“You are aware this is the second time we’ve caught your friend committing a felony act, correct?”
“Yes, and I’m so sorry for the trouble, officer. He’s just like that; I can never speak sense into him. I know you know he’s not a danger or anything. A bit weird, but he doesn’t mean harm. I suspect he could be slightly autistic.”
“This has nothing to do with harm. This has to do with your friend’s stupidity—trespassing on a construction site again? If the company ever files a complaint, he’s not going to get off so easily.”
“I understand, sir. I’ll make sure to get across to him.”
“Alright, I warned you. He’s in the room over. I’ve already gone through the whole spiel with him. You should be good to go now.”
The officer led Binh into the office, where Fred sat in front of a desk. His head drooped, hung low. Fred felt guilty—he was certain—but Fred’s foot tapped an incessant beat against the floor. An excess of energy drove his fidgeting. This was atypical.
Binh stared at him for a moment. Fred raised his head while keeping the angst-ridden posture; his eyes squinted in a twitch of remorse. Something was amiss—yet more important matters lay before figuring out whatever it was.
“You oaf. You’ve really dug your own grave this time.”
“I’m sorry, man, but there’s something else—something else entirely—happening. Look, you’re going to have to let me explain, and I’m sorry for getting caught and all, but…”
“For getting caught? Getting caught? That doesn’t mean anything! You were caught doing exactly what we talked about not doing last time—walking out on that damn construction site. I know you want to be alone, and I know you find the piles of rocks or whatever interesting, but you should do better than this. You aren’t dumb; don’t act that way and make me drive all the way out to the station to pick you up!”
“Poor choice of words. It doesn’t matter. Look. I think we’re in a spot of trouble. I might have precipitated something worse.”
The officer stepped into the conversation, intrigued yet annoyed. “I think it’s time for you boys to haul on out.”
He glared at Fred. “Certainly. You have enough time to think about this elsewhere.” The two stepped out of the room; once the officer’s door emitted a faint click behind him, he turned around, arms akimbo in a power position.
“You ought to explain yourself better. Tell me. Now. What’s going on?”
Fred gave an audible breath and rubbed his forehead. “Okay. As for trespassing and all, I have no excuse. I thought I wouldn’t be spotted. Again. But I promise it won’t happen! It’s not a one-time thing to get noticed! None of that’s important now.”
Binh cocked his head to the side in skepticism. Fred should have a rebuttal worth picking to fragments.
“You see, I strolled by the culvert—that ditch that runs alongside the site where the water drains. There’s this stretch where they draped red clay or dug it up along the culvert. It looked smooth because of the rains. It looked almost like a carpet. I reckoned I could head straight through the patch, but three paces in, man, the ground slipped under me, and I stumbled into the little ravine…”
“You aren’t even wet.” Fred’s hallmark fluorescent green shirt shone as obnoxiously as ever.
“That’s the point. I passed on through and came out the other side dry. Not underwater, but almost like a reflection of the site. Except the chirality is the same. I don’t quite know what that means. Maybe it cloned me or some other Twilight Zone kind of effect.”
“Well, that’s mind-boggling.” He had gone whacko. The brain which rattled the bars so long had broken loose and bled out. What now?
“I know it sounds too rich; I know I’ve taken a swing on this one. I won’t go there ever again—I’m not so inclined after getting mind-boggled earlier, as you’d call it. Hear me out for my trespasses on your time and gas, and I swear to it.”
“Fine. But as soon as the other roommates come back, we are having a discussion. Fair enough?”
Fred perked up. A round of defending his sanity in this strange land appeared to be far better than walking across half the city to the same end. Besides, the ditch is on the other side of town; arriving there involved swinging by the apartment.
“Yeah. Sure. Let me get my possessions, my phone and stuff, and I’ll be good to go.”
Fred picked up. They had taken his phone, wallet, keys—a mere fee for a moment. There’s a challenge here, he supposed, ripe for the adventure. What secrets did the culvert hold? Does this happen every instance? Fred had one way to be sure.
