolled her eyes, “Oh so we’re still talking in code, huh?”

Jeeezus you’re a cunt when you haven’t had any.No wonder I can barely stand you outside of the ‘lith.”

Katherine chuckled defiantly, “I’m the cunt? Who can barely keep it together when something unexpected happens? Not me. Not battle-tank over here. You. You almost broke the whole charade by throwing a temper tantrum right in front of him. Calling me a cunt. Now who’s the one that sounds like they need a fix?”

Jason flipped his shades back on and pulled out his phone, reactivating the applications on his ILD’s, replying, “Whatever.”

A damp cloth of tension sat on the room; Dark brows spoke in the silence, “So...are you going tonight? To the ‘lith?

“That is the plan,” replied Jason.

“...Don’t forget the snoak, alright?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. How else do you think I’m supposed to tolerate a night with that bozo?”


 

***


 

The clouds overhead continued to mingle, grey holding its dominion over the day. Jason stepped outside and looked around expectantly, but found no one. He turned towards El Quesito Quedito. Upon entering, he heard the farting, staccato rhythms of a mariachi trumpet bleating through the air. The usual two cooks were singing along to the music, flipping and frying away in the back. An elderly couple sat at one of the yellow booths, enjoying their lunch, and there was Ben the regular, short for Benicio. As Jason turned to leave, Benicio called after him, “Orale! Jaysuhn! Let me borrow those glasses right quick!” Jason was already heading to the other store, hoping to find Don inside, a slight panic rising within him.

Upon entering, Jason heard, “Well, well! If it isn’t J-son of Spartax! How’s it been, my friend?”

“All right. Did a man come in here? Brown jacket?”

“Oh yeah. He came in and asked me if I had any comic books. Strange, huh? It’s been what, twenty years since print ended?”

“And?” Jason inquisited. The shop owner balked.

“Come on man, give me more credit than that––I got like, six of those long box things way in the back, by the print books.”

“You still got books?” That made the shop owner laugh.

“That’s right, you’re young. Probably never even held a damn book, much less read one.”

“Hey, I’ve read books before. There’s hundreds on sale digitally on the Allegory Inc. VR store.” The shop owner turned away, waving his hand in the air.

“I’ll have nothing to do with this Allegory Corporation, or any of this virtual technology. Not after what they did.” The shop owner pointed to the wall, there hung a bloody crucifix. “Not after how they treated us.”

“That’s right––I saw something on one of my feeds––today is the anniversary of all that, Pie Corporation and The Banking Amalgamate, Priest Jerome and The Christ Riots––”

“Disgusting actions, contrived by the corporatocracy. Horrendous acts against the people.” Jason shrugged.

“Hey man, the world’s fucked. I’m surprised it took the desecration of a religious movement for you to see it.”

“That was more than religious desecration...that was a blight on humanity.”

“Maybe. Let me guess, you’re an abstainer as well?”

“Of course! That was the whole point of the protest marches!” Two women perusing through the clothing racks looked over at the shouting shop owner; another patron reared his head out of the appliance aisle. The shop owner put on his best smile and waved at the people.

“My apologies, Jerry, I didn’t mean to get you going.” The shop owner spoke with his hands, shaking his right hand at Jason, turning away.

“It’s not your fault Jason...it just still hurts. I lost my son in those riots. Damien was his name. He was in New York...when it happened.” The shop owner shook his head. “When we didn’t hear word from him for months, his wife couldn’t take it anymore. She was convinced he was still alive, ‘fighting the good fight’. I tried to make her understand––tried to eliminate such an infectious idea. But she wouldn’t have it.

“One day, she upped and left—no word, no warning. I could give a lick––don’t get me wrong, I was fond of Shae, but not after she took my grandson. Instead of leaving him here with me, she took him along on her fool's errand. To this day, I still have no idea where any of them are. I don’t know where my son’s body is, I don’t know where my grandson is––whether he’s even alive.” He choked up on the last word, letting out a quiet sob.

Jason wasn’t listening, he had five active sub-screens going—he could barely even hear the old man, the glasses also acting as bone conductors; lip-read technology captioned the man’s words onto one of the sub-screens. Jason looked at the compromised shop owner with the sounds of moaning and deep thumping bass reverberating through his skull.

“Hey, uh, listen, I’m sorry about all that, Jerry. Really. No one should have to go through that, especially a guy like you––oop, one sec, sorry.” Jason put two fingers to his ear, as though receiving a message. After what he deemed to be long enough––seven gyrations of the scissoring lesbians in sub-screen three––he nodded his head, “Yes sir. Right away, sir. I’m sorry Jerry, I’m gonna have to cut this short.  Just got an incoming from the boss, gotta head out––”

The bell on the door chimed, and an old man walked into the store—Jason took this opportunity to jettison towards the back. He focused on sub-screen four as he walked, watching a gladiator-type deathmatch; he tapped on his phone, upping the bet amount displayed in the corner of the screen. Jason turned the corner, around a bookshelf, and found Donald on the floor, legs crossed, flipping through a long rectangular box. Jason could see four or five comic sleeves taken out of the box, pulled aside for assured purchase.

Don no longer looked troubled, nor did he give off that toxic energy from earlier. Instead, he was simply there, in the beats of his eyes and fingers, sifting through the books. Jason watched for a second, thought of interrupting, when a loud cheering emanated in his bones; he returned his attention to the sub-screen, and saw his champion impaled by a Spear. “Fuck”, he whispered to himself. He turned hollered towards Don as he walked toward the door, “I’ll be in the car.”

Don heard the clack of Jason’s boots trail off as the bell on the door chimed. I know he’s far too young to read yet, but I think he’ll like these. Give him a piece of my childhood. A soft whimper of gratitude flowed through Donald; a tragic sense of “Thank you” to the world and all its exploits. Here he was, his life deconstructed with a few sentences, all he knew false and all he hoped for lost, and yet...this place was here. For me. To see. To understand.

It all happened so fast, this now broken life of his. He looked back to its inception; a show at the local brewery, the all-encompassing good vibe that permeated the crowd. Arden’s mysterious, hypnotic energy coming from across the room. The eventual coming together of their bodies to the music. The primal love making. I threw my self away, all that I loved, all that I hoped for. I cashed it all in and banked on Arden. And now here I am. Yet, despite the hate-mining of old memories his mind insisted on cataloguing, Donald felt no real negativity towards Arden. He took a deep breath in, closing his eyes and holding the moment to himself, bringing the world to nothing but…the out breath.

Donald looked around and saw that there were a few more people in the book section; three girls were digging through the other long boxes together, and an older man perused the religious section. The girls chatted away as the sounds of fingers flipping through comics were interrupted by the occasional gasp, or “look at this one”, or some snide remark about a certain writer.

Amidst this life, an old television played episodes of a super-hero cartoon show from Don’s childhood. As the animated heroes clashed and triumphed for no one in particular, Don returned his attention to the box in front of him and continued his search.



