book two: "the feed"

     As much as he detested revolving doors, he was still obligated to utilize them on occasion. Architects of the twentieth century had decided this fate for him; that in every man’s life there would be ONE building that had the atrocious entrances. A fad that has died out presently due to safety concerns, thank god. Franklin shuddered to process the notion of a panicked stampede happening around revolving doors. The ensuing melee of frightened sheep running from peril into the grinding teeth the doors would become, perhaps more of a turbine blade, would be grisly and somewhat hilarious. But what did Franklin know? The glass would probably shatter or something and there would be little cause for further alarm. 

     (A quick feed search of “revolving doors” would inform the reader that the entrances would actually collapse upon impact and fold down, due to a night club nightmare midcentury where this exact scenario happened. But Franklin did not have access to the feed yet so his ignorance is included here for context- ed.) 

    With a resigned breath, he pressed on through the dreaded doorway and into the bank. 

    “Ok, everyone! This is a cliché! ,” he bellowed. 

     The room continued on as if they had not heard him. Current transactions continued to process and pleasantries were issued and received. 

     Franklin shook his head and cleared his throat. 

     Still nothing. Nobody noticed him. It was then that he remembered he was still wearing his trench coat. He moved a few steps in and removed his outer layer. 

     “Lay down all your money and put your hands in your pants pockets, NOW!” 

      Franklin’s voice, calm, steady and loud, was much more triumphant than it was usually. He ran his hands over the prop moustache glued to the latex that was covering his face. The wig he had chosen was cut appropriately not to be too short and not so long that the back would touch the collar of his uniform. He really looked like he could be one of them. 

      “Everything you’ve known to be true about this system still is true, it’s just not real. If you give them your pay, they save it for you. What’s not real is the payment itself, there IS NO PAY. Really, they just pretend it exists so that you think you need it. You don’t.” 

      The room was staring at him, that much was good. Nobody really knew what to do or say. A few of the tellers had most assuredly pushed panic buttons. Or had they? After all, his police man disguise was as accurate as possible. The couple to his right in business attire AND the family of three just down the row were looking at him with dazed interest, knowing that whatever the Uniform said, the Uniform meant. And the Uniform always meant well. 

      “In keeping things brief, there is cause for alarm and we are ALL going to die. But not right now and not at the hands of anyone in this room…. Well, probably. I don’t presuppose to know all of your personal interactions. This is just a simulated act of assumed rebellion.” 

       His arms began acting of their own explanatory accord as they typically did when he spoke. This was not something he could control, and it was a damn good thing he did not have a weapon. Panic quickly ensues in the presence of a waving weapon. 

       “Just remember to call the police. Have them tell the media, the president, and the pope. Alert your physicians and make sure your kids tell their friends and teachers. There is sickness here and its stink is most foul. Believe in it you must, for it certainly believes in you. It is the collective stench of deliberate fiction feeding on the very years of our lives. This specter has a name and it is SCRATCH. This ghost is in a mutualistic and malignant relationship with the devil. The devil has a name and it is NEED. Now that you know, who will you tell?” 

       And with that, Franklin turned and left. 

      His dramatic departure took longer than he would have liked. The revolving door was on the exact opposite side of the entrance as he was trying to leave. 

      He waited. 

      So did the room. 

      He sneezed. 

     “God bless you,” someone said. 

     “Thank you,” said Franklin without turning around. 

      Finally, the door came back his way and Franklin stepped through. 

     The bank teller closest to the door, who had been holding her index finger above the panic button under her cubicle, let her digit relax. It was her turn to clear her throat. 

      “Next,” she said. 

*** 

      Then the dream dissolved into a sight that solicited a response he was unfamiliar with. He saw a brightly lit room, which was strange due to the openness of the area. This room was definitely different than the ones on the fifth in which he spent his days. He puzzled over the source of illumination until he looked down and realized his strange manner of dress. His EXO was nowhere to be found. Instead, he wore only a soft fade of blue material around his legs and buttocks; His chest and feet were bare. He remembered photos of ancestors dressed similar when they were out in the open, out in the natural world. He looked up to confirm his suspicion and sure enough, the sun was peering over the treetops of the horizon. He had only assumed he was in a room because that was all he had ever seen. 

