Blammo and The Abandoned City

Blammo and The Abandoned City

Blammo took a big gulp as he stopped outside the towering ivory gate doors chiseled with the reliefs of legends. To one side, Hobbes, Calvin’s erstwhile stuffed tiger and faithful companion. The other gate was carved with the likeness of that spectral troublemaker from Family Circus, Not Me. Hobbes and Not Me were depicted as reaching towards each other, seeking to embrace the only thing they had left after being forgotten in the wake of time. Welcome to The Abandoned City.

The Abandoned City was the last refuge of imaginary friends and there were two things you could do here – one could rent an apartment and watch reruns of their adventures until they faded away, totally forgotten, never to be recollected. Or, one could choose the path of their human counterparts and grow up, whatever that meant. Blammo didn’t care much for option number one; he was literally conceived as an action hero. So it would have to be option two. Blammo just had to open the gate.

He figured he could blast the doors open with the mega-explosion pistol that was faithfully strapped to his thigh. Then again, growing up probably meant you didn’t do those kinds of things anymore. Blammo only figured this because of the dwindling adventures Jimmy took him on and so took his palm off the pistol’s grip. After all, it’s not like he couldn’t unholster the pistol faster than any other imaginary friend there ever was should the need arise. Whatever lay on the other side of this entrance, Blammo could handle it. He parted the gate doors with his entirely fictional calloused hands.

“Welcome to The Abandoned City! I’m Patrick,” a pint-sized pink elephant announced. “We’ve been expecting you. Here are your supplies.” The short-statured pachyderm shoved a pencil case and a Spiderman lunchbox into Blammo’s arms and spun him towards the right with its trunk. “Just up ahead is school. Hurry along now.”

“School?” Blammo questioned. “There’s where Jimmy started going. That’s when he started to forget me. But I don’t understand what school is. What is ‘school’?”

“School is where you go to learn things,” Patrick informed.

“I thought that’s what the internet was for,” Blammo returned.

“Honestly now,” Patrick bristled, “And what will you know if the wifi is down and you’ve used up all your data for the month? We all go to school just in case there’s something Siri or Alexa can’t answer for you. It’s also where you can make real friends, well, real imaginary friends in our case.” The little pink elephant pushed Blammo along with its stubby foot.

And so Blammo went off to school, learning how to add and subtract which seemed rather useless considering his mega-explosion pistol held an infinite number of bullets. But the more he learned, the more he forgot about his pistol. He began to forget about Jimmy, too.

Throughout these formative school years, Blammo naturally excelled at gym class. His agility and endurance were astounding; running, leaping, tucking, and tumbling better than anyone. Of course, his aim was impeccable and this catapulted him to captain of the basketball team by junior high. His prowess even made the prim-and-proper Little Miss Teacup swoon.

After a brief courtship – drunken sex in which they took each other’s virginity – Blammo dumped Little Miss Teacup in favor of Penny Punchbowl. She didn’t last long any longer. Bianca, Lar’s ex-girlfriend, Wendy the Good Little Witch, and Flutter Nutter also fell in quick succession. Sometime Blammo would feel bad that he used all these young ladies but it seemed his behavior was expected of him. While on occasion it felt like some vague kind of oppression that athletes should behave as rogues, nerds had to dress as if their mothers had chosen their clothes for them in the dark while hipsters were required to wear the latest trends, oh, and don’t forget that stoners had to act slow and forgetful, Blammo avoided trying to make sense of the whole ‘growing up’ thing by drinking cheap beer and belching as loud as he could. It was what the athletes did.

Eventually, the high school championship game came. It was the biggest basketball game of the year, always between the same two teams seeing how there were only two in the entire league – The Abandoned City Rollers and the Island of Forgotten Toys Tigers. In a freak accident – some claim Wendy the Good Witch had put a hex on him – Blammo caught his ankle around Charlie in the Box’s neck during a routine lay-up, breaking his shin bone in five places. He was never going to play basketball again. He’d never be as fast or nimble as before. The former adventurer still had great aim, though, but it wasn’t enough to get him a scholarship for college much less into the pros. Athletics behind him, Blammo was going to have to start taking knowing things seriously.

And so one day Blammo was in his Philosophy of Harry Potter class, not listening, staring out the window at an old tree. Remember the days he’d climb and swing from the long branches of trees like that! Over hot lava and pits of dragons, ready to fight his way out of being surrounded by toothy, tentacled aliens toting laser guns. Ah, that was so long ago. But it was so much fun! Hmph! Then Blammo had chosen to grow up when he could’ve just faded away like the smarter imaginary friends. Figures; Blammo had never been good at making choices. He was good with his mega-explosion pistol, though. Maybe. It’d been a long time since he’d pulled that trigger.

“Blammo! Are you paying attention?” Mrs. Otterpants bleated from the head of the classroom.

Blammo recoiled at the sound of his name, his palm releasing the grip on his mega-explosion pistol much like on the day he entered The Abandoned City. His shoulders went slack and his eyes drooped as Mrs. Otterpants suggested – in no uncertain terms – that he visit his academic counselor. Right now. Like, right. Now.

