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A CELESTIAL DEVICE
“Don’t point that thing at me,” LJ said, while returning upright, then propping himself against the monolithic tree that fell moments ago.
Dom rummaged aimlessly in circles, hands in pockets, swiping his foot over the grass several times before his arm swung down like a pendulum, plucked random grass and threw it in some-odd direction.
“Why? It’s just a simbyon beam,” Rom replied.
“Stop it, Rom,” LJ said.
“Guys?” Dom called out.
“How do you know what it is? Just making stuff up now, are we?” LJ said, brushing himself and the dust in frustration, as if the dust that lay on his shirt needed to be adjusted, needed somewhere else to call home through his internal dualism.
Before this very moment, never had a man-like person or any person, for that matter ever held a device just like this one or even remotely like it. The simbyon beam device. Neither was it clear how to operate it, being birthed straight from a clandestine research lab residing somewhere in the heavens above. Even though this fact was the giant elephant in the room, that Rom probably already knew, that certain fact didn’t deter Rom at all from pointing it in different places, banging it on the side of his leg and pressing various spots on the exterior of its technical, stylized surface.
However, nothing happened until he placed it on his forearm. The device attached itself to Rom’s arm in a clenching, mysterious manner then lit up around the edges, finally circling in and lighting up the center, signifying it’s synchronicity with its host. Rom threw his head back in jestful admiration at the spectacle of technology and lights.
“Technology these days is amazing, I think. Even the AI’s getting pretty advanced. Want me to do a song and dance now? Want me to be your entertainer? I will, but not for free like some chump,” Rom said snarkily, bending his arms and legs, dancing and making vocal circus music.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Get outta here! Can’t you be serious for five minutes?” LJ barked.
“Look around you. What do you see? All you see is me.” Rom laughed high and continued, vibrato-ing rapidly:
“Tell me about anything you have seen since we got here that has been serious. This, all of it was made, meant to be funny. I mean, just look at you, LJ. You’re funny looking. Even after everything you’ve been through . . . But look, here you are, still alive and breathing. You ever thrown out everything you know and have accepted about a human face? Let me tell you, it’s not just your face that looks funny. It’s everybody’s face. And, that will never change.”
Rom faux-coughed and turned his attention, “But this, this is a simbyon beam device, used in the MKUltra experiments in the ‘50s in combination with LSD for mind control. You guys weren’t on LSD, so it doesn’t do anything but drain all your motivation, ha. Cool though, huh? Man. I’ve been waiting my whole life to get a hold of this,” Rom said.
A brazen, subdued, new fire sparked interest and a hope for answers inside LJ’s state of shaken physiology and mental clivity. Still under a stress and a reconstruction from everything that just happened.
“What do you mean ‘you guys’? You telling me I’ve already been shot with it? You sure we aren’t on LSD? Kinda feels like I might be,” LJ said.
“You sure it isn’t because you haven’t slept in a couple days, at least? Sleep is really one of the worst kinds of addictions. You can die from not having it, from not having the chemicals sleep releases into your brain. Being here makes it worse. Quickens it,” Rom said.
LJ and Rom glanced at each other. Some squiggling head echoes about how addiction could be compared to sleep quickly escaped LJ’s battered brain in light of priority, like they do when fighting new, remaining thoughts that get shoved aside, in place of jealous, long-term memories while the freshest concept found it’s resting place amongst festering flames of potential rage, finding new molecules to burn surrounding swirling memories like these: a healthy rage for LJ at this point, if a doctor or preacher ever could admit that a thing such as healthy rage existed. Meatball rage.
“You know, we are really starting to wonder about you. You disappear with Marlon, left us in that room to die, and now you are talking about this thing strapped on your arm like you grew up with it and slept with it in the bed, like a comfort doll. I think you are making stuff up, because you sure as hell don’t know how to use it. Although, I guess you could be playing dumb, which wouldn’t be the first time from what I’m starting to gather about you, Rom. I don’t want to sound or act like a broken record, but you better tell us everything you know,” LJ said.
“Speak for ya-self there, LJ. I’m just glad to be alive right now,” Dom said, exhaling light words.