 

2


 

It was an hour later when Donald exited the thrift store and headed towards Jason’s car. Jason had no qualms about Don’s lackadaisical want to return home, especially after the news he had received. This was to be expected. Jason was in the car, laid back in a sleeping position. He was wearing a VR unit on his head; it was a circum-aural and circum-cranial unit, for deeper immersion. He had some response gloves on, but his hands were simply folded in his lap. Don could see none of this of course, due to the dark tint of the windows.

Don opened the car door and recoiled upon first glance, seeing Jason laid out with some sleek, round helmet thing on his head. He saw that Jason was still fully clothed, and breathed a sigh of relief as he entered the car and shut the door.

“Man, I thought for a second there you were doing one of those immersi-fap VRs, with the self-heating, self-lubricating fauxcunt and everything. Glad to see that’s not the case!” It was Don’s attempt at humor, and it fell on deaf ears. Jason was still entwined with his VR Unit. Still riding the high from the comic sifting, Don smiled and tapped Jason on the shoulder. Jason slid off the head unit and put it in the back seat.

As Jason removed the response gloves Don repeated his statement. Jason forced a laugh and said, “I was watching a live gladiator tournament in this crazy fucking detailed gladiator arena. I was on the sidelines, lined up in a literal queue, waiting for my turn to fight. Other people were chatting, changing their gear sets, sharing live-streams of other VRs, other games. The sand looked so good. There’s other people in the crowd watching, betting, fucking. It's like a second life in Rome—you can do all kinds of delinquent shit.

“The best part though is the god's eye view, since the lack of the omnitread limits me from walking around, you know? I can get right in on the action, swoop in and watch from above, below, wherever. Makes me feel otherworldly.” He smiled and let out a long sigh of contentment. “Say what you will about this shitty existence, but damn do we have some cool fucking toys to keep us amused. It’s like, the shittier the state of our lives, the better the things we make to tolerate this weird world become.”

Don stared at him with a strange appreciation slapped on his face, to which Jason responded with a shrug. Before Don could empathize and say, “like the fap-thing?”, Jason threw on some music, pulled the car out and sped off.

As good as Donald felt back in the memorabilia store, it was all but gone by the time Jason pulled up to the apartment complex. The inexorable confrontation was near, and Don feared for his actions, where they might take him. He tried to recall the feeling from earlier, when he wasn’t mad at Arden, to no effect. All he could see was her face, her closed lip smile that could mean anything—and within the display of her face, like a film projection, he could see movement;the rhythmic jauntings of a hot fuck. Donald Avers was not a violent man, yet most men have a short fuse when it comes to their ego, their possessions, their women. Even the most well adjusted man can blow a fuse when his inner sanctum is sacked, when all he has known is laid false before him.

Jason pulled into a parking spot, right outside of the apartment. The implications of this were not entirely lost to Don, but he was too busy worrying about Arden and the shape of things to come. Jason turned down the music and attempted to lighten the mood.

“You want my advice? Don’t go in there. Take that credit card old man Tarkin gave you, and go have some fun. Forget about this shitty situation.” Silence from Don. Jason pulled out a wax pen, took a long pull. He offered it to Don, who refused, so he took a few more puffs. The music washed over Jason, as did the tetrahydrocannabinol. The smooth, downtempo track grooved away in half-time. Donald was...sitting there.

Jason began again, “Personally, I can't imagine what you're going through—I never get attached.” He took a puff, his next words thick with smoke, “Idiotic, in my opinion. You're only building a shit dam that's coming down sooner or later.” His voice trailed off as he looked over to the apartment and blew out the rest of the hit. Donald was frozen with indecision. He watched the play of the vapor against the windshield.

“And kids. Hah! You know, I heard some bullshit from my friend the other day. He said that since The Banking Amalgamate owns and runs all the hospitals, that they’re beginning to filter the offspring. Like, you know, choose the cream of the crop—based on their genetic background and predisposition. That they even go as far as to bribe some mothers into aborting their child. ‘Kinda “Master Race” bullshit is that?”

He took a hard drag, the muscles in his neck constricting. He was on a roll and suddenly felt very much like talking—the limonene terpenes doing their work. His next thought began before his mouth left the pen, the sentence coming out quick and surrounded by vapor smoke. The smoke blew into Don’s face.

“––randhere we are, not doing a fucking thing. But we don’t care because we have our VR’s. Infinite pleasures at the drop of a life. Get off at a moment's notice. Need some self worth? The catharsis of life achievements, scripted and on sale—for a premium.” Another pull from the pen. “There’s entire religious sects amending their doctrines to include psycho-active substances—people finding God through hallucinogens. People achieving immortality through 360 degree, 16K cameras, recording their every thought and nuance for virtual posterity. Krapp’s worst fuckin’ nightmare.”

Don was blank faced. “I’m just sayin that people are too busy to care now. There’s so much to be distracted by, no one’s concerned about the under workings of the corrupt anymore. ‘They’ve given us so much, how could we be anything but grateful?’ Hah!” Another drag. “I mean shit, the Banking amalgamate showed their true colors during those jesus riots, as far as I’m concerned. The straight militant response to those jesus freaks, the insane escalation. Innocent people murdered in their homes.” He shrugged, shaking his head, “ I was like, ‘how could our own government allow these atrocities to happen?’” The vapor rolled up to the ceiling window of the car, creating a mushroom shape as it spread out along the glass.

“Then it hit me.” He waved the pen around like a wand, emphasizing each word. “They wanted that stuff to happen.” Jason contemplated the concrete steps outside. “Or should I say...they were cool with it happening. It was to their benefit. After that, shit, I realized this was all a complete fuckin’ charade, man. I saw what the Amalgamate––and by extension, the people that run our country––were saying: ‘Be at ease, rabble dabble dooskies. Here are your toys. Now, fuck off while we play at our games of power. We won, remember?Fall in line. Find fulfillment here, in the virtual, in the almost.’” Jason took another deep drag. “After those jesus riots, shit, you know the Amalgamate is just looking for ways to thin out the herd even more. Any excuse.” There was an extended silence. Jason thought he had made a point somewhere, he hoped. He offered the pen to Don once again. Donald refused, speaking up instead, “So what is there to do, then? Go volunteer at local rehabilitation homes? Where do I put my intent?”

“Ha-hah!”, Jason chanted, elbowing Don in the side. “Well that’s not up to me at all. You’ve gotta do your thing, you know?” Don became aware of his pulse quickening. “The world is broken, so you gotta get yours. Is that your thing? Does helping poor, dumb, junkie folk get you off? I’m not saying it like that—but you know what I mean? Do...your thing. Whatever it is.” Jason took another puff. “See, that’s the thing everyone forgot; you’re just supposed to get it...unless of course, you know, getting it to you is, like, murdering people ‘n shit. Then maybe––I don’t know. I don’t know.” He shook his head. “It’s that harm-none thing. In an ideal world, everyone would realize that violence is not a necessary form of action—like, ever really, anymore. You know? Like, go get off on some samurai VR you, fucking, weird fuck. I don’t know––hey, this fucking pen right?––I don’t know. It’s just sliding out right now. I don’t know.”

“I...can see what you’re getting at, Jason.”

