Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Age of Imago - April

April brought with it two strange realizations, at least to most people in the so-called "first world." The first was that almost everything had changed by what people had taken to calling 3/15.

The second was that they didn't really miss it. (Mostly.)

Why? Perhaps because their economies did not crash or implode. There were no riots, no panicking in the streets. Some hoarding of food and supplies was reported, but after a while it became clear that no one really needed to.

Gas prices even went down, for crying out loud.

The Imago exhorted people to lick their wounds, pick themselves up, and go back to work. And so they did. And, for most people, nothing had really changed there, either. Supplies still came into factories and went out the other end as finished products. Items still showed up in the stores to be bought and sold. Banks held and loaned money, newspapers and magazines were printed, the mail was delivered and read, and the police and emergency services were still there.

Only now with the presence of the Imago, floating overhead with smiles on their faces.

True, the internet was down for a few days, but the phone lines weren't. So businesses dusted off their old FAX machines or made more calls, and things were worked around until the net came back up. And when it did, the new speeds were incredible -- courtesy of some special help the Imago gave, behind the scenes.

People whose lives had been highly disrupted were almost-immediately cared for, so as to avoid the market-destroying specter of bread lines, beggars, and angry mobs demanding food and justice. The Imago came to them with food, aid, and lines on jobs that needed doing -- all well within their areas of expertise.

Those blinded by the space weapons were taken by the Imago to be treated in special, high-tech hospitals that actually replaced the eyes of the stricken. And those who worked for the armed forces, or airports, or any other profession rendered inoperable due to 3/15, or obsolete by the Imago, themselves, were given other, meaningful work, or awarded grant money to try their hand at more creative occupations.

And, once people saw that the weakest amongst them had been taken in hand, the good feelings this created gave them the impetus to pay these kinds deeds forward. 

There were some things that were not coming back, though. Television and satellite radio were both gone -- victims of the orbital weapons. But, once the internet got back up and running, again, people started watching shows online, instead. Families gathered around televisions that were hooked up to their laptops, and listened to AM/FM. And while the movies were temporarily disrupted by the event, the studios quickly rebounded and started sending old favorites back to the theaters, or pushing ahead the scheduled DVD release dates of certain highly-anticipated films.

The Imago did not get in the way of anyone having a good time -- in fact, they seemed to be happy that people were happy. And so they were.

Yes, the news wasn't quite what it was, anymore. Online broadcasts seemed smiley and samey, and the people who told the world what was going on seemed to lack any fire or conviction -- expect when praising the Imago for what they were doing. Even the fractious talking heads found other things to complain about, rather than their leaders or governments.

Such as the upcoming trials in America, and the presumed guilt of the defendants. 

Some viewers missed the old days, when hot-headed opinion leaders -- or outright demagogues -- would rail at them from the television and tell them that they were in danger. But these persons could now only be found on the internet, in greatly reduced circumstances, and seemed only one or two massive broadsides away from "taking an extended break," and coming back much calmer, or not at all.

(Some wondered what happened to change their mind. Others wondered why this didn't bother them as much as it should.)

Case in point: when America was told to give up its handguns, one would have expected massive protests. The internet news should have been on fire with reports of pro-gun demonstrations, or passionate calls for armed citizens to hold onto their rights and not let them be taken away by as-yet-untested "allies."

But when the final day came and went, the news reported only that, except for a few, minor pockets of resistance, the American people were happy and willing to comply. The police were relieved to no longer need to carry death-dealing weapons on their person. And from now on, when things got out of hand, the Imago would be there to protect the people.

Too pat? Too corny? Too good to be true? Perhaps. But the internet news didn't care to dwell on it, and the chatrooms and political pages were deleting threads on the subject too quickly to really count.

It's almost as if someone had put a big band-aid on the issue -- one too big to peel away.

* * *


Dear Dagworth:

Hey, fellow Spygod Scout! This is Winifred Reed from Dublin (Kentucky, that is) Unit 54, and if you're reading this instead of a second paragraph full of 'remember when' about things you and I never did at Saturnalia, then you must have figured out the code. If so, awesome! 

