You've Found The Lost Poetry


The Lost Poetry is a living book from the mind of Squire Vain.

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka


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THE LOST POETRY PREMIERS A BRAVE NEW WORK

A proper writer creates a living novel in 30 weeks for all to see. Starting on the first day of spring in the year 2020, witness the birth of a new piece of modern literature.


Click to start reading


Witness the birth of a piece of modern literature, as Squire Vain writes a new book on this very web page.

This book is the first of a new series.

A Work in Progress is being released for free on this website.

Squire Vain unleashes 150+ words each day.

Additionally, he's sharing segments that align perfectly with the subject matter, including People and the Stories They Tell, Mid-Atlantic Exposé, Authors for Healthy Living, and Hardly Boiled.

A Work in Progress by S. Vain

The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)


$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
Signed by the Author

SIGNED COPIES OUT OF STOCK

(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

Take a Look Inside:

Paperback Edition

$14.50 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First Edition paperback,
perfect bound, 244 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing House.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter one

Winter set in upon the town with great hesitation, leaving ample time for folks to tend to what the trees left behind from the way nature releases into the fall. Those leaves would have decayed on their own, of course, had they been left to rot upon the wet grass. It was still a proud duty to remove matters before the snow settled in and made removing the leaves an impossibility. The way of the fall weather, that was rare to rain upon the town, allowed townsfolk ample time. Still, most people were quick to lift the leaves from their gutters and lawns while they were still crisp. Raking wet leaves was a challenge that could be avoided, and it should be avoided to efficiently make use of energy.

The bow rake dragged along the flowerbed, scraping gravel and dirt from the bed into the lawn. The firmness of the tool caused some damage to the dry grasses outside of the flowerbed. Witnesses of the raking were alarmed by the disturbance, for the grass needed to rest as it was without being pilfered in order to reign supreme over the rest of the foliage in the yard in the springtime. All along the back porch and balcony areas, members of the household took turns looking over the work being done. Murmurs echoed behind sliding glass doors, but the workers kept moving at full speed.

The tenants of the household had no business in matters pertaining to the grounds of the manor, for their rental agreements didn't include any plot of outdoor ground. Therefore, the yard was maintained by the hands of the landowner, a mild-mannered old-timer, who employed the help of neighborhood children. He thought children were cheap labor, and he hadn't any grandchildren of his own to employ, so he paid for the chance to teach his simple ideas to the children that lived in his cul-de-sac.

Meow, a cat owned by one of the older boys, followed the children to work each day. He was a hefty orange tabby who must have found it odd that his humans went two blocks away when there were perfect leaves all around their manor at Brookshire Village. Cats didn't crawl the streets there often, at least not in clowders (as they are often called). Brookshire was scarcer than Sherwood, especially in the sudden cold that was settling in on their town. They could have raked leaves on their own, but they wanted to learn from a seasoned professional, and their parents wouldn't spring for more than what they already were getting for allowance, so the spoiled rich children thought they'd take advantage of the situation. Although, there were two who wanted to learn what old Mr. Rolick had to say about horticulture.

Apart from Dustin and Sarah, all the other children listened to what Eddie had to say, and they were a big group, so Eddie usually had to whoop loudly to get them all on his side.

"Aren't we going to get them dollars today? When old Rolick drops his wallet, I'll take it and run," said Eddie. His companions found him amusing, except for Dustin who held his little sister's hand to keep her away from the menacing group of youngsters.

He whispered to Sarah, "Don't listen to that boy. He's just trying to put on a show."

Sarah was confused by it all. She asked her brother, "Is he planning on robbing from Mr. Rolick?"

"No," said Dustin, "I don't think so. He's all talk. You'll see." Dustin thought he knew Eddie better than anyone else because he had seen his antics in school and at the basketball court where they played foursquare and other games. They were in many of the same classes; he didn't think anyone his age was capable of doing anything as sinister as thievery, especially from a kind-hearted man like Mr. Rolick.

They caught up with the group before the children reached the manor housing complex with the tall oak trees in the backyard. Meow waited at the gate leading to the backyard while the children filtered through the fence. The cat's tail swept through the grass, and its body spread out along the ground in a way that helped the cat conceal its appearance along the perimeter of the backyard.

"Professor Onion wouldn't have lasted a minute with her," said Eddie to his followers.

All the children agreed. Whenever Eddie told them that a particular teacher of theirs was failing to hold up to his peculiar standards, the other children would find it so amusing. In this particular case, Dustin and Sarah caught up to the older boy giving a discourse on how one frequently perspiring professor wouldn't have been a fair match for their voluptuous guidance counselor.

Their conversation garnered attention from onlookers that lived in the manor apartment complex, and Mr. Rolick had to sit to take a break when he heard the children coming up the hill to where he was raking leaves. By the time they reached the prayer garden, he had his rake spun upside-down to admire how its teeth were free of leaves. He spent some time showing the children how to get the leaves out from the teeth of their rakes before they started working on the piles of leaves.

