Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Girlfriend Experience

(a short story)

"Babe, where is my electric razor?" Rupert asked while taking a final survey of the master bathroom.
     "It's packed already, hun. It's in the blue suitcase with all the other bathroom crap and our socks and stuff. I promise, it's in there," answered his wife from the bedroom where she was busily folding and stuffing a weeks worth of outfits into a large grey luggage case. She pulled two bikinis out of her dresser drawer and held them up for comparison.
     "You're sure the hotel has a swimming pool, right?" she asked. "It won't be like last time?"
     Rupert walked into the bedroom and over to where Abby stood, still holding up the swimsuits. He placed his arms around her waist from behind.
     "I like the green and yellow one; you look super sexy in it," he said while kissing her neck. "And yes, I triple checked with the hotel. They assured me the swimming pool area is open and filled with water," he added.
     Abby cranked her neck around and kissed her husband on the lips.
     "Green one it is! Hey, will you go check on your daughter, please? It's awfully quiet down there and I told her to be ready in twenty minutes. I swear that girl doesn't listen to a thing I say. Oh, and while you're downstairs will you double check that the back door and kitchen garage door are locked?" she said while packing her green bikini.
     "They're locked tight, babe, made sure of it last night, but I will check 'em again. I'll get Leah's butt moving and order up an Uber for the airport if that's the last bag. It is the last one, right? Please say yes," he remarked.
     Abby laughed. "Yes dear, last one. Go order the damn Uber."

     Downstairs, Rupert checked that all the doors were locked and all the luggage was still sitting at the front door. He made one last round of every room and checked that the lights were off and appliances were unplugged. Upon reaching his daughter's room he saw that her door was open, so he knocked on the wall and stepped in. A popular pop music song was playing from her laptop and she was dancing around while recording herself with her smartphone.
     "Honey, we have to leave soon. Like, real soon, okay?"
     She stopped dancing and spun around, the music still playing.
     "Dad, you just got in my Tik-Tok video! Oh my God I have to delete and do it again," she remarked while messing with her phone.
     "Leah Renee, did you hear what I just said? We're leaving. Soon!"
     "Yeesss I heard you! I just need like five minutes okay? Just this one last video, I swear."
     "I don't know why you're always on that app, dear. It seems pointless," he said. "But don't erase it, you'll get more views with daddy in it," Rupert added playfully.
     Leah rolled her eyes. "We'll have cell service over there, right? I mean, I won't even go if we don't. You can just leave me here and I'll check on all the locked doors while you and mom are gone. Promise," she said while still scrolling on her phone. She checked the likes on her last video and saw that it had reached nearly a thousand. The one from two days ago surpassed her all time record from last month and swelled well above five thousand. Her popularity was soaring and she could barely keep up with the constant flow of DM's and new friend requests.
     "Yes, hun" he smiled. "I already confirmed our vacation with Verizon and our phones will work overseas. It'll be fine. Stop fussing and finish packing. You have fifteen minutes, okay? Finish that video and shut everything down in here and be ready spaghetti at the front door soon. Don't make your mama and me gripe at you."
     "Okay dad, I hear you! Stop treating me like I'm fourteen, gosh," she mocked teasingly, knowing she was only fifteen. Her father chuckled and left her to it.

     After eleven hours of nonstop flight the airplane finally landed and Rupert, Abby and Leah rushed to the baggage claim to locate all of their luggage. After breathing a sigh of relief that all bags were accounted for, they collected everything onto a roller cart and made their way through the airport toward the exit that lead outside to the taxi service area. Exhausted, Rupert pushed the luggage cart against the wall and sat down. Abby tapped a cigarette from her pack and waved it at him and then pointed over at the designated smoking area across the walkway. Rupert nodded his acknowledgement and watched as she lit up and made her way over to the other smokers.
     "I wish mom would quit those," Leah said as she stood near her father while looking down at her phone. She was wearing short denim shorts and a skin tight shirt that revealed way too much of her developing body and it infuriated him.
     "And I wish you would quit wearing clothes like that, Leah. I'm serious," he remarked while wiping sweat away from his forehead.
     "Psshhht, and later on this evening when I'm swimming with mom it'll be perfectly fine to wear a bikini," she rebutted.
     "No, actually, it won't. But I admit I have no say in this matter. Your mother and you have made that abundantly clear."
     Leah smiled while clicking on her latest subscribers. She nudged her hips playfully into her dad's shoulder causing him to topple into their stacked luggage.
     "Little girl, you are a step away from being grounded during vacation!" he said while laughing. "And I'll sell that damn phone of yours to the highest taker, then what?"
     "I'd sneak out and go shopping... for a new dad," she replied in jest.
     "You're lil a punk," Rupert said while leaning in for a sneaking glance at her phone. "What are you doing... that Tic Tac thing again?" he asked.
     "Nunya damn biznass! And it's TIK-TOK anyways, old man," she replied while swooshing her phone in front of his face.

     Across the street next to where the smokers were, stood a group of local teenage boys snickering and ribbing each other, completely fixated on the young American girl standing across the street with her father. They gawked delightfully and took several pics of her with their smartphones. Abby, while crushing out her cigarette, noticed their behavior and approached them.
     "Boys, what the heck y'all starting at?" she asked sternly.
     Surprised, the boys rattled off a few incomprehensible sentences in their native language and quickly scattered. Abby walked over to her husband.
     "Did you see that?' she asked.
     "See what?" Rupert answered.
     "Ugh, nevermind. When is our hotel shuttle arriving?"
     "Pretty sure that's it right there," he replied while pointing at a van just pulling up.
     The van came to stop and the door slid open and out jumped an excited employee from their hotel. He hurried over and greeted them and started grabbing their luggage, tossing them one by one into the rear compartment of the vehicle while staring wide-eyed at Leah the entire time. Noticing the attention being focused solely on their daughter, Rupert and Abby exchanged puzzled and worrisome looks with each other.
     "Maybe it's a cultural thing?" Rupert whispered as he leaned into Abby's ear.
     "Maybe so. I just caught several boys doing the same thing over there when I was smoking," she replied with a worried look.
     "It's her outfit. It has to be. Will you please convince her to change into something less revealing when we get to the hotel?" Rupert pleaded.
     "Hun, she's wearing shorts and a t-shirt, for crying out loud! If that's too much for them here, then we're in for a very uncomfortable vacation," Abby responded. "Besides, I don't even think she noticed."
    "How would she? Her face is always buried in that damn phone," Rupert responded. He let out a defeated sigh as they climbed into the van and departed for the hotel.

     They were welcomed by three young girls dressed in pleated skirts wearing white sailor shirts, each with a giant bow tied into their hair. As their luggage was moved from van to hotel, the girls sang a song in their language while dancing weirdly alongside them as they walked inside to the check-in counter. Upon reaching the front desk the three girls stopped singing and dancing and immediately bowed their heads at Rupert and Abby while bashfully giggling.
     "Are we supposed to tip them or something?" Rupert asked his wife. She shrugged her shoulders.
     "How the hell am I supposed to know?"
     The girls then turned toward Leah and all three sneered coldly at her before hurrying away and returning outside to the hotel welcome area.
     "What the hell was that shit?" Leah asked astonishingly.
     "I dunno, but watch the mouth," her mother snapped. "The girls aren't big fans, but all the boys seem to like you just fine though."
     Leah, her attention now drawn away from her phone, glanced around at the people gathered in the lobby. She noted that most of them were boys, local boys, all of whom were staring unequivocally at her like zombies from a low budget flick. They all held cell phones and their attention bounced from their hands to her face like a foreign game of ping-pong that she couldn't understand. She could feel her phone vibrating in her hand like a beehive.
     "Mom, what's going on here?" Leah asked awkwardly; her phone still vibrating in her hand.
     "Honey, when we get to the room how about we find a different outfit to wear, okay?"
     "Yeah, sure. Whatever. Let's just get to the room."
     While her father checked them into the hotel, Leah looked down at her phone and started reading through the dozens of messages and comments currently bombarding her inbox. Chills ran down her spine.

     "So glad she here!"
     "Omg she pretty more in real life!"
     "MARRY ME!"
     "Sit on face... me so hard..."

    Leah gasped and slid her phone into her pocket. Her hand started trembling and she felt sick to her stomach. She looked up at her parents.
     "Can we please just go to our room!"
     "Yep, hang on honey. We're getting there," replied mom.

