( part 6 )
Copyright (c) 1996 Cognitec/3rd Force
I'd been driving all night, when the sound of the engine slowly shredding itself, finally broke through my empty numbness and my cold, marketing-concept exterior.
I would have liked to abandon my life entirely, at this point, but instead, because I am such a fucking asshole, I jammed the car into auto-glide, engaged the malfunction-defeat mechanism (which meant that it'd keep going, no matter what) and went to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning and took back manual control, I was only about 20 miles from the United Hebrew Emirates.
My ultimate destination was a few hundred thousand miles beyond that, in the Union of Episcopalian-Sandanista Republics.
Rumors described this country as a land without media- personalities, where no one was equal, and "No Pain was Gain," and where there was no continuity, and therefore, no honesty or dishonesty.
Every schoolchild, there, knew the names of the members of the 3 powerful families that'd stopped fighting each other, one day, long ago, and joined forces, in order to more totally re-script History and more forcefully dictate the nature and object of all motivation.
And they also had a rich tradition, there, of people bitching about small sums of money, or small stolen objects, or small objects borrowed and never returned -- till it got so bad, they just killed each other and each other's families over it. And burned down each others' houses and booby-trapped each others' cars and mined each others' family gravesites.
About 100 miles past the UHE, the road ended unexpectedly.
I pulled over to check the map, but all the pencilled-in revisions made it impossible to read. All the borders had been drawn and re-drawn many times, and many names crossed out and re-written by hand, and then crossed out and re-re-written by a machine trying to look like a hand.
I got out of the car and sat on the hood and lit up a General Motors Lite. Overhead, a Fuck-The-World jumbo jet streaked by, followed, only moments later, by the popping sounds, not far away, of kids with a Stinger Jr. or VengenceMan, taking shots at it.
Ice particles in the clouds had been chiseled by someone with a ground laser, into a full-sky display of the results of the world-wide survey that'd asked all living people if they were tired, yet, of just being on a side where the net effect of their lives was to simply balance out the lives of other assholes, just like them, on another side.
I took out a pen and tried to get some work done on my suicide note.
For whatever reason, I started with the postscript, which was just this whiny tirade about how fucked it was to have to live in a world where, if something wasn't produced by Mitsubishi-X or Monroe-Dean or Time/Cher, then, for all practical purposes, it simply didn't exist.
To drive home this point, I tried to think of something that should exist, but couldn't, because Mitsubishi-X and Monroe-Dean and Time/Cher wouldn't let it.
But, instead, all I could come up with was a massive list of all the things that shouldn't exist, but did, because Mitsubishi-X and Monroe-Dean, and Time/Cher made them exist.
Then, a few hours later, I folded the note and put it back in my pocket.
I decided to head for Serotoninland, where I'd try to join the famous fairy tale, "Snow White, and the 7 Dwarves of the Apocalypse."
Of course, everyone knows the names of the Seven Dwarves of the Apocalypse: Depressed, Bitter, Fucked-Up, Pissed-Off, Angst-Ridden, Bullshit, and Doc -- and, with some luck, I hoped they'd accept me as one of them and, to show their love, invent a whole new world horror to become my assigned name, once my apprenticeship was complete.
But, about half way there, I suddenly swerved off the road, onto the shoulder and up over a small hill covered with iceplant.
I stopped the car and turned on the radio and just sat there, staring at the delicate patterns of dirt and evaporated water spots on the windshield.
The interior of the car was done in simulated nuclear power plant control room.
I thought about going to Haitiopia or Ethiovakia.
I knew I was at the end of my rope or my road. I was utterly devoid of all feeling or understanding or desire, with no idea what I was doing, or why.
In this state of mind, where I was unable to even write a decent postscript to a suicide note, it was clear I'd be unemployable at any level of the social order or disorder.
And, under those circumstance, the only shitjob I could even think about trying for, was either the governorship or presidency of whatever state or country I was in, at the moment.
I mean, the voters didn't really have to know I was only running cause I couldn't get a job. Did they?
To get started on my campaign, I turned off the radio and wrote down my goals for the nation.
First off, it needed an inexpensive way to not look cheap.
