Collaborator


There is no Internet, so I’ll have to do this offline, recording voice on my phone. I’ll upload this when and if I can connect again to the web.

The takeover was subtle. One night we went to sleep and things were normal but by the next morning, our government had been dissolved and all our officials were dead or in prison. We were in prison too, only we didn’t know it yet.

The first thing they did was take away the telephone and the Internet. Without them, no one knew how to communicate.

It was obvious from the beginning that they were smarter than us and more capable of making decisions. Maybe they had a detailed plan already in place. We wandered around in a fog, waiting for someone to tell us what to do. Turns out the only people who wanted to tell us to do were our new Masters and for now, at least, they remained silent.

They broke their silence on the third day.

In order to tell us things, they didn’t bother with the Internet or broadcasting. They went straight to telepathy. We each heard the voice clearly in our head. Ironically, their first message was the same one Jesus told his apostles on Easter morning. “Be not afraid.” That turned out to be a lie. The first of many.

At first it seemed like they wanted to be our friends. They wanted to “work with us.” When those who found themselves seduced by this notion asked for details, few were forthcoming. Time would tell. Let’s just relax and enjoy the ride. Then people started disappearing. Some of these were important people who had been in charge of things. Now they were nowhere to be found.

Their telephathic powers allowed them to reach every person on the planet, but since we had no way to talk to each other, we didn’t know how other people in other places reacted to their existence. Were they as worried as we seemed to be or were they thinking of our visitors as liberators or saviors?

Other than meeting someone face to face and talking, there was no way to find out.

Maybe huge numbers of them were collaborating with the Visitors to enslave the rest of us. How would we know?

I received a message that inquired if I would be interested in taking on a position of authority which would grant me special priviliges and considerable wealth. They had been watching me for some time, monitoring my publications, blogs, kindle books, even the comments I made on social media. They were wondering if I could take on a position that would finally suit me, after numerous failed attempts to “fit in” in the world that came before.

Flattered that they knew my history and were aware of my output, I still held grave reservations. Did I want to become a collaborator? How much would I enjoy selling out my countrymen? If the Visitors had everything on their side already, what would they need from me? Was I simply being flattered in order to be seduced? What did they need me for, anyway?

I was eventually summoned for an interview. A beautiful woman talked to me for over an hour, but the harder I looked at her, the less of a fix I could get on who she really might be. The visual information I got was pretty consistent, but her voice, mannerisms, and the things she said didn’t really gel. I decided she was a bot, some kind of AI, and maybe that’s why they were hoping to recruit real people to work for them.

Maybe they sensed my mistrust, or maybe they were just playing “hard to get,” but they said they’d get back to me.

As I walked back home, I thought “I failed at selling my country out to alien invaders.” That’s gonna be a hard one to explain, if anybody asks.

Fortunately, no one asked, because you’d have to ask me to my face, and nobody talks to each other anymore. Without the Internet, there’s no social media where user can post snide comments to fallacious whimsy. My “interview” with an AI Bot was the closest I game to yakking it up in months.

I didn’t hear from them for a while, but they hadn’t forgotten me. I was contacted by the head of “Human Resources.” Yes, they had plans for us all right. No, they hadn’t been dissapointed with my original interview, in fast they had been impressed. I showed “pluck.” “Get up and go.” They hoped I was a “self-starter” who wouldn’t need to be continually monitored or directed.

My next interview was with a blob of Jello that quivered when it talked and lit up when I said something interesting. We seemed to hit it off pretty well, and I anticipated a job offer any day. Later that week, two identical twins who looked like 1950’s burlesque blonde bombshells came to my door. I invited them in but they fluttered their mascarad eyes and smiled shyly while handing me a large envelope. In it were black and white photographs of me having sex with children and animals. They were obvious photo shop creations, and often my head was the wrong size or lit from a different angle than the other objects or people. Then a hand written note in florid, old-fashioned handwriting: “Let’s talk again, soon!”

The next week, on the same day at the same time, the twins were back, this time arriving on a motorcycle with a side car. I got the idea that I was to occupy the sidecar. We rode off at a brisk speed, the girls happily chatting back and forth. I didn’t want to bother them by asking where we were headed. After a short while we came to a vacant field. Weeds of various stripes waved in the breeze.

Then a flying saucer appeared about fifty feet off the ground. It didn’t arrive, it appeared, as if it had been there all along. It looked just like those saucers you used to see in books and magazines when I was a boy. All that was missing was the caption “Flying Saucers are Real!” A bright green beam of light came our way and the girls urged me to step into it. I did and the next thing I knew I was inside the craft, surrounded by various people who strongly resembled the actors one would see in the movies of my youth, character actors, men with strong chins and women with curvy bodies. They all sported strawberry blonde hair and lime-green jump suits. You never knew their names, but they were stage names anyway, and half the time they never even appeared in the production credits.