Jason grinned, full teeth. His ILD glasses were still on his face. “Yeah?”

“Actually, it’s funny you mention the whole “do your thing” thing, because––”

“You don’t want the job?”

“No, no, it’s not that. It was the, uh, thrift store from earlier.”

Jason had no response other than laying back in his seat.

“See, I used to dabble a bit in drawing, when I was younger. My mom used to be a painter, when she was alive.” Donald scratched his head. “Anyway, I uh, just like that kind of stuff—drawing, art. It doesn’t stress me out like everything else does. Doesn’t make me worry about the future, brings me back to momen––”

Jason sat up in his seat, tapping the side panel on his shades. “Hey, you like hallu’s? My buddy Manny has been trying to push this new thing called Jelly Maker. Er, wait. Jelly of the Maker? Anyway, got some sample hits here in the back if you wanna try it out. Just, you know, chill here and space out. You’ll forget who the fuck you are, man...colors blend, edges dissolve. It’s like the jello grants vision of the primordial sea of energy.”

“Sounds...pretty fun.” Don said unconvincingly.

“What? Oh wait I see—you’re looking for something else. You’re not trying to shut in all day! You’re trying to spend that money! Party! Drugs! Revenge Cunt!”

Don laughed at the enthusiasm.

“Tell you what, come with me tonight and I'll take you to this…” he looked at the pen he held in his hand, shrugging, “club...sort-of-place. Where you can find anything you want: drugs, women, boys, toys. And all kinds of VR shit: avatar fuck trains, celebrity gang bangs, edge villas, vacuum tight pleasure beds. Or, you know, normal shit. Whatever you need man...it’ll just cost you some of that sweet tender.”

He had a stupid grin on his face. Don could see Jason’s compassion breaking through, and he was grateful for it.

“Sounds like a good time, Jason, but…” he looked out the window and saw a few kids playing outside, strapped up in VR units, tossing nothing at one another. “There’s some things I need to settle first. Someone I need to talk to.”

“What? You wanna deal with that right now?”

“I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself otherwise, with this still hanging in the air. I need to talk to my wife. About where we are. Where we stand.”

Jason turned away and rubbed his nose with the top of his index finger in a pointing fashion, trying to hide his frustration; Don followed the gesture, making him look out the window at...nothing. “If that's how you're feeling, Avers, go right ahead. You know it doesn’t bother me—but you should at least take one of these.”

Jason reached in the back and grabbed a bag. He sifted through it for a minute before taking out a tiny, plastic box. Inside the box were some little square pieces of paper. On that paper, a new untested hallucinogen, known as Jelly of the Maker. He handed one to Donald.

“You don’t have to take it right now, especially since you’re about to...yeah. But hey, like old man tarkin said, feel free to let loose, man. You don’t have to be tied down by your woman, or any of those obligations anymore.” Speaking of Arden brought Donald back to his state of anxiety, but he wanted to leave this on a good note.

“I’ll keep that in mind, Jason. Thanks again for the...well, for everything. For the ride, for the talk, for the drugs.”

“Ah––uh, don’t thank me. Don’t mention it. But hey, if you find yourself with some free time today, put that little square on your tongue, and coalesce with the superstructure.  I’ll come pick you up tomorrow morning and then we can really get you started with things.”

“Cool. Thanks agai––”

“I said don’t thank me.” Donald felt Jason turn off completely, throwing the car in reverse and waiting silently for him to leave the vehicle. Donald gave him a silent nod, wondering what he said to make the guy upset, and exited the vehicle. As he walked up the concrete steps he turned around, hoping for maybe a wave of acknowledgment from Jason, but no such event arose.

The clouds were now blue and near to bursting, their underbellies pierced by the mountain peaks. Actual depth and definition could be seen in the mountains if one ventured a look; treetops scattered about in large concentrations all along the face side. The mountain tops could finally be seen, a green outline that cut through the bleak grey. There was a dampness in the air, a sort of calm before the storm. As don walked to complex B, apartment 112, he stopped to watch the children play. Two kids jumped and juked and dodged each other, breathlessly laughing and screaming and running, while two other kids sat on the side with headsets of their own, cheering the combatants on. He watched for a minute or two, knowing full well how he avoided entering his apartment.

As strange as this day had become, it was only at this very moment when Donald felt as though he had made a mistake. I should’ve taken up Jason on his offer. Fucking shit. He imagined a scenario in which he had joined Jason, the two of them trading lines of snoak, drinking. He imagined himself rage-fucking some woman, digging his fingers into her love handles(in his mind’s eye she was fat). Thrusting and thrusting and thrusting, staring at her wild bush. Locking eyes. Her makeup running, making her look like a sweaty clown. The breathless laugh-gasps of Jason watching, snoaked out of his mind––there was a drop. Don felt it run down his forehead. There was another drop, and then many more as the pattering of the rain pulled Don’s mind out of the hypothetical, and back to the now moment. He shook his head, washing away the what-if, and headed towards his apartment, pulling out his keys. Here we fucking go.

All the earlier attempts to downplay the situation seemed laughable now to Don as he turned the lock. I’ll play the sly game, catch her in her own web of lies. Catch her with her pants down. He took a breath and threw open the door. Immediately he knew neither Arden or the baby were here. The apartment was silent, dead. He looked around and noticed things were missing. Not much, mostly things for the baby. Donald was not the smartest man, but he managed to put two and two together. Of course she’s not here. Why stay in this shit hole when you’re fucking some Kingpin? This threw Donald into an even deeper fit of anger, knowing he’d been fooled again; he felt the pawn, discovering he had no play and that damn near everyone else was dancing around him.

He had the raw inclination to break something, and so launched his keys across the room, aiming for the window. The keys hit the drapes instead, completely deadening the sound of impact. Fuse gone, Donald lunged towards the black couch in the living room and slammed his left foot into it. The couch gave way too easily, and Don’s leg penetrated the lining. Pain registered as he fell into the couch, the cheap wooden frame tearing at his pants. He recoiled from the piercing and tripped over himself, landing hard on the wooden floor. His leg was still inside the couch, twisted and contorted in the frame. He wanted to scream. He did scream—all whilst imagining Arden and some huge, shadowy male figure slamming each other into orgasmic oblivion. His mind provided the visuals as his screams comprised the score to the marionette charade that was his life.

As with any outburst, the calm came later. It was around two in the afternoon when Don first arrived home; now, it was closer to two in the morning. Plastic beer containers were all about the living room. He had taken that “Jelly of the Maker” hallucinogen five hours earlier. The effects he felt were minor; there was a slight come up and giddiness in the first hour, with vision becoming shaky and jagged for a while, but it had plateaued and subsided by now. He could still feel it in his stomach, but the beer helped take his awareness off of it.

A long box sat on the floor with its top off and half of the contents removed. Heralded runs of days gone past lay scattered across the wooden floor; Don sat amongst the piles, eyes glossy and nostalgic. This here, this is life. All these wonderful stories with larger-than-life characters, yet still so human at the very core. The purest nectar of human connection and experience, hidden deep within this world of art and idea. This is what I abandoned, all for...what? Arden? The baby? A sense of purpose in life? The whole “get married, have a family” bit? I can’t provide for a family. I can barely provide for myself.


