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The Symbiosis of Life & Death CHAPTER I

Posted 11 December 2019, 10.05 pm by Green Mamba


Have you ever had your dreams invaded by reality?

Last night a stranger visited her in a dream and gave her a message. He said, "Go down to the Rabbit Hole," in a voice that sounded like heavy raindrops falling into a muddy pond. "Benjamin needs your help to save The World."

Ordinarily, she would simply write it off as just another dream, except it's been more than five years since he disappeared? She'd looked for him for three years while switching from one anti-depressant to the next. It took a couple of botched suicides and six months in a padded cell before she finally accepted that her one true love had abandoned her. Maybe it was just a dream brought on by her unresolved desire that he would still pitch up at her door one day or maybe she was just grabbing at a chance for closure. Either way, here she was at the end of a very unpleasant ally at the wrong side of town, staring up at the bright red neon sign above the cold steel doorway.

The Rabbit Hole

The ally was completely empty except for a few trash cans and some litter that did not quite fit into it. An empty beer can came rattling past as the wind drove it from one end of the alley to the other in random circular movements. There was nobody at the dented, graffiti riddled steel door below the sign. She pulled it open, expecting to hear the buzz of partygoers amidst the haze of smoke and rainbow-colored lights, flashing to the rhythm of some turbo-charged primal beat, but there was just a solid wall of silent darkness hanging ominously inside the doorframe.

It looked strange, as if the darkness itself had substance. She stuck out her hand half hesitantly, almost expecting it to be solid. A cold shiver ran through her entire body as her hand disappeared into the darkness as if she had just stuck it into a pool of old, dirty motor oil.

Frightened, she pulled her hand back and took a few seconds to inspect it, turning it this way and that to make sure everything was still the way it's supposed to be. Ultimately, her desire to see if Benjamin was waiting for her on the other side overpowered her fear of the unknown. She took a bold step into the darkness while turning her head to one side and clenching her eyes shut as if she was about to be slapped in the face.

The familiarity of what she found beyond the darkness stunned her momentarily as she stared with an open mouth at exactly what she had originally expected to find when she opened the door, a room full of strangers, submerged in alcohol and smoke swaying to the rhythm of some mindless, ear-shattering tune in a futile attempt to have a meaningless conversation.

The inside looked like a big warehouse with tables and chairs that decorated the sides while the middle was just a sea of endless bodies swaying to the pounding music. Nobody paid any attention to her as she pushed and bumped her way through the crowd. It only took about five minutes to find Benjamin, as if she was being pulled towards him by some invisible force. He was sitting at an otherwise empty table, hidden away in a dark corner, his features obscured in shadow as he stared at the empty glass in his hands. She walked up to him, planted her hands on her hips and waited impatiently for a response, hoping for a smile or maybe even a hug. He hardly noticed her, hardly noticed anything except the empty glass.

Finally, he looked up at her, half smiling but not quite and then quietly gestured for her to take a seat. Reluctantly, she obliged and for the next fifteen minutes, all they did was to stare blankly at each other. She was just starting to get uncomfortable when he calmly said, "I found it and now it wants to kill me."

She was speechless. She was hoping for an apology or maybe even an explanation of where he had been for the last five years. A reason why he never showed up. It took her a few minutes to digest all the thoughts and emotions that were racing through her mind. By the time she had done all that, the only conclusion she could fathom was anger.

"Fuck you!" she shouted above the music.

She just looked at him, waiting for a reply, but when he just continued staring at the glass she decided that she had made was a mistake for coming here. She started to get up and leave when he grabbed her arm, gently but deliberately with his eyes fixed firmly on hers.

"You don't understand," he said behind clenched teeth. "I found it, The Beast. Not the subliminal after-effects of the collective mind of humanity or proof of my own theories about modern culture. I found the source of everything that is wrong with The World." His voice went one octave higher as he continued, "Call it what you will, Satan, Iblis, The Horned Dragon from Revelations. All I know is that it knows that I know and now it wants me dead before I can expose it."