(If not, well, I guess you're not !@#$ing reading this, and are probably wondering who this person is.) ;)

The reason I'm writing to you is that I read your SPYGODMAIL Letter in last June's issue of FC, and you sounded pretty !@#$ing smart. So I wanted to run something by you, just to see if maybe I'm going crazy or something. 

(I'd ask my fellow Scouts, but after the Incident we've all been told not to talk to each other. We don't really obey that, of course, but we have to be really !@#$ing careful. If they get two or more of us together they try to ask us if we got molested or something, again, and it turns into one big bad !@#$ing scene. Hopefully you haven't had to go through that. It !@#$es me the !@#$ off.)

That something is this. Do you think they did something to the internet when they turned it back on?

Reason being, my dad's one of those !@#$ing idiots who actually trusts the !@#$ government when it tells him things. I mean, he's not a complete dope. It's not like he !@#$ing loves the IRS, or anything like that. But generally if they wheel some !@#$ secretary out to tell us !@#$ like the sky is green, the grass is blue, and fluoride in the water is actually good for you, he just nods along and wonders why I turn red and threaten to throw the !@#$ fishbowl at the TV.

(We don't keep fish in it, anymore. They're in the water tank of the basement toilet. Long story.)

So when the Imago show up, and tell everyone that America was responsible for what happened on 3/15, he's more than a little !@#$ing skeptical. We both are, actually. Me because those Imago people give me a !@#$ing bad feeling, and him because, well, he doesn't believe the American government would ever do something like that. 

(Obviously he was asleep during Iran !@#$ing Contra. How is it I wasn't even !@#$ing born yet and I know more about it than he does?)

Well, the TV stays off, obviously, but the internet comes back on. Me, I'm busy trying to play catchup at school now that those creepy Imago people are floating all over the !@#$ing place and inspiring us to higher standards and all that !@#$, so I can't watch TV on the internet until my grades are up. 

But in the meantime, my dad goes from thinking the Imago are lying to thinking they're telling the !@#$ing truth. All he can do is sit there and watch the trials, and wonder when they're going to put the President on the stand so he can testify as to his guilt. Because he's sure he's !@#$ing guilty, and can't wait for him to pay for his crimes. (His words.)

And he's not the only one. And all the people who changed their minds have been watching TV on the internet. 

Every. !@#$ing. One.

So, of course, I figure there's something weird going on. That's why I'm contacting you. Because you sound like someone who knows things. 

Please, please tell me if you've noticed. It would be good to hear that I'm not going !@#$ing crazy. Ever since SPYGOD supposedly shot the President (and, yes, I said 'supposedly') the world's just gone !@#$ over heels in a bucket of heads. It would be nice to know that someone else noticed to.

Your fellow SPYGOD SCOUT


ps: about that big boned thing? My father's wife (again, not my mother) was freaked out that I put on a bunch of pounds, a couple summers ago, and made me eat nothing but rabbit food. I hated salads every day, but it actually did work. So if you're worried about that, try that. If not, don't. ;)

* * *

"You know, my mother, rest her soul, always told me to be polite to ladies," the long-bearded militia boss says to the woman, perhaps more for the benefit of the other men in the long, log-cabin style hall that the group's meeting in: "But you are really pushing my patience, miss."

"Look, I'm sorry if I'm coming off a bit manic, here," the young woman in the heavy coat replies, putting both her hands down on the folding table the man's been using as a desk. The fellow doesn't seem to appreciate her doing that, any more than he's appreciated her taking up this much of his no-doubt valuable time, but he keeps his tongue in check for the moment.

"That's putting it kind of mildly, miss," he says, leaning back in his folding chair and stroking his beard: "Not to discount your concerns, or anything. But us Liberty Boys have been staying a few miles ahead of the authorities since before Ruby Ridge. I think we know how to deal with these Imago faggots, too."

Martha Samuels does her best not to roll her eyes straight back into her skull. As she takes a deep breath and gets ready to begin again, she can tell her brother-in-law, Mark, is doing his best to refrain from saying he told her so.

