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The Double Whammy

Posted 3 April 2020, 12.47 pm by Alexander

I have the exquisite pleasure of suffering from both anxiety and depression. Sometimes, when the Gods smile upon me, I get both at the same time.

For me, anxiety manifests itself as eldritch dread in the core of my soul, where existence itself seems insurmountable, terrible and deadly.

My depression, on the other hand, is like an opaque bubble surrounding me, keeping me solidly disconnected and untouched by reality, enjoyment, happiness. A bit like having no 3G reception on your phone.

So you would think, wouldnít you, that they would cancel each other out when they arrive at once Ė perhaps the mundane lead trenchcoat of depression would smother the electric shocks of panic.

But no Ė rather, I get anxious that my depression will never end until I do. I get depressed that my anxiety precludes me from living a real life full of simple pleasures thought about just enough and not too much.

A frisson I donít want. A paradox that neither excites nor progresses me.

Itís all rather a bother.

CHAPTER II: THE MEN WITH THE NEVER-CHANGING SMILES

Posted 13 March 2020, 2.33 pm by Green Mamba

You see them every day. Hell, you're probably one of them. They sit next to you on the bus humming some irritatingly addictive advertising jingle or they sit next to you at work talking excitedly about the latest post by their favorite Exalted on social media or opposite you at lunch jabbering on about how close they are to achieving eternal life.

They're all the same, forever smiling because they always find something to distract them from whatever it was that was troubling them yesterday or five minutes ago. Ask them what it was and they probably won't even be able to tell you. All they're really concerned about is how wonderful life is going to be when they finally make the transformation from human to demigod and attain eternal life.

Fifty years ago when The World was not yet broken, but The End had already begun, it wasn't much different. People spent their days working towards financial independence, but the majority barely earned enough to get by. Their only escape from the mediocrity of life was through artificial entertainment like television, movies, sports, etc.

It was so much easier nowadays. Eternal life was not just attainable, it was almost inevitable. All you had to do was work your time to prove you are a dedicated servant and sooner or later you will receive your well-deserved reward. Transform your body from flesh and bone to bits and bytes and blood and there you go, eternal life. No more struggle to survive, no need for food or water. No more concerns, pain or sorrow, just another perfect citizen in grateful service for receiving the gift of eternal life.

There are those among us who do not see it the same. There are always groups like that, have always been and will always be. People who look beyond the surface and in their own angry, half-baked way stumble onto the truth or some version thereof. Of course they are a rebels, troublemakers or sometimes ever traitors, enemies of the state. They never amount to much. A secret meeting here, a protest march there soon to be stamped out and swept aside before anybody gets the wiser, never to be heard of again.

In a news flash last night, another crowd of misguided citizens was peacefully dispersed and the instigators enrolled in a Rehabilitation Centre where they will be re-educated so that they can become contributing citizens of society again. The area was cordoned off by the authorities to allow them to clean up the mess that the demonstrators had made during their violent rampage.

The Waste Disposal Units crawled down the streets like giant slugs, gathering up the broken, twisted and mutilated bodies while washing away the blood. Only three people were left alive. They were the leaders of the group, so they were granted the opportunity to witness the consequences of their actions before they were shipped off to the nearest Rehabilitation Centre.

They sat in the back of the van reflecting on the horrors of the past two hours. Remembering how the Cybers charged violently into the crowd without warning and started killing the protestors. How their war-blades cut mercilessly through flesh and bone as if it were cheap toilet paper. They looked at their blood-drenched clothes. Blood from their fellow protestors and they looked at each other in horror as they asked themselves, "What have we done?"

The van stopped and the door opened, but all they could manage was to stare at their captors with blank expressions while they desperately tried to hide their fear. Their captors did not care. All they did was smile their horrid unchanging smiles as they dragged them down into the basement of the building. There they were stripped, probed and disinfected with acid that ate away their skin, before they were strapped down onto cold stainless steel tables while they still screamed from the pain.

A man walked into the room with an unpleasant smile on his face and then he hid his grin beneath a surgical mask. He proceeded to uncover some nasty looking utensils on a table near the wall, scrutinized the items momentarily, selected a heavy duty surgical laser cutter and walked up to his first subject.