The result of our meeting was unexpected and highly encouraging. We were going to offer flying saucer rides for a nominal sum to the American public. While the victims, I mean customers, were temporarily blacked out during the intial acceleration in orbit, their DNA and memories would be harvested, in much the same way social media now uses the content and consumer profiles of its “users.” Our intial efforts would begin in heavily touristed areas, like Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, or Weeki Watchie Springs, in Florida. At the first spot the Elvis and Marilyn imitators could join in the fun, in the second, mermaids could vouch for the out-of-the-wold experience. The saucer would appear nearby and take twenty-five customers for a twenty-five minute ride in space. Fun for the whole family.

I’m proud to say that my input had a lot to do with the generation and acceptance of the idea. And that’s why I still work for these people, I mean creatures, I mean beings today. Sometimes a fella just gets lucky. And sometimes he’s smart enough to know when that is.

HOW TO GET YOUR FRIENDS TO STOP TREATING YOU LIKE A THERAPIST


When you’re talking to your friends, avoid asking “How did that make you feel?” When conversing, face them directly. Don’t let them lie down and start at the ceiling while you sit nearby, holding a note pad and a pencil. Do not bill them for your time. If they suggest sexual activity with you, do not protest that doing so will cause you to risk losing your license. If you’re not interested, just say so. If you are, go for it.

In fact, trying to maintain any type of stereotypical image is a barrier to true partnership with others. Even if you haven’t the faintest idea of who you really are, try your best to be that person. Stop acting. Drop the foreign accent, the expansive mannerisms.

What might at first seem interesting or evocative might prove tedious and false in the long run. Leave acting to actors paid to play a part. Unless someone calls “action!” and later “cut!” do not assume you’re on stage or in a movie.

If someone confides to you that he is angry with another who cheated him, or broke a promise, do not say “Does this bring up any issues from your childhood?” It’s none of your business. Try to focus on what this person is telling you here and now. Forget about fifty years ago. It was another time and another place, and you weren’t even there.

No, you would do better to keep the focus on yourself, and if engaged in conversation with another, do your best to truly listen. Drop the scramble to come up with advice before the other person even stops talking. Relax. You’re not a therapist. Not really.

MUSICAL MUSEUM


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As museums go, it was a real sleeper. Somebody had walked off with all the portable instruments, and the piano and organ were covered with mold. But I enjoyed the setting, nestled deep in several vacant lots.

 

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The groundskeeper was neither talkative nor helpful, but he did cast a menacing air that might curb further vandalism.

 

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There was a lunchroom just  down the road where the food was as cheap as one could hope for in these uncertain times.

 

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Apparently, the museum’s director is a graduate of Moscow State University, but when he returned to his home country for “continuing education” he was never seen again.

 

GREECE. Mani. Pirgos Dirou. 1962. Woman at graveside. "A Greek Portfolio"

 

I’ve heard his wife took it pretty hard, and is now housed in a nearby rest home, at the end of the one of the vacant lots.

So Excited


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We were so excited by the three new bridges across our divided highway. So this was the Progress we had been promised ever since the War ended! Just think of the high standard of living we’ll enjoy thanks to Atomic Energy and Free-Market Capitalism!

Let’s face it, motels used to be so modest as to be dumpy by today’s standards. There’s a new energy that is seeping into everything, a new confidence in a better future. I guess you could call it a “Hope In A Better Tomorrow!”

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Of course, not every building can be exciting. Sometimes, if you can’t see the sign you can’t tell what a building has been designed for. Is this a real estate office or a vacuum cleaner repair shop? No, there’s the sign, it’s coffee shop, or cafe as they say in France! Here in the Midwest, severe conformity and lack of imagination have their way with almost everything you see. That’s just who they are and they’re proud to let their buildings let you know!

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But drive a thousand miles to the southwest, and things perk up! Vacationing families can tuck the station wagon behind a saw palmetto bush and enjoy themselves at the pool, relaxing later at the piano bar. Like exhausted families, you can bet that lonely sales representatives need a good night’s sleep after a hard day of cold calling, and this is just the kind of place they can find it!

The Glamorous Lives of Most Expatriates


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Thailand serves the same function for the world at large that California served for the United States.  It’s the place you wind up when you bomb out of every other place.  Many an alcoholic abandoned his family in St. Louis or Omaha and drank himself to death in Los Angeles or San Francisco.  He was not alone in this, for there were legions of men just like him in California’s coastal cities, using alcohol to dissolve the shackles that bound them back east.