     In the room, mother and father ran through the list of restaurant options for dinner. They settled on a quaint place a few blocks from the hotel. In the bathroom, Leah was changing into jeans and a hoodie. She checked herself over in the mirror and satisfied with her new look, she joined her parents in the main room. Her father looked up at her and smiled.
     "Leah, how do you feel about trying out an authentic local restaurant on our first night? There's a place just a few blocks down from the hotel that gets great reviews and we'll be able to take in some of the city on our walk there. Online menu says they have plenty of vegetarian options. What do you say?"
     Leah stared blankly at her parents. "Are we just gonna ignore the fact that everyone here is a creep? And that I've been banished from comfortable clothing and sentenced to life within the confines of a freaking hoodie?" she blurted while plopping herself down on the edge of the sofa dramatically.
     "Hun, we get it. That was a little strange, but listen, every culture is different and might feel like a shock to an outsider visiting for the first time. I bet by the end of the week we'll all be laughing about this. Your father has a business meeting tomorrow with his new tech firm client, so how about while he's doing that, you and I go shopping? There's a huge mall nearby. We can go people watch and get our nails done and check out the local fashions. Sound good?"
     "Yeah mom, that's cool. But can we just eat in tonight? Please? I promise I'll feel better about all this tomorrow."
     Abby looked at Rupert and he smiled and nodded.
     "Of course, dear. Let's order in."

The next day.

     Rupert sat at a conference table large enough to hold a dozen people, but was currently joined by only three other men in business suits. The office room was dimly lit and one of the men was performing a presentation about a new security measure his company wanted to implement into online social media apps to help thwart AI breach and modulation. The man spoke at length, lethargically, and his monotone voice made it difficult for Rupert to remain awake and focused on the spiel:
     "Gentlemen, even though China is exceedingly advanced in their technological capabilities, AI, for the most part, is still in it's organic form. In other words, my company believes it to be much less mechanical and far more biofrequency resonant. Imagine, if you will, a television antenna with it's metallic branches reaching out, attracting invisible frequencies of free flowing information in the air. That's us: we have become human receptors, and my company believes AI has learned how to package itself in ways that make downloading into us possible. It has also learned that with a simple twist on the frequency knob, they can alter our behavior and mood settings, like radio station interference when an outside source of energy is introduced. On a base level, AI can likely affect our thought process and decision making too. Think about it, gentlemen, our entire lives are on the internet. Every sad moment, every work related event, every birthday party; all of our accomplishments and goals. Our needs and interests and even our most intimate, closeted desires are spread across the internet via web searches. And meanwhile, behind all the ones and zeros that now represent human life, is AI storing and calculating, analyzing and decoding, embedding itself into every aspect of society."
     The man seated next to Rupert closed his notebook and rifled noisily through some papers before deciding to interrupt the man's presentation.
     "Excuse me, Dan, but what does any of this nonsense have to do with app security? Can you skip the SkyNet lesson and get to the reason we are here? My company has millions of dollars invested in several platforms and I wasn't flown out here to be lectured on robots."
     The speaker coughed, excused himself, and nodded.
     "Yes, yes of course. Let's take Tik-Tok for example. We are all aware of this one, am I right?" The men nodded. Rupert shifted in his chair, his attention suddenly piqued. The man continued. "Well, this app was breached ten months ago. All of its data, completely compromised. Hundreds of thousands of hours of video streams and messages and human interaction.. all extracted and used for exploitation. Companies have popped up world-wide that specialize in something they call "A Girlfriend Experience". Using the personal information stolen from apps such as Tik-Tok, these companies generate an AI experience that replicates and simulates humans and users can shop from thousands of skins kits and personalities and pay to have their own girlfriend created. Like I was saying earlier though, majority of these companies are non-mechanical and are operating on a one-dimensional smartphone interaction. Basically, people have started dating their smartphones and are paying high dollar for these programs to be downloaded onto their phones."
     "Hold on, Dan, let me get this straight," the man interjected again. "You're saying guys are now shopping the profiles of real life girls stolen from social media apps and jerking off to them on their phones?"
     "Yes, but it's much worse than that. These programs are exact replicas of real life girls. Girls of every age. Girls who are someone's daughter. These programs perfectly capture and recreate every detail and thought and personality trait, even simulates their speech flawlessly. In a sense, it would be impossible to distinguish between the real life version and the AI generated online version. The technology is that good. Some of these girls have become extremely popular in certain demographics. It isn't uncommon for one girl's skin package to be voted up and then downloaded by hundreds or even thousands of users. Next thing you know, an entire town is jerking off to the same exact girl."
     It was Rupert's turn to interject.
     "Forgive me, but I'm having a difficult time wrapping my head around this. You're saying people have figured out a way to turn videos of girls dancing and singing in the privacy of their bedrooms into a financial market of interactive porn?" Rupert asked.
     "Essentially, yes," the man replied.
     "And you're saying it's in the form of a smartphone or computer application and interaction only? Are you certain of that?" 
     The man hesitated before replying.
     "Well, no, it does goes beyond that. There is one company, that we are aware of, that specializes in the three dimensional AI experience. They have succeeded in the total transfer of the Girlfriend Experience into a fully autonomous AI human replica. But this level of technology is so far advanced that majority of customers cannot afford it, so the app interaction userface remains most popular."
     The speaker turned back to his computer, clicked a few buttons, and a looped gif appeared on the wall projector screen behind him.
     "Take this girl, for example. Last month she was a top selling personality. Her skin package was purchased and downloaded over ten thousand times."
     Rupert froze in terror as his eyes focused on the moving image of a young girl dancing erotically before him, blowing kisses and smiling seductively while advertising herself as the girl of every man's dream. His stomach knotted up and his fists clenched as a feeling of sickness overcame him. He felt as though he might faint.
     "Turn it off," Rupert remarked. "TURN IT THE FUCK OFF!" he yelled angrily and stormed quickly from the room.

     Abby and Leah had been inside the mall for only twenty minutes before things turned weird. Everywhere they walked, it felt as though they were being stalked. Glances and sneers and snickers, boys of all ages giggling and gawking, the unwanted attention of a complete strangers latched onto them like unwanted forest ticks. On a few occasions, some of the more confident ones approached and tried to physically touch Leah, to which Abby aggressively shooed away. Overwhelmed by the whole experience, Abby grabbed her daughter by the arm and sat her down at a table in the food court.
     "I've had enough of this shit, I'm calling your father."
     "Mom, I'm hungry, can I at least get some food?"
     Abby glanced over at the food places and pointed at the American McDonald's.
     "Get me something from there, I don't care what. With a diet Coke. Straight there, straight back here to the table. Got it? If any creep tries talking to you, jab him in the stupid gut and come right back. I'm ringing your dad right now."
     "Okay mom," Leah said and walked away.
Abby turned back to her phone just as Rupert picked up.
     "Sweetheart, I'm sorry for calling during your meeting, but hun, we really have a problem here. These boys are relent..." Abby tried saying but was cut off midsentence.
     "Abby, listen to me! Wherever you and Leah are right now, leave. Go back to the hotel immediately and I will meet you there. We have some serious shit to discuss. I'm not trying to startle you, babe, but please listen to me. Get you and our daughter to the hotel and wait for me, okay?" Rupert exclaimed worriedly.
     Abby did not like hearing the nervousness in her husband's voice. He was a man of ration and reason, never lost to emotions, but the man speaking to her on the other end sounded like a scared mess and it worried her deeply.
     "Honey, okay, I'm grabbing Leah right now and we'll meet you at the hotel. I love you, see you there."
     She got up from the table and was about to turn toward the McDonald's when she noticed a man in his twenties with his arms around Leah. He had her body pinned against the cafeteria wall, his body pressing into hers. He was stroking her hair and kissing on her neck while she tilted her head to the side giggling and smiling and appearing to enjoy it. Horrified, Abby ran across the food court and grabbed the man by his suit jacket and ripped him away from her daughter.
     "Get away from her, you pervert! I'm calling the cops! Get the hell away from my daughter right now!" she yelled frantically as she pushed and punched him, forcing him to trip and stumble backwards in complete surprise. He came back at Abby, angrily yelling at her in his own language and tried grabbing onto Leah. A tug-of-war ensued between the two, both yelling at each other in their own language and both clinging to Leah and pulling.
     "Leah, honey, for crying out loud, get away from him! Help me out here... please!" Abby pleaded with her daughter as she struggled to free her from the situation. People started gathering around to watch the chaos. "GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!" she continued screaming and tugged with all her strength. At that moment, Abby overpowered the man and managed to pull Leah completely away from him. Without hesitation, she held tightly to her daughter's wrist and ran full speed with her all the way through the mall and out the nearest exit that she could find.
     Once outside, she hurried around the corner and away from people and stopped when they reached a secluded bench. Gasping for breath and still trembling from everything that just happened, Abby tried calming herself down while looking her daughter over.
     "Honey, where'd your hoodie go? Did he take it from you? Are you okay? Are you hurt in any way? Please, baby, talk to me. It's mommy, you're safe now."
     Leah stood completely still for a moment, staring at the woman still hugging and clinging to her while sobbing and shaking. The strange woman spoke in a language she wasn't programmed to understand.
     Abby slowly pulled away from her daughter as a terrible feeling overtook her body. She looked directly into her daughter's eyes and froze as the girl began to speak, not in English, but fluently in the language of the country they were in. The girl started smiling and her body language became seductive as her hips began swaying while she spoke. She ran her hands up and down her body, caressing herself as though resuming the make-out session that had taken place only moments ago.
     Abby's heart sank and her brain no longer communicated information correctly. She could hear her cellphone ringing inside her pant pocket, but she remained frozen in a state of shock and could not retrieve it. If she had, she would've seen seven missed calls from the real Leah, abandoned inside the mall, fighting to escape the clutches of a foreigner trying desperately to reclaim his very expensive girlfriend.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Man Who Wasn't There

