Prologue: The Great Collapse:

Live from the 215 and kneedeep in the muck of the not so distant future, a cataclysmic rupture in the global capitalist system has created an economic, political and social shockwave that has reverberated around the planet with a fury previously unseen in the whole of human history. Maybe it was Wall Street gambling and high volume trading? Maybe it was global peak oil prices causing the whole fossil fuel industrial complex to grind to a screeching halt? Maybe a few of our Vodoun initiated sisters had really conjured up a devastating hex from the bowels of the nether world, that caused the entire system to just get sick and die? Nobody REALLY knows, and few people really give a fuck. All we knew/know is that the game has changed and we out here tryna live.

In the weeks immediately following the great collapse, the TV news and Social Media sites were flooded with “Experts” and “Economists” trying in vain to put together a story that made sense of it all. The TV talking heads gritted their teeth and furrowed their brows in an desperate, futile attempt to bottle a whole new world up into the impossibly tiny and inadequate snow globe of corporate Media Newspeak and “mainstream” economic theory.

The Politicians also tried to get control of the situation. At first they tried calm and soothe people, urging us to “stay home” and “remain calm” (as if we was calm before all this shit went down Smh). When that didn’t work, they passed new, repressive “laws”, increased domestic surveillance and unleashed police and military upon the massive waves of people that poured out into the streets, desperate to find food and security. For a little while, the police fought the people and the people fought the police. The cops and military were well trained and well indoctrinated, but all that training and indoctrination ran into direct conflict with a very definite, very concrete material reality. To put it simply, once the cops stopped getting paychecks, they stopped being cops. The dollar and all other global currencies collapsed under the weight of hyperinflation and deflation. Initially, the large multinational Banks, Manufacturers, Speculators and Tech Companies, for the most part did what we expected them to do; They took flight. The sick and dying American economy was further weakened by an unprecedented outsourcing of Production and Capital. The State administrative machine was bottlenecked and ultimately overwhelmed by the influx of bankruptcies, civil and criminal litigation. The world had changed rapidly and America as we all knew it was dead. The Empire, in its mad thirst to increase power and profits had spun itself into chaos, bankrupting the State and suffocating itself with the unruly weeds sprouted up from it’s own contradictions. The entire system and it’s interlocking, interdependent institutions was at once imploding and exploding all over, with multiple crises being set off simultaneously from multiple locus points. Nobody really knows how it all happened, but everybody knows WHAT happened. A new space had opened up and thankfully, many of us had been in our communities, working and preparing for it. How quickly the whole world changes.

Philadelphia is a fucked up city…

We know we ain’t telling you nothing new when we say that, we just felt it would set an appropriate tone for us as we discuss the urgency of the challenges we face and the dire necessity of a new approach to confronting those challenges. We live in a time following the great collapse of the system. For the past five centuries (or more ;) ,we have bore witness to the unfolding of a very specific, identifiable process in the dynamic movement of human history.

The world we live in today and our collective memories of the worlds that we have lived through in the past are a direct result of this process. From top to bottom, inside and out, our lives and our planet have been drastically reorganized by this historical process. Land, Labor, Culture, Sex, Love, Thought, Feelings, Dreams, everything we’ve ever known, even “Knowing” itself was seized up, divided, redefined and sublimated to the twin terrors of ownership, and domination. We watched in horror and fought valiantly as the machines born of this terrible process expanded out from their unholy centers of operation, rolling over every continent , violating fresh, virgin land, swallowing up Black, Brown, White and Yellow bodies and spewing out a pale grey deathsmoke everywhere.

For a long time it seemed like this chaotic process had stabilized. The owners and dominators had crystallized their aggressions into an over arching superstructure made up of various new institutions; NationStates, Parliaments, Banks, Judiciary Bodies, Plantations, Factories, Unions, Political Parities and Corporations. In addition to these new institutions, a whole new set of psychosocial norms, values and relations were designed to uphold and perpetuate the rule of the owners and dominators. For the most part these institutions, acting in coordination had subtly (and not so subtly) reshaped our ways of relating to one another, ourselves and our environment. Our communities and our lives were forcefully tied together in service of this perverse new empire of the State and Capital. The empire was strong and furious in it’s destructive and repressive capabilities. Despite these strengths, the system itself was vulnerable, prone to a long cycle of ever deepening and expanding internal crises. Many of us were aware of the weaknesses, contradictions and self inflicting vulnerabilities. We studied, worked and sacrificed, not only to understand the defects of the present system but with the hopes of surviving it’s inevitable collapse and laying the foundations for a new, more intimate, sane and humane system. We wanted to create a new way of life deeply rooted in the values of liberation, cooperation, shared responsibility and lateral decision making power. In the years leading up to the great collapse, the State attempted to reconcile the contradictions of a decaying world system and the empire it had produced. They attacked us with their economic austerity budgets, destroyed our public schools, relentlessly spied on us, threw many of us in jail and murdered many others. This process caused our people, all peoples, great pain and misery, but it also created the space and imperative for us to begin to plant the seeds of a new world within the dying shell of the old.

Our New Community


We live in Southwest Philly 52nd & Woodland. Years of intensive work and study has allowed us to identify, clarify and strengthen the core values around which our new world would be shaped. In the wake of the great collapse of the world system, we took care to make our community, the neighborhood where we live and work each day, the central focus of our efforts. The Community is our highest ideal To put it simply: We knew that the next phase in the great arch of human social evolution would bend towards the “localization” of human Social, Political and Economic organization and the free, open relationships forged between these small, community locales. The lateral, nonhierarchical distribution of decision making power over the affairs of our community was to be a central value in both our word and deed.

During the prior five centuries or so, the Empire of State and Capital had rolled across the face of the Earth, crushing communities and absorbing them into it’s body, constraining us within those boldface lies commonly known as “National Borders” and “Property Lines”. As a result of our close study of the system’s deep, irreconcilable contradictions, we had anticipated the great collapse. We viewed the collapse as an explosive event that would initially “dislodge” communities all around the world from the grips of the highly centralized, dominating State Capitalist system by rendering the empire’s institutions incapacitated. We knew that we would have to begin the long, tireless work of building a vital, community capable of producing the food, energy and social resources necessary for us and our people to not only survive this cataclysmic event, but to thrive and create a new autonomy and independence in the wake of the systemic collapse. There were only a handful of us here when we began the work of building new institutions and (more importantly) new relationships in this neighborhood. Some of us had grown up here, some of us had moved here from other places. The relationships we created with our neighbors was most important. We didn’t approach them as “activists” or some sort of political party jockeying for position within a foul system, nor did we walk with timidity or fake humility. We spoke with certainty, listened to our neighbors in earnest and did genuine work to help them take direct action to solve their own problems.