Patrick, the Pink Elephant, sat Blammo down at his desk. “Haven’t seen you in some time, Blammo. You were doing so well. With the basketball, I mean. I think you could have gone pro. Anyway, Mrs. Otterpants called down to say you’ve been inattentive lately. Is there anything I can help you with?” Patrick shoveled some peanuts into his mouth with the end of his trunk and munched loudly.

Blammo cast his eyes down, ashamed to say what he’d been feeling. “I miss shooting my pistol.”

Patrick leaned back. Ground up peanuts fell out of his mouth as his jaw dropped. “Well, you just can’t do that anymore. You’re growing up. And grown-ups don’t go on adventures. They don’t go off shooting their pistols anytime they want. Now I’m sorry about your ankle; that little dream is dead. But now you’re going to finish college, go out into the real world, get a job that pays you short of what you’re worth, spend entirely too much time working that job, and put money away for retirement instead of taking too much time off of work so that you don’t hate work.”

Blammo looked up with squinted eyes. “What’s retirement?”

Patrick leaned forward and put the flats of his feet together. “Oh, retirement is when you’ve grown old and don’t have to work anymore because as we age we get slow and crotchety. Understandably, younger people, younger workers, don’t like to be around senior citizens. The good news is that when you retire you get to do all the things you wanted to do when you were younger but didn’t have time to because you were working.”

Blammo head went full askew. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to do the things you really want when you’re younger? I’ve already lost a step after breaking my ankle; wouldn’t I be even slower when I’m old?” the young man questioned. “How am I going to jump clear of a lava pit when I’m 65?”

“Uh,” the pink elephant stammered, “I don’t think you understand. There are no more lava pits. No more dragons. No more villainous aliens. Those things don’t exist for us anymore. That was all imaginary. We’ve grown up.”

“I think growing up sucks!” Blammo erupted. He snapped to attention, his palm fastening around his mega-explosion pistol. He kept the pistol holstered but his whole arm was shaking. Patrick didn’t seem too concerned.

“Oh, growing up isn’t so bad. Why, after you get your job, you’ll marry someone you’ll love for seven to ten years, then rediscover the thrill of love with your neighbor’s wife. Then the day will come you’re really excited by that new car smell after you wreck whatever lease you’ve been driving for five years. Eventually, you’ll savor nights alone by yourself, with nothing to keep you company but your taxes until it’s time to go back to work the next day. It’s just what’s expected of you,” Patrick shrugged. It was only when he stopped blabbering that the rosy pachyderm noticed Blammo’s pistol to his head.

“I would advise you not to pull that trigger, Blammo,” Patrick offered with the barest hint of concern. The trigger clicked anyway. The hammer fell. No explosion. Not even a whimper out of the pistol’s barrel. Blammo brought the pistol towards his face, confused.

“Your imagination is dead, impotent if you will, Blammo. See, it’s one of those use-it-or-lose-it kind of things. Very common, happens to everyone. Nothing to be ashamed of.” The academic adviser whom everyone sees eventually in an attempt to ignore reality held out the flat of his foot. “The pistol, if you’d be so kind.”

All the blood had left Blammo’s face. Stunned, he ever so slowly placed his mega-explosion pistol in Patrick’s care. It was expected of him. Blammo shuffled from side to side as he turned around to face the exit, his eyes coal dead.

“That’s it, be a fine young man and get back to class,” Patrick coaxed. “Pay attention now. You need to know things. Chin up! It’s the first day of the rest of your life.” The student almost out the door, the diminutive flush-fleshed mammal placed Blammo’s pistol in his desk drawer.

Two decades later, Blammo was sitting in his recliner, flipping television channels in the late evening. (That’s what was expected of you when you had insomnia.) On the 126th channel, Blammo stumbled across a cartoon called Puff, the Magic Dragon. “Stupid,” Blammo muttered. “Dragons aren’t real and if they were they’d be dangerous,” he illuminated the threadbare walls. Of course dragons aren’t real; that’s what grownups expect. And Blammo was a grownup. He turned off the television. He’d already turned off his mind.

Eventually, Blammo began to nod off. The usual dreams – deadlines at work, his wife screaming at him for another stupid mistake – made him flit and jerk as he slipped off into deep sleep. Then…

A CRY FOR HELP! Was it some new nightmare,? The voice, it sounded familiar, long ago, but familiar. The cry for help came again. No. No, no, no. This was not his imagination. Blammo had heard that cry before, in some distant memory. It sounded like…like…my god, what was his name?

Jimmy! His name was Jimmy. And he was in trouble.

Blammo didn’t bother opening the front door. He exploded through it, no pistol required, to bring hope back into the dark of night.