Dustin took a small rake over to his sister, and he used a full-size rake to work with her on a section of the garden where the grapevines would take over the trellises in the spring and summer months. Pretty soon after getting started, they were too hot for their jackets and scarves, but their gloves remained in place to keep from putting blisters on their hands. The air was still cold, but they heated their bodies with work.

They built a big pile of leaves together. All of the children were putting in their share of effort to get the job done, for they all wanted to earn a few extra dollars. Mr. Rolick was notorious for tipping extra for doing a good job on helping him clean up the grounds.

When the pile was big enough to fill a can, Mr. Rolick went to the shed to get an old plastic container that was once used to hold water. The barrel was bright blue, and holes had been drilled in the bottom of it to keep it from filling with water when it rained. Before he was surrounded by helpful hands, he turned the barrel onto its side, and he used his rake like a shovel to put a few scoops of leaves into the vessel.

Sarah was eager to help fill the barrel by taking leaves into her hands, and she carried them across the grounds, dispersing some along the way, until she reached the barrel. She only had a fraction of the leaves that she originally intended to capture, but the harder she held them in her grasp, the more they seemed to slip away. Her brother gathered a few handfuls of leaves that were dropped along her trail, and their contribution was mashed into the barrel under the boot of Mr. Rolick's right foot.

He hadn't had any trouble getting his foot into the barrel, but he stumbled during its removal. His boot laces were caught on a sharp piece of plastic, causing the old horticulturist to lose his balance. When he crashed down onto the ground, he was cradled by the very same part of nature that he was trying to remove.

His wisdom made him privy to the fact that he had been going about his day with great haste firing from his limbs when all his hard work manifested into that catastrophic fall.

He had been reaching down and using his body in thoughtless ways for the purpose of picking up leaves. Mistakenly, he had been bending at the hips to lower himself. Instead of bending his legs to the slightest degree, time and time again, he continued to topple himself forward. Earlier, he had been displacing his own body, superimposing his own beliefs in place of his natural center of gravity, to pick up the leaves, and after he fell, it was he, the adult in charge, who was the one that needed to be scooped from down below.

When he fell in front of the prepubescent hired workers, he remained remarkably still. He stayed there, with his head laying flat and his body crumpled. His back was saved by the pile of leaves that broke his fall, but his pride was shattered. For, falling in front of adolescents meant that he was no wiser than a baby who's still learning to balance itself on its own legs.

After the initial embarrassment wore off, Mr. Rolick noticed how his head was disturbingly close to the sharp teeth of the rake on the ground next to him. Oh, how he used the rake moments before to demonstrate ways to delicately remove plant matters from the garden, yet the very tool for his instruction would have ended his life. If he had landed a few inches to the right, his neck, head, and his spinal column would have been impaled by the rusty teeth of the rake.

His horrors quickly dissipated when he was approached by the kind boy and the boy’s sister. They helped him to his feet, and he thanked them for brushing away the debris that was clinging tightly to his insulated flannel overcoat. The horror of nearly being stabbed by his own tool was replaced by a renewal of the embarrassment he felt when he was lying there, for beneath his jacket, mud had smeared all over his trousers.

As Dustin and Sarah backed away from Mr. Rolick to give him space to breathe, the rest of the group were an orchestra at Eddie's command. The bravaccio children chuckled whenever their conductor pointed and spewed out insults.

"Looks like the old man couldn't hold onto his breakfast," said Eddie. His eyes moved like a baton, from Rolick to a member of his ensemble. The bully child, to which the conductor looked, acted out motions of incontinence, and the rest of the orchestra joined in harmonious symphony.

"That's not nice to say," said little Sarah.

Her brother saw the way that Eddie was surprised about the young girl taking up her own opinion on the matter. Needlessly, Dustin chimed in, to say, "You should treat people—with the same respect you want to have when you slip and fall."

At that very moment, one of the tenants that lived on the topmost level of the complex was getting home from his leisurely assembly-line job. He expected to look out from his balcony into an opulent, well-kept ground. Yet, the fighting in the yard brought him to grapple with his serene expectation. Some people have trouble watching others get beaten down.

Dustin held off Eddie for as long as he could. Each swing of Eddie's fists ended with a violent impact that pushed Dustin backwards, and the other children closed in on their tormented tangle. Thanks to the old man, Sarah stayed out of the way. Mr. Rolick tried to stop their fighting, but he couldn't break into the tightly woven circle.

"Leave him be," said Mr. Rolick, and he tried to separate the boys, but he was too far removed. Eventually, he was able to infiltrate into their brutal circle, but Dustin was already on the ground. He pulled away the malevolent instigator from laying into the boy with fists that battered the boy’s face and chest, and his intervention ended the violent kicks to Dustin's ribs.