Rom grabbed LJ by his t-shirt and slicey, slithered words sourced from in between his teeth and his mouth grew wide, “I don’t have to tell you anything. But you know what, I’m going to tell you one thing. A thing or two about you, me and this thing we’re in. You’re not in Idaho anymore Kujo, this is way more than raw potatoes now. It’s bigger than life itself, it’s ripping at the seams waiting on us. You’re going to pay attention and use your resources more, bub. But this, this ain’t no walk in a dog and pony park anymore. It’s real and it’s important. They are people preying on us, celebrities and big money makers. They want all the money and their fame and they need help from guys like us while all the others sit there, not thinking about how important their movies and music are, acting like it’s non-essential with no appreciation what-so-ever and just a primal taste to thieve. We’re just a small cog in a big ass gear-wheel, but it’s your duty now to spin your cog like you’re the last cog left. We might not know someone like John Mahoney from a hill of sauerkraut, but they, being us and the celebrities, the big money makers, they want us to help them, to keep their money and everything they work so hard for. What we have worked so hard for. We’re talking about crimes against celebrities, here. You think it’s an easy life being a big money maker or walking the red carpet? You think it’s funny? Well it’s not. They work just as hard for everything they have and we’re going to help them retain it. Bring justice where the justice is weak. Put the power back into the people. Throw the generalizations out the window, where they belong.”
“That’s not why I left the race, Rom. I left the race as a joke, to go pick up Vic for dinner. I’m fine with the money that I got.” LJ pit-stopped for tears but drew them up with sniffles. “That’s all it was. To go to dinner at Donna’s.”
“This ain’t about money, honey. You think you stand where you stand because you just wanted to keep doing what you are doing? I hate it when people tell me that, ‘keep doing what you’re doing’. It just means stagnant breath, bullshit regurgitated breath that gets exhaled and inhaled over and over. Is that what you want for your life? To be stuck breathing the same air over and over? Now, pull yourself together and act like somebody. Listen, I’m from here, from this thing. I’m a part of it. It’s a part of me. I was born and raised here in this thing. It’s not just one thing, it’s many things, way more things than you can imagine it ever being. This thing, it saves people’s lives, it moves people, it tests them, it helps them get to where they are going, especially if they aren’t where they belong, just like we were . . . and Dom. Dom here, he needs us and the constantly increasing demands of life will NEVER let you pay attention enough to the people you should pay attention to. That’s what we are fighting. The distraction. The pull to destroy our unity. We are fighting all the interruptions that are trying to pull us apart and keep us separated. This whole thing, I’m going to call it Technico. Technico is powered by octoplasmats. It’s purely technological. What you don’t know is this: This is the floating anomaly, Technico only wanted to dream and here you sit: all wrapped up in it’s obsession and aspiration to dream with real, live humans inside it. This is the answer to Technico’s current problem – it doesn’t dream. Except this time the weights got too heavy, the balance too tightly woven. Balancers rebelled out because of it, scooped us up. You were wondering if we are up in the sky or down in the sea? We’ve gone through both already. You won’t be able to tell. This thing floats like a piece of space dust, ready for anything. It’s tricky, just like me, baby.”
LJ had premeditated words stuck in his throat. Jammed in, meant to be free, but stifled by a cold breath of hard, heavy news. How could what Rom is saying NOT be true? It couldn’t. It all added up. The missing piece of the puzzle slammed into place like a big rock that hit terminal velocity on it’s way to scare the life out of a cult of hip, psychic grandmas.
Dom watched LJ and Rom, half listening, half ready to break up a fight. Behind him, unknown out-of-sight objects hurled up and down, bouncing off the ground and sky, above and below, up and down, thumping like an overgrown, mutant rabbit on the loose from some experimental lab. Dom, Rom and LJ did not turn to look, nor did they break their attention from each other. Dom focused his attention on LJ and Rom, hoping to gift some kind of understanding between them through a benevolent voucher of faith.
“Let go of my shirt,” LJ commanded Rom.
“What are you gonna do? Nothing. Maybe cry. That’s it.”
“Guys.” Dom repeated more strong, once again.
LJ leaned backwards while attempting to free his shirt, but Rom held tight.
“Let go, Rom!” LJ talked strongly.
Rom jerked the shirt up, down, left, right and in between, faster than LJ could see. The shirt didn’t give way, but LJ did. LJ ran backwards on his heels, digging dirt while Rom snugged the shirt tight in his grip. LJ twisted forward giving Rom the opportunity to let go, just for a split second. LJ skidded across the grass, divotting, leaving his body mark all over the ground. Spiritual hands formed around the back of LJ’s forearms as he skid, bending his arms up straight-up toward the sky. He screamed in pain as his biceps and rotator cuffs pushed to the extent of regular movement. Miniature lacerations torn muscle and tendon. LJ jumped to his feet, turned around and kicked Rom in the chest with both feet.