 

***


 

Life was nothing but a struggle these days, especially for one such as Don; too simple for these harder times. The cutthroat aspect of getting by has only worsened since the coming of The Great Bank Amalgamation and all the changes it wrought upon the country. The Banking Amalgamate was a corporate force, a machine of power; an infallible policy maker, entrenched in the workings of the federal government.

The Substance Standardization Act of 2035 had little-to-no positive effect on the lives of the middle-class, as the juggernaut that is the Banking Amalgamate reaped all those benefits. Indeed, with the establishment of the Banking Amalgamate, corruption became a closed loop. Those in power feeding their own schemes, and the Banking Amalgamate laundering all “dirty” digital transactions; a monopoly game where the banks were now the players, moving money amongst themselves and each other, maintaining in the barest sense of the word, “free enterprise”. The cleverest and wealthiest held each other up, while the common man was reduced to nothing but the “experimental group”, to be poked and prodded for study, and eventually, control. It happened right in front of our faces. The disgusting ambitions of the corporate ruling class realized with their new legislation machine.

Armed with their infallible money scam, the Banking Amalgamate transformed the idea of control; it originated from research within, studying the patterns in the numbers—the ethos in the logos. They found that capitalism as a motivating factor worked for those inclined towards such aspirations—those who chose to adapt and thrive in the wake of corporate choke-hold. Yet, more than half of the country cared little for money, or even the clout that came with wealth; it was the “comfort” that the money provided. So they laid down a plan, a plan which would finalize the transmutation of the people into the ideal “bovine rabble”.

The first edict was the legalization of all drugs. From barbiturates to hallucinogens, Schedule I to Schedule V, all drugs became defined, measured, regulated. Taxed. Affordable. Available to all. Escalation was inevitable, but the Banking Amalgamate planned for this contingency, calling it a “Moral Culling”. The various denominations, bought and paid for, reiterated these words to their followers, adding religious fervor to the fire. Violence in the country had a sharp upheaval when the substances were first made available; police brutality saw an inevitable rise as well.

The very beginnings of the Banking Amalgamate’s private military company were established during this time, born out of new legislation that gave militant power to the DEA. Like famined wolves, they tore apart any and all remaining drug trafficking rings that were not in accordance with the Substance Standardization act—those who thought to circumvent the law.

Religious extremism reached a tipping point, culminating in what was known as “The New Jihad”. Extremists of the Catholic and Christian faith, alienated by their leaders who now “kiss the feet of Satan”, began a rebellion. Preaching a hybrid form righteous discrimination and selectivism,  these extremists called themselves “Purists, untouched by the left hand path. The true warriors of Christ Jesus. The Nephilim come again, chosen by God to raze this land; a new flood for the rotting world.”

This movement gained traction all around the country, winning the hearts and minds of thousands. Many and more joined in; the turning point came when  the gun-toting nationalists combining forces with the Nephilim, and they called it providence. The Nephilim called for the dissolution and liquidation of the Banking Amalgamate, calling it “Satan’s soul-eating machine”; decrying the Banking Amalgamate’s legislation as “wholesale sin, passed off as ‘societal progress’ and ‘spiritual evolution’”.

For months and months the protests continued; the nephilim threatening violence upon the Banking Amalgamate unless changes were made, the Banking Amalgamate stolid in their silence. This back-and-forth continued until the day known as “The Christ Riots”.

It happened on a Sunday. Massive, country-wide protests were planned, with the leader of the entire movement, a handsome priest of the old catholicism known enigmatically as Priest Jerome, set to march and give a speech from The Trinity Church in New York City. Spread around other areas of the country were his three high priests, jokingly referred to as “Jerome’s holy trinity of underlings”, also giving speeches, rousing those who would defy the titanic Banking Amalgamate and their “satanic legislation”. All four speeches were, surprisingly enough, broadcast live by one of the only remaining broadcasting companies in the country, Pie Co., owned and operated by the Banking Amalgamate. It was a planned simulcast that would allow the protesters from all around the country to come and dissent together in real-time, spreading their message as large and wide as possible.

Everything went off without a hitch. Minds were moved and fists were lifted as the “Four points of the Cross”, as they fashioned themselves, vilified the Banking Amalgamate and all its exploits. For a while there it seemed as though a long lost thing was making its way back into the rotting world for the nephilim and their followers; a sense of hope and unity, righteousness for those raised in a time where continence and purity were valued—their now bygone age of innocence. These tinders of hope were washed away however, as the entire world witnessed the simultaneous assassination of Priest Jerome and his “holy trinity”; four heads exploding in near unison, blood spattering all those in proximity.

The Simulcast was cut, but the main broadcast in Manhattan continued to document the horror for another ten seconds. Just enough time for the world to see a fervent follower run up to the mic, assault rifle in hand, and scream, “Now you have seen the true nature of the beast! The Banking Amalgamate! The time is now, Nephilim! Rise up! RISE UP! THIS IS THE NEW JIHAD!”

The feed was cut mid-shout to what is now a famous piece of propaganda; A man in a business suit standing on a hill, beating a dead horse. In the background is a city on fire, smoke filling the sky. The commercial then cuts to a close-up shot of the man, resting the bloody bat on his shoulder, one foot on the carcass, looking into the camera and saying, “Take it.” The man flashes a wry smile and returns to beating the dead horse when the scene changes. Now it’s another man, dressed in a full hazmat suit, mask off, pointing at a pie chart with a stick. It’s a shot from the waist up, so all you see is this man and the chart. The pie chart shows a many sliced circle, but the circle is all the same color. The man methodically points to each slice of pie, all while looking into the camera saying, “Take it.” His smile is teethy. Broken, lo-fi music accompanied the commercials, strange and discomfiting. Every channel owned by the Banking Amalgamate via Pie Co., for the next hour, had these two commercials playing on loop.

Confusion and calamity followed. News outlets owned by the Banking Amalgamate gave contrarian coverage, obfuscating the situation further. What was reliably reported was the destruction caused by the riots. All around the country––and more specifically the states where the “four points of the cross” were murdered––churches, monasteries, and places of holy merit were being sacked and desecrated. The media used this to contrive a conspiracy around Priest Jerome and the New Jihadist movement. Was this their plan all along? To raze the old and bring forth an age of puritanical rebirth? Or was this simply the reactions of a terrorist organization with it’s head cut off, lashing out at anything it could in its final throes of life? Either way, the New Jihadist movement was painted as “the enemy.”

The rioting would continue for two days before coming to a serendipitous, televised ending on the third day. The so-called leader of what was left of the New Jihadist Movement, surrendered on the front steps of The Trinity Church in Boston. Calling their cause “hopeless”, this leader called for an end to hostilities, his famous last words being, “The world was lost long ago...we were fools to think otherwise.” He then turned his gun on himself and blew his face off. As the scene of confusion and terror unfolded for everyone in the world to see, the Trinity Church exploded. A wave of debris flew into the camera and the feed was “lost”. And in its place, the two propaganda pieces, again on loop. The rebellion was stamped out that day.