But did he ever.

The idea was sound, at any rate. If the Imago -- that is, GORGON -- were looking to take away America's guns, then cultivating potential allies in the rabidly pro-gun population just made sense. And while most of the militia movement was horribly wrapped up with racist, or at least xenophobic elements, the Liberty Boys of northern Wisconsin were one of the most inclusive groups to be found on the FBI's database.

Unfortunately, what the Liberty Boys made up in racial inclusiveness they lacked in smarts. The FBI had remarked upon this several times, and Mark, who was more cautious than ever these days, had pointed this out several times on their journey to scenic Land O Lakes.

But Martha had hoped he was wrong, or at least overstating things. Not so lucky, this time.

"This is a whole different ballgame," Martha began again, looking around the room and trying to take in each pair of eyes: "This isn't the feds, anymore. This isn't some BATF guy who wants your guns, or dumps flammable tear gas into your compound by accident and calls it a tragedy when you all burn to the ground. This is an invasion force. We have been invaded."

"We've always been under occupation, ma'am," a large, black man says from next to the overflowing beer cooler.

"That's right," the leader's stringy, horsefaced wife/co-leader/spiritual guide says, walking up behind her man: "And we know how to handle it. In fact, I think we've been handling it since before you were born?"

"So, again, what do you want from us?" the leader asks.

"You have the largest group by the U.P. border," Martha says: "You're in contact with other large patriot groups through clandestine means. And you're all savvy enough to know that the internet's not to be trusted, anymore. When the day comes, and we need to fight back-"

"What's with the 'we,' missy?" one of the other militia types asks, his squirrely face painted green and black: "You gonna put on camo and patrol with us? I bet you never took a fifty mile hike in your life."

Mark tenses up, but Martha holds in back with a hand: "You can test my experience any time you care to. But, unlike you, I've had firsthand experience dealing with these thing, and I've got the scars and the dead family members to prove it."

"So you said," the leader says as he leans back and his wife puts her hands on his shoulders: "But talk is pretty cheap, miss."

"Oh really?" Mark snorts, unable to hold back any longer: "I lost my wife to these things. She lost her father, the finest man I ever met. Her son still hasn't recovered from the attack-"

"Mark, please," Martha says, trying to calm him down before he loses it.

"And maybe you and Deer Hunter over there think we've got time to see who can !@#$ the longest after a few Pabst Blue Ribbons, or throw the most darts at a photo of a dead man..."

He points over to the wall, and a picture of the President duct taped to the dartboard, his smile pocked by a million little holes. 

"He ain't complaining none," the black man who spoke up earlier says, and half the room laughs.

"No!" Mark shouts: "This isn't !@#$ funny! We don't have time for this nonsense! America's going to need heroes, and soon! So are you going to stand up and be counted, or are you just going to drink bad beer and-"

"Your friend ain't helping you none," the militia leader says.

"Mark," the woman says, putting her hands on her shoulders and smiling at him: "I think I've got this one."

"I think we got bumpkiss, Martha," Mark replies, calming down in the face of her smile.

"Go outside," she says, kissing him on the cheek: "Let me handle this."

"Yeah, might as well," he says: "I've still got some dignity remaining."

"Hey, don't go away mad," the black guy says, tossing a beer at the back of Mark's skull as he turns to leave. He reaches behind him and catches it like he had eyes in the back of his head, without even breaking stride, and exits the room.

Outside, he sits down on the front steps of the tourist attraction the Liberty Boys took over, cracks open the beer, and sips at it. He really doesn't like this brand of beer at all, but at least it calms him down -- gets him to think about something other than how much he'd like to run back in there and beat them all down.

(Or how much he's come to like it when Martha kisses him to calm him down, which is something he's not wanting to think too much about, right now...)

There's talk for about two more minutes, followed by a tell-tale hush that lets him know that !@#$ just got real. He sighs, says a small prayer, and starts to take actual gulps of his beer. By the time he's finished with it, the crashing, cracking, and moaning is all over, and Martha walks out with bloody knuckles, and a sad look.