Binh, excluded from these riddles, could do no more than inform the roommates and watch. And wait. And at the moment the officer on the other side of the room unlocked the storage box, and allowed Fred to rummage through the bin, Binh glanced past the window which looked out from the office to the reception desk. Nothing glanced back—he already spent a dozen minutes there earlier and remembered nothing unusual. More people had filed in—a businessman reading a brochure on DUI charges, a young woman texting fervently on a bright pink phone, and a young man in a fluorescent green shirt who stared down at the tiles in front of him and tapped his foot in anxiety. And just as Binh paused in thought and began to put the pieces together, in his peripheral vision—out in the parking lot, visible through the lobby—a motorist pulled up in a recognizable car. The car grinded to a faint halt over two spaces. Whoever was in such a hurry leaped out of the car and sprinted to the lobby.
Binh could distinguish his shirt from this far away: a familiar shade of fluorescent green.
(If I could)
Take you away
Past every place
To the humblest shelter
Truly at peace
But that wasn’t meant to be
I have myself to keep
The food’s getting cold
Better in thought
A friend helps out in times of longing,
Claims you’re the person, not the object,
And whether buds are objects matters
In selfish treatment set alone.
And I’m not selfish—self-deception—
So greeting paper pal in silence—
My Lucy, Leary, silk-road camel—
Reveals not greed, but sacred kinship.
Spiraling up the irregular ceiling design,
Crawling and squirming in place to perhaps see divine,
Rivulets, darkly set vision, and musical zest,
Therapy: meditate ego death. Crazy protest.
Leaping off buildings like birds need a ledge to take flights,
Seven sad trips to destroy a weak wit who still writes.
Orange juice fantasies neither imagined nor known—
Words of old wives’ tales to tame the occult and dethrone.
Racing, repeating, prophetic awareness made sane,
Fever dreams sending you into the world of the plain,
Even when tripping to feel earthly flesh in caress,
Laugh and feel groovy affect to no longer oppress.
Fading elation will bring greed again,
Looping insanity falls to nil,
Reminders linger, halos help out,
Reflections fuse the pieces as one.
So while the troubled lose their control,
The decades prove the liquid’s purpose:
A tool of novel insight and love
As long as minds check facts delivered.
It’s silly any view you take,
But just one night beyond what’s fake,
What’s right, subjective goodness sake,
Would bring incarnate joy to wake.
It’s hard to take and hard to give,
But harder yet to sometimes live
With willing brawn but blank motive,
Frustrated thoughts held close, captive.
Hey there, quiet whipping-boy,
Why you got to be so cruel?
Why you got to close the door?
Why you got to act so dull?
You got our best in mind and eyes so bright,
A presidential brain and saintly heart,
A face a mold of better roots (that’s me!),
The wisdom to excel and take your flight,
Self-discipline in life to set apart
The model child from this old family tree.
Belt in grip and words in hand,
Why you got to testify?
Lips in motion, ears in wait.
Why you got to get so high?
You worthless scum, a cold, defiant heir.
A world of love means naught to flimsy souls,
Rejecting mother’s breast and father’s trust.
Your face a mold of no-good spousal care,
Traumatic genes, traumatic whipped-in holes,
A tranquil goal outside a haughty lust.
Push and pull, yet no one takes.
Smother, spurn, yet none unbars.
Shelter’s strange to hide how much
Proper belt in hand is ours.
Oh god oh god oh god.
That can’t be real. You hear about them sometimes in the news, you know, but never about them crashing down. They’re always these great big surges of seawater—I think—that roll up and roll along. That push around cars and lampposts and park benches. And bystanders.
He looked out into the distance, which was fine with him, and up into the air, which was why he felt so grave.
Nearly a flat vertical surface at this point, ready for the crest to cycle over and unleash itself—moving straight for him at a perceptible speed under an advancing dusky front of clouds—a colossal wave of water. The thing must be a thousand feet tall; it dwarfed every building in its certain path. He doubted even the bevies of skyscrapers which dotted the Midtown landscape ahead loomed taller than the present crest of the tsunami. Perhaps when it breaks, it will engulf the whole base, using that great red brick tower just to my side as a reference, tearing through the trees and paths surrounding the structure. That makes sense. The spire, the crown, may topple over with the swept midsection. I’d best stay back here.
(Right; the news mentioned this earlier today, which must be why I’m in a state of panic at the moment.)
