The psychological experience of identity loss can be traumatic. If it happens, a person might end up landing in a mental hospital. There is another, even more terrifying, type of crisis associated with identity; frightfully, it lurks around the corner for every living human being. In this dreadful scenario, the horror is that not only people, but also entities like corporations and official agencies, cease to exist. It happened when the network knitting the whole of humanity together began to crumble.
What nobody understands, except for a very select few, is that the chaos is purposeful. It is intended to benevolently coax man in a life-saving direction. Who is the culprit, and why would this evil force choose to communicate with only one nine-year old boy suffering a neurological impairment due to a recent severe brain injury?
Nobody knows the answer to that question. However, the future of planet earth as a habitable space for man rests on this young child’s shoulders—but nobody believes a word he says.
Dennis A Nehamen
Golden Poppy Publications Los Angeles
By Dennis A Nehamen
Copyright © 2017 Dennis A Nehamen All Rights Reserved
Published by Golden Poppy PublicationsTM Los Angeles, CA
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by and information storage and retrieval system without written permission from Golden Poppy Publications or Dennis A Nehamen except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2016906834
Cover by Cline Cover Design
Nehamen, Dennis A Author
Dennis A Nehamen
Printed in the United States of America First Edition
Ego death (what would be referred to in the West as identity loss) in the spiritual context comes about as a result of detachment from worldly things; it’s an earned transformation understood from the philosophic standpoint to indicate the attainment of peace and enlightenment. One prepares, often for a lifetime, to achieve this higher state of being. Yet if this condition were to be suddenly thrust upon a person, them having had no preparation, it would overwhelm the psyche, most certainly resulting in a circumstance of extreme emotional and mental volatility and pain, to the point of total dysfunction, possibly leading to death.
In one of my books in the Zach Miller Adventure series, Mistaken Enemy, Zach discusses the experience of identity loss:
How terrifying is it to lose one’s sense of self? One would have to imagine the passing of every relative and friend they had in their lifetime, all in a single instant—the force of suffering is greater than that. It makes facing death seem like floating on a cloud on a cool, breezy day—it’s the nearest equivalent to being dead that humans can experience without actually dying.
Some accounts of the future speak to a world order that is hard to imagine. The structure of civilization dramatically changes after aliens land on Planet Earth. Mankind evolves into a collection of primal savages due to a meteorite devastating the atmosphere and, in turn, threatening survival for most of the population. A scientific experiment goes awry exposing humans and animals alike to unthinkable mutations of mind and body. A global conflagration tips the balance of power, resulting in a series of titanic battles with devastating impact on both property and person.
The futuristic tale about to be revealed, however, differs. It follows a trail sprinkled with phosphorescent dust that leads to a predictable end, to a destiny that any living being must have already envisioned. In fact, the explanation for this obvious fate awaiting species man is due to his unforgivable blindness in not factoring in one crucial element in the equation of an advanced civilization: There was a force superior to him in wit, wisdom and intellect, this entity having one sole mission, to humble man’s collective ignorance—and shockingly, this “thing” perceived that it was human.
The Center of The World
There was a tireless hallway stretching like a boardwalk dissecting a sea of offices, each mimicking one another like mournful copycats unable to invent a smile. The walls were ghost white but as the eye veered drowsily forward, a smoky tone began a gradual transition such that eventually all shading disappeared into hopeless darkness. Even the occasional golden squares spotting the pure white linoleum floors evaporated like morning dew burned by the waking sun.
At the end of the hallway, were double doors, bold metal guards commissioned to deny access to anyone whose eye print had not been previously approved— there was no buzzer. Behind these silver panels that blended so well with the adjacent structure that they were nearly invisible to the naked eye, were several suites arranged in a semi-circular design.
Once one entered this inner sanctum, the world changed dramatically. The interior was bright, with each of the offices having their own unique artistry. The first thing that one encountered past the outside doors was a receptionist desk, although the individual occupying it had no welcoming duties in that rarely would there be a guest. Then, if that occasion were to occur, it would be initiated by one of the esteemed occupants who would escort the invitee directly to their suite.
Luther Cushing was one of the fortunate souls to have a work area that he was free to decorate to his personal taste. At the same time, he knew that he was low man on the totem pole, which might have accounted for his nervous habits. He was forever perspiring in spite of the fact that the temperature was kept precisely at a pleasant seventy-one degrees at all times. His speech was flawless, unless for some reason he felt extraordinarily pressured, in which cases, he’d stammer as if he were a little boy believing he’d lost his mommy.
He had to be a bright and capable man since he’d risen to the title of Director of Global Public Relations at the Commission on Satellite and Computer Transmissions (COSACT). Still, anything that went wrong, worse, if he anticipated something that might go astray, he’d pant, his speech would accelerate, and his words would eek out in a whiny tone.
It was in this state of being that he was galloping down the tunneling hallway frantically on his way to his office. By the time he reached the doors, he was breathing so heavily that as he approached the scanner so that it could read his eye, he exhaled a volume of oxygen that frosted the glass covering causing it to go into a state of malfunction.
“Please stand back and do not breathe on the monitor,” a disembodied voice that sounded as if it were issuing a disgusted rebuke instructed.
Luther pounded his right foot on the floor and gripped his jaws tight. He knew there was no use making a second attempt until the system cleared, a time frame seeming an eternity to him in that he was panicked about reaching his boss.
“Cover your mouth,” the same non-human, yet female-sounding voice ordered, the words indisputably issued as a rebuke. “Put your eye close to the scanner.”
What reason was there to object to the affront of the disrespectful and inhuman public servant? Luther understood that any complaint on his part would only result in him being further redressed for his failure to follow a prescribed code, one he should know better than to violate. Thus he did the only rational thing— what he had learned far better than to not upset sophisticated security devices—sucked in his humiliation: no wonder he had an ulcer.
When he did finally satisfy the nemesis camera on the wall, the door opened.
“Delilah, in?” he asked as he paused for a response from the receptionist, Connie.
“I’ll check,” she sweetly answered. Yet as she mouthed her reply, she noticed that Luther had taken it upon himself to proceed toward his boss’ office.