Early on we identified four key issues that were effecting the lives of people in our neighborhood, throughout the city and in Ghettos throughout the control. Those key issues were:

1. Lateral Power and Decision Making

2. Housing and Land

3. Food Production and Distribution

4. Education and Childcare

5. Energy and EcoSustainability

Our study and direct experience had informed us that these five key issues were most important and pressing because the effectiveness of a vital and productive community rested upon them, the same as a house rests on a stone foundation

1) Decision Making and Lateral Power


Looking closely at the society in which we lived, we came to the understanding that a fundamental root cause of many of the problems that plagued us were directly related to the fact that the vast majority of individuals lacked the power to make decisions and exercise real control over their lives. Even further, our Communities themselves lacked the power to administer their own internal affairs in any significant way. All decision making power had been centralized into the body of the Corporate State, jealously guarded by it’s detached class of politicians and bureaucrats. Social Hierarchy and the unjust concentrations of power that follow it had shaped virtually every aspect of our lives: The relations between Men and Women, Workers and Capital, Heterosexuals and Queers, White Folks and everybody else etc. We understood that the Corporate State was a key actor in the perpetuation of these imbalanced and ultimately unjust relationships. We knew that we wanted to be a free, self-determining Community. We knew that we not only wanted to do away with the “external” hierarchy imposed upon us by the State, we knew that we did not want hierarchy and unjust concentrations of power to exist within our community either. This understanding brought us face to face with the challenge of creating institutions (Businesses, Gardens, Cultural Spaces, Schools, Defense and Safety Collectives etc.) and ultimately a culture in which power was not distributed hierarchically from top to bottom, but laterally, side to side, person to person. This is easier said than done, in any organizational effort, it is almost second nature for people to replicate the very same hierarchical structures typically seen in private Corporations, Political Parties and the administrative institutions of the State. We wanted something new, a new way of thinking, creating and being; in short our new community needed to produce a new culture. In order to lay the groundwork for a new culture, we had to create new institutions to act as the carriers of that culture. In order for these institutions to be qualitatively different from those old institutions that were failing and crumbling all around us, we knew that they would require a radically different organizational structure, a structure in which power is distributed laterally, not hierarchically.

Early on, the few of us that initiated this work would get together and discuss the many many challenges of Lateral Power and nonhierarchical organizational structures. We identified 2 key principles that would go a long way toward distributing the decision making power within a given institution or organization to as many participants as possible:

 a. Collective Decision Making:


The process that we undergo in order to make important decisions is central to the make up of our Community and the institutions within it. We knew that we wanted decisions that affected us all to be discussed openly and publicly, until a general consensus was reached and every member of our community took a vote. In order to strengthen our own experience with collective decision making, we started off small, organizing weekly outdoor neighborhood assemblies in the evenings after our neighbors returned from work. During the assembly individuals, families and small groups would present the ideas they had for making our Community stronger. Strategic locales for Food Production, Cleaning and Beautification projects, etc. Many many issues were discussed at our assemblies and everyone was free to offer their opinion. These assemblies were not perfect, but they created a space for all of us to get together, discuss the challenges of the day and most importantly, see and hear each other. In addition to the serious discussions, consensus building and decision making, the neighborhood assemblies became naturally social affairs in which neighbors would congregate, laugh, talk, flirt, eat and dance to music, building deeper more intimate interpersonal ties amongst neighbors in the process of practicing radical democracy. These neighborhood assemblies (which still occur today) helped lay the foundation of mutual trust and experience that allowed for the new institutions we created in our Community to flourish under truly democratic control, virtually free of unnecessary hierarchy and concentrations of power.

 b. Accountable Representation:


Under the old system before the Great Collapse, our society was thoroughly controlled by bourgeois Politicians and shadowy Corporate Execs and Share Holders that owned them. These people would make stupid speeches using grand, flowery language, claiming to “represent the interests of the people” or whatever. The Politicians and the CEOs, hopelessly fused together in a sick, incestuous oligarchy of State and Corporate power, lied through their teeth, claiming that the true power lay in the hands of us as voters and consumers and that they were merely our humble (but well paid) “representatives”. By now, everyone knows that the power over the old system and the institutions within it, was in every significant way, wielded by a small, detached class of Political and Economic elites. In our new Community we do elect representatives to carry out specific tasks but these representative positions are truly accountable to the people.

Every representative is subject to immediate popular recall and these representative positions are revolving with a new representative elected once the specific task is completed. This revolving structure helps to “democratize” skills and experience while working to prevent the ossification of a new administrative/decision making class. Many of the new institutions we created early on were structured this way; Schools, Businesses, Gardens, Work Shops etc. Many more have been created and maintained today.

2) Housing and Land


Throughout history Housing and Land have been important focal points for people around the world struggling to achieve freedom, self-determination, autonomy and genuine community. In our time we understood that the people’s relationship to the Land was central. The Capitalist State, throughout it’s history as a Social entity has stolen Land that was once the shared providence of the many, selfishly proclaiming it as the private property of the few. We understood that the Land was a gift to all of us and In the early stages of our work we were presented with several strategic advantages. In the years leading up to the collapse, many of our neighborhoods were ravaged by gentrification. On a whim Market and local governmental forces would converge with the sole purpose of forcing us out of our neighborhoods. There was little legal recourse we could take against these decimations of our neighborhoods. Even in the face of rampant corruption, deception and outright theft on the local level, there was no “higher authority” that would hear our call of distress. We were for all intents and purposes, a landless, homeless people. As the economic crisis deepened, sucking more and more large private Real Estate companies into the abyss, we took quick notice of the abundance of vacant buildings in our neighborhood and throughout the city. We surveyed the people of our neighborhood and shared info with friends from other hoods and put together a database of individuals and families that were in need of housing. We’d organized work crews made up of able-bodied folks on the database as well as a few volunteers in the neighborhood and we’d open up the vacant, often boarded up buildings, renovate the units and move the homeless into them as quickly as possible. In the early days, jilted landlords would call the cops on us, forcing evictions. Many in our Community fought the cops viciously when they came to kick families back out in the street and even after all that, once they left, we’d just organize another work crew, rip the boarding off the buildings and move people right back in. Like most of the institutions in our Community now, the buildings were radically democratic and self-managed, with each resident having equal say in decision making. Soon, we saw multiple buildings that were once reserved solely for the benefit of private profit were slowly transforming into vibrant, dynamic centers of Communal activity.