In the months following “The Christ Riots”, many curious things were reported. For one, several individuals who were known associates and benefactors of the New Jihadist movement were found dead. Many assumed they were just more casualties of the riots, yet an alarming number of these people were found dead in their homes.

There were also reports of destruction to religious property in places where there were no riots. Many attributed these acts to the Banking Amalgamate private military force, who came to be known as “The Taxmen”; a police who weren’t police, a force established “to protect and ensure the wealth of the country”. Although the media painted them as heroes who “Quelled the fires of the religious fanatics”, churches were found smashed and shattered in their wake, a nebulous message with terrifying implications; a message which seemed to say: You can’t win. We are the cavalry. We move the world now.

Random uprisings in the name of Priest Jerome would show up from time to time, and there is still dissent and schism among the church hierarchies, but nothing as fervent and substantial as The Christ Riots.

For a time, the world seemed to be turning on itself, but soon the history and stigma behind the legalized substances faded, with the proper propaganda making its way through the Banking controlled media. The religious sects still loyal to the Banking Amalgamate also preached this propaganda, and the nation began to see a change.

Those in power still held the progress of the world by the throat, but the collective consciousness changed; the world...slowed down. With so many substances available to the public, people became complacent—as was projected. And then the second edict was enacted: VR.

Five years after the Substance Standardization Act of 2035, when the world was finding its new equilibrium, the Banking Amalgamate announced a thing unheard of: One of the biggest Entertainment corporations in the world, Allegory Inc., revealed a plan to supply everyone in the country with a base model Virtual Reality headset, featuring free premium programming––provided one proved their legal status as an honest, tax paying citizen––to be “curated” by Allegory Inc. and Pie Corporations. Along with premium programming, came the promised return of “The Internet”.

Eight years before the creation of the Banking Amalgamate in 2033, the powers that were ended the open-source iteration of the internet. They did it by passing a law. And then another. And then another. Until the people had no idea what happened. Too caught up with who was fucking who, or which team had the best chance at winning it all that year, the people were misled until it was too late. There were mild, peaceful protests back then, that resulted in nothing.

The idea of the internet was gone, replaced by a subscription-based online service: “Shop! Live, Share and Buy! Do all the things you did as before, but now, be protected from outside anomalies. Join the safer internet, where a dedicated team will monitor all your activity, looking for those who would do harm to you and yours!”

Information was still available of course, but it was expensive. “Insert payment to use search engine.” Time-based website rentals, click tax, and of course constant monitoring were just some of the statutes enforced. The great tide came when the Adult Entertainment industry was given a tax-incentive to release all future content exclusively through Allegory Inc.’s Premium VR services. The porn industry abandoned the internet, and their audience followed suit.

A shadow internet existed for a time, until incentives were given to companies to expose those who perpetuated it. The government gave rewards to those who ousted the enemy. A cultural schism occurred, as bright, tech-savvy people became the targets of a new McCarthyism. The violent reprimands and inhuman sentences given out by the government for perpetuating the shadow internet stamped out all other thoughts of such rebellion. And then people just lost interest. It was no longer a place of information, expression or freedom. And so it died. The suppression of the internet was the catalyst that brought forth the corrupt and cunning politicking that would eventually give rise to The Banking Amalgamate.

When it was unveiled, the new Banking Amalgamate approved “internet” was more of a Virtual Reality Supermall than the information superhighway that it used to be. It was an afterthought, as the true energy and intent was put into the VR Headset. Allegory Inc. was yet another subsidiary owned and operated by the Banking Amalgamate and this was their final plan in the tempering of the people: A free base device, with near unlimited capabilities. 100% customizable and upgradable, to ensure a long term consumer market. Contrived propaganda, specific to user base, delivered straight to their virtual dashboard—the new “morning edition”. Every technology business out there was making product for this platform, which was now in the hands of every person in the country. Now they had their minds and their bodies.

The third, hidden edict was what it was all for. The vacuum that resulted in legalizing all drugs was also accounted for. How do you replace an industry that relied on its own contraband nature? Introduce new contraband, new drugs. The Banking Amalgamate, with its hand in every cookie jar, had the medical industry begin the secret testing of new drugs as far back as 2034. Rumor was, that the Amalgamate gave a time based reward to whoever could create “The New Addiction”. Now it became a race. A game. Inevitably, word of these “secret experiments” became known to the world...and those with the ingenuity followed suit.

Now, there were new drugs everywhere. With the DEA all but gone, unknown, unregulated and potentially harmful drugs began to make their way into the veins, noses, and sphincters of the nation. Depopulation was all part of the plan, of course. “Less rabble, less rabble”, the saying went. But soon, after much confusion, death and turmoil, equilibrium was again re-established, complete with a new underground drug trade. Here is where the true aspirants found their way to rise above the middle-class muck.

The common man was now a sedated, complacent creature. What have they to rebel over when their needs are satisfied? Those who wanted more either took the long way of college and career, hoping to stumble upon a position inside the indomitable Banking Amalgamate...or they entered the drug trade, and all the things that came with it. Danger, violence, ambition, treachery; these familiar old pains crept themselves back into the way of things. And the rabble remained complacent. Fifteen years later, and the underground drug trade is now a well-honed machine, a hidden war of espionage and intrigue, and somehow Don has found himself inside of it.





















 

3


 

Looking back on the interview, or whatever it was, Don could see that this was no ordinary job. I'm some sort of…Chumscrubber. Clean-up man. It has to involve an element of danger, since I remember them mentioning me replacing Brandon. He must’ve died. I should’ve asked. Now that the shock of the infidelity had subsided, Don was recalling the day much clearer. “With Smite” was sticking in his mind for some reason. He shook his head. It reminded him how drunk and fried he was. I’m not violent. I don’t belong around these ambitious people, willing to do horrors for personal gain. I can’t do this.

Here the crossroads presented itself. To be dragged along by the whims and wants of others, and become something less than human...or to just leave. That thrift store, with the comics. There was a strange feeling of confluence whenever Don looked back to that store. It shook me out of this three year daze, reminded me what used to make me happy. Arden, our boy, our life...it felt wrong. I messed up somewhere. But now...somehow, I’m free. Did I bring this to me? Did I will this to happen from my incessant bitching?

The months of unemployment were hard on Don and his disposition. Arden was unconcerned the whole time…Don chuckled a broken chuckle, remembering those few times when Arden’s “uncle” came through and managed to pay the rent, in the nick of time. So it’s been happening for a while, then. God Dammit. I sat at home, stressing over our future and our well-being, while she “went to school”. The School of Fat Cocks, more like. And again the imagery arose: this time Arden was splayed out face-down on a silk bed, bound and gagged, in a schoolgirl outfit. A man cast in shades of ultra-violet walked around her, whip in hand, cock fat.

