From Divine Play, pp. 1-14 (abridged)
Aiden Fesyo trudged through red and yellow leaves toward the easy chair in the midst of the forest. The blue plastic briefcases he bore seemed to yearn for the vividly littered soil beneath him, and the creases in his palms were aching. He’d been among the first to get Dr. Q’s Positronic CarryAll and delighted in walking about with the cases levitating beside him, but then the model was recalled. When they took his away, the truck driver, a small man with big teeth, confounded Aiden’s stereotypes by offering a rationale that included complaints of “wormholes” and the company’s need to “renormalize” the infinities that had been sprouting up in offices, homes, and playgrounds. Meanwhile, workers in space suits slipped the CarryAll into a metoplast case for transport…
His gray bioplasmic suit, as advertised, augmented more than conformed to his body (Einbruch Systems, Inc., recruiting froma market of millions of licensed data “retrievaers” like himself, justifiably imposed some anatomical prerequisites), yet it also dammed bodily warmth…
Aiden laid the cases down and kneaded his palms. “Oh, boy . . . oh, boy”—the word-sighs escaped his lips. He took off his suit coat and covered the high back of the roseate fur chair. He sank into the feel of flesh, hearing flutes. A few feet away, the forest sloped to a deep chasm that sustained a translucent river. The “flutes” had been the shrieks and cries of the three sunbrowned women bathing below him, their vocalizations baffled and transmuted by the nearby cannonading waterfall.
Now whistling birds and barking dogs improvised over the whining rhythms of locusts in his arboreal domain. The women were prostrate on varicolored blankets on the white beach, arrayed like manzanita leaves, guarded by a bloated sun above black volcanoes at the horizon. Should he take them all now—obliviate himself in flesh?…
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” Aiden groaned now, alone in his chair in the forest, dangling his right arm over the long, black box on the square, white, plastic table beside him. The women, the waterfall, his indecent “padded” suits, his dead-end dead-ass job and junior existence…all respectively aggrieved him. “I want to die right now!” he screamed and then frantically pressed his thumb against the fingerprint identifier, illuminating numerous tiny portals of colored beams. His forefinger plied the red beacon, and the universe ended.
Black cavernous void―it soothed him, as if he’d survived the Big Freeze or the Big Phlegm, exempt from entropy, all interactions canceled.Then the translucent walls of the apartment commenced, undraping the humpbacked kitchen appliances to the left, the oval bed of carbonated glycerin before him, and the cave of water closet to his right. Diluted lumination showed plastic disks like silvery rings on the adiaphonous floor, rumpled clothing, unclassifiable paper and plastic bits and fragments, shoes like stubby volcanoes. Aimlessly his left hand hovered o’er scattered, semiopaque cubes hoarding thousands of hours of 3VAK2 broadcasts and cinema. Beyond the phosphorescent buffers above, below and beside him: a child wailed; the thump, warp, and warble of bass, drums, and lectroguitars braced a Gregorian chant; a woman nightly wept, “I love my children!” to which her heartfelt children answered, “Shut up, Ma!”
He cringed when the shrieks and blare of strings and brass sounded from the box beside him. A mellifluous self-possessed female voice (which he called Nancy) stated tautologically: “You have deactivated your Environ II Comfort Hologram Series 112375: ‘Beach Chiquitas.’ Remember, Dr. General has determined that discontinuing hologrammic service for more than five minutes can cause a depressive state that has been conclusively linked to cancer, social diseases, criminal—.”
Aiden impeded the blue beam, and heraldic music tintinnabulated and engulfed him…A congratulatory baritone (Sid) lilted: “You have activated DINER, your Digital Interactive Neurosensory Entertainment Resource, serving the solar system with over eight hundred thousand cha—.”
He flicked the turquoise beam, and Nancy explained: “You have requested the Menu Grid. Please specify channel by integral, decimal, centennial, millennial, myriad, and lakh. Please indicate hour, minute, and/or second by unit, decasector, centisegment, or millipart.” He prodded the white beam, and Sid affirmed: “You have chosen the last page viewed.”
The grid manifested itself out of darkness: boundless, immaculate, impending above him like a stone tablet, graven with the cuneiform of program listings, intricate, insistent…
He nudged the rose beam, and Sid advised him, more perfunctorily: “You have elected auto-scan. To hold preview, touch the silver beam. To continue auto-scan, touch the lilac beam. To increase preview duration, touch the copper beam. To decrease preview duration, touch the evergreen beam. To exit preview, touch the yellow beam. To exit auto scan, touch—”
“Shh!” Aiden commanded. He could make no more decisions tonight. DINER would preview random samples for his discretion. Only one question prevailed:
So . . . What Else Is On?
Eftsoons he was onstage, “Live from Faund Wāgas,” amid showgirls as they spun, strutted, and thrust their perinea. They were arrayed in feathers and elastic glittery unitards, designed with severe Vs at chests and groins. Their trilateral lizards’ heads emerged orthogonally from leathery necks, their eyes (and eyelids) sliding about in their sockets.
On “Needless Surgery,” he stood behind the surgeons for an incised view of a woman having her nose severed and reattached in the same place.
On one of the Articist Alley shows, he followed a woman in housecoat and curlers trudging through her rubbishy home, occasionally coughing up iridescent light rays.
He lingered in the Choosy Channels for “Best Scams,” promoting retinal implants that simulated blindness (entitling the wearer to government benefits) while internally furnishing sports, news headlines, or porno.