(Will it break? The shade played itself as an illusion, always moving closer without moving forward.)
(Never mind that now. Urgency. Escape. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Could the other people on our—bus—offer an idea for our well-being?)
He tore his eyes from the port side of the commuter bus and witnessed the dozen other riders in a frantic pace in their heads. The bus shuddered, squealed, and stopped in the middle of the freeway leaving Downtown, stranding the band on a road, barricaded ahead. Drivers had deserted their cars; they embraced the panic in the ways they would never have otherwise predicted. The bus driver went missing. No matter. Do you ever hear from tsunami survivors who weathered the pulse in the city bus? In artificial reefs?
A woman sitting two seats over to his left rose and set forth for the exit. He followed her of his own accord, along with most of the passengers. Two or three souls with vague faces sat near the back. The sheep said nothing and did nothing for themselves.
Jumping ahead now: the gang gathered themselves on the pavement, brainstorming escape mechanisms which clearly would fail. A thousand feet of water would crush all. Raising yourself to higher ground increased the chances of survival in minute degrees, but you would not have a shield from the vengeful, savage sea. Lowering yourself may ensure that the water would not tread on you—the building above you would. Every space in between, excluding the open spaces, offered a continuum of risks.
These thoughts were group thoughts, directed by some other. No one spoke save for murmurs.
(…We’d best accept our fate and climb to the top of the parking lot which appeared off the exit.)
The group moved as one toward the laconic destination, trailing that woman from before. Who was she? What’s amiss here?
He looked around. They made it to the top story. Nobody parked their vehicles this high up; plenty of breathing room existed for their mass frantic death. A member or two of the group resigned their fate in disgust and descended the stairs. What of the rest? What of me?
A train crashed through a lower story of the structure. The parking lot remained intact, but whether they’d die of building collapse or tsunami was hardly a concern. It had derailed—let’s see—in panic. The panic of the moment, with impending doom ahead.
Something didn’t make sense here, he thought. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Was it how the group behaved? What was up with that woman—could it be her?
The wave crashed through the skyscraper, which disappeared in silence beneath the water without a sign of collapse. Just as predicted.
Now is not the time for wandering thoughts. He crouched down to follow suit with the rest of the group. The pavement darkened as the water closed in.
(I guess this is the end of everything. It’s been fun.)
He performed the cross on his chest and held his breath in the last few seconds before the water crashed through. He became no more.
Karen’s throat felt sore, and her lips cracked and caked with the slightest bit of stomach acid. What she needed was a glass of water before bed again—this time, refreshed and purged of the parched haunts that every sane mind conjures on unpredictable bases. She pushed away her blanket and forced herself up, swinging her legs around so her feet brushed against the plush carpet. Its fleecy, reassuring touch coerced Karen from her short—lived illness, and she left the bed, putting the fancy behind her.
In the morning, maybe I’ll tell the others about that weird dream I had.
Danny engrossed himself in one of those images again. He would be delirious, half-awake and half-asleep, conscious yet unaware. He would hear a low rumble overhead which rattled the fixtures in his standard room. He recalled a lamp, a dresser, shelves-the standard comforts he grew to love and identify so well back home, but more genuine. The din moderated itself to avoid disturbing the neighbors or whoever cohabited here. No flash of light jarred him awake. Instead, ataxia seized him under the guise of sleep paralysis, and before he came to his senses, these large insects would oh-so-quietly reach through the vent cover, unscrew the bolts, and fall to the carpet. They ensured that their legs impacted the carpet with the least noise, and that they caught the vent cover in midair with the same delicate precision. Danny would sense the dark shapes fall—see one move along the wall and on the ceiling to mend their work, sense one pry open the window, see several more hasten to the bed in bipedal form. He couldn’t do much about the whole scenario but stir and murmur when he felt his body move out the window by the guiding shells of those insects.
Danny’s eyes would open every time in midair, finally spotting the faintest light in the urban distance and starry sky, ascending into-
Danny returned to reality. No delusions here. A clock glowed on the nightstand nearby in a dull pearly light. The screen above cycled through the standard stars and clouds of night, far above his reach. A safety mechanism. He liked that, he guessed, but liked leaving the room in a nighttime state even more. Never mind that a visitor meant it was daytime everywhere else around here.
