They were called Dream Insurance Ltd.
The sun seemed almost human.
It made Kroden feel like a steak that was slowly cooking over many years as he rolled around in bed. He finally leaned up, and smiled at his “remembricant doll” as she laid slouched in the corner, asking him for another caress. It was a bad smile that crept along his lips and drooped down to the side, sardonic, animalic, and awful, but the best that the crippled muscles in his left cheek could manage.
The smile came because the gift was meant to be a joke, yet, logic was cruel, and stopped Kroden from throwing it away. It was the most expensive thing in his apartment. The ghosts of old synthetic take-away food grew in the corners, creating their own gods, like we all do, knowingly or not.
In the same way that the old advertisements used to say that you could a tell a person by their tailor, scent, profession, or form, it’s more likely that you can tell a person by what they smile at. For Kroden, the pleasure came in smiling at his own madness. The insanity grew calmly each moment, it was the same as love, except with less death. It woke and slept beside him. It leered at time, and helped his battered left side dress when his body wouldn’t cooperate in the morning. It showed him glimpses in the mirror of a half shaved man, tall, wearing his dark navy uniform, with a strange eagle perched above a ∞ emblem on the right shoulder.
He received a twenty percent discount from Dream Insurance Ltd since he worked for them. In the moody years ahead of the the last wars, when each denizen was satiated of their fire: the liberals calmed with the obedient bending over of the conservatives, the Zionists and radicals having somewhere cut each other’s throat in their own rubicon opera, and the monetary system having been replaced with another parody, Kroden was troubled by memories of his previous life.
In the same way that if a monkey howls at lightening enough, once in the continuum it will look like he controls it. So it came that the truth came through, and the meaningless ones and zeros, numbers and particles in a finely pressed piece of paper, finally gave way to their source, and the system’s new master was dream, recorded, held, gripped, sold, and placed into the mammal’s hierarchy. The currency, less fluidic than the last, and more fluxive than the next, required that the source be monitored and shared, so that everyone knew exactly where they were. The bridge between idea and action was broken, so the normal weekend saw a few hundred good citizens holding hands and projecting their minds into an oval amphitheatre, watching every dream perform like a petri-dish on fire.
Of course, deviancy had to be monitored.
So, Antony & Cleopatra could be played by Sophia Loren and Tom Hardy, interwoven with Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata, carouselling up in violent throws of woe in natural open rain, but the ones harbouring different narratives, equally, found themselves the recipients of replicated a notice, mostly, early the next day. It asked them to escort themselves to a near-by office. The location was undisclosed, as the message was always signed by the person’s line-manager, letting the denizen know that the meeting was unavoidable.
Early the next day, life, or time, Kroden awoke and his muscle memory acted long before his mind. He tried to roll over and reach across to the body next to him. Yet, as his body attempted this, his left arm spasmed in refusal, and his eyes opened. In reality, his Amygdala was 0.0031 ounces lighter, and the surgeon had been over-stimmed and clumsy, which was the normalcy for emergency procedures, leaving Kroden with further “adaptations”, as they were called. The only thing he was helped with and notified about was linked to this adaptation, which was a crucial part of his job as a caretaker in the hospitality department, since the operation saved his life from hereditary epilepsy.
Every now and then he had to call his line-manager to ask him about an item he didn’t understand how to use. On September 4th , 3071, he called in and asked what he should do with a small diamond encrusted cuff-link with the words “I am always with you” engraved into the underside. Somehow it had dropped into the cargo boxes that the company had transported his goods in. Another time, when taking a break from his normal routine of slapping his head nine times in the evening when he returned from work, he stared at a replaying photo loop hung on the wall that he liked to look at when he ate his take-away meals on his mattress. The loop showed Kroden in high-school, lifting the belt of the junior middle-weight County Grammar boxing tournament. The food tasted good, and Kroden munched like an ape that had been starved over several days. The way it slopped on the floor made him laugh, sometimes it looked like words, or a smiley face. He chuckled and half-burped, bringing up a few noodles, and singing a song to keep himself company and amuse his remembricant doll, who played the song back to him, artificially equalised with an added snare-drum kick beat.