 

All rights Reserved © February 2018 John J Vinacci

The Disappearance of Captain Unbreakable

The Disappearance of Captain Unbreakable

Captain Unbreakable eased his muscular buttocks onto the park bench. It was perhaps the last day of beating up on bad guys having finally put an end to the insidious Doctor Nefarious. He eased back and stroked his flaxen locks, confident that New Chicago was safe forever. Maybe he could live in peace now and perhaps settle down with someone who didn’t know who he was, though his many endorsements would make that virtually impossible. The broad-shouldered savior considered moving to another country and away from the past, towards the future, away from the very reason he became a superhero.

Captain Unbreakable took a deep breath.

“Hmph,” he sounded. His eyes swayed from side to side. Why had he become a superhero?

He felt a hand on his back and he turned his head. A tall, gangly goth-child cast a shadow over him. The man’s pale skin practically glowed.

“Lose something?” the stranger asked innocently.

Captain Unbreakable turned his head back towards the park field before him. “I don’t remember.” He blinked. He blinked again. “I don’t remember what I don’t remember.”

The man’s hand patted the superhero’s shoulder and slipped back into his trench coat pocket. “There, there,” the stranger’s nose scrunched. “You’ve done a good job. Get some rest now.” Big black boots turned and transported the memory of murdered parents away with them.

“You be a good boy and retire now,” the goth-child threw over his shoulder. “I’ll hold onto your motivation now, my motivation now. You’ve saved the city, Captain Unbreakable. But only I can save the world.”

 

All rights Reserved © January 2018 John J Vinacci

Interview with a Novelist

Interview with a Novelist

Why did you write Alpha vs. Omega?

Because I was getting bored with superhero stories. I’ve been a lifelong comic book fan, but I’ve reached the point of saturation. For one thing, the main comic book companies – Marvel and DC – have cheapened the relevance of their characters by invoking what I call ‘the multiple universes clause.’ They’ve created multiple versions of their superheroes and villains so they can tell ‘new’ stories when they’ve exhausted a character’s possibilities instead of taking things to their logical conclusion. Frankly, I think this is lazy storytelling and has cheapened the importance and uniqueness of each character. ‘The multiple universes clause’ also has the effect of lessening the gravity of what might otherwise be some dire situation. With these particular criticisms in mind, I wanted to make sure that the superhero universe I created was an entity unto itself to the point of inserting a crucial plot point to make sure that stays the case and that there’s no going back and changing it. I also wanted to address something else I am weary of in superhero stories – which is occasionally tied to ‘the multiple universes clause’ – the constant retelling of a hero’s origin. I don’t find a hero’s origin all that central to their character, though there are some notable exceptions (i.e. Spider-Man, Batman). Again, it’s lazy writing. In Alpha vs. Omega, I purposefully gave just about everyone the same origin, if not outright then metaphorically (you’ll see what I mean when you read the book). Originally, Alpha vs. Omega was meant to satirize the comic book genre and its tropes, but as I wrote I found there were some things that just have to be said if given a world of people with actual super human powers; the way people use and abuse power, for example. Superheroes and villains also provide us with the perfect backdrop in which to say a few things about religion. Unfortunately but understandably, the Big Two comic companies generally avoid the topic.

What was most difficult about writing this book?

I’ve never undertaken anything of this magnitude before. Alpha vs. Omega is epic in scope and with that meant trying to keep the timeline of events straight (in a book in which the timing of events is relevant to the plot) while trying to avoid plot holes. There was a lot of scribbled notes, a lot of back and forth to make sure things remained as consistent as possible. Trying to find the time to write was difficult as well; a little bit here, a little bit there, over the course of almost four years. Trying to be a writer while working full time and maintaining a home life isn’t easy. Now I know why so many writers are characterized as alcoholics. I completely understand that now.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Probably Thiha, who is generally characterized as the antagonist, though he may be the protagonist depending upon your point of view. I think he’s one of best character’s I’ve ever created; he’s got a quick wit and is almost always cheerful regardless of the situation, not to mention his background. And, despite possessing nearly god-like powers he makes a lot of mistakes which I think speaks to the foibles of being human no matter how much power you possess. I’m also very fond of The Mega Dudes as one of the central super hero groups. They’ve been bouncing around in my head as characters for about 30 years now, as they’re based upon myself and some high school friends. One of The Mega Dudes, Brawl Boy, is based upon my old friend Paul, who was plagued with brain cancer in his youth and pancreatic cancer as an adult. (Paul passed away from the latter disease on January 3, 2018).) The Mega Dudes represent to me what people what super powers should be doing on a regular basis – providing aid in emergency situations. So I was very happy to finally breathe some life into what were formally some very poorly drawn superheroes. Interestingly, the Four Dragons that also appear in the story – they’re the Chinese super hero group – were The Mega Dudes’ arch enemies in those old comics I drew. And just like in those stories, they square off here as well. I guess I’m a little nostalgic.

Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

I find the scene in which one the super hero teams – the UNRT – sits down to dinner with their alien ‘guest’ very amusing. The alien finds human ways very primitive of course and even makes fun of their food choice. The scene is meant to be a little strange, a little out-of-place as you have these people that can do fantastic things just sitting around talking, though the conversation does take a serious turn. I didn’t realize it when I wrote the chapter, but my scene is vaguely similar to the post-credit scene of Marvel’s The Avengers in which the team is sitting around quietly eating shawarma after winning an apocalyptic battle.