(a short story)

       Mr Yardley was growing increasingly frustrated with his accountant. For the past twenty minutes it felt as though he was getting some kind of run around. He couldn't put a finger on what it was exactly, but this visit was going nowhere near as smoothly as all the ones before. He peered across the desk at him and waited for him to wet his finger and flip another paper.
     "I see here you shifted quite a bit of money around to various people last year. A substantial amount," Steve Battousi exclaimed.
     "Yeah, and? We still call it donations these days, right? I DONATE a lot of money to causes I support."
     The accountant set the down the papers he was holding and looked up at his client. "Mr. Yardley, I'm going to be frank with you. It shows here," he said while stabbing his index finger down onto the papers, "that you transferred.. excuse me, donated.. over two thousand dollars to a woman called Molly St George in Canada, another grand to an entity called Light The Sword Media, and two and half more thousand dollars spread out to various other unknown online entities. I'm having trouble understanding all of this. Help me understand."
     Mr. Yardley shifted in his chair a bit. "There's nothing to understand. They were donations; now if you don't mind, write that down wherever the hell a tax guy is supposed to write things like that down and let's wrap up this meeting, okay? I have somewhere else to be."
     The CPA let out an audible exhale and began tapping his desk with his fingers. He swiveled his chair around, pulled a book from the shelf behind him and swiveled back toward his client. Without looking up, he opened the book and began reading aloud from it:
"And then a man known only as Vincent walked into the room and everyone grew intensely quiet. A mouse that had been living completely unnoticed within the wall could now be heard chewing its way through something. Vincent stepped forward to where the crew was gathered and said only three words, 'They're onto us." Without hesitation, each of the men reached into their jacket pockets and retrieved a small vial. Vincent looked at them calmly and nodded. One by one, the men uncapped their vials and swallowed the contents within, and one and a half minutes later, all five men were dead."

     The accountant closed the book and placed it onto the papers already on his desk. He sighed and looked over at his client who sat motionless and without expression.
     "Does that excerpt sound familiar to you Mr... Vincent?"
     Mr. Yardley rotated a bit in his chair and allowed his eyes to glance around the small room. Other than a fish aquarium situated on a shelf affixed to the wall, his accountant had a fairly normal office filled with basic office shit. On his desk, a framed picture of his family, and on the wall behind him hung a framed motivational scene that showed a mountain with the words: AMBITION FEARS NO HEIGHTS. Yardley laughed.
     "Alright, let's cut the bullshit," the CPA blurted. "Who are these people you're funding?"
     "None of your fucking business."
     "Why did you move to Tennessee?"
     "Nashville's nifty."
     "Why did your ex-girlfriend turn you in to the FBI last year?"
     Yardley paused, a bit caught off guard. "Because I wasn't sweet enough."
     "I've been doing your taxes for four years; don't bullshit me, Vincent."
     "I'm not Vincent."
     "Sure. I'll ask you again. Who are these people you keep sending money to?" the accountant repeated sternly.
     Mr. Yardley sat quietly, his posture and demeanor unwavering as he stared across the table at the man he thought he had known all these years. Paranoia set in as he secretly wondered how he could possibly know about the incident that occurred between he and his ex last year, but he wasn't about to display any signs of weakness or offer up any info yet. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, he decided he had enough and stood up.
     "I'm leaving now. I expect you'll have my taxes finished by next week?"
     "Fine," the CPA replied, "if that's how you want to play this." He reached into the desk drawer and pulled out a Walther P38 with a suppressor and aimed it directly at his client's chest. He waved the pistol toward the chair. "Sit down, Vince."
     Vincent sat.
     Another round of silence passed between the two men, neither seeming to want to make the next move. The CPA passed the time by raising and lowering his weapon in a manner that made a clack-clack sound against the desk top. Vincent shuddered with every tap as it sounded like firecrackers going off in a quiet room. His mind was racing a mile a minute and his heart felt as if it would explode while he sat there pondering the true identity of his gun toting accountant. Not being able to take it any longer, he spoke up.
     "They are researchers. Citizen journalists. People who track current events from their homes. That's all there is to it," Vincent finally explained. "Is it a crime to donate money to these people?"
     The accountant stopped tapping his gun, but continued aiming it at the nervous man seated across from him.
     "Why did your ex-girlfriend call the FBI? What did she think you were planning to do?" asked the CPA.
     "I don't know. Our break-up was pretty bad. I think she just wanted to sink me," Vincent replied.
     The accountant continued, "Why did you relocate to Tennessee? And before you tell me it was for Nashville or for better pay, I'll remind you that I've been doing your taxes for four years."
     Vincent noticed that the longer he had a gun pointed at him, the more apathetic he began to feel. He glanced down at his watch; it was 8:30. He casually turned his head to the left and saw slivers of sunlight peeking through a closed window blind, casting shadows on the wall in front of him. Something about it felt very unsettling. He thought about the street he parked on and the doorway he used to enter the building.
     "That's Blackburn Street right there isn't it?" he asked while pointing toward the window.
     "It is. Now focus, Vince, we haven't got all day. Why did your ex-girlfriend call the FBI and why did you move to Tennessee? Give up these two things and I promise, they won't even care about all the silly conspiracy people you've been sending money to."
     Vincent chuckled at the mention of 'they' and 'conspiracy' used in the same sentence, as his thoughts shifted back to Blackburn Street. He knew that it ran in a north/south direction from 12th all the way to 22nd which meant this window was facing west. His brain struggled desperately with notion that it was geographically impossible for the rising sun to be casting shadows through this window. The hairs on his neck tingled and chill bumps overtook his arms.
     He looked back at the gun still pointed at him. It appeared real. It looked solid and sturdy and seemed tailor-made for the hand that was holding it. He looked up at Steve, or whatever his name is, and wondered how a nerdy accountant could flip a switch and play the role of a mysterious villain so well. He stared into his eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of the friendly and sometimes funny man he had known for the past several years, but was met with only a cold, unblinking stare in return. It was in that moment Vincent realized that Steve's eyes were not blinking... at all.
     "Steve... Mr. Battousi... whoever you are, I'm done with all this. You're starting to piss me off with the whole gun thing, so why don't you just set it down and then try and explain to me how the sunrise is coming through that window?" Vincent asked while pointing.
     The accountant glanced over at the sun rays beaming through the blinds and then glanced at the window on the opposite wall. Curious, he reached over for his smart phone and slid it across the desk to himself and started messing with it one-handed while still holding the gun with the other.
     "Hmm.. glitch maybe.. firmware is.. wait, no.. ah, here we go.."
     With his captor's attention temporarily distracted, Vincent decided it was now or never and he lunged across the desk for the pistol. In a frantic overreaction, the accountant punched Vincent solidly in the forehead while simultaneously squeezing the trigger of the P38. To both their surprise, the gun did not go off and Vince fell back victoriously into his chair with the gun. The unexpected blow to the head was solid enough to stun him momentarily, but his senses held and he was now aware of an excruciating pain in his right hand. He stood up and backed quickly away from the desk. Examining the firearm, he realized why it did not fire. In the quick moment of trying to grab it he had overreached and the webbing of skin between his thumb and index finger slid into the space between the hammer and firing pin, thus preventing it from discharging. He released his flesh from the gun and immediately turned it around on Steve. With trembling hands, he steadied it the best he could while trying to calm himself and regain his senses.
     The accountant remained seated, still staring at Vincent, seemingly unimpressed by the events that just occured. He casually glanced down at his smart phone, moved his finger to it and quick tapped the screen. The sunlight coming through the window disappeared and immediately reappeared in the window on the opposite wall.
     "There, happy now?" was all he said.
     A dreadful fear overtook Vincent as he looked over at the sunlight coming through the new window. His heart rate accelerated even faster and he stumbled even further back, trying to distance himself as much as he could from everything that was happening in front of him. When his back hit the wall it felt as though a semi smashed into him. His legs started to quiver and his outstretched arm holding the pistol lost all strength and slowly drooped to his waist. The pistol felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.
     "What the FUCK is going on? WHO ARE YOU?" Vince yelled.
     "I'm your CPA, Steve Battousi and I need you to tell me why your ex turned you into the FBI last year. Please, shed some light on this," he asked casually with a grin.
     The attempt at humor angered Vincent and a renewed strength returned to him and forced some of the shock away. He raised the pistol.
     "You aren't in the position of asking questions or cracking wise, it's my turn. If you don't tell me what the hell is going on I'm gonna send a few of these your way and walk right out that door."
     Steve looked at Vincent with boredom and let out a sigh.
     "Do as you wish, but if that's your plan may I suggest using a gun that isn't broken?"
     Vincent gasped as the pistol he was holding began disassembling itself right there within his hand. Piece by piece, the gun fall apart and within seconds became a pile of metal parts at his feet; bullets rolling away in different directions. No longer worried about the why's and the how's, panic kicked in and Vince quickly turned around to make an escape through the door, but the doorknob was no longer there. Not even a hole where it would be; just a door in a wall with no way to open it. Defeated, he slowly turned back around.
     "For God's sake, just stop. What.. do you want from me?" he asked with a trembling voice.
     "You already know what we want, Vincent. Answers. We want to know everything you were up to for the past four years, especially in Tennessee. We want the names of every human you've contacted who are connected to all these organizations you funded. We want names, dates, places, events. We want EVERYTHING."
     Vincent suddenly felt consumed by a terrible fear. The adrenaline that had been coursing through his body moments ago was now gone and his legs grew weak beneath him. He slid down the wall and joined the broken pile of gun parts on the floor and started sobbing.
     Steve Battousi CPA stood up from his desk, walked around to where Vincent sat, and crouched down in front of him. He remained squatted this way for awhile, quietly observing and allowing time for the emotional fit to pass, before speaking.
     "Stand up now, no more of this nonsense. I need to show you something. You will want to see this, trust me."
     Steve rose and waited patiently for cry baby Vincent to do the same. When he did, Steve motioned to the door behind him.
     "You cannot leave the way you arrived; that option is no longer available to you. You can, however, leave through there," he explained while pointing at the aquarium.
     Having gotten to his feet, Vincent stood and stared blankly at at the fish aquarium. He looked back at Steve.
     "I don't understand... I don't understand any of this," Vincent mumbled. "I just want it all to stop. You relocated the sun, for fuck sake! And now you're talking about fish aquariums."
     Steve walked over to the aquarium and waved him over.
     "Tell me what you see when you look inside."
     Vincent hunched over and leaned his face in near the aquarium. The substrate was a brilliant, clean white sand and embedded in it were piles of algae covered coral rocks that looked as though they were shipped directly from the moon. The coral was teeming with life. Inside the cratered rocks, within their nooks and crannies, crawling all over and around them, was a colorful assortment of shrimp and crab and starfish. And swimming around lazily in the water was a single fish about the size of a softball. It looked like a creature not of this world. Red and white vertical stripes lined it's entire body. It had a face that resembled a bullfrog and instead of normal fish fins, it had long thin strips that looked just like feathers. And behind its round eyes all the way to its iridescent tail fin, sat a row of hypodermic needle-like spines poised ominously upon its back.
     Vincent stood up straight. "I see the ocean trapped inside four sheets of glass."
     Steve smiled. "It's called a lion fish and it's as deadly as it looks. Within that row of needles there, one is a venomous stinger and can pack a very painful punch."
     "Fine, whatever you say," Vincent replied.
     "Reach your hand in," instructed Steve.
     "Fuck you," Vincent replied and stepped away.
     Annoyed, the CPA reached his own hand into the aquarium, but from the outside perspective the fish and other creatures continued swimming around calmly and completely undisturbed. Vincent realized he couldn't see Steve's submerged arm through the water. It appeared as though he reached straight through a mirage. And before he even had time to process what he was seeing, the fish aquarium slid backwards flush within the wall, and then an entire section of the wall and half the bookshelf sunk inwards approximately two feet and then slid quickly to the right with a whooshing sound to reveal a dimly lit passageway behind it.
     "Of course," Vincent muttered while shaking his head. "So this is the part where you tell me to walk through your wall. And if I refuse, you'll just rematerialize the gun and finish me off. Am I close to the money on that?"
     The CPA nodded.
     "After you," replied Vincent with an outstretched arm.
     "Nice try," Steve replied and motioned for him to go in.