I ought to develop better sleeping habits.
“We know you’re in there, Danny.” A male voice.
Rap-rap-rap. But a feminine knock?
“Yeah, I’m coming,” he grumbled. He swung his legs around and pulled off the covers. The sudden change in state brought daylight. The clouds still played the slow electric waltz; the sun righted itself to match the clock, hour thirteen of twenty-five.
This shouldn’t take long, Danny figured; I’ll leave the formalities lying in bed. He rose, left the bedroom, shuffled toward the main door, and peeked through the peephole. A woman, Danny’s height (give or take an inch), and a man, appropriately groomed for midday, stood in wait. Danny’s eyes-half-closed brain processed the folk for a second before identifying them: that woman who lived down the hall and that man who lived on the other side of the common area. Uh, wait, Susan and Mohammed. One of them moaned under their breath.
Danny opened the door. He wore naught but sleeping shorts for the occasion.
“Nice to see we have such a receptive host,” she remarked. Danny continued to stare.
“How important is this?”
Mohammed patted him on the back. “Important enough to make you change so early in the day, I’m afraid.” The two walked themselves in.
Danny sighed and excused himself to the bedroom. Through the wall, he spoke up as he compared shirts and pants for the day ahead. “This ought to be something major. Hardly anything happens around here anymore, and you know I need my beauty sleep. Does it have to do with the Clickers?”
Susan leaned into the door and raised her voice in identical fashion. “In a way. Most of us have been talking this morning and decided communally that you should speak with them.”
He paused, a single sock in hand, and ostensibly chuckled to disguise a nervous twitch he prayed they wouldn’t sense. “What’s the point of talking with them? They know well enough everything in the colony-what we want, what we need, what we do.”
Danny couldn’t see a flaw there. He spent his entire life under the Clickers’ ownership. Ever since the day about hundred years ago when they descended and abducted who-knows-how-many humans, they had imprisoned the lucky subjects in these quaint communities. His great-grandparents could tell more, but they died many years before his birth, and left Danny to imagine how the scene would have appeared in dreams and daydreams. The Clickers were kind hosts, and provided all the humans required for survival and entertainment; nobody complained about the graciousness.
No. The problem didn’t lie in graciousness; we made sure to embellish that and give thanks. It lied in omnipotence. The humans knew the Clickers read minds—a suspicion at first, but enough coincidences constituted fact, and the aliens confirmed clairvoyance once in a while. The beetle creatures (for lack of a better word), just less than a meter in height (but uniformly so), had short antennae that fluttered like a motor before these guesses. The Clickers knew the humans’ musings so well that no one felt a need to talk with them, and claimed to have such high intelligence that their foresight resolved any troubles the humans had three steps in advance. Until today, if Susan and Mohammed meant what they said. This troubled Danny.
“You get along with them in a way we don’t. We simply wondered, you know, if you could ask them a simple question. To act as courier.” Susan had to be joking.
“We want to go back to Earth. No one we’ve ever known has seen our home land. Maybe they’ll see your sincerity and give up.”
Danny let loose a genuine laugh this time, socks secure on his feet this time. “You have to be joking. Me? Sincere? In your opinion? Remember last week, when you called me a sourpuss, of all things?”
Danny never saw Mohammed smirk, and Susan’s face when she realized how tough Danny could be to persuade. Yes, he’s pretty acerbic despite good intentions, but happened last week is another story for another day.
“Alright, sorry. But we do think you’d be great. Will you at least give it a chance?”
He opened the door, opened his mouth, and paused again. Susan never mentioned how badly the conversation with their gods could go because it couldn’t go badly. Danny had nothing to lose.
“…Yeah, sure. When do you want me to go ahead?”
Susan unwound her nerves. The plan worked.
“As soon as possible! Unless you have anything else to do…”
“Yeah, eat breakfast.”
Mohammed interjected “lunch!”
“Okay, sure. Head on down, and we’ll meet you at the staircase in a half-hour.”
