paranoid silence nightmares are made of, funerals give birth to, and
astronauts hear when their oxygen cuts off without warning in mid-spacewalk
sluiced through the situation room at Klub Med corporate headquarters
several thousand meters beneath the mountain that once housed the
SAC command center near Cheyenne, Mitsubishi Wyoming.
Med bought the fraying colossus in the teens from a collapsing US
military as part of its economic restructuring plan, and within three
years had converted what was supposed to've been pretty much the last
stand of democracy in time of war into a rose-scented below-ground
company resort ornamented with elegant Thai and Somalian restaurants,
imitation Roman baths, Swiss aging clinics, NorAm exercise chambers,
an olympic-sized swimming pool tricked out in Portuguese luxuriance,
Japanese gardens, Russian bordellos, astroturf tennis courts, a nine-hole
golf course floating in the midst of a manmade lake, multiplexes,
Cambodian knife-fighting arenas, Swedish sex shows, Turkish mestos,
and assorted conference rooms...all connected by an efficient system
of air-cushioned monorails and chauffeur-driven electric BMW golf
Dahmer, surrounded by all this tongue-flopping success, the very subterranean
ether shot through with the sweet fragrance of prestige and indulgence,
felt like a highly polished Oxford leather loafer just dipped into
a pile of steaming pumpkin-chunked cat shit.
that bluster, bravado, bulldozing through the King's Chamber in Khufu
off the coast of DisCouver Island earlier this morning? It'd shrunken
into a withered beef jerky of its former phallic self. Telly-Savalas
was no longer a pissed-off prophet commanding awe and devotion from
his sycophants. He was a spineless roundworm trying to stand at attention.
His dandelion-yellow simulated silk Shock suit had wrinkled and bunched
during the flight. He'd lost three centimeters of height. His vestigial
neck had vanished altogether. And his penitentiary-cement-gray eyes
had gone into hiding under his brushy brows.
Dahmer had forgotten who Napoleon was, and he'd made his gofer, Stanley
Zircon, guy with those idiot-anxious pudgy pink hands, look like a
cross between Steve McQueen and Zyklon B. Baffo.
When Telly-Savalas wasn't thumbing his diamond Elba-shaped ring on
his pinkie, envisioning the company boys in business suits dismantling
his dream, he was swilling cup after cup of saké and torpidly
picking through the platter in front of him decorated with some kind
of bland breaded whitish meat-sticks and red spicy smart-drug dip
on a bed of hydroponic lettuce and carrot-colored shreds of tissue
culture that tasted a little like sucking on a multiple vitamin. But
he wasn't paying attention to what was going on around him, which
was a mistake, given the fact that the White House's EPA Advisor was
asking him a question for the third time from one of the three large
HDTVs at the end of the very long, very crowded table at which he
it!" the advisor said, "will somebody kick that guy over
there or something? We're trying to hold a fucking emergency session
Zircon, who sat next to his boss, attempting extremely hard to look
like he was taking diligent notes on his pocket computer, obliged.
sloshed over the side of one of Telly-Savalas's many eggshell cups
foresting the table in front of him.
sir," said Stanley in a low voice, sampling one of those breaded
whitish meat sticks between words, "Mr. Converse has a question
waiter appeared, Japanese man in black face and white tux, dabbed
up the spilt drink, removed the empties, and set down a fresh cup.
Telly-Savalas polished it off immediately. The waiter picked it up
and set down another. Something dim and sputtering illumined the far
reaches of Telly-Savalas's mind.
if from a great distance, the idea of where he was and why beckoned
raised his head and turtled it forward, then side to side, pulling
his surroundings into focus. The walls, floor, long narrow conference
table, and bulky chairs were Neo-Shriek. Glass shards, broken plates,
space shuttle shingles, ancient fuses, voltage regulators, photoelectric
eyes, keypads, car-radio speakers, and fifteen-centimeter-long gray-blue
shark fetuses soaking in formaldehyde-filled vials were set deep into
a pebbly base and sanded to a smooth mosaic finish. Every chair was
occupied by a Klub Med VP or gofer, all of whom were looking at Telly-Savalas.
