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The craggy, stygian planetoid's highest cliff had a long drop straight down. That's just what the mild-mannered, middle-aged man wanted. Professor Hudson, light years away in plumbed space from Earth, from Proteus College on the mid-American sprawl, drunkenly staggered atop this world's cliff in his low level baggy-jumper, teetering on the brink. Streams of dust and small rocks were dislodged and fell from his poor footing and imbalance. The palette of stars and black void surrounded him majestically from the convex of his space helmet. The ship pod's beacon could still be seen where it had just taken off from fifty clicks away.
He knew myths and truths about Cosmic Meta-Philosophy. That was his humble job. He taught it for years at college. He worshipped all beauteous women and he even thought he understood them. But now he knew he didn't. Alexis broke his heart. He gulped in spasms inside the baggy-jumper.
He was ready to jump. Hyperventilating, sobbing, he wondered -- Half grav-would that do the job? Or would he just bounce softly at the bottom?
He looked down into dusty non-air where his death waited for him. If there was air anywhere beside the pockets of caves in this porous rock, he would be able to hear silent screams. But he heard them in his drug-addled head. They were the sights and sounds unholy in this anatomy of melancholy that he had fashioned for himself.
Above him, all about the concave of swirling darkness, the bright nebulas stared right down at him. The dust inside his helmet was choking him and that would be a fitting way out. He gazed into this void andknew he was alone. He had the dt's and the dry heaves.
The little ship-pod had just lifted off with two people aboard: Alexis Aurora and Ned Neutron.
Feelgood feelgood Pills. He pushed a button and the helmet's brain gently inserted one into his trembling, wincing mouth.
Now he would be courageous enough to jump. How did this happen to me, he wondered? Why did Alexis spurn me? Did I take too much interstellar heroin and it shackled my psyche into a spiral? Yes, but that isn't the reason you are killing yourself. She left you for him. Above him in the blackness, above topographic blemishes next to the cliff-face he saw graffiti scrawled in the vacuum:
"Ned Neutron rules".
"Ned Neutron Lives".
"Ned, we loved you".
"Ned, we still do".
"Ned and Mary Beth".
What was another body to add to the heap down there that came about by a rumor of a post-post punk rocker of the galaxy named Ned Neutron? He sobbed. His helmet fogged up with streaks of tears and moisture.
He wanted to think back and remember just how he had lived. But he didn't care anymore. It was her fault: Alexis. Alexis Aurora. Ned Neutron. He leaned backwards, gasping from drug withdrawals on a rock outcropping and thought back to the beginning of this misadventure... for just a moment. He was rushed for time. The pills were taking effect and he was about to pass out. He knew he was going to jump any moment...
Six Terran weeks ago, on Earth near Proteus College in the mid-American sprawl, in his condo:
As the shakes came to him in his living room and he breathed heavily, he nodded an implant and pure mind-fun appeared on the wall-melt.
The sit-com sliced through the air:
Dialogue: "Just for that, no feelgood feelgood tonight, Sweetie!"
Tired, he recognized the show. Its origin was where the two mothers' daughter, Naomi, was conceived, on the show, by their monastic neighbor, Howard. Naomi sang an alien aria in tongues for the old-timey ice cream robotruck (screeching off screen).
He thought, it was the best sit-com of post-post-ultra-future excellence to be churned out since "Would You Kill Your Own Android."
It was generally considered a top-ranked Terran show.
Professor Hudson's two cats nipped at gilded cat dishes filled to the brim with Beluga caviar. Ixteqhuatl played with a salmon roe egg before Popocatapetl plopped the morsel into its mouth without so much as a meow.
Hudson shrugged, wheezing in spasms of withdrawals, and went back to the Panavision wall-melt:
A nude Naomi Ricearoni danced. Her hips swayed back and forth in a bathroom scene as the two mothers just made a quick trip to the Opium den. They all smoked low-grade poppy resin and inhaled through a series of ducts while they waited.
Naomi was now in the tub, singing show tunes in a warbled tremolo. Her voice was finely tuned with the cosmos. Her breasts were nicely formed. He imagined himself with her, nuzzling wanton flesh.
The lazy moms were getting a four-dimensional cake recipe from the kindly mutant.
Dr. Hudson had himself another drink. His eyes ran down the length of her body, this poor creature.
Facilis Descensus Averno, Hudson thought as he licked the beveled antique mirror. The cats sniffed their catnip laced with animal tranquilizer.
He looked away from the screen in a jaundiced way, too drunk to follow it. The basic plot had approximately fifteen possibilities. Around his room were satin curtains out of Scheherazade, Cellini fake sculpturing, and a tureen of 20 carat gold with which he hadn't found anything useful to do.
"My Two Darned Lesbians" came to its rising action later than most sit-coms. The mutant neighbor, Howard raked the emulsion of pink suds off Naomi's body. Her back arched like a lynx. Howard was just getting around to making a pass at her when Naomi's two moms walked in. After all, they both carried her around when she was an embryo, sort of time sharing her fetus to make them all related. The two moms disrobed, unsnapping their chic clothes. They hopped into the tub with Naomi. Howard was nonplussed.
"You can take holophotos if they look like Steiglitz," Mother-number-two yucked.
"Who is Steiglitz?" Naomi yacked. (alien laughtrack)
"Someone mother-number-one's screwed, dearest child," said Mother-number-two. She dove underwater. Howard clicked away. (applause)
All of this for me, Professor Hudson thought in his deranged mind, of his psyche severed from his drug-addled body. He sat there, not laughing but shedding a tear at these Olympian heroics. The lithe Nordic creature climbed out to towel off.
He turned the wall-melt off.
So this is what Dante Alighieri got all excited about? A bit of flesh? What sort of sins did he commit? In the 12th century, Dante had gone to Mass, thinking; I've got to find a woman. He goes to Mass and not only receives the Sacraments, but a Naomi Ricearoni like on this sitcom. Was this sitcom a Divine Comedia? His whole life was a Divine Comedia. Apologia pro mea Vita, he thought. I should be writing my treatise. But all I'm doing is regarding the nymphets on the Deviant Channel. But there are fine things to see on the Deviant Channel. Talk shows by Socialites as chatty hostesses. And someone trying to con him into believing there was another drug out there that would save him. He gulped in air in spasms.
Naomi's little body was wet and soapy. She was like a dolphin from Crete, on a Minoan plate. He wheezed and breathed in gulps of air in irregular spasms.
Dante called his woman Beatrice. She guided Virgil through Purgatorio.
Dr. Hudson clicked his head to one side to turn the wall back on. Channels whirred in front of him in a geyser of splashed beatitudes. Thrusting, copulating, slashing, crimson collages of bodies intertwining like an orgy. Then images wisped up from a maelstrom of embedded amber light below, a base of energy. Up into a twirling funnel of feral sparkles and a hallucination of good order; that is, for the basic package.
If only I had a Beatrice with pearls for teeth, who would guide me past each demon that comes out of my burgeoning, tattered soul. To do battle with me. Filled with painful bliss, he sobered up.
Popocatapetl came up to him and nuzzled him. The cat wanted to do his trick.
The entertainment box thought to turn itself off, unlocking the implant in his remote controlled head-assistant. It would be on stand by, the maelstrom of sparks diminishing down to the fluorescent floor. Once a waterspout of incandescence ultramarine and now a spare spark or two shooting off leaving a trail of tinsel to fade and then suck back into the now latent box.
Dr. Hudson had the good sense from his pharma regimen to pop a small final pill for his next aberration. He felt his body suddenly cleansed in one internal wave of all alcohol neutralized. As if he hadn't taken his first sip of the off-colony Meade.
Before he got Popocatapetl ready to administer the EZ-heroin, the obsession began again.
His lectures at Proteus college brought complicated joy to him all because of one little girl. The nomenclature given to this girl was ordinary enough:
Alexis; oh, how you will come with me to the Tannhauser gates and we will read De Sade's Juline. You will accompany me on redeyes to New Oxford on the Moon. We'll talk of Charles Godwin and Rousseau and Erasmus Darwin. I promise I will compose sonnets for you as bright as Tycho crater's nipple plucked from the gums of Lucian of Samosota, wherever he may be! I would give all the mountains of high grade killspice for one kiss from your post-future face.
Now all the alcohol had left him like phantom shadows mocking him. He waited for kitty to figure out that he wanted classical music turned on. He made the gestures that accorded with implants in Popocatapetl. They jived and little binary numbers crunched and little kitty plasma microelectrodes fired and put notions in the white fuzzball's head that the daily ritual was nigh.
Alexis. Not a particularly uncommon name. Not like the names that were doled out these days. But a shabbily dressed creature who showed up in his class whose crystalline eyes were given to her by her obviously handsome otherworld father, vexed him to no end. She made Naomi Ricearoni, photogenic proxy of sitcoms, look like a subdweller. What could he possibly ask her after the lecture, Tuesday? What was he going to lecture on? The lack of pain made him forget. Possibly Hume, or Comdillac. He could just go up to her and say: I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to some nice Thai Restaurant. And then afterwards we could, if you don't think it's too childish, go to the Disney outlet, pop some kiddy acid, and crawl into a nice animated cartoon.
Popocatapetl dutifully went over to the wall and with her little head pushed a substrate indentation that kicked on Nanogiger's Paleolithic Symphony #4. This bombastic microtonal sweep clattering about the room, was now jejune to Dr. Hugh Hudson. He couldn't go much longer without his Ez-heroin fix. He watched as Popocat climbed into her Jones-fix harness and jiggled. She walked over to him. Immediately the apparatus came alive and blinked and stirred. The Pyrex beaker filled with K-mart heroin was getting low. The cat positioned itself to Hugh's left, and Hugh stuck out his arm. Popocat smelled the catnip enhancer warming up at its nose and smiled Cheshire. The little pneumo needle pushed against the good doctor's bicep of white flab as Popocat directioned just so. A ppttthhtitt! sound and his dosage was introduced into his sinful body. Popocat ran back, shedding the helmet apparatus. Not because he didn't favor catnip, but that he didn't fancy the entanglement of the device. Ixtehquatl was quietly listening to atonal chords emanating universally from this den.
