Devin was invigorated by his new found decisiveness. This would be his final night in urban Amerika. He was going to go out, get drunk, meet some women and spend a lot of money on the eve of his escape.
Tomorrow, he would purchase survival gear and provisions, take public transportation to the cities’ edge and from there hike directly into the foothills. His destination was a small town called Calumet located some three hundred kilometers to the west. He knew nothing of it other than the relative size of its black dot in the mapping program on his multi.
He mapped out a path following river valleys, abandoned rail lines, and mountain passes that would get him to his destination within two week’s time. Two weeks in the wilderness would do him good, he thought. Devin was no stranger to the outdoors. He had learned how to survive in the wild during numerous hunting expeditions from Goldstein.
He was almost manic compared to the lethargic state in which he had been mired since the jaywalking incident. He felt like he did when he first arrived at the train terminal— triumphal. Nothing could match the cathartic power of a clean slate.
His triumph then had quickly withered as there were seemingly no opportunities for him to exploit in this city. In his mind, it was nothing more than a filthy mound of reflective glass, rusting steel and dreary concrete, infested by invertebrates crawling over top of each other. “To hell with them”, he thought. The conversation with the priest had fomented his resolve.
The Amerikan city was an alien world to him. It was not as he had remembered it but rather more as Roth had warned. “The city demands obedience”, Roth observed when they were back at his cabin. “It demands that you surrender to it. It demands that it becomes your reason for existence. City life is a religion.”
“How right he was,” Devin thought.
Roth explained that he had once lived in Los Angeles but the City of Angels had “spit him out”. “City living is like a wave,” Roth explained. “To survive, you’ve got to swim with it or at least float along. Everything in the city has its place and all the forces are symbiotic. Culture and counter-culture, party and opposition, criminal and cop- the existence of one justifies the other. There is no real right or wrong there, only different perspectives. It’s all relative. One force pushes the other under and the other re-emerges to push back. The ebbs and flows build into the wave. And the wave is the cities’ essence. The wave is the master. Swim against it and it’ll wear you down, drown you, or drag you into the reef to be ripped apart.” He continued, “I hate cities. They’re filthy, crowded, and violent places. I like the woods and my cabin with my dogs. There aren’t any waves that’ll drag me under out here.”
“My struggles here,” Devin decided, “are not a function of poor timing or ignorance. They’re a function of setting. I am, after all, a country boy.” His mental rant continued. “Only an urban serf with a pre-programmed life could ascribe mystical qualities to a geographical location. The urban serfs are just trying to fill some spiritual void in their lives.”
There were rebels in Amerikan cities, but their method and terms were dictated by ‘the wave’. Devin could not embrace the role of gelded rebel. He could never go with the current, regardless of where it went. So his mind was made up. “To hell with the city!” He would leave in the morning for life amongst the country savages.
Devin spent the bulk of the afternoon on the plastic grass of City Park pondering his journey. He consumed a real meat hot dog that cost him an additional $175 in Department of Public Health sin tax. While munching away, he stared out between the concrete buildings towards the black foothills twenty kilometers west. Behind them, eighty kilometers further, snow-capped mountains beckoned.
He sat around in the park on a concrete bench for several hours dozing off twice under the cloudless blue sky with the cool May sun soaking into his face. At about eight o’clock he decided to get moving again.
He walked south down Broadway Avenue. The magenta sunset faded quickly into gray and then navy blue. The temperature dropped rapidly. Venus burned white hot like a tiny welding arc.
The cool air swirled around him kicking up un-recycled, recyclable paper which whipped around his legs and up the sidewalk until it was snared by a storm grate or tree trunk or electro bumper. Devin pulled his thermal tight to fend off the chill.
After several blocks he came to the entrance of a drinking club called “Houdinis”. He walked up the steps where he was greeted by a burly footballer type dressed in a pleather trench coat. His ears had been surgically cropped into elvish triangles and his lizard-like, forked tongue startled Devin a little when he licked his lips before speaking.
“Drinking license, please,” he ordered.
“I don’t have one. I’m new in town.”
“Give me your multi,” he responded. He scanned it. The scanner lit up blue.
“$3,500 for a temporary license. Are you good with that?”
The doorman’s scanner beeped. He stepped aside and Devin went in.
It was dark inside except for the bar area where three slender females dressed in skin-hugging, black vinyl jumpsuits were pouring drinks. They each had straight, silver hair, cropped at the shoulders. Waiflike and pale, the three moved with exaggerated sways and thrusts of their hips. When they stood still, they thrust their hips forward like fashion models. It was difficult for Devin to tell them apart.
