Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Miss Music

It's so quiet.

I used to get online and fire up Pandora or iTunes or Youtube or whatever. I'd get recommendations from my friends and I'd listen to them, I'd buy the music if I liked it. And I had such weird tastes in music, too. Run DMC rubbed shoulders with Old Crow Medicine Show. Metallica, sure. Cannibal Corpse if I feel like listening to a garbage disposal try to sing (sometimes, you do). Hell, I'll call up Beyonce or N'Sync or whatever other poppy shit I want to hear, because sometimes it's in your head and that's the only way to burn it out.

I mean, I did do that. I used to.

No one records anymore. Everyone's too scared. There's no anonymity anymore. Every shadow is a camera, and He's always watching. Yes, He doesn't send Them out for people telling the truth (though you do hear stories), but one mention of God or how it was better when you could still buy stuff or, hell, any ethnic or national sentiment...that's enough to get you killed. And there are no secrets anymore. There's only things He doesn't notice.

Everyone's terrified. They have every reason to be. And I start thinking about that, about how every shadow is a gateway, how they open seemingly at random, all hours of the day or night.

I don't even sing in the shower anymore. I hum, quietly, when I'm feeling brave. I play the music in my head. Mostly it's one song, the song that was playing when I drove by Monarch.

I drove by Monarch right before it happened. I stopped at a red light, and I saw people listening, heads out their windows. I turned off the CD and opened my window, and cocked my ear toward the Center.

I heard screaming. I heard that godawful noise that They make, though I didn't know at the time what it was. I saw the windows crack, then shatter, like they'd been heated up and then doused with cold water. And then the walls buckled and the building fell down.

The song playing on my CD player was "Imagine."

Imagine there's no Heaven. It's easy if you try.

I don't have to try.

I don't think this is what John Lennon meant.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Learning the Between

You learn about the Between the way you learn about anything. Through experimentation.

Except that experimenting can and does get you killed. The first time I went into the Between, it was with an Opener who was in his second year at UCLA. Majoring in something technical, I forget. Engineering, maybe? I don't remember. He told me that learning about the Between is like this card game he used to play, call "Mao."

I'd played Mao. It's this weird little game where you try to get rid of your cards, and talking about the rules is against the rules. So you have to learn as you go, by observation and trial and error. And you lose the first time out.

The Between is like that for Openers. They discover they can Open in response to stress. Problem is, stress attracts Them, and Openers attract Them, so stressed-out Openers usually die the first time they Open. That's one reason no one has any idea how common Openers are, or ever have been. Anyway, they Open a shadow or a dark area, and suddenly there they are, Between.

I'll describe what the Between is actually like some other time. Doing that requires thinking about it. Time in the Between is not time you want to dwell on, believe me. Logistically, the Between connects all points of darkness everywhere. An Opener can guide you through the Between to any location he has seen, as long as there's a shadow or a big enough dark patch there that he can Open to get out. Also, travel through the Between doesn't take very long; I've gone cross country in less than a minute.

Let that sink in. Gateways to anywhere. Near-instant travel. It's a miracle, right? Well, if it is, God's a sonofabitch, because the Between is home to Them. And, again, I'll talk about Them some other time.

Now, even though Openers can't control Them the way He seems to, you'd figure that this was all pretty potent, right? And it is, but still, He's got edges that the rest of us can't touch. Cheyenne Mountain showed us that.

Right after Jerusalem, Cheyenne Mountain just lit up. The big-brass generals of the Army were gone, but that's the thing about the Army, there's a chain of command. The lower-ranked officers just stepped up and someone got the brilliant idea of mounting a resistance in one of the most secure locations on the planet. It wasn't a bad idea, as plans go, but of course they didn't know what was really happening. People started flocking to Cheyenne, because it was obvious that there was activity. No one got in, but people were camped outside the installation for miles.

And then it all got quiet. Lights went out. No more movement. Everyone feared the worst. That lasted about six hours, and then the doors leading into the facility burst open.