Sometime later, Dr. Hudson walked to the bathroom for dream medication. Did he want to be somewhere in the gaunt of ancient celebrities, a prurient libido stroking, or comforting maternal fetal wrapping by some illusory mother now long since dead but immortalized in the design of the pills.
He didn't want to take anything. He wanted to see if he could dream about his Alexis tonight on his own. Opium gives you good dreams. He heard the cats switch on the entertainment box to Animal Network. He sighed as his throat loosened from the heroin blanketing him in paralyzing sweetness. The bathroom was not clean again. The damned house wares needed adjusting. He didn't have time for crap like that. His haggard face indicated extreme fatigue.
Did he set the alarm, he wondered? He touched a knob and the mirror expanded behind him with him to a vanishing point. His face in the silver blue mirror radiated and modulated. He looked closely at his face and saw jaundice or something beneath his lidded eyes. Gray hair flanked his tired bearded face. A mass of chemicals valued at nothing. The heroin oozed from every pore like evaporating ethanol. Wisps of little floating shapes listed and rolled across his view.
The cats meowed with mirth. The Wall-melt mice must have met their pitiful maker. These mutant kitties had more attention span -- You are all my children. But what of my little cutie? My little freshman? Those eyes that have seen more truth than the mightiest well-traveled in the nothingness. That face perfectly transfigured in immortal lines of excellence. That hair; tresses bouncing like solar flares tripping out of sight along libration regions. That scent of pure essence of feline. Some hunter poised on tiptoes cautious and Celtic and full of nobility, but unaware of it.
He looked back in the mirror. It blurred like rippling pond water and then cleared. It focused. It blanked him out. He hit the button but missed. He stood at the mirror, tilting back and forth on white tiles. The bathroom spun around. He thought at this point, I'd better make it to the bed. Now I might not be able to stand here for long like this; and wow!; everything is cocky-wobbly. Orange and crimson soon to follow, and wow! What was that? This smack is good Shi -- it!! man! This oozed out of his contorted mouth. He wowed, making a O with forefinger and thumb. He slowly and uncoordinatedly wobbled, malfunctioning. He threaded his way down the hallway to the living bed.
Dr. Hugh lay down cross-legged in the Living Bed to begin his hopeful dream. The heroin was cheap; it was K-Mart after all. Not the designer stuff at all. His head tilted back. He breathed slowly in large intervals. He imagined commercials; he saw the little girls dressed up in holographs for K-Mart, jabbing themselves with pneumo works with those cherubic faces of angels. Their eyes rolled into the back of their heads as they began their odysseys. Moving molecules here and there, wondrously. Pharmaceutical magic. He heard the kitties wrestling matches as their neck chimes plinked; the kitty channel must have been on sports mode. He lapsed into a gorgeous pallor of complete numbness from head to toe. The bed bubbled with life beneath him. His eyes rolled back. One last gasp and blackness.
He dreamt: Naomi Ricearoni and Alexis Aurora were in space outfits, slinky with interstellar panties and laser hair. They floated around each other in a perimeter of velvet blackness. Then they kneeled and appeared to be praying. This wouldn't do, he thought. I've got to have them oh-so decadent. They disrobed and their clothes fell beneath them to the planet's iridescent purple surface and burned up. They drifted and rode to the galactic shores. No stars, that would make sense. I want null and void. I want a three particle universe: Me, Naomi and Alexis. Naomi dove into the sub orbit with signet swan dexterity; her little behind followed her all the way down, brown as a nut. Alexis turned to Dr. Hugh. She began walking through the ether towards him, majestically as an upright princess of some undiscovered world all alone.
Dr. Hugh woke up. He wondered where he was. What time of day or night was it? How long had he slept? He looked around himself, tired. He saw the Temple of Karnack in a phosphorescent neon sky amidst sylvan sands and verdant nothingness of Kalahari stalks whipping around him. The temple stood like a necropolis. Like some gigantic chessboard accommodating weird shapes and statues of archaic Greek. Attic Greek statues, Egyptian lore, tapestries, mid-hanging Titians, Hans Holgar's Dutch and Remington horses galloping away into the distance, amidst Percheron stallions.
Where was he, how did he get here? The wind blew against his grim gaunt face. He rubbed his grey beard and sat up. He looked at the alarm swinging in the air, and saw that he had set it for abstractness at10:00 am. He turned off the alarm, which soothingly told him a little story until he shut that switch off, too. The wall turned blank and the necropolis catacombs and sand and wind whipping around him, stopped.
He got up and walked into the den and there were the kitties, curled up around each other, stoned out of their minds on phantasm catnip. He fixed them some caviar aspic and tuna melt and they traipsed over there and nibbled away.
Copyright © 2003 by M.F. Korn