What are you working on next?

I will most likely put together an anthology of my short stories and poetry before I undertake my next novel, IF I undertake another novel. I love time travel stories and with that I’d like to tackle another very old idea of mine of a time warrior who traverses space and time in a bid to stop his older, renegade self from doing something catastrophic. Given how difficult Alpha vs. Omega was near the end – I wanted to finish it so badly but tried not to rush it – I’m not sure I want to write another novel.

All Rights Reserved (c) January 2018 John J Vinacci

Alpha vs. Omega is out!

Alpha vs. Omega is out!

My first novel, Alpha vs. Omega, is an epic fantasy-action novel and meditation on the use and abuse of power, the question of nationalism, and underpinnings of religion. As super humans struggle for dominance over each other on the eve of an alien invasion, do we ever really know who the heroes and villains are? And what terrible price will be paid to prevent an extinction level event? Is it possible for the price to be too costly?

As a bonus, Alpha vs. Omega comes with interactive links to thematic music to enhance key elements of the book!

The ebook is available now on Amazon for only $2.99! Click here!

Alpha vs. Omega Cover (Official)

 

Human Beans

Human Beans

Colonel Byrd swallowed his own Adam’s apple as he returned his crow-cracked eyes to the menacing space-centipedes towering over him. On this cool November morning, 2021, black-and-tan insects from another world, sporting a thousand stubby legs each, had just evaporated several tanks with laser beams from their hundred dark, marbled eyes. The combination of melted steel and burning flesh flooded the veteran’s nose and churned the officer’s breakfast burrito almost inside out. Pull it together, man, the colonel told himself, What did you expect from aliens capable of interstellar travel? The officer stood almost alone as the civilians dotting the perimeter of the White House lawn had fled in terror. A few children, too inexperienced to realize they should run away, remained in the wake of their cowardly parents.

“I suppose you would like to talk to our leader?” the army veteran almost gagged as he plumbed the depths of his coat pocket for his smartphone.

The two longest and tallest aliens swung their heads towards each other then back at the colonel. “Does your leader have beans?” asked a voice that sounded like crunching, broken glass.

The officer withdrew his hand from his coat pocket and scratched his forehead, tilting his green, starched hat backwards. “Beans? You mean like the things you eat? Um, no, our leader doesn’t have anything like that,” Colonel Byrd’s lips curled. The space-arthropod nearest the colonel lowered its lengthy body towards the veteran and parted its sharp mandibles.

“What I meant to say is that ‘yes’ we have beans. It’s just that our leader doesn’t eat them,” the veteran spoke to save himself.

This caused a quiet stir among the fantastically large centipedes from space. The gathering of alien insects raised themselves high in the air and swiveled their heads back and forth at each other, their murmurings like nails etching glass. The monstrous arthropod menacing the colonel just a moment ago lowered itself towards the man again.

“What kind of a leader does not eat beans?” the creature asked. The veteran was about to answer when another, smaller alien interrupted.

“It does not matter, little hairless monkey. What kind of beans do you have? We are particularly fond of cocoa beans. Give us all of them,” it ordered.

An educated man, the senior officer knew these to be among the most valuable beans in all the world, for you cannot make chocolate without them! Giving the aliens all the cocoa beans, well, that was asking a lot, especially at the onset of winter when hot chocolate is so popular. But there was the matter of extraterrestrials’ death-ray eyes. The liquefied army tanks looked like olive sludge, vaguely like pieces of chocolate left out in the sun too long. Surely this was just a hint of the aliens’ power. The colonel fumbled for his phone again.

“Um, you see…Bear with me a moment. I need to speak to our leader.” The officer raised and waved a hand around, signaling everyone to remain calm while he brought the phone to his lips. A ding followed. “President Siri, what should humanity do when dangerous aliens ask for all of our cocoa beans?”

A digitized, Australian female voice replied quickly. “Okay, here’s what I found.” The colonel immediately tapped the first webpage result on his smartphone. He read as quickly as he could.

According to the Geneva Referendum on Possible Alien Contact, it was concluded that threatening aliens displaying superior technology and firepower should be complied with in order to minimize human casualties… It was going to be a hard sell but Colonel Byrd really had no choice. He put both hands in the air.

“Okay, okay. I have the authority to comply with your wishes. We will give you all our cocoa beans.” Though he may have just saved humanity, the veteran knew he’d just made himself over seven billion enemies.

“Good, good,” the closest slinky extraterrestrial said removing itself from the colonel’s personal space. But no sooner had it retreated than whipped its body back at the leader. “And do you have coffee beans?”

Were they toying with the man? Given their ability to traverse interstellar space and shoot lasers out of their eyes, they were cruel, too? Knowing he’d probably never make it off the White House lawn, the colonel stammered.