    “This is what outside looked like,” he thought and he smiled as he sat down across from the easel. He picked up his pallet and began mixing the hues he saw so that he may represent them accurately on his canvas. Strangely, he felt as if this was something he wanted to do. Add to that the fact that he knew what he was doing, although he had never painted in his life. And how in the Holy Chancellor did he know what “outside” were to look like? Just as the shrill wine of the Feed tore through his slumber, he was able to identify what was odd about this dream. This was not a fancy of the mind, a scene of imagination. The details were much too specific and visceral, even minutiae seemed familiar. 

     No. 

    This was a memory. 

weeeeeeEEEEEEAAAAHAHHHAAAhhh 

    The wake voice function that the feed chose today was the slow steady siren of a boiling kettle. This was its third alarm setting, signifying the day of the week and also that day’s obligations. D.R.’s eyes blinked open and stared up at the titanium ceiling. 

     Wednesday. Already. 

   The thought was barely audible to him, as the feed had already started in with the news. 

   An ability to effectively represent the colonies cannot be misinterpreted as grounds for dismissal. We must assume control of and for the very lowest and therefore assure power to the highest. 

Your majesty what will become of the currency if the bill passes? 

All will be well my child, as all can be well. The current state of financial decline has nothing to do with the absorption of IRT technology. All for the best, and the best for all. 

    The channel was switched; the feed knew D.R. preferred his news only in headline graboids. It now showed an animated North American brown bear cuddling with toilet paper. 

Only the softest tissue for my naughty bits, smiled the bear. 

     The image was over as quickly as it had begun, and the feed sputtered out. D.R. was now staring into the darkness once again. He blinked, sat up, and wheeled around in his bunk. He needed to plug in and get the Feed back on. If he did not, the upload would be tedious and the pain unpleasant. He moved to the far wall where the electro port dangled, bypassing his EXO that he had flung on the floor, and inserted the port line to the base of his jaw. (This line always had the best current, even if they suggested the spinal link.) Of the three connects on his body that the feed could upload, the jaw always delivered the quickest no matter what they said. The machine inside the wall began to hum slightly, and he could taste the metal. It made him salivate slightly and he began to wonder what flavor he would sniff for breakfast. Wednesdays went unregulated in that regard, with the feed only designating Lunch and Dinner. Breakfast was a free for all, on this day. This luxury was enough to make him smile and he looked around for his EXO. He remembered he saw it on the way over, but just as he located the suit, he heard the sound. A whisper at first, but soon it became obvious. 

Words spoken from afar. 

Like from the bottom of a well. Two syllables, pleasantly spoken, seemingly repeated. 

D.R. turned and scanned the room. Where was this coming from? The only possible audio source was the Feed and it was still preparing for download, otherwise he would be seeing something. That the room was dark meant that the feed was still rebooting. Where could the noise be coming from? 

Outside said a voice in his head 

This was not a concept D.R. understood. “Outside” was not a place you could go anymore. The only sound from out there was silence. The chant slowly rose in volume so that he started to make the connection to the words being spoken. 

He almost had it. And then, all at once, it was like someone standing beside him. 

That someone whispered directly into D. R.’s ear: 

“WAKE UP” 

Startled, D.R. jumped and gave a quick shout that sounded more like a yelp. He overbalanced and almost fell over, but steadied himself on the port line. He blinked and took a breath, as the Feed came back to life. 

Good morning angel, his mother’s voice intoned. 

The feed was always his mom in the morning. It was only in the afternoon that it assumed the voice of a companion. 

Morning Feed, he replied. 

The two channels began to run simultaneously as D.R. pulled on his Exo. 

One hundred and ninety days of peace, said the left channel. 

Always keeping us right where we need to be. The economy stays dormant and we prosper as a people. Foundations form fountains from which We all can drink. 

 Need some down time from travel? Level off with HYDROCOL! And just stay in tonight. The right channel always knew what you needed no matter what. It scratched your itch before you knew it needed it. 