Yet, the boy in the photo had a tattoo on his waist. Kroden was semi-illiterate, but he wondered why the boy had black noodles written on him. As was normal for the polymathic elite, Kroden M. Wraithright III had his own peculiar sense of taste for past tastes in literature, woven in his mind with perfectly manipulated athletic ability, highly charged creative zones stock-piled and already valued, as well as his allocated mating partner. Where among this, he had a love for written ink tattoos, which he had begun to assemble on his body.
Kroden compared the undecipherable lines on his torso in the photo, to the funny noodles on the floor, to the blocks of blacked out ink on his current flesh, and became confused.
They made him repeat the head slapping ritual that he carried out anytime he felt like this. Made him howl. Made him see something that didn’t fit. Made him rock and ask the gods in his room growing from the moulding take-away boxes for an answer. The physical pain he inflicted on himself continued for many hours, until he fell asleep from exhaustion and dropped his noodles on the floor, although, one of the gods answered, and before he slept, he had unknowingly written Alfred Bester’s words:
Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death’s my destination.
With reincarnation scientifically understood, monetised, and prevalent in culture as a popular form of commerce, there was little outside of the sphere of human hands that couldn’t be manipulated. A woman brought a libel case against a man who claimed he had raped her in a previous life in a car park in Miami, which, the court dismissed, having become familiar with false claims that people used in order to increase their notoriety float – this being a crude way to increase the worth and spread of ones own genuine actions and dream ability, although in this case, the accusation being true.
None of this was known to Kroden, he liked his job, and loved his life. He had by instinct alone began to create his own type of art. In what were perceived as grotesque gurgles he would ask his barber to give him the cuts of his hair that laid on the floor, normally, in a crumpled paper bag. The barber, familiar with the fetishes of zero class denizens, appeased the caretaker’s behests, unless the man’s workplace would be overcome by one of the customer’s fits.
He would go home, ready to interact with the gods living in his flat, whereby he wove together the mixed discarded hair, and created small sculptures, using pieces of old food, old toe nail clippings for eyelids, and grains of variant penicillin strains for eyes, where finally, he presented them to his line-manager every now and then to show his appreciation for his job and his master’s existence. The man accepted the warped gifts, having been ordered to treat Kroden with amiability via the chain of command, less he suffered his own adaptation. And. Secretly. It brought him gratification to see the previous company executive bring him such things. It made the supervisor’s hell a little more like life, in that he had always dreamed of such people being below himself, and moreover: create art from their position.
It was only when he dreamed that Kroden’s spirit remembered.
Of course, the belt lifted up and down like it did in the replaying photo. Although after that, he was free. Parts of him, both those that understood the reason for routine and those obscure, broke out and parlayed with reality, bringing a litmus flame to chaos. All things separated. His animality became mature, again, and his life span apexed above an infinite helix of creation. The hound wept and pawed at a felidae, and vixen and Krakatoa alike welcomed his kinship. The universes raised his old vitality to screaming point, and he screamed, and screamed.
In the morning Kroden slipped on the floor, half destroying the sentences he had written in noodles, immediately beginning his routine again, and holding his limp side as he walked over to his shower room. When dressed he looked at the swirls of pinkish brown sauce and lettering on the floor and became instantly upset at himself for wasting food, and even more so for the strange way they lay and were trying to speak. As always he immediately called his line-manager, who attempted to hide his laughter anytime Kroden’s morning calls were made. He was never calling in sick, but forcing his throat to grunt out a few words about an article of puzzlement. This time it was a question about why the noodles looked different to his body:
“Ahh ah. Ahh ah. Ah ah ah. Cuff! Ah. Ah. Ah. Ill. Ah ah ah. I. Ah ah ah. Fuh. Fuh. Fuh.”
“Good morning Kroden! Did you sleep well? I’m sure you did! Isn’t it a fantastic day? Do you love m- (abnormality detected. Supervisor colloquialism: Error 8.17 reported) oh fuck you-” Kroden’s boss said to his sensor chip.
The movements of controlling the early shift workers was simple. Most were similar to Kroden, lobotomising a mongrel idea of life into a more thoroughbred idea, or at least, if they had ideas. Most, like Kroden, could barely walk, but made good workers. His supervisor waited in his office, salivating at the scene he’d imagined, where the caretaker brought him yet another hair doll. The door in the basement office opened, before a bedraggled knocking, ranging from low to high murmurs of knuckle on a black glass.
Kroden’s supervisor continued to pour out a battalion of talk to his wife, half annoyed, and half stimulated by his normal routine of dosing the worker up with enough benperidol to knock out Cerberus.