The laser cutter sliced effortlessly through the man's waist, just above his pelvis. The surgeon didn't mind the screams. He continued to smile underneath the mask and casually continued to cut off the man's arms at the shoulders before he kicked the severed limbs aside and moved onto the next victim. After he finished off the last subject, two men dressed in white plastic overcoats labeled, "Food Processing & Recycling" arrived to collect the severed limbs.

Sometime later the subjects all woke up and started screaming again as they realized that they were locked inside steel coffins with thousands of needles piercing deep into their flesh and their spines.

Outside the Rehabilitation Centre, all the billboards throughout the city and everything with a screen lit up to capture the people's undivided attention. The Boy-thing smiled and The Darkness stirred excitedly before it began to pour part of itself into the steel coffins and the bodies of the three, still screaming victims. Moments later there was only silence.

The first indications of life were when their eyes lit up. A dim red glow to confirm that the transfer of The Darkness from The Abyss to The World was successful. They looked at each other only to realize that the steel coffins are not coffins after all, but cybernetic bodies. Nine feet tall with titanium armor, a high impact plasma cannon for a left arm and a stainless steel war-blade protruding from its right arm. More noticeable and even more unsettling than any of these features were their heads, each with the same ridiculously happy smiling face painted in a vintage advertising art style on its smooth steel surface. Some call them Cybers, but because of this common feature, many call them The Men with the Never-changing Smiles or Smileys for short. For the average citizen, they are something to be admired, the final stage in human evolution, signifying the transition from mortal to immortal. For the people inside, they are prisons of eternal agony and gnashing of teeth.

***

In the beginning there was only darkness
and The Darkness was everywhere
and The Darkness was everything
and everything was within The Darkness.

And then there was light
and at first the light was just a flashing dot
and then the light became words
and the words became The Light

Damage assessment complete.

Commence cardiovascular repair.

Hours, days, months, years, decades, centuries. Maybe even eternity. I can't remember.

Cardiovascular repair complete.

Commencing external damage repair.

My only company, the flashing dot speaking strange words to call me from the darkness of my subconscious mind.

Re-routing motor function controls.

Driving me to the verge of insanity.

Commencing full systems check.

The words disappeared and memories began tugging at my mind like a little girl on her mother's dress just before she wets herself, pulling me closer, dragging me through the darkness, towards the light.

Memories. A life lost in a timeless void rushed through my mind. I screamed; un-screamed. I saw his face. Felt the fire burning in my chest. Falling; floating. Exposed; hiding from death chasing me like a fire-breathing dragon on the hunt. Burning; freezing. Liquid nitrogen racing through my veins at a hundred miles an hour.

Thus I was born from darkness into darkness, resurrected by the sound of rain pelting down on cold hard steel and the putrid smell of rotten flesh that clung to my nostrils like a bad memory. I felt like I was about to hurl, but I couldn't find my stomach. Patiently I waited for my eyes to adjust to the absence of light. Minutes passed like hours until I realized that the comfort of sight was not a commodity worth waiting for any longer.

I tried to stand, but I sank up to my knees into whatever pile of putrid-smelling garbage lay beneath me. Instead, I crawled like a baby for what felt like hours through strange fleshy humps, until finally, I struck solid ground. I listened to the soft hum of distant city sounds while I slowly rose to my feet on legs that felt like Jell-O. Then just when I thought that I had mastered the art of walking like a man, my legs failed me again. I stumbled awkwardly, like someone who had been drinking since the day before, swinging my arms wildly, when suddenly I knocked against something that could only be an aluminum trashcan.

The noise was deafening, disorientating me even further, but one thing became clear. I had gone blind.

The thought had hardly crossed my mind when suddenly the flashing dot returned and became words again.

Retinal damage detected.

Reconstructing visual units.

The words faded away again and all that remained was the distant city sounds and the darkness. The notion that maybe it was just a figment of my imagination was soon discarded by an eerie but painless feeling akin to maggots crawling inside my brain, followed by strange flickering images.