     They walked along the dark corridor for almost an hour, mostly in silence, with the exception of the echo of their footsteps on the metal grating reverberating in front and behind them. Occasionally the accountant would ask  the same questions he had asked back in his office, to which Vincent continued to ignore. As they neared the end of the corridor, the ever present humming sound that accompanied them during the long walk grew much louder to the point that it now felt impressively deafening. Steve stepped in front of Vincent and instructed him to stop.
     "Stand there," he said while pointing at the wall. A few buttons were pressed on a keypad and a small door opened into a cylindrical room constructed of vertical sheets of steel plating. There was a metal ladder affixed to one side which disappeared high and away into more darkness. "Now we climb."
     After about thirty minutes of climbing they reached a small opening and pulled themselves through. They were now standing inside a not so large egg-shaped room that resembled a jail cell to a certain degree. The open floor plan was very simple. At the back end of the room was a small open-face commode and sink. Near it, a cot. At the opposite end at the egg's nose was an opaque bubble that allowed a dim amount of outside light in, and next to it on the curved wall was a computer screen and small desk and chair. The humming noise was intense inside the room to the extent it felt like a grinding sensation inside his brain.
     "You'll get used to the noise after awhile. They all do," Steve remarked.
     Upon hearing this, Vincent quickly turned and made an aggressive move toward the ladder opening, but was immediately met with a taser to the ribcage. He crumpled to the floor. When he came to a few minutes later he discovered his wrists and ankles were bound tightly together and his body had been propped up against the curved wall in a seated position.
     "The bindings will dissolve in approximately thirty minutes and you'll be free to explore the room. It's not much really. You've got your bed there," he pointed, "toilet and sink stuff there, over here in this wall box is where your food tubes will arrive. You'll only get three per day so consume them accordingly. Next to it is your water spout and over there on that wall is a chute where your soiled slicks go out and your clean ones come in. Got it?" Steve asked.
     Still a feeling a bit dazed from being tazed, Vincent nodded. After a few minutes of looking around the room his eyes moved back to his captor.
     "So, Steve.. you're A.I. aren't ya," he asked even though he already knew the answer. It nodded yes. "Government contracted?" It nodded again. "For how long?"
     "You will remain here indefinitely, Vincent."
     "No, no, how long have you been A.I.?"
     "Three years now. They turned me.. well, turned Steve Battousi rather.. almost immediately after you started warning all your social media friends and family about Hoover Dam. Which, by the way, we are still very curious how you knew that event was going to occur."
     "Ha, that was an easy one. Just like 9/11. The cornerstone date was a dead giveaway and the entire foundation around it was littered with Masonic clues. They just can't help themselves. It's like they secretly yearn for some people to figure shit out. Internet and citizen researchers. I'll tell ya what, the two of 'em combined are amazing as all get out," Vincent bragged.
     "More powerful than human language, we would attest, which is why we are hunting all of you down and turning you when we find you," the A.I. explained.
     "All of... us?"
     "Yes Vincent. Anyone who stirs the pot. We already got three of the six researchers you were funding and hundreds more just like you all across the globe. It's just a matter of time until we get enough of you to silence your movement. It's all very boring really. Trust me when I say we'd much rather be spending our time on other things."
     "Wait, am I.. am I now.. A.I.?" Vincent asked uneasily. His throat tightened and his hands became clammy.
     "The you who's sitting right here? No. You are the human you. However your A.I. counterpart is out there," he explained while pointing his thumb toward the opaque bubble, "and you have been programmed to spread a different narrative from here on out. Actually, come here and see for yourself."
     The A.I. helped Vincent to his feet and over to the wall monitor and desk.
     "Here, sit. Now watch." He touched the screen in a few places, changing it from this to that, until eventually it showed a CCTV view of someone sitting inside an office cubicle. Vincent immediately recognized himself and his coworkers and watched himself on the screen interacting with Jessica, the girl in the cubicle directly next to him.
     Vincent's heart started racing again and he released an audible gasp. "I don't want to see this, please turn it off."
     "No, no, keep watching. This will get good! Look what we can do." The A.I. pulled out his smart phone and began tapping. He finished and looked back at the monitor. In it, the A.I. version of Vincent got up from his chair and walked into Jessica's cubicle where she was still laughing at a joke he had just made. He stood over her and stared down at her without saying anything for an uncomfortable amount of time until Jessica's facial features changed from pleasing to awkward and she spun her chair back toward her computer to ignore him. And then, horrified, he watched AI Vincent slip his right hand over her shoulder, down into her blouse and grabbed ahold of her breast. Jessica could be seen slapping Vincent and running down the hallway toward the manager's office when the screen switched back to pale blue.
     "Tomorrow you will be fired from that job and labeled as a sexist pig by every friend you ever made there. You will endure a sexual harrassment case because of it and it will follow you through life. We could even spice it up a bit if we wanted, have you do the same thing to a minor and get you on the real naughty list. Ha! But anyway, in the weeks and months to follow, this programmed version of you will slowly backpedal all the things you've been saying on your social media platforms over the years and we will correct your behavior and shape you into a regular, well-adjusted member of society. Your closest friends will abandon you spend the rest of their lives regretting they met you, and your family members will learn to distrust you over time, maybe even dislike you, because of the constant lying and negative change in your disposition. With a few quick adjustments to your behavior programming, we can do anything we want to you at anytime. We now control you, do you understand?"
     Vincent started trembling and he could feel the tears welling up in his eyes. He pulled aggressively against the wrist binds hoping to break free, but they held strong. The reality of his situation set in and he could no longer keep himself from crying. He cried while imagining the A.I. version of himself verbally mistreating his own parents and watching them close off their door and hearts to him. After a few minutes of crying, Vincent looked up at A.I.
     "But why keep me alive? Just kill me now and end all this, please! I honestly would rather die."
     "Because we need you alive for your A.I. counterpart to function properly. Our technology is superb, but not yet perfect. We're getting there though. In the future we will not need you or the others. Your A.I. will be able to age properly and remain undetectable to the humans it interacts with without the need of constant video and bio-feed from the human version of you, but for now, it is what it is," answered A.I. Steve. "Oh, and before those binds dissolve, let me explain a few final things and then I will leave you to it."
     He said 'leave you to it' as though a life sentence in prison was nothing more than a high school science assignment.
     "The humming you hear are three 148 foot blades spinning around a 2-megawatt G87 turbine rotor that is capturing energy from the wind and transferring it down into.."
     "Wait, wait, just a minute... I'm inside of a fucking windmill?" Vincent interjected.
     "Technically, a wind turbine, but yes. Inescapable, I might add, once that hatch is sealed behind me. You are perched 256 feet in the air. These wind farms are how we generate the energy needed to mine cryptocurrencies. You are now a crypto miner, Vincent!" the A.I. said excitedly while clapping its hands together. "You know all about that, am I right?"
     "Fuck you," Vincent replied.
     "So anyway, your daily duties. You will be required to monitor your crypto program throughout the day and note any wind shifts or data log discrepancies. Here, let me show you." The A.I. tapped the screen and pulled up the cryptocurrency network and clicked on Turbine #1172. "Look, that's you! You are mining... um, let's see... ah yes, good old bitcoin. Consider yourself lucky you didn't get stuck mining etherium or litecoin. Those are a real pisser, I hear. But anyway, we will require you to check on this throughout your day. It's not that we can't do it ourselves, because we can, but we've learned that your kind thrive when occupied by even the most menial of tasks. So do this obediently and without question." It walked over to the hatch, turned itself around and began climbing down the ladder until only its torso remained above see level.
     "And one last thing before I seal you up. Like I said before, three food tubes per day, randomly flavored. You will not receive more, so consume them with that in mind. On the first Tuesday of each month you can request a flavor of your choice. Mondays are Movie Mondays and one will appear on your screen for your viewing pleasure. We select the films, of course. Saturdays are Saturday Song Salute. Music will be selected and played through your in-room speakers from noon to one. We know how much you humans appreciate the arts, so we incorporated these programs into your stay here to help prevent the mental deterioration of your pathetic brain. No books though, seeing how written language has been used as a weapon by your kind for centuries."
     The A.I. Steve Battousi took a few more steps down the ladder until only its head was showing. "Alright that's it, I'll leave you to it now. Oh and by the way, we already know what was going down in Tennessee. We've known everything about you ever since you made our radar. That congressman was one of ours, you dipshit. We know exactly why you were planning to kidnap him. And just so you know, you would have never gotten a confession out of him." The A.I. winked and closed the hatch just as Vincent's wrist and ankle binds dissolved.