Don sighed and wiped away the hypothetical. He looked around and picked up one of the comics lying on the ground. The comic was Tales to Admonish: Escape from Torment! Part 2 of 4. Don couldn’t help but smile, everything else crumbling away. This he noticed. I could leave. Just go. Find someplace where I can simply be, away from this world of ambition and lies. All I need do is take that money and...and still he sat there, on the brink of decision. To leave it all behind, start fresh and live the humble, artistic life I’ve always wanted...or...or...play the game. Prove to Arden and everyone else that I can play just as well as them. And when I’ve firmly established myself into this company of cunts, then I’ll bring down everything that no-faced fuck built for himself. And Arden...his ego tipped the scales.

Feeling a new sense of importance and direction, Don got up from the floor and had himself a good long leak, thinking of nothing but revenge schemes. After what seemed like hours of hypotheticals involving Don smashing some man’s head in, the splashing sound of his piss stream subsided, and he headed for the refrigerator. Don however, began to feel the fatigue of the day––the physical tax that his mind and thoughts had on his body––and instead of grabbing another beer, headed straight towards his bed. He hit the pillow face first and dozed off into sleep.

There was no rest for the weary, however. He came to, face down on the wooden floor of his apartment...but it wasn’t his apartment. For one, all the comic books were gone. This realization shocked some of the sleepiness out of Donald. He looked around and found himself in what looked like some guest room. The wood floor is exactly the same as the apartment. Don pulled himself up from the floor, sitting on the bed. He was still wearing the same clothes, his left pant leg torn to the knee, from earlier.

Straight ahead were shelves with towels and bed sheets, framed family photos and some books. To his left was a large wooden vanity, replete with myriad makeup appliances laid out. Also to the left, beyond the vanity, was the door. The door knob looked to be made of polished ebony. Did someone bring me here? Fear and confusion made their way into his awareness. To the right was a closet with its doors closed. The place had just enough of an air about it to remind Don of his childhood room: white walls, the rosewood door, the shitty twin bed. Lots of things were off though—he had no vanity.

Don’s first inclination was to look at the family photos. The photo will tell me where I am. He started towards the shelf when he noticed movement in the vanity mirror. He froze, terror emanating. The figure stood there, unmoving. After allowing a deep wave of anxiety to rush through his chest, Don turned around to face the figure: a man dressed in the rough-spun garb of a monk or a priest. His hands were both at his waist, hidden in the large sleeves of his tattered white robe. He had a belt of rope tied around him, the knotted slack hanging down to his feet, just above the ground. The priest had no head; in its place was a...multi-faceted, tetrahedron thing. Don didn’t know the exact shape. It spun slowly on a perfect axis, in line with the spinal column, light bouncing off of the myriad angles in shifting shades of color; green, fluorescent yellow, orange, pink. Some of the triangles were black and ate the light instead. It gave off a slight hum as it spun.

As incredible as this presence was, Don felt his fear fading. Indeed, he felt...compassion. He walked closer to the figure, his hand reaching out. The priest’s tetrahedron head began to spin faster, the humming becoming more acute. There was a sudden surge of heat in Don’s spine, and he felt a violent jerk from above. He lifted off the ground as his spinal cord was torn from the meninges within; he felt a long wet slither out of the top of his head. Cerebrospinal fluid rained down upon him as he fell to the floor in a terrified stupor. When Don tried to stand up, he stumbled and began to collapse into himself, the body lacking its internal framework. The priest stood still, unperturbed, as his tetrahedron head began to spin faster and faster. Slopping onto the floor, Don’s body became a loose pile of flesh. He couldn’t tell if he had bones anymore. His mouth opened wider and wider, as the flesh mound that was his body spread out along the floor. His mouth went wider still, wider than he ever thought possible—the skin of his face pulled to its absolute. The terror became too much and he attempted to scream. The skin tore at the corners of his mouth, and the warm wash of blood filled Don’s throat. His tongue flopped around wildly, splashing blood in every direction as copper registered in awareness. He attempted another scream, only to realize his esophagus collapsed.

Eyes went to blinking rapidly, the only show of panic left to Don. He caught glimpses of the priest standing above him, the tetrahedron giving off a white glow; it spun so fast it looked as though it wasn’t moving at all. Arcs of lightning jaunted from the spinning tetrahedron, shattering the walls and vanity. The splintered wood hung in the air, as though harmonically frozen in space. The hum was palpable in its volume as it drowned out all other concepts of sound, surging the air around him. Don felt his teeth growing supple in his gums, loosened by the rush of blood and the soul shaking hum. They were poised to fall out, when suddenly there was a veritable yank on Don’s consciousness.

Like a man pulled into the moving parts of heavy machinery, Donald Avers felt his body twist and contort in impossible ways; what notion of bones remaining––he thought he still had a skull––crushed and grinded into silt. Tears were all he had left; their warmth provided a sensation besides the unimaginable pain, the pain of consciousness shorn from its vessel, the raw and exposed nerve endings registering sensations of abject horror.

And just as Don was about to surrender to the pain eternal, his essence twisted and howled in ecstasy, as the final gasps of life escaped him. Vision collapsed to photonic activity, and then further into...nothing. Darkness. Silence.



















 

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Don came to and found himself in bed, in the apartment that was not his apartment, that kinda-sorta reminded him of his childhood bedroom. This has to be a dream, Don realized, behind the curve. He pulled the covers off and sat up in the bed, existence recalibrating. He felt his face and rubbed the corners of his mouth, remembering all that had occurred. What the fuck happened to me? Goddam flesh pancake? He shook his head at the impossibility of it all. I died. And I didn’t wake up.

He decided to head for the door this time, turning the white marble knob. That’s different, at least. He found himself in a hall, brightly lit by chandeliers. The hall seemed to go on forever, curving to the right, with full size windows lined down the walls. It was all quiet. Wait, no...there is a sound. The hum. It’s coming from behind me. Much faster than before. A higher frequency.

The priest floated above and behind Donald, poised in Lotus position. His hands were a ball of light resting in his lap. The sixty-four tetrahedron glowed a brilliant incandescence; as it spun it bent the light around it, causing a mirage-like effect. The air surrounding the tetrahedron looked hot and alive, crackling. Don noticed the air around him crackling as well. He became aware of this ball of energy around him. It felt safe and empowering. And then Don looked down and saw the circles. The floor itself was some sort of white marble, but there were circles on the floor all around him; small circles of energized light overlapping one another, almost like a quilt. The tessellated circles formed a hexagonal shape, with a final circle encompassing the entire pattern. It seemed to be the result of the aura of energy surrounding the priest and Donald. Don had seen the shape before, back in life, but he couldn’t place it. It seemed so long ago now. He tried to recall something from his past, reaching.

Deep within his consciousness, donald felt something speak to him. Walk, it said. So he began walking down the hallway full of windows. To his left, the windows showed nothing but black, stygian darkness. Outside the windows to his right, however, was this big courtyard. How big Don didn’t know, for in the middle of the courtyard was this huge cloud; it was more purple than black, infinitely billowing. Don walked up to the pane of glass and watched the smoke-cloud-thing. It seemed to be waiting, so he decided to keep moving. Maybe there’s a door or something. I think I need to get in that courtyard. Face my fears or something. Couldn’t be worse than falling apart from the inside. However, in the moment when Don walked from the first pane of glass to the next pane of glass, immediately the scene in the courtyard changed. It wasn’t even a courtyard anymore, but more like...a stage? All was black except the center of the stage. Don ran back to the first pane of glass and there it was again, the dark cloud. Second pane, the stage. First pane, cloud. Don shook his head.