She stared at him silently, hoping to see a glint in his eyes to show that he was just kidding or a vague smile lingering at the corner of his mouth, but it was too obvious that he wasn't. She sat back down and whispered in fearful desperation, "You're shitting me, right?"

"I wish I was," he replied, "but it's all true. The Beast, The Man with the Never-changing Smile, or Men is more like it and they're hunting me, have been for the last five years. Sooner or later my luck is going to run out."

She wanted to say something, but couldn't find any words to rationalize what he had just told her. Instead, she just held tightly onto his hand, staring into empty space as the last five years poured out of him uncontrollably.

"The World is broken and humanity is under the misconception that we have the power to fix it. Probably because that lie is so deeply embedded into our psyche that most people are not willing to admit that we are not the masters of our own destiny. Never were and never can be. It's not a conscious lie, told by mothers to children knowing that they are deceiving their offspring into a false sense of hope that humans are in control. It is almost like the lie has become part of us or we of it. Like we are all just part of a fairy-tale where everybody believes that this is the way it is supposed to be."

He continued without pause, "In-avertedly we have been celebrating our own downfall, our own Armageddon. By declaring humans the makers of our own fate we have separated ourselves from The Light and abandoned the very thing that gave us life. We broke the law and like any law, breaking it has consequences, and those consequences have finally caught up with us."

His eyes widened, "I always believed that The Beast was nothing more than a global consciousness, a frame of mind embedded in every aspect of our lives through television, books, school, work, basically our entire way of life. A system devised by centuries of lies upon lies to convince ourselves that we can prevent The End of The World. That the machine called free trade and government which we have built to regulate our daily lives works and will continue to do so indefinitely."

"People are ignorant and stupid, like sheep. As long as the grass directly beneath them is still green they're perfectly happy to follow any shepherd, not realizing that they are being led further and further into the desert. Not even looking back to see that we desecrated everything that God put under our care. All our efforts to build a better world has only brought us closer to eternal death."

"It is The Man with the Never-changing Smile, who spends his days slaving away at a job he hates for a paycheck that is just enough to keep him thinking that he is financially independent, but not enough to free him from the prison of social acceptance. The average citizen who spends his nights with a TV remote control in one hand subjecting himself to the brainwashing effects of shifting polygons and a drink in the other to drown away the truth."

"I have spent my entire life trying to educate people, trying to expose the lies that we are being told by king and country. I never expected that The Beast could actually exist as an independent physical entity."

He fell silent for a moment as if searching for something that wasn't where it was supposed to be and then went on.

"I came looking for you just over five years ago. I had just spent all my money on a plane ticket and I didn't want to pitch up at your door like a beggar, so I figured I'd do some odd jobs, make some money and maybe find a place for us to live together. On the plane, I met Mabus. An eleven-year-old boy genius who was on the brink of revolutionizing probability algorithms for the next generation of Artificial Intelligence. We started talking. He explained the various applications of his new algorithms and I started telling him my theories about The Beast."

So Mabus suggested that we test his algorithms against my theories. He was of the opinion that we could trace the after-effects of The Beast using his AI and then we could pinpoint the exact moment in history when society created the Beast."

"I ended up staying in a cottage in his parent's back yard. I was just grateful to have a place to stay while I was saving up some money for us to be together. The search for The Beast was an added bonus. We entered endless streams of data about my theories and the effects of The Beast on society into his AI, which he then ran through every digital database on the planet. It took months to run all the permutations while we anxiously checked the result as the AI made all the connections."

"The results were nothing either of us would have dreamed possible. We ran the program multiple times with multiple variations in the AI algorithms and every time the results were exactly the same"

There was another long awkward silence and she couldn't tell whether it was for effect or whether he was struggling to find the right words. Before he continued, he fixed his gaze firmly on her as if he wanted to make sure he had her full attention.

"The Beast was not born within us and did not come from the collective consciousness of human culture. It existed before humanity," he whispered. "Before creation to be exact. More commonly referred to as The Darkness in many ancient texts."

Benjamin waited patiently to allow this new revelation to sink in while they sat there staring at each other until she finally asked, "You said The Beast is trying to kill you?"