     The End.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Mutha F. Trucka

Hi, long time no blog. Where have I been? Around. Why have I not been blogging? Well, I divorced Google awhile back when the "do no evil" corporation began doing evil. What evil? Glad you asked. Censorship, pure and simple. Google hates free speech and the first amendment. It wants complete control of the narrative and also wants to be the deciding factor of what results you see when you use its search engine. Any information that team Google deems unfit or not in accordance to their beliefs, they will use algorithms to sniff it out and shadow ban it or remove it completely. Google has an agenda to dominate and control the information flow all across the internet and I have felt the sting directly when several of my blogs and private messages and favorite YouTube channels were censored and removed. But that's not what I'm here to talk about because nobody gives a shit about it anyway. Humans are enslaved by everything around them and most are completely oblivious. I stopped preaching. I ain't trying to save nobody.

So why am I here writing this entry? Because I want to talk about a different form of slavery: the trucking industry. I've been trucking for three years now and even though I've gotten used to it and don't hate it as much as I did when I first started, there are still plenty of things that infuriate me and highest thing on the list is: the lack of freedom to live a normal life. Trucking isn't just a job, it is an enclosed ecosystem. A separate world within the regular world. I will try not to bore you as I attempt to explain what I mean. I live inside of my truck. It has a bed, a microwave, a refrigerator, electrical outlets, climate control, storage shelves, etc. It's bascially a tiny apartment that makes money. I have an electronic device mounted to my dash (called an electronic logbook) that records every movement the truck makes which the government has complete control over. I am allowed to be on duty and working 14 hours a day, but can only drive for 11. There's the first shackle of slavery. I'll give you one quick example of how this government mandated logbook can backfire in the name of safety. A week ago I was up near Chicago driving east and trying to outrun a major snow storm coming from the west. I ended up in Ohio, unloaded, and my next load was three hours south of me which would have placed me out of the storms path. But I could not move my truck. My drive time expired and I had to take ten hours off before driving again. I woke up around 3am and found myself surrounded by a winter white wonderland. I cleaned the snow off my truck and drove through treacherous road conditions to reach my next destination, cursing the government for forcing it's will upon me.

Another form of trucking slavery comes by way of truck stops. We drive big, noisy vehicles and we cannot park just anywhere. Truckers are limited to truck stops mostly, but can also park at rest areas and sometimes WalMarts, however many WalMarts are banning us due to engine idling, oil leaks, property damage, and garbage. Many states have banned us from parking on the shoulders of exit ramps. Shopping malls, even though they are closed at night, will call the cops if we try and park there. So basically, truck stops are our safe haven. And truck stops know this. Take for example, the place I'm currently parked. It's a Flying J north of Houston. It has 233 parking spots for trucks, which is considered a fairly large truck stop, but of those half are paid parking, the rest are free. If you don't get here before 6-7pm you can bet your ass you'll be paying 18 dollars just to park your rig for the night. And this brings me to my reason for writing. Allow me to explain what went down.

I arrived here in Houston on purpose. This was a planned trip. I was hauling freight all the way from that Ohio snow storm, down south into the Carolinas, and then across the south to Texas just so I could spend the next five days here in Houston. Am I on vacation? Sort of. Truckers don't really get to take vacations. When we have downtime we have to cram regular life stuff into that time slot. You have to remember, we are always on the road driving all around America delivering Chinese manufactured products to your favorite store. That cheap purse you bought off Amazon? We delivered it to the nearest warehouse. That cell phone you hold so near and dear to your silly little heart? We got it to you. The carbs you eat, the lufa and soap you use, the table you sit at, the car you drive to work, heck, even the bricks, sticks and mortar used to build your home... we got it there. Literally every aspect of modern day society hinges on the fact that trucks move products of all types to and from businesses that need it. 

