Camille was standing in front of a set of massive mahogany doors surrounded by the stark white of a barren antique hallway. She could feel the cool air pushing through the marble and steel of the stairway behind her. The doors had ball bearing hinges with square and circular portals of double beveled glass. Continue Reading…
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.
Her attention only let out the largest sigh.
“All right mom, whatever it is, I’ll just see after we visit okay?”
“It’s about Kim.” Her mom was never very tactful with her, alone.
“What about him?
“Well, are you serious with him? -I mean, you’re fifteen, don’t sell yourself short.”
She did have somewhat of a point there. Somewhere pressed deep in her mind.
“You know Rach, or Cam, should I say?” She hated that–trying to kiss her ass when it’s so obvious that that’s exactly what she’s doing…
Rachael said nothing and just stared at her.
“Well, to be perfectly honest, I got to talking to Helen at the little get together, you know, well at Helen’s…(?)”
“Well she knows a good way for young girls who want to go to school and become engineers, to get involved…”
“Oh yeah, how’s that?” Rachael implored, suspiciously. Her mom was acting like a salesman. Like she always did upon discovering something she wants that requires bending the will of other people.
“There’s a group that meets on Saturdays every other week and discusses issues and, it’s a club really…”
“Huh, okay I’ll have to know more about it, you know I don’t like the word ‘Club’…”
“I mean, do you really see yourself staying with him?”
Pam just couldn’t resist…It hadn’t even been on-subject. She let it pass.
There was a long pause between them as one black screen after another went by like the broken lines of a highway.
“Only to the death,” she answered her, finally, coming down yet another long silent corridor.
She’d really meant it, about Kim, but her mom had no frame of reference to take words like that seriously, pretty much, ever. As far as she was concerned, people stay with each other out of the bottom line. Everything else, just proceeds from there on out. She wasn’t aware of this in so many words, if at all though.
“Now, honey, no need to be extreme about it, I–”
“I don’t need your cultural nonsense either…’Extreme,’ what does that mean exactly?”
“Whatever Rachael, I just really think you could benefit from knowing or even being friends with this guy that Helen knows, that’s all…”
The fake wooden door opened.
Like the hallway there was no sound. Her Nana could be seen lying on her side of the small room as if there were to be a viewing soon. Her Grandfather, or ‘The Colonel,’ was on the other side, on his own Twin bed, sleeping as well.
“Ok, well, we will…we won’t wake them up until they start making sounds.”
Rachael rolled her eyes and said to her mom, whispering– “Where are we going to sit?”
“We’ll we’re just gonna have to stand for a bit Rach.”
Pam could hear the futility in her daughter’s faint sigh erupt and dissipate. She could get used to feeling that way, she really could…
“Ugh, mom, okay, fine…”
After a while, when her mom got up to use the restroom, Rachael went over and poked at her Nana’s bed, finally after long deliberation. It jostled far more radically than she’d anticipated.
It was the high pitched voice of her Nana. Rachael came over to her side and Nana merely pivoted slightly in her direction, but as if to be merely in ‘motion-detector’ mode. Her eyes and limbs still seemed to be recoiling from having been set back in motion.
“Who’s there?” she inquired, peeling the lids of her eyes open with her small brittle fingers. She continued rubbing her eye cavities with tiny crumpled fists that in the small soft yellow light behind her head, could appear as sepia x-rays of her Thyn little finger bones.
“It’s your granddaughter, Rachael, Nana.” She was speaking a little bit loud, just so she’d be sure to be perhaps loud enough while not upsetting her skull-driven hearing system.
“Ooooooohhhhhhhhh okkkaaayyyyy. How are you?”
Her speech was loud, pithy, and slow. And had a way of revving itself up, she could remember…She also remembered coming there twice and sometimes a third time throughout each year after she stopped living with Nana for the last time. She knew Nana could be pretty senile, but almost exclusively upon waking up or going to bed. It was strange.
“Nana, are you okay?”
“Oh, well hellooooh there!”
“Nana, I’m right here…”
I know, I’ll ask her a specific question, like the Loquanda girl from the Mall…
“Nana, are you at Durago Pines?”
“Yep.” It was as if she’d said nothing, Nana was even falling back asleep, a tad.
She’s not identifying it, cause it’s not outside her context, that’s it!
“Nana, do you remember going with me and mom at La Chateau de Nombres? Rachael spoke and understood a great deal of French, and had from a very young age, just like German and Spanish. She used to talk to her Grandfather, who spoke it fluently, in near fluent French all the time. She also had had a few Frankish school friends there a while back. One of them was black, and kinda ghettie, so that didn’t last. The only one left was Linda, and she spoke French, but only when it impressed people or got her way somehow.
After a while, Nana spoke.
“Yes, of course, I remember that very well…” She sounded to be bounding with triumph.
Her days…what can they be? They must be alllll the same…
She saw her Nana wake. She picked up the plastic little cup of water, tilted it toward her mouth after slowly sitting up. There was no joy in it, only doing it.
A revelation then came to her.
If life can only be life with a purpose, then every moment we are doing the exact same thing, and not combining it with things that are different and purposeful, are moments or days spent without life, and therefore, wasted.
After everyone awoke, a brew of good feeling conversation turned the room into family again.
Shortly thereafter, they decide they’re hungry, and the Colonel needed to take certain pills with Nana that required food. After paying her Grampy the proper lip service, they all headed off in Grampa’s commodious silver Tray Car. The Buffalow Grill, was a Franco-German popular restaurant at the Camp, and also the closest by car, on-compound.
A tall black stallion with a pair of outstretched hooves snarled down at them. A sign above, read – The Crrraaazzzzy 8’ (Foot) Horse of Ol’ Teller McJoe. It was a big ol’ plastic horse, right there in front of the restaurante.
