Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dead Planet II

Dead Planet II

“Like Borges, Bolaño
consumed everything
from arcane poetry to
dime-store fiction—
unlike Borges, he stole
most of his books.”
—Daniel Zalewski,
The New Yorker

The one-day flight was an easy one. The only traffic was headin’ out to the Asteroid Belt—where get-rich schemes were dime a dozen.

Just like the Alaska Gold Rush—the dreary asteroid ruins of that previous doomed planet bred the worst smarmy spawn of the solar system. Miners, claim-jumpers, loose casino singers—a foul pig-sty of greedy cocksucker spaceship swine.

Terra the Planet of Death loomed ahead—we had a light breakfast and we were across the Earth state line before you knew it.

I know it sounds crazy. Suddenly it came over me—that everything was gonna go wrong. I couldn’t hear my own breathing—it was the dying breath of a dead man.

We passed the Luna Lodge—where many of the rich and famous had taken refuge. What they discovered there wasn’t pretty—it was an old worn-out Death Star left over from a million years ago. It got us here—us humans.

But we’d fucked up the exquisite blue pearl world as well—Earth sailed in the calm dead of night. A Dead Planet—dying inch by inch. Down to the Thanatos surface—gliding thru the benzene clouds.

There was the beltway—the fetid oily Atlantic Ocean that had long ago lapped the Eastern Seaboard. Waves of polluted death and benzene whitecaps—still washing up on shore.

The bureaucrats had fled inland—Denver the new capitol. Smoggy haze—showed where it hugged the mountains—the Senate way down deep in granite block-buster bunkers.

The Hudson was a sludge-pit—the Brooklyn Bridge had long since fallen into the river. They hooked up at the Empire State Building—the ship shifting into Zeppelin mode. A series of blimps billboards flew down over the abandoned streets—as if there were anybody left but zombies to buy any shit anymore.

Police and fire protection was adequate in the skyscrapers—the last refuge for TPTB. The Chrysler Building in fact had been reborn—the lovely old art deco Sky Room becoming the elite place to wine & dine, dance the night away.

Several haughty luxury-model Jaguar taxis passed me up—cruising for more classy clientele. I got picked up by a dumpy Mercedes driven by a slug—I swore he was a zombie in half-baked disguise. But he got me to Bronx tho—in one piece and alive.

It was dawn of the dead—so most of the zombies were sleepin’ it off. The Garrison Estates where Jack lived was nearby—I detoured up a dark alley and across a makeshift cemetery. Not much left—just some tin cans and bones gnawed to death—the marrow sucked dry.

It stunk—the whole City. But then what do ya expect? The Dead Planet didn’t offer any excuses—all the excuses and bum-lies had already been made. Nobody believed anything anymore—except the swine down in the bunkers. They had the good life.

Plus plenty of extra transplant-bods in cryogenic storage—and vast labs of stem-cell vats for just the right face-lift or anything else you desired. The elite were blue-bloods—they always seemed to get by. Dr. Strangelove had a whole harem—of lovely chicks from Illinois. Herr Doktor Professor—what a neat guy.

Up above the secret bunkers tho—it was zombie eat zombie. Which in some ways—was a pretty good thing about the plague. The goddamned zombies weren’t political—Fascist, Marxist, Democratic, Repug, Tea Bagger or gang-minded like Bloods and Crips. It was every zombie for itself—any sort of zombie group mind was deader than a doornail just like them. A blessing in disguise—kinda, sorta…

I thought about Bette—as if she were still alive. The very thought of seeing her again made my tight trousers tent ten inches—but I had to remind myself she was dead and long gone. In my head all those memories of her in bed waitin’ for me—what a goddamned fantasy that was.

Right. Those memories flooded thru me—and right down the fuckin’ toilet. I’d been knocked out in the kitchen—the zombies got in thru the backdoor. They didn’t waste any time with me—I was too tough and not tender enough for them. They got her in the bedroom—and took their time. A dozen of ‘em—fuckin’ greasy zombies of the living dead. Nothin’ was left—not even her wedding ring…

I saw one of ‘em outta the corner of my eye—I zapped it to stinkin’ cinders before it even got close to me. It was still kinda dark—not morning yet. I plastered it against the broken deli window—splattering all thru it into the ruins inside. It smelled like rotten salami in there—but I knew it was worse.

The whole city smelled that way—like rotten dead meat. It clung to everything—like greasy glue. A billboard hung on the brick wall in the next block—with its neatly printed invite. “Yacht Docking and Boat Rental Facilities. Guided Ocean Fishing Trips. Crewed Scenic Sailing Cruises / Tours daily.”

Yeah, sure, I said to myself. The big brick building with blue doors—was right there in the middle of the block. Everything radiated outta that old building—what life there was left nearby anyway. It had stucco walls and wasn’t goin’ anywhere soon. It was waitin’ for me—it remembered me for the good old dayz.

