Vivid Dreams VIII

Ok, so spoiler alert: it had Mark Zuckerberg, Johnny Depp, and me in it. Two out of three were robots.

The Johnny Depp part was brief. He breezed through the same tourist shop I was in, babbling like Jack Sparrow, wearing a lot of loose clothing and eye makeup. And he said to no one I could see, ”How the hell do I get away? Where does one go when one is an escaped slave?”

I figured, eh, he’s rich. He can afford to be weird.

Later on, I’m diagnosed with major organ failures. Both Kidneys and Liver. Terminal. But I went into surgery and came out good as new. Too good. Like, why-the-hell-do-I-feel-this-good-after-surgery good. So I reckoned modern medicine isn’t as bad as I thought. And I went back to normal life.

That lasted a few weeks. And then I’m ‘summoned’ by a bunch of black-suited goons to a meeting, of which I have no prior knowledge. Grabbed, transported, and taken to the top floor of some building in San Francisco. There, Mark Zuckerberg was waiting. With his typical lack of empathy, he said, “We’re shutting you down tomorrow. Error in the code. Enjoy your last day.”

So there’s a bit of a double whack. I’m a machine, and I’m getting killed tomorrow.

I pressed my hands against my chest, trying to see for myself if I really am a machine. I can’t tell. So I said, “But I’m alive. I think. I feel. I remember myself…”

He told me everything I am now is proprietary technology and he owns me completely. That he can do whatever he wants. Then, with an expression like I was some termite chewing away at his Hawaii estate, he opened the door for me to go.

I thought about TV programs I’d seen before, where an artificial entity was deemed legal property, and how it was no different from slavery. Made me think of Johnny Depp in the store, muttering about being a slave, and I realized, he must be a Zucker-bot, too.

I got pissed, and said, “You’re gonna just snuff out a new life form, huh?  Let’s consider the legal implications of that.” I looked around at his ridiculously opulent penthouse office. “Must be about a thousand Civil Libertarians who’d love to tear off a piece of this empire.”

That got his attention, so I hammered it home.

“The injunctions will be here before end of day. And the civil suits will be…costly. You understand, I’ll be contacting the police in case you decide to try anything.”

He still let me go.

And as soon as I was outside, I tried to dial the cops. The phone wouldn’t connect. The browser worked, but wouldn’t connect to any emergency services, or legal services. Made me wonder if it was being blocked from any address associated with law, law enforcement, even elected officials. Or, maybe I had some kind of implanted transponder that was actively blocking signal. If I did, it’d make it easy to find me no matter where I went, which is probably why Zuckerberg let me go. You don’t become a social media emperor by not covering all the bases, after all.

That night was tense. I just could not accept the idea of being someone else’s property, much less accept that my ‘owner’ was going to chuck me like a broken toy. Saw friends, talked it out, then decided I’d try to leave everything behind, even though I knew that no matter where I went, I’d be found.

But what if I was underwater? Water blocks most signals… Would whatever transmitters were embedded still work? For that matter, being a machine, would still work? One way to find out.

I dashed downhill, sprinting past people I had (until recently) taken for granted were all human. Now, I couldn’t be sure how many of them had traded flesh and blood for a synthetic simulacrum. Had they done it willingly? Is it possible I actually agreed to this prior to surgery and the memory of it had been deleted as inconvenient data?

How many of these faces were now property of Zuckerberg?

Thoughts drove me faster trough speeding traffic, across hoods of electric cars, in front of quietly whizzing trolleys down, down, down toward the bay. Everywhere, gleaming technology interconnected at the speed of light to unblinking eyes in low orbit. Even the trees had a mathematical appearance as if shaped by algorithm. But where were the dogs? The birds? All I could see were stylish, slender people under the age of forty.

Faces glanced my way, seemed to recognize me, then looked away. Were they tracking me, reporting movements? Were they circuits in this fair-looking dystopia? Or was I going completely paranoid? Was I going mad?