3. Food Production and Distribution


The problem of Food Production and Distribution emerged early on in the process of institution building in this neighborhood. The vast majority of our people suffer through a dead man’s diet of greasy, high cholesterol, fatty, processed, pesticide ridden and genetically modified “foods”. Speaking with our neighbors early on, we understood this issue of Food Production and Distribution to be a central component of community building. Vacant lots and mid sized plots of land were seized and refigured for the purpose of growing food. Many people in neighborhoods throughout the city (and the world) were doing similar work, refiguring Urban spaces as local food production sites. In order to increase the diversity of food access, we reached out and established direct relationships with other neighborhoods, coordinating crop growth and sharing produce. Today, we enjoy a vast city wide food distribution chain in which everyone is fed according to his or her needs, crop growth is coordinated and yielded crops are traded shared based on a cooperative structure neighborhood by neighborhood.

4. Education and Childcare


In the days proceeding the Great Collapse, Women and Men were drawn out of our neighborhoods seeking to sell their labor to an employer for a wage. This process left the children of our neighborhoods in a position where the majority of their formative years are spent in the care of a nonblood relative. As the contradictions of Capital deepened, wages were suppressed and more and more workers have to take on 2, sometimes 3 additional jobs, families find it financially impossible to homeschool/rear their young children. In response to this reality created by Capitalism, the State has stepped in to “mediate” the need, by providing families with childcare vouchers, and facilitating a veritable explosion in the childcare/daycare industry in poor Black, White and Latino communities. Due to the fact that the majority of these Daycare facilities are heavily reliant on State subsidies, the entire industry as we know it rested upon a huge State supported bubble. Seeing this, we understood that this “bubble” could be burst by the next round of State austerity budget cuts, resulting in countless families being left unable to pay the (market driven) childcare costs. This potential Childcare “bubble burst” scenario is a double edged sword. A drastic cut in State funding for childcare subsidies would not only leave parents assed out with no way to pay for their children’s care during the day, this scenario would also cripple one of the largest employers in the hood, the Daycare Centers themselves. In the days following the Great Collapse, the “bubble burst” scenario that we had envisioned and planned for was nothing compared to the viciousness in which the State cut all social subsidies (Food, Housing, Education, Childcare and many many more) in a desperate attempt to save the Capitalist economy in the wake of the great collapse. Acting in service of our principles and out of sheer necessity, we created several new cooperative Educational and Childcare institutions. Our neighborhoods already possessed much of the necessary infrastructure for these new Childcare and Educational cooperatives: Schools closed and abandoned due to State budget cuts, formerly private Daycares, Childcare workers and Teachers displaced by the collapse of the system, Parents, Grandparents, Students, Neighbors and Mentors all willing to share in the work of caring for and teaching our young people. Our curriculums, standards and practices are shaped and upheld collectively by the community and we are working towards creating a new culture of care and learning suitable for our new Community.

5. Energy Production and EcoSustainability


Quite possibly the most challenging issue we have faced in the wake of the Great Collapse of the system, was the issue of Energy Production and EcoSustainability. Despite our great desire and dedication to freedom and autonomy, our neighborhoods were intimately tied to the same powers we opposed, due to our reliance on the State’s energy infrastructure. Our homes and vehicles were powered by energy sources we knew to be harmful to the planet. Our community wanted clean, renewable energy technologies that worked in harmony with our abundant planet. There have been many people working on methods in which we can harness the Earth’s power and use it to suit our needs. We continue to study and experiment with these methods. Early on, before the collapse, we began to counter act our neighborhood’s dependency on the State energy grid by collectively instituting our own alternative sustainable energy production strategy. We envisioned every building in our neighborhood as a potential minipower plant. We started off by outfitting a few large, strategically chosen buildings (mainly abandoned and repurposed schools and warehouses) with our own Solar Panels to collect sunlight from the roof. We have also built miniwind turbines on the sides of the buildings. We also envision a technology that will allow us to drill narrow pathways into the ground in order to extract geothermal heat from the Earth’s core. Each of our minipower plants have also been outfitted with a small a meter and processing unit that can collect the solar, wind and geothermal energy, use it to power the building and store any surplus energy in hydrogen tanks or ship it back into the new, decentralized, internet based energy grid, so that others who need it, may use it. The use of this technology has become widespread in the past few years and we have formed working relationships with neighboring Communities throughout the City and the world in order to collect and share clean energy freely.

Conclusion (For Now/For the Future)


We still here and we still tryna live, a flower growing up from the rich soil of a new world fertilized by the corpse of a dead social order. Everyday we take further steps toward a standard of freedom, autonomy, cooperation and social intimacy, our immediate ancestors couldn’t have imagined. This ain’t a game, this is a battle. We fight, make mistakes and hopefully learn and improve. Again, we state that we hold the Community up as our highest ideal. The free association and equally democratic relation between individuals and groups within our Community as well as the Communities around us and throughout the world, will continue to be central to our vision for a new society while acting as the means by which we hope to bring that society into being. For now, we here and we building.


 

Bibliography:

1. Jeremy Rifkin The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, The Economy and The World

2. K. Kia Bunseki FuKiau Mbongi: An African Traditional Political Institution

3. Graham Purchase Anarchist Organization

4. Huey P. Newton “On Intercommunalism”

5. Benjamin Barber Jihad Vs. McWorld: How Globalisation and Tribalism are Reshaping our World

6. Murray Bookchin The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism

7. Russell “Maroon” Shoatz ” The Dragon and the Hydra”

8. Sam Mbah & I.E. Igariwey African Anarchism: The History of a Movement

9. Max Rameau Take Back the Land: Land, Gentrification and the Umoja Shanty Village

10. Michael Albert Moving Forward: Program for a Participatory Economy

11. Rudolph Rocker “Socialism and the State”

John Morrison is an MC, producer, writer, and DJ. Follow him @johntheliberator, The Culture Cypher, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, all the clouds. An excerpt of this work originally appeared in season one episode one (not our pilot episode, mind you) of Metropolarity: Journal for Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies.

Turns out, NASA’s master password is pretty easy to guess: AmericaInSpace1961. We’d been using it to hack the Hubble space telescope and run searches on all galaxies in the universe for the ultimate skate park.

We found a planet located in a metal rich segment of the Sculptor Dwarf galaxy with smooth, calcified, totally skateable surfaces and a crust shot through with thousands of deep canyons. It was also 290,000 light-years away from the cops and the new faces that had been progressively infiltrating our neighborhood. Our two main criteria satisfied (skating to be had + far away), all we needed was a way to get to Skate Park Planet.

When we were younger we’d learned that wormholes take the space-time continuum and bend it back against itself, connecting points that would ordinarily be separated by un-travelable distances. We decided to hack NASA again and see if they’d done any research into the matter that might be helpful. We found out pretty quickly that the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, a supposedly massive project that spanned several decades and used cutting edge theories and experiments to figure out how to travel at hyper-speed was a decoy, but it had a secret offshoot: the For Realzies Wormhole Project. The NASA dudes probably spoke of it in hushed tones as F.R.W.P. at their NASA cocktail parties.