All the junkers and garbage had been cleared away around it—no cars were parked in the driveway. My heart started to hammer—as I walked up the porch steps to the door. I had a key, I put it in the lock and heard it click.

The interior was like I remembered it—nothing gaudy, nothing oddball, just masculine everywhere. There was Jack’s big four-poster bed upstairs in the corner—antique & all beat-up from years of whatever. It belonged to a man who now lived alone—that is if I could believe what he said on the cellphone.

I pulled out a drawer and fixed myself a drink. It felt good burning down my throat, then in my guts, then in my groin. Jack was in the master bedroom upstairs—I didn’t wanna wake him up from this beauty sleep. He was the ugliest guy in world—no amount of beauty sleep could ever smooth out that ugly puss. Those baggy eyes—his jowls hangin’ down. A real winner—a live one tho.

I looked down—he had a big boner. Except it wasn’t a boner—or a big old hard dick. It was a heater—a mean-lookin’ .45 under the sheets. Aimed right for me—ready to drill me. I didn’t move—I didn’t say anything.

Jack opened his gummy right eye—and winked at me. “Caught ya by surprise—didn’t I?” he said cattily. Arching his hips lewdly—like I was a queer zombie going down for it.

I laughed and took a piss in the bathroom. I flushed the toilet—it actually worked. It flushed clean, clear water—perfectly as if nothing had changed. Rolls of toilet paper and plenty of new, white towels. Jeez, I said to myself. WTF—Jack’s got it made.

“Hey, you must have zombie maid service or somethin’, Jacky-boy.”

The refrigerator was purring—the pantry was full of food. It was just like yesterday—as if nothin’ had happened. I took a deep breath—and held it a couple of seconds. My heart beat returned to normal—I lit up a Mexican Gold cigarette.

The flight down had been more tiring than I thought—I hopped in the shower, cleaned up, brushed my teeth and put on a clean suit.

It was all there behind the fading wainscoting—thru a sliding panel. A secret room with all you needed—bulletproof vests, goggles, latex gloves, Taser pistols, the newest makes. Some strap-on electric dildoes—for safe sex. Some gas-masks and all that stuff. Stuff you needed to get down there—into the Bronx douchebag bunkers.

Jack made some strong coffee—that was a rare item these dayz. South America had been cut-off forever—the Gulf mess had spread down there too. The Tacos mob only dealt with the Mars syndicate now—shuttling rich whiteys outta Deathville and back to New Mars.

Arabia Terra and Amazonis Planitia were the two major new Martian terraformed GM plains developments. Mare Erythraeum, Mare Sirenum and Aurorae Sinus were the replenished seas. Hellas City was the Martian cosmopolitan capitol—ensconced in the largest impact crater on the planet. That’s where I lived. Ray Cumwad—with his complexion already tanned to a mild ruddy reddish glow like the Red Planet itself.

Mare Tyrrhenum had been redeveloped into a Palm Springs playground for the bored TPTB. Outside Hellas—the New Las Vegas gambling casinos handled the rich tourists. Even tho most Earth visitors were on their way to the asteroid belt and the Titan mines slowly revolving around Saturn. That’s where rare jewels and important heavy metals were found—sequestered in the rings. The rivers of oil—were offshore down below under the Methane Sea.

BP Corp and Exxon Interspace—had a monopoly on the profits and rigs. Same as back on Earth—the mega-corporations had the Late Capitalism money to invest and the expensive lobbyists to do the rest. It was business as usual—just the name of the planets had changed. Greed was still the thing—that greased the palms and kept the solar system going.

I told Jack in an unhurried voice: “It ain’t gonna work, Jack. You need an android army to get down there—don’t ya think it’s been tried before?”

Something happened to his face—a kinda bee-stung expression came over it. A brief moment of pain—as if he weren’t aware of what was happening. Then the painful look went away—and he was himself again.

“Yeah, Ray, I guess you’re right.”

“Jack, there ain’t nothin’ here, man. It’s just a dump that’s all—the Big Apple is dead. It’s rotten to the core—that bunker is long gone & you know it.”

He located my face—and saw right thru it. His eyes were opaque—there wasn’t really anything left to say. “You got any friends left, Jack? If not, come on back to Mars with me.”

“Lots a friends, yeah lots of ‘em,” he said.

“That’s nice,” I said with a frown.

He gave me an airy goodbye—I went down the steps to the sidewalk. The dumpy Mercedes taxi was back waiting for me—just where I asked the driver to meet me again.

At the end of the street—getting inside. I looked over my shoulder—back at Jack. He gave me a tiny shrug—and went back into the old brick building. That's just the way it was—that's just the way it was gonna be. No more Big Apple for me.

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