American Captive

Elevate form over function to get at less easily articulable truths.

Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:01 am


There, on the highway, with the sun in my eyes, going from Rockaway to the Clear Lake, between worlds, looking at the drivers of the other vehicles, I feel a huge disconnect.
Strangers, bound by speed, separated by steel and glass, sharing the same road.
I knew I was on time. I knew the exact minute I would punch in, because, between worlds, the sun is always in my eyes.
I take the exit, the bridge ramp that shoulders the lake.
Sensing my days are numbered at work, I wonder if I’ll quit, or be fired, or get killed.
I walk inside the trailer office and Bob, the site manager, is standing there with a stack of printed emails in his hand. Fan mail. He says people have been watching me on the construction site cameras. The email is from all around the world.
Some people are sending in requests for me to act out on the live video feed, many of them wanting to see me dance alone again. Other people want to show their appreciation for what they are hailing as a new form of entertainment, calling it augmented reality, the interlacing of the virtual with the real. I get through half of the emails when I come across a naked photo of a girl flashing her breasts. At that point, I’m honored by the attention. I quit reading the rest of the email.
The construction site is just bustling with heavy duty machines, all digging and lifting and removing and dumping. Then it’s dead. The workers are gone and the place is dead.
Saturday night turns into Sunday afternoon, turns into Monday evening, turns into Friday morning and another weekend, which then turns into a total of a year without a break from the Clear Lake.
So here I am, sitting on site, motionless in my monster truck, monitoring the main road, under a night sky that is predictably dark, but filled with bats. I look to the sky for a long time. I can’t find the moon tonight, but I examine the stars and for one very foolish moment I guess they are government run satellite cameras with high tech zoom.
It’s late, so I call Norman Long on his voice mail and I leave this message: “This is a recording for the government to intercept. Kill, kill. kill the president. Take a bazooka to the capital, and shoot, shoot, shoot the White House.”
Watching the headlights of cars that come to enter, I judge the pace of the car. If they use their blinkers or drive at a slow crawling pace, then I know they’re intruders. I pursue those people. If they drive fast and wildly around the bend, still in highway mode, then I know it’s the neighbors, accustomed to the area. Rarely does the security guard ever come in contact with the neighbors. The neighbors push the button on their garage door openers, pull inside, then the door slides down behind them, like the condo’s a snug little beehive.
So I sit here in the dark. I adjust the truck seat to recline.
I look over at the empty condo, at the side wall covering, what the workers call a sheath. The sheath is meant to protect the wood from the rain and snow, before the vinyl siding goes up. Advertising is on the sheath. But I notice tonight where it usually says, “Place Your Business Logo Here,” it now says, “Enter The Virtuplex Here.”
A violent chill runs the full course of my body.
Everything feels strange. Like I’m trapped inside an arcade. And that arcade is on fire. Or maybe trapped inside a casino, with ringing slot machines, but nobody around to play them. There are no clocks in this empty casino, so I feel lost to time, feeling the sensation of an eternal burn.
I look at the newly completed condos, instead. I see that the lights are on but the shades are drawn. No visible movement. I pull out my binoculars to magnify my search of the second floor. I see the steady glow of computer screens, with bodies sitting slouched before them, motionless.
By now, I have memorized what time each neighbor comes home. Every vehicle, I know the owner. Every mailbox has a name and I know when it will be checked. I watch neighbors take out the trash, and I note the precise minute. When it comes to detail, observing and recording, my peripheral vision is on point. Damn, my eyeballs are good.
Being here night after monthly night, I notice any disturbance in detail, with minimal effort, it’s so obvious to the trained eye. So familiar am I with the area, objects take on the most fragile feature, when moved or rearranged. I know the placement of every pipe, ladder, paint bucket, power drill, rope pulley, drywall stack, carpet roll, wooden saw horse, while practically keeping count of every nail and every shingle.
Quite possibly, someone else has been given a set of keys with permission to pass through, but I reject any suspicion. By now, my attachment to the job is so internalized, to think someone would violate, use and abuse, something I’m paid to protect, that would classify me a disgrace. I fight against the idea that my job is void of significance. I have to deny what my own senses are relaying back to my brain. I determine that anything I overlook, the cameras will certainly catch and record, leaving me less than liable.