On the first HDTV inserted flush into the wall was Sabrina Triode,
President-and-CEOs' Press Secretary. She wore tiger-eye contacts and
a yellow bowl-cut. Back in the twenties she'd chemically dyed her
skin a rich, silky, anti-melanomatic basalt. Before that, rumor had
it, she'd been albino. On the second screen was Vladimir Al-Faruk,
SuperFund Coordinator. Although Egyptian by birth, he wore tribal
scars slivered into his cheeks and a split right nostril. He was a
hero from the South American war where he'd flown laser-armed ultralights
on sniper missions for the Special Forces.
third screen displayed the guy shouting at Telly-Savalas...Neiman-Marcus
Converse. Neiman-Marcus was in his early forties now. In his early
twenties, already a good old boy out of Saturn Tennessee, he'd spent
a fair amount of his inheritance (his parents co-founded Air Pyrate
Muzzik) on monthly shots of Blue Prime, an anti-aging drug developed
by a subsidiary of Mainline Pharmaceuticals at one of its health-spa
research facilities in St. Petersburg. The stuff worked great, keeping
the taker's skin moist and supple, crow's feet invisible, hair full-bodied
and lustrous, eyes bright, metabolism fast and spunky as any long-distant
runner's...till, that is, the greenhouse effect started seriously
working its black magic on earth's atmosphere, at which point Blue
Prime within the cells' nuclei started interacting with the mounting
UV rays, sauteing their basic genetic information in a mean radioactive
broth, and, by 2013, those rich beautiful people who'd bought into
the Blue Prime mystique had undergone all manner of protoplasmic misfires
while their sterile bodies acquired an abiding biochemical addiction
to the increasingly expensive (Mainline Pharmaceuticals having got
wind of the situation) wonder drug.
Neiman-Marcus this boded poorly. By the time he was thirty, his skin
had tinted a jaundiced yellow and erupted into a glistening topographical
model of tumorous ridges, valleys, and hills. By the time he was thirty-five,
he'd gone blind in his left eye, cartilage in both ears had crumpled
and died, he'd lost handfuls of hair from his ulcerous scalp, and
a good portion of his nose had dropped off, leaving two pink commas
in the middle of his face with the consistency of the underside of
obvious political reasons, Neiman-Marcus was a boon to the current
administration. He was the embodiment of an environment gone rotten
in the teeth, more metaphor than man. The public listened to Neiman-Marcus
Converse, believed what he had to say, because how could such a man,
struck down by atmospheric calamity, lie? He was a full-service media
For less obvious political reasons, Neiman-Marcus was an even bigger
asset to the current administration. He was a drug addict who needed
regular fixes of his favorite elixir to survive, and, having spent
almost all his inheritance on his hunger, and having recently sold
Air Pyrate Muzzik to Marco Polydor and his wife for desperate chickenfeed,
he tightroped above the squalid abyss of bankruptcy. He was the kind
of guy, in other words, who would sell both his grandmother's kidneys
for his next hit without exhibiting a moral semi-quaver. He was the
kind of guy who had sold both his grandmother's kidneys for his next
And now he was in a very, very, very bad mood. He'd been awakened
at 6:00 p.m. EST, already two hours immersed in his nightly drug-induced
REM, yanked out of his iron lung, plugged into his portable life-support
system, and wheelchaired up from the subbasement to his office in
the White House, only to be told by the President-and-CEO on duty,
Fujiwara Muzaffar al-Din, that the environmental shit had just hit
the administrative fan, the Security Profit Margins Amendment had
already been secretly invoked, and some major media damage-control
was in the cards...and here he was, staring down at this table full
of rejects, twenty or twenty-five of them, one blanker and more backward
than the next, trying to get an approximation of an estimation of
something remotely like the truth, a task more difficult than trying
to hold a pissing contest with a steroidal skunk.