Moments later I was overwhelmed by the visage of my surroundings, bodies strewn across a dead-end street, broken and deformed; a cruel twisted mixture of twisted metal and torn flesh. And then I looked down and saw a strange reflection in an oily pool of water that had formed around my feet from the rain that was still pelting down.

I moved and it moved. I tried to open my mouth to speak, but in return, I was greeted by a most horrid grin, static and unchanging. I lifted my hands to touch my face and what I realized must be my own reflection, did the same. "This was not my face?" I thought. "These were not my hands and yet they moved when I willed them to move. Open, close, open, close."

All that time I never once questioned who I was, even though I was totally lost in darkness and completely disorientated. I never once lost my sense of self, until that moment when I saw what I had become. I tried to remember my name and realized that it was nowhere, although I could still remember being human, flesh and bone and blood. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't even remember what I used to look like.

If only I had paid better attention all those times that I had looked in the mirror.

All through the night, I struggled with what I had become. A soulless thing of wire and steel. The flashing dot that made words had turned into a strange metallic voice in my head, telling me things that I did not want to hear and showing me strange digitized images through my own eyes. Amazingly, I could calculate the distance between any other object and myself to within an inch. It even had blueprints of myself and it showed me exactly what I looked like inside and out; part man, part machine; more machine than man, with strange weapons and a body that was molecularly bonded to poly-morphing titanium armor. The perfect killing machine.

I asked it who did this to me.

The video clip wasn't very clear, flickering on and off with the occasional blackout, forcing me to imagine the rest. One thing however was clear as daylight and I asked it to freeze-frame the image. A young boy, with eyes so dark that it sent shivers up and down my human spine and triggered all my internal cybernetic alarms. According to my other self, he is the creator of all that I had become. If I were to reclaim my humanity, my soul, then he is as good a starting point as any.

Throughout the city, I encountered others like me, but none of them paid me any attention. It's as if they were either oblivious to the possibility that at one time they were also human or maybe they were simply completely at peace with what they had become.

They marched in small bands of three and occasionally stopped to harass or reprimand innocent bystanders for "not behaving in accordance with the collective".

I continued to make my way towards a massive high-rise that loomed over the city like a fearsome dragon by following a trio that had just apprehended an apparent offender. They entered the building through a tunnel that led down into the ground. There were two guards by the entrance, cyborgs like myself, but like the others they didn't question my presence or my reason for seeking entrance to the building.

The interior looked like the intestines of some ancient creature and it felt as if I was being swallowed by a giant T-Rex. The hallway continued downward until finally, it ended with two solid steel doors resembling an elevator, although I could not distinguish any buttons to confirm my suspicions.

Just when I decided to go back the way I had come, my other-self showed me what to do. Against the wall to my right was a thin oblong slot into which I was supposed to insert a key that is apparently embedded in my right forearm. I had hardly contemplated the possibility that I did not have this key when amidst the sound of tearing flesh and scraping metal, a three-foot-long metal blade emerged from my forearm.

I took a few seconds to stare at its strange design. It had hundreds of tiny indentations and protrusions that formed a mesmerizing digital pattern. I inserted it carefully into the slot and immediately the doors slid open, revealing the inside of a large elevator. Three cyborgs stepped out and glanced at me momentarily before they marched down the tunnel towards the exit.

The doors closed behind me followed by the soft hum of electric motors as I traveled up. I drifted off and became so lost in the events of the past twenty-four hours that I hardly noticed when the doors slid open again to reveal a much larger room than I had anticipated. Standing menacingly in the center of the great chamber was a massive computer-like structure that extended into a labyrinth of smaller machines, spreading itself out, over and into the floor, the walls and the roof.

A young boy sat comfortably amidst the web of wire and steel of the beast-like machine with a grin that surpassed the greatest joy a child could have and eyes that radiated malice beyond my worst nightmares.

Then it spoke with a sound that contradicted every aspect of its childlike appearance, "Welcome to my womb, anomaly," it growled. "We've been expecting you."

I was slightly thrown off by the knowledge that he was expecting me, but regardless I took a bold step forward. Without conscious effort, the war-blade in my arm popped out and I realized that my other-self was anticipating conflict. Hesitantly I uttered the only response that I could muster under the circumstances.