The phone rings, which jostles me into an upright position. I’m not prepared to hear another human voice. I think I might reject the call. It keeps on ringing. I practice saying the word hello. The word sounds like a sad drone. My voice cracks and sounds foreign to my ears. Even though the ringing won’t stop, I refuse to answer.
I hear a weird buzzing in my ear, then some crackling static, like an internal radio broadcast between FBI agents about to make a raid. A voice charges up to say, “We have movement! We have movement!”
Then some more buzzing comes, but this time as the swarming sound of mechanical insects, tiny nano-scale dragonflies, rubbing thin metal legs, looking upon me with their compound-eye cameras. I can’t allow these nano-bugs to enter my bloodstream because they’ll clip my heart strings.
The all-purpose security guard, I sit still and I wait. The cameras want action, but the star of this show stays in the dressing room, sleeping.
I think of singing along to my movie soundtrack, then decide against it when I realize that no film would ever include moments like this. The silence. The solitude. The loneliness. And especially the boredom. It would never entertain anyone. The cameras around the construction site have gone straight to my head, skewed my perspective, tweaked my antenna.
I have to endure how very boring the boredom is. I have to sustain how very silent the silence is. I’m in no mood to entertain the cameras. Instead I go into monster truck seclusion, hiding from the visual pressures of supply and demand, a version of eye candy.
Carl Busby, my mentor, made the claim that technology and society were advancing too fast, beyond human control, and I want so badly to prove him wrong, sitting here on a slow night, not daring to move. But I get hungry and I think of fast food. I get horny, think of fast women. At the end of the road, through some low hedges, I can see the trail of car lights, red and white, zipping by on highway that was built long before I was born.
When I finally take a walk down New Farm Road, to the paved section, I turn my flashlight on for no other reason but to feel important. I get the distinct feeling that the camera on the street lamp is rotating in my direction. Stepping up and around the lake front, I make an exhibition of myself. I march proudly past the street lamps, like I’m part of a unique parade or special procession. I picture people on the flanks, cheering me on one side, booing me on the other, and I wave, raising my hand like a dictator, to them both. At the end of the road, I imagine a robot army has assembled for my podium speech. I announce my earthly arrival, command them to, “Rise! Rise up!”
Then, standing at the front entrance, I perform sign language for the entire alphabet, letter by letter. I kick a soda can several times and pretended to enjoy it thoroughly. I do jumping jacks. I start hugging trees. For one half hour, I whip rocks at the portable toilets, until my arm feels ready to fall from the socket. Prancing around, I throw uppercuts and stick jabs, shadow-boxing, round after round. I lay down in a big pile of leaves and begin to quiver like a fish. Then I run out of ideas, so, climbing back into my monster truck, I sit still.
Sitting still for a very long time, I continue to sit. My legs fell asleep, then my buttocks begin to tingle. There happens to be an itch on my back, but I don’t scratch it. I decide to go over to the surface of the lake, to watch for my reflection, but I fear that it won’t be there.
The stillness and the silence, that’s all I have to contend with. I can feel the eyes on me, like I’m under some kind of invisible pressure to perform. This stilted behavior goes on for two weeks straight during which time I receive false hellos and uneasy smiles from the people working in Building Base One. I only go there to drop off the security sheets, pick up my check, but all the managers, even the secretaries, can tell I consider them suspect. On every downtown visit I look up at those two white satellite dishes on top of Building Base One, wondering what images they might obtain.
I pull the remote control box out from under my seat, the one I stole from my boss.
The Eden Absolute 925
It’s a black box, with hundreds of small buttons, very super sleek. I open the side panel to see if it’s battery operated. Instead, I see two glass tubes that contain a glowing neon liquid.
I don’t know how to turn it on, so, with my palm flat, I press my hand across the entire face of the gadget. The screen lights up.