Devin moseyed through the shadows and up to the bar to get a better look and to order a scotch. The waif that approached was somehow familiar to him. Then it dawned on him that she was the one that he had spied on the subway.
“What are you having?” she asked in a monotone that Devin found oddly seductive. It didn’t appear that she recognized him.
“Scotch and a glass of water if you don’t mind,” he answered. “It’s dry here.”
“Where are you from?” she asked. Her face was flawless, satin, almost mannequin-like. Devin was hypnotized by it.
“Alaska? It must be tough be one of…what…six or seven black dudes in that entire state?” A faint, Mona Lisa smirk crept into the corners of her mouth as she buffed a martini glass.
“If you ever went there you might be surprised.”
“Why would I ever go there? There’s nothing there but igloos and grizzlies,” she explained. “Anyway, I thought black people hated the cold.”
“Now I’m going to have to report you,” Devin joked.
Her smirk morphed into a full smile as she reached under the counter. She grabbed a tall, frosted bottle and set it on the countertop. Then she set a glass of ice and a bottle of water next to it. She reached down again and produced a bowl of sugar cubes and a silver teaspoon.
“This doesn’t look like Scotch.”
“Scotch is for faggoty, rich, white boys. You don’t strike me as faggoty and you’re obviously not white. Are you rich?”
“What is this?”
She poured the contents of the bottle into the glass of ice, filling it halfway. Then she set the spoon across the glass and placed a sugar cube on it. She untwisted the cap on the bottled water and slowly poured it over the sugar cube, filling the glass nearly to the rim. Stepping back, she buffed another martini glass while prodding him to take a drink with a nod.
He took the spoon off the glass of cloudy liquid and carefully sipped its contents. It was an unexpected taste— intense, black licorice. He took a bigger sip and set the glass down. The bartender set her polished martini glass down as well and poured more water into his glass. He took another sip.
“You’re the pervert on the subway,” she observed.
Devin nearly spit out the sip he had just taken. Not knowing quite how to respond, he figured he would turn the tables back on to her. “You don’t think your outfit was a little…uh…provocative?”
“Don’t worry, pervert. I thought it was cute that you tried to be sneaky. Everyone else would just ogle me.” She swayed away to another patron before he could respond.
Devin worked his way through the potent drink while scanning the shadowy corners of the club. The establishment quickly filled with wraithlike silhouettes.
The volume of the music gradually increased. A bending, layered, hypnotic wail of synthetic sounds, it had an Arabic influence with its keyless structure.
“Need a refill?” shouted the bartender.
“I’m not sure if I like this. It’s not easy to drink.”
“Is anything easy worthwhile?” she asked with cocked hips and weight shifted onto one leg. Her boney pelvis thrust towards him as she polished another martini glass.
“Isn’t this the stuff that made Van Gogh cut his ear off?”
“Who’s Van Gogh?”
“Typical”, Devin thought. “How about a martini?”
“Martinis are for white bitches. You don’t look like a white bitch.”
“Fine. I’ll try one more of that last drink but you have to tell me your name first.”
She set out the sugar, spoon and the ice water and the tall bottle with faintly green contents and another conic-shaped glass and repeated the ritual same as before.
“Valor,” she answered with a seductive batting of her eyelashes. Then she slithered back down the bar to serve her other drunks.
Devin completed the ritual but on this round he took his time. As he poured the ice water over the sugar, he studied the milky clouds as they boiled between the ice cubes. He sipped the drink slowly. “It still tastes like shit”, he thought.
“It works better with a fork!” shouted a vagrant-looking barfly from down the bar.
“A fork!” he replied, holding one up just in case Devin couldn’t comprehend. “The water drips through the prongs.”
“I see,” answered Devin, feigning appreciation.
“Are you minoring this evening?” The man asked.
“Minoring? What’s that?”
“You know, e minor, encephalo-wave-modification.” He illustrated by pretending to jab his fork into his temple.
“Keep it down!” Valor intervened as she reappeared.
“What is he talking about?” Devin asked her.
“Don’t mind him. The absinthe has rotted his brain out. It looks like you’re learning to appreciate our specialty drink.”
“It grows on you,” Devin lied. Valor smiled seductively again and swayed away.
Over the course of the next hour, Devin consumed two more absinthes. He spoke to no one else during that time. The drunks at the bar rarely spoke to each other, either. It was useless to engage anyone anyway as the whiny music was too loud. The drunks all sat alone, hunched over their cloudy absinthes, highlighted in bluish diode lime light.