"Who the hell are you?" I shouted angrily.

It laughed. An evil, twisted, wretched laugh that reverberated off every inch of the room and then just as abruptly, he stopped and turned his attention back to me.

"I am your re-maker," it answered. "I have been granted dominion over The World. I live in your heart and all the hearts of all the sentient beings in The World and I recreated you to be my eyes and ears; the hand that swats the flies that dare oppose The Darkness. You are now a soulless thing of bits and bytes and blood and... Wait! What is this!?" it screamed in obvious surprise.

The Boy-thing suddenly looked stunned and stepped forth from his beast-like throne as if to inspect me closer. After a few seconds of enduring his intent gaze, he abruptly turned towards his throne.

"What is this, Belial!?" he shouted. "He is not one of mine and yet he looks the part. He does not carry our essence within him and he walks and talks as if he still has a will of his own."

A moment of silence followed The Boy-thing's outburst and then from all around the room a voice like a thousand hammer strikes all at once nearly brought me to my knees.

"It appears to be one of the defective units that we disposed of recently," boomed the voice. "Unit X312W1 to be precise. My databanks indicate that the upload had failed, so the unit was destroyed and scheduled for recycling. Further scans indicate low-level psychic activity from the human host which appears to have activated the unit's self-repair systems. A slight oversight on my part in the subject selection process. Now rectifying previous oversight."

The Boy-thing screamed, "What the hell are you doing, Belial?" Then there was pain. Pain like I had never felt before as if a pack of wild dogs was tearing my spine to shreds. Every cell in my body felt like it had burst into flames. Reality shifted slightly to the left, bent and then spun around me as if I were trapped in the eye of a liquid fire tornado.

For a brief moment, I saw the entire Universe and my place in it. For a moment, I was again the man I used to be. I had a wife and a child. A child and a name. And then it was all gone. I screamed and screamed, but there was no sound.

There was only darkness.

The Symbiosis of Life & Death CHAPTER I

Posted 11 December 2019, 10.05 pm by Green Mamba

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE


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.

The Symbiosis of Life & Death - Prologue

Posted 14 October 2019, 7.45 am by Green Mamba

CAN YOU SEE THE MAN IN THE MOON?



In this world of pain and suffering, one thing still prevails above all else.

Looking up at the soft glow of the full moon balancing on the edge of a fading cloud, the girl turns to her lover and whispers, "Tell me, can you see The Man in the Moon?"

The Man in the Moon stares down at them and then turns away from the window to cast another log onto the fire.

"Tell me Semjaza," he asks as the embers flare up in the fire. "What is the purpose of it all? Why do these human beings cling so desperately to this thing called life?"

Semjaza places the tray with tea gently on the table. They've had this conversation before, a hundred times over and he always plays his part without failure or enthusiasm, in a typically disconnected servant manner

Without the slightest variation in his tone of voice, he replies, "I honestly do not know master. Please do tell?"

"It's all about love, my servant friend," The Man in the Moon continues. "They stare up at the moon and look for me in its shiny surface, but whether they see me or not is completely irrelevant. All they care about at that moment in time is the warmth of each other's bodies, the sound of each other's voices and the beating of each other's hearts. Regardless of how far humanity has come, regardless of how much they think they have achieved, there is but one thing that governs their lives. One insatiable desire and that is to find a soul mate, a companion with whom they could travel down the path of life, multiply and die."

Semjaza had finished pouring the tea and hands it to his master. As his master carefully takes the cup from his hand, he looks at him absentmindedly.

"Then tell me, master," he asks as if this is the first time. "Why is it that they complicate things so much?"

The Man in the Moon's face lights up as if that is the exact question that he has been waiting for all along.

"Ah, therein lies the riddle," he says smiling.

The Man in the Moon moves back over to the window, takes a careful sip of his tea while he stares down at The World a moment longer before he continues.

"Yes, my servant friend." He replies in answer his own question. "Therein also lies their downfall. This complication of things. This entangling of their lives. They weave fancy webs, but the more they try to perfect it, the more confusing it becomes. So much so that they have become entangled in their own webs while the flies just buzz all around them, out of reach and leaving them hungry for more. Tell me, Semjaza, why does the spider weave a web?"