 

In many third world countries these men arrive from all over the world: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States. They’re not in search of anything; in fact they’re in full retreat. The reason the language barrier doesn’t slow them down is because they’re not interested in communicating with the women whose services they purchase. When it comes to these men, there’s literally no one home. If you look into their eyes, it’s like staring at a stroke victim. Error Message 404 Server Not Found.

 

Some of them can still take care of themselves. They shower and shave. Others, not so much. It doesn’t matter to the ladies who are waiting for them to die. The younger bar girls have many of these men “one the line,” and their major problem is keeping all these geezers straight. The men return to their home countries, clean out another bank or retirement account, and then return to their “new home.” Often it’s a small room in a high rise. Often the room has a balcony for drying clothes and where the air-conditioner vents.

 

If the room is on a sufficiently high floor, the balcony can also be used as a final exit to the ever-diminishing existence these men have chosen.

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The Reluctant Pupil


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No matter how early he woke up, or how hard her worked during the day, he found it increasingly hard to sleep at night. He never stayed asleep for more than a couple of hours. He wasn’t waking because he was hungry, although once out of bed he would eat to see if it made him sleepy. It didn’t.

As time went on, the insomnia only got worse. He would get out of bed and read, then try to fall asleep on sofas or in reclining chairs. Sometimes that worked for a while. But mostly nothing worked for very long.

It seemed absurd that in these, his twilight years, he was forced to pay attention to a show that long ago began to bore him with its shallow repetition and predictablity. Wasn’t this the time to zone out, to nap anytime the urge came? Why force the reluctant pupil to stay awake for a lecture he won’t remember anyway?

He tried a sleeping pill, an old antidepressant that had been faulted for making those who took it drowsy. It made him sleepy, but it also made him forgetful. Over the next two days he missed two appointments. It left him in a daze. So yes, he could now sleep, but there was no longer anybody home. The ship’s captain had gone AWOL.

Wrong or Not Right?


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Something’s not right. That’s almost as dire as saying “something’s wrong.” I’m seeing double. I’m worried all the time and my thoughts are negative. If I knew what to do to fix it, I would, but I don’t.

I can only sleep for a couple of hours at a time. Awake, I go to the computer and browse social media, having illusory contact with others, posting images and captions I don’t really care about and forget the moment I press “enter.” Others in different time zones skim them and forget them just as quickly. The whole forced and artificial process almost sickens me, yet I return to it every time I wake up because I don’t know what else to do with myself.

Minor problems worry me, and I dwell of them for hours. Now that I’m retired and living within my means I don’t really have any big issues, but being 69 and living on the other side of the world from where I spent most of my life is proving to be a conundrum of its own. Is this a symptom of senility?

It could be that I’m just unwilling to relax and enjoy the present moment. I’m addicted to anxiety, to problem creation and the attempts to solve them. They might not be real but they’re all I can focus on.

 

 

Where are the Dead?


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We recently enjoyed Halloween. Even here in Thailand, the days get noticeably shorter this time of year, and the temperature drops at night. That’s a good thing. Thus begins our high tourist season and the hotels, restaurants and massage shops finally become profitable again. For this they endured eight months of suspended animation.

I find myself remembering those who have crossed the veil before me. The older I get, the more of them there are for me to recall. They had distinct personalities and with little effort I can imagine having a conversation with any one of a number of them. So where are they now?

I find it more difficult to imagine that they no longer exist than to visualize them somewhere else, in another dimension, one at which I will arrive any day now. I can easily admit that the body dies, but not the spirit. It can’t simply vanish, can it?

For some reason, over the last two weeks more than six of my friends have suffered heart attacks and strokes. Vascular surgery and stents have given them a newly extended warranty, but that temporary fix will eventually lapse. Since death is certain and forestalling it a doomed enterprise, why not just surrender as soon as the grim reaper knocks?

It would be easier if all this weren’t so hypothetical.

No Cause for Panic


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When things fall apart, it will be very sudden. Everyone will be taken by surprise. ATM’s will stop working. Recreational travel will cease. Borders that were once open will close indefinitely.

No one will be in charge, so there will be no one to complain to. People who don’t know any more than you do will try to reassure you that matters are under control, but they’ll be lying.

You won’t be able to observe much directly. You’ll see barriers that say “Road Closed” but you won’t be able to see why the road is closed. The reason for the closure will remain hidden. Rumors will fly, but no one will know the real truth. Most of what is said will be mere speculation.

It will steadily get worse. Food and water shortages will get everyone’s attention at once. Electricity outages, sanitation lapses, business closures, all will contribute to a mounting sense of panic. The more there is to panic about, the more the people who pretend to be in charge will say “there is no cause for panic.”

 

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