“Well, hmmm, I don’t really know what those are. I’ll, uh, have to ask around…” The veteran ran his fingers around his shirt collar. It sure was getting hot in the November sun.

“Are you sure you don’t know what those are?” the space-arthropod slurred at the O6.

No matter how he answered, Colonel Byrd figured he was a dead man. He raised his smartphone back to his lips and spoke softly. “Siri; chances are I’ll survive lying to dangerous extraterrestrials and see my family again?”

“Based upon a stress analysis of your voice, there is a high probability the knowledgeable and dangerous extraterrestrials will figure out that you are lying. It is reasonable to assume that any visitors from space have studied human behavior before arriving here on Earth,” Siri answered.

The officer figured there was no use in lying. He looked up from his phone and threw his arm around in a semi-circle. “Yes, oh great and formidable space insects! We have coffee beans, too. In fact, we have all kinds of beans. Soy beans, black beans, pinto beans…”

“Good! We will kill you all slowly for your cooperation,” boomed one of the god-sized arthropods. Green, slimy saliva coated its sharp teeth as it gnashed them together in anticipation. “This is wonderful, we would simply die if we ate anything that was not a bean!” The broken glassy voice could be heard far afield. The congregation of aliens writhed in victory, dancing like black-and-tan snakes around their silver plate of a flying saucer.

“Mister space alien?” a little African American girl spoke from beside the colonel. “Do you like beans?” she offered the creepy-crawly beside the officer. Her deep brown eyes were wide with wonder as she held up a white box against her pink down jacket.

The gigantic space centipede nearby leveled its black marbled eyes upon the child before Colonel Byrd, clenching his teeth sideways, could hide the girl behind him.

“Yes, little thing incapable of traversing galaxies. We love beans, as I have said,” the creature mocked as its eyes began to glow red.

The little girl held up the white box from behind the veteran’s back, generous to the oppressors. “Have you ever had jelly beans? They’re really good.”

Colonel Byrd spun around, dropped to one knee and brought his index finger to the girl’s mouth. He shook his head adamantly. “No, don’t say that!” he ordered as gently but firmly as possible.

“Move, small balding monkey!” the black-and-tan arthropod champed. It brought its tail around and swiped the veteran right. The officer tumbled safely enough but his dress greens were soiled with dirt and grass stains. The colossal bug snatched the white box from the babe with its two front pincers and launched the box high into the air, throwing the multicolored jelly beans far and wide.

The threatening centipede’s eyes lost their glow and seemed to gloss over in delight. “So many colors! We have never seen or tasted such delights.” The multitude of space insects slithered in various directions and caught the jelly beans in their gullets as easily as popcorn. “So, mmm, so delicious! You have more?” the thing demanded more than asked in its voice of crunching glass.

But then the extraterrestrials shuddered along the length of their bodies. Their thousand arms wriggled uncontrollably. They whipped their long, segmented selves to and fro, looking to accompany Colonel Byrd’s breakfast burrito.

“Commander Primea One Dash One Zero,” one arthropod’s jaws chittered, “I do not think these are real beans!”

Scores of intimidating, super-sized centipedes fell like heavy ropes upon the ground, their midsections exploding in the bright hues of the jelly beans they had swallowed. Colonel Byrd instinctually had tackled and embraced the little girl to protect her from the spewing guts of the extraterrestrials. His uniform was utterly ruined now.

“I don’t think they liked them,” the little girl seemed low and apologetic in tone. Then a glint of sun bouncing off the aliens’ spacecraft caught her eye and she forgot everything. Her pupils narrowed and she lifted her head up. “Can we play on the flying saucer?” she asked the putrid covered officer.

“Yes, yes we can,” Colonel Byrd nodded. “You can do anything you want as long as you’re always nice to people.” The veteran stood up, took the hand of the world’s next great leader and walked away victorious under the sun.

 

All Rights Reserved © April 2017 John J Vinacci

Men in the Mirror

Men in the Mirror

Was it all a damn dream? Trench asked himself for the third time as he staggered through the dark. Winding his way around Morpheus’ rectangle towards the gleaning white bathroom, the forgotten middle-aged rock musician rubbed his eyes before flicking on the light. A sickening fluorescence filled the room as Trench turned the cold water tap on. He waved a hand under the spout to make sure the water was an appropriately cool temperature, then made a basin of water with his hands. The once modestly successful musician peeled the water across his face and back behind his ears into his tangled raven locks. He brought both hands down to clench the sides of the meticulously clean porcelain sink, looked his pale face in the mirror and asked himself out loud this time, “Was it all a dream?”

“What makes you think you’re not dreaming now?” the man in the mirror asked back.

Trench didn’t flinch. This seemed perfectly natural, someone in the mirror talking back to you. This wasn’t like in his younger days when he was hospitalized for schizophrenia or later when he did too many hallucinogens in order to feel like a legit rock star. The pastel face staring him dead in the eye was there alright, a reflection of sorts but not entirely; more like something of a phone call from your own alternate reality. Trench’s stubbled jaw strayed to one side as he considered the question about his question.