I fucking boring you or something?" he asked Telly-Savalas. "Cuz
if I'm fucking boring you, boy, well, then, I guess I'm just gonna
have to apologize. Cuz I sure as hell don't fucking want to bore you,
or anything, on the eve of the biggest fucking scandal to hit this
administration in the last fucking six months."
feeling like the water in the Hudson River looked, mumbled something
to his crotch.
leaned up real close to the camera. He had no lips, just layers of
semi-transparent scars. His dead eye was leaking something the color
and consistency of peach yogurt.
he shouted. "What?"
sir, you're not boring me."
leaned back. A whitish foam began oozing from the tumors comprising
his left cheek.
that's real good to know, now. I sure as fucking hell don't want to
bore someone as important as you, you little shit." A latexed hand,
probably belonging to his nurse, reached across his face and wiped the
foam off with a handkerchief. "So tell me, boys and girls...what
the fuck just happened? What the fuck just shat on LA?"
Zircon, his mouth full of breaded meat sticks and red dip, passed Telly-Savalas
his pocket computer with his notes on it.
he said "Well. The facts, as we currently understand them, shake
out like this. At, uh, 12:07 Pacific Standard Time, an earthquake measuring
six-point-one on the Richter scale hit the LA area. And, well..."
he coughed demurely "...the epicenter occurred really near one
of our concerns."
punched up some numbers.
um, about ten meters away from the north entrance."
well, our nuclear reactor functioned perfectly, given its design parameters."
looked befuddled. A dried pea-sized tumor fell off his forehead.
he said. "What's the fucking problem?"
looked at a shark fetus curled into a small gray squash.
that's the thing, sir. The quake exceeded the design parameters by a,
uh, statistically significant margin."
glared at Telly-Savalas with his good eye, which was mostly the color
of custard, though there were some awfully mean-looking red veins fissuring
around in there too.
statistically very significant margin."
Neiman-Marcus said, "fuck."
margin that, well, sir, reeks of statistical significance, if I may
be utterly frank."
was feeling the saké beginning to tiptoe around in his brain.
Neiman-Marcus scowled at the camera for what seemed five hundred years.
Stanley Zircon popped another breaded meat stick into his mouth and
signaled the waiter to bring more. He'd never tasted anything so good.
great," Neiman-Marcus said at last. "That's just fucking great.
This administration's facing a shit-squall, and I'm playing twenty questions
with a fucking retard...Okay. So dumb this down for me. By how fucking
much did the quake exceed the fucking design parameters?"
reviewed his notes.
it sort of, uh, blew up."
down," clarified Tokyo Sin, dwarf VP from DisCal sitting on a pile
of maroon pillows across the table from Telly-Savalas. She wore a sexy
cosmetic harelip, one of those Calvin Klein jobs, and a tattooed purple
birthmark blobbing like a long drippy continent from her left temple
down below the Nehru collar of her lilac silk kimono patterned with
silver erect penises and carving knives. She had that toyboyish look
which, on another day, in different circumstances, would've hooked Telly-Savalas's
attention just like that.
a candle on a hot afternoon, sir," Telly-Savalas said.
of the cores and the housing ruptured," explained José Ziff
from Turner Oregon. José had replaced all his teeth with gold
caps. They matched his gold mirrorshades.
cores, tops," Modesta LaMode from Gates Washington said. Modesta
LaMode, who used to be Monroe LaMode, and before that Manny Modus, had
slept with every man, and every other woman, at the table. "Plutonium-uranium
three," said Tokyo.
Modesta said. "Three. Right. Certainly no more than four."
cheek began foaming again.
Al-Faruk, SuperFund Coordinator, shocked, said from the next screen
over: "You mean you don't know? You actually don't know what the
extent of the malf is?"
said Sabrina Triode, the Press Secretary, from the third screen, more
to herself than anyone else.
cleared his throat.
thing is this. You know all those fires and aftershocks and radioactive
clouds and stuff? Well, they're preventing us from getting an inspection
team in there. Best we can do are copter flyovers."
sent in a squad of robotectors this morning," Tokyo said.
melted." "It's really, really messy," Telly-Savalas said.
going well," said Modesta, "we're thinking a week and a half."
max," said Tokyo.
Zircon, cheeks ballooned, lips glistening, flecks of whitish meat and
reddish-brown bread crumbs on his chin, looked from one VP to the next
like he was watching a ricocheting bullet. He was having a great time.
He signaled for some more saké to go with the hors d'oeuvres.