After downloading a .pdf of the F.R.W.P.’s final report which included step-by-step blueprint instructions for a wormhole generator, we set to work collecting everything we needed, which turned out to be a couple cathode ray tubes hooked up to some modified circuit boards whose jumper wires and conductors had been soldered together and connected to a 9V battery, a switch crank connected to a circuit breaker, and five hula-hoops covered in a thin layer of peanut butter.

We still had to do a lot of calculations so the wormhole would take us to the exact point in space where Skate Park Planet awaited, taking into account that it had moved pretty far from its position where Hubble had picked up the light its star had given off 290,000 years ago. Taking breaks to skate around, we calculated, drew up graphs and mapped out schemata. Then something happened that forced us to put the voyage to Skate Park Planet on hold.

A couple suits strolling down the sidewalk had sparked urgency in our neighborhood. One of them was actually smoking a cigar. The five of us were out skating and talking about Skate Park Planet when it happened.

The suits walked right up to a home whose family had been there for thirty years. The family was struggling to finish paying the last bit of their mortgage to a bank that had bought up their loan from another bank. The suits looked back and forth between the family’s home and their space phones. Something had to be done about this shit.

People in our neighborhood talked amongst themselves and started holding community meetings. There were new faces at the meetings. The new faces used phrases like “neighborhood revitalization” and “inclusionary zoning”. A couple of us painted a hand holding an evil eye at the end of our street to ward off neighborhood revitalization and inclusionary zoning.

A few weeks later, a real estate developer opened what the new faces called a “gastro-pub” a few blocks away. The new faces talked about brunch and craft beers and how much they loved the way this part of town, our part of town, was “changing so much for the better.” Cop cars became even more of a regular occurrence, harassing people for being outside. Someone launched a brick through the large window of the gastro-pub. The owner responded with more cops. Pretty likely he was paying them off. Something had to be done about this shit.

Well, we did have a wormhole generator. We convened an emergency meeting and decided to make a wormhole and throw the infiltrators straight into it. Problem was, calculations for this type of thing take weeks and we didn’t have time to re-calculate a new place to aim it. The ultimate skate park would have to be sacrificed for the neighborhood.
We barely had time to make anti-wormhole pulse wave disseminators out of small but powerful magnets found in a dumpster outside Penn’s physics department. We soaked the magnets overnight in the sulfuric acid of a car battery and then carefully wrapped them in bubblegum-flavored dental floss, following to the letter the blueprint instructions found on Addendum 5B of the final report, entitled Necessary Equipment For Opening Up Wormhole.

Anti-wormhole pulse wave disseminators, or A.W.P.W.D.’s, are necessary cause you might not want to just jump straight into a wormhole when you create it. You might want to throw someone else into it first, either as a test subject or otherwise. The NASA dudes, being human supremacist a-holes, had of course tried throwing a monkey into the wormhole. In our case, we were going to throw cops into the wormhole. We superglued Velcro to the A.W.P.W.D.’s as well as to our shoes and boards so they could be easily attached and removed and would anchor us to this side of the Real.

We also made pro-wormhole pulse wave disseminators by turning the magnets around. P.W.P.W.D.’s push anything between them and a wormhole into the wormhole.

***

The wormhole generator is wheeled out and aimed above the street corner and we pull the switch crank. Our device hums for a few minutes, starts vibrating and then the entire street, the row homes on our block, our bodies, even the air feels like it’s bending ever so slightly. The peanut butter starts melting off the hula-hoops but that’s no big deal cause it’s only needed as a catalyst. Then a dark patch materializes, grows bigger ‘til it looks like a cloud that’s gathered above the street.

We’re tempted to test it out, do some skating, then come back for the neighborhood intruders, but just as we’re debating who should go through first, a cop car pulls up and shines a light at us. Most of the light disappears straight into the wormhole. The cop car rolls its window down and we hear a voice, “Whatcha kids up to so late?”

I skate up onto the wormhole with A.W.P.W.D.’s activated, let myself sink into the edge of the darkness and extend two middle fingers from up above.

“Come closer and find out, you cop fuck.”

Thing about giant abysses appearing above street corners is they scare the pants off of cops and normos. The cop car drives off. I jump back out and we skate around laughing and high-fiving.

Keeping the wormhole open, we wait for the backup that will inevitably arrive. An hour or so later, the cops have closed off the streets a few blocks away in every direction, and they approach cautiously in linear formations. We’re not afraid cause we have wormhole tactics. All they’ve got are badges and guns.

The cops are so busy gazing up at the wormhole they don’t notice us skating around the back of them and activating our P.W.P.W.D.’s.

“Y-y-y-you feel that?” One of them stutters to the next before feeling the weight of his body dissipate. Cop is lifted up, starts yelling, ‘W-w-w-what the fuuuuuck…?” and hovers for a moment in the air before making straight for the cloud above the street and disappears, headed for Skate Park Planet.

They look back and notice us, aim their guns and start shooting but thanks to the P.W.P.W.D.’s, the wormhole siphons away their bullets in mid-air. Cops start getting sucked into the wormhole like ants into a vacuum cleaner hose.

They arrive in droves, feeling confident in their usual safety in numbers, but it’s pretty easy to circle around them and push them into the abyss. Our streets are narrow and very few of them escape. After forty or so cops have been dispatched into the wormhole, the ones blocking off the streets jump in their cop cars and drive off.

We flip the crank switch and paint a message next to the evil eye: “Fuck with us and we open up the wormhole.”

***

So at this point we had about a precinct worth of cops at Skate Park Planet to deal with. We started doing more research about the planet and its solar system to figure out how to get rid of them. One idea was to locate the supermassive black hole located at the rotational center of the Sculptor Dwarf galaxy and use our P.W.P.W.D.’s to give the cops a wormhole ride into it so we could have the planet to ourselves.

In the interest of less time and energy spent on calculations, we decided to take a more practical course of action. If there were any regions of Skate Park Planet with extreme weather conditions, we could send the cops there. Our investigations soon revealed that temperatures on the entire planet range from 500 to 600 degrees Celsius. There are also Hydrogen Peroxide thunderstorms that hammer its surfaces day in and day out.

So we didn’t need to worry about what to do with the cops. No skating would be had in the canyons of Skate Park Planet though, which we were pretty bummed about.

The good news was that back in our neighborhood, the new faces were freaked the fuck out by everything they were hearing about dark clouds and disappearing cops and they moved back to wherever they came from.