“Oh it’s Mr Leper, shiiiiit, you have to check out these things he brings me… I sell them on the side to a fucko who he used to compete with at corporate level. You know he nearly took that company out! In one morning! Before coffee! Oh ok, hell inside hell, I gotta go, speak to you soon lovechip.”
Kroden made his normal grunt at the door, twitching his unmaimed foot inside. The supervisor flicked a finger from side to side commanding a clerk to ready the meds for the excited caretaker. The office stank of unwashed clothing, since it was adjacent to the rooms where the company uniforms were laundered. The man ushered him in, smiled, and tried to hold back his warped pleasure, vengeful sojourns, and thoughts pertaining to where he dreamt of what was happening.
“Before we dose away those dreams, and before we settle what is unsettled Mr Wraithright – Ha! Mr Hunky Dory fuck-tart. Before we do what we always do, I must tell you, that you fascinate me more than my wife’s step sister, and brother, that’s saying something! Ha! Oh, damn me above heaven, you know some days, I wish that you had a LUCID five minutes, just so that I could hold my piss, before I let it drip into your neck. Piss. You know piss. Tinker. Tinkerbell. Tinky!” He said, groping himself.
Kroden looked down at his crotch wondering if he was meant to alleviate himself at this particular time.
“Tiii tiii… Huuuuh huh huh huh! Tiii!”
“Yeah… Ohh jeez he’s drooling… Fuck, dose the cunt will you?”
And Orion shaped a beer into a knife of novae. Or. There were just genetics which couldn’t be humbled, in anyway, by any knife, fully. Kroden’s knackered left arm slowly raised its palm, and held off the medic & syringe, and twitched. He didn’t know why, and was normally incapable of unapeasing gestures. The junior heavy weight belt lifted up and down, and he puzzled at the recorded thought of the spilled noodles on his apartment floor, along with the dark patch of blotted out ink on his torso. A camera whirred in the corner, recording, and observing, where a member of Kroden’s bloodline sipped on a glass of hybrid wine, ambivalent and pure of emotion, drifting near Pluto’s unknown brother moon: Vittalia. The art of life was in the blood, and it could not be removed. Kroden’s mitochondrion, the energy stores inside a human cell, took control, yawned, looked around the room, indifferent to parasitic goings on, and spoke:
“Where is this?”
The supervisor spat his heart, and looked at the docile medic, only familiar with Kroden’s usual leper gurglings.
“You- uhm. Wha-?”
One of Kroden’s kin, Jansuene, awoke from an eternity of pleasure, ready to plan the next harvesting of thought from Earth. He stared at a long flickering document of signals and trapezing tesseracts on his ship’s display screen, calculating integers, and other immeasurable dances.
The centuries between when he created new religions in colonised off-planets, and decimated others, was the worst, although, some days he was just glad of the time off. Of all the original Wraithright bloodline, he knew that there were elements that he dare not look at, and that he preferred to navigate in the dead worlds of commerce and business. Although as callous as he felt for all things, he took an interest in Kroden, even in his broken state, which he controlled, and sometimes brought back to lucidity.
He no longer understood time in the inferentiality of action towards outcome, but knew that time was emotion, and nothing but. He understood the sabotaging of Kroden’s potential at night, and then awoke with a new rage. He watched Kroden stave off the medic however, and this made some new light bore-into his eternal business of planetary networking, and take down the hollow shade which was guessing what another knows. He skipped through his character-kin’s years, and said:
“They’re gonna dose you you dummy, lift the damn belt you monkey, lift it high, yeah… Ok, jeez… They really did a job on you didn’t they…”
Kroden dribbled, leant over with his good arm, and gripped the medic’s elbow tight, whispering.
“It’s all good, you can take that away, or it’ll go through your rib-cage.”
The medic retired his gestures, and walked back slowly, walking like a reversed meerkat. A small light in the bottom left corner of Jansuene’s array bleeped, alerting him to the fact that his observee’s functioning was returning. He smiled, and wondered for a few moments about creating an eco-system based solely on Kroden’s specific automature, before traversing to another sector of space.
“Cuzzt cal. Cal. Cal. Cal. Cuf. Cuff. Cuff-links. Why.” Kroden said, sedating his own nanostructure, “Why were the cufffff- linkkkssssss.”