Semjaza was already tired of this game but continues to entertain his master nonetheless. Besides, it is not his place to argue so he utters his next line in perfect monotone, "In order to catch flies, master."

The Man in the Moon finishes his tea, turns away from the window and hands his servant the cup.

He nods slowly, "That's right my servant friend. "To catch flies. It has nothing to do with beauty or boredom or creative energy. It is not a diversion to steer it away from the pointlessness of its existence, but rather a tool to assist it in its survival. As long as it continues to perform this function without failure, then there is no need for the spider to try and improve on its own design."

Semjaza lets out a long sigh as he takes the empty cup, places it carefully on the tray and then for the first time, there is a hint of emotion in his voice.

"Just like me," he mumbles as he walks away.

The Man in the Moon looks up and follows his servant with his eyes as he leaves the room. "He's been a good servant," he thinks. "All these years he's never complained, never once failed in his duty, without instruction or fear of prosecution and yet the sadness in his voice is unmistakable."

He calls after his servant friend, "Semjaza! Come here for a moment, please?"

Without question or hesitation, Semjaza puts down the tray and rushes back, waiting with his hands respectfully behind his back, ready to do whatever his master requires. For the first time in his afterlife, Semjaza is unable to read the expression on his master's face. His master looks uneasy, disturbed almost and that frightens him a little.

After a long pause, The Man in the Moon asks with true empathy in his voice, "Are you happy, Semjaza?"

The magnitude of the question takes a while to settle in. Semjaza rolls it around in his head while The Man in the Moon looks at him expectantly. After carefully evaluating all the possible answers, Semjaza calmly replies with what he believes to be the right answer.

"You have been very good to me master and in gratitude, I do my best to serve you well" he answers. "In that, I am perfectly content."

The Man in the Moon shakes his head, places his hand on his servant-friend's shoulder and looks deep into his eyes.

"Yes, but are you happy?" he asks again with more intensity.

Only now does Semjaza realize the full magnitude of the question. Only now does he understand that his master is not asking him to confirm something that he already had his own answer to. For the first time since Semjaza became his servant, he is asking him a question that he can't answer for himself. Semjaza looks at his master, the smooth silver surface of his eyes impenetrable as it reflects only your own obscured face back at you. For a moment Semjaza dwells on the possible consequences of what he is about to say, but then he says it anyway.

"No master, I am not" he replies as he lowers his head in shame for waiting this long to tell the truth. "I have been your servant for a very long time now and every day you stand at that window and you judge everyone and everything you see. You talk about love, about the purpose of life and all of humanities failures, but in all the time that I have known you, not once did you bother to go down there to spend even a single day in The World with them. I have. I spent an entire lifetime there. Laughing and crying while fighting to survive the onslaughts of both humanity and nature. Finding joy in overcoming all its hardships. Not only that, but I have loved. I have slept in the comfort of my mother's arms and I have bathed in the sweat of my lover. I have raised children. Watched them grow and made every effort to prepare them for the worst and the best that The World has to offer. No, The World may be broken and yes, maybe the human race failed, but I wouldn't think twice about trading the last two thousand years of my afterlife for a single day back there."

The Man in the Moon pulls his hand away and turns his back on his servant. For a moment, Semjaza thinks that this is it. His master is about to banish him to The Abyss for speaking out against him, but when he replies it becomes obvious that he is crying.

"Why, Semjaza? he sobs. "Why have you never told me this before?"

Semjaza lays a hand on his master's shoulder to try and comfort him. "Because it is not my place to be ungrateful for the honor of being chosen to be your servant."

With tear-filled eyes, The Man in the Moon turns around to face his servant. "Then why now?" he asks. "Why tell me all this now, after all this time?"

Semjaza lifts his head to face his master when he replies, "The End of The World is upon us. All the signs are there. I can see it reflected in your eyes and I don't know if there will be anybody left to tell you this after I am gone. Besides, if there is even a small chance for you to experience life as I have, then it is my duty as your friend to tell you this before it is too late."

Semjaza turns around and leaves his master standing by the window as he walks towards the kitchen. Just before he leaves the room he turns around and in his typical servant manner asks, "More tea, master?"