And out He walked. It was twilight - enough light to see a bit about what was going on, but not enough for anyone to get a good clear pic of Him. He was walking through those massive doors, hands outstretched, with a wall of water on either side of him. He didn't say anything that time, He just looked out, down the mountain at the hundreds - maybe thousands - of people who just wanted somewhere safe to go.

And He let the ocean have them. He released the water, and He disappeared. The water flowed out from the mountain - from a mountain in Colorado - and washed over everyone there.

Not everyone died. Fatalities were actually pretty limited, all things considered, because the water spread so quickly. Best guess I ever heard was about 500 dead, mostly children, old folks, handicapped, folks who couldn't swim or get to higher ground. He never made a statement about Cheyenne Mountain, and most people assume what He meant by that act was, "Don't bother hiding, I can find you anywhere."

But really, I think He meant to demonstrate something to the Openers of the world. Yes, they can open gates to the Between and walk to places they could picture in a few minutes. He could open gates to any place he could visualize. And so what stops Him from opening a gateway into space and just sucking Earth's atmosphere out? What stops Him from opening a gateway to the sun during an eclipse - it's just a big shadow, right? - and burning us all to death?

I have no idea what's stopping Him. I assume, personally, it's because He figures things are OK the way they are, now.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Monday, April 26, 2010

They Came for the CEOs

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up."


Everyone's heard that, either in history class or as part of some anti-government rhetoric when someone your party didn't like was in power. And it's a good sentiment, but one that folks never really understood. Or maybe His campaign to take over the world was just so different from what folks were used to that the comparison just doesn't work.

He came first for the politicians, the priests and the CEOs. He came for the people that we all hated. The people who were out of touch, who argued talking points and bottom lines when we were here on the ground working for a living. We knew that Congress was gone, and we heard - second and third hand, usually - that the richest and most powerful people in the world were just disappearing.

But the day-to-day didn't change much. The people who really did the work came in and punched their clocks like they always did. The breakdown started from the top, and because so much wealth and power was concentrated in such a small number of people, it didn't matter much that they were dead.

Well. We didn't know that they were dead. I guess technically they might be alive, but They aren't known to take prisoners when They don't have to. I imagine that the big corporate fat-cats, the Senators and Representatives, the important people, they turned off their lights to go to bed...and the darkness just came open, and they were gone.

And the world turned on. And even once we noticed, we didn't care, because it wasn't us disappearing into the dark, dragged off by monsters, dead before we knew anything had changed. It was them. It was those rich guys. Those guys that fired us, that voted for that piece of legislation that we hated, that said stupid things on camera, that spent our taxes dollars on that thing we didn't like. Serves them right.

It's tempting to feel guilty. To say we didn't do anything because of who they were. But that's overlooking two very important points. First, we put them there. We built our culture to be what it is. We, collectively, the whole world, made abstractions more important than concrete reality, and that was what He couldn't abide. I'm not saying we deserve what happened to the world. I'm just saying that the world was what we made it.

And second...what the hell could we have done about it? The point of that quote is that the people should have stopped it, shouldn't have turned a blind eye. But even if every single person had noticed and clamored for a response, where would it have come from? Who is like Him, and who can fight against Him?

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Speculations

No one really knows anything about Him.

Well, that's an overstatement. We know He speaks English, though His accent certainly got picked to death after Jerusalem. It's a testament to bias of expectation that a lot of folks thought He sounded Palestinian (never mind that the Dome of the Rock was destroyed first). He doesn't have an Arabic accent, or an American one, for that matter. He just sounds...weird. There's a bizarre, hollow quality to His voice, which a lot of people assume is because He's speaking from the Between.

That could be. I've heard other theories, though.

For one thing, I've been to the Between. It doesn't make your voice sound hollow. Sound doesn't act right in the Between, and it certainly doesn't echo - that's one of the reasons we can use it at all, because there's no echo to make sound travel farther. For another, His voice isn't "hollow" like he's talking from the bottom of a well. It's hollow like he doesn't give a shit. He inflects in the wrong places, and His voice is just one degree of pitch off from being utterly monotone. I didn't attach any significance to that until I heard about Monarch.