Devin noticed that the whiny, droning music was becoming tolerable. The tones and rhythms had not changed but somehow he began to find it complimentary to his drunk.
The absinthe had taken hold of him but Devin noticed that it was a drunk with subtle differences. The glow of the lighted sconces that backlit the murky booths captivated him. The colors emitted from signage and personal multis seemed brighter, more intense. The bar, despite the lack of social interaction, seemed like a cozy place to him.
“How are you doing?” Valor asked which surprised him a little.
“I’m fine, feeling the effects.”
“I have some friends of mine that I think you should meet.”
“They’re over there at the corner booth. Can you see them? See the bitch with the silver hair?”
“There’s a dozen bitches with silver hair in here,” Devin thought. He scanned the shadowy silhouettes in the corner. His eyes locked in on the faces of three gothic women, illuminated by diode light, shined against the dark background. One had silver hair.
“Those three?” he asked, nodding in their direction.
“That’s them. I told them you’re coming over to hang out. I’m off in a few minutes and I’ll join you. That is if you’re not some sort of fag or something.”
Devin stood up and waded through the shadows towards the table. The three ladies saw him coming and invited him with contrived smiles on their flawless, china doll faces.
“Come over here. Sit here.” One of the three beckoned as they created space for him in their booth. Devin slid in and sank into the plush velvet seat.
“My name is Veronica,” said the one with silver hair. “That’s Veruca and she’s Julia.” The two smiled half heartedly. “What’s your name?”
“Devin. It’s a pleasure to meet you ladies.”
“He’s good looking enough, isn’t he?” asked Veronica.
“He’s a little rough but he’ll do,” observed Veruca whose doll-like face was accented with faint tattoos. “That’s Val’s type.”
“So where are you from, Mr. Devin?” asked Veronica.
“Goldstein, Alaska,” he answered, throwing caution to the wind. He wondered if he would now be tainted by them as a nutcase.
“Alaska?” asked Veronica. “Where the Eskimos live?”
“Not exactly,” Devin answered, curious that the Goldstein reference went unnoticed.
“Wait a second,” interrupted Veruca. “Did you say Goldstein? Goldstein, where the crazy people live?”
Veruca let out a roar of laughter. Julia started laughing but her laughter seemed to be more of a contagious response to Veruca’s. Veronica just stared at him.
“Seriously? Goldstein?” Veruca asked again.
“So is it true what they say?” asked Veronica.
“What do they say?”
“That it’s a cult of drug addicts and they’re all brainwashed?”
“You sound like you’re describing here more than there,” Devin answered.
“They always describe Goldstein that way. It’s a compound for extermists,” Veronica explained.
“I think you mean extremists,” corrected Julia.
“I hear that they’re planning to attack us. Is that true,” asked Veruca.
“Where’d you hear that?”
“I heard it on holovision. Is it true?”
“Maybe you’ve got it coming,” he joked but the joke was lost on them. “Seriously, they don’t want to kill anyone. They just want to be left alone.”
“Are they anarchists?” asked Veruca.
“Communists?” she asked again.
“No. Although there’s some communal types up there.”
“I don’t believe you. What are they planning to do to us?” asked Veruca. “A bomb? A nuke?”
The question gave Devin pause. He realized for the first time that his decision pertaining to The Delivery, or at least the perception of it, had real world ramifications. It was a power that he had failed to grasp up until this moment. What was at first shrugged off was now undeniably seductive to him.
He grabbed a passing wench and ordered a vodka tonic hoping that the three women would change the subject. They didn’t. Veruca remained transfixed on him.
“What are they planning to do?” she asked.
“I told you that they don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“Yeah, so what are they planning?”
“He’s full of shit,” interrupted Julia who was redoing her eye liner. The snap of her compact relieved the building tension. “Goldstein doesn’t exist. It’s a myth invented by the government like Roswell and the moon landing and World War II.”
“Why would the government invent Goldstein?” asked Veruca.
“To give them an excuse to do whatever they need to do,” Julia answered. Devin relaxed back into the velvet. “Who cares? You bitches fall for it every time. Don’t you remember last night when Val sent over those two guys who said they were astronauts getting ready for Mars III? Then what about the night before that when that guy said he was a Bollywood agent?”
“He’s not?” asked Veronica. “But he said he thought he could get me a part.”
Veruca seemed unconvinced. “I believe him,” she remarked.
Just then, Valor arrived. Devin looked her over. Her tall, sleek frame, slender neck, her boney hips and her joints posed at exaggerated angles. She elegantly worked herself into the booth, intentionally grazing Devin’s lap as she slid past.