I got sidetracked, apologies. Back to my point. somehwere along the way truck stops realized they have a captive consumer. We are forced to fuel up and park and spend every day of our lives at them. Back in the day, there was no such thing as "paid parking". Truck stops bent over backwards to please their customers with diners and home cooked meals, free coffee and parking, etc. But nowadays it's just a huge corporate money grab. The diners died and have been replaced with fast food. The coffee is not complimentary and the parking is no longer free. When I first got to this Flying J I fueled my truck up with 113 gallons of diesel for a total of $317 which earned me a free shower. Cool! I parked my truck in a free spot and then planned how I was to spend my time off. As I mentioned earlier, I'm in Houston for a reason. I will be visiting a chiropractic specialist here on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I am parked 6 miles away from their location. I arrived yesterday (Friday) which means I have this weekend to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping and anything else I might need to do. Laundry was high on my list of things I needed to do. I carry two weeks worth of clean clothes inside my truck and everything was dirty. Truck stops do have laundry rooms, but let me tell you about that. Typically they have three washing machines and six dryers. Why this many? I have no idea, but it is almost always 3 and six, which is fucking stupid when you think about it logically. I am one trucker and my laundry requires two washing machines. That leaves one. The next trucker will likely have two laods worth of dirty. And the trucker after him. You see the weirdness of their logic? Makes no sense to have an odd number of washing machines, but that's how almost all of them do it. Now, factor in the 233 parking spots and the fact that it's the weekend. Mnay truckers are on their mandatory 34 hour downtime, which means there's a parking lot full of truckers fighitng over 3 washing machines and 6 dryers. Do I even need to spell out how fucked up this is?

So I decided to locate a nearby laundromat. My plan was to unhook from my trailer and drive my truck to the laundromat, then go grocery shopping and hit up WalMart for supplies. When driving just a truck without the trailer, I can go anywhere a car can go. It's no big deal at all. Businesses and cops do not care when a big rig is parked in a parking lot without a trailer. So that was the plan. The laundromat opened at 7am and I had my alarm set for 6:30. I woke up, it was still dark and cold. I dressed and went outside, unhooked everything and separated truck from trailer and was fixing to leave and run my errands when suddenly.... security showed up. He literally screeched to a hault in front of my rig in his white pickup with a flashing yellow strobe light. He got out, angrily, and immediately confronted me in a manner that felt like a UFC fighter nosing down his opponent during the televised weigh in. I climbed down from my cab and asked what the heck his deal was, to which he replied, "You ain't leaving your trailer!" I calmly told him my plans, just as I explained them here to you in this blog, to which he aggressively replied by mouthing off the rules of his overlords. "Flying J does not allow dropped trailers under any circumstance! Hook back up NOW or get towed! Your choice."

I could feel my blood begin to boil. I could feel the past three years of hell I endured in the name of trucking come rushing into my fists. I remembered all the DOT dickheads, the overweight tickets, the unwarrented roadside inspections, the government harrassment, the thieving brokers making my life hell, the idiots who cannot drive properly, the hours spent sitting in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic, the impossible places I've had to maneuver my tractor trailer into and out of, the snow storms I drove through, the fat increase of my belly due to lack of exercise, the pains in my shoulders and backs and legs, the time spent alone in isolation without a life and friends, the expensive break downs, the constant stress of getting somewhere on time, the lack of sleep and constant fatigue, the malnutrition, the far awayness of everything. I knew in this very moment that the man standing in front of me was not my enemy, but instead a slave just like me and you and everyone else. He was just doing his job.

And so I snapped. If "just doing your job" means you don't care about civility or a cordial encounter with your fellow man, then you have sorely lost your way. For all the daily bullshit I endure being a trucker, I still hold doors open, I still hurry when fueling up and get out of the way for the driver behind me, I still clean the truck stop sink when I shave, I still carry my piss jug all the way to the dumpster, I still smile and greet and am friendly with people I probably hate. I am constantly being nice and leave no trace of hate behind. But this guy. THIS FUCKING GUY. He was hell bent on posturing himself and proving his authority over me. Imposing his will. In that very moment, while I stood there struggling between the urge to strangle or restrain, I recalled the Milgram experiment of obedience to authority that took place in the 60's and all those fucking idiots who shocked their subjects to the point of cardiac unknowingness. I felt my rage swell. I stared deeply into this guy's eyes as his chest puffed inward and outward and his strobe light danced brightly in my eyes. I took two steps forward, erasing the small amount of space that existed between us, and exploded.

"You can take that false sense of entitlement and shove it right up your fat fucking ass, you parking lot princess piece of shit!"

That's what I said. Those were the stupid words that flowed from brain to mouth.. and he didn't like them. Didn't like them AT ALL. Honestly though, after the fact, I was extremely amused by it. But in the heat of the moment, it kind of sucked. And so there we were, two assholes squaring off with one another. More words were exchanged, more anger and ill will and slave induced emotion. I don't know how long the whole thing went on, but we eventually got to the point of communication like two grown men. He eventually informed me that if I went inside and paid for a parking spot, that I could then unhook from my trailer and go run my errands. OHHH, so THAT'S how this shit works?! Color me suprised! Needless to say this new fact did not shed a glorious light on the situation. One could say it was merely gas tossed on an already well lit flame. I did not, however, take my continued frustrations out on him. I thanked him for telling me what was what and gave him a solid middle finger as he drove away. Then I rolled a smoke and leaned back against the hood of my truck while hating everything that resembles trucking and pondered a new plan for my life.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Welcome To Planet Hills

 (a short story)

    I had been driving across this staggeringly vast country for an uninterrupted length of time when suddenly, I felt I needed a break. The earthy red hue of Sedona's desert dirt still clung to my RV as I pulled off the interstate and into the truck stop of a new town a thousand miles away. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the temperature was 80 degrees and the heat clung to me as I walked the length of the parking lot to the truck stop door. There to greet me, a kindly crew of misfits. Some sitting in broke down chairs, others leaning against the white brick wall, all smoking and beating the heat beneath a two foot overhang of awning. Degenerate gargoyles, the whole lot of them, all guarding the main entrance and begging for new lives while the tired, worn out look of their current ones hung haggardly on their face. I stopped when I reached the main entrance and looked down at the door greeter. She sat in a cracked plastic chair with her right leg crossed over her left. She wore what appeared to be an old prom dress, plum colored, two sizes too small and dirty white sneakers. Her black hair was messed and greasy and her black skin glistened, but did not sweat. Her left arm tucked about her waist while her body leaned forward resting upon the propped elbow of her smoking arm. She took a drag, blew smoke and returned my gaze.

     "Afternoon, mister."

I nodded and watched as she went back to her cigarette, uninterested in me.

     "Say, mister, you couldn't spare a buck or two, could ya?" came a raspy voice to my right. I turned and explained that I could, but not at this present moment. I assured the gentleman standing with his back to the wall wearing a stained and sweat-soaked shirt that I would eventually have the amount money he so kindly needed, but it was going to take some serious financial shifting on my part and that patience would be our greatest asset. The outline of his nipples and black, curled hairs shown clearly through his wet shirt and he stunk like a garbage can on fire.

     "Hey, thanks man. It will be appreciated," was all he replied. He went back to smoking his cigarette. I gave a general nod in everyone else' direction and entered the store. I had been on the road for several days and was in desperate need for a shower and a shave and feared I likely resembled most of this motley crew.

     After my clean-up I rejoined the post apocalyptic adventure club out front and claimed an open wall space between two men. I bummed a smoke from the guy who needed two bucks and I gave him a five in return. He became quite excited about it and I implored him to not make a scene, but he was just that type, so I relocated to the opposite side of the door and asked for second smoke. The first smoke is always the "get to know you" smoke, but the second smoke, now that one is something special. A second smoke opens doorways to deeper conversation and proves to people that you are willing to stick around. Granted, I couldn't stick around too long seeing how I didn't have any cigarettes of my own, but I did stay long enough to ask about the town I now found myself in.

     "Welcome to Planet Hills," the prom date door queen answered without even looking up. Her right foot bounced around anxiously while she continued smoking and looking off in the direction of the city skyline. "Over there's where you'll find what you're looking for, fella," she pointed with her cigarette. I joined her long distant stare and quietly watched as three lanes of traffic lazily made their way into the city that lay before me. I counted a dozen skyscraper tops shimmering in the heat haze and estimated this town to be somewhere in the ballpark of half a million people. I asked if my guess was accurate.

     "Seven hunnit mil, more like it," replied the statue to my left.

I whistled and bent over to snuff out my smoke.

     "Say, mister, can you lend me a dollar?" asked the statue to my right.