The pair departed down the hall. The bed beckoned; Danny could afford another interrupted sleep cycle. But to dress down for that? No thanks. Let’s discover what the mess hall has to offer. He closed the door behind him; the automated lock fastened. It would remain that way until Danny returned, thumbprint on hand. Beautiful; convenient.
The hall on this side of the self-contained community had nice aesthetics, which Danny grew accustomed to unawares. Even, natural lighting on the edges pleased the eyes and illuminated gradual, shifting textures. The weather portrayed above linked a warm spring sky to the other juxtaposed rooms. In rare moments of boredom, he paid attention to these elements. Hunger prevents boredom. Danny had a goal no indoor scene could usurp.
After a turn or two in the corridor, he arrived at the mess hall. Here, the ordinary grace appeared in the common areas of the colony. One thumbprint scan later, whatever awareness Danny had of the design’s efficiency left him when he heard machinery assemble a meal customized to his physical makeup behind a wall—thin, so the salivary glands prepared the subject at the sound of food preparation. A conveyer belt brought him a tray with the standard fare.
Danny sat down at an empty table on the mess hall’s periphery and considered the task ahead as he ate. Talking to the Clickers would be awkward for sure. They’d know what he’d ask. They’d have the perfect answer to his stupid question. Anything to get these folks off his back.
You know what I want to ask these bugs? When we’ll get real food. Danny contemplated his lunch in progress. Cellulose-based pudding infused with the optimal balance of nutrients, energy sources, and artificial flavoring grew dull over the many years. The loaf, too, and the other textured items. I remember when the Clickers provided these green leaves to eat similar to the plants in the common area. I didn’t approve; I was rather young back then. Before his leave, my father used to promise me a special treat if I stuffed the whole plate down the hatch: a dessert he sneaked out of a meal the week prior. The act wasn’t prohibited, of course, just frowned upon. If I recall correctly, it was a chocolate bar—but not chocolate in the way certain textured food items tasted every other day. The cocoa originated from Earth, and tasted precious in a decidedly different way.
The treats faded, and the laments ached among the older residents. Then they faded. Then Danny’s meal faded, and went down the path. The harbingers pressed on.
Danny’s absent-mindedness helped to pass the time; he never bothered to check his progress until lunch finished. The wall-clock read five minutes to his impromptu appointment. Susan in particular ought to expect me around now. He sorted away his tray and wandered off to the exit stairs hidden behind an ordinary wall.
Sure enough, she stood waiting with various other residents who reckoned they wanted a response from the masters above. Danny approached them. He nodded a gentle nod. He ascended the stairs.
The stairs indicated a shift in veneer which went unnoticed by most. The healthful glow and engineered composure turned to plain, functional steel to bridge the two realms. Danny never minded this, even though it always caught him off-guard. Perhaps the others felt threatened by this, and preferred to bask in their own comforts. Hooray for them.
The destination was a stout door with a single red button off to the side. Danny pressed the button. A faint mechanical sound echoed behind the door. He stood by the exit; it wouldn’t be long before a Clicker attended to a pet. A half-minute passed by before the door swung inward. Danny proceeded to the sealed panic room beyond, where a single Clicker stood. The door sealed behind him again.
The Clicker’s antennae buzzed with vigor as it procured a voice box. Such was the inconvenience with Clicker conversation; they couldn’t replicate human sounds without electronic assistance, much like a human couldn’t replicate the fast-paced kkk-kkk-kkk-kkk of Clicker-speak at any frequency, whether audible or not. Hence, their namesake.
“Can I help you, Daniel? Or would you prefer ‘Danny?’”
“Danny works. And can you please stop that thought-reading? I want a regular damn conversation. No fishy stuff.”
“Why, certainly.” The vibrations ceased. “You may refer to me as caretaker 144 for ease. I know your—well, their—question already, and have a response you will find apropos, unless you’d rather elaborate on your thoughts.”
Finally, a regular Clicker conversation, one without crafty tricks. I’ll leave in no time.
“Okay, here goes. Some of the other humans below us wondered when we’d go back to Earth, the land of our forefathers. I’m not saying I’m unhappy or any of that jazz. Maybe they are. I can think of a couple of people who get bitchy at times.”
“Yes, I understand. I notice what you have noticed.” The top segment of 144 shook to replicate a human nod.