When the tyrant was removed from his atrocious acts, he flung free of the old man's grasp, and he cursed at everyone around him. But he was finished cursing by the time the tenant from the topmost level arrived at this scene taking place.


Now, it’s time for a segment that’s not part of A Work in Progress.

We’re going to take a look through a book Squire Vain found and brings to the ether through the medium of The Lost Poetry.

If you don’t want to be taken out of this story you’re reading, you should scroll past this section. You are free to come back at any time.

Today, we’re beginning a segment that I’d like to call People and the Stories They Tell. This segment is focused on literature, but the author doesn’t necessarily have to be in print.

Today’s entry comes from one of my favorite series in writing resources. Wordsworth Reference is a series named after the poet from the northwestern region of England. This series is an unstoppable writing resource that I’m proud to lean on and learn from when I come to a standstill with my own writing as the Squire.

The series includes Dictionary of English Etymology by Walter W. Skeat, Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler, and quite a few other titles. We’re going to look at Dictionary of Proverbs assembled by G.L. Apperson.

In Dictionary of Proverbs, “nearly three thousand works dating as far back as the twelfth century and earlier” are arranged by subject matter.

Here's one delightful proverb that relates to the story you’ve been reading:

“A tyrant’s breath is another’s death.”

Dictionary of Proverbs indicates that this particular proverb comes from an earlier lexicon of proverbs, simply called A Book of Proverbs by H.G. Bohn (1855). If you’d like to see a scan of the original, Bohn’s Book of Proverbs is available online for free by visiting this archival website.

Without further adieu, let’s get back to
A Work in Progress.


The tenant was a burly man with clothes that were ill-fitting, clinging to his body and choking off his circulation. His grey sweatshirt was stained with perspiration from moving too quickly. He called out to the group before he made a slow climb up the small hill and into to the garden area.

"Are they picking on you again, Ed?" asked the tenant. "You better leave my nephew alone, you know what’s good for you." He snapped a rake in half and tossed the pieces to the ground in front of Mr. Rolick. "I pay my rent on time, and this is how you treat me? Bring our kids out here to be your slaves, and you let my sweet little nephew get thumped on in my own backyard?"

"Now, Mr. Tenpenny, your nephew was the one doing most of the thumping," said Mr. Rolick, but the irate tenant wouldn't listen to reason.

"He's a good boy," said Tenpenny, "being bullied by that mangy brat and his simple-minded sister."

The two children he was speaking about moved away from the rest of the group. Behind Mr. Rolick, Sarah inspected the lacerations on Dustin's face. His jaw was swollen on one side, clicking and grinding beneath the surface.

The other children followed behind Eddie, as Tenpenny lead them through the fence. They entered the apartment from the front side of the building. On their way through the gate, Dustin's cat was hissing the whole time. Meow's back was arched, and he swiped his paw in the air at the menacing child.

"Come get your cat, kid," said Tenpenny, and he kicked dirt in the cat's direction.

“You should be careful,” said Sarah. Her eyes were glowing with a staggeringly opulent radiation. “You don’t know whom you’re dealing with.”

“Excuse me, King Hairball,” said Tenpenny. “I didn’t know I was in the company of royalty.” He bowed graciously to Meow before shoving the swinging gate all the way in, to meet the inside fence of the garden area.

When the mayhem had subsided, the grounds of the manor returned to being a peaceful playground, where mother nature could welcome people into her home. The old man took up a rake and made a small pile of leaves that the two children picked up and placed inside the barrel.

Mr. Rolick stopped raking, and he leaned the rake against the barrel to free his hands. He took his wallet from a rear trouser pocket, and he paid the children, handsomely, for their troubles. "That's enough for today. Come back again tomorrow," said Rolick.

"We haven't finished," said Dustin. His lip was bleeding, and his jaw was swollen, but he was relentless in his pursuit.

"You shake off a beating like that," said Mr. Rolick, "then there isn't much that will trouble you in life. These leaves keep coming down. They don't bother me. Let's take the rest of the day to enjoy the fruits of our labor."

He figured that the good children left to find candy to purchase with their earnings. He took time to notice the trees in the backyard of the manor apartment complex, also, turning their fortified buds toward the sweet nectar of the evening sun. The old leaves dried out beneath their former branches, and they danced in the wind that blew across the grass.

Meanwhile, the children that followed Eddie feasted on meat pies prepared by Tenpenny. They waddled back to their homes after forcing their stomachs to distend. But Eddie remained there at the complex, churning his own ideas about how to get ahead in life.

While the evil nature of the young boy brewed into sinister actions, the kind old horticulturist put away his tools inside a garden shed for safekeeping. He was unaware of someone stalking about the grounds, and he didn't hear the crunching of leaves outside of the shed. He was busy tightening a screw on the bottom of the pole of a rake when he was taken by surprise.