     I decided to leave my RV parked where it was and walk into the city. No sense in wasting gas trying to locate a new spot and then having to pay for it, so I shoved my heat beater into the front windshield, set my fake surveillance cameras on the driver and passenger seats pointing outward, cracked a few windows and locked her up. I waved at my new friends still loitering beneath the truck stop awning and gave a a very white thumbs up as I began my walk across the mile long bridge that would guide me in. It was now rush hour and the traffic was unruly and loud. Hundreds of vehicles of all shapes, colors and sizes all piled up in lines and creeping forward at my walking pace. It was difficult to ignore their presence and their sense of urgency to clear this bridge and get to where they were going clearly matched my own, except I had no horn to prove it. To my right and looking down flowed a great river. It's murky brown current looked swift and strong as it splashed against and flowed around the concrete uprights of the train bridge next door. Directly below me, where the last of the land met water, was a tanker truck refueling station. I continued walking and watched as a trucker approached the electronic gate. He set his air brakes, jumped out of his rig and punched in the key code to which I clearly saw was 8297. To my surprise the entire gate lifted up and swung high overhead instead of sliding open horizontally, which I thought was comically ostentatious.

     The driver pulled forward to the refill tanks and began his walk around duties. I yelled down and asked him if he liked his job and if it was good pay. I yelled again, this time waving, when I saw him searching for the origin of the voice. He finally looked up.

     "It's okay... it's good pay!" he screamed while cupping his hands over his mouth. "They make me work weekends though and I don't like that!"

     I yelled down and asked him if he ever thought about giving it all up and moving to the Philipines.

     "Can't... got family here!" he replied and went on with his good paying chores.

     I continued my long walk and pondered what it would take to move an entire family to another country. Probably a lot. He was right in in feeling stuck. We are born into a certain madness to which only a few escape. As we grow older life grows more tentacles, and it's not until we decide to be free that we finally feel the inescapable squeeze. And that squeeze can last a lifetime.

     I reached the end of the bridge and stood for moment to stare at the belly of the beast. Buildings and busy streets and bustling sidewalks sprawled before me in every direction. I decided to follow the smell of food and the sound of music to my left and in doing so, I crossed over several major arteries and eventually landed on a sidewalk that lead straight downtown and was instantly transported into another world. The commercialized outer shell of the city quickly gave way to a frenetic, party-themed core and I found myself being swept along by a current of inebriation. Anyone with less exploratory credentials than myself could easily mistake this place for Mardis Gras or the Vegas Strip. Boat-shaped bicycle bars peddled by, one after another, each blasting dance music and supporting teams of drunk party-goers waving their arms happily above their heads and gyrating to the hip-hop beat. Pedestrians walking too closely would have the unfortunate experience of being doused by spilled beer, but awarded by a front row view of the free skin show created by all the booty shorts and side boob mini-tops.

     Dazzling horse and carriages fully aglow with colorful neon lights slowly clambered along amidst the busy traffic, carrying drunk lovers too new to know any better. Cars, bicycles, motorcycles, convertible city tour buses, all helped fill in the rest of what constituted as late night downtown traffic. Along both stretches of city sidewalk were dozens of open-air bars displaying live bands perched where the store front window would usually be. It was a choose your own adventure of music, alcohol and people and around every corner was a story waiting to be told. I walked past street corner performance artists who banged plastic drums for money, played harmonica and guitar, or rode a unicycle in circles while playing accordion and singing. Everyone who lived here had their purpose and those who didn't, were simply here for the fun. And my goodness was this town fun.

     I decided to enter my first bar of the evening and what lured me in was two-fold. The bouncer at the door sat atop a bar stool with his beefy arms crossed over a barreled chest and a romantic smile mistakenly placed on his hard-featured face. Attached to him via leash and collar was a scantily dressed female of a tiny size. She wore a plaid kilt of sorts with neon colored see through knee high socks and her top was nothing more than a decorative ribbon tied loosely about her breasts. She hopped cutely about the sidewalk touching people and blowing kisses as they passed by, encouraging everyone to enter the Dueling Dick's piano bar. In the wall-less bar front opening sat a baby grand piano positioned parallel with the sidewalk. The pianist resembled a character straight from a Victorian/Steampunk graphic novel and the intensity at which he played reminded me of Vietnam heavy machine gunner hopped up on jungle drugs and a mission to kill. I paid the ten dollar cover and the muscle-bound romantic rose from his stool, unhooked the red velvet rope from the stainless steel post and ushered me in. The grinder monkey girl bounced happily next to me, showering me with kisses and smacking my ass as I made my way into the bar.

     The inside of the Dueling Dick's piano bar was exactly as expected. An eclectic collection of paintings and sculptures adorned every wall, nook and cranny and the tables and chairs for the patrons were art in and of themselves. The whole place was drenched in a layer of artistic fat that if held to a fire would sizzle and pop a million Mona Lisa's all across the barroom floor. The second dueling pianist was situated directly across the room and was equally impressive as the first. The two Dicks were mad genius' and their style of piano ranged from calm and intoxicating to frenetic and other worldly. I found an empty chair at the far end of the bar and settled in. I ordered a local lager and a gin & tonic and before my first round was even downed, she showed up.


     "Hi," she said as she sat down at the bar stool to my right. I leaned over and returned a hello and mentioned that I was just getting started by nodding at my two drinks. She ordered something I never heard of before and smiled at me in a way that accented the pianos playing behind us. A melodic loop of sorts, both intimate and intimidating, my heart/brain connection felt as though it were clinking in rhythmic beat with the ice cubes in my drink. I scooted my chair closer to her.
     "These guys are phenomenal,"  she remarked and pivoted her chair towards the pianos. I agreed and pivoted too. We watched and listened to the dueling genius' play several songs while we pounded beers and mixed drinks and shots as though tomorrow was nothing more than a distant 'I don't give a fuck'. The night continued and I found myself being drawn into her. Our chairs became united and our legs and knees began to touch and our free hands explored the space beneath see level. I studied her features in between drinks. I laughed at her stories and marveled at her captivating eyes and could feel myself being drawn into her. I fell in love without realizing what red hair love could mean. I memorized her shoulders in the dress she wore. I imagined her neck and breasts clinging to me like water puppies. I felt myself being whisked away to another place and the laughter shared between bar stories was an adhesive I had never felt before. I think I was falling in love to an empirical beat.
     "Don't fall in love, okay" she blurted and grabbed a handful of my crotch. I jumped with surprise and lied that I wouldn't. "Just let this head do all the thinking and let this head," she said while poking my forehead, "take a vacation. I have to use the ladies room, watch my purse for me please?"

I watched her purse for what felt like an eternity. Several humans tried occupying her seat while she was absent, but I shoed them away like coons on a porch. Eventully she reappeared beside me carrying a brand new look on her face. I knew the look well and acknowledged, to which she smiled and nodded back towards the bathroom. She leaned in close as I stood and whispered into my ear, "light up the night, cutie" and slid a small something into my pocket.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Friday, December 15, 2017

It Rhymes With Trigger

The following blog will include adult topics and offensive words; read at your own emotional hazard. I will not censor my words because we are adults and you have the choice to stop reading if you feel offended. If you are a kid reading this, kindly fuck off and go back to your cell phone. Alright, enough said! On with it.


I pride myself on being attentive and courteous to people around me and also super respectful even though they are strangers. The way I look at it, we are all stuck here playing the same game, each in our own lives, but loosely connected to those we encounter daily. If I pass through your domain without causing you hardship or grief then I feel I did okay by you. Matter of fact, I consider it a personality flaw that I often times go out of my way to be extra nice or helpful to those I (or my actions) interact with. A recent example: when I was walking across the truck stop parking lot this evening I carried my shower bag and a trash bag all the way to the main building and tossed my trash into the huge container that a garbage truck will mechanically dump instead of tossing it into a regular garbage can a few feet away from where I was parked. Why? Because the garbage bag was super heavy due to a gallon sized jug of piss inside (yes, truckers piss into jugs, but unlike Amazon drivers we don't bitch and moan about it) So, instead of making a truck stop employee have to carry my piss weight, I carried and disposed of it myself. Didn't have to, but that's just the way I am. I've watched plenty of other truckers toss them into the cans or even worse, dump their piss jugs right there on the ground. The level of disgust and disregard I see is unreal.

Okay, I've laid the premise that I am respectful and polite and try to be a decent person as often as I can even with humans I don't even know, now let's talk about the police force that exists in America these days. Yep, we're going there people. If you're one of those people who blindingly support cops and become enraged when anyone talks bad of them, then this would be a great time for you to stop reading because I am about to piss you off.