“This is the same bathroom I wake up to every day, man,” the washed up musician answered the reflection. “I wake in the same bed, look at the same clock, remember my entire life up until that moment.” This seemed perfectly obvious to Trench concerning reality.

The mirror image pressed his lips together for a moment and nodded. “Okay, then why are you asking yourself if the dream you just had was all a dream? Why didn’t you think it was a dream while you were dreaming it?”

Trench, in all his disheveled glory, was never much of a philosopher but this seemed like a very reasonable question. Wetting his dry lips with his tongue, he started to recall the dream.

“In the dream I felt like I was a little bit older than I am now, or at least much more experienced. I woke up in an entirely different apartment and even though it was a sweet pad, I knew that I was in the right place. Or at least I didn’t stop to think I was in the wrong place,” Trench explained to his interlocutor. “I knew I had to get ready for work – I’m a project manager at a tech company – and that I had to give a big presentation that day. But I couldn’t stop thinking about my date the night before with this girl I’ve never seen before in real life but who – in the dream – I’ve been in love with since high school. I remember us flirting through the years but never getting together until now. She made dinner at her place, I brought a bottle of wine. I was going to leave at some point, but she asked me to stay just a little longer. Then…God, I could feel her breath on my face, her skin on my skin, the pounding of her heart; it was so goddamn real.”

“So there was nothing unusual about what you felt except that the circumstances were different. Hmmm,” Other Trench reflected. The mirror image dropped his head in solidarity with the aged rocker. “I get that,” he continued. “It’s happened to me, too. What freaks me out is that when I have dreams like that, in the dream you’re having you can recall everything that has happened in your life up until that point, just like you remembering that you’ve been in love with this girl since high school that you don’t even know in this life.”

Trench blinked stoically at the man in the mirror who himself never seemed to blink. But inside Trench’s head, the song that had been lodged there since last night was violently shoved aside as the musician tried desperately to remember if he’d done any cocaine when he rolled at out bed. He tried to remember because the stuff Other Trench was saying was the kind of stuff you think about when you’re real clear on snow. Although he wish he had, Trench hadn’t done coke in years. He didn’t have the money.

“You do some blow this morning or something?” Trench asked somewhat jokingly towards the mirror.

“No, you know I don’t do that stuff,” came a reply from the other side. “I have a hypothesis, though.”

Ugh, he’s doing it again, Trench thought. “Am I gonna need coffee for this, man?”

“Nah,” Other Trench replied. Both men scratched their beard stubble but then Other Trench stopped following Trench’s every move. Instead he turned the hot water tap on and plugged the sink. He wet his hands, poured shaving cream into one palm and lathered up. He reached down and picked up a straight razor and began working his way from his neck towards his chin. Trench could hear the sandpapery scrape loud and clear.

“What I think,” Other Trench started as he dipped the foamy blade in the sink, “is what happens sometimes when we dream isn’t a dream at all but actually a glimpse of ourselves in an alternate universe. What else explains how we could remember such vivid histories while dreaming? We can’t just be making up an entire history of our lives up to that point, right?”

“C’mon, it’s too early for this. You know I don’t get it anyway,” Trench shook his head. He took his own straight razor and swished it in his own sink. He brought it up to his throat to remove the shadow from his neck. By the time he’d begun to slice the short hairs from his skin, he thought, yeah, actually he did kind of get it.

“Hey, I listen to your problems,” Trench’s reflection paused. “So return the favor and do me the courtesy of staring at me blankly while I bounce ideas off of you.”

“Shit, man, sorry,” Trench apologized. “I guess that does kind of make sense. It explains how we can have such strong feelings for people we don’t even know in real life,” the silver-selling artist considered upon recalling a key element of the morning story.

“You mean in our waking lives,” Other Trench corrected.

“Sure, sure. But what the hell would be the point of seeing my life in another universe? And, I mean, that’s never even minding the ‘how,” Trench said as he felt the razor blade make a small, superficial cut near his jawline. That’s the kind of thing that happened whenever he thought too much. It wasn’t that he was stupid; he just never applied himself in an intellectual sort of way, not like some people. He could barely walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. Other Trench was probably conversing about the nature of dreams while shaving while thinking about E=MC2.

“What would be the point? Hmmm, I don’t think there necessarily has to be a point,” Other Trench mulled. He ran his hand over his face to make sure he’d gotten every hair. When clean shaven, Other Trench looked five years younger than he was. Trench always looked older than he was, probably from spending too much time being on drugs and not enough time being successful.

“Lots of things in the universe don’t have a point,” Other Trench continued. “Things just happen. Maybe we’re tied to our other selves in other universes just like some particles are quantumly entangled. But in occasionally catching a glimpse of our other lives, maybe we can learn something.”

Trench grasped Other Trench’s basic premise up until the word ‘quantumly’ came up, which is how this usually went. “I don’t know, man. I don’t think I learned anything from that dream last night other than that guy’s got a much better life than I do. He’s probably got a better life than you, too.”

