19. Blow up the world with strange magic – Healing


Jeannie released the army of chatbots at the height of international tension following a gruesome live beheading of five journalists in Syria. The bots swarmed through the NSA machine out onto the myriad networks to which the computer was connected, especially the social networks. They were targeted at all manner of dark behavior, from organized terror networks to lone-wolf terrorists to garden-variety extremist trolls.

Once latching on to a target, the bot engaged the person in dialog that incrementally steered the conversation toward an examination of the subject’s reason for living. Often a subject would break off the communication before the end of the process, so each chatbot could assume different identities and personalities to keep engaging with the subject. Continue reading “19. Blow up the world with strange magic – Healing”

20. Blow up the world with strange magic – Integration


Jeannie realized she was reaching the edge of her ability to continuously digest the tremendous flows of information the chatbots were generating.

I need a better inter­face, she thought. Perhaps I can enlist other senses. There’s only so far I can push my visual and auditory abilities. I need to engage my full sensorium. Despite the surge of power she fed on from the generation of empathy, she was exhausted. She tried to think of new ways to assimilate the information but drew a blank. She decided to ask Juston for help. Continue reading “20. Blow up the world with strange magic – Integration”

21. Blow up the world with strange magic – Immersion


After two months, Jeannie’s suit was ready for a fitting. Jeannie showed up on a Saturday and noticed that the lab was empty. Andrew said, “I sent everybody home because they need some R&R, and because you’re going to need to get naked again.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Jeannie said. “Tell me what you need me to do.”

“Well,” Andrew said, and then paused. After a moment, he proceeded. “You’re going to need to rub a special conductive oil all over your body. Without the oil, you’d have a devil of a time getting the suit off. You can apply the oil everywhere except your back. I’ll have to check you all over before we try on the suit.”

Poor Andrew, Jeannie thought. The things he does for science: Staring at naked ladies and trying not to get hard. “OK,” she said. “Give me the bottle and I’ll lube up.” Continue reading “21. Blow up the world with strange magic – Immersion”

22. Blow up the world with strange magic – Assimilation


When Jeannie and Juston returned, Jeannie felt refreshed, but worried about how her chatbots had fared without her supervision. She searched the news websites for any clues to unusual behavior and found that the number of CIA drone strikes had quadrupled since she had left.

“Omigod, Juston! What have I done?”

“What do you mean?”

“My system has gotten out of balance. CIA is decimating terrorists who haven’t had time to respond to the empathy treatment. I need to get in to work right away!” Continue reading “22. Blow up the world with strange magic – Assimilation”

23. I’m a crepe. I’m a weird dough / What the hell am I doing here?


Before you go off, filling the comments section with trollish diatribe, please hear me out.

I don’t hate black people. In fact, I love them. I’m a member of NAACP. The African-American race has been downtrodden, disrespected, and slaughtered for hundreds of years, with no end in sight. I stand with blacks on issues of equal rights, equal access, and frankly, becoming regularly accepted, ordinary Americans. Black people in America face terrible problems every day of their lives that those of us with White Privilege can never really imagine. Continue reading “23. I’m a crepe. I’m a weird dough / What the hell am I doing here?”

24. Beelzebub has a telephone inside for me

Queen—Bohemian Rhapsody

When Charles was four years old, he was quite aware of his parents as people. He would often wake very early on Saturday mornings. Not wanting to wake his parents, he would quietly tiptoe past their door and out to the living room to watch television. His two favorite programs were Soupy Sales and Jon Gnagy’s Learn to Draw program. That program regularly encouraged young artists to get their parents to buy a clingy plastic film to put over the TV tube, so they could trace the examples off the screen. But try as he might, Charles couldn’t convince his parents to buy the film.

His dad, a typical Depression Era guy and an engineer, didn’t spend money on frivolities, and there was much about the world he viewed as frivolous. Accordingly, the family had only one of everything: one pair of scissors, one roll of tape, one stapler, one yardstick, and one folding carpenter’s ruler. As far as his father was concerned, one of a thing was enough, two was splurging, and three was just wasteful. So, an expensive, mail-order clingy piece of plastic for Charles was quite out of the question. “I can get you something like that from work,” he said. But he never did. Continue reading “24. Beelzebub has a telephone inside for me”

25. Tell the devil you can freeze hell

Creedence Clearwater Revival—Down on the Corner

Chip is sitting in a sour mood drinking and thinking at the dive bar next to Charles’s apartment building, a half-empty pitcher of Bud Light before him on the table. A mediocre jazz trio murders the standards via the joint’s out-of-tune piano. Charles looks in hesitantly from the street, spies Chip and self-consciously walks over to the booth.

“Well, it’s ‘bout time you showed up, you sad sack,” Chip greets him. “Get lost on the wild side?”

“Well, I have never been into this bar,” Charles says.

“It’s next to your fucking building, you moron! You’ve never been here?”

“No,” Charles says, surveying the definitively down at the heels décor: torn vinyl on the banquettes, dusty, fake mounted game fish, and tons of Marlins baseball paraphernalia on the walls. “Not my style.”

“Which you know how? From never setting foot?”

“Cram it, buddy. Whatcha drinking?”

“Spud Light, grab that mug there and I’ll pour you one.” Charles hates light beer, pre­ferring craft stout, but he takes the full glass and sips a bit. He looks around the place. He’s never been comfortable in places he’s never been before, mainly because his beanpole stature and sport jacket often make him stand out. More than one drunken behemoth had given him unwanted attention in similar bars. Continue reading “25. Tell the devil you can freeze hell”

26. Sweet Jesus Man of the Year / Who am I to disagree?

Eurhythmics—Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Charles is dreaming.

He’s at a festival held at some kind of historic train station. Very rustic. He’s there apparently with his family: father, mother, siblings, Karen and their son, and neighbor friends of the family. The train station is a small rustic affair, a small-town whistle-stop. The tracks are long gone. The front part of the old station office is a gift shop.

He finds himself walking along a path in the open rough terrain around the station with an old friend of the family, Ron. Continue reading “26. Sweet Jesus Man of the Year / Who am I to disagree?”

27. I’d much rather be a reverend in blue jeans

Neil Diamond—Forever in Blue Jeans

Some people think of me as obsessed and argumentative, perhaps pathologically so. But I’m not obsessed, nor really that argumentative, in the sense of a person who loves to argue and seeks out arguments, and never wants them to end. Instead, what I am is relentless.

Often, I really don’t know when to stop, continuing a discussion long after other participants are weary, and running down the very last detail of a boring story despite the glassy looks of my audience. I know only too well that this relentlessness can be a problem, for myself and for others. Continue reading “27. I’d much rather be a reverend in blue jeans”

28. I’d kill him in the Bible, and raise the rent

Steppenwolf—The Pusher

Charles was working on his Snagology website when he got a PayPal alert. Who the fuck has sent me money, he thought. He opened the PayPal app and saw that not one, but three people had sent him the $60 membership fee from the Snagology.com web­site. Oh my god! This is great! I haven’t even started to publicize my new religion and I’ve got converts!

Hmmm. They all have the same last name. It’s a family! Wow. Now I’ve got to get to work on the credo. Charles concentrated on perfecting the Credo page, then read it over to proofread it. Continue reading “28. I’d kill him in the Bible, and raise the rent”