The Man in the Moon continues to stare out the window at The World down below, wondering what it would be like to walk amongst these human beings and experience this thing called life.

"Yes please and pour yourself a cup while you're at it?" he asks politely.

The boy looks up at the silver glowing disk in the sky, stares at it for a moment and smiles at his lover.

"No, I honestly have to say that I don't," he replies.

She smiles back at him and rests her head on his shoulder.

"Neither do I," she says. "Neither do I."

THE SYMBIOSIS OF LIFE AND DEATH

Posted 24 September 2019, 9.51 pm by Green Mamba

My name is Rudi. Some 15 years ago I wrote The Symbiosis of Life and Death. It was a crude and ugly thing held together with sticky tape, paperclips, some few pieces of string and post-it note or two. It is a fictional tale that was inspired by my own personal journey at the time through some of the many philosophical and religious discussions, opinions, comments, poems and arguments that I had here at AKpCEP and a few other forum sites back then. A few radical life-changing events later, some of the things that I believed and had written at the time became obsolete, so after putting it off for far too long I finally decided to fix and finish the journey that I had started. This is the third rewrite in less than 6 months and probably as close to an end result as it will get. Over the next months (or years) depending on the relativity of time and space in Alexanderverse I will humbly share it with you chapter by chapter. Please feel free to comment, compliment or criticize it as you see fit. Hopefully, my mind and my abuse of the English language is not too raw for anybody to digest.


FOREWORD

THE BEAST
AN ALLEGORICAL ATTEMPT
(Adapted from an essay by Benjamin Wright)

He looked out the window. Itís out there, waiting for him. He could sense it, calling out his name every day, watching and waiting. He tried to limit his ventures into The World outside the window as much as possible, to work and back again, but even that didnít work. The Beast could smell the blood and every day it would drink a little more, sap a little more light from his soul.

It feeds on everyone. No one is free from its grip and no one can hold onto their sanity under the influence of its delusions. Its voice is everywhere. Even when they sleep it works on them, telling them what to want, where to find it and when they need it. Desires are its strength and lies are its greatest weapon.

Over the past few years, his life had acquired a certain monotony but still, he could not get a decent nightís sleep. Shortly after closing his eyes, he would wake up drenched in sweat, struggling to hold back the screams of terror by biting on his fist. Itís an ongoing battle against The Darkness that much he knew.

Every night he would lie in bed and stare at his wife, watching her expressions and listen to the unintelligible muttering as she tossed from side to side. ďMaggots,Ē he thought, ďmaggots crawling in The Darkness and burrowing into her mind. The sordid whispers mingling with her thoughts, growing, feeding off her desires while slowly turning her into just another smiling puppet.

Others as well. His friends and family. Even his son. He has a big poster on his wall designed to make them mad, ďWANKING IS MY DRUGĒ and it did too. Not him as much as his wife. Theyíre all the same. So very much alike, like everybody else. The voices are everywhere. The insinuations, in the music, the papers, the news, everywhere. There is no escape. Signs attacking you and the billboards screaming at you every hour. The rest of the time is filled with background noise, pop culture and syntactical insinuations, pathetically shallow storylines all mingling into one another.

Itís all the same, only the tone of voice would change. All designed to entertain. Distraction is what itís all about, distraction from reality, from yourself until all that remains is the illusion. Like a magician who operates the attention of a crowd to produce the most amazing visions and The Beast is the master magician.
He locked himself in his room, ignoring his family and friends. It saddened him, but he reminded himself time and time again that every war had its casualties and The Beast had already killed all of them years ago. He tried to open their eyes, to make them see. Talked to them calmly, sternly and then shouted, but they were deaf to the truth. Safe in the illusion so they let him be for a while, hoping that he would come to his senses.

Two days went by during which he threw everything in his room out the window. Magazines, pamphlets, television, radio, phone, even all the unpaid bills that had piled up in the past few months. He tried to isolate himself from every possible influence, every alien thought, every inflicted desire and every social responsibility, hoping to free his mind from the shackles of The Beast. This is it. He would keep The Beast at bay at all cost. All that remained was himself, naked with a pencil and a blank piece of paper to draw on. He would simply draw inconsequential doodles to try to smother out the voices and prevent the infected desires from creeping in.