At first I think it’s just an all-in-one electronic device, good for watching movies, hearing music, maybe even making phone calls. But I learn just by scrolling the options, this is a far more advanced machine. I’m able to retrieve information in such a way, it seems to tap into an almost all-knowing database. I can give The Eden Absolute my lifelong questions, so I ask if there is a God in existence. A voice comes back to me, saying, “There is no God, when God is all things.” So I ask where I am, and it tells me: "You are in the Virtuplex, a computer generated community, created by Pixel Perfect 3000.” Another option is, I can locate any person anywhere on the globe, so I choose the body chemistry for Charlie Moon and his walking gait, providing his name and birth date, allowing for the satellites to track his heat sign, his brain wave frequency. He’s in Brooklyn, having a slice of pizza that he paid for with his credit card, talking about touring his new album. The satellites actually let me listen to his heart beat.
But somehow I make a mistake. I press the wrong button, because the world around me becomes increasingly insane. I’m not in my truck anymore. I’m soon confronted by a huge mechanical monster. The backhoe digger has transformed itself into life. My disbelieving eyes see it now as a huge dinosaur. Maybe I’m having visual hallucinations. Maybe this giant beast is nothing more than one of the machines the workers left behind for me to combat. When I see the futuristic megabeast, I think of running in the opposite direction to save my life. But then again, the flashlight in my right hand has just gained significant weight. My flashlight changes into a battle sword, long and silver, pulsating with an electrically charged tip.
The enormous legs of the T-Rex Machine are stomping towards me, shaking the ground. For one dramatic moment, the megabeast sways its long neck from side to side, letting out a terrific roar. I remember feeling a shift in my courage. Something tugs comically at my heart. I’m about to slay this epic creature and nobody will know about it for miles—nobody will know how brave I’ve been for standing under those monster bucket teeth.
As it lowers its head to jaw snatch me, I plunge the sword into its breast plate. Only I see it totter on two legs. Only I hear the collapse of thunderous metal.
I kill it. I claim the victory, however heroic.
But I suddenly realize this is no time to celebrate.
There’s something rising out of the Clear Lake.
I look over to see it glowing, under the water. It glows, under the surface, until it finally it starts to emerge. Gradually, three oblong spacecrafts lift up. They reach a point in the sky, then slowly hover above the condos.
The lights that ring around the spaceship windows remind me of the same neon liquid that powers The Eden Absolute. I press another button on the remote control box, and when I do, the three hovering spacecraft shoot down fireballs onto the condos, releasing flaming projectiles, torching the new homes. None of the neighbors, I fear, will escape alive.
I’m frightened out of my wits. Enough of this place, I think. I decide that I’m done. No longer will I work here. I’ll quit. I wait until the rusty morning light, then I quit. So, grabbing my sword, I run. I run for the exit. I run for the highway.
Some of the cars and trucks pull over to the side. Many remain traffic jam stuck. The young man in uniform, I bolt up the middle lane, running right up the yellow divider strip. I stop, only to plunge the sword into the front tire of a school bus. Then I climb the hood of a car to mount the roof. Raising the sword to the sky, I welcome the news helicopter. When I hear the police sirens approaching from all angles, I jump down and run for the toll booth. I slice off random car antennas as I go.
Officer Boykins, the first to arrive to the scene, is soon faced with my unruly behavior. I wave the sword around my head, point it at him, like a scorpion tail. The cop draws his gun. Our eyes meet, lock on. There is some negotiation over the value of my life, which ends with me dropping my weapon. I’m instructed to place my hands on my head, then to walk backwards into the awaiting handcuffs. I’m identified as Mike Miller. But when pressed for further information, I won’t speak. Officer Boykins spares no force when throwing me into the back of the cruiser.
I just sit there trying hard to listen through the closed window glass. I hear them call for an ambulance once the police chief decides a psych evaluation should determine my mental status. Another cop says he can smell a gas leak further down the highway. By the time they all spot the smoke and the forty foot flames that rise above the distant tree-line, an explosion shutters the area. It comes from the new condo development by the lake. I sit forward, mouth agape.
A collection of small white porcelain elephants from one condo now rains down from the sky. They pelt the cruiser.
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Berkley Babes
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:02 am