Then, it should generate enough money each year to replace all the money that had ever existed in the history of the world. Year after year.
Then, it needed to build hospitals like Meatball Hospital, and it needed to get conflicts, like Festering Conflict VII, under control.
It should know how to respond if it ever received a note that said, "Congratulations, you've just been selected to participate in somebody else's incest."
It should strive to instruct its true visionaries to try to overlook the undeniable logic that always demanded eliminating vast chunks of population first, just before creating utopia.
It should mandate phone companies whose switching systems could not be overwhelmed by displays of raw sociology or class-specific pheromonal assault.
And, hopefully, it would be covered, in depth, by TV Nexico and Radio Bunwah.
Then I wrote down my promises to the electorate.
1) Rename EVERYTHING, using only permutations of the 7 words they wouldn't let you bounce off a satellite.
2) Rename the country after its worst enemy's worst nightmare. Like "Exploding Toiletsovakia."
3) Spend billions on research into using controlled earthquakes as a tool for surgical, strategic warfare or (possibly) for tactical, mass neuro-surgery.
4) Implement universal automatic survival.
5) Personally place a pox in every chicken and every car and every garage.
6) End celebrity as we know it.
7) Personally cast all the votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment (which I'd personally write) granting freedom of depression.
8) Engage in free, undisciplined and irresponsible use of nuclear weapons whenever I fucking felt like it, like whenever I got pissed off at some petty personal thing, or in case the leader of some other nation happened to smile at me the wrong way.
9) Provide similar access to all the people, except they'd have to submit to a 1-day cooling-off period, first, before being given the keys and the manual for some rusty old nuke, to do with as they saw fit.
10) Provide that the 3 basic human needs -- Drugs, sex, and suicide -- be made available on an "on demand" basis over digital conduits with access nodes in every home, office, stadium, parkinglot, theater, store and out-building in the universe and in time.
11) Achieve MFN (Most Fucked-Up Nation) status, within everybody's lifetime.
This platform was certainly general enough to be valid in almost any country or state and in front of almost any people -- so I knew, if I didn't win in one place, I could just jump in the car and go run for president someplace else, and not even have to write new material.
And if I just kept doing this for a while, by the laws of statistics, I'd eventually have to be elected President somewhere.
As for my qualifications, I would be bringing to the office my many years of experience being totally fucked-up beyond all reason or hope, and by virtue of this, I would be able to understand absolutely anything -- well past the deepest level of deep structure, where consciousness is just a by-product of the accidental exchange of neutrinos between galaxies.
My economic program would be: "Fuck the standard of living! Fuck monetary and fiscal responsibility! Fuck the Market! Fuck Trade!"
My campaign song would be "Fuck the Dream! (Get Real, Losers!)"
My prayer would be for a new species -- or, at least, a break in historical memory for the old one.
My campaign strategy was to destroy my opponents, using only pronouns -- and to warn them of this in advance.
My sickness was One-World Fever, and the cure for it was, of course, Other-World Antibiotics.
On day 1 of my administration, my Secretary of Defensive Education & Welfare would immediately travel everywhere, jawboning everybody into accepting the idea that power over other people was ABSOLUTELY FUCKING WORTHLESS!
And would remain so for the rest of fucking history.
Then the Secretary of Transportation Firearms would rename the capital city Dyslexico, if somebody else in the cabinet hadn't already done so.
And, before anything else happened, the chief of Protocol would announce that "We would sincerely like to apologize in advance for any human inconvenience caused by the programs of this government -- and, if you don't like it, you can go blow yourselves!"
And that would be my Presidency. Love it or leave it.
For many weeks, I'd been coming up spontaneously with random emblems and foods and musics and mythologies and clothes and holidays, and I realized if I could put them all together, I'd have a whole new culture the world had never seen before.
Volunteers could take turns filling out forms and pretending to be members of this culture, until, finally, it became an undeniable reality, whether anyone really belonged to it, or not.
Then, by repeating this success (with only slightly different instantiations for the same basic categories) many times over, enough new national, ethnic, racial, and religious groups could be produced, to replace all the old ones that people were, by now, pretty bored with, anyway -- both their own and everybody else's.