The Monarch Center for Autism is a special school in Ohio. They treat folks on all levels of the autism spectrum. It's a subject with some significance to me, and so I knew quite a bit about the disorder before He ever showed up. I knew, for instance, that it had increased something like 600% in incidence over the last 15 years or so. That the latest numbers put it at roughly 1 in 150. That, yes, some of that was because of more sensitive diagnostic technique, but the cases of autism were just showing up like they hadn't been a couple of decades ago. Ask any special ed teacher.

Actually, you'd get a different answer now. The numbers took a sharp dip after He took over. And I've got some speculation about that, too.

Anyway, after Jerusalem but before Cheyenne Mountain, there was a lot of speculation about His origins. Everyone with some nationalist or racial or ethnic grudge had a theory. White supremacists thought He sounded black. Taiwanese thought He sounded Chinese. Pakistanis though He sounded Indian, Indians thought He sounded Pakistani, and English though He might have sounded both. It was absurd. Maybe it's because I'm an American mutt without any particular ethnic leanings, but I didn't think He sounded anything. Just flat. And of course no one ever saw Him.

To my knowledge, the only time anyone alive has ever seen Him was when He came walking out of Cheyenne Mountain with the ocean behind him.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My First Meeting With an Opener

Her name was Julie. Her hair was dyed a sort of auburn red kind of color. I remember thinking I'd have found that very attractive as a younger man.

I don't know why she chose to confide in me. By that time most of the area was abandoned. People were moving into the cities or out into the farmlands, and the suburbs, those symbols of the world that was still choking on it own blood, were getting like ghost towns. She might have confided in me just because we were among the few who didn't want to leave.

She came up to me and whispered, "I can do what He does." She looked terrified. She hadn't slept. She was unhealthily thin. I took her to my apartment, turned on every light in a vain attempt to minimize shadows, and asked her what she meant.

She said it again, a little more confidently. "I can do what He does." And then she tipped a lamp so it cast a big shadow on the wall, and she gestured at it. And it Opened.

Of course I'd seen the Between. It's not uncommon for shadows to open seemingly at random, and for Them to glance out, looking for insurrection. But to see it so close was terrifying. The Between isn't empty. It isn't silent. They are in there, and the Between is Their home, Their hive, Their nest.

But as terrifying as it was, I was elated. Maybe she could help us fight back! Maybe she could turn the tables. And if she could do it, maybe there were others!

I turned away, wanting to get my glasses, to look at her, to watch her do it again, maybe. I don't know. It's moot. When I turned around, she was gone. One of her shoes hung half in, half out of the open shadow on my wall. And then it closed, and the shoe was cut neatly in half, and she was gone. She never made a sound. I didn't hear Them take her.

She thought she could do what He does. She was only half right. She could Open the shadows, yes, but as it turns out, that's only the first step. Once you're in the Between, you need a way to deal with Them. For whatever reason, He can control Them. The rest of us just have try and find a safe passage through the Between.

Those of us that are stupid enough to go there at all, that is.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Friday, April 16, 2010

Terror

Of course we had recordings. The whole world listened to what he'd said. We tried to make some sense of it all.

It was hard to get anything worthwhile, though. Most of the world was convinced it was the Apocalypse. Religions that didn't have an "end of the world" scenario made them up. Bible verses were reinterpreted, ancient prophecies "discovered," and folks made their signs and walked around with them.

I remember some cynic saying that the world was so far gone that we didn't know how to do anything except stage meaningless protests. But really, what were we going to do? We didn't have anyone to turn to. Government was gone. Every single member of Congress was dead. The President, the Vice-President...everyone on down the chain of command. The British Prime Minister. Heads of state the world over. All gone.

But He didn't stop there. We didn't find out until a little later, but generals and other top brass in armies all over the world disappeared. Not just the official armies, either. I don't remember how long after Jerusalem - maybe three or four weeks, couldn't have been much more than that - we found out that al-Qaeda was gone. A soldier in the Middle East somewhere put footage on the 'net of sixteen gutted bodies. The faces were intact, and the press wasted no time in identifying them as the terrorist masterminds that the US and its allies had been hunting for since 2001. The War on Terror was over.

Well, sort of. You could say that He was a kind of terrorist. It fits, I guess. The choice He's always given the world is the same one that terrorists did: Comply or die. His methods are similar. His minions can strike at literally any time and from anywhere. The only difference between Them and suicide bombers is that They don't die in the process of an attack. So, sure, He's a lot like a terrorist.

But I have a hard time thinking of Him that way. When I saw Jerusalem fall, or when the news cameras showed the rubble that used to be Saint Peter's Basilica, I didn't feel the same thing as I did when the towers went down.

Those terrorists hated us. And "us" meant "Americans" or "Christians" or something. It meant me. It was personal. I didn't feel that when He began His takeover. After His first speech, when He warned us about Jerusalem, I got the sense that it wasn't personal. He didn't have that same kind of hatred. He wasn't a zealot. He just knew that, as a species, we were regularly killing each other and starving each other to death and date-raping the world and all of the people in it for nothing. For what He saw as nothing, anyway. And he just happened to have the power to do something about it.

I seriously doubt He was the first Opener. The power to open shadows isn't unique, and I can't believe that no one ever did it before He came along. I do think, though, that He was the first one who could control Them.

I've never met another Opener who could. In fact, They usually kill Openers first.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

...And Salted The Earth

The helicopter cameras showed it, but we didn't know what we were looking at. I recorded some of the feed. It's not illegal to own it, despite what people think. He's not that kind of dictator. He doesn't care what you say about Him, and He takes full ownership of everything He did. He just thinks it was right.

Anyway.

The 'copters saw the city swallowed. Every shadow opened. Every single one. The buildings crumbles and fell into a billion tiny sinkholes. The people, the ones that They hadn't killed, just vanished into the Between. The 'copters kept their lights and their cameras on it. About five seconds in, they killed the sound feed.

It was bad enough we had to see it. No one wanted to hear it.

I've heard that some of the crew jumped from the copters. I've heard one of the copters crashed when the pilot had a heart attack - or maybe he put the copter down on purpose. Who wants to live in this world?, I've heard, is what came over the radio, but I know that's not true, because I was listening, and there was no sound. Just the Holy City vanishing into the Between.

When the dust settled, there was nothing but black. The shadows hadn't closed, they'd joined like mercury. Nothing below the copters but a puddle of blackness. And then every shadow in the world opened. The shadows in the room with me opened. We all heard the voice, again speaking English in that weird, stilted, not-quite-accented voice that we would come to know as His.

This is the end of your world. This is what will become of ideology. How many lives lost over the centuries for this place, which you now see is so impermanent? No more lives lost for Jerusalem, not after tonight, not ever again.

Have your riots. Convene your armies. Launch your missiles. Rant, rail, gnash your teeth. I will allow you that, for you need time to grieve your world. But when I speak to you again, know that it will be as your authority. You will do what I say to do, or They will come for you from the Between.

There is no question. There is no debate. There is no compromise. There is only the world and the whole of humanity.


Much of the world didn't know what to make of it. Hell, much of the world didn't understand it. But the Internet was still global at the time, and translations - a lot of them inaccurate, a lot of them with Biblical or Qu'ran quotes appended - starting making the rounds. While He never addressed them, I can't help but feel like they proved His point by doing that.

Some folks did analyze exactly what was going on. They started combing historical archives, Dead Sea Scrolls, Biblical Apocrypha, conspiracy theories, anything, anything, for a hint of what was happening. What was the Between? Was it Mictlan? The Underworld? Hell? Heaven? Was He an angel? God? Satan? The Antichrist?

The short answer: No. The longer answer: It's 10 years later, and we still don't know exactly who or what He is. But I've heard some good theories.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

What I Saw That Day

The voice from the shadows told us - told everyone, all over the world - to watch Jerusalem in three hours. It was 5:05PM local time for me when it started.