And in a burst of effervescent flame, Jansuene lit a smoke, leaped again across irresolvable distances, and felt joy in his blood, perhaps learning from even a god turned into a monkey, how unstoppable his line was, and watching the scene in his peripheral, so to scorch the banality of his dayless work.
The room boomed inside Kroden’s throat, before and after the event. His line-manager had dreamt of this, and made the mistake of fearing his dreams: devaluating his worth by several levels in the global network. The small dolls that Kroden had made for his master twitched, then twitched again. They felt the pleasure of all lives, in all sentience, in all music, unnerving the supervisor, and asking his bones to stay silent.
The heat poured in.
The sun felt human.
And the moon swore.
And each wolf drew blood from the night’s flesh, devouring the light of darkness.
Kroden walked home alone as a deviant was hung from a hovering lamp-post near his apartment. The deviant’s eyes watched him as he spoke on his phone, and followed him. And as he arranged his mind in a way that could handle loving two people at the same time, his dark skin crept with mercury, or rain.
One drop was fantasy, before the eagerness that strove him to supply enough dreams for his wife, becoming the old woods that he knew, the next drop was the street. He wished deeply to invite his mate to lay with him in this place, this place, which in high irony later fuelled her own masters degree, although, in dream we are all flesh and chaos abundant, finally able to accept that which we like, able only to sail once. Thanking the source in deepest dance.
He used to smoke, somewhere. And. His body looked around at the blood in the walls, unable to breathe. And like a tsunami waltzing easy, he sat upright in his seat, moved his head from side to side, and let his spirit laugh with the dancing gifts on his manager’s desk. His oesophagus wanted to shatter in and out, wanted to enlarge the world’s soil with new sudden dance and play, yet, and in returning to his real self, he sensed negativity from the fat man sat opposite the table. But there was no holding it back, as the hair, woven before, when Kroden’s mind had been retaliating always, began to flow out, cannibalising calm. Some of them were shadow puppets. Cavorting inside a dusky poem about blood and memory, swaying their limbs from side to side like neon-noir films sweating galaxy and more.
In short, Kroden felt the reason for the people he had created on the manager’s desk. And, somewhere too, he felt that deep heavy pain in his gut that feasted on such truth. His arse was no longer touching the seat however, as he hovered above it, and each of his cells operated in normal time, unable to understand why he was in the basement. A strange notion, hummingbird and silent, spoke about the company, but not before reflecting if George Orwell’s book 1984 was right. Kroden’s body was fast becoming invisible, as different parts of the supervisor’s body was melting, so, they spoke to each other in slow monotonic dream, one carnival devouring the other. And in the drone Kroden asked a question, in flux, as some of his bones departed in loops of circular dashes, near and away from Earth, and jettisoned their way to different alternias, some partaking in local amphitheatre, some creating warmth, others asking the monkey to be quiet, and some entertaining it. The red light spoke, easy blue moon departing and said:
“Oh such a tiresome day! Oh how we melt here, dear dear boy. Although, and, let us meet on a mutual plane…” Kroden rose the supervisor to his lips and kissed him, and passed on the question which was really a statement, “I feel, oh we agree! Yes. Everything was right about 1984, except one article that I hope you look over. And the article is down to this, the machines remembered and created in fiction are not the one we should accuse of watching and… Oh no! Recording ourselves! Perhaps this is a better way of putting it. No. Would you like to know the kicker? It is that we, alert the system, by our own volition, of where we are, and what we think! We tell the system what we are feeling, thinking, and where we are, and even, take pleasure and normalcy in this. You see? No 1984 via obsequious monitoring. We do it ourselves. And another thing. This company. I am unsatisfied with my dream liebchen. I call upon my insurance policy. And where this body I depart from lives in a world that has the ability to both insure and create dreams, I say… Oh… What is there to say…” Kroden embraced his manager making them instantly disperse in a tight burst of light, one of them taken to a heavenly hell that correlated with their blood-line, the other to a lesser place, unaware that the day had happened, where another few words were whispered “The dream yes, the one I wish to return, and the one that has brought me here, I saw my love. And she… Was talking with a mutual friend, as I worked, on the docks. Who do you suppose I was that time love? It’s cool, lets depart, you to yours, myself to mine.”
“What did you make of that life then?” Jansuene asked Kroden, as a light appeared on his display, and they exchanged currency, watching Kroden’s sculptures dance in the office fire, elsewhere in time.