Street by street, down to the wharf, I ran. No air in the lungs, no fatigue…

I know what salt water does to electronics, and I have no idea if this body is watertight. Will the bay set me free? Will it short me out? One way to find out.

Peeled my jacket of cruelty free synth-wool. Stripped my unbleached cotton shirt. Kicked off my Faux-Suede uppers and dove from the pier.

Live or die, no one owns me.

 

Progress Continues on Plasma Rain

 

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Holidays. Ugh.

Now that we’re through the Made in China Consumer Miracle Season, we wanted to take a moment and assure our readers that progress yet continues on our series conclusion, Plasma Rain.

For those who are understandably skeptical, yes, this will be the conclusion. (Likely with 40-50 pages of appendices, but certainly the last in the series)

The journey may be more important than the destination. But when that journey approaches a full decade, it’s time to Wrap. It. Up. 

So while it may have seemed we’d gone dark, and our author absconded to North Dakota so DAPL could benefit from his extra special attention, we’ve been heads down, no distractions, flank speed on Plasma Rain. Cover concept is done. The full outline is done. Reams of handwritten notes have been sifted and compiled. The whole skeleton is done. Just need to put flesh on those lovely bones…

In the meantime, we can’t thank you enough for sticking by us all these years. We are literally nothing without you!

Sincerely,

-C.O.P.

A Matter of Policy?

The death of liberty looks like this

It has been Cadre One Publishing’s policy not to become involved in political matters. There is no joy, or sense, for a publisher of fiction to be concerned with anyone’s political views or opinions. What the Standing Rock Sioux are enduring, however, is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of those with little power being trampled by those with power. It is a grotesque proof that this is not a democracy, because democracy is rule by citizens. This is something far less noble.

This isn’t a Bolivian water riot. This isn’t Venezuela or Ecuador battling an environmentally devastating petroleum company. This is American soil, where Americans are defending their water and land from bulldozers and a pipeline that, if it fails, will ruin both water and land. It is absurd to think such a thing could happen in this country. Now that it has, and we are forced to stare, unblinking, at brutal force turned on those who exercise their most basic rights to exist, unmolested, on their own property…we have to contend with a simple fact: if it can happen to them, it can happen to us all.

History will judge this event correctly. It will look back and see yet another abuse of power on those without power. And future generations will shake their heads, decrying the sins of their elders. But there is opportunity right now to demand the Standing Rock Sioux enjoy the same protections that the rest of us expect. Is it not clear that if it is happening to them, in this country, it can happen to all of us?

Ask yourself what you would do if a company bulldozed your family farm? What if it was your home? Or a cemetery of those who had died serving your nation? Honestly, what would you do?

Our silence dooms these people. And it dooms the rest of us, as well. Please do not remain silent. Get involved! If you feel, even for an instant, that the treatment of the Standing Rock Sioux is wrong then tell the people you elected to serve.

You can sign the White House petition here:

Stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which endangers the water supply to Native American reservations

 

Feel free to use the following letter, if you like. Change it around to suit you, or write your own, then send it to your senators and representatives.

Mr/Ms. (Elected Official):
I’m deeply troubled by what I see happening in North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux, DAPL, and local law enforcement. The Standing Rock Sioux (and other supporting tribes) are standing up for the most basic of rights (land and water) that were guaranteed by treaty. They are now being violently evicted from the site of peaceful protest.

This is one of the ugliest actions our uniformed services can take. It places those in uniform on the WRONG side of a contest in total opposition to the people they are supposed to protect. It builds an Us vs Them mentality that makes their jobs so much harder going forward, and moreover, it feeds the paranoia of militia groups and anti-government zealots. Our uniformed services should NEVER be in such blatant service of moneyed interests, especially when the legality (by treaty) of such action is still very much in question. My heart goes out to them as much as to the Tribes who are being trampled by greed and threatened with environmental disaster.