"Don't tell me," Mark says, tossing the empty can at the nearest trashcan, and missing: "He told you Jesus wanted you to fry up his fish, get him a beer, and shut the !@#$ up?"

"No," Martha says, sitting down by Mark and rubbing her hands, perhaps trying to remove some of the blood: "His wife did. And then they laughed."

"You didn't leave any Bibles tucked under their chins, did you?"

"Left my last one with that mugger in Pembine. I'm starting to think you're right, Mark. I think these people are useless. If we're going to raise an army, we're going to have to look elsewhere."

"Halleluiah," Mark says, putting an arm around her shoulder: "So what do we do, then? Concentrate on getting Thomas some better care? See about finding someplace safe for Kaitlyn?"

"Thomas won't get better care than in Owl 10's medical bay," Martha says: "And as for your daughter, well, I don't think there's anyplace safer than with her dad and her aunt, do you?"

"Probably not," he says, wondering if having his arm there's a good idea or not.

"So we go back to what we started with," she says: "We try to find any Supersoldiers who weren't vaporized on 3/15. Strategic Talents who haven't gone underground or walked in to testify. Anything wild, weird, or wonderful we can use."

"Sidekicks, robots, and animal companions might be all that's left, now, Martha."

"I'll take them right now," she says, leaning forward, away from the arm, which he tactfully withdraws: "I've prayed every day... heck, every hour. And I know God will help us, Mark, but we have to be open to what he sends. We don't have the luxury of picking and choosing."

"I hear you there," he says, wondering if he could go in for another beer. He looks back at the doors of the cabin, decides against it, and looks forward again. 

And when he does, he sees there's a strange, hooded figure less than five feet away from them.

Mark leaps to his feet immediately, assuming a self-defense stance and trying to protect Martha. Of course, she's already up before he is and trying to protect him. They make quite a pair, tripping all over each other, but the stranger holds up his hands and smiles disarmingly.

"I apologize for the shock," the Asian man says, taking his hood down to reveal his face: "I swear by all I hold sacred in this world, and the next, that I am not here to harm either of you."

"I have heard that before," Martha says: "And I'm not very big on trust right now-"

"Your father's spirit stands beside you, radiant and proud," the stranger says: "Your wife's, also, sir. I would not dare harm so much as your pride with such dangerous guardians to protect you."

That takes them both aback for a moment, and then, just before she can get angry that a complete stranger knows of her personal losses, she remembers something.

"I know you," she says, lowering her hands and indicating that Mark should do the same: "You're one of SPYGOD's allies, aren't you? We met once?"

"I am, and we did," he says, bowing deeply: "I am known as Chinmoku. And I am here on his behalf, after a fashion."

"You what?" Mark asks.

"I have been looking for you, as well as others, in the hopes of fighting back against what has happened."

Mark blinks and steps back: "Uh, yeah. Can we have a time out, here? I think Martha and I need to... well..."

"It's okay, Mark," Martha says: "He and I have worked together, before. Sort of. It was complicated."

"Indeed," Chinmoku says: "But if you will permit me to explain?"

"I am all ears," Mark says: "Does SPYGOD need us to hide the murder weapon?"


"He has every right to be skeptical," Chinmoku says, which shocks them both: "This is an almost perfect example of quantum theory. The President is both dead and alive, and SPYGOD both did and did not shoot him."

"Well, that's unusual," Martha says: "I'm sure you have a really good explanation for this?"

"I do," Chinmoku says: "I also have someplace totally safe for us to talk."

"Well, let's go there?" Martha asks: "Please?"

Chinmoku nods and gestures. As soon as he does, alien engines can be heard, and a strange-looking UFO appears from nowhere, directly above. A cat wearing flight goggles stares out of the front observation window, partially entwined around an AK-47, and other figures stand around and behind it.

"Well, there's your animal companion," Mark sighs.

"Yeah, this is definitely SPYGOD's doing, alright," Martha says: "Mark, signal Owl 10 to engage autopilot and rendezvous? I think our army found us."