“Great! Great. Uh, let’s see. You’ve had that whole spiel on our protection and stuff, which is neat-don’t get me wrong. But we could pay a visit and know for certain. None of us have any living relatives who have experienced what home is. What’s the term I’m thinking of? Collective amnesia? We’d use a little breather. And who knows how many other groups of humans you guys have? Hell, I know we’re on that revolving spaceship, like you guys tell us, but is there a way to take us away and back home?”
The Clicker’s top segment shook from side to side. “My apologies, Danny. I’m afraid you may need a refresher as to the human situation.”
“Fine. Shoot. Whatever.”
The Clicker began to explain. “Earth simply hasn’t been the same since the last few hundred years of human existence. We desire to protect you—we desire to protect you from yourselves. You may have assumed from observing our species how we have mastered certain aspects of behavior and cognition you humans have not.”
“Being really freaking smart and the whole—” Danny placed his hands on his head and stuck his index fingers out as an aid—“clairvoyance nonsense?”
“Precisely, Danny! You must see where this is going. You humans are by far an advanced species for your planet. Don’t be mistaken! Your kind has several evolutionary disadvantages, however. Are you fully aware of your impact on the sweet home called Earth?”
Danny never considered that. In fact, the Clickers never highlighted this earlier; we’ve progressed. “No, why?”
“It’s sad to say, but your species ran rampant due to its own defects in cognition. Your planet is resource-saturated, but you battled yourself and partitioned these resources inefficiently. Furthermore, you conned yourself into poisoning spheres of your home. Not every home has the commodious nature of this habitat we have designed. As intelligent as your kind may be, it was not intelligent enough to supersede the game it played on itself. We are intervening for the survival of your species. Rest assured, we deal with the resources in adequate manners for your contentment and the maximal outcome.”
“Yeah, but what if I don’t want that? What if I’d rather weather it out back on Earth? What if that makes me happier, better?”
“That is a defect I am afraid you should be aware of. Do you know what humans did to themselves unchecked in the wild? Do you know their nature in nature, and not in these structured colonies of optimal makeup and number?”
Danny suspended his thinking. He never weighed this new question. “No, what?”
“They were a menace to themselves! They tore each other limb from limb and performed atrocities on top of atrocities in the name of silly abstractions. Man threatens itself left unchecked!”
“So what you’re saying is…”
“Correct. We must domesticate the human to save it from itself, and to mold and evolve it. You should be thankful for our intervention. We have pacified your species, and will proceed to pacify it further in these comforts. You have nothing to be saved from, so you may trust us. Do you know what your species used to trust?”
Danny didn’t know. “I don’t know. What?”
“Humans trusted some of the abstractions I mentioned earlier. Granted, particular abstractions were sensible. Science, for example. Your species had such intelligence—good job! Science, though, could not save you from yourselves, and caused certain forms of self-harm to become more accessible.”
“That makes sense…”
“Also, Danny, have you ever pondered on the term ‘god?’ What does it mean to you?”
“I don’t know. Controller? A kind of master? All my life, I hear you guys referred to as ‘god.’ The beings ‘up there.’”
“Unlike much of your language, the word ‘god’ has evolved alongside with your species in the past years. Humans are unique; they lie in an intelligence range ripe for prosperity and reflection alongside self-destruction. ‘God’ falls into the latter category as a consequence of your intelligent foolishness. Your ancestors had unusual beliefs.”
“They professed the existence of invisible beings in the sky who never responded at the push of a button. Would you think Clickers existed if we never showed ourselves and never answered your concerns?”
“No! I’m not stupid!”
The Clicker leaned in Danny’s direction as an expression of confidentiality and shared wisdom. “You are more rational, in fact, then the majority of your compatriots. That is why your friends down there requested that you ask us a question. You relate to us better. You are enlightened, and lead your species to an evolutionary pinnacle.”
Danny’s self-confidence surged. He knew it the whole time! He just needed the god to confirm it.
“Your customs and even your names reflect portions of the defects of your species. Nevertheless, you bear witness to improvements in your lives, especially compared to the squalor humans formerly experienced.”
“You know, I never contemplated that. But it’s true!”
“Don’t believe in yourselves and your fancies. Believe in us.”