He reached the door and attacked the handle, liberating it with the motion of a sucker punch. Inside, sitting at her desk, was Delilah Major. Her position was an undisputed second on the organizational chart, being denominated the Associate Director of COSACT.
She was hardly the image one might expect for a person in such a distinguished position. What raised eyebrows was not her slight five-foot six-inch frame— the weight distributed economically such that she was endowed with attractive waves and curves—but rather her attire and hairstyle. Typically she’d arrive at the office wearing bright-colored outfits, most commonly tight-fitting pants of shiny plastic-like materials and sweaters with padded shoulders that broadened her upper body.
She wore her hair straight and short, spiking like a punk rocker with a pearly white color. Never would she be found owning a piece of jewelry but she had a tattoo on the inside of her left wrist, a picture of a baby serval: the story behind the choice of adornment was one she rarely shared.
The animal is known for its secretiveness and beguilement, those characteristics were consistent not only with her given name (Biblical Delilah used her seductive power to coax Samson into revealing the secret of his superhuman strength), but her personality. The little cub branding her just below the arm length of her top was in light brown, with black spots and random white puffs, making the furry little thing look more like an owl than a cat. Still, it symbolized the traits she most cherished in herself: unrelenting determination, coolness under pressure, and doggedness in running a tightly ordered division.
Still, there were other aspects of her person she failed to esteem as deservingly as she did the swift and cunning serval. The truth was that it rarely registered on her psyche that nearly every move she made oozed with sexiness; had it, she might have chosen what most men would have wished to see on her arm, a red-hot pair of lips.
She was talking on a wireless phone when Luther rushed in. She casually glanced up, unruffled by her subordinate’s uninvited entry.
“I’ve got the top dignitaries…oh, please,” he ranted excitedly at a woman he praised every chance he had. “They’re here from each of the districts of the planet. They’re waiting to hear him speak…” Luther threw his arms above his head to punctuate his dilemma. “He hasn’t shown up!”
“Give them a ten-minute coffee break,” Delilah flippantly suggested to a man that reminded her of a monkey, for he now closed his eyes tightly, locked his mouth shut, and lowered his flailing arms such that his hands covered his ears. “Let me see what I can do.”
“They just had a break,” Luther answered as if pleading.
“Give them another one,” Delilah playfully jabbed. Luther was in no way eased. Displaying a gesture Delilah had never witnessed in the past, he pinned his arms to his side as if he were in a straightjacket. His facial gesture was one of utter bafflement. Realizing that he was going to get no further with Delilah than he had the dummy security voice at the door, he left: he was no more composed than when he arrived.
“I’ll call you back, Horace,” Delilah spoke to the caller who was still on the line.
“Call Thomas,” she spoke into her phone, a device that had proven it could stubbornly resist extinction.
A second later, she heard the voice of the man she wanted to reach, Thomas Worley, the top scientific official at the agency, the Director of Operations for COSACT.
His tone was flat and lacking any indication of affect. Still, if one were inclined to interpret his reply, they would conclude they were hearing the type of gloominess whose cousin is apathy.
“You were supposed to be here at nine-thirty,” she reminded her boss in a most gentle and tender manner. She waited several silent seconds before continuing. “Are you taking the medication?” Again, Worley failed to answer. Delilah was certain the drug lacked the unintended soporific side effect of other anti-depressive remedies, deducing, therefore, that he was being medically non-compliant. “Take one pill right now. I’ll be there to get you in ten minutes.” She paused intentionally, hoping her next statement might remind him of his duty. “These people, Thomas, came from all over the world to meet you. I think it’s the right time for this…and you’ll be fine. Get ready. I’ll be there in a jiffy.” She hung up. She was smiling tolerantly. Her hope was that by the time she arrived, he’d be dressed. She stood to leave. As she walked past the secretary, she blew a breath of instruction.
“Connie, can you shuttle over to the auditorium and tell Luther I’ll be back with Worley in a half hour? In the meantime, he can feed them, food or bull shit, it’s his choice.” She laughed at her own funny.
COSACT headquarters was a massive edifice composed of five separate structures, all with five identical wings. Each of the main buildings was modeled after the once famous Pentagon. From an aerial view, the entire complex was designed such that in the center was a giant globular shape in a sun-yellow color. Then extending outward from the base point upon which the circle rested, at exact seventy-two degree angles, were what looked like five massive spokes, each attaching to the central core of the five separate units—each, in turn, composed of their five buildings. One might imagine the hand of our maker spinning the inner fiery ball and setting the entire development whirling like a child’s toy. From ground level, a human being approaching this
massive city-size complex would have an experience whereby the sense of self is shrunk. That impact on the individual human ego is precisely what the architects intended, what COSACT represented, something infinitely larger and more powerful than not only any single man, but also mankind collectively.
It was in the nucleus of this inorganic construction where the auditorium within which Worley was to speak to his guests was located. A tram system had been constructed to transport the thousands of employees between various locations within the compound that measured close to one thousand acres. The small track-guided trains ran every few minutes within the straight tunnels connecting the center bubble with the outer five areas and then in turn to their five wings. Connie caught a ride and carried out the order Delilah had given her. Reversing direction, she was back in her office before her boss had returned with Worley.
Having called ahead to prep Luther on precisely when they would be arriving, as they stepped into the room, he had arranged for the guests to take seats in the center of the front few rows of a theatre, an auditorium capable of seating a hundred times the thirty-five esteemed visitors that day.
Thomas Worley lumbered on stage to the podium. He was a tall, bony man; his emaciated, gaunt figure bore downward as if the tensile strength required to hold it erect had been sucked out through his feet. He was dressed in a black coat that wrapped stiffly around the neck and then buttoned straight down the center from his Adam’s apple to below the pelvis. His pants were also black, as were his patent leather dress shoes.
His hair was of similar color and no doubt in a dark space from the backside he would have been invisible, except that due to an application of an oily substance, his head had a high sheen that might have reflected any random rays of light. He combed the thick crop fully covering his crown straight back. Overall, had he not been quite so anemic, and had he jettisoned the sorrowful appearance and substituted a dash of animation, he might have been a fairly attractive man.