Just go with it, he heard someone say. He recognized that voice. It was Scott Eagleson’s voice, his friend from high school. He was the first person I did hallucinogens with. And the memory became manifest. The empty stage was filled with Don’s memory; sitting in Scott’s basement, waiting for the mushrooms to kick in. Although Don was outside of the glass looking into the stage-memory, he was also in the memory, re-experiencing this moment—both observing and experiencing. He watched and recalled the ritualistic moment of ingesting the strange hallucinogen substance, and the preceding wait.

“Am I supposed to be feeling it already?” Young Don asked, looking down at his smart watch. “It’s been twenty-three minutes, and I’m not really feeling anything, man. I thought you said––”

“Relax man, it’s coming, don’t worry.” Scott started chuckling. He continued to laugh lightly as he went over to the stereo and made music happen. Don sunk further into the couch, listening, waiting. The song started feeling good—like, really good. He closed his eyes, muting one sense to augment the others, and grooved to the rhythm. Elation came in 4/4, every hit of the snare a celebration of life. He felt primordial, connected, aware––suddenly there was laughter. Don opened his eyes, and perception fluttered in. He looked over and saw scott laughing, his shaggy ass hair looking like dirt and moss.

“This fucking song, man. That bass is like literally puckering my––” Scott looked over and saw Don staring, confused. Don the observer felt the emotion transform, watching the aura of his younger self grow darker. Confusion growing into fear. Fear launching the mind. Ego materialized from within, cataloguing the actions of the environment, formulating reaction. The present moment denied, pushed aside in favor of mind calculations; attempting logic, in spite of touching timeless awareness. Logic failing, falling short. The fear roiling, becoming deeper, darker. Young Don was at the cliff’s edge of fear, the violent waters of anger down below, and all the suffering that came with it. Don was on the brink, looking down into the depths, remembering.

Laughter, again. Scott’s laughter. And just as Ego was about to spring dive into the stygian depths of hate, Scott put his hand on Don’s shoulder. Donald felt empathy and love, a deep resonance of respect, all from this simple gesture. “It’s all right man. Nothing is wrong.” Young Donald sat in the vital energy, his ego unclenching. “But––”

The smile on Scott’s face was so pure, serene. “It’s okay Don, just relax. Don’t cling to any of it. Just let it wash over you.”

“But...my mind won’t stop thinking. Random things keep coming into my head. It’s kind of freaking me out.”

“Just go with it, man.” The words echoed across the room, floating in the air. Young Don was still vibrating at a lower frequency, doubt growing upon the soul like a live culture. Scott remained rooted in patience, understanding. “Listen, take some advice from one of the greats: ‘Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.’” Young Don chewed on the statement for a bit, unsure.

Something wonderfully curious happened at that moment however, as the last song faded and there was a stillness. From the silence came the surging sound of a tambura; the harmonic drone grew into the first cymbal hit, and the syncopated beat took hold of the room. The supreme vocal melody came in, uttering the exact words Scott had mentioned; cutting through all mental happenings, bringing life and awareness back to the moment.

The lyrics eased their way into Donald’s mind, entwining with the self, recollecting ancient knowing. Don began to see the color around his younger self begin to shine, his vibratory level rising with each triumphant bellow of the bass guitar. Younger Don smiled and relaxed into the couch, letting the experience wash over him. And then it began in earnest; the slow feeling of losing sensation of the body, the inimitable desire to laugh—the boundaries of reality slowly loosening. Life becoming...simple?

 

Serene.

 

Don the observer smiled, recalling that first trip fondly, tears rolling. And just as suddenly, the lights faded on the stage, and the curtain closed. Don sat there, letting the silence linger. The hum of the priests tetrahedron head was omnipresent, harmonizing with his consciousness, strengthening him. He felt light. Lighter than he’s ever felt before. That soft gratitude was back again, exuding from his person, adding to the energy sphere around him. The quilt of circles began to glow a brilliant light; the circles spinning, as though storing energy, collecting it for some later use. Each circle began to give off its own frequency, all of them rising in harmonic ascension. The quilted circles reached their aural zenith, emitting an incandescent glow that crackled against the marble floor.

Don felt...enhanced. Empyrean. Ethereally reinforced. What’s all this for? came the inevitable mental incursion. The train of thought remained efficient however, as the awareness stealing ego remained at bay. It must be for a reason. I will need it moving forward. He took a deep breath, inhaling dream oxygen. But that wasn’t the point anymore, was it? Don opened his eyes at the end of the out breath, and walked to the next window pane.

As Don looked into the third windowpane, he finally saw what he had been worrying about the whole time. A man whose body looked to be carved from marble, laid on his back in the middle of the king sized bed. Arden was astride the marble man, grinding atop him in violent, lustful spasms. Sweat glistened from the marble-man-image-body-id. At first the only sound was the knocking of the wooden headboard against the wall...later, the slapping of skin on skin, the exasperated breathing. Arden was lost in the throes, bellowing moans and screams Don had never achieved. Don recoiled from the shock, running back to the second pane, hoping to relieve himself of the sight. There was such no such relief. The scene remained the same, although now Arden was in a new compromising position: legs in the air, the porcelain meat shaft striking for oil, the bartholin's gland working overtime; his foot was on her face, stifling her laboured moans.

Horror registered in Don's mind, jagged hate-thoughts tearing through the gossamer that was his equanimity. Immediately he became aware of the light sphere around him fading. This created a rising panic in Don, ego pushing fear to the forefront. Why? was his only thought. Ego usurped self, commandeering. I knew you would fail. And the aura of light faded more. A flicker of “system” registered for a moment, before ego stamped it out and continued its parade of derision.

You never fucked her like that. Never even came close to that. How could you? Lost, broken boys have no place in the fuck-lympics. Ego lashed further and further––and then Don turned on himself. Even here in my dreams, or whatever the fuck this is, I can’t win. I held serenity for the merest of moments, before it was torn away from me. Why? Why show me this? This is all just some crazy fucking mental torture room my mind created, to make real my greatest fears. And the thought became manifest.

Everything went black. There was still a light aura around Don, but it was dim and dying fast. The priest maintained both luminance and position. The tetrahedron was spinning impossibly fast, as though it wasn’t moving at all; it emitted its own glow and energy, snapping and crackling and bending amidst the perfect hum. Don felt the live, lurking presence of the encroaching darkness surrounding him. It crawled into his throat. He pulled at his chest and stomach, but couldn’t relieve the sensation of...invasion. The rising terror was about to give way to rampant hysteria, when Don blinked and the darkness disappeared, the glass windowed hall returning once again.