Danny was sure. Danny was certain. Danny knew.
“Thanks so much, 144! I’ll tell Susan and the rest what you told me. Except for how smart I am; they’d get jealous.”
“They will. You can succeed. You all can succeed. For now, you must simply understand. Now, go and stop bothering yourself with unnecessary ideas.” 144 turned around and admitted itself to the remainder of the complex.
Danny exited and bolted down the stairs. He brimmed with new-found enthusiasm; it was true! 144 had its fun. It had played with Danny; it had played Danny. 144 held the stick behind its back as the human yapped and growled in its pursuit.
A small crowd had gathered at the base of the stairs. Not every day does a member greet the gods and return with a message. Various individuals blurted brief questions: “what happened?” “What did it say?”
Danny proclaimed the following: “I have seen the light, and I have the answers to your questions!” A murmur spread through the congregation.
“You can see, too, guys! Look, it’s simple. You’ve had your needs met here, but out there, where no one can care for us, it’s a dangerous place.”
The gathering collectively leaned in.
“The whole problem is that we never learned to manage ourselves appropriately. We battled ourselves and our planet. We were uncivilized! What the folks upstairs do is tame us. We are not pets. We are not servants. This is for our own good. If you want Earth to survive as our ancestors intended, we need to leave it be and save it from ourselves. Our nature.”
Danny paused for dramatic effect. “What we need to do is evolve. Not only that, but evolve under the Clickers.”
The crowd recognized it the whole time, they said. They desired the clarity their courier provided. Now that their message revealed itself in plain light, they were free.
Danny felt great at the general reaction. He alone was aware of the truth-the whole provident truth. The other folk were aware of enough details. Danny read their beaming faces and beamed himself—and, in reading their faces, never bothered to read between the lines.
Some day they’ll take the hills away,
And when they turn the rivers black
Or disassemble every bird
That livens up the afternoons,
I’ll hardly even rue the day
The world fell victim to attack,
Not by the cynics (so absurd!),
But by the press and war-hawk loons.
The signs are in the profit plan,
The debt and sickly streams sent out
From special interest lobbyists
Or other means to make me cringe
And fret about the fall of man,
No matter how my senses tout
Progress befitting optimists
In most of life, from fringe to fringe.
It’s all the same old insecure
And wasteful mode of anxiety
Which could be real—or could be wise!
Then every mote will go its way!
Yet hills stay put, and water pure;
Birds trill from treetop sane safety,
And I relax dread of demise.
Our fate, assured, returns to prey.
You’ll know what it’s like if you’ve ever been absent
In a classroom surrounded by chatting children—
As empty as a sterile supermarket egg,
Shuffling to and fro from daybreak to starlit night,
Then blocking out the universe to some avail
In the beatific glow of every light inside,
The raging fire of your television screen
And the self-assurance that there can be no good—
All medicine for an overdose of people,
Leading the builder of walls to craft a way out,
Welcoming purgatory in a bathroom stall
In the frequent event of a gaunt state of mind
Or intoxication from desired solutions
Which seep through the problem neurons hiding up there—
If you love the color green, love being jaded
Or tell the assailant to wait for two hours!
If a little alliteration cracked the code,
I’d have painted the fate in detail long ago,
But two cents says there’s no way to amply express
Remaining an eye, only seeing the present,
Not as foolish as the other decadent souls
Absorbed in temporal mental self-destruction,
For you’re not brainwashed, but a dictator’s puppet,
Dreaming in the flesh but condemning flesh to dust.
Yet deep within the chest cavity lives and lies
The one who records the happenings of the world
And the one who swiftly retreats to mother’s womb,
As acidic as your own visceral furnace,
Another weapon of warmth in limbo’s embrace.
They’re clues to why you look at a benign human
Without beholding the being within the beast,
A master, a slave, or a sadist reflected.
Sometimes I worry that my trespasses
Have told the others my communal sins.
But it’s alright.
Sometimes I see the shadows gathering
Across a nightly parlor’s hazy webs.
But all is fine.
So when the mystic judges come to Earth
And mock a trial far from solid ground,
Please say I’m guilty by expressing mirth.
Let them relent, and timid acts confound.