The room was austere and unpretentious, deliberately designed to understate the importance of the facility. The only visible imagery worth noting was a thick amber-hued mist several feet tall stretching across the room behind the stage. Then, projected in three-dimensional space within the haze were the letters, C O S A C T, in gunmetal grey. Swinging in an ordered pattern within the front area where Worley was about to speak was a miniature-sized sunshine-bright global object representing the mother sun and then eight additional spheres, one for each of her children.
Planet Earth would pulse a white light every few seconds. Its obvious message was to highlight our geo-planetary location on a solar map. However, it was simultaneously intended to be a symbolic image of what was considered the central core of the nerve center of the world order, COSACT itself.
“Here we are in the year 2052 and we still have critics arguing that despite the scientific achievements we have accomplished in the last fifty years, that our daily lives are not much different, or better, than at the turn of the century,” Worley began, the audience subconsciously earning relief from the tedium of his words through the hypnotic effect of the balls pulsing like a choreographed cosmic dance behind him.
“It’s true that our fashions change year-to-year as they have for decades, our homes seem similar on the outside to what they have been for a hundred years, we still drive cars and play the same sports; and while we have robots—technological servants that can handle tasks in seconds what once took hours—and vehicles that we can operate hands-free, we do still toil with cooking, cleaning and employment. We’re told that life remains tense and stressful for the average citizen.”
Worley paused, beckoning abstractly toward Delilah who was attentively seated to his right. She handed him a sheet of paper, her mentor then able to proceed as if reading a speech.
“But these judges overlook what has been achieved. There have been remarkable advancements that will pay huge dividends toward a future where man will be able to live a richer and more fulfilling life. The foundation has been set in place so that the promises of a society based on the highest principles of morality and ethics will prevail to glorify our people. What is this fundamental accomplishment? At last we have completed the integration of our entire planetary network into a system of cerebral supercomputers and satellites, each a holographic reproduction of the other.
“Imagine this. We have stored, for future generations, our history dating back thousands of years. Ancient literature all the way from three thousand years before Christ to the present is a singular command away from our inspection. Every known language dating back to the Sumarian culture twenty-nine centuries B. C. we can translate in a moment. The evolution of science from the earliest discovered attempts to record observations mathematically by the Mesopotomian people over thirty-five hundred years before Christ is systematized so that you can have access to it instantaneously by pressing a few keys or issuing simple verbal commands.
“There’s more,” Worley went on, chronicling with indifference what his audience thought to be a thrilling summation of achievements of their era—the orchestration of most of these were credited to the man speaking. “The totality of our existence on earth, and in space, has now been integrated and synthesized by artificial intelligence. At last, decisions regarding public policy and economics can be turned over to a mind-entity far exceeding the cumulative genius of our species from the beginning of civilization—doing a better job than man ever could by using its own power of reason and employment of sound judgment.”
Worley squinted; weary after presenting only a five-minute presentation. He looked downward as if he was hesitant to go on. He glanced at Delilah, who nodded reassuringly that he could finish the task. There was a glass with water on a shelf under the podium; he cleared his throat and took a drink before proceeding with his disimpassioned talk.
“What we call districts, but what most of you still prefer to refer to as countries, have all agreed to be part of this vast network; and each of you has a role to play in overseeing its operation and function. Ladies and gentlemen, to place in perspective what has happened, we have changed the axis of planetary home. We are now smoothly rotating off the hum of an electronic pulse.”
The speaker now peered outward toward the audience, the wonderment on his face suggesting it was the first time he was cognizant of their presence. Recognizing he had completed his presentation, the small group seated in front of him began clapping enthusiastically. One of them, seated directly in the middle, raised his hand but Worley didn’t notice. Delilah rose and motioned that it was okay for the gentleman to ask his question.
He was a burly fellow with plump cheeks and shaggy, auburn hair. His thick beard was of similar color to that on his crown. With notable obsequiousness, he addressed Worley; one might have thought that the man was celebrating the highlight of his life to be able to pose a question to The Great One. Fueling that sort of speculation was that his query appeared to have no purpose other than his personal satisfaction in posing it.
“Mr. Worley, we all know that your work at COSACT ended some time ago. What have you been doing since?” Worley managed to covet the disgust he felt for the pathetic worshiper by dissolving it in a rare expression of humor. He stepped out from behind the podium. “Mr. Wally, can’t you tell I’ve been training for The Super Bowl?”
His meager and fragile figure spoke to the irony of his words. The discomforted collective laughter he won from the subjects listening to him confirmed that they understood his point.
It was not by intent that this man resorted to merciless effacement, though he carried out the part as if it were a familiar role. Not to be misleading, it should be made clear that he had not always been hardhearted in his assessment of his worth. In fact, it was only several months ago when the deterioration of his sense of self had onset. This steep declination of self-esteem coincided with the culmination of what was arguably the grandest project ever undertaken by a human being; this man had designed, and then supervised the implementation of, the entire planetary network.
Sure, the workings of this vast system had evolved over decades, but bringing the discreet parts together from such diverse fields, and then providing a platform to house them, was a near unimaginable feat. Worley did it, so well in fact that for all practical purposes, neither individual nor entity could exist outside of the network. Even to question the potential of an identity separate from this encompassing global system would be embarking on a ridiculous philosophic exploration.
His “illness” began with a severe fever that persisted despite the best medicine the profession had to offer. Then when his temperature finally normalized, he discovered he’d been invaded by a different bug, one he’d never imagined nor understood—the man already spawning myths of mental power equal to three times the greatest thinkers of past eras, noticed his mind had ceased to function as it had throughout his life up until that point.
So devastating was the experience of not being able to perform even simple mathematical functions that he slumped into a nasty depression. He couldn’t sleep at night and during the daytime he would be chronically fatigued and lacking in energy. His appetite had been ravaged; the sight of food disgusted him.
Then he noticed that he couldn’t be in the company of people, escaping any social engagements, a state that was due to depression’s companion, anxiety. The ravaging hands of panic would brashly grab him by the throat at any unexpected moment, leaving him gagging and gasping for breath—the unpredictability of these episodes stoked anticipatory terror at the thought of leaving his home.