At my Rockaway apartment, I spend time slumped on a chair, in catatonic shock.
I can’t respond to anything.
It feels like I’m in a coma, but still awake.
It feels like I’m dreaming with eyes wide open.
I’m can’t move at all. My neck is rigid, stiff. But I sense my head is going from place to place, traveling without moving. Around the world without leaving.
From scene to scene.
First, a mental hospital and a padded room. Where I’m assessed by a panel of doctors who judge me mentally fit to stand trial for arson.
Then I shuffle in my mind to a court scene with red and gold volumes of law books on shelves behind a judge. I can smell the mint in my lawyers mouth as he whispers a plea deal into my ear. Here my attorney argues that a foreign substance started the condo blaze. The fire’s point of origin was caused by an unknown alien chemical that continues to baffle investigators. So the case never goes to trial. I’m released. An innocent young man.
In my catatonic dream, which seems to be so vivid and true, I’m then abducted outside the courthouse by aliens, body-snatched, taken aboard a spaceship. One of those aliens is Carl Busby who unzips from his body to reveal his jelly-like insides. I always counted him as odd, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Jordan Shamshack is flying with us, too. She is still very human in her beauty. She’s to be my space queen. But I’m told, as we ascend, as we leave the atmosphere of Earth, that her first order of business on a new planet will be to eat me alive. I already see the gleam of hunger in her eyes. So before we reach escape velocity, about to hit our exit speed, I get desperate to go home. As Jordan gives her final backward glance at the land and sea below, I sneak away to a launch pod. It ejects me from the spaceship. This month long dream ends with me parachuting back down to Earth.
Back in my apartment, my mother places the phone next to my ear, while she spoons some clam chowder into my mouth.
On the phone line, I hear the gruff voice of Frank Benzino saying, “After you’ve had enough time off work, after you get some rest, we at Calgon Tech would love to have you back.”
His English accent is missing. He sounds more Australian.
This phone call snaps me out of my frozen catatonic state.
I rush for the security guard uniform that hangs neatly pressed in my closet.
I button the shirt, strap the belt, pin the badge, lace the boots.
My speeding to work is done in anticipation over whether I will see the condos burned to the ground, nothing but ash. As I exit the highway, however, I look upon the same condos still standing, like I never witnessed the spaceship fireballs that destroyed them.
The only difference now is the sign at the front entrance. Where it used to say, The Clear Lake Condo Estate, it now says, Calgon Tech: The Virtuplex.
I’m alone in the trailer for hours without knowing what did or did not happen here. It was a dangerous memory that would not fade from my experience. And yet, I have to move on. I must move on. Something fantastic did happen here. But the aftermath of that fantasy didn’t hold up. Nobody wants to hear about something that was just a dream. We all dream. Get over it.
How long was I gone? Was I gaslighted? Have I been discredited? I don’t know. I now wade in confusion.
I’ve been wondering if anyone actually looks at my security sheets. On slow nights I’ve been toying the idea of using my clipboard as a journal instead. Just to see if anyone notices.
Finally, yes, I jot it down with a pen. This is what I write:

LOG 1: Feeling Lost

“I’ve worked a total of one year without a break from the Clear Lake Condos.
Monday is missing.
Monday is more than missing, it was never there.
The clock speeds ahead.
Tuesday comes and goes.
My mind gets warped by time.
Wednesday has all the feeling of a Friday.
A minute becomes more like a month.
Thursday is a blur.
Two weeks turn almost eternal.
Tuesday comes again.
My mind is dizzy and swimming.
There is snow in the summer season.
Seconds seem to slip by.
On yet another Tuesday.”

I note the clock time as whenever. Then I sign off on it, to make it official.

LOG 2: Feeling Mute

Again I use my security sheets as a journal, since nobody raised alarm about my last entry, yesterday.

“Outside this trailer is all dark. Surrounding the trailer is a deep, deep silence. I let my mind do some thinking, but I only hear faint wind chimes that suddenly stop. The silence is all around me. The lake is still. Time passes by in slow increments. Time stretches out, expands, goes further. Time goes beyond time. The end has no end.
The forest behind me is a fortress of quiet wood. Thinking ahead, I try to picture my life ten years from now, in anticipation. I can’t. My past is gone, since my memory has been set adrift. Or maybe I’m just absent.
From a factory mill, a smokestack in the distance emits smoke without a noise.
The silence is heavy and the darkness almost has a dense weight to it. I wonder how long I can withstand this way too quiet place.
Right now, it feels like time has stopped, like a digital camera is constantly capturing the same moment.
My eyes are starting to see things in frames.
Since nothing has changed in hours, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
Working this job for one year straight, without a single night off duty, the nights hardly mean anything to me, because I’m sleeping and eating and returning to work.
The drudgery of the routine is embedded in my brain. The routine is a danger to my psyche.”

I just realize that I’ve been scribbling with such a fast scrawl, my words aren’t legible. My words start on my clipboard but cross over to the blueprint drawings that span the workstation desk. So I end my journal entry there, with a little stick man figure of me on the blueprints.

LOG 3: Feeling Numb

Using the security sheets on my clipboard for another journal entry, I write:

“Tonight, I try to fight off the loneliness. I try to fend off that lonesome feeling. This type of effort depletes my will power. I yearn for conversation, any conversation at all. I try to remember the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. I know there must be a difference.
I think of myself as trapped. I can place the dimension of a prison cell, mentally, from the lake to the highway to the condos high on the hill.
Waiting is the worst part.
Every moment is counted for.
Once again, the night is silent.
The trees, they don’t move. The lake, it doesn’t move. The heavy duty machines, still.
As long as I keep still, all segments of time can be lumped together as one marathon night in history.
If I look at myself the right way, I can see the invisible chains, the shackles on my body. With the right pair of eyes I can see the invisible bars that surround the Clear Lake construction site.
This is catatonic despair.
And it feels so frozen because there is no real tool to chisel the ice off my skeleton.
I feel like a nobody from nowhere with nothing to do.
Working here makes me empty out, lose feeling, become numb. The numbness is the result of being here too long, working a solo routine, night after night, drug after smokable drug.
In the zombie zone, I care for nothing right now.
An hour ago, in my truck, I turned on the interior light to look at myself in the visor mirror. I had no expression on my face, just a blank sagging effect, no visible emotion.
My hand lifted up from my lap to my throat, checking for a pulse. I had trouble to locate a throbbing neck vein, which caused me to think I’m dead. Then, opening the dashboard compartment, I found a safety pin to prick my finger with. I stuck myself hard, but no blood came to the surface. That worried me, so I stuck myself again, harder. Blood trickled out.
The blood was blue.”

I end the journal entry there because my tear ducts start to sting from dryness.

LOG 4: Feeling Dead

Looking at my security clipboard, the fresh white sheet, those empty lines, I struggle for words. I eventually manage to write my final entry:

“I sit here in the center of this silence, and the silence has a white-knuckle stranglehold over this entire neighborhood.
Even when astronauts come back to Earth after a long space trip, they need therapy to walk among the human race. This job is like that. I am out there.
Now is the best time for me to confront the serial killer who squats in the condos, Gary Lee Vickers.”
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Berkley Babes
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:04 am