   It scratched the… 

   D.B. drew in a quick breath as a memory came racing through his mind. Some place with other people not in EXO suits, all looking at him in fear. All eyes on him and… 

   Why had he not thought about that before? In the part of the dream where he was painting, he knew it was weird because of his surroundings but he had never seen anything remotely close to what happened at the bank either… 

  “Wrong sided boy” said a voice over the Feed. 

   D.B. blinked and shook the memory of his dream, or dreams, away. He was now looking at a popup of John Wayne holding an American flag. 

Damn Ads. 

Mother, didn’t you download the latest filter? These refuse pieces are coming through again. 

The Feed did not answer, and Mr. Wayne stood there looking at D.R. 

“Are you deaf son? I said you are wrong in the head, this is no man’s land and you ain’t got a flag” 

D.R. blinked. 

Um.. look I don’t need what your selling, nobody does. Your America is a relic. 

D.R. smiled as he saw a look of contempt shut John Wayne’s mouth.

Hmm, he thought.
These programs are getting better at interactivity, for just being commercials

“Franklin,” Wayne said. 

D. R.’s eyes widened in recognition. 

“Just wake the hell up.” 

As he said this last, he threw the flag at D.R.’s feet. As he was about to catch it, he realized it had turned into a snake. Silly to be scared of such things as this was still on the Feed, but he realized two things at once. John Wayne was 2 dimensional and the snake was not. The snake was as real as D.R. himself. He also became aware that he was in serious trouble. 

He drew his hand back but too late. The snake’s fangs nipped the fleshy part of his hand between his thumb and index finger. Instinctively, D.R. pulled his hand towards his chest with his other hand, leaving a crucial window. The snake saw the opportunity, reared back, and sprung directly into D.R.’s exposed face. 

*** 

  “weeeeeeEEEEEEAAAAHAHHHAAAhhh” 

    The cry rose slowly from the prisoner’s throat and out into the world for those standing near to hear. His legs quivered and he shook, the blue pant legging of a police uniform riding up his calf as it writhed and kicked. Franklin’s eyes flickered but did not open, the back and forth movement of the eye balls indicating that the state of his sleep was still deep. 

    “Has he been like this long, Dr.?” the detective asked. 

    “Yup,” replied the man in charge. 

   “As soon as he showed up and asked to be locked away. He mumbled something about the time growing short and then proceeded to punch the receptionist square in the mouth. She is still recovering from the shock. They arrested him, threw him in here, and he passed out. Been moaning like that the whole time. Dreaming and moaning, moaning and dreaming.” 

   The man in charge did not look up from his work as he told these updates to the detective. He was not interested. 

   The detective looked thoughtfully at the prisoner in the cell. He was weary to pursue charges on someone who was so obviously unbalanced. After all, not everyone causing a peace disturbance in a bank, heads straight to the jail and assaults an attendant just to get locked up. This guy was a loon. Still, he may be involved with Big Picture. 

    “Give him a dose of feed and get him awake,” the man said. 

    This got the MIC’s attention. He turned to address his companion. 

    “Are you sure that’s wise?” he asked. 

    “Granted its public acceptance, I’m not sure how it will react with his bizarre behavior.” 

    “We need to have a talk and Feed gets results. Best damn drug for it. If it works for icy married couples and teens with dirty secrets, it will work on crazies too. Get him awake and we will find out what he knows, if anything at all” 

    “But,” the doctor, no longer feeling very much in charge, began to object. 

    The detective looked at him. 

    The doctor yielded. 

    As the man in charge prepared a dose of feed to inject into the prisoner’s arm, the detective got up to go outside. He lit a cigarette and leaned against the wall, reflecting on the man’s misgivings. Such cautious bastards always slowed progress. It would take a while for feed to catch on, but he knew it would. The feed would one day prove essential, he could feel it. Today it was a pharmaceutical marvel, a brilliant cocktail of nanotechnology and prescription drugs. Truth came easily when they used it and what better than an instant answer? Tomorrow could only tell what world the Feed could bring us. 