For the last several years during which he was performing his magical feat of redirecting the orbit of one planet of the solar system, Delilah had been his assistant. She witnessed the near inhuman energy he had poured into his work. She often worried that exactly what occurred, a mental meltdown, might happen. At the time, her concerns were vague, and they never approached the extent of the damage that would ultimately befall him. After his collapse, she remained as loyal to him as she’d been before—she and Worley’s wife teamed up to protect his vulnerability.
There had never been consideration of his image being publicly tarnished. As was evident when he made his presentation—the first community service he’d performed in months—his reputation was heroic. Nobody in the audience could see anything other than a man of super-human proportion in front of them.
Still, as his personal sense of self tanked, it came to repulse him that others insisted on revering him. Thus, the antipathy he harbored toward those praising him as Wally Deidrick had, was predictable. (Deidrick was the Director of Division 22, what was once known as Germany, France, Spain and Italy.)
The explanation for the remarkable man’s psychological downfall was uncomplicated, reaching beyond mere exhaustion. He had established the conditions for his own discharge; the man had left himself with no purpose in life, no challenge on the horizon to look forward to. He was only forty-seven years of age. His mind had been an unprecedented instrument, an anomaly for the human species. Yet what assignment could it dispatch to perform in the future?
No wonder as the creeping tentacles of dread locked him in a death grip, he was consumed with all the worst of the “lessnesses” humans can encounter—woozy purposelessness for starters, followed by suffocating worthlessness, those feeding sucking rivers of hopelessness, befuddling meaninglessness, and then insidiously pernicious spiritlessness. In the end, a state of anomie set in, the worst on depression’s menu, a condition where one’s social identity fragments, where the bond between the individual and the community suffers a clobbering stroke—there can be a steep price to pay for genius and Thomas Worley had fallen into bankruptcy.
The speech Delilah had suggested Worley make, was in her mind his coming out test run. She thought he was ready. All in all, he earned a passing grade for the presentation, though it solved none of the problems still tormenting him.
If he would have known months earlier the crisis that was lurking at the time of his speech, he could have avoided entirely the punishing angst of a mental earthquake. But it appears that even people of superior cognitive skills may lack the power of prescience. What was headed his way—in the direction of all mankind— was neither in heaven nor hell. Instead it bullied its way into every nook and cranny of cyberspace.
The creator of what was heralded as a modern day feat of Herculean proportion was about to be crippled by a force exceeding his authority multiple times. Plus, this superior-powered entity needed only a single arrow shot through the heel of civilization to expose the Achilles vulnerability. Worley and the rest of mankind were due for a serious spanking.
Stephanie Worley married her husband after they had known one another for only two weeks. She had been working as a researcher for The Global Commission on Human Rights, an agency established with the stated mission of maintaining the dignity and welfare of all mankind. Sadly, this modern day version of prior human rights organizations proved to be equally ineffective as previous American and international uncles.
Over the course of the previous several decades, the various governments of the world had insidiously encroached on their citizen’s privacy, permitting gross violations by massive multi-district commercial entities. It was not by chance that what intellectuals referred as “the final abrogation of human decency” would occur simultaneously with the culmination of Worley’s work. All along the public had been postured by their politicians to believe that ceding what had been labeled “rights” was mandatory if their leaders were going to protect them against enemy assault. Indeed, there was truth to the argument in that factions designated hostile to the districts were fighting to destroy what they perceived to be a system of governance attempting to accomplish precisely what had been achieved, an environment where routinely any form of communication between citizens was monitored by the state.
Stephanie Rutgers—as she was known before she married Thomas Worley—was aware of the routine abuses taking place by the authorities, yet she believed that opposition was crucial in order to maintain a democratic and free world. Had she plotted a chart with time on one axis and level of human rights on the other, she would have noticed a straight diagonal trending downward over the course of the previous one hundred years, a perfect inverse correlation of human rights with technological implementation and advancement.
This doctoral graduate in sociology did not need graphs. She knew in her heart that no self-professed idealist would deserve an ounce of respect unless they fought to correct earlier wrongs. She reviled one of her old professors who had the gall to remind his students that a category of humans called “romantic visionaries” had at all points in history when conflict over the human condition was intense, swelled with recruits that were predictably and characteristically young, educated and foolish; and he assured his starry-eyed students that the efforts of these well-intended radicals had not shoved back mankind’s great achievements one inch.
Determined to prove the aging instructor wrong, she vigorously pursued her career with a mind determined to shift the balance of power in favor of the individual.
Why couldn’t Mr. or Ms. Joe Normal still be educated to defend their fundamental confidentiality and secrecy, at a minimum, when it came to intimacy and family? Stephanie pondered. She was aware that monitoring footage of every public space twenty-four hours per day was already an ordained undertaking of government. She took it as her mission to remind the public that behind closed doors there were still methods to insure sanctity. She also argued that the state might be convinced to cease usurping its authority in some areas of surveillance.
Thus, Stephanie Rutgers had staked her claim to save her fellow man, but with an interesting twist. The enemy was not to be identified as an evil government. Instead, it was the abdication of individual irresponsibility and the toleration of ignorance by each and every citizen that was to be held accountable. She had never read Ayn Rand, but Stephanie was preaching a sermon that the distinguished author would have bowed to.
“All you have to do is take it,” she would proclaim much like a slogan to friends and associates, shouting down the drivellers that countered that attaining rights to privacy was hopeless. What her platform lacked, sadly, was a clear methodology to reclaim what mankind had lost. Add to that shortcoming, that the peace activist she associated with would have never endorsed revolution or any form of violent opposition. As a result, it could be discerned that in the end she was no more than…a romantic dreamer.
When she met Thomas, he was of like mind. It would have been a toxic dissonant idea for him to believe he was doing anything with his cerebral organ other than applying it toward the betterment of mankind. In fact, no different than his genius predecessors, he owned a humanitarian heart; his inspiration was to contribute toward his fellow man elevating their standard of living. Where he deviated from some, but not every, of the other great minds of the past was that he had failed to factor in the potential adverse and unintended consequences of the work he was doing.
Had he time to devour some of the philosophical writing from scientists of earlier eras, he may have entertained the same worry that many of them had shamelessly voiced, that technological advance might result in a “culture of idiots.” What one genius from an earlier period was no doubt referring to when using that exact term was that as technology progressed, it would gradually take over the mental task of thinking, thus the pejorative reference to idiots.
None of these heady matters weighed on the minds of dreamy-eyed Stephanie or the gallant Thomas. Their love was on first sight, although neither was ever able to express what it was they saw—not an uncommon phenomenon for these sorts of torpedo-powered affairs that serve as testimony to the psychological fact that love is blind.
It wasn’t long after they had met and married that Stephanie was retired from service to the whole of the human race, substituting for it employment in the single venture of motherhood. It hadn’t even been a year since they fell in love when Stephanie was nurturing little Joshua.
In fact, if we fast forward from this point of conception several years into the future, we can catch sight of mom sitting in her car. In the distance, there’s a baseball field. Two teams are battling for victory. While the game is unfolding, a clutch of boys all wearing the same white uniform with SPEED BAUDS in red print across the chests are joking off to the side of the dugout.
Josh Worley, the son of Thomas and Stephanie, would never stand out for his physical prowess, but just the same he seemed to have established himself as a leader. Josh possessed a charisma that was likely due to his sense of self-assurance and natural warmth. He was actually a small kid, as much as a full head shorter than a couple of the boys with whom he was horsing around. His hair was blond and his face sweet, round and cherubic.
“We’re in a game, boys,” the coach shouted from the dugout. “Grab a bat, Josh. You’re up next.”
The boy ran to the bat rack, picking out his favorite.
While her son was readying himself to become a baseball legend, Stephanie was reclined in her seat, listening to the latest hot historical audio book on the politics in America at the turn of the century. Its title was, Once There was Bipartisanship? While she was engrossed in an historical political thriller chosen by her reading group, Josh was racing with his bat to the on-deck circle where he was whirling the Louisville Slugger circularly like a truncheon. He gritted his teeth and tightened his facial muscles, eager to get to the plate and have his way with a pitcher who appeared frazzled.
First and second base were occupied as a result of two successive walks. This was after the pitcher had struck out the first two batters. More amazing was that the opposing pitcher, up to the point of walking the first of two, had been untouchable. Making the drama even more compelling was that the Bad Bauds’ right-hander had also managed to keep the game scoreless up to the last inning of the six-inning game—it was a rarity for any game played by nine-year olds to not be a slugfest.
After the pitcher made it three in a row and filled the bases, Josh raced to the plate. He assumed his stance, awaiting taking the first pitch when the opposing coach called a time out. He strolled out to the mound, motioning for his infielders to come in for a conference. Finally Coach patted his pitcher on the crown of his cap. Then he reached out his other hand to signal he wanted the ball. It was an age-old tradition, the boss letting one of his crew know that they were being temporarily demoted. In this case, the coach raised his arm toward the side of the field where one of his boys was warming up his arm.
The pitcher being removed stood looking at his coach. He didn’t throw a tantrum, didn’t even swear out his opposition to the decision to yank him. It was worse. He started to cry, racing shamefully off the field—it would take him at least a decade longer before his masculine hormones would be schooled on how to face humiliation without exhibiting a sign…of anything.
While this drama was unfolding, Josh was swinging his bat to stay warm. His complete focus was on the present, on the dream of heroics and stardom gifted to all children. It was a wonderful time of life; he rarely had visits by ghosts from the past nor was he ever haunted by fears of the future. Thus, being absorbed in the moment, he never could have conceived that he would be selected for something far greater than the upcoming at-bat. Nor could he envision that in the next game he played, the whole world would be dependent on him hitting a home run.
Confidently, he continued whirling the wooden stick. Then as he looked up, his arm movement slowed. He swallowed. It wasn’t the kid making the weepy exit that sank his heart. Rather, it was contemplating facing the relief pitcher he watched trot out to the mound.
Josh had never seen the guy. He might have been a recent transfer from another community. Wherever he came from, he had to be the largest specimen in the league. This was a boy-man that appeared better suited to take a run at a professional farm club. He was not only tall, but filled out like a…man.
Josh stepped back from the batter’s box several more feet, trying to get a better perspective on the unbelievable scene. He watched as the big guy took several warm up pitches, drilling one bullet after another down the middle of the plate—the catcher flinched each time the ball hit his glove. After about ten warm up throws, he gestured to the umpire that he was ready to go.
Josh’s throat tightened before he tentatively made his way to the plate. Where is mom, he wondered, forgetting the plan they’d made when she dropped him off that morning.
Where was mom? Stephanie was still in her car. She was pondering a different point than her son. She was asking herself what purpose there was in the early part of the century to having had two political parties in The United States when not only did neither of them stand for anything but both served no purpose other than to fight the other with the intent of precluding any sensible legislation being passed. She shrugged off the folly of the past political circus, knowing it had been replaced by a system singularly dedicated toward eliminating enmity and discord, yet still equally inept at accomplishing it.
Josh was having a harder time dismissing the kid he was watching on the mound, a boy who must have been raised by ultra-competitive parents that had placed him on performance enhancing drugs at birth. The fellow picked up a chalk bag, rubbed it with his hands, and then contemptuously hurled it to the ground. He kicked at the pitcher’ mound so menacingly that Josh thought he felt the ground under his feet tremble.
The pitcher then wound up and blazed a strike directly over the plate. Josh had a mind to swing but the ball whizzed by so fast he hadn’t even moved the bat off his shoulder before the spinning sphere was in the catcher’s glove. Strike one, the umpire called out. No problem for mom. She was giggling at the author’s reference to a hoard of politicians from not long after the beginning of the twenty-first century who was charged with what was considered at the time a serious moral breach, pornography. The laugh was due to the fact that some had been banished from their office at the time, yet within two years were back holding respectable and responsible public titles—she thought she was lucky she hadn’t been born forty years earlier.
The crowd of teammates and parents yelled encouragement to little Josh who replied by heroically taking the second strike. He did manage to whip off a solid swing this time, but sadly the bat was so far from the ball he thought it might have tipped the wing of a circling helicopter. Then he heard a distinct voice; he was sure it was taunting him.
“You’ll never hit him, Josh,” the catcher needled the batter, knowing that in truth Josh was a reliable contact hitter.
Hearing his words, Josh stepped out of the batter’s box. He looked at the catcher and smiled. Next he shrugged, while simultaneously speaking: “I know.”
Why he did what he did next, he’d never be able to explain. He took two swift swings of the bat and placed himself in a solid stance at the plate. He lifted the bat off his shoulder and made sure his eyes met those of the pitcher; he wanted the large boy to notice that he was eager to take a swat at whatever he had in mind to dish up. The pitcher rifled a mean glare followed by a sizzling fast ball that he aimed low and outside, a sucker pitch sure to strike out Josh on only his third try. Josh stepped into the plate as he lowered the bat to a horizontal position. He’d readied himself to do the unthinkable with two outs, two strikes…bunt. The infield was well positioned for anything that might happen if by a miracle he made contact with the ball. What none of them expected—including the pitcher, as well as Josh’s coach and teammates—was for him to lay a perfect dribbler down the first base line.
He hardly needed to run to make it to first base. Better yet, the player on third base had already made his move to the plate and was able to score with ease. The entire team rushed on to the field to congratulate the little man on his cunning move. As the high-fives, hugs and back pats slowed, Josh noticed the opposing catcher, a kid named Tommy, standing dejected off to the side of the field. Josh smiled shrewdly.
The other boy said nothing; their non-verbal communication was interrupted by the piercing sound of a car horn. Stephanie had been running behind schedule. When she arrived, she elected to wait in the car because she had told Josh that morning to rush so he wouldn’t be too late for a dental appointment. When he saw his mother in the parking area, he waved and began running toward her. She had warned him they’d need to take off as soon as the game ended. He was about to greet her when another of his teammates grabbed him.
“Way to go, Joshie, my man,” he complimented him with a slap on the shoulder.
Josh started racing across the large lawn to reach his mom as quickly as possible. When he arrived at the car, he stuck his head through the open window to receive a kiss.
“Wait until I tell you—”
“Okay, but we need to go…now.”
As Josh was zipping around to enter on the passenger side of the vehicle, Stephanie called out to him. “Where’s your backpack, dear?”
Josh hesitated for a second to calculate that in the rush to take off, he’d forgotten it in the dugout. He lifted his arms to signal he’d goofed. As fast as he could, he raced back in the direction from which he’d approached her. It took under a minute for him to retrieve the sack. On his way back, he noticed that his mom had moved the car up the road closer to the exit.
The little hero for the day adjusted his course accordingly. However, what he failed to notice was that there was a pile of gravel that was being used for a construction job. His right foot unexpectedly jammed into the material like a sand wedge attempting to force a golf ball out of a bunker. He tripped. The speed at which he was moving launched his figure forward as if he were a body surfer that had caught a wave.
His head lead the way, thundering a horrifying thumping sound as it slammed into the curb. Making the accident worse, was the fact that in that exact spot there was a pipe sticking out about an inch, the center of his forehead ending up resting on the protrusion—he immediately fell into unconsciousness.
Stephanie jumped out of the car, screaming as she ran to him. Blood was oozing from the wound, increasing her state of hysteria. She sat crying as she pulled Josh to her breast; her white cashmere sweater soaked in red. Several people witnessed the mishap and had rushed over to see if they could help.
“Somebody,” Stephanie bellowed, “call an ambulance!” A couple people had already requested emergency assistance for the unfolding crisis.
The tragedy was a new beginning for Stephanie, Thomas and Josh Worley. Both parents were about to become supporting characters in a production that would literally shake the world; Josh, the kid with a sick brain, would win an Oscar for his co-starring role.
Happy Birthday… Ends Not So Happy
Most of the old neighborhoods in America had been demolished after a massive campaign to improve the quality of living. Opposition to the liberalization of eminent domain laws by folks cherishing their “old” homes within central city areas had been systematically routed. In fact, legislative bodies had essentially ruled that whole regions be leveled so that new construction could replace “inadequate” housing and erase “blight.” The result was that only in select wealthy sections, or areas remote to the cities, could one find a home built with a used brick exterior or wood shingle roof.
Further, streets where one home after another distinguished themselves through their architectural design, composition of materials, and style were nearly non-existent. Modern housing developments incorporated several square miles of land, each home an identical replication of the other. The only differentiations in the dwellings an individual, family or couple could purchase were size and location; each community was set apart from the others but within each there were areas with varying size homes.
It was also scientifically determined that a family of four, for example, ideally had a designated number of rooms and specific number of square foot of space to live; to deviate from the norm could be purchased, but at a steep premium.
One might wonder how, within these massive walled developments one could begin finding their home, especially considering that street signs and individual addresses were considered unnecessary, and they were. Each home was equipped with a sensor and each citizen had an electronic device that they activated so that if they were walking or using a vehicle they could press a button and automatically be directed to their home.
This pattern of living had led to some odd situations. In fact, a prominent reporter once published an online article discussing a problem with faulty sensors in one of the newer developments. He relied on a quite humorous tale to express his cynicism.
It seems that a young man by error ended up in a neighbor’s home almost a mile from his own. The poor fellow didn’t realize the mistake, however, until he reached the upstairs bathroom. It was then he became aware that there was a woman in the shower—and that she was ten years younger than his wife…and far more appealing. After having had the best time in his life with a woman who was the wife of another man, the sweet lady whisked him off before her partner returned home. The lost man left. However, later that evening the
local police picked him up. Why? He was discovered speaking to himself on the street. When asked what the problem was, he said he was sure he’d never be able to find his way back to the woman’s home where he’d had such a wonderful time. In fact, his sensor had malfunctioned such that he still couldn’t locate his own home either.
Mitchell Harpe, the reporter, tongue in cheek, stated that to make the situation all the more entertaining, there was a parts shortage at the sensor repair company. It took two weeks before the man’s device activated. During that entire period, his wife refused to come forward and identify her husband. “No wonder this fellow ended up in the arms of another woman,” Harpe chirped, assuming that the gentleman’s wife had been rejecting him all along. Essentially, he excused the man’s infidelity on the assumption that the poor soul had been denied spousal love.
His conclusion created quite a stir, eliciting over three million “don’t likes” on his blog site, mostly from women who raised the obvious alternative point that the guy was an unfaithful jerk from the start and his wife was justified to punish him out of her life, at least temporarily.
Harpe was able to redeem himself…apologizing for his “mistake.”
It seems that the word had a remarkable etymology, especially dating back to around fifty years before, the late 1990’s. It was during that span of recent history that it became an accepted practice for individual responsibility to be summarily discharged to innocent error. This convenient pattern originated with politicians failing to pay taxes, corporate honchos defrauding investors, celebrities making racial slurs and athletes cheating by using banned substances or unethically manipulating equipment. All one needed to do to have their dishonest or immoral behavior exonerated, and their esteem restored, was to have their shameful act labeled as a “mistake,” an accomplishment that could be purchased on the cheap.
The strategy was so appealing that degenerates and thieves came to embrace it; males raping women or children, crooks stealing credit card information, teachers having affairs with students, housewives screwing plumbers, nurses borrowing patients’ narcotics and every other once considered punishable offenses could be clouded under an umbrella of mistaken acts.
It was rare that anyone would refuse to use the word, particularly if they perceived that it would help them avoid a negative consequence to their actions or expressions. Cynics of the practice argued that there was no longer a need for prisons since the only people seeming to be prosecuted and convicted were those committing serious acts against the establishment.
By the year 2052, the word mistake had achieved ubiquity. Still, it couldn’t overcome the damage done by a lousy one inch of PVC pipe.
While young Josh laid unconscious in an ambulance, Delilah Major was on a trip to visit her family in Colton, Virginia, one of the newly planned communities where her mom and dad lived. Her sister, Leslie, and brotherin-law, Larry, had picked her up at the airport. The vehicle Larry drove looked nothing like the ones produced forty-years ago. It was actually a remarkable design. It was shaped like a simple tube, similar to an elongated wheel. On the outer edges wrapping around the perimeter were soft materials serving as tires. As the log-like machine rolled the interior remained stable.
The entire exterior was composed of a lightweight clear composite so that the passengers at all times had an unobstructed view in every direction. The ride was as smooth as gliding on air, a single rod stretching across the entire structure held the seats and interior compartment in perfect hydraulic suspension. The wheels narrowly made contact with the road; instead they glided slightly above much like an old-fashioned hovercraft.
Larry had the honor of “driving” his car, although it might have been operated by anyone inside the cockpit. That is, it was verbally programmed to go to a designated location. The title given to the person taking the traditional driver’s seat was nothing more than a redundancy.
Leslie took the seat in the front next to her husband, while Delilah hopped in the rear with her small overnight bag.
“Looks like something is going right in your life,” Leslie smiled as she glanced backward to inspect her sister. “I wish it was my sex life, if that’s what you’re asking me,” Delilah sighed.
Leslie paused to look at her husband who smirked oddly.
“What’s your problem,” Leslie finally responded to Delilah, “I’m the married one?”
It was only a short ride before they arrived at a large gated area with several drive-through lanes. The vehicle had been pre-approved for access and thus permitted to proceed straight ahead. In fact, without delay it maneuvered through a maze of parallel blocks until coming to a halt in front of what was for that timeframe a large home. The street had no moving vehicles or people. Through the blinds, dim light suggested that, if anything, the residents were asleep or preparing to lie down for the evening—but it was only eight o’clock.
“Lock it up, buddy,” Larry dismissively ordered the car.
“Are you forgetting something…sir?” uttered a brassy, impudent voice seeming to be coming from the innards of the vehicle.
“Oh, fuck off, Lester,” Larry spit at his drum-like transport’s computer panel. He hated being controlled by the inanimate pest, hated worse the sound of the voice that had he altered would have only been worse. Further, he damned the fact that he’d given the thing a name beginning with the letter, “L.” He’d tried to have it changed several times but the programming that he had entered at the moment of the vehicle’s birth wouldn’t accept the revision.
“Lock it up, Lester,” Larry gritted.
Hearing its name pronounced, a clicking sound could be heard as Lester decided to obey his master.
The car secured, the jolly threesome were free to head for the front door. Leslie, knowing what was coming— that the door had intentionally been left open—pushed gently and watched as it swung freely. The entry hall was dark. Larry reached behind to close the front door. As he did, all the lights throughout the house lit up at one time.
They stood facing a large white sign across the room with, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DELILAH, written in fire engine red. Party decorations had been hung throughout the living space. There were also about fifty smiling faces eager to greet the birthday girl. Delilah grinned and then masked her face with her hands. There was no need to speak. Her parents came over to hug their shocked daughter.
“How often do you turn thirty-five?” mom posed to her child as she gazed out at the room full of happy guests. “It’s time to party.”
“And I have another surprise for you…but later,” her father, Douglas, snuck in as the relatives and friends began marching forward to congratulate the esteemed Delilah.
Festive music began playing and trays of food that had been set out on a large dining table attracted the hungry group. Across the room, two men, Gilbert Hall and Philip Marcom, were chatting. After welcoming his daughter, Douglas went to yak with his buddies.
“Where’s The Man of our generation?” Philip posed to Douglas, referring to Thomas Worley, who, due to Delilah’s close association with him, was conspicuously absent.
Sure, Worley had slumped into a stupor, but the public had no explanation for his disappearance from the news. It was generally assumed he was on sabbatical, a supposition intentionally confirmed by Delilah and the select few individuals who knew of his true state.
“Funny you bring it up,” Douglas reflected. “Delilah hasn’t mentioned him for a while…and frankly I haven’t asked.” He paused on a thought he decided to express, though he knew it was a wild guess. “After everything he’s accomplished, maybe he believes he’s outlived his usefulness.”
“Worley?” Philip winced. “I met him once; did you know that? Heard him speak a couple years ago. When they compare him to Einstein, I promise, it’s no insult to Albert,” he chuckled. “Useless! That’s a laugh.”
“Phil, don’t be so sure Doug isn’t on to something. People can do so well on a job that they put themselves into unemployment,” Gilbert piped in.
Douglas knew they would never hit on an answer regardless and wisely decided to change the topic.
“By the way, fellows, I was selected to go to London Medical School in August as a guest professor.”
He hardly completed the sentence when Delilah, who had been talking with a few friends a couple feet away, turned to address her dad.
“You never told me,” she moaned.
“Big ears; you could always hear a rat piss on cotton. Well, that’s the surprise I was going to tell you about later.”
“Wow! Daddy, that’s really cool. I want to hear all about it,” she said warmly as she hugged him substantially before kissing him alternatively on each cheek. She then turned to continue the talk she was previously engaged in with the ladies.
The room had been pre-arranged for all sorts of excitement. In fact, the space flowed into a smaller area that had been set up as a casino. There were miniature craps and blackjack tables as well as a wheel of fortune. Each of the guests had been given a set amount of play money to bet with.
Sharon, Delilah’s mom, knew nothing about gambling but had taken a seat at the blackjack table. She’d been dealt a six and a five with the dealer showing a four up. The participants at the table were whooping up the fun. When the host was dealt an ideal hand, everyone was urging her to double down.
“You bet twice the amount and get one card only, but this is the perfect time to take a risk—you get double the winnings,” a man named Milton promised without consideration that she could still lose. Her bet was three hundred unis, the new universal currency.
“Come on, love,” her close friend, Tina, encouraged. “Live dangerously for once.”
The game had become real to Sharon; the thought of losing six hundred unis deserving serious deliberation. Finally, she reached for her chips and placed down the required number. She held her breath. The dealer flipped the card, a queen of spades. She was ignorant to what it meant but assumed it was good in that everybody watching was cheering wildly. The infectiousness of the excitement caused her to jump up as she joined the communal thrill.
“I’m rich,” she shouted. “I’m going shopping.”
Douglas heard the commotion. More alarming to him, however, was the word, “shopping.” He strolled over to inquire what was happening.
“Time for a toast,” Sharon rejoiced. “Come on, darling, it’s not our party,” she reminded herself as she lifted a wine glass high in the air. “You do it better than me, husband.”
“Everybody, please,” Douglas called out three times, before the volume of the music decreased and the conversations quieted. “Sharon and I want to thank you for coming to celebrate Delilah’s belated birthday party.” He tipped his glass toward his daughter. “We wish you all the dreams you could imagine on your own, and then the ones we hope for you.”
After the applause settled down, her sister couldn’t resist a tease. “Yes, like a lover. Maybe now you’ll have time for romance.”
“I’ll drink to that, sis,” Delilah giggled, acknowledging that if there was any area of her life where she’d flopped, her love life was it.
The crowd must have been famished because Sharon was spending most of the party in the kitchen replenishing platters of cold cuts, bread and crackers, vegetables and dips. A few of her chums were helping, when Delilah walked in.
“Oh, dear, can you get some milk out of the fridge, please.”
Delilah spoke carefully, “O P E N.” Expecting it to be released, she pulled on the door but it resisted. She pulled harder and then gave a firm tug, still unable to access the inside.
“Mom, guess what?”
“Damn that thing,” Sharon groaned. “Sometimes it mistakes MY voice and won’t open,” she announced. “You know, my love, you’re not around enough to have an intimate relationship with our family refrig,” she playfully chastened her daughter. “O P E N,” she carefully instructed, after which a barely audible click was heard. At last, the madam of the house had been permitted to open the door.
“Technology. We’ve lost control of it, if you ask me,” Sharon griped.
“Mom, it’s not that bad,” Delilah responded to make light of her mom’s lack of enthusiasm for the electronic revolution Delilah had helped shepherd to reality.
“Well, you might be right but take a look, daughter. Did you read the news report yesterday? Coastline building permits are not being issued in several areas along the West Coast within a two mile range of the current beachfront—the oceans are flooding us!”
“Well, just be happy you don’t own property there,” Delilah quipped. “Besides, there are steps being taken to rectify that situation.”
“Really? Are they the same ones we read about close to the turn of the century?” she sneered. “I remember fighting for climate control—all the politicians did was move their lips. Now look!”
Sharon put her arm around her daughter’s waist and kissed her on the cheek. “Come on. I’m just happy you’re home.” To change the subject, Sharon picked up a tray with food, calling out to Delilah: “Grab the other one, dear, will you? Come on. Let’s enjoy your party.”
They marched into the main room, one of the ladies opening the door and mom leading the way. Everyone seemed to be having a grand time. Off to the side of the room, several men were tapping beer mugs and merrily chugging down brew. The gaming tables were busy with gamblers playing like it was for real. The music was blasting.
Then a young man who couldn’t have been older than eighteen, and who was Delilah’s cousin, gave himself permission to turn down the sound on the entertainment system.
“Everyone, you have to hear this. I found this music at my grandpa’s house. I swear, it would be a hit today but it was done in 1965. Have a listen to…Marvin Gaye,” he bellowed like an emcee as he began singing along with the track, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).
He increased the volume, inspiring several of the guests to dance to the ancient artist whose name few could recognize. Once they picked up the hook, some of the younger people started singing along, drawing Delilah into the jubilation. She was having a ball, clearly out of her element but glad to let loose.
Lost in the moment, dancing and singing gaily, she was brought back to reality when her mom approached her. Sharon grabbed her daughter by the arm. She was holding a phone, handing it to Delilah.
“I can’t hardly hear, hun, but it’s a woman who said it’s urgent that she talk with you.”
Delilah took the phone and walked to the far corner of the room where it was quieter. Her mom watched as
the girl’s face toned down to a white agony, her mouth and eyes silently shrieking.
Delilah was the first person to leave her own party.
The news had just been delivered to Delilah. The son of the greatest mind perhaps to have ever lived, was a short inch from being pronounced dead.