Gary Lee Vickers has run out of space to hide. All the condos have been sold. Every condo has been moved into, except for one last unit.
Unit 96.
If he’s still here, and I suspect he is, I know where to find him.
I slot the key into Unit 96 very slowly.
I don’t close the door behind me, leave it wide open, in case Vickers has a weapon.
I make my way around the completed condo, through furniture-empty rooms.
In the upstairs hallway, I pull the cord that unlatches the attic staircase from the ceiling.
“Vickers?” I call out. “Gary Lee Vickers?”
No answer from the dark attic.
“I’m the security guard here. I know you sleep here. You know that I know you sleep here. And I never reported you, so you know it’s safe to come out now.”
“Mike Miller,” I hear Vickers say from that darkness. “The guard for the evening.”
I hear him laugh a little.
I’m startled that he has my name, so I fight my better instinct to retreat fast.
I’m not sure I want to actually meet him or see his disfigured face up close, so I say, “All the condos are sold. You’re gonna need to find a new place to squat. Just a warning.”
I hear the attic floorboard start to creak.
It’s that sound that lets me know that of all the things I’ve been disillusioned about here, the presence of Gary Lee Vickers is real.
As he takes backward steps down the attic staircase, I brace myself for his murderous threat.
We face each other. He’s beyond ugly, botched by cheap surgery.
He says, “So you never reported me. Why is that?”
“You were here before me,” I say. “By the time I realized you were here, I had already fallen in love with this place. I could sit on my ass without complaint. You left me undisturbed.”
“It is time for me to move along,” he says. “You’re right about that. I’m sure I’ll find another construction site to squat in. But finding a guard who doesn’t squeal, I won’t be a fool to expect that much. I was lucky to have you.”
“You did nothing wrong here, I far as I can see.”
“No, I didn’t. And that’s the point. Well, maybe a few bad things. I made a copy of your keys to get into some condos, to take showers and, you know, raid refrigerators for food.”
“Nobody ever said anything to me about stolen food.”
“Only took enough to survive.”
“Wait, made copies of my keys, how?”
“You were blackout drunk a few times. I snatched it off your hip. But I returned them before you got back to your senses.”
“Anything else I should know of? Anything else bad?”
“Well. Maybe some other things.”
“What happened?”
“Some nights I’d get a little worn down with nothing to do, so I’d peep into condos. I’d watch the people watching news coverage of my prison escape. It’s a strange thing to watch other people watching.”
Inwardly, I’m remembering how I did the same thing once, watching some of the neighbors watch a talent show on TV. Remembering that sad blue glow on their faces.
“Hey, buddy,” he jolts me back from the memory. “Who watches the watchman?”
“You do, apparently.”
Gary Lee Vickers, with his missing nose and his sagging eye and twisted lips, says to me, “You’re a good guy, Mike Miller. You’re a bit crazy at times, but you always keep some normal logic going in that crazy brain of yours. Hey, thanks for keeping a lookout. Hey, I should get going. Hey, do me a favor. One day they’ll catch me, send me back to death row. I thought for some time I might shoot it out with the cops if it ever came to that. But being here for a while, in a nice neighborhood, not killing anyone, I’ve kinda lost a little of my grisly aggression. When they catch me, do me a favor. Tell people I’m not as bad as they think, huh? Might spare me the electric chair.”
I have no other option but to agree. Anyway, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to hype the other side of his harmless ying-yang personality.
In truth, right now, I have other concerns, more stress. Since the construction is done, where will I work next?
Gary Lee Vickers gathers his pillow from the attic, along with a pair of oversized sneakers. I wait for him while he laces them up.
Then he says, “Climbed up a deck here one time, looked into a bedroom window, looked in on a man with some kind of helmet strapped across his face, like a helmet for the future. Whatchu call it, virtual? So I got jealous. It’s the kinda thing I’ll miss out on when I go back to prison. So I snuck in, undid his shoelaces, stole the sneakers right off his feet.”
I have to ask, “He never felt you pull them off?”
“Oh, man. He was lost in some kind of la-la land. Never felt but a tickle. You see, it’s just that type of fun experience I won’t get in lock-up. Magical worlds. Hey, man, it’s been fun, but I can tell by the look in your eyes you’re disgusted with my hacked up face, so I’ll save you any more sight of it. Hey, you know what I’m gonna miss the most here, besides those hotdogs from the food cart?”
“That porcelain elephant collection in one of them condos. Such a sweet collection. Made my ass feel right at home.”
I drift off for a moment. I recall how those white elephants rained down from the sky, how they shattered on the highway the day this whole neighborhood exploded.
When I come back from that vision in mind, Gary Lee Vickers is gone.
I suppose it’s good he had to sneak away so quickly.
And I figure it best we go different ways. His guilt-by-association was beginning to creep up on me.
Although, I must say, there is a part of our conversation that almost gets lost, that remains unspoken.