   Hmm, he thought to himself. 

   Soon, we won’t even have to go outside for answers 

He took a last look at the sun on the horizon, stubbed his smoke out, and turned to go back in. 

    Soon ,we won’t go outside at all. 

*** 

“Wake up,” said the voice. 

D.R. opened his eyes upon a bright light. 

Outside, he thought and smiled. 

As his mind reeled into consciousness he realized that the light was much too intense and that he was extremely uncomfortable. His neck throbbed and his throat was dry. Had he been… bitten by... a snake? 

He snapped full awake now and his head rolled 90 degrees straight up to a sitting position. The world spun as if on a wheel. Apparently he had fallen asleep sitting up and the light that he woke up to was on the ceiling. He shook his head, blinked, and was overcome with nausea. 

His disorientation was now complete, he couldn’t be seeing what he thought he was. Dots and dashes danced before his eyes in a kaleidoscope of delirium. But beyond that he could see faces, several of them, staring at him. He tried to wipe his own face but he could not move his hands. He looked down to find he was bound to a chair. 

“Mr. Charles” said one of the faces. 

“Ugh,” said D.R.. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the dizziness to pass. 

The face was not impressed. 

“Mr. Charles, was it something I said?” 

D.R. opened his eyes. 

“Who… who do you think I am?” 

The face in front looked to his left and then to the right. He then slouched forward in his chair so that he could bring his arms to the table and fold them. 

“Franklin. Franklin Charles, This is not an effective technique toward evading questions.” 

He turned to the face on the right. D.R. could see now that she was pretty. 

“I thought the Feed was supposed to make this easier…” 

“It is detective,” she replied. 

“Perhaps we gave him too much,” said the face to the left. D.R. found that, although his senses were clearing, he still could not really tell much about this man’s face. His features were unexceptional. 

The Detective shook his head. Then he leaned forward again, addressing D.R. as if he were a child. 

“I will only ask you one more time,” he said. 

“Where is AK Dowd?” 

“who…” began D.R. but before he could finish, the noise crashed his perspective. 

weeeeeeEEEEEEAAAAHAHHHAAAhhh 

         It took him a few minutes to realize that he knew the noise. This was the feed alarm from this morning, but… it always changed up for the day of the week. Surely it wasn’t Wednesday morning again? 

He closed his eyes as the noise reached a crescendo. And then it stopped. 

Silence then, but DR did not trust it. 

Sweat dropped from his chin onto his lap. 

He opened his eyes. 

      He was back in his room. There was the John Wayne poster directly in front of him, the one thing he had brought with him from his youth. Mr. Wayne had been through many different places but yet here he was, holding the flag preserving the American dream. But yet, he had not made that connection at all… 

      Just what in the hell had he been dreaming? 

       He looked up and saw the light shining through the window. 

       It must be late, he thought. 
      
      The door to his room opened. A short man with came through and sat on the corner of his bed. 

      “You Ok?” asked the man. 

      D.R. composed himself. And let out a breath. 

      “Man, yea I guess. I had some crazy dreams. You know the kind where you are in and out and it just keeps morphing into another one? This one was definitely stupid.” 

     He laughed shakily. 

    The man looked at him without much sympathy. 

    “You losing it?” he asked 

     D.R. waved one hand and with the other he flashed the universal gesture of disapproval at his cohort. 

    “No man,” he laughed. 

    “We good.” 

    “Good, because we gotta move him tonight.” 

    “I agree, that’s the only part of the dream that made any sense, at some point I was being questioned about the disappearance.” 

    The man blinked. 

    “Again?” He asked 

    D.R. did not meet his gaze but crossed his arms and started picking at a spot on his sleeve. 

    “Are you losing it? We cannot afford to have you losing your shit right now.” 

   D.R. looked up at his partner. 

   “Franklin, this time I was you.” 

   Franklin had no reply to this, he simply stared at D.R. 

   Just as he was about to speak, the noise in the adjoining room began: 


 weeeeeeEEEEEEAAAAHAHHHAAAhhh 

 

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