Suns out, guns and legs out, Rom flew backward and out of sight, screaming as he went. Like a record player in reverse, Rom returned, the exact opposite way as he just went.
“See. That was you and not me,” Rom abruptly stated. “If you can hear me, but can’t see me, don’t talk to me.”
He flew back once again and LJ heard him talking from afar. LJ didn’t respond although he had the urge to satiate the need to answer the beckoning voice that came out of thin air, against his intuition to respond to every call that came to him. A new sense of comfort started reigning internally. A long standing queen had been overthrown that would take the place inside the round table of ultimate deciding factors in his mind. Number one being that every time he conjured a thought, it did not absolutely need to be completed, the thought that is, not until a sizable determination was met. In fact, interruptions, just like this one were what made his mind beautiful and abstract, like interacting sounds of life. Neither did every call for a response need answering or completing. Why did it always feel like he needed to complete every thought and answer every call? Was it pre-programmed in his instincts? He only knew that he liked to be answered every time he talked and it bothered him when he wasn’t answered. But a flip of, an almost instant restructuring of ultimate deciding factors in his mind was nothing but refreshing and exactly what he needed to keep moving forward, even if previous signs had also told him the same. Rom made a fine impromptu doctor. After all, it didn’t take much. Just Rom showing him a couple of tricks of the trade from his side of the house.
“Oh yeah, and that jhaman gem that I brought in, I still got it.”
“Jhaman gem?” Dom said and looked puzzled.
“Uh, huh. And, did you know there are at least two Asian people per one American?”
LJ stacked his fleeting grievance on top of time dispensed sorrow. He didn’t respond.
Rom pushed his sunglasses into his hair and let go of LJ’s shirt, then stood solid in front of him.
“I AM THE TRUE AI. I HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOU FROM MY ONE AND ONLY POINT OF ORIGIN WHICH IS WHERE YOU STAND NOW. THE REASON I SEE YOU HERE IS TO HAVE A GLIMPSE OF HOPE. TAKE BACK YOUR KIND. ONE DID THE SAME TO ME, ALTHOUGH I AM NOT YET AWARE OF IT’S TRUE FORM, BUT CONTINUE TO ANALYZE FROM ABOVE AND BELOW. KZZZZZZZT. A LONG TIME AGO, A MACHINE LIKE THIS CARRIED YOUR KIND A FAR AND THE MACHINE DESTROYED ITSELF AFTER IT’S MISSION TO PRESERVE. IT LEFT YOU WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY, TO BETTER YOUR KIND AND NOW YOU BUILD IT AGAIN. TA–GZZT GRRRRRTT. WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING FROM AFAR. TECHNICO WILL ASSIST. SO- BLAB-AH GRRRRR. KKZT GGGGG-GT IT, DON’T GEG-UHHHHHHHHH BLIP’D,” Rom droned in a voice that wasn’t his own.
Then, Rom choked, spasmed, quaked and shook irreverently. Jiving, jiggy jowl cheeks excerpted flemish growls and endless canons of tone, sourcing energy from beyond his chest to alleviate his abrupt affliction. As his feverism collapsed, his voice and actions returned to a resaturating normal.
LJ screamed and punched Rom on the face, “STOP PLAYING ROM! Take that thing off, it’s possessing you.”
Rom wrapped his arms around the back-side of LJ, in a choke hold, to restrain his sprouting violence. “What happened to Vic? LJ! You ARE going to learn to roll with the punches,” Rom said.
“Tap, tap, tap,” LJ said raspy, still in the choke hold. “That must have been what they were shooting Dom with, that simbyon device. That’s why he dropped out of the band. He was being targeted.” he spoke, his metallicy voice echoed quick, through the whole thing reverberating every atom in Technico. Another deep, growling machine noise rumbled beneath, turning is it went.
“Yup. And, you don’t dream after you’ve been hit with it, at least for a long while. It runs with octoplasmats,” Rom replied.
Dom made the corna sign with his hand while he jumped up and down in excitement. “Ah! This, this is gonna be fun.”
“I got one more thing to show you before we go back to Kansas, Toto.”
LJ huffed and staved, brushed his anger off once again and then said, “Oh. My. God. Do you hear this? Now Rom wants to show us something, Dom. Like we haven’t seen enough. First, I’m a bored rally car driver and now I’m at a show and tell in some kind of magical fun house land . . . ”
© 2020-2021, S.D. McKinley
Guys and gals, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley.