Something strange is happening to me. We’re at Conrad’s vacation house, a sprawling mansion that orbits the gas giant Hades-3. (His father owns both the house and the planet.) Conrad is in the living room watching sports. His girlfriend Alyssa is standing by the mirror in the bathroom, fixing her hair. Her friend Kat is sitting near the bay windows, watching the stars and the roiling vermeil clouds on the world below.
Tara sat in the back of her marine biology class and read the news on her braille tablet. One hundred eighty-seven countries had recognized Mars as the first off-planet country, much to the consternation of the as-yet-unrecognized lunar colonies. The Martian flag was blue with a red circle. Like Mars itself, the flag was inaccessible to Tara.
In April of 1934, H. G. Wells traveled to the United States, where he visited Washington, D.C. and met with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Wells, sixty-eight years old, hoped the New Deal might herald a revolutionary change in the U.S. economy, a step forward in an “Open Conspiracy” of rational thinkers that would culminate in a world socialist state.
The mobster has a gun pressed to Rack’s forehead. The mobster has a god-shitting GUN pressed to her partner’s fucking forehead, and the only thing Rhye can do is watch and scream as the man smiles at her and pulls the trigger and blows Rack’s perfect brains out from between his ears.
We are not terrorists. We have not done this because we wish to terrify or instill fear. We do what we have done in order to bring the truth to everyone, a truth that burns away the lies and leaves only itself. We are no more terrorists than the invisible hand of the market is a terrorist.
This is what they used to call a meet cute, back when movies were made by people like Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder, when movies had plots and dialogue, when life and love had rules, back in the last century. A handsome officer in the Soviet embassy (does that tell you how long ago?) picks up the phone one day and hears a lilting female voice asking him if he can tell her, please, what is Lenin’s middle name. “It’s for my crossword puzzle.”
Mickey and I worked together at Hillman’s Horror House, and maybe the thrill of scaring people was what made me notice him. I’d never thought about another guy that way before, and so when I first got that electric jolt as his hand brushed mine in the changing room, I felt like I might puke. I went to the bathroom, where instead of throwing up I jacked off into the toilet.
You know who I’m talking about. You can see them on Sunday afternoons, in places like Knoxville, Tennessee or Flagstaff, Arizona, playing pool or with their elbows on the bar, drinking a beer before they head out into the dusty sunlight and get into their pickups, onto their motorcycles. Some of them have dogs. Some of their dogs wear bandanas around their necks.
Colonel Rathbone attends my final debriefing. I’m wearing a paper hospital gown that doesn’t cover my ass; I’ve got a breeze where no breeze has any right to be, from the back of my neck right down where the good Lord split me. But despite that I’m sweating, the backs of my thighs sticking to the paper covering the hospital table
When I was six my eyes started to fail, for reasons no one could understand. Now, tonight, in this dark hole, now that I’m a man, I can appreciate how hard this was for everyone. I can appreciate my father’s sadness, how it ate at him and wasted him and finally killed him. Doctors and neighbors also found themselves affected: I was the only child of a dead mother, and my father was already old. At a certain moment in their lives, men and women find a skill for recognizing stories; when I was six, I was too young.