Total-immersion preview-tapes would then be made for each culture, so people could check them out thoroughly before deciding which one to join, to the hatred and exclusion of all others.
I was given a small grant to put all this into operation and, right off, the Rolling Stones wanted to come on board and act as consultants, at no charge.
I interviewed Mick and was impressed when he pointed out to me that any new human group needed to have at least a few fundamental, "really lame" traits that other ("more stupid") groups could use for easy jokes and slurs against it.
"If you want to really establish yourselves," he said, "The best way is to stir up the hatreds of other, already-established groups.
"Once you become the object of group hatred," he said, "Everyone forgets you don't exist."
We spent a lot of time holding drunken, all-night meetings and sending endless gofers out to get twinkies and cigarettes, while we hammered together whole new cultures based on traits like "affinity for Lucky Strike brand microprocessors" or "unrealizable genetic alcohol predisposition."
Then, rather than get our hands dirty implementing them ourselves, we simply broadcast their mottos to the world and let pre-existing people pick them up and do the rest.
Thanks to our efforts, the entire human population now had thousands of new sets of stupid lies and filthy stories to chose from and live up to -- and whole new culture-specific power-slogans to go along with them.
Slogans like: "History remembers those who remember themselves," and "There isn't really any human thing that can't be solved by driving a Camaro off a bridge at high speed."
We'd obviously done our work so well that even I was swept up by the call of our bullshit and signed on to the first hot new nationalicity that came along.
Its constitution was all about how we shouldn't slaughter, murder, mutilate or brutalize each other because we were all in this together. There was only one Cosmos -- "Spaceship Cosmos," they called it in their literature -- and everybody had to take care of it.
Nature and Chance couldn't do it alone.
My new culture had a final exam to get in, and I kept having this dream that it was 10 years later and I still hadn't taken it.
Every time it was given, there'd be an earthquake or tidal wave or train wreck or killing spree that day, and it'd just be physically impossible for me to get to the exam site, though, somehow, everyone else seemed able to make it there OK.
I started getting phone calls from nowhere, trying to sell me services for problems that didn't exist in the world yet.
When I told them I didn't have any of those problems, they said a representative would be in my neighborhood later this week and would stop by to help me develop some.
Then there was a series of explosions. Light and thunder from far away, strung along a line, getting closer. Shrapnel was flying and a wall collapsed from the shock wave. Some screams, some running, crying, slamming doors.
A film started playing on the outdoor wall screen, but you could only see it if you held your own pocket vid-screen up to it.
Before it started, there was a 5-minute, warning title in white letters with gray drop-shadows on a black background. It said:
This film contains a strong and crude argument.
The credit sequence, at the end, is written in a weird script so the names of the cast and crew are utterly unreadable.
Viewer discretion is advised.
I tried to get another job but, by this time, all my credentials worked against instead of for me, and I'd lost my biography. My last will and insurance and my credit cards were all stamped "off-the-wall" so I couldn't redeem them for the standard cash advantage.
I tried getting on "The High-Tech Poverty Hour."
This show had no script or props or star or even an idea of what it was about.
Each week, a line of men walked out of a bathroom and got onto horses. A girl would say, "OK now, remember, when you start to ...." but the rest would be inaudible.
Then the host would come back onstage. A cartoon man would talk to a real plate with lips. Somebody'd open a suitcase -- a woman in hazy black-and-white. She was talking to the James Dean of Japan.
They got into a car. The mother said good-bye. Her lipstick was very red. The car was red. In the back seat they were watching the Elvis Presley of Puerto Rico.
A cartoon radarscope tracked them as they drove through the night. A man hanging from a real helicopter was monitoring the scope. Its sweep traced out the universal ideogram for "How about some more drugs."
Somebody was on the phone. Somebody was smoking a cigarette. Somebody was being dragged away. His forehead was covered with blood.
Just then, two men came running down the tunnel in the dark and then one was splashing water on his face and reading a book where men do cartwheels.
He handed me a picture with a picture in it, but only one of them was moving, and I had to guess which one.
Before I could say anything, a bar blew up and a bookshelf fell over. People within earshot tried to load their rifles as fast as possible, but they acted like it just wasn't fast enough.
