It was when she awoke that her head finally sunk into the jelly NeauMatter they’d put there to sooth her neck.
“Didn’t think we’d need to hold you here for the night,” said a nice old man, chomping a bit as he spoke from ruined teeth and dental sub-jaws. They clacked with the hard consonants, especially.
“Where’s…where is everybody?” she asked, still half awake.
She was safe, she felt, creeping warmly into talking to this man.
Another Playbill. A poster this time. On the wall there, diagonally to her right. In what looked to be the room of a medical facility of some kind…
The GREAT SOMNAMBULIST! It read, in spectacular RED, early 1900’s font on a black misty background with some kind of train operator in an old stained and striped train suit and cap. Behind him was the enormous Train-Flying Machine, it read in a caption next to it.
It was the descending voice of her Mother, what must have been her on the Intercom. There were only windows behind her, and she couldn’t see them. Her mom’s voice was indeed, quite amplified.
“We need to go and get you to your grandfather’s room quickly…”
“Is he dying?”
“Well, no but–just get out of that room you’re in and come with me…”
This was normal. She’d have an incident, and her mom would be the one there. Coincidentally Pam was the least sympathetic mother sometimes.
Must be that German we have…
She left the room after a long while trying to undo Lipids machine tubes and coils. The man had left out of nowhere and she didn’t care to go looking for him. She even turned off the computers that facilitated them, booted em down completely, no problems…
She followed her mom to Grampy’s room.
Helen was there with Andrew and her Nana and of course, Grampy, sleeping alongside her chair backed to a window. He snored as he lay there, unmoving in the small Twin mattress’ bed. “He’s just not up to walking around that’s all, right mom?” added Rachael. No one said anything, but Nana, put a hand out and caressed it with a Mother’s touch.
Andrew, Helen, herself and her daughter now, were meandering aimlessly around the room, savoring a hand that held the wine or beer, hoping to look like they were reflecting, or at least looking for something to do…Rachael reasoned that this was bullshit. Every time. Fractured conversation and polite little drivels of stares darting from object to useless object; a perpetual deer in the headlights every time your eyes met, swiveling about the tiny room. This was often because the room after all, was not a penthouse suite by any means. It was all the Linderen family could afford for Grampy and Nana.
It wasn’t just that though, the Military treated him right, but Government funds weren’t as secure as they used to be twenty or even ten years ago. The budget was forever curtailing Exo-Military services. Many Federal pensions were ‘frozen’ presumably until the date the USC determined that the Economy ‘has most certainly picked up.’ This date of ‘unfreezing’ your funds, as a Senior, could be and very often was long after your date of death. The same was true of Social Security. Sometimes these death certificates were bought and sold ‘Cabal Style,’ a phrase referring to the black market.
A Senior often did ‘Go-Cabal’ as they would say… Or: ‘He’s going fucking Cabal on us!’ many ads ran with to sell Senior driven products or to encourage rebellious youth to do more of the same.
When a Senior ‘went Cabal’ he typically sold everything, sometimes up to and including his wife and grandchildren on the Booty Market. It was as the Views and papers were saying, ‘The Fourth Baby Boom’ had occurred in the last thirty years. It was referring to the historical wave of grandparents, as second parents.
A Senior man having ‘gone Cabal,’ typically starts reading the propaganda literature on Cabal Life as there was so much support for Fetish communities. In fact, there were whole Micro-Gens (non-USC, even) formed, and were, indeed, all the time now, as the press would always point out: ‘waiting for us right outside the changing and encroaching walls of CAMBIAN.’
Everette Linderen, that is, the Colonel’s Pension and funds, were merely ‘thinning’ as the new definition from the new term, from the even newer set of UFED terms–went by.
Rachael roused herself off the floor, still in the room. She had fallen asleep again, wound up nestled at the base of the Colonel’s feet of all things. That is, where his feet were until he had to go the bathroom, sometime long ago. Her last moments before falling asleep were of an incomprehensible series of noises mixed in with what little her mind automatically recorded happening… Her mom moving around with Helen to help perhaps…yes, get him to the toilet I think…
No telling where everybody was now. No one. Not even Gorsky, and the room was dark. Her SwitchLight was glowing, predictably with a message from her mom, no doubt. There was a message and it was from Pam. “Come downstairs when you wake up.” it read. She was utterly disoriented. How could mom or whoever be in the next room, when they’re not?
Her confusion thickened until–
Another scream, coming from the hallway, right outside the room.
And it was choppy. Almost bloodcurdling screams were trying to get out again! Rachael drew herself to the crack of light in the door and pried it open slowly, furtively. Her mom and Nana were there, halfway down the hallway toward a stairwell past four or so rooms on either side.