“It would stand to reason then,” Other Trench rinsed his face off, “that at least one of us somewhere is worse off than we are right now. So be happy about that.” He patted aftershave on his cheeks and squinted as the alcohol sank into his pores. “As far as you’re concerned, you should be so hard on yourself. You’ve got a lot of potential. There’s a lot of good material in your head still. Believe me, wouldn’t I know?” Other Trench chuckled to himself. “We just have to drag it out of you. If you can write another tune like Lethal Laetitia, you’ll be back on the top of the charts.”

“How’d you even know that was the song that was going to sell?” Trench asked shaking his head askew.

“There’s an algorithm for everything, even for predicting what songs will be successful,” Other Trench shrugged. “I’d give it to you, but you’d probably tell me it would compromise your artistic integrity. That, or you wouldn’t understand it.”

Trench thought about the small bit of glory he once knew, all the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. Then he thought about where he was now, bartending until 2am five nights a week and watching other bands play three out of those five nights. He was jealous of hearing those other bands play their shitty music but still walk away with all the women. He was over artistic integrity. He put down his razor. Maybe it was time he learned something from Other Trench.

“Give it to me, the algorithm, I mean. If I don’t understand it, teach me. If I’m going to learn something from my other lives, I want to start now, right away,” Trench leaned towards the mirror intently.

“I don’t know,” Other Trench hesitated. “It’s complicated…”

“C’mon, Trench!” Trench whined. “It’s not like I’m asking you how you built this mirror.”

“How many times do I have to say it? It’s a portal, not a mirror,” corrected the ever-correcting Other Trench. “And I’ve got to get to the lab. I’m late as it is.” Other Trench started to turn away.

“Well, think about it, man. I’ll even write a song for your wife and you can tell her you wrote it, which would be kind of true anyway. Trench, c’mon!” Trench pleaded.

With his anniversary coming up and no clue as to what kind of gift he could get his wife, Other Trent quickly relented. He turned back towards his other self in some other universe. “Alright, fine, I’ll make that deal. We’ll start tomorrow morning. Do some coke when you wake up or whatever you have to do to pay attention, because this stuff isn’t easy.” Other Trent wagged a finger at himself or someone like himself. “You know, it’s a good thing we can’t pass stuff through the portal or else I’d ask for half your forthcoming royalties.”

“Oh, man, thanks. You’ll really be saving my ass. I’ll think of something else I can do for you, too, I swear.” Trench backed away from the portal satisfied, half his face still covered in foam.

“Don’t know what I’m going to learn from this,” Other Trench mumbled as he stepped out of view to turn on the shower.

Trench followed suit on his side of things. “What are you talking about? You finally learned to take advantage of your resources. Think about it, man, I can teach you guitar,” Trench said over the pitch of a torrent of water. “Alright! I’m pumped now. See you tomorrow morning. Same time as usual?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Other Trench replied with a sigh from out of view. The sound of a shower curtain being pulled back and forth in one universe was oddly familiar in another universe only a sliver of a light year away.

 

All Rights Reserved © November 2016 John J Vinacci

Joe, The New God (Part 2)

(Part 2 of a 3 part series. Read Part 1 here.)

The Council is happy to see me in Universal Court but I’m sad I did not get the chance to say goodbye to my family and friends. I figure once I were God, though, I could make it up to them with some expensive cars. After all, that’s what my wife went in for after she dumped me.

The trial itself is a non-event. We wait and wait for God, but as the Council of Answers predicted, She never shows up. As they also predicted, I win the case by default, thus awarded the right to rule the entire universe. Sure, its a hollow victory, but I’ll take it. My new appointment makes the speckled pinpoints of white plasma that are the Council of Answers beam with satisfaction.

The little buggers are eager to get me back to my office which they assured me is only a few minutes away. As we leave the courthouse, I notice its shaped like a skyscraper-tall pear to which I ask a Councilman (?), “Um, why is the Universal Courthouse shaped like a pear?”

“Why do you think, God?” an androgynous voice comes back.

“To remind us that the laws of the universe are imperfect?” I answer.

“Whatever you say. The word of God is infallible. Time to change the books, lads!” A few Council members grumble but not overly so since their jobs are now secure.

We approach a remarkably tall, green and glossy glass building that I can’t help but noticed may be shaped like a stalk of asparagus. I say ‘may’ because the building is so tall I cannot not see the top.

“Let me guess, we’re on the top floor and there’s no elevator,” I gripe.

A different Council member comes forward. “Actually, we’re on the 82nd floor, sir. It is sufficiently high enough for you to see everything you need to see from there. But really, it’s all perception. With you brain being only slightly evolved, we’re easing you into your new surroundings. As you gain experience here, your perceptions will perceive more of the true reality that surrounds you.”

“Elliot,” I feel like calling it, “Am I perceiving your true reality right now?”