Then my last-ditch, go-for-broke, loser-leave-the- planet scholarship application to Pissed-Off-At-the-Sun University was denied because of 3 outstanding mass murder charges against me and 2 mass-murder convictions, still awaiting sentencing.
I figured this was pretty much the end of the line for me and, so, wrote the following whimpering, sniveling letter to the Pope of whatever religion I was subscribed to at the time.Dear Pope Whomever,
Your sycophants and butt-boys have been lying their asses off to you all these years when they said that no such person as me had ever existed or could ever possibly exist.
Well, now they are about to be right, but not because they aren't all morons and scuzzbuckets.
Of course, I haven't bothered to refute their claims -- in order to test you -- and you (and all your songs and laws) have failed miserably, as always.
[Whining threats deleted]
Yet, despite all this, you may have one last chance to salvage your sagging numbers. Certainly my sudden, unexpected, unconditional release from all space and time would stand as a shining beacon to all those others who have watched me suffering at the hands of the law that is the shovel behind the hole that's almost all filled up now, with me inside.
Fucked-Up in Sector 6
P.S. Recently I have been offered a job driving the Hollywood Shuttle. This is a big bus which roams around the old Midwestern sections of the Central North American Protectorates, picking up leftover Americans and continuing across the rest of the continent to San Slovidad where they are finally dropped off to become nuclear waste transport pilots and to live in cutouts in the walls of hi-speed, hi-traffic elevator shafts.
So I am wondering if taking this job would violate any of your precepts, which -- I can assure you -- I will be getting around to reading, any day now.
I decided to do just one last job -- in the hopes of getting caught and killed in the act.
I hired a consulting firm whose motto was "We'll do absolutely fucking anything!" to assist me, and within days, we were ready for the roll-out.
We'd rented a small warehouse for the staging area, and were just a countdown and a high-five away from streaming out the door into the streets, all jumpsuits and facepaint and ropes and hooks and scuba-gear and light explosives and light arms -- when a hi-priority power-comm came through on my unit.
I made a "time out" gesture to the squadron leader and walked to the other side of the warehouse to read it in privacy.
It was from the ad hoc World Peoples' Provisionary Government, meeting in emergency session at either Biarritz or Cancun.
As you're aware, Nature has somehow sunk into that unpleasant feedback-loop, where each passing week brings newer and bigger global cataclysms and catastrophes.
Since this situation is generally considered to be (mostly) your fault anyway, we are pleased to announce your selection to go on global satellite, tonight and accept full blame for every excess drop of water in ever flood and every fleck of rotted steel in every bridge collapse and every shard of wrenching devastation in every planet-wide earthquake.
And while you're there, and as long as you've got the focus of the anger and frustration of the entire viewing population, you might as well casually announce the World State of Emergency which we are hereby declaring -- with you as designated sacred, sacrificial, lamb-cow poster-child, man, woman.
Sincerely and Best of Luck,
President Victor Our,
Chairman, World People's Provisionary Government at Either Cancun or Biarritz (whichever is warmer that day, but not too warm).
Fortunately, I had a boilerplate video-script on hand for just such occasions and was ready to go live, on the air, in a matter of minutes.
My speech, of course, pre-empted all regularly scheduled programming, all demand-programming, and all individual, interpersonal, and inter-commercial communications in all modalities.
"Citizens of the world," I began, to an audience of 32 or 33 billion angry yet attentive people.
"Let me, first of all, apologize somewhat for getting maybe just a little bit too pissed off, one day, and setting off all these floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, bridge collapses, and collisions with huge asteroids, which have brought our beloved planet to a point at the rim of an unknown abyss, where the very fabric of existence and the very infrastructure of symbolic processes are being questioned by even insects."
Then I went on to declare the first World Martial Law, which would place a member of World Peoples' Militia on every street corner.
These militiapersons would be unarmed, but trained in Tai Chi, so if anybody tried to fuck with them, they'd go into one of those ultra-slo-mo pelican gestures that made people just wanna forget whatever they were doing at the time, and just go home, take some aspirin and go to sleep.
Then I urged the people to "just chill out."