Benjamin shifted forward, looked around nervously and said, "Yes! After our discovery, Mabus became obsessed. He believed that The Darkness could be an untapped energy source and if he could harness it, he could save The World. He started building multiple AI's to synthesize the human psyche to create a safe place where The Darkness could thrive in isolation."

"How did he expect to control that much power if he succeeded?" she asked fearfully.

"That was exactly the problem," Benjamin responded. "He built a massive structure to house his network of AI's and from there it started spreading throughout the city and soon thereafter the entire world."

"The Beast no longer needed us to manifest itself. It had found a new home. A dark empty place where it can keep growing without borders or restraints."

Benjamin leaned in closer, "But I know how to stop it. I hid something inside the original AI that could possibly destroy The Darkness."

For a moment she started to doubt everything he just told her. Maybe he had become completely delusional and he has been locked up in some mental facility for the last five years. She was about to say something when four very large, very strange looking creatures walked down the stairs leading to the entrance of The Rabbit Hole. They were disproportionately large wearing biker pitch-black biker outfits and helmets with oddly painted smiling faces. When Benjamin saw them he jumped up and shouted, "Run Danika! It's The Men with the Never-changing Smiles!"

She clung desperately to his hand as they quickly made their way through the crowd to the back exit and out into the alley. As they ran half-dragging each other down the alleyway, they could hear the door explode out from its hinges behind them before it crashed into the wall opposite the exit. They just kept running and never looked back until they stood before the front door of Danika's apartment, relieved to see that the smiling monsters were nowhere in sight. After they shut the door behind them, they sat huddled together in darkness until they were sure the Men with the Never-changing Smiles were really gone. During the silence between them old emotions came flooding back and that night they made love for the first and the last time. Come morning, Benjamin was gone and all he left her was a note on the refrigerator door that read, "Follow The Light. Love forever. Benjamin".

That was nine years ago. She never saw or heard from Benjamin again and feared, no knew the worst. During that time The Beast and The Darkness had consumed an entire city. It became the economic center of The World and from there it could continue to feed humanity with false prophecies. Mabus, who didn't seem to age at all, became the ambassador for its promise of eternal life. Ordinary people started lining up to become like him. Anyone who opposed Mabus or The Beast was silently eliminated or unwillingly turned into Men with Never-changing Smiles. Truly, The End of The World had begun and everybody was still smiling.

Have you ever had your reality invaded by dreams?

She tossed and turned while in her mind she was running from The Men with the Never-changing Smiles while holding a baby boy in her arms trying desperately to prevent The Beast from taking it away. When she looked at the boy her heart warmed up from the unconditional love that only a mother could have for her own child. She smiled briefly and then told the boy that everything would be okay.

The path was narrow, weaving through a surrealistic forest of ghostly trees and behind her, she could hear their high pitched screams coming ever closer. It reminded her of the horrific grins that were forever painted on their featureless faces, fake teeth glistening beneath eyes that glowed brightly within The Darkness that tainted their souls.

Like in all dreams, time had no meaning and suddenly she found herself banging on the gigantic wooden doors of a castle. The screeching machine-men were now mere minutes away from catching up with her and feeding her son to The Darkness.

The door was still unanswered when they emerged from the forest. Her banging became more intense while she clung to the hope that somebody would open the door before they descended down on her. All hope was swept away by the river of fake painted smiling faces as they ripped her son away from her and violently cast her from the world of dreams into the world of flesh and bone.

She was back in her bed and had it not been for an empty feeling in the pit of her stomach, she would have discarded it as just another nightmare.

Sometimes she liked to pretend that it wasn't a dream. That she and Benjamin actually had a son, but then she just convinced herself that she would remember something as significant as that. A mother would know.

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In 2018 I started painting again. This was one of a series of acrylic sketches I did to relearn techniques and revisit my skills from art college.

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Hey Cris, it's as busy here as it was at the end - which is to say, not at all

I wish I could new you guys was here in the beginning of 2020 LOL

OMG I was feeling nostalgic and I can’t believe that AKP is still here! So how’s it going ?

Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness


80s candy bars were pretty good


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