He was locked inside of that dark metal garden shed for eight hours, and the cold weather nearly wrecked his joints. His knees became weak from acute pains caused by rheumatoid arthritis. It was more torturous than ever because he didn't plan on being trapped in a small, cold space. The shed was filled with sharp gardening tools, and he feared the rusty blades would poke his skin too hard, so he remained in one space for the majority of the night.

His fists pounded on the walls of the shed, and he yelled for help, but the tenants of the manor never opened their windows during the winter months. Eventually, he fell to the concrete floor of the shed with a loud thud, and he stayed there until the morning light woke him from a cold slumber. Inward beams of morning light informed Mr. Rolick of the space surrounding him, and he took up a pry bar to open the door.

From the opening he made in the sheet metal of the door, he had a vantage point of the driveway of the manor. It was a ways down the sloping hill from the shed to the driveway, but he could tell if someone was getting into their car, and he was able to signal for help. One of the tenants on the first floor came to his rescue, using a skeleton key to open the lock that was keeping him trapped inside the garden shed.

By the time he made it out from his place of entrapment, he found the pile of leaves had dispersed about the grounds. His joints were enflamed, so much so that no work could be done for the rest of the day. He placed his jacket and cap on top of a pile of split wood that was neatly stacked, alongside the apartment complex.

Before he went inside to recover from the event, he called out to the cat that had kept him company. Rolick said, "Mr. Meow, where did you run off to? Wherever you went, I owe you a debt of gratitude. You kept me from losing my mind last night."

Ordinarily, the cat would stick close to his owners, but the curious fury fellow had stayed behind to play in the leaves. When he witnessed the old man being locked in the shed, he hissed at the party who was responsible for Rolick's entrapment. When the delinquent ran off to ransack Rolick's home, the cat waited by the shed, purring and brushing up against the metal siding. He slept next to the shed, and he had a part in getting attention from the tenant when Rolick awoke from the morning light.

Rolick returned with a small saucer of milk for Meow, and he tried to contact the owners. He called the parents of the children who had stayed to help with the leaves the day before, but there wasn't any answer. He didn't want to leave the cat outside alone, so he took him into his living quarters.

"My daughter is at work," said Rolick, "so you'll have the place to yourself."

The faux-leather couch proved to be an adequate place of comfort for the cat. It chose to kneed upon cushions after clawing at the arm of the couch. The thick brown material was already cracked apart before the cat's claws tore through to the foam stuffing. The old man didn't seem to mind, for he was busy taking care of his own needs.

He took himself through showering, and he put on a bathrobe before entering his bedroom to search for comfortable pajamas to wear. But he was met with an awful surprise in his bedroom. The curtains were closed, so he pulled apart the fabric to reveal a disheveled mess. His dresser drawers were emptied out onto the floor, and the contents had been tossed about, onto the carpet of his bedroom chamber. Someone had been looking through his belongings, and he knew that he had been robbed.

The initial panic infuriated Rolick, and he cursed at the scene before him. His sharp utterance gained attention from the friendly feline. The cat appeared in the doorway of his bedroom, and the old man needed to calm down in order to avoid upsetting his guest.

He sat with Meow on the couch. Stroking the cat to calm his nerves seemed to have a similar effect on Meow. While his mind raced of what to do about the situation at hand, the cat's purring became a soothing melody to which there seemed to be no end. When the cat had enough of that sort of attention, he sharply turned his head with his ears pulled back, and he bit Rolick on the hand. Meow jumped from his lap, and he rooted himself on the living room carpet with one leg raised for cleaning.

"Gosh," said Rolick, "I'm getting it bad today. I bet you're ready to get back to your people already, so let's see if there's another number for me to get hold of them." While searching for information to help reach Meow's owners, he turned the cat's collar.

At first, he was disappointed about not having another number of contact to send the cat to where he belonged, but his disappointment subsided when he found a possible solution to his new problem.

The digital tracking mechanism attached to Meow's collar reminded Rolick about similar devices that were purchased by his daughter. The tiny microchip was linked to a satellite relay system that incorporated wireless networking to ping back a signal. Somewhere out there, Rolick thought, a computer system was registering the whereabouts of his feline guest, and he thought the same mechanism could help relocate some of his stolen belongings.

Be it as it may, the transponder linking the cat to his owners had brought attention to Rolick's home, on the first floor of the manor apartment complex. Yet, there was a great confusion to be had, between the parties appointed with responsibility to retrieve Meow and the old man who felt responsible for the well-being of the cat.

As Rolick pined over which of his belongings were missing and whether a microchip was installed in any of the missing items, the robotic sentinels were being deployed from a launch-pad in front of the manor.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Two.


Proceed to Chapter Two


Now, it’s time, once again, for another book that’s not part of The Lost Poetry. In fact, S. Vain managed to pick out this book before the ether began to crumble.