"A deal is in the works," I claimed, "And though I can't give out the details just yet, I can tell you that it involves leasing the non-submerged parts of the Americas for use in protracted Biologic & Tactical Thermo-Semantic warfare between the Sony Marauders and the Time/Cher Blue Dahlias.
"This will," I continued, "Relieve, somewhat, the economic and psycho-sexual pressures on the Northern Hemisphere, which many of the people who don't blame me, believe to be at the root of the chain of cataclysms now engulfing Bathyscaph Earth."
But then the Inter-Ethnic Loan Boondoggle hit, and the Repartition of 301 was pushed back to the lines drawn in 294, leading to the Refugee Nations War of 311. This spilled over and somehow turned the Californica War of Secession into the Californican Civil War, based not on geography, or race or class, or ethnic origins but rather on generation. 2nd generation Italicans fought alongside 2nd generation Paramenians and 2nd generation Belaudies, in a violent struggle against an allied force composed of 3rd generation Italicans, 3rd generation Paramenians, and 3rd generation Belaudies.
Yet another new World Peoples' Anthem was commissioned -- to try to psych the planet back into recovery. It was called "From Chemistry to Cognitive Manifestation," and was, of course, all about peace and brotherhood and how one man's adenine was just another man's guanine and the same for their cytosines and thymines.
But it couldn't get airplay.
Still, none of us in control were worried.
We all knew that anytime the whole world got really fucked-up like this, it could always be fixed, even at the last minute, by just changing all the names of all the products and beliefs and nations and streets and towns and dances and genres and foods and venues and bodies of water and months and years and networks and continents and hemispheres and planets -- to something (anything) else.
And, since fucking it up could only make it better, I was, as always, unanimously selected to be the one to design all the names and to physically implement all the changes.
I was instructed to start immediately, without giving it any thought or preparing in any way.
So, first off, I said that Colombesota, the most powerful nation in the world, had to change its name to Panamex. The capital, Bogotart, was to be renamed Hypocra City.
Then Indistan could become Afghanladesh and Ethiibya would merge with Lebanel to form Algypt, while Etheria became Libibia, and Latvistan turned into Lithuwanaland, and Estonakia, Campuania, Tibexico, and Jailand became the Union of Philipponian Republics.
In these new nations, all the new names of the cities had to rhyme with the names of no longer fashionable drugs or no longer fashionable pop stars or no longer fashionable handheld devices.
Places like Yugo Zealand, Newan, Taipal, Switzerborg, Germaly, and Austrania, were not immediately changed, to preserve some continuity, but Engmark willingly became Denland, and Argentugal became Polentina without objection.
Only the balked countries: Ireya, Koreanon, Hunganon, and Turkanon, didn't like their new names and threatened to secede from the planet.
To show they weren't bluffing, they kept their citizens on constant alert, ready to be rocketed (trees, grass, and all) into the stratosphere, at a moment's notice, or at no notice at all.
And, if this actually occurred, according to several leading authorities on the subject, Afrolia would be the only safe place for everybody else to be.
But, of course, it never did, and by May of 354, all names had been changed except the month May and the year 354. Then, they too were changed: May was renamed Must, and the year 354 was changed to 247, and the calendar years were assigned to move in a negative direction.
All debts, all invoices, all bank deposits were effectively cancelled, because they'd all been incurred during (or were to mature at) a time that no longer existed, and never would.
All past due dates were in another era -- maybe so far away in count, that quantity became quality, and they were in another dimension.
Everything was free. All crimes forgiven. Everything was new and forgotten. All black marks erased.
It was called "the CanaMexican Way" -- and to partake in it was to be living what was known as "the CanaMexican Dream."
But it didn't help.
The top pitchmen were all burned out by now -- they'd pitched themselves into a wall or ceiling -- and there was no one left to keep the population professionally hopped up.
Each day, more and more individuals came staggering into World Peoples' Redemption Centers demanding that their entire lives be erased from Time -- and that all their past lives be erased from History.
And, since there were no longer enough guns or pills or sex or money or love or song or motivation or software around to truly help these people, the best the government-run redemption centers could provide them was the simple algorithm for the so-called "toaster suicide."