"I'm getting another beer, first," Mark insists, and turns to go back into the log cabin, wondering if this is God's way of telling Martha to lay off the frequent requests, or else be a little more specific. 

* * *


Dear Winifred:

I apologize for how long it took me to respond to your letter. At first, I was uncertain who you were, or why you were writing to me. But then, while looking back through my past issues of FC in order to find a piece of unrelated information, I came across your letter, and wondered if perhaps it was in the code that ran in the same issue that your letter appeared in. And indeed it was!

I hope this likewise-coded letter finds you well, safe, and still avoiding the internet, or at least the video components of the World Wide Web. You are, indeed, not crazy, my fellow Scout. You have correctly intuited that the so-called "TV on the Internet" is veritably pregnant with some kind of mind control. 

I suspect it is a synaptic soporific, making people lose their desire to question, much less rise up and fight. The fact that violence statistics have dropped considerably since the Internet came back on is possible proof of this, though the statistics could have been tampered with, courtesy of our new friends.

This has made keeping up with certain things a bit difficult, as I am loath to trust the internet for anything, now. This goes triple for the trials, which proceed at such a blinding pace that feel totally hamstrung by having to wait for print media to tell me what has occurred. Still, I find it comforting to be able to read of all the news in one, well-considered dose per day rather than the constant, fevered updates and oft-malodorous comments of other readers. 

Not so comforting are the trials, themselves. Like you, I am also a student of late-20th century American Intelligence malfeasance, and can indeed remember the importance of such things as Iran-Contra, not to mention the numerous other atrocities the other Company brought to the world in the guise of fighting Communism. 

But the sheer number of people they are calling out to try, testify, and accuse? I doubt if most of them had anything to do with 3/15, much less any other crimes that this could stand as karmic payback for. Our deceased President's immediate predecessor, for example, should have been excused from the dock for being too unintelligent to have been able to wipe his own anus with a map, four extra hands, and a video tutorial. I doubt he knew anything about this plot at all, but there he was, on trial.

And then there he was, riding the elevator. "Requiescat in pace!"

I fear for the President, himself. He sits there, day after day, watching as friends, foes, and complete strangers die or are committed to a lifetime of service for what is supposedly his ultimate responsibility. He seems on the verge of crying, but not tears of guilt. Rather tears of helplessness, or perhaps rage...

But as for other matters: my personal moment of satori came when I realized that, not long after the Imago came to our school to tell us all to "soar," the special education class was emptied of all moderately-to-seriously mentally challenged students, leaving only the slow, the spastic, and uncontrollably violent. 

I worked with the retarded quite a bit, given my family history. My older sister had Downs Syndrome, and we've always been involved in the Special Olympics. So I would always volunteer to help out in that class when I could, which was not often, but was at least somewhat appreciated by the staff.

So when I asked what had happened I was told, by the Principal, that they were taken "someplace special." And the way he said "someplace special" was the same way my parents told me that their old dog, who was too weak to go outside and relieve himself when I was six, was taken to "a farm." It's a comforting lie told so as to not have to explain the facts of life and death to a first grader. 

I never did forgive them for that. Every so often when something goes missing around the house I tell them it's at "the farm." They don't dare ask further.

So I did some searching, subsequently, and learned that this had happened in all other schools in central Ohio, at least from what I could gather when conferring with other Quizbowl teams, robot clubs, and archery leagues. 

As you might surmise, I do not dare approach other SPYGOD SCOUTS, as I have had a similar issue in my city, as well. In my case, they want to know if I was mentally and sexually meddled with, and have marched a sorry legion of regressive hypnotists past my door. I have sent them away with vivid and Lovecraftian tales of Venusian Crab Men filming my sigmoid colon for G-D while at school, which has, thankfully, taken the heat off of our dear fraternity.

If you would do me the favor, in return, of looking into the matter for me and seeing if the same disappearances took place in Kentucky, I would be eternally grateful. I fear the worst, my friend. I look at those faces smiling at me and remember the old "stranger danger" movies we watched as smaller children, and know that leer of old. 

Not an ally, these Imago, but predators -- simple and plain.