If you’d rather pay attention to the story unfolding before your eyes, please disregard this humble message as profanity that’s been written on the walls of an ornate hall of treasures.

You may promptly scroll to the next section of story,
or click here for Chapter Two.


Presenting to you, a segment from the Mid-Atlantic Exposé, an online journal. The Lost Poetry profoundly presents A Search for Environmental Ethics: An Initial Bibliography.

The Mid-Atlantic Exposé is an online journal dedicated to current events and technology in our world’s history. There’s a special focus on what is groundbreaking in the current age.

A Search for Environmental Ethics is another guidebook, carefully compiled by Mary Anglemyer, Eleanor R. Seagraves, and Catherine C. LeMaistre. The publication is sponsored by the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., and my copy was free.

I pulled this book from the Baltimore Book Thing before it lost its funding because I noticed scrawls of the authors’ signatures in the front of this copy. Whether or not they are real signatures, I haven’t closely researched, but I have opened the book to find the following information:

Even though this book is from the year 1980, it’s still relevant because it was written to address issues that came about in relation to the baby boom that was one of the most pervasive population jumps in recent history, an issue that we are still addressing in current environmental strategies for legislation.

Despite the current suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency, politicians continue to debate over the importance of environmental issues, and these issues concern us all.

A Search for Environmental Ethics is a reference work containing books about human studies that pertain to everything environmental. Long lists of books on population; conservancy trends in Africa, Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Asia, and the U.S.S.R.; philosophy; religion; the atmosphere; youth education; endangered species; justice; land; materialism; natural resources; preservation; technology; theology; wildlife; and so much more.

Although the names of countries have changed in the past few decades, these issues have never been more important than they are right now.

And, although, this reference is being presented as an interruption to A Work in Progress, what we’re going to discuss is in direct relation to this work.

You might ask:

‘What does a book about the environment have to do with a strange science fiction novel?’

Although the technological themes are bursting and bristling from this story, we shouldn’t get into the inanimate without first paying tribute to the animate. Which is why, before going forward with A Work in Progress, we’re going to see what A Search for Environmental Ethics has to say about the topic of … animal rights.

Which artifacts in human history are illuminated by A Search for Environmental Ethics? When one looks for information regarding animal rights, this clever little bibliography suggests visiting the following authors:

William T. Blackstone’s Philosophy and Environmental Crisis contains several essays from American philosophers. Among the collection of essays, the question of whether animals have rights is raised.

Michael W. Fox’s Between Animal and Man is a book that studies the similarities and differences of human beings and animals. It’s written by a veterinarian, and Fox was the Director of the Humane Society’s Institute for the Study of Animal Problems.

Emily Hahn’s A Reporter at Large: Getting Through to Others is an interview with the author mentioned above, Michael W. Fox. One of the central themes of Fox’s work is explored in detail: developing an understanding and respect for all life.

Virginia Hines’ and Luther P. Gerlach’s Many Concerned, Few Committed highlights the importance human beings being motivated to act upon beliefs and values. Gerlach also published a compelling essay that’s available online, The Structure of Social Movements: Environmental Activism and Its Opponents, which is about his understanding of making change within society.

In System of Ethics, a German philosopher summarizes a formal system of ethics. Leonard Nelson’s system includes all of the subjects that are incorporated with humanity and human evolution, including dealing with animals and nature. Although this book review from the Philosophy of Science Association makes one question the scientific validity of Nelson’s writings, System of Ethics certainly brings forward voices that railed about ethics in the past century.

In Animal Rights and Human Obligations, a large number of famous thinkers throughout human history come forth to present their views. Essays from Descartes, Voltaire, Darwin, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and others.

Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals by Peter Singer is a powerful description of how humans have brutally reined over animals, and it offers practical solutions to right such wrongs.

Ernest S. Turner’s Dominion Over the Beasts is a historical approach to realizing how humanity’s attitude toward the treatment and welfare of animals has changes over the ages, including an in-depth analysis of Greek, Roman, and Renaissance thought.


Proceed to Chapter Two


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)


$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
Signed by the Author

SIGNED COPIES OUT OF STOCK

(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

Take a Look Inside:

Paperback Edition

$14.50 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First Edition paperback,
perfect bound, 244 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing House.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter two

Even as a domesticated animal, the orange tabby that occupied the living room in the basement of the large manner complex in Brookshire Village was accustomed to wandering around the neighborhoods on its own. He would take to a can of tuna in a heartbeat, which is what Rolick quickly found out when he started making a sandwich for himself. However, the tabby wasn't accustomed to wandering neighborhoods in search of a way to satiate his own appetite. Typically, he would wander with purpose.

Just like a guardian angel, the cat felt that it was his purpose in life to watch over the children. They were the reason he roamed around in secret. Sometimes, the children knew that he was following them. And other times, they had no idea that the cat was chasing their school bus to make sure that they arrived safely. Even though the school was only a few blocks over from their home, Meow felt the need to follow them. Even when they went on field trips all over town. The cat certainly lost a few of his lives while hitching rides, in the beds of pickup trucks and on the racks of minivans.