Only now it was displayed everywhere, on every window in the hall: the variant image of Arden being plowed by the Übermensch. The fear in his gut made him run. The infinite chorus of moans gave Donald vertigo, as the window panes started to twist and bleed into one another. He felt drunk—each stride was a roller coaster of momentum. The windows twisted further, coalescing. He was running as fast as he could, trying to maintain balance. Don felt his field of awareness elongate, his legs getting away from him. The window panes folded into a kaleidoscopic vision of lust and heat and flesh; Donald screamed at the crystalline structure as he ran nowhere fast.

The concept of the hallway fell away as the window panes formed a dyson sphere around Don and the priest. Donald stopped running, surrounded. There was a rest—poised repose from the honeycomb configuration of the vision-monitor-panes. Immediately a thousand and one images came into view, projecting themselves onto Donald’s soul.

He was within and without every image; witness and actor. It was...impossible. Scenes of lives gone past—futures’ that never will. An accordion of infinite imagery, Donald’s death the axis point from which it revolved. Donald fighting an intergalactic war, shorn apart by mutant insects. A female variant of Donald being publicly disfigured with a ceremonial arakh, in front of a cheering crowd of Cat People. Arden removing Don’s skin with an ebony blade, whispering sweet nothings into his missing ear. The last remnants of human civilization trampled underfoot by towering celestial demigods. Dismemberment. Dismemberment. Dismemberment.

Not all of it was bad though. He saw the life that came before the death, flashing before him. Donald saw...other women. Other lives, other paths. Happiness. Many involved a woman he passed by long ago, back in life; her mysterious blue eyes suggestive and wondrous.

As each life-projection played out and reached the moment of vision-death, a black photon of energy would burst forth from Donald’s soul-axis. Purple arcs of electromagnetic energy flashed and jaunted from each black photon, running along the tessellated walls of the Dyson Sphere. Donald could see his soul operating as a prism-axis, diffracting the white light of projected vision-experience into dark waves of energy that rippled back to the walls. The black photons crackled against the white light as they bounced around the sphere at incredible speeds, creating more and more electromagnetic static.

Every time it felt as though the entire structure was about to overload and explode, the tessellated sphere would spread apart, allowing the accumulated electromagnetic energy to exhaust into what looked to be another Dyson sphere, encompassing the former. The dark panes of the outer Dyson sphere captured the exhausted energy output, storing it...somewhere, and allowing the process to begin again and again. It was an operation that felt far too efficient as to be contrived by Donald's sleeping consciousness. The tiniest iota of Don’s mind achieved the question, Who is doing this to me? before the overwhelming shock of images engulfed him.

He saw life grow, thrive and crest, and then watched as life settled and died, giving way to new life, new vision, new experience. All in the span of an instant. Over and over and over again. He saw visions of wonder and beauty...but it wasn’t enough. His ego-mind gave no credence to the flickering potential of light, pushing him rather in the direction of the dark; the fear was still too real. Still inside. Donald tried to run away again, although corporeality seemed a concept long forgotten.

Confusion and fear were mounting, mating and building from within. The sphere of vision-panes reacted to this energy, filling with visions of murder and hate: The woman from earlier, Katherine, violently beating Jason the Driver to death with some alien looking sex toy. The sound of his skull cracking. A Banking Amalgamate firing squad unloading on a group of clergymen. A thousand people dying all at once in a cloud of toxic death. Donald holding dead children in his arms, screaming dissent to the heavens. Dark Brows sitting completely naked at his desk, strapped in a VR Unit, humping away at a mounted fauxcunt, wailing like a dying animal—womens underwear tied around his neck, held tightly by the tall old man and his cheshire grin.

And he saw visions of what he might be: choking a woman to death, as Jason watches. Running over the homeless. Drowning a man in his own filth. He even saw visions of himself committing suicide, face blown off, drug overdose. Walking into traffic. Any and every manner of death. All of it at once, over and over again. It was...too much. Too much death. Too much pain! screamed the Ego. What is all this suffering?Why!?

And then the window panes ended their projections, flying away into the darkness, satisfied with the haul. Donald staggered around, stupefied from what he just experienced. The priest was gone, along with the irradiance of his tetrahedron head. Having no depth of vision in the everblack, Donald quickly lost balance and began to feel the sensation of a deep fall. He could feel himself gaining incredible momentum as he fell further into the gaping ebony maw. He attempted a scream, but sound didn't exist anymore. There was nothing to see; all he had left were the recollections of unfathomable exposure to ouroboros, replaying in his mind's eye. Further and further he fell.

Maybe this is the point, Don thought weakly as he reached terminal velocity. I spurned life, fearing my own perceived follies. I denied my brood, pushed my wife into the embrace of another. This is my destiny, the bed I’ve made for myself. To fall into infinite darkness for all time, fed upon at the whim of some great parasitic machine-entity. It seemed a strange fate, yet fitting. Here is my lot. Here is my hole.

Donald embraced the fall.

 

4


 

“You were supposed to kill the man, not put him in a damn coma!”

“Hey, how was I supposed to know what that jelly stuff was going to do to him, huh? It's not like that shit's regulated. I got it from Manny. He even said it's based off of some worm poison or some shit––you know Manny, right? Manny, the ‘let's kill poor people and leave their bodies in rural fucking neighborhoods’ Manny? The Boss’s chemist connect? For the bulk of our experimentals?”

“I know who Manny is, Jason. That's besides the point.”

“Besides the point how?”

“Because you left the job unfinished.” A calculated silence. “What’s worse, is rather than making quick work of the situation, you decided to parade him around, playing with your food. Involving us all in your theatrics. And still you left the man alive.”

Jason sank into his chair, accepting the reprimand; he took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, sir...I guess I got carried away with this one.”

“...Indeed. But what’s done is done. You’ve had your chance at the soft ending, now you finish what you started. He’s currently at Haram Memorial. I’ve spoken with Dr. Wallace, you’ll have no trouble getting to his room.” He paused. “No one saw you at the apartment, right?”

Jason shook his head.

“And you’ve retrieved the tender?”

“Of course.”

“Then he is the only loose end. Fix it. And quickly. I have need of you elsewhere.” Jason adjusted his posture, sitting up in the chair.

“You're to report to the Kincaid's, to watch them test their new opiate on ‘volunteers’––derelicts snatched from the streets, most like.” His hand made a dismissive gesture. “You will stream the entire event of course, so we can have our own make sure it's not a rehashed version of some product we've seen before.” Jason nodded.

“And then we have a territory renegotiation taking place later today, at the Green Monolith Club on the east side, off of Hickman and Caina. I’d like you to be there. To monitor...and conciliate, if necessary. The Rondelles are old friends, so I expect no trouble, but still. Projections have the Amano’s forfeiting territory, which could result in some dispute. Your presence will help ensure that nothing like that occurs. I’ll be right there with you, interfaced into your glasses. We must maintain a certain tact in the eyes of our subordinates, and so we will. But all of that comes later. Right now? Right now I need you to go to Haram Memorial, and finish your fucking plate.”


© Copyright 2017 Abel McBride Jr. All rights reserved.

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