The F.B.I. was brought in and they developed their own A.W.P.W.D.’s. We expected this though and were waiting for them with A.W.P.W.D. disruptors.

Fifty or so F.B.I. agents into the wormhole later, the neighborhood is still safe. We also located a new Skate Park Planet similar in terrain to the first one. There, temperatures are about what they are in a hot Philly July and it never rains. All that’s needed are a few more calculations and we’ll be ready to take our first trip.

T.B.C.


DK has a sense of humor we  appreciate. Photo by them as well. This story originally appeared in season one episode one (not our pilot episode, mind you) of Metropolarity: Journal for Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies

“They’re coming,” Casper thought. A sad, beautiful beach, lit up by the sun reflecting on sand. Casper runs his feet under the cool water, the foam licking in between his toes in gracious laps. He stares up at the big, round orange hole in the clear sky. “They’re coming and I’m not ready.”

Malik is standing in front of him.

“Hi.”

“Move, you’re blocking the sun.” Casper puts his hand up to Malik’s boney chest, gently pushes him to the side. He breathes deeply and welcomes the sun’s rays deep into his chest. Malik hits the beach facedown beside Casper with a desperate thud.

“I’m bored,” he huffs. “Take me somewhere.”

Instinctively, Casper reaches over and gently rubs Malik’s side, down to his stomach, stopping at the wire of a black thong, slowly working his finger under Malik’s bathing suit. Casper’s still staring at the sun. “Where do you want to go?”

A phone rings. A seagull lands on a rock just a few feet away, fluffs its wings. It turns on its spindly bird feet and raises its beak at the two men, lets out a squawk, lets out a stream of white birdshit.

“Hello?” Malik picks Casper’s meaty hand off of his crotch, flings it and then rolls over on his side. Hmmph. The sun is a bright, distant citrus dream. It looks like it’s a tangle of string, interwoven corona in a constantly moving sphere. Casper taps Malik on the side, points towards it like “look”, but Malik doesn’t look. Malik just sulks. Casper’s on the phone, “Yes, what’s up? Where are you guys? No. No. We’re on the beach.”

And then the sun disappears. A wave of purple and black washes over the beach, folding into a final, gestating grey. With a chill squeaking up his spine, Malik turns towards Casper and buries his face in Casper’s shoulder. The seagull launches into the air and is lost in a flock of them. “Who’s that?”

“Yeah?” Casper sits up. The synergistic grey and then a cloud or two, the fading sun; so sudden. “We were just about to leave.”

PART TWO:

On Roa, they made crystal sieves and mined the gelding stone. There was a great dance before they sent the men into the mines, they shook shackles and metal plaques and tied up ghosts in rituals and burned cages. They went to the highest mountains and started their shambolic soul dance at the peak, spinning and twirling there until sky reached its purple climax.

Little volcanic fissures in Roa’s surface sprayed a fine mist and they sent their men into them, one by one, towards their birthright.

“Roth. Get up.” Ragolos looked into the bamboo tent. His son was sleeping on a bed of grass. “Get up. It’s time.”

Young Roth without protest gathered at the edge of a long path. Saba was there with him, three boys down. They looked at each other. Saba was trembling, his upper lip bouncing furiously into his lower teeth.

Roth closed his eyes and tried to imagine he and Saba, running across quiet plains and chasing Mupquat Bugs, tying twine to their enormous tails and then sailing through the meadow with them as Roa’s two suns beat down on their bare skins. Roth tried to remember sneaking into the Novatt Temples and stealing small, sacred jewels, angering the monks who chased them with sticks. As Saba’s simpering got louder, the memory of Roth fighting back a horde of boys tossing rocks at the two of them swelled in his mind. The larger boy, Staen, put down his rocks, walked up to Saba, grabbed his grass-woven shirt and shoved Saba into the dirt. When Roth stepped in front of Saba to defend his friend, Staen and the other boys beat him to a pulp. One punch lifted Roth off of his feet and into the air sending Roth falling backward and landing on the rocky ground lifelessly. Roth’s vision was coated with wetness, a fish lens haze, but he could see, right before passing out, the feet of his friend Saba treading through the grass, getting smaller and smaller and disappearing over the horizon.

Staen was in the line of boys. He was smirking as usual, fighting to withhold a laugh. They all stood there, naked, their tar black bodies exposed. On one side of them, a line of chanting warriors; on the other a line of humble, broken bodied men from the mines; in front of them, the monks and praetors and scholars walked slowly, deliberately, casting flowers and lighting incense as they moved down the path. Women of the village looked on out of the windows of their huts, their day in the fields or on the hunting grounds or cleaning the vast libraries and sanitoriums and monuments on hold.

“Boys!” the praetor announced. “Today, you will walk through the mist! You will walk through the mist and emerge a warrior, a miner, or a monk! Today, you will be shown your destiny!”

A roar from the crowd. Birds lifted to the sky. All of the naked male children in a hushed silence tensed up. And behind the monks in front of them, a guyser of red mist shot up! And with this the crowd silenced.

“Come!” shouted the praetor, raising his skinny arms through voluminous robes. “Come and meet your destiny!”

And as the monks parted, the boys walked down the line and into the mist. Soon they would emerge with the distinguishing marks that chose their fate. Inside the mist, Roth felt searing heat. A soft glistening rain coated his body. The boys screamed! Their bodies racked with pain, then spiraling into ecstasy, and fading into numbness. When the mist subsided, Roth collapsed on the forest floor. His eyes slowly opened. There was Saba, his back torn into shreds, protruding with the wings of a warrior. Staen was curled up in a ball; his fingers long and pointy, skin etched with the elegant, esoteric design of the tattoo of a monk.

And then Roth saw his father’s boot. He followed up the length of the man’s torso until he met his father’s eyes. A solitary tear had escaped and rolled down the man’s cheek.

“Come, my son.”

But behind his father was a slowly burning light, a bright star expanding, just reaching over his father’s shoulder. As it grew larger, winds ripped through the village. Naked young men, now christened warriors and miners and monks, scattered, as rain poured violently into the atmosphere. Trees bent, houses unthatched, monks clutching their precious parchments ran for safety, crying to the heavens, their sacred ritual desecrated by some unforeseen force. And then emerging with a sonic boom from the light, a large vessel appeared! It was made of a strange platinum. It moved through space like liquid. It seemed like hours, but only minutes had elapsed as it hovered over Roth and his father, trapping them there in its path with an intense magnetism.

A hatch opened. Out strode a man in a tight, blue and black suit that seemed to swim over his body. His skin, that rippled over his taut, muscular frame, was a ripe purple. His hair was a long, flowing mane of starburst strands, glowing with a fire the people of Roa had never seen. And he spoke.