Needless to say, the company in charge of pet retrieval wasn't amused. In a process that typically took less than an hour, the search and rescue team from Proud'z Pet Tracerz hunted Meow with swollen certainty. Each time, they would return him to his owners unharmed, and every time, he was let free to escape again. They reluctantly showed up at Brookshire Suites to retrieve the feline by following the signal emitted from the microchip on the cat's collar.

After knocking upon the main door of the complex, the chief operating technician unleashed his flying company of digital surveillance drones. Propeller blades on the mechanical surveyors whipped wildly to help the drones climb above the complex. They had a great view from high above the trees.

High above it all, their sophisticated communication relay systems picked up the exact location of the microchip on the cat's collar. The buds on a branch of a tree in front of the complex were trimmed from the tree by the wild blades of a drone that was maneuvering haphazardly.

The chief operating technician had been monitoring their flights from a handheld device that stared out at the world from all three of the flying surveillance robots.

"Good morning," said the technician to a nearby tenant. As the crows flew high above, the tenant made her way into the building, using a key from a chain that was attached to her wrist. The feeble old woman struggled with rotating the key in the lock; she didn't notice the flying robotic mechanisms that were covertly making their way into the building.

The technician was happy to help her with her key. He lowered the transmitter and tucked the screen between the pleated creases in the elbow of his uniform, and he buttoned the jacket that he wore above a turquoise company shirt. His shirt was printed with a slogan: "Proud to search near and far!" As he engaged in conversation about the weather, the technician slid his foot along the steel kick-plate. When he reached the last rivet in the plate, he turned outward toward the street to give the helpful tenant enough space.

"You take care now," said the technician to the feeble tenant.

"Always looking skyward, but I'll never know what will happen next," said the feeble woman. She pulled on the chain attached to her key, ripping it from the grasp of the technician.

"Don't let in the cold air," she said.

"Come on now. You can help me with the next door, and I'll give you a tea biscuit for your trouble."

The technician looked toward the sky to see about the stability of his birds. They were hovering in a triangular formation. He waved his hand in the air, making a large, swooping motion. The crows dispersed, dashing away in separate directions.

"I'm waiting here for a friend," said the technician. He leaned on the doorframe, but the feeble woman stayed facing toward the small stairwell that lead to the hallway.


Now, it’s time for the choose-your-own-adventure portion of this book. Once again, you may scroll straight past the slanted text to get back to the story at hand. If you dare to read this segment called Authors for Healthy Living, that’s on you.

In today’s segment, we’ll be concerned with health, in terms of the types of foods that you’re eating.

Are you giving your body what it needs?

If you’re feeling feeble, much like the tenant in the story (and Rolick for that matter), you might try a little vitamin D. You will find vitamin D in the dairy section of any grocery store, or you can find it outside. Although, I suggest going out when the sun’s giving off its safest, low-UV rays. However, you’ll have trouble getting all of your vitamin D from the sun. You’ll need to get it from food, somehow. If you don’t like milk, try mackerel, tuna, egg yolk, or … mushrooms.

According to 100 Foods to Stay Young, you’ll need to find maitake mushrooms if you want to have a good source of vitamin D with any vegetarian diet. You might be familiar with this specific type of mushrooms in its ground form. You’ll have to hunt for it in health food stores. But it can also be found in grocery stores.

Charlotte Watts, the author of 100 Foods to Stay Young, supports the claims of the general scientific community that maitake mushrooms are healthy for the heart, they’re great for staying young, and they’ve been used by Chinese and Japanese naturalist medicine practitioners for a very long time. Watts even claims that this mushroom “lowers levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.”

Authors for Healthy Living is proud to present this information about vitamin D and magic mushrooms, but the main objective of this segment was to discuss one of the most delectable cruciferous vegetables.

Brussels sprouts are also great for reducing harmful effects of aging, and they’ll provide some of the same benefits of reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol.

But wait, there are more reasons to celebrate this friendly little green cabbage-shaped specimen. Before you complain about how preparing cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) upsets your roommate, take a moment to consider this astounding fact:

Did you know that Brussels sprouts have higher levels of vitamin C than orange juice?

Using calculations based off of real data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture, it becomes evident that you would need one-and-a-half servings of oranges to have the same amount of vitamin C as one serving of Brussels sprouts. (There’s 80 mg of vitamin C in every 100 grams of Brussels sprouts. Meanwhile, only 53 mg for every 100 grams of oranges.)

100 Foods to Stay Young suggests refraining from overcooking the Brussels sprouts in order to keep your kitchen free of the smells of sulfur. But you shouldn’t complain about those smells too much because the sulfurous chemical is also a cancer-fighting agent.