“So where’s Teller McJoe?” said her mom, trying to lighten the mood.
No one responded.
Not even the air.
Firey eyes and a wicked smile loomed above them still. The parking lot was empty, and everyone heard the wind whistle a little louder. The silver hover car was parked in the back row of the lot, for some reason Rachael was trying to comprehend. She made a bet with herself if she could figure it out before picking a winning glob of earwax.
She simply smeared it on her shoe.
The Eurasian or ‘Euroden’ design team must have overlooked American people when they considered their target audience. A firey demon horse as not only their mascot, but the greeter and the Maitre D rolled into one, was not exactly what mainstream Americans could find quaint in those days…especially old people.
I guess they figure that beggars can’t be choosers in a way, even though they’re paying for it–they RELY on the very people who choose to feed them, or not…
They hadn’t considered that American fairy tales, after all, didn’t feature major ‘good guy’ characters as anywhere near hanging themselves from a tree or stabbing their sister in the gut to suck out her blood, etc.–like the good old medieval European myths had for centuries.
“Vous pourrais mangent dans Le-BG!” The oversized looming monster horse said with what Camille could detect might be somehow faintly familiar… It was a Country-Western accent with a little cajun in it, it seemed…
Of course, it’s a Euro-Country style…
Though even Rachael only knew this idea through Networks and magazines.
The plasticky rattling horse voice then repeated the boiler plate line, in Spanish, Ethiopian, English and German.
“You can come and eat at the BG!”
Rachael looked at her shoes. The line still struck her as kind of odd, even for a restaurante like this.
The family then entered the dark lit establishment of off-period 19th century lanterns, (Pirates!) red pleathery booths looking to be somewhere circa 1950, with stick-on brass trim. Oaky polished tables featured interactive maps of the ‘Bad Lands,‘ while an array of picture framed photos surrounded the table of each booth with random celebrities. At least they were all American as far as Rachael and them could see.
Right in front of where her granddad sat down, was a picture of Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat. Rachael was eying the faintly present Limo in the way back, waiting there with what could be a camera Crew.
Incessant ‘Hoo-tee-Hooing’ or ‘Cowboy Music’ to the Germans, could not be stopped from all pores of what was looking more like an eating hall than a restaurante. Not one of the songs was really American. This was a different kind of German that designed a chain like this, not native USC German, but from the mainland of Europe, German.
“Awwwweeeeeehooooo!” The battle cry from the animatronic of Gen. R. E. Lee, sounded more like “Aloha,” to them.
RD AUTO Message 170: Sat 12, Octobre 2086 – Steinenhurst, Maryland |
The air would have been gray.
There was a breeze that sort of didn’t dare make too much sound.
Old people were marching in unison.
The new UFED Cooperation with the Steinenhurst Micro-State of Maryland kicked off an Ad campaign targeting the 45 and up. A series of blockbuster romantic comedies featured newly revived, key pre-era celebrities–and had now consolidated the previously scattered market for seniors. Among these changes; we now had funeral parlors, B&Bs, pancake and breakfast houses, diners, nursing homes as well as Assisted Living communities, all contained inside official Theme Parks with rides!
The beach of the local Bitzeri ‘Arrangement Living and Interment’ camp was a faint sap green and billowed into a muted tan around where its dunes would peak. You could see the yellow blotchy horizon, and the bay, even the ocean beyond, but somehow, none of these things seemed to make a difference. A fog of atmospheric haze coming in from the sea collided with the long perspective of the boardwalk until it disappeared into the sky. The walls that lined the boardwalk were made of a watery blue brick that loomed over their tennis courts and workout cul-de-sacs. Somehow it looked as if to be missing the crown of its own barbed wire. But there were no imprints of where it would have been, as the brick was freshly painted twice a year.
The pitter-patter of quiet sneakers hitting the ground seemed to be in slow motion. Looking at an old painting try to move and watching these people exercise would have required the same visual attention. Somehow it was as if witnessing only the aftermath of some distant speed. They had on noisy jump suits that represented the entire color spectrum. And still, the sharpest thing in Rachael’s gaze was the grayish-blue metal of the fence she clung her fingers to.
She felt playful, suddenly. Murmurings of things past echoed throughout her mind. She’d known pure boredom enough to make life a race against it. She started playing with these thoughts, tossing them around. She did this until she discovered the game in her head had turned her into an insect.
More like a bumble-bee, maybe.
They had made their way into the waiting lobby when her mom turned to her. “Rach–what’s your SSN again?”
“They can’t pull up Fingers or Hands here.”
She gave it to her and looked around the dull yellows and grays that made up the lobby’s ceiling, aside from the skylights. A small company library could be seen to her right, possessing a curious addition on an island in this adjacent room that could have at one point, been a kitchen.
They stood in the center of the circular lobby filled with baby blue chairs, marble seeming walls, shiny black tile floors, and funny looking glass sculptures. All of this on the axis of a tiny fountain of ornate, undulating white metal. It was inactive and sort of hidden. Hallways spun off from the lobby in four directions.
They were visiting her Grandmother, not quite ailing enough yet in her old age, they all thought, underneath it all…
It was the one on her mom’s side. Rachael was always bored with this sort of thing. Smiles, nods and fractured anecdotal conversation was her fate every time she went. Why should she be made to think anything different?
They made their way down hallways of that sweet, sickly aroma so indicative of rotting flesh. That is, of old age.
Monitors passed them, stuck one after the other on the walls, maybe ten of them to a hall. They were most of them, dead, black screens. Dead to their Eyes anyway, but not the Eyes of the inmates here, or any of the staff for that matter.
“So, I have to tell you Rachael, there was something I did talk to Helen about that I’d like you to consider seriously…”