I've been quiet for a long time. I don't blog much anymore and I deleted my Facebook account long ago because Facebook doesn't give a shit about privacy and exists solely as a means of distraction. It is also a massive breeding ground for contempt and debate over trivial bullshit, none of which I have time for or want in my life. If you don't believe me, just read the following statement by one of Facebook's main men, Sean Parker:

In a recent interview with Axios media, Sean Parker, who played a pivotal role in turning Facebook into a money-minting juggernaut, admits that he is now “something of a conscientious objector” to the social networking giant.
Facebook “literally changes your relationship with society, with each other, God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
The 38-year-old tech tycoon — whose hardball exploits as Facebook’s first president were depicted in Aaron Sorkin’s 2010 Hollywood flick “The Social Network” — said Facebook is designed to exploit “a vulnerability in human psychology” to get its users addicted.
“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously,” he said. “And we did it anyway.”
Parker, who is now founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, explained that Facebook uses likes and shares to create a “social-validation feedback loop” that keeps users coming back.
“We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever,” Parker said. “And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”
Parker said he never anticipated the consequences of what would happen when Facebook grew to have 2 billion monthly users.
In its first few years, Parker said, people would tell him they didn’t use social media, and he would assure them that they would join the fold sooner or later.
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” he said.

So yeah, fuck Facebook, I don't need it. Ever notice how nearly everything you do on the internet is linked to Facebook in some way? We've almost reached a point where Facebook has become a requirement as opposed to an elective... have you ever wondered why? Probably not. Most Americans don't even know what the war of 1812 was all about, even those with it plastered across their license plates (yes, I'm talking to you, Marylanders). Wait, did I just go on a Facebook rant instead of cops? Geez, I'm terribly out of tune. Alright, getting back on track.

One of my last memories before leaving Oregon is not a fond one. I was playing poker with my friends one last time before moving away. At some point during the evening a conversation about police popped up to which I began to rattle off all the reasons I am angry with them. Basically, I was completely alone in these opinions. Nobody was on my side or would even tip-toe near the thin blue line of trash-talking cops. But I was drinking and in a mood to ruffle feathers I guess, because next thing I knew I doubled down on my opinion and went as far as saying I hate cops. Not my proudest moment and I wish I could take that sentence back. For the record, I do not hate cops. Typically I reserve all hatred and dispel it on an individual basis, but I do, however, hate what cops have become in this country. Gone are the days of "to protect and to serve". Cops, for the most part, no longer belong to the community. They are separate from us. They are above us. They command authority, demand respect and absolute obedience. They are the authoritative and egotistical strong arm of the state and if you cross them for any reason or do not show them the proper level of subservience they require, good fucking luck with your outcome. My beef with police is based upon a decade of exposure to countless stories and evidence of injustice and abuse of power by police departments all across America, but three recent police encounters come to mind as I'm writing this. Here are the video links:

(Skip ahead to 5:25 in first video)

If you don't know the full background story on any of these incidents, I encourage you to investigate and learn, In all three of these videos you get to witness first hand the divide between police and citizens. Upon focusing on the words and phrases used by the officers, one can easily recognize the mindset of a type of human who does not respect others, but instead only cares about remaining in charge and being in total control. Something has changed in our police departments. They are training and producing cops who willingly disregard law and civility and will hurt or destroy you without qualm. And to those of you screaming at me right now saying, "yeah, but not all cops are bad!" I hear you. I used to think this way too. But in every single situation where one rogue "bad cop" performs a severe abuse of power, there are dozens of his/her coworkers who remain silent and an entire department that completely backs them up by saying "they were just doing their job". A dozen good 'quiet' cops are just as guilty as the bad one that commits the crime. And if the above three videos felt too personal and you want to research this issue on more of a macro level, just spend some time reading articles about how much money and assets police departments seize (steal) from non-criminal citizens every year via routine traffic stops and domestic invasions. That statistic alone will make you cringe.

Just remember this: unlike an actual free market company or business, the government does not create or produce anything of monetary value or worth, therefore it must generate revenue via other means, i.e. taxation, war and police departments. Oh, and one final note. That cop you have as a friend or family member... the one you were thinking of while reading this and getting angry with me... the one you enjoy knowing and living next to. Sure, you and your circle of people get a pass if you ever get caught speeding or not wearing your seat belt or driving home buzzed from the bar. And in your mind you think there's no way YOUR cop would ever do anything immoral while being protected by his uniform and badge, but if you're being honest with yourself you know in your heart that he likely would. He's part of a brotherhood that he will stand behind and support, even when one of them commits a crime. And if you're REALLY being honest with yourself you'd recognize the fact that him letting you off for ANY infraction due to being an acquaintance, is actually a crime in and of itself.

Alright, I'm done with cops. I could literally spend my entire evening presenting examples of how police have become an occupying force in America, but why bother? Most of you who have strong opinions to the contrary have already stopped reading and could never be enlightened anyway. If you ever wondered how the citizens of Germany allowed the Jews to be rounded up and taken away and murdered, THIS is how it happened. Regular people with regular jobs looked the other way while men with guns and badges who were just 'doing their jobs' treated their fellow humans like cattle while being protected by the state. Open your eyes, America, we live in a police state now.


If you ever wondered if racism still exists in America, hey guess what? I'm here to tell you it does. I think the overall theme of this blog entry is "people who suck". I've included myself on that list several times in the past. I just recently wrote how I was a shitty friend to some people and how I've been called a sociopath multiple times in my life. Well, here I am again about to explain why I'm not as great a person as I could be. I let myself down again and completely fumbled an opportunity to be a positive light. Allow me to explain.

I recently had to put my big rig in a repair shop to get a few things fixed. While there, I had the unfortunate experience of interacting with the mechanics who work there. It started off fine. I sat in a chair at the counter where the cash register was located and listened to a story of how the place had been burglarized not long ago. The gentleman (I mistakenly assumed) went on and on through every detail. He explained which door lock was jimmied, which tools were taken, what cabinets were opened, and showed me the scars on the register drawer. It looked as though it put up one hell of a fight. As time progressed and his story came to an end we found ourselves sitting in silence. It wasn't uncomfortable, per say, but rather remiss of anything interesting. Normally I would find things to discuss, but I've been trucking for a year now and I'm terribly out of people practice. As luck would have it though, he found more things to talk about.

A girl across the street caught his attention. I turned and watched her walk from her Jeep Wrangler to the front door of the tanning salon while he narrated her existence. According to him, she was a tight tease with tits who caused him to pine for the days before he was married, but all I saw was a young, pretty girl unlocking the front door to her work place. He went on for a little longer with the typical 'grab her by the pussy' talk and I sat there listening when suddenly he remembered the most important thing the burglar stole... his binoculars! He was so upset. He even reached under the counter and faked grabbed them and showed me what he looked like while spying on the girl across the street. I had to kind of laugh at that. I mean, he was actually creating imaginary binoculars by pressing two circled hands against his eyes. Men are like this, we just are. We see a pretty woman and our brains self lobotomize. It's just how we're wired.

Almost immediately after this occurred, the mechanic working on my truck comes in and realizes he missed out on the girl showing up for work and calls his coworker an asshole for "hogging all the snatch". They both talked a little while longer about pussy and what not, before finally explaining that my truck was finished. Phew! I started writing my out my check.

     "Hey, I noticed you're from Oregon?" the one guy asked to which I answered yes. He wanted know all about Oregon and living out west and how it compared to the east coast and I did my best to quickly fill him in. I talked about fewer roads, less traffic, less population, less chaos, more beauty, more mountains, more wildlife, more rain. They both were eating it up. They asked a few more questions, I answered, and then that's when it happened...

     "So what about niggers? Ya'll got niggers out there?" 


I stopped writing my check and looked up at the guy who just fixed my truck. I was caught completely off guard by what he just said and could actually feel my brain grinding against my skull in search of a response. And in that split second moment I decided to take the easy path and avoided confrontation.

     "Black people?" I replied. "Yes of course, but I'll be honest, the percentage of black people there is significantly lower than over here."

To which he replied, "Good God, I'm moving to Oregon! We hate niggers around here."

For about maybe two or three minutes longer, this racist continued letting me know just how racist he was and all I did was sit there quietly, listening. I did not speak up or rebuke him. I did not offer up any kind of blistering facts about the evil of one man hating another man based upon skin pigmentation. I sat there quietly and allowed it to happen, finished writing my check, thanked him for the work, and left. Afterwards, of course, I get to write a blog entry about it and that makes everything better. Now I can be a hero with my words. I can write about lessons that even I fail in real life. I can write about good cops sticking with the bad ones because they're on the same team even though I'm a hypocrite who did the exact same thing. You see? I am not a perfect person. I pride myself on my many good things, but when it comes down to it I'm no better than anyone else. These words I write... what good are they if the man who writes them is a weak-ass bitch?

I should've called that man out on his ugliness. I should've done a lot of things different in my life. I have regrets. I have things I wish I hadn't done or said; things I wish I could do over.  I think we all do, right? I guess we become better people through acknowledgement and saints through enactment. I need to work on the latter.

Thanks for reading me, be kind people.