According to this helpful little book of 100 different ways to keep your body looking and feeling young, “[the] sulfurous chemicals [are] called glucosinolates, which have been shown to reduce tumors and the incidence of cancer, particularly estrogen-related cancers, such as breast and prostate.”

This medium-sized book is packed full of helpful tips to stay young and healthy. Each food that the author lists is coupled with a recipe.

The author suggests scouring the Brussels sprouts on their individual bases, but I’m usually in favor of cutting them in half. Either way, these tasty little vegetables are going into a hot skillet until they’re tender.

As suggested by Watts in 100 Foods to Stay Young, the ingredients for a recipe called “Sprouts With Garlic and Almonds” are as follows:

- 24–32 Brussels sprouts
- 1 tablespoon of oil (olive recommended)
- 3 cloves of garlic (chopped to small bits)
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth/stock
- 3/4 cup of almonds (sliver each of them)
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/3 cup of live yogurt (please, use plain)
- salt and pepper to taste

The directions for this recipe include the following approximations:
1) Prepare the sprouts by cleaning, cutting, blanching or steaming (for two minutes) in water. Dry the sprouts before proceeding to the next step.
2) Heat the pan with the oil. Then, you’ll add the prepared sprouts. Keep the heat on medium, and stir the sprouts for one minute. They’ll start to get brown. You should add the garlic, and stir it for another minute. Repeat this process for an additional two minutes after you add the vegetable stock. However, you should add the cover onto the pan when you put the stock into the mix.
3) Add all the other ingredients, and stir everything together nicely. Heat everything together for a minute. Serve, and enjoy.


The feeble tenant entered her apartment in less time than she normally spent getting inside. She handed out an assortment of cookies covered by a cocktail napkin from her grandson’s birthday, which was concealed inside of a plastic cup.

After the technician made his exit, the feeble woman's next move was bolting her door. From there, she made no delay. She moved the drapes, and instinctively, she had her spyglass in hand. In no time at all, she gathered information about the technician in the turquoise shirt.

He made his way to the sidewalk; he waved his hands like they were covered in rigid gloves. Behind him, on the street, was a red van with (turquoise letters that spelled out sayings and spilled phone numbers) printed ads on the side of the van.

"At Proudz Pet Tracerz, we won't let pride get in the way of finding your shnookuhms."

When she realized what he was doing, she pulled her curtains closed. She didn't want any part of what he was doing, and she certainly didn't want to be known for letting one of them into the secure building. She had been warned to not let strangers into the building before, but the technician seemed like such a kind gentleman.

Outside on the sidewalk, it was as if the technician was conducting a symphony. The gestures of his arms brought great movement and wonderful vibrations to the halls of the complex.

Upon being summoned, the crows appeared before their master, and they darted into the building on his command. They stopped suddenly at the landing of the first stairwell when they were overcome by decisions. They couldn't decide which routes to take on their own volition, so they waited for the technician to command them.

Command them, he would, if he hadn’t been interrupted by his father, calling through the remote device. His father spouted about his new invention—robots that clean the house on your command: “This changes everybody’s life. Nobody would have to clean again. I wouldn’t do chores again. The robots are made of steel and they are indestructible—”

“Whoa, hold on, boss,” said the technician.

“Call me father,” said the bearded man in Barbados. “Indestructible! They are solar powered so that your will never need to buy batteries or use electricity again to clean. The only downfall is at night.”

“No,” said his son. “You can’t clean at night, right?”

“Listen, son,” said the bearded man.

“That’s better,” said the technician. “I’m listening, dad.”

“Okay,” said the technician’s father. “You’re hearing this. The only downfall is at night your can’t clean at night.”

“What are you saying?” asked the technician. “I’m busy with the job, okay?”

“It can wait,” said the father. “You’re close to the target, and we know it. Now, zip it. Shawn’s Invention. It comes with a remote that will work from one mile away. The robots can dust, vacuum and sweep. They are easy to store and are small yet efficient. The price is high but it’s a good deal, it was also marked down $95 from when it was first made.”

“Sounds wonderful,” said the technician. “After all, you’re the boss man.”

“The robot servants will revolutionize cleaning in our lives, as we know it,” said Shawn Proudz.

Meanwhile, the chirping and throttling of internal gears echoed throughout the halls.

The ragged phonebook was chipped along its cover, but its pages were kept in pristine condition while being stored in a drawer filled with pens, large-screen calculators, various stationary items, dried markers, remote controls that outlived their purpose, and batteries that weren't charged but hadn't started leaking acid yet. Rolick's contact information was written on the backside of a business card for the florist that had provided the bouquets for the feeble tenant's granddaughter's wedding reception.

Before he could get out a word: "Hel—" the tenant interrupted by saying, "Henry, this is Muriel Mavens in 1D. I hope you have a moment to listen because this is important."