“Your friend says he’s from Goldstein, Alaska,” Veronica advised.
“I know. Isn’t it fascinating?” Valor replied. “Twenty minutes ago he told me he was an astronaut.” Devin wasn’t sure if she was being playful or was truly confused. “So what does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?”
“So what’s the plan, Val?” asked Julia.
“Sit here. Get drunk. Then high. Then go,” she answered. “If we like him, we’ll take him with us.” Under the table she ploughed her slender fingers into Devin’s thigh.
“Go where?” asked Devin mischievously.
Valor leaned towards Devin’s ear and whispered, “Wherever you want to go, my rebel brother.”
The five-some sat at the table and drank for an hour or so with the ladies exchanging stories of drug addled sexual endeavors and sparing no graphic detail. There were no inhibitions in the cougars as they topped each other’s escapades.
Devin’s excitement could hardly be contained. Tension built with each successive narration and each groping of his thigh by Valor.
Then Devin worked his hand up her thigh. She’d gently push him away. Then he would start over, each time working closer… then pushed away. Starting over, working closer. She made no expression of approval or disapproval of him as she traded tales with the other girls. He was caressing her, faintly sweeping the edge of his hand against her… She pushed his hand away again, this time with force.
“So, tell me, where do you want to go, today?” she asked bluntly as she produced her purse and plunged her free hand into it. “Have you ever minored?”
“Minored?” Devin asked. “That guy at the bar mentioned that.”
“This should be interesting,” Julia interjected while leaning forward with interest.
Valor pulled out a shiny gadget from her purse. It had two nodes on a split wire attached to it.
“What’s that?” Devin asked.
“Where do you want to go, today?”
“What do you mean?” Devin asked.
“It’s a simple question. Think about it.” She attached the nodes to Devin’s temples. “Concentrate,” she ordered.
The absinthe had stripped away his inhibitions. He made no attempt to stop her.
“Think about your favorite place. Maybe it’s on a mountain top or something. Maybe it’s you on top of something else,” she added. She uncoiled and straightened the wires that lead from the nodes to the silvery gadget.
“Maybe its Paris,” offered Veronica. “Isn’t that where they chopped off Cleopatra’s head?”
“Marie Antoinette,” answered Julia. “Don’t think of dark stuff. You’ll have a bad trip. Think of the jungle or the ocean. Yeah, how about the ocean, a secluded beach on the Riviera?”
The thought of a beach resonated with Devin. He had only seen sand beaches on holovision shows and in the virtual reality sphere. The nearest Alaskan beaches were swaths of volcanic mud and un-resort-like.
“What do I do?”
“Just concentrate on the beach and the ocean and the dolphins and stuff like that,” Valor responded as she clicked on the shiny gadget. “Close your eyes.” Devin closed them. “What do you see?”
“I see black.”
“Concentrate. Think of the sand and the waves. You should see shapes and colors.”
“Do you see anything?”
“I do. I see drifting purple shapes.”
“What are they?”
“They’re blobs of purple. They really don’t have any shape. Wait. Now I see geometric shapes, black and white patterns.”
“Keep looking. Concentrate,” called Valor in a fading voice. “Do you see the ocean yet?”
“No. Wait. I see the seagulls. They’re flying in front of me, no now they’re below me.”
“Are you flying?”
“Yeah. I’m flying with them, above them. This is amazing. I’m flying with seagulls over orange clouds and a giant white sun.”
“Do you see the ocean yet?” Valor asked in a distant and barely audible voice.
“No. But I feel the breeze.”
A magma of rippling oranges and purples swirled beneath him. Then the seagulls became less graceful, then they appeared harsher and more angular.
“Tell me what you see,” asked Valor but she was far, far away.
The seagulls weren’t seagulls anymore. Geometric patterns emerged from the swirling sea below but it wasn’t the ocean, it was a vast field of interlocking hexagons. And from them emerged the angular seagulls that were no longer seagulls. They had black eyes and long, thin legs and pointed bodies. They were hornets emerging from their pods, flying up and out into the white sun which was no longer the sun but was now a bright portal out of a dark hive to the outside world.
Devin reached towards the portal but it was unattainable. He was being pulled back down into the pods, clutched in the mandibles of a giant hornet with its black, faceted, dead eyes fixated upon him. It pulled him down, down into the swirling heat just above the pods.
He gazed into the oblivion below and one cell grew larger as he was pulled downward. And there, waiting to devour him, writhed a monstrous white larva with dead black eyes.
“Take it off! Take it off,” Devin screamed.
Chapter 9 Chapter 11
Goldstein Republic can be purchased here from Amazon.com