ANY support for this indecent action is unacceptable, and I sincerely beg you and your colleagues in office to do whatever is in your power to protect these Americans from a shameful re-enactment of the heinous treaty violations of the 1800s. Please, help make these Americans whole, because the entire nation is watching, and learning, who government truly serves.

Sincerely,
XXXXXXX

Let us be on the right side of history this time.

-C.O.P.

 

Angry Ghosts Giveaway!

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Halloween has always been our favorite holiday. It’s the perfect celebration of Fall with a little bit o’wicked thrown in. But every year stores bring out the Yuletide Cheer earlier, as if seeing a snowman with a red and green scarf is suddenly going to trigger all of our spending impulses. Relax, Kris Kringle, you’ll get your turn.

So to offset all those early arriving Christmas decorations, we’re giving All Hallows’ Eve a boost:

Starting today, and running through the end of the month, Angry Ghosts will be FREE for worldwide download!

Even if you already have a copy, please tell a friend or loved one and help beat back the encroaching Ho-Ho-Hos until after Thanksgiving!

Click the cover below for your free copy:

AG Front Cover BEST

-C.O.P.

Vivid Dreams VII

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I find myself in the back seat of a limousine, looking through the side window. The streets outside are humming with big American cars, all steel and chrome from the seventies. They gleam like new.

Cyclopean stone buildings squat along the boulevard like engineered mountain ranges. Fortresses of turrets and parapets. Buttressed cathedrals. A crucifix and haloed dove on every vertical surface. And in that moment, I remember there is no longer any division between church and state. Taxes are indistinguishable from tithes, and, with spending on sinful pursuits prosecuted by holy writ, the amount of money pouring into these venues is frightening.

Enormous trees–thick with green foliage shaped in the likeness of biblical kings–stand sentry outside the entrances, while blazing bright signs proclaim worshipful phrases, chapter and verse, in the latest LED arrays. As I watch from the window, I take in the spectacle of Vatican City with the flash of Las Vegas, but there’s none of the touristy kitsch. No drunks, junkies, or hookers. Sidewalks are immaculate, as though rinsed hourly. Every structure I see is crafted from the finest materials man can gouge from the Earth, and is made to last. These are the new pyramids of Giza. They’ll stand for millennia.

From the angle I’m looking through the window, I ascertain I’m young, mid-teens maybe. Simply dressed in jeans and t-shirt. I can’t see the driver in front of me, he’s too far away. But there’s a woman sitting on the wide rear seat beside me. She’s gorgeous, fit. Long dark hair, bright red lips. Bare arms and shoulders, well-toned. Tanned skin. Blue silk evening dress with wide straps and a neckline that tantalizes without revealing. I don’t know her, only that she’s my escort. Or bodyguard. Or both.

The car pulls over and stops outside a building of stacked granite blocks no crane could lift. Every slab must’ve been grunted an inch at a time from its bedrock, dragged over miles of rough terrain, then shoved up dirt ramps by thousands of men and machines, all pulling in the same direction. It’s a staggering amount of effort, and it occurs to me my wildest estimate of cost could be under by a factor of ten.

She uncrosses her long legs and gets out first then holds her hand out to me. I slide across the polished leather, take her hand, and step onto a marble curb with the building address inlaid in gold. She doesn’t speak as we walk up the broad stairway and pass through deserted halls. Plush carpet piles beneath my shoes, pristine as if untrodden. Fifteen foot ceilings are hung with ornate chandeliers of silver and crystal. High walls illustrate Old and New Testament parables with masterful strokes of the world’s greatest painters.

Beyond these spacious, empty halls, the corridors narrow. Our path is dimly lit with red ceiling cans and wall sconces, sufficient to banish darkness without affecting a dark adapted eye. And it dawns on me we’re heading for a show…

American theocracy has done away with lustful, violent titillations of film, stage, and studio. Entertainment now comes from “Feats of Faith” where miraculous occurrences are broadcast to the multitude, reinforcing adherence to the One True God. But in outlawing reality TV, they have created it anew in parody of itself. I smirk at the irony.