I go outside, down by the lake to retrieve that lost conversation. It is something that went unspoken between us. It is something I registered only in my subconscious, as a dark vibe. His dark vibe. That strange missing part of our conversation, I find it at the lapping edge of lake water.
What Gary Lee Vickers, mass murderer, had only suggested, was this:
“All these nice people here, there isn’t one of them I couldn’t kill with a flick of my wrist. The toughest one here, I wasn’t but fifteen moves to his mind. And when I got there, I’d give him fifteen blows to the back of his skull with an ice pick. But I didn’t. And that’s the point. So remember this, it’s always better on the outside.”
The words of this non-verbal part of our conversation carry over the lake like a thin vapor.
I keep staring out from this dark waterfront, into that mist.
I feel chills on my flesh, rippling cold.
Not much longer after, I see a shadowy object approaching in the distance. It skims over the lake surface. I rub the dark night out of my eyes.
It’s a man. In a canoe.
He paddles slowly. The canoe glides toward me.
The canoe scuffs the sand of the shoreline.
I recognize the man but not his name. I can’t believe I remember him. He’s the mailman who got fired from his job a year ago because the internet stole it from him. If I remember right, he had a noose that I can still picture as knotted. I’m sure that day he meant to kill himself by hanging from it.
He reminds me again, his name is Gerald Jerome.
He tells me he did plan to commit suicide that day, but while he dangled from a tree branch, about to die, a group of half-naked people ran through the forest to lift him up, re-deliver oxygen to his brain. He says now he camps in the woods with those same half-naked people. A commune, he calls it. But he hints there is more to this group, a purpose they all live for, possibly bent on some anti-tech mindset. He invites me to join their environment friendly movement. To come . . . live with them.
Stand Against Networked Environments
Gerald Jerome tells me I’ll have to quit drugs, since our motivation will be to stay grounded in reality, to be true to ourselves. He asks me to accept that personal challenge. To stop all my escapism.
I ask this jobless guy for a few minutes to decide. I walk back up the paved incline to the condo unit where I last saw Vickers. The last empty unsold condo. This is a place I never wanted to leave. Now, this is a place I will return to only in my mind, as a memory.
I tell the lights by voice command to switch on. I imagine there’s a table in the kitchen. I imagine it with such force of thought until it lay ready with dinner plates.
There I sit. Waiting for my guests.
Their delay, I attribute to a 3D printer getting jammed up with carbon nanotubes. Their lateness, I blame on the toughest material known to exist in nature. Worse than that old excuse, stuck in traffic, this type of elevator-to-space material causes my guests to miss dinner at six.
The automatic oven has been cooking the spiced-up lamb for three hours already. I can smell it, almost taste it.
My dinner guests, the six of them, are supposed to be as follows: a friend, a lover, a former-lover, a business partner, a family member, and a charity accepting stranger. But none of them show. The invitations must’ve got lost in the mail. So the dinner party never starts.
Instead, the automatic oven starts to smoke. The lamb starts to burn. Then, I think, it starts to rain inside the condo. But really it’s just the sprinkler system.
The sprinkler system, I now realize, is just some tears I’d have one day when I fully miss this place. No more face-to-face with the Clear Lake Condo Estate.
I find myself running out, away from that condo, leaving the lights behind me on. A war begins. A third world war, everyone in the digital trenches.
When an American soldier finds a prisoner of war, he’ll test that POW with American movie trivia, just to see if he’s really American, not a terrorist. He’ll say, “Who was at the dinner party in that movie, Six at Six? And with a smile of gratitude at being rescued, the POW will say, “It’s a trick question. Nobody. Just the host. Divide and conquer. Leaving just one. Lights on, but nobody home. A split between the real world and the virtual. Such a legendary divorce. Cult-classic. So good to see you, bro, you don’t even know.”
The burnt lamb back there gives me an idea. I’m done eating meat, now a fruit and vegetable man. But it also gives me another idea. Burn things. Using toilet paper from the portable toilet, I create something of a short wick, to be stuffed into the gas tank of my monster truck. Then I light the thing, that atmosphere killing gas hog.
Before anything explodes, I meet the shadow of a figure, Gerald Jerome, down by the lake, under the moon. I bring my decision.
I catch myself watching myself, detached from the action, as I step inside the canoe.
It’s always better on the outside.
As Gerald Jerome pushes off the land with his paddle, we sail across, a boat through the digital mist. Tiny squares of floating gray, shifting layers of lighter and darker squares of gray.
I can feel myself breath the misty air in, gaining a second life wind.
These are my episodes. Episodes in digital conquest.
These are my dispatches, sent from the cold front.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Meno_ » Sun Feb 02, 2020 8:22 pm