Two more days went by before his wife and son walked into his room to see what he was up to. While she pleaded with him, cried, shouted and then just stood there weeping, he continued to doodle on the piece of paper, oblivious to her presence. Finally, in a barely audible whisper, she announced that she was calling the authorities. For the first time in three days, he lifted his eyes from the piece of paper and looked at his weeping wife, the phone in her hand, thinking that she wouldnít dare, but she did.

She was busy calling agents of The Beast, inviting The Darkness into his home and he could feel the anger boiling from within. He tried to hold it back, tried with all his might to shove it into the farthest corner of his mind, but still it boiled and boiled until he could hold it back no more. He still had the pencil in his hand, clutching it like a child would clutch the last remaining crayon. In one frantic swipe, he punctured his wifeís throat while his son watched in horror. She tumbled to the ground trying to stop the blood from pouring out with a stunned look of disbelief painted on her face. His son stood frozen, paralyzed with fear. He punched the pencil into his sonís chest seventeen times before the anger and frustration finally subsided.

In the deathly silence that followed, he looked out the window. The city was burning. He could see the flames. The Darkness is everywhere, watching, waiting for him and no matter where he went he couldnít hide. It was only a matter of time. He could run, try to get away, but he couldnít hide. The Beast could smell the blood.

Dreams for the dying

Posted 7 August 2019, 10.12 pm by Alexander

Once, when I was a child, I dreamt my own death.

I think I must have been 10 or 11, and in the dream I was sitting on my best friend's parent's bed. I felt myself falling and everything went black before I hit the ground. I knew I was dead and paradoxically I was aware it was the end and there was nothing after it.

This stayed with me for quite a while and I think about it quite a bit. It's certainly not the strangest dream I've ever had - that award goes to the recurring nightly dream about the little people that lived in my bathroom, but that's another blog post.

Dreams, science will tell you, are the brain defragging its hard drive after a hard day thinking. But of course, we know different don't we?

In fact, dreams are liminal escapes into the true reality of being, unfettered by material reality, corporeality, physics (quantum or otherwise - who cares if it's a wave or a particle when it's got your first grade English teacher's face) or that pesky logic bullshit we're tied to.

Dreams are real. More real than your office job or what people think about your new haircut. Truly, the only place you're free from other people and - critically - yourself.

They say you dream more often than you remember doing so. I wonder how many other times I've died in the real world.

Love solution temple reunited My ex who left me for my best friend came back begging me, it was like

Posted 14 July 2019, 12.46 pm by NataHolly

You were right, it is not totally magic! Love solution temple spell casting are really powerful.. its hours after Love spell castes the spell for me.. My ex who left me for my best friend came back begging me, it was like a dream...After 14 months of trying to get him back and thinking he would realize his mistakes. the spell you cast worked so fast we had a make-up sex, Now I am 2 weeks pregnant, I will buy you another spell to help me get a promotion at my job. for your help visit [redacted].

Nata Holly.

I Am a Genius

Posted 26 February 2019, 7.54 am by Alexander

Itís time I came to terms with something youíve probably known for a while. I am a genius.

Every single idea Iíve ever had has been brilliant, revolutionary and genre defining. If you disagree then youíre probably not smart enough to understand.

Everything Iíve ever produced has been of the utmost objective quality, there can be no denying this. Any negative reviews Iíve had have been in error. Any ambivalence towards my creative output is due to a lack of imagination in the viewer.

If Iíve ever said anything to offend you, then you were probably just being too sensitive and I was likely being ironic anyway. You need to lighten up.

Where a decision Iíve made seemed questionable, you have to understand that Iím amazing at seeing the bigger picture, and you are not. Donít worry, it will all become clear in the end.

And if you disagree with any of the above, then youíre just a hater and Iím going to ignore you.

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I truly believe that Vancouver has one of the most beautiful cityscapes. This photo was taken late in the afternoon. The way the sun was hitting the water almost brought me to tears. I think that someone should make this into a postcard that promotes our beautiful city.

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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness

Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

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