“Roth F’_iiosf of Roa!” he commanded.

Roth’s father held the boy tightly, his tears turning to firey determination. “What do you want with my son?” he screamed out in exasperation. “My family has suffered enough disappointment today!”

“Roth F’_iiosf of Roa! I am The Destroyer. You have walked through that mist! Rise and take your place with the true champions of this universe. For Roth F’_iiosf of Roa is no more. Now, there is only Black Mage of the Galactic Legion!”

Roth pulled away from behind his father. As the wind and light swirled around them, the boy took a step. He looked at his father; the man’s sad, crumpled and tattered face sunken and desperate for light. The sagging, tar pitched skin. The eyes etched on both sides with the three, tell-tell hatchmarks of a miner. And he took another step towards the Destroyer. And he remembered tying twine to Muquat Bugs. And he said, sadly, to his father, “I don’t want to be a miner.” And he took another step, then more, and followed the Destroyer into the vessel and disappeared into the black, shapeless void of space.

PART THREE:

There’s a bar Rob and Chris are sitting at. Its long, rickety bar stools seem to spill out of the large windows of the place and onto the street. They’re facing the television and talking over dance beats. It’s easy to ignore the monotonous Robin Thicke remixes, Chris thinks suddenly, when your excessively handsome friend Rob is unloading a fresh batch of college football stories in that wide, cavernous cadence of his.

“I was the best arm coach had, but he had me playing tight end,” Rob explains, thudding his beer on the counter in subtle protest. “Like, yeah, I was the biggest motherfucker with any kind of skill set he ever recruited, but damn man, I never wanted to play tight end! Got caught on a slant route with no protection—“

“No protection?” Malik has his caramel arms around Rob’s thick, black ex-football neck. “Sounds like my kind of game.”

“There you are!” Rob stands up, almost out of some strange courtesy, lets Malik steal his seat in the suddenly crowding bar. “Where ya’ll been?”

Casper is adjusting his belt, fumbling with his wallet. He pushes his glasses back onto his face twice before even reaching the guys at the bar.

“It’s not that kind of party,” Chris informs Malik. “We were discussing slant routes. Again.” Chris is wearing another striped polo shirt, drinking another Manhattan.

“Child please, I’d rather hear about any kind of route than about some ridiculous star war or green goblet for the thirtieth time,” Malik confides.

“Are you two together?” Chris asks, almost scandalously. Malik looks over at doughy, strange Casper, awkwardly shaking Rob’s mammoth hand. Casper, pushing up his glasses again, tiny hairs peaking out of his overworn Green Lantern t-shirt— in Malik’s mind they are piling into Casper’s Puegot, then they’re wandering some dingy comic book store and Casper’s talking to the guy at the counter about rare masks, and then they’re at Subway, the green and yellow blending synergistically with the smell of rancid banana peppers and dim lighting until Malik’s ready and nauseous. But they’re also in a tent on a moss covered rock, and they’re in a forest; they’re on the beach under a peach colored sun.

“No,” Malik says, a lilt of sadness or reflection in this voice. “No, we’re not,” he reaffirms, stronger this time and with a hint of sass.

“Oh.” Chris is a wise and average fool. His shoes are white New Balances, but, as Malik puts it when they’re all in the hotel room, his bank account is, essentially, black and gold Prada, to say nothing of Dolce and Gabana.

“Don’t worry about what shoes I’m wearing,” Chris says, taking off his cross-trainers. He holds up one of them, models it. Rob let’s out a roaring laugh. Malik clamps his nose with his fingers, tries to make for the door. Inevitably, Chris’s musty shoe ends up following Malik around the room. Casper sits nervously at the edge of the bed, fiddling with the remote, muttering under his breath.

Rob tries to make contact: “Cas. Cas!” Everything in the room stops. They’re all looking at Casper. “What are you doing, dude?”

“I’m trying to…it’s the television.” Casper explains. “It’s the television. Apparently, you need to be a Shi’ar tech sergeant of the Imperial court if you’re going to figure out how to work this thing.” They’re all looking at each other. Rob turns back to Casper.

“We didn’t come out this way to look at TV, man.” Rob walks over to his fidgety friend, puts his hand on Casper’s shoulder, then works the thick, mealy flesh of it underneath the shirt . “Let’s get loose.”

Casper runs out of the room, nearly knocking Chris into a nightstand. Casper beats on the elevator buttons, they all light up but the elevator doesn’t come in time. He sinks to the floor and covers his face with his hands. Malik gingerly walks over to him, stands there, mustering great patience. Casper looks up through a thin veil of tears. Malik is holding his hand out towards him.

“Come on,” Malik says, softly, sternly. “Let’s go back.”

PART FOUR:

A small, blue light flashed on.

A man with metallic skin is standing in the middle of a vast control room.

“Ion-1.” And the rest of the lights sparked to life, a trail or whirring electrons sweeping over the room. “Commence cryobirth. Stage 2.” Rising from the floor, an array of sleep champers, nearly twenty of them. Each one slowly opened in a cloud of frozen mist. Beings emerged from slumber, some gasping tasting the sterile air of the cryochamber, others feeling no real effect at all. Red Star was one of them, his hair cascading away from him as he flexed his awakening muscles.

“Fucking balls, mate,” said Spike. He was a tiny man, still covered in dirt and raw unkempt hair. “What a trip, eh?”

The being next to him, roguish, nearly 8 feet tall, with green, cratered skin, groaned, pulled himself out of the sleep casket.

“Aw, dreaming about those Crabgirls in the Nebulaar Sector again, Grok?” Spike quipped.

“*@***@*@****@@@*,” the large, green man countered.

“Crikey, Ion-1, we’re asleep in these stupid metal trashcans for god knows how long and you can’t find time to fix the bloody translators? I don’t know how you were picked to be a part of this ragtag outfit if you can’t do your one bloody fucking job, you pooz!”

“Ion-1 was chosen the same way we all were, Spike.” Void was standing in front of her, still groggy, still submerged comrade. As she spoke, her skin was coated with the living pixels and nano-bytes that make up her outer nervous system.

“He was chosen by the Light,” Red Star interrupted. That seemed to shut up the diminutive Spike. “Ion-1, forget the translators for now. We have a more pressing matter. Before we left the last quadrant, I felt a surge in energy. Can you play back all significant electroscans in the last three sleep cycles.”

“Christ, can we all get some clothes on before you start in with all the Star Trek shit, mate? I’m freezing me bloody arse off here!”

Red Star looked at him, first quizzically, then, after looking around the room, nodded. “Fine. All members of the Galactic Legion, convene in the chamber of darkness. Now.”