At “Sexe Shoppe,” he anticipated a lurid “infomersh,” but found a chaste dramatization for one of the ChoiceLife products. He was sitting very near the bed, on which a couple were entwined, under the covers, as the camera panned and dollied to a red-eyed, plaintively bleating scanner on the nightstand. “Uh-oh!” said the male voiceover (VO), over sprightly music, while the couple unwound and surfaced: a young man and woman in plaid nightgowns, who were trimmed, coiffed, and kempt.
“Looks like someone forgot to take precautions!” VO joshed…“Now you can decide if pregnancy is right for you. If the time isn’t right, it’s good to know that your local Choice Life Fertility Center is open twenty-four hours a day to guarantee that your potential child will find a womb in a woman who thinks a child will save her marriage, or who wants to nurture without the muss and fuss of a man.” The couple, now joined cheek to cheek, gazed at the silver tube that the ex-mother held. “Remember, too, that centers pay top dollar for eggs with high genetic—”
Aiden forded onward. Among the selections on Blabby Lane, he came across the show hosted by Gilly Vero, president of the Consolidated States of America (COSA). The two men and two women sitting unclothed and transparent on either side of him had altered the absorptive and reflective qualities of their bodies to exhibit four levels of anatomy: the skeleton, the striate gnarls of the musculature, the palpitant clumps of internal organs, and the branches of the peripheral nervous system. Aiden was brought within an arm’s length of them. The first had no face, only a skull with eyes. The second had a face, but the rest was glutinously raw, as if he’d been skinned alive. The third one was a woman with a comely, angular face and lavish red hair, but Aiden was compelled to stare at the writhing unguent mass of vital organs in her middle. The fourth was a transpicuous shell with protuberant eyes and flinching strands. Aiden was queasily compelled to focus on President Vero, whose eyes and thistle hair were orange and who berated his guests in shrill, penetrant tones, prompting clamorous joy in the studio audience and inciting the simulacra of hologrammed viewers that enacted their indignation when Gilly called them forth. Aiden prompted the lilac beam.
The News Pipeline offered hundreds of scandal programs. Aiden emerged in a thickly draped and carpeted bedroom. One figure roiled above another on an expansive bed with black metal corner posts topped with gargoyles’ heads. The woman was obscured, but the flabby, pale buttocks of the man were unfortunately visible. A whisper: “Insta-Scam cameras have captured Governor Boralema’s latest affair live and up close. Stay tuned for the reenactment of the meeting and mating on ‘Disgrace of the Day,’ following immed—”
Aiden switched. Initially he had been enthralled with the technical prowess involved in creating a two-hour real-time film in fifteen minutes, using morphed images. (He was less impressed when the latest pretenders would slip themselves into classic films opposite legendary movie stars.) When he reached Cinema Main, he scratched the orange beam and plodded through the taxonomical offerings, such as “Psychopath Surprises” (adolescents dispatched with power tools), “Predestination Comedies” (protagonist and/or family solves crises in one hundred minutes), and “Jōb Opportunities” (triumph and redemption over disability and/or terminal illness, with swelling strings).
On Neoclassics, he endured the colorized, reconstructed Casablanca, until a blasphemous nude scene with Bogart and Bergman. He scrolled through the Calmedy shows . . . “My Funny Gay Friend” . . . “We Po’ But We Laughin’” . . . “Bromas Insipidas” . . . Articist Alley—or maybe Psience—provided a ceremonial suicide dance of translucent hydralike Venusians on Mount Ohlyolomahammemmaheemaa, in commemoration of the massacre four years before. When Earth had begun sucking minerals out of the molten surface, Venusians had broadcast their intent to protest, while COMFI dispatched space soldiers in order to protect (human) lives. Venusians had developed a form of ritual combat, but no weapons—intratribal feuds, but no wars. The soldiers had corrosive chemical sprays in lieu of bullets. No humans died; fourteen Venusians did . . . He was near enough to discern that their diaphanous “skin” was reticulated, composed of myriad octagons. They glided over the gray molten surface by ejecting a continuous mist from the bottoms of their “stalks,” proceeding with an unfaltering malleability, like sea urchins. Stable instability. Because this was 3VAK, transmitting visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically, he could sense the ponderous atmosphere and density of the carbon dioxide air (though he realized he could not be breathing it)…
He waded through Sex Trough, but the mechanistic sexual rites, even the carnal carnivals of Standard Deviates and Permutations, did not exhilarate him tonight. Another Disaster, on the News Pipeline, disclosed scuffed bodies and flaming ruin in the aftermath of a flying saucer crash on the set of NewWorld Order III: Armageddon, which had been promoted as “nonvirtual, nondigital, and nondeceitful.”
Newsbites reminded him that COSA had supplied a team for HorrorShow, after threats by SPORT to foreclose on its government loans.
HorrorShow! He’d forgotten it started today. 3VAK sports did not customarily entice him, but this was epic sports. It was on Sorreal Plaza. He dialed 630600 on the console. Hovering above the elbow joint of California Island, he was peaking, soundless but for the flapping of his tie and whack of trousers cuffs in chuntering frigid wind (neural trickery, but still captivating). His canting chair precipitously plunged through the block letters of Sports HorrorShow, through ads and credits in the guises of birds and bugs and clouds, rushing from the island, overwhelming him. He was halted at the massive, corroded metal gate bearing the name: Dondi Divine Coliseum and Maximum Security Prison. Over brassy fanfare, the poignant, adenoidal voice of Al Gieri intoned: “Alive from the Dondi Divine Coliseum on California Island, it’s the Sports HorrorShow . . .”