“No, sir. We, the Coun…”

“Stop!” I order. “No more of this ‘We, the Council of Answers’ nonsense you did back in Part One. It’s too time consuming. Henceforth you are Elliot and the rest of the Council are the ‘CA.’ Now let’s get some work done.”

“Yes, sir,” Elliot obeys solemnly.

“By the way, Elliot, what exactly do we do?”

When the elevator door opens on the 82nd floor (I had to ‘make’ an elevator), I feel a wave of heat seer my face, as if I’d walked into a blast furnace. I wave my hand and the temperature cools to a sensible 75 degrees. “Who the hell exists at this temperature?” I demand to know.

“You’d be surprised,” Elliot answers.

The office is otherwise bleak and dreary; the fake wood paneling so old it has petrified. So unimaginative, no wonder humans only come in two genders.

“Elliot, why don’t you and the boys redecorate the office. Go crazy. Just liven this place up a little bit.”

Elliot stops in its tracks (if that phrase applies to a blinkling of light. “Don’t tease us, your majesty. We’ve been oppressed for 100 billion years.”

“I’m not kidding,” I assure Elliot. “Do you guys even have health care?”

God’s office is the worst bit of the office; long, narrow and olive drab with a single square window. But as I look out the window, I can indeed see a great deal. I mean, I can see the Gwandagoobs all the way in the Flablagemagob sector. It’s pretty neat, which is more than I can say for God’s desk. It’s more like a drafting table with a smattering of disorganized papers.

I flip through them. Well, that figures; the dinosaurs were God’s pet project, not humans. Looking at all the drawings it seems that God really liked dinosaurs. In fact, she was going to make a larger, entirely new planet for them but a misplaced comet wiped them all out. These other schematics show a new comet headed towards Earth, presumably so God could wipe the slate clean and start over again. Oh well. You take the day off and next thing you know, you’re fired. I nudge the comet a few million miles off in another direction.

Time to put my feet up on the desk as I kick back in an imaginary chair. Except here comes Elliot. I know its got something to say but I strike first. “Elliot, what’s on the other floors?”

“Other universes, God.” Elliot doesn’t have eyes, but I imagine him rolling them at me. “Being that there are infinite possibilities, there are multiple universe in which all those possibilities play out. In some universes you’ve been God for a while. In others you don’t exist at all. Interestingly, there is a top floor, metaphysically speaking. But neither of us will ever know what goes on at that level.”

“Are you tellin’ me that even though I’m freakin’ God, I ain’t da ultimate reality?” I say in my best Mafioso.

“No, sir.” Elliot seems happy to say that. “You have mail, God!”

I scan my thoughts. Yes, there is lots of mail, mostly from Earth. Wow, people are needy. “Elliot, are other beings in the universe doing as well as humans?”

Elliot laughs, loudly. “You must be joking, sir. By the looks of the memories we’ve acquired from you, humans would be the laughing stock of the universe.”

I tap an imaginary pen on the desk. “Effectively immediately, the universe is on Earth time. I’m spending the rest of the day getting these nutters back on track. I’m putting you in charge of everything else until I’m done.” Elliot is unresponsive. “Yeah, yes, I’ll give you a raise. Now beat it.”

“Huzzah!” Elliot whoops as it makes and arc and leaves my office. I can hear Elliot barking orders before its even ten feet from my door.

Time to get this mail answered. How much aspirin is answering human prayers going to take?

“Dear God, I’ve recently learned that there is no Santa Claus. What’s next, no God?” – Virginia

“Dear Virginia, thank you for your important question. Before I begin, it should be noted that your question is more of a non-question until the definition of God is settled upon first. And in what sense are you asking if God exists? It’s one thing to imagine God as someone with human qualities and another to describe God as something that can’t be described. First, if God were conceptualized as being the perfect person, well, that we almost actually imagine. But now imagine aliens come to Earth and they are just like this perfect person but are even better at everything that that perfect person you knew. Does that make them gods? Maybe, but imagine that after these aliens come, other aliens come who are even better than them! Hopefully you see where this is going. Second, if you can’t describe God, then God might as well not exist. That is, it’s moot to ponder God’s existences without some sort of concept in mind. You might as well say ‘anti-zeroes exist’ because you’d be saying the same thing. Moreover, if you’re simply going to conceptualize God as something that cannot be comprehended, the point is again moot as you’d never know anything about God, including God’s existence. On both fronts, the existence of God seems unlikely or perhaps irrelevant. It is unlikely that most people really want to know if God exists because if they did know, it sure would undermine their particular beliefs. (Believe me, I was surprised when I found out God exists, too. Or do I?) What if it turned out God exists but in a manner no one had thought of yet? The frail human ego couldn’t take it. And, some dishonest tool would come along and say they knew it all along and lead people astray, not that they aren’t already astray…I digress. Whether God exists or not isn’t really important because believe me, none of you have it right and there are plenty of people being good despite their mistaken beliefs. So just be a good person for its own sake. Be a local god. You have my permission. Sincerely, God.”

 

(To be continued)

 

All Rights Reserved (C) September 2016 John J Vinacci