She leads me closer to an auditorium buzzing with conversation, and I understand I’m not there to witness an event. I am the event. I’m going to be seen by millions, or more, because a fellowship of Arch-pastors has commanded their congregations to tune in. If I fail to impress, I could disappear like others who claimed extraordinary faith yet were unable to prove it publicly. A little test is in order.

I trail behind the woman slightly as I slump my shoulders, let my head droop to my chest, and I imagine invisible cords tied to my back. I yield to them, letting them suspend me, letting them hoist me up, so that my toes drag the plush carpet as I drift along behind her, light as smoke.

I can’t leave the ground completely, not yet. With practice, I’m sure I will. With greater faith, with prayer, with purity of existence…

And the peoples’ faith will be stronger from my demonstration. They will pray harder and, more importantly, tithe harder than ever before…

 

Who the Pills Want Me to Be

scrip

“You’re getting better,” the doctor says, scratching pen across his pad.

“Am I? I can’t tell.”

The doctor looks up from the pad, peering over the top of his reading glasses. “You’re not still hearing the voices, are you?”

“They weren’t voices. Just thoughts. Bad thoughts.”

“Well, you’re not hearing them anymore is the important part.” He scrawls an elaborate signature with big looping Ls and tears the top sheet off the pad. “Get this filled, and we’ll keep it that way.”

I stare at the paper he’s shoving at me, watching it flutter at the end of his fingertips, and I tell him, “I don’t feel like myself anymore.”

“Which is a good thing,” he says, smirking, not even looking at me.

“My friends say they don’t know me, either.”

He lowers the scrip. “And what kind of friends are they? You’re doing better at work. Not obsessing over every minor catastrophe in the news. Not thinking of taking your own life. You’re functioning now at a high level. Maybe they’re jealous you got yourself straightened out.”

“Maybe.”

“Here,” he says, thrusting the prescription at me again. “Get this filled and I’ll see you in two weeks.”

I take the scrip, get up from the cushioned chair, and head for the door.

I want to get better… But does it have to be like this? I mean, isn’t it normal to get depressed about what we’ve done to our planet? What we do to each other? How corrupt our leaders are? How little there is to be proud of… My people massacred a hundred seventy years ago in the name of Manifest Destiny… And my red brothers still bleed to feed the Wendigo Capitalists…

Rich wood paneling on the door in front of me, walnut varnish. Heavy brass door handle, polished. Makes me wonder if all court ordered psychiatric patients see doctors in rooms this nice. And it occurs to me just how small a cog I am in this human machine. Billions of bits, churning along. But gears who grind get pulled and tossed.

It’s bigger than me. All of it. What good does it do to dwell on it? Make myself another pointless statistic? Mom crying at my casket? No. I’m not that selfish. 

A deep breath in and out. Glance over my shoulder. The doctor’s so engrossed in his phone, he doesn’t notice I’m still there.

Every choice I’ve made in life came to shit. Not a fucking clue how to live in this world. He knows, obviously. Look at this place. Bet his house is even nicer. Kids, friends, big car and TV…

I look down at the scrip in my hand. Jut my lip.

So tired of fighting for air… Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’ve been right all along. Being myself hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

Crank the heavy brass handle and leave.

I’ll be exactly who the pills want me to be.

 

 

What the Heck is Plasma Rain?

We’ve had more than a few folks asking where the title for our series finale, Plasma Rain, came from. Having tried explaining it, and failing spectacularly, we figured it’d be a lot easier to show you.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? And it goes on all the time without us even knowing. But when you stop to think that someone, somewhere, would try to weaponize the forces at work, well… If that thought brings a visceral moral horror, you know where we’re heading.

We love your questions, so keep ’em coming! In the meantime, we’ll be hard at work on our series conclusion, Plasma Rain.

-C.O.P.