A robot, bent and distended, it’s sockets and circuitry exposed, lifted off of the gymnasium floor. It rose with a quirky unease, bracing itself on the wall behind it. From it’s hand, a shaft of solid, hard light, a photon, appeared. It roared to life moving impossibly fast, it’s sabre of light ripping through the atmosphere. It was sent hurtling back, smashing into pieces. Roth landed two feet in front of it, cupped his fist into his open palm, and bowed.

The door to the gym slid open, startling him. A women covered in ever changing pixels glided into in.

“Roth.” She surveyed the heaps of metal and scrap that decorated the gym floor. “You’ve been in here since we awoke from cryosleep. Why? What purpose does it serve trashing battle-bots in such a way?”

Roth, nearly breathless, closed his eyes, let the calming hand of his father wash over him. He was chasing Muquat Bugs. He turned to look at Void.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“There is nothing in the cosmos beyond my understanding, young one.” She looked intently at Roth, her eyes tracing his body as if he were merely a blueprint of himself. “Yet…” She spoke quieter, softer. “Yet, I feel that you are an enigma that can’t be solved with any postulate known to even my eternal databanks.”

“I don’t know. I guess I can’t just…” He moved closer to Void. He reached out his hand to touch her face. She didn’t flinch or twitch or make any movement to show that Roth had breached her personal space. So he touched her.

“What is this ritual, human?”

“How alone are you?” he asked. He could feel a slight burn as Void’s skin on his emitted a stinging warmth.

A red light flashed and the chimes of an alarm fell about them.

“Come, it is time.” Said Void, gliding across the gym floor again. When she looked back at him, her eyes seemed to have a sweet sadness to them breaking through their usual, medicinal stare, though he could have imagined it.

A large star map floated above the table. All 20 members of the Galactic Legion were assembled. They sat in front of their symbol, crude runes depicting each of their talents. Glassbird sat before crystal wings. Phaser sat before a swirling black hole. The Destroyer, a hardened menanced visage slightly cracked when Roth entered the chamber. And Red Star sat at the head of the long table, in front of a swirling, pulsing red, red sun.

“My friends, my greatest comrades,” he began.

“Here we go,” Spike mumbled, nudging Roth in the kidney.

“I’ve troubling news. It seems as if The Vanq have found their way to this sector.” A murmur gently trickled through the assembly. “I know, the Vanq even gives me pause. They are led by the dark lord, Apox, the demon who found the accursed Dark and with it rose through many hells to be birthed on this universe. His is a vast, dark evil. At his employ are some of the sickest mercenaries from the darkest galaxies. The Iduwanda, galactic pirates from Xon. Cyx the Unicorn Killer and his tribe of cannibal mercenaries. Dragon Deth, the beast wranglers from LV-21.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know all about these tossers,” Spike spat out, leaning back in his chair, his grimy boots planted on the table. “But what makes this so special, eh? Why the bloody Christ are we worried about these arseholes now? We put them in stasis before, we’ll put them in stasis again.”

“I’ll field this one, sir.” Ion-1 stood, proceeded to the center of the table, typing furiously on the touchscreen. “If we’re mapping the power surge that Red Star, our incorrigible leader, felt right before the last sleep cycle, and if we’re to believe that these are Apox and his forces using power heretofore unknown to them to traverse the stars, we can find out exactly where they are going.”

And with the touch of another button, the star map whirled and disappeared. Animated pixels rose in its place and coalesced into the shape of a small sphere. Enhancing, it was revealed to be a small, blue planet with nebulous clouds circling it’s stratosphere.

“They’re headed for earth,” Spike whispered.

“Not that shithole,” Grok protested through his gravely voice.

Something about the blue sphere hypnotized Roth. He stared intently at it. It was not unlike Roa in its appearance. The stories Spike told of it were entertaining, but mostly seemed to make the young man sad. He asked, “What makes Earth so special?”

“Not earth Not earth Not earth not earth not earth not earth” Spike was shaking his head, his eyes protruding dangerously out of their sockets.

“Earth is the nexus of the universe,” Void offered. “The prophecy of the Light. It ends on earth.”A silence etched over the room. “It all ends on earth.”

Red Star lowered his eyes. His hair swam to life. He stood up, mouth agape. And a large explosion blew a hole in the roof. The Galactic Legion looked up, almost in unison; the could see out into space! The explosion had ripped through the hull, tore down the hallways of the ship, and penetrated to the chamber of darkness. A swarm of armor clad mercenaries with advanced weaponry spilled into the room. They were covered in a strange slime.

Glassbird flew into action, her mighty wings ripping through her enemies bodies, striking down three of them. A large hand grabbed her face and, with all it’s might, flung her into the chamber walls. He was a snarling beast of a man, made of black soot. Steam and smoke rose from his eyes. Lava filled his mouth. Two creatures with the features of bees stepped out from behind him, raised the long prods they held in their hands and fired them at the still dazed Glassbird, sending an intense shock through her crystalline body. In seconds, the electricity spiraled through Glassbird in a near atomic flash, shattering her.

“No!”, Spike yelled. As the horde descended on the Legion, many of them being taken down by surprise, Spike jumped up on the table, leaped in the air. Two waves of electricity escaped from the bee creatures pods, one of them hit Grok who was being held down by space mercenaries. Another hit Red Star who had managed to tangle up a few mercs in his powerful, heat charged hair. He exploded, steam rising off of him. His costume was tattered but he remained practically unharmed, as the lifeless bodies of the mercenaries dropped to the floor. Grok was not so fortunate. His hollowed out husk turned to ash before their eyes. Spike leaped from the table. Two large, bony, sharp pegs grew out of his palms. He yelled in pain, but in mid air bounced off of the back of a mercenary and sent himself hurtling straight for the large man made of black soot.

“AAAPOOOXXX! DIE YOU BLOODY POOF!” he screamed, and wedge the pegs in his eyes. Apox stammered. His men were being cut down, now that the Legion had regathered and regrouped. For all his vast cosmic power, to be felled by a scruffy turd of a man from Earth? With a wave of his hand, he smacked Spike off of him, sending him hurtling through the air.

“Crikey, this is gonna hurt,” he whimpered. But before he impacted with the wall, possibly splattering across it, his spine already irreparably damaged by Apox’s blow, Void appeared in mid-air, teleporting him away.

“We’ve got to get that bastard out of here!” Spike yelled. “I put two charges on those spikes, no telling what kinda damage it’ll do mixed with all of that demon power!”

“Your request is inarticulate.” Void said, laying down here friend a few feet from the battle. “But I know what must be done.” And she teleported away.