Worst-case scenario, he got promoted to VP with a telephone-number-large
raise. And if things worked out for his boss, that was fine, too: Stanley
got to hold the job he already had for a while longer, biding time till
Dahmer dropped the grenade again.
from the size and dispersal rate of the leak..." Telly-Savalas
yes, sir," Telly-Savalas said, surprised. "Leak, sir. The
structural compromise and all?"
shit," Neiman-Marcus said.
fallout event has been moving north by northeast," José
traces crossed into Brigham-Young Idaho a couple hours ago," said
dispersal curve has just about been realized," said Tokyo.
seeing a rapid decline in the negative inorganic output potential,"
environmental impact eventualities are falling, too," said José.
let out a long sibilant breath. The nurse inserted oxygen tubes into
his mushroomy commas. He sat there inhaling and exhaling.
chugged another saké.
surreptitiously crossed herself.
Neiman-Marcus began again, estimating. "Okay. So. At least we're
in the room said anything for a long time. Stanley made gooey wet sounds
with his mouth. Telly-Savalas kicked him in the shin. Stanley stopped
momentarily, then started chewing again.
Modesta piped up. "That's correct, sir. To a...a certain degree.
telling me we're not safe?"
no," Telly-Savalas said. "Nothing like that. Absolutely not.
No. We're, um, safe...there."
now on," Tokyo said.
here on out," said José.
uttered a petite peep that sounded like a field mouse that'd just had
a brick dropped on it.
now on?" echoed Vladimir Al-Faruk.
Telly-Savalas said. "Yes, sir."
not before now?"
no, sir. That would be correct."
fallout event? It seems to be having a few minor adverse demographically-centered
gurgled. He was bringing up some colorful goop, mostly blues and greens,
into a bed pan held at chin level.
what we can tell..." Telly-Savalas began.
the present time..." Tokyo added.
the present time...is, uh...medical personnel? Along the distribution
path? Well, they're reporting these cases of...they're not exactly sure
what. Some sort of...the word they use is disorientation."
a statistically significant portion of their patients," Modesta
the last twenty-four hours," said José.
nurse patted Neiman-Marcus's mouth clean. He spat out a small chip of
dried tongue. It stuck to his power tie, blue background studded with
maize-yellow nuclear blasts. The nurse picked it off with tweezers and
added it to the contents already in the bed pan.
who the fuck cares about some dizzy patients in the middle of fucking
nowhere?" he asked. "They probably don't even fucking vote."
disorientation," Tokyo said.
of a syndrome deal," said Telly-Savalas. "People are experiencing
these seizure-like things, hallucinations, and a sense of intense memory."
poisoning?" he asked.
wind? It was really strong and high. So it's pretty hard to know when
or where or how much of the fallout-event actually came down. We're
running tests on that right now. And, uh, everyone responds differently
to radiation? In one person a small dose can have huge effects. In another,
a huge dose can have no effects whatsoever. And the effects? Well, they
manifest themselves really differently in different people? One person
with a couple of extra rads suddenly breaks out in this humongous gross
malignancy. Another gets a little sick to his stomach. So, well, maybe
this all has to do with the reactor situation."
then again, maybe it doesn't," took up the Press Secretary.
Telly-Savalas said. "Exactly."
maybe it's all just some new bug that's shown up all of a sudden,"
posed the SuperFund Coordinator.
strain of encephalitis," Tokyo proposed.
psychosis," suggested José.
new virus, as yet unnamed and undefined," proffered Modesta. "So
maybe..." Neiman-Marcus said, "just maybe...the fucking frog-and-beaver
crowd can't prove a fucking thing. Maybe they don't fucking have a case
that's worth a fucking damn. And maybe we can just deny our way right
out of this political rattlesnake nest..."
contemplated this happily.
people," Sabrina Triode asked, tiger-eye contacts wide and searching,
"what's our operative sound-bite going to be going into this thing?"