Ok. I really liked parts where the security guard loneliness cones out. The serial killer went too fast, and I would have liked to know him better.
I was security myself and have anecdotal empathica, bored and alone, no backup, armed, and reading Celine. I guess Celine is very much a reminiscence of Your style, it does really capture the pathos within. One real interesting facet is with him, is the absurd and brazen attempt to write , 'America' without being never there.

But just like how Kerouac envisions America, as a place that isn't there, a Saturday night where everyone cruises to, but never get there, it is true to form.

I think his Long Day's Journey Into the Night was remarkable, and kept me from the bug house during those long lonely nights.

Later I was totally disillusioned by learning of his rabid anti semitism, which even the Germans found irritable and way over hyperbolic.
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Re: American Captive

Postby Berkley Babes » Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:31 pm

Meno_ wrote:Ok. I really liked parts where the security guard loneliness cones out. The serial killer went too fast, and I would have liked to know him better.
I was security myself and have anecdotal empathica, bored and alone, no backup, armed, and reading Celine. I guess Celine is very much a reminiscence of Your style, it does really capture the pathos within. One real interesting facet is with him, is the absurd and brazen attempt to write , 'America' without being never there.

But just like how Kerouac envisions America, as a place that isn't there, a Saturday night where everyone cruises to, but never get there, it is true to form.

I think his Long Day's Journey Into the Night was remarkable, and kept me from the bug house during those long lonely nights.

Later I was totally disillusioned by learning of his rabid anti semitism, which even the Germans found irritable and way over hyperbolic.

Firstly, thank you for giving my story a shot. You've been a thorough reader, which makes you a companion, since this story is semi-autobiographical. In a way you've got to know a person intimately, in a way people in my real life only graze the surface. You've also allowed me to move on from this story since it was my first attempt at a short novel. I've had a hard time letting it go, and I could probably tweak it and write different endings to it for the rest of my life.

Above everything, this story was my attempt to show what it will be like when people start to go to work in the virtual world and life becomes similar to a video game. I'm not sure I captured that. After all, I started writing it 20 years ago, BEFORE the first Iphone came out. It was hard to portray virtual reality two decades before it actually hit the marketplace.

This story is different for many people. I've had one reader say this was the funniest book they've read, probably because they know me. For them, I don't think the fantastic scenes held much that was believable. Maybe you got a laugh, but then again, maybe you saw it as a serious work.

I'm really happy that you could identify and even enjoy the passages of loneliness. I was wary that might bore most readers, but it sounds like you recognized something in them because of you security work. Understanding the loneliness was crucial to understanding the atmosphere, which you did.

It's funny that you mentioned Kerouac. It was his few paragraphs in On The Road about a security guard, and the park ranger in Dharma Bums that let me know that I could share my version of the Night Watchman.

Celine however, I'm unfamiliar with. A Journey to the End of Night is a fine title and would have summarized my story completely. Thanks for recommending that author. I am sure to check him out!

I agree that I treated the serial killer perhaps too fast. The serial killer represented a conventional plot and kept things moving, but I still had the video game life in mind. In my view, playing video games is super fun, but when you shut the system down, there is something empty, something that lacks achievement. It doesn't matter how many points I rack up, how many levels I complete, what dragons I slayed, there was the big fat nothing waiting for me at the end. The pathos you mentioned is that cold feeling. Of doing much that amounts to little. Of interacting but never fully participating. So the serial killer subject has the reader wanting more, which sometimes stays out of reach.

Lastly, I can tell that style is important you. Whatever the story has or doesn't have, I hope you at least got a good ride on the language. Thanks for your honest and clear assessment.

My goal is to create stories that readers like to go back to, maybe find more. 2x for you!!!

See ya, brave poet.
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