I look forward to future correspondences. But if I could ask for one favor? I am big boned, and shall always be, without shame. I appreciate the advice, but I could do without it. I would prefer to be accepted as the large fellow I am, in heart, mind, and, yes, behind. :)

I remain your servant, be I ever so non-humble.

Dagworth Harold Untley III

* * *

When they finally come for Myron, he's most probably insane. "Probably," meaning that, by that time, he doesn't even bother to jump up in bed and nervously await his end, or someone else's, because he isn't sure if he's dreaming it or not.

He lives in a waking dream, now. The past, present, and things that never happened wear each other's faces and play a game of "what happened when?" as he sits there, guest at his own surprise party, and wonders why Colonel Richter didn't try to talk to him, anymore.

(Every once in a while he remembers why, but doesn't care to, and lets the dream show him something else.)

The days and nights no longer have any meaning for him, and are punctuated only by sleep, food, and defecation -- sometimes not even in that order. Sometimes he gets up to use the toilet, sometimes not. Sometimes he thinks he ate, but realizes when new food comes and the old, untouched food is taken away, that he hasn't

So when the CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP reaches his cell and goes no further, he thinks it's the women he'd once paid to wear nothing but COMPANY boots and march around his bed, that one furlough.

When they open his cell door he imagines it's the back hatch of his drill tank, ready to take him to the center of the !@#$ing Earth at long last.

And when they yank him from bed, he thinks it's his mother from his earliest memory, picking him up to take him to the window so they can watch his father drive off to work --

"I swear you'll always be safe," she whispered to him as the man's car started and went out of the tree-lined driveway: "You'll always be my little man. You just remember that, no matter what happens. You go out and explore the world, and have big adventures, and be the best man you can, and when you need to you come right back here and I'll be waiting to tuck you in, make you warm milk, and sing you to sleep


"Myron Volaar," the Imago says: "It is time for you to soar."

Myron blinks, suddenly back in the hear and now. He's naked and soiled and hasn't showered in weeks. His orange jumpsuit is in a corner, abandoned long ago. The cell smells like a toilet.

Two Imago are in the room. Both hold onto either of his arms. And standing in front of him is a naked man who looks exactly like him, except for a noted lack of genitals and a face like a halloween mask.

"!@#$ you," he says, realizing the dream is over: "I want that on my !@#$ing tombstone, too."

"You are a good and clever man, Myron," the other Imago says: "You will be a good addition to our ranks. You will do great things with us, and soon."

Myron tries to think of something pithy to say. Some great speech, like the one from A Tale of Two Cities. !@#$, even Kurtz's last words from Heart of Darkness. 

"You will join us," the skullfaced thing says, and extends his hands out to take hold of Myron's temples: "You will soar."

His mother. She died thinking he was working for the Peace Corps. He didn't have the words to tell her what he was really doing. But he thought he might have driven up through her front lawn, one day, in a drill tank full of treasure from a lost continent and told her to !@#$ the retirement fund -- they were off to Cancun for life, baby.

One big adventure, only this time together.

"'This is not an exit,'" he quotes, wishing he had an axe. And then the hands are at his temples, and the pain begins to pulse, and...

... when he comes to, he's wet and goopy, and the other prisoners are cheering. The one directly across from him is whooping it up and laughing like a loon.

He's sitting on the floor, !@#$ painful and bruised from where he landed. He's covered in red slop and electronics, most of which are smoking and warm.

A headless, sexless, naked cadaver is being dragged out of the cell by the two Imago, who are no longer smiling, but visibly shaken. The False Face's neck is a ragged stump, smoking and stinking up the place.

Myron sits there amidst cheers and laughter, realizing, piece by piece, what must have just happened, but not realizing how it could have possibly happened at all.

"Well..." he says, now truly and firmly back in reality: "That was !@#$ing unusual."

And realizes, as he goes to wash himself down with water from the toilet, that those words would have made the best tombstone of all.

(SPYGOD is listening to This World Must Be Destroyed (Front242) and having a Deadhead Double Red Ale)

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