“Oh my, oh oh MY! What am I gonna do, what am I going to DO!!!” Nana fell into Pam’s arms and sunk to her feet, exasperated. Hesitating, Pam lowered herself there with her, trying desperately to pick up her Mother’s falling limbs. Rachael had never seen her mom being compassionate like this, not with anyone.
She approached them, to some feeble distance. Nana was unnatural, alien and ghostlike, her question wavered as a haunting apparition in the air. Her voice shrieked with other nonsense in guttural spasms, dissipating only slightly, a mechanism, not a person, convulsing within and without Pam’s reach.
“Oh Good God, Good GOD!!!” The tears weren’t over. Rachael’d never heard her turn from a woman to a…Beast. That sounded like a man’s voice a little.
The screams were now more intense. Like overwhelming music, Nana’s voice was a smear of everything unreal in her life slipping off in glops like the sediment of mental flesh onto the floor. Her comforts; the layers of self—all the different sides of her; the mom, the Grandmother, the gregarious social animal from ‘Dantant’ as they would say, or ‘the age of year’s past’…
And then, her religion, the after life…now all on the floor.
“Bullshit. It’s all bullshit! How could He be this harsh! HOW???! Pam HOW!” Screeching now. Gripping Pam and screaming at her, point blank.
The Reality hit Rachael’s eyes and slammed her beliefs shut. Luxuries, the hyper-extreme wishful thinking that is abandoned in an instant of realness, and thereafter—we are living in actual reality.
But the long shriek made itself clear: you are indeed in Reality, you indeed do exist, you are here, but will not always be.
And the time that you will not always be here, will be forever. And this is the only sure thing you have. And at that point everything you see will be gone to you, from now on.
Not even a billion millennia, even if they were each comprised of a thousand light years into the future–could bring you back. Could bring her back, or anyone… But existence will remain alive in the Reality you will have to leave. And you are not, nor will you be, ever– an exception.
These facts rattled around in Rachael’s head until her Grandmother looked no different than the floor of the gray carpet. Her knees slumped into the rug, making a dent where it happened to be a bit loose and got slightly wrinkled.
The knowledge of the Colonel’s death had them solemn on the way to the car. Jenny was bouncing a little less heartily, but one could simply not seem to remove that almost Helen-like smile they both had.
An apartment complex lay as the sprawling context of the Bitzeri Assisted Living and Interment Camp, on the other side of the bay where the shore was and where they’d come around to enter on foot. Her Grandmother, her Nana had already taken up residence there. They’d pushed the data through, to get her to stay there, paid for, seamlessly prefigured from the date of her husband’s death.
There were huge balloons on a hill, like maybe fourteen of them floating in the intermittent wind after they passed by yet another parking lot.
‘The Brooke.’ The somewhat distant placard that held the balloons, read.
It was for some new apartment complex rental sale. Presumably the one it stood against, there in the middle of four Mega-Lots for cars and Transports. A single ML could hold 50,000 cars when levitating on top of each other at a height of one third a kilometer. On average, for years on end, it didn’t hold in reality more than a few hundred at a time, however.
An expanse of gridded concrete lay in every direction other than the sprawl of indecipherable industrial noise of tall lights, flashing View signs, and Pharmacie-Liqueur Stores that looked more like Kiosks.
All signs of moving civilization save the often broken concrete slab, ten kilometers squared–were now beginning to end, up ahead.
Blue, White, Red, and Yellow blotted their part of the sky as the land rose with those balloons standing at its peak. They had reached the top. The old stained brick apartment placard now seemed merely life size. It must have swallowed the brooke it once replaced, because there was no actual brooke to be seen at all. Just more astroturf circling each street light, and the tallest, most creature-like lamp posts one ever saw. If one could even reach their eyes to the top of one, that is.
A swarm of Transport people waiting for the next shuttle to arrive came out of nowhere like standing in the middle of a mirage. Rachael then saw a Hispanic young Mother with her hair up, standing with her daughter.
She stood next to the big placard in a blue faded T-shirt with some scratched up logo and green sweat pants. She had no expression, a shock of her long tousled black hair bristling in the wind. She didn’t seem to be standing close enough with the others to the Transport Post, so it was hard for Rachael to make out why she stood there.
The little girl, with a plaid outfit, danced off her hand, which was holding to hers more tightly than one might consider imagining. At closer range, as Camille walked by, the lady was still like a statue, her expression now appearing merely drained and indifferent. The weather was so calm. Back to blue skies with faint cirrus clouds again.
She stared up at the bleak sun filled sky of criss crossing contrails. Sonic Imprints were also left in the air above, invisible save the distortion of color and shape they made in their path. There were also three or so other smaller complexes in the ocean of parking lot, that seemed to be trailing off from the big concrete dune where The Brooke stood.
They finally arrived at the car, piled in, rose to a passable flying height, and left the greater part of Maryland.