House, as you know, okayed our use of the National Security Profit Margins
Amendment," Vladimir Al-Faruk said. "We have full actuality-constraint
Mr. Loew went on TV this afternoon, assuring the public that the reactor's
structure is secure," Sabrina said. "BelsenLand, according
to our press releases, will be up and running within the week."
outside the expectational parameters has occurred," Modesta said.
we should recall the tracking teams," said José. "No
data, no incident."
the records," Tokyo said.
be lost by midnight," Vladimir said.
discussing something that didn't happen, then," said Telly-Savalas.
discussing a non-event event here," said Sabrina.
already booked will be redirected," Vladimir said. "No new
reservations will be accepted by the company computers."
minor injuries sustained, it goes without saying," Modesta added.
damage to rides," said Tokyo.
loss to make the public feel like the news coverage was worth it, like
they experienced something worth experiencing," said Modesta.
don't want to hurt the ratings capacity," said Sabrina. "Cleanup
activities underway. Engineers already on the scene. What you would
assume from a six-point-one seismic condition."
hit the airwaves first thing tomorrow morning and turn on the credibility
template," Neiman-Marcus said.
about the reality scenario?" Vladimir asked.
what?" asked Neiman-Marcus.
reality scenario. The, uh, truth?"\
think I can help you there," said Telly-Savalas, consulting Stanley's
pocket computer. "Estimations run around eighty to a hundred personnel
terminational situations on site. Perhaps another twenty or thirty in
the surrounding area, especially downwind."
we're really talking full Sacrifice Zone Enhancement here?" Sabrina
people are on their way even as we speak," Vladimir said.
said Neiman-Marcus. "Excellent. Fucking wonderful. Okay. So. This
thing didn't happen."
not," Vladimir confirmed.
thing?" asked Modesta.
noon tomorrow the DT program will be in place," Telly-Savalas said,
subsidies to the compulsory relocationers within a ten-kilometer evacuation-wellness
arena," Vladimir said, thinking out loud.
media-redefinition campaign," Sabrina added.
refocusing enterprise," suggested Vladimir.
York food riots are always nice about this time of year," Tokyo
offered. "Pan-African epidemics."
loves a good scene of mass starvation," said José.
a little incident on the moon?" proposed Telly-Savalas. "Small
terrorist attack? Cult suicides?"
President Redford as well," said Sabrina. "We can ask him
to do a little retrospective on his favorite wars."
getting a readout from our AIs here," Vladimir said. "They're
telling us the mean NorAm blip-with-lifestyle's concern will drop exponentially
within the next forty-eight hours. Given our current trajectories, polls
conducted next week will fail to register a statistically significant
reaction to the BelsenLand contretemps." He looked up, smiling.
His tribal scars flashed. "I think we're in the clear, ladies and
Neiman-Marcus said. "Now we're getting somewhere."
psychic dam burst, flood of goodwill pouring through the situation room.
Everyone began to clap.
feeling a reprieve wash over him as water from a Baptismal font, smacked
his palms together like a three-year-old at the head of his own birthday
party. Everything was going to be okay. He was going to get through
this. He sat jovially among his colleagues, letting this sweet information
Stanley Zircon spoke up. His mouth was still bloated, his chin dappled
with sheen and grit. He was delighted by all the festive spirit.
he said, beaming. "What kind of meat is this, anyway? It's just,
um..." He popped another breaded stick between his greasy lips
and chomped. "Really delicious."
huh?" Modesta said, laughing.
veritable delicacy," said Sabrina from the screen.
pumped his shoulders up and down, guffawing without a sound.
looked from one to the other.
Neiman-Marcus explained, "you're eating...uh...leftovers there,
boy...And I gotta tell you: I've never seen anyone take to 'em like
you. Regular fox in a henhouse."
that's because our young friend here doesn't quite realize just how...environmentally
conscientious he's being," said Vladimir.
veritable recycling machine," said Modesta.
resource management team in one body," said José.
not, want not," said Tokyo.
ever...you ever hear of Tyrone O'Kult?" Neiman-Marcus asked.
thought a minute.
he said. "Major stockholder in..."
it snuck up on him. He stopped chewing. His smile retracted. He suffered
a language crash.
right, boy," Neiman-Marcus said. "Lazarus Project. Great enterprise.
Major undertaking. Happening all over the globe. What you think? That
our Mr. O'Kult'd just go and waste all that good unused meat once it's
been gutted and all those over-priced organs removed? Hell no. We're
talking four-star businessman here...fucking world-class entrepreneur..."
spoke through his food, which seemed to multiply in his mouth.
mean this stuff is..."
the Gerber's," said Modesta from across the table.