Apox, still with Spike’s pegs submerged into his eyes, stood over Roth. He smelled of acid and shit and brimstone. Roth’s fists were bloody and caked with the pulp of dead and dying space pirates, of mercenaries from gutter regions of the universe. He’d at one time fought a Fan’gor Beast with just a stick and a stone, saving a village on some backwater planetoid from being devoured. He’d fought a gang of Angel Mob, fallen ones who attempted to gain control of heaven mafia style, all by himself in the slums of Cowanchee, the former prison asteroid turned space colony. But before him was Apox. The large creature leaped into the air and hurtled down towards Roth. Roth jumped. He didn’t know what to do. Aim for the eyes? Try to drive Spike’s spikes further into his head? He had an eighth of a second to do it. As the two met each other, there in the chamber of Darkness, a light flashed. Roth rolled right through the light and crashed into the meeting table. Red Star emerged into the room. They could see a similar light appear in space. Void was outside, holding Apox in her arms, floating away from their ship. A voice sounded in Roth’s head.

“We are never alone.” It echoed, sounding like Voids.

And then, in the black of space, amongst debris and craggy asteroids, an explosion that trailed like a falling star.

PART FIVE:

“What do you mean, they’re coming?” Chris snickers from the backseat of Casper’s Peugot , biting his quivering lower lip. “Who’s coming?” He can barely whisper the words without painfully fighting back a laugh.

Casper looks in the rear-view mirror, adjusts it, eying Chris. His stuffy green and white polo shirt, strangely combed and stiff blond hair, dangerously jaundiced skin, over-dyed Old Navy jeans shorts and dreadful white tennis shoes—“I’ve got bad feet,” Chris had said the other night when Malik was making fun of his “boring guy” uniform at Olive Garden the night before. “You’ve got bad everything, hon,” Malik reminded him, tossing a grape tomato at Chris, laughing. Always laughing.

Then Casper looks out and into the parking lot. A bird shitting on the curb impressed a bum so much, the bum stands up pointing and guffawing in barely contained delight, knocking over paper bags of glass bottles into the gutter.

A static hung in the air. Casper can feel it rise up and through his fingers somehow. Right? Can’t he feel it? Sitting there in the 711 parking lot, he grips the steering wheel, watches a newspaper swiftly levitate into the air and swirl around the dancing bum. He shuts his eyes and tightens his grip. “Come on, come on” he whispers, waits. There’s a sucked out silence, nothing.

When the door opens its like a wall of sound crumbling into the front seat. Malik and Rob are on the tail end of a bad joke. “I told him, I’m not paying for it. Those items were flawed.”

“But Malik, you put them on, wore them outside and everything? They can’t resell underwear after they’ve been all over your areas, man,” Rob informs him through a light chuckle. They fall into their respective seats, Malik settling into the front, gleefully sipping a slurpee, almost willfully oblivious to any emotion Casper could be conjuring; Rob in back careful not to let his leg slide too far over to Chris’s side, to touch the man’s denim protected skin, to brush up against his hairy knees. Before Rob could spiral into a sad trance of guilt, into the dark dread that arises when he’s near Chris, that strange doe eyed look as Chris’s lumpy body lay there as softly as it could ­after Rob had fucked him that night two years ago, a look that turned dry and somber with confusion when Rob, through a barrage of small talk and excuses, got up and put his clothes on and left— Rob looks over at Chris’s face now and sees another kind of confusion. He mouths, “what now?” at Chris who, wide-eyed, just shakes his head.

Cutting through Malik’s impassioned, complaint filled anecdote of retail horror, Rob asks, “Casper, you alright?” They’re already on the road. There’s a hushed, still blossoming twilight peaking over the horizon.

Is the air thick with electricity?

Malik shifts in his seat. He finally looks over to Casper, wordlessly pleads for his friend to say, “yes, yes, I’m fine.”

“And this is my Green Lantern collection.” They were in his room in his tiny apartment in University City. “You’ve got John Stewart,” Casper said, picking up a small, green clad figurine. “And this is Guy Gardener. This is Kilowog.” Before him, on this tiny IKEA dresser, stretched various miniatures of the entire Green Lantern Corps. There were red ones and yellow ones and orange ones, too. And posters of star-crossed barbarians in dragon-skin loin cloths, of men in long flowing capes and armed to the teeth with an irrational amount of guns.

“What?”
“No, nothing.” Malik looked for a place to sit and found a corner of the bed that wasn’t smothered in paraphernalia. “It’s just not what I’m used to.”

“Oh.” Casper said, his once assured voice turning more delicate as the conversation started to turn. “What exactly are you used to?”

“I don’t know,” Malik replied. He cleared another section of the bed. Casper almost gasped as a pile of comics tumbled onto the floor. “Here. Sit.”

A year later, they are going 85, then 95 miles an hour on the turnpike, flying recklessly around small surburban towns and making wild turns onto one way streets.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Chris is a mess of nerves in the backseat. Rob is panicking and yelling for Casper to calm down. Malik has his eyes closed and he’s muttering something under his breath. Casper drives.

“Do something, motherfucker!” Chris screams at Rob. His face has twisted into a maze of frowning skin. “You’re always on about your great physical prowess, about how fucking brilliant you were on the goddamn field! When it comes right down to it, you’re a scared little faggot, just like the rest of us. Aren’t you? Aren’t you?!?!”

Rob sat there in stunned silence as buildings whiz by, as stoplights beg for that Peugot to stop. The road beneath them shrinks as their vehicle plunges into the oncoming night. 100mph, but nothing was happening for Rob, except the slow motion, distorted admonishing contortions of Chris. For this moment in time, Rob finally sees the man as a man. What is this person like? Is Chris just a shopping trip to Target every Tuesday? A man DVR’ing “Judge Judy” and “Young and the Restless”? Is Chris just a man sitting at a bar, laughing at bad jokes and hoping for a Lady Gaga song? He didn’t know. Rob reaches out and slaps Chris in the face.

Malik unbuckles his seatbelt. He turns to Chris, and, with thin wrists, wrenches the man’s grip from the steering wheel. The car swerves into a guard rail, flips over a ditch and rams, upside down, into a light pole. The wheels don’t even spin.

Malik’s eyes clogged with haze. He can smell the acidic aroma of iron and blood. Lights are flashing? Everything is black and white and upside down. He can see two figures walk towards him. Their boots are heavy, their walk is locked in and measured. They’re speaking in tongues so strange they sound metallic. The lights turn into a single, burning, sphere. It’s a white vortex cutting through the black night. Wind whips and everything around him trickles away as bits of a sand castle floating off into the hurricaning sea.

“They’re here,” Malik thinks. Whispers? Malik thinks he reaches out to casually tap Casper on his shoulder. He knows somewhere in his soul that he can’t move, but he reaches anyway. “They’ve finally come.”