We saw it through cameras on the ground, and then from helicopters. We saw Them for the first time. They had come through before, of course, but always under cover of night, always striking quickly and efficiently, tearing down walls, yanking people through shadows. They had never been given free rein before.

That night, He let slip the leashes. He opened the shadows, pointed toward Jerusalem, and said, "Go."

And They came. They came out of the shadows underneath cars. They came from the shadows cast by the cooling buildings. They came from the shadows people cast walking home that night, or fleeing the city in terror. They boiled out of the shadows like fire ants on the warpath, and They destroyed everything They touched.

They caught the people first, of course. They didn't carry them away. They tore them into pieces. I remember watching one of Their massive hands closing over a camera lens, and the feed stayed on long enough for us to hear the screaming stop, the desperate gasping breaths, and then snapping. No biting. No chewing. They don't eat people. They don't eat.

The cameras on the ground died off, and the feed went black. And I sat there in my apartment watching the feed. I had my desktop, my laptop, my spare laptop and my TV all running different newsfeeds, and they all went black. And the day around me was quiet. I heard crying from outside the window, but no traffic. There was no movement. There was nothing we could do but watch.

And then someone had the presence of the mind to switch to one of the helicopter cameras, and we realized just how bad it really was.

Tune in Tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Graffiti on a wall in Chicago, a week after Jerusalem

I lost my aunt my uncle three cousins and my father
Where was the UN where was the USA where was anyone?


The answer, of course, was that they were all already dead. But we didn't know that then.

We all had questions.

Tune in tomorrow.

curse the darkness

Here's What Happened

Everyone remembers where they were when the Vatican fell. Or when the Dome of the Rock was pulled down. Or when Parliment and Congress were simultaneously invaded from the inside. Any one of the attacks, we know where we were.

But where were you when you found out about Him? That it was all connected?

So many crazy stories before the truth came out. Honestly, if the Internet had survived, those crazy stories would have, too, I'm sure. You don't remember because you're too young, but the Internet was a place where any insanity could thrive. You could spout any story you wanted and not only be heard, but be believed. The ubiquitous "they" that said mankind never landed on the moon, that Catherine the Great died having sex with a horse, that the late President Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim - "they" found their voice and their pulpit on the Internet.

When you think about it, what He does isn't so different than the 'net. He opens a gate, and out they come. The gates are everywhere on Earth, because they're nowhere. They just open, and he knows them. A server, a website, a router... Hell, never mind. Like I said, you're too young.

I remember where I was when I learned the truth. I was in a big box store buying supplies. No riots that day, but the police were out from watching the store; it was one of the few in the city that had anything left. I had turned off my radio. I just couldn't listen to death tolls and speculations and fanatics anymore. And then the lights flicked, and the TVs in the back of the store went dark. And I turned on my radio, and I heard what everyone else heard.

It's over. What you knew is over. Ideology is over.

Ideology is the poison at the soul of the privileged. In the First World, people talk ideology over full bellies. In the Third World, people have been trained to kill and die for ideology over and above their own survival.

Some of our greatest heroes have said this, though never in so many words. They have said that to make any meaningful change in the world, we must let go of the chains of religion, politics, economics, and all of the other systems of beliefs that interrupt the real and true cycles of life. The hungry must eat. The cold must be given shelter. The world must be saved, and as long as ideology - any ideology - festers at the heart of the leaders, no salvation is possible.

Now it is possible. Now the shadows are open. Now the world has a savior.

From this moment on, ideology is forbidden. Any idol at which you worship - be it mythical figure, figment of economics, ephemeral political position - is shattered as of now. You have seen what I can do when I open the shadows. And now you will see it again. Turn your eyes, world, to Jerusalem in three hours' time.


And we stood there, not knowing quite what to make of it. I heard people crying. I heard a man near me say that he had family in Israel. And all I could think was, "He's going to nuke it."

I wasn't wrong. The effect was much the same.

Tune in tomorrow!

curse the darkness