"Hi, Mur—"

"Mr. Rolick, you have to hear this: a man came in the building when I let him in. I didn't mean to let him in. Letting a stranger in…. I know it's what I did. But I didn't mean that the wrong way. He was so polite—"

"You did what? He? Who is he?"

Muriel went to the closed curtain, and she carefully adjusted the rigid, cream-colored shade toward herself in one sharp motion. She eased back and over toward the wall with such great care, and she didn't get startled by the sunlight beaming into her kitchen.

On the other end of the communication device, Rolick was being entertained by his feline friend. The cat was bathing himself once more, but he preferred the sunlight as a place to stretch out his long furry torso. They were bonding. The cat wasn't afraid to relax on his floor by the ground level patio door that faced toward the garden before the street.

"Oh, we don't have any maintenance happening today. On a Saturday. Did he have a sentinel?"

"I thought I heard a buzzing bastard," said Muriel.

"Now, let's not get too upset, Miss Mavens," said Rolick. "You're going to have another ulcer. Last time, you slammed your door when the food delivery device brought my Chinese food to the wrong apartment."

"Those bastard robots," said Muriel. "They have no place in our world. A boy without a father gets raised by the tribe, or else he makes his way with the wolves. Those manic machines aren't learning anything from our tribe. We might as well be building wolves. There’s no telling if and when those things are going to turn around and bite their masters."

"The only one that's biting is you, miss. S’matter of fact, I spent the afternoon cleaning egg noodles from the hallway that day," said Rolick. "You'll have to excuse me, but you can't call me on the weekend, and expect me to put everything down to shoo a delivery-bot out of the apartment every time you let one inside."

The connection was discontinued when Rolick decided to take his leave. He fell into a state of bitter resentment. His complexion became pale, and he withdrew from all existence. It was as if he entered a viscous substance. The firm rubber couch became his place of solace.

Wearily, he recalled the distant memory of his dismantled eggrolls. Dark green cabbage flying through the air on its way along the hall outside Muriel Myrtle Mavens’ apartment. When she clobbered the machine carrying his dinner, he vowed to never make the same mistake. He was afraid to order a delivery again because of the repercussions.

"On the left, go Jasper X13," commanded the technician, into the microphone on his handheld controller.

With a sudden jolt and buzz, Jasper X13 maneuvered downward and forward to descend the stairs. It hovered low, at ground level. Its buzz was caused by a grinding gear that grew louder as it made its way toward Rolick's apartment.

The technician commanded the other two robotic assistants: "X14, take the next floor. X10 will stay guarding the exit. We'll find it, gang. You're all doing great."

The technician studied blueprints of the building, and he based his analysis on the data he received from when the crows hovered high. When they flew above the complex, they were able to analyze the whereabouts of a certain microchip that was attached to the neck of a certain cat. But the reading was only accurate up to a certain degree. It was difficult to tell which floor contained the cat they were after in their search.

Jasper X13 reached Rolick's apartment before X14 was able to get to the same spot on the floor above. A small claw extended from Jasper X13, and it climbed higher in the air to reach the level of the door knocker. Its claw firmly grasped the knocker, it lifted the brass item high above its propellers, and it released the knocker to let gravity do the rest of the falling. It repeated this process three times before waiting for a response.

Although the knocking broke Rolick from muttering to himself about the Chinese food fiasco, he was still weary from the unfortunate event of being locked away in his own garden. His joints, particularly his knees, were aching with rheumatism. The cushions between his bones were worn down to nothing. Usually, those soft pads were present to support movement about the narrow space inside of his apartment.

Yet, this particular elderly gentleman was fortunate enough to have the assistance from a pair of experimental electronic knee braces. Two geriatric therapeutic devices were designed by Rolick’s daughter, Heidi, who was strongly affected by the dramatic work of a certain late-Renaissance English playwright. Consequently, the braces she created were fitted with the personalities of two star-crossed lovers from Verona. Silently, they communicated with one another, telling sweet secrets and promising to be together forever.

Lifting his own body from its resting place upon his living room sofa would have been an insurmountable task. His vital energy had been depleted, and his body was in shock.

“What delicate light,” said the Montague, to his beloved, “comes from yonder window.”

“My dear Montague,” said the Capulet, “we shan’t call your sweet serenade by any other name.”

Despite assistance from hydraulic braces, he fiercely scowled when the knocking started. A painting of a vase containing white lilies, mounted on his kitchen wall across from the counter and stove, seemed to shake, urging him to lift one leg at a time to get to the door.

"Coming," said Rolick. "Just a minute, please." As he unchained the door and unlocked it, he turned the knob to greet the mechanical guest.

Meanwhile, Muriel Myrtle Mavens had been laying waste to the hallway on the first floor. After Rolick ended their call, she continued to speak excitedly to nobody in particular. When she realized that she was talking to herself, she felt absurdly disconnected from humanity. What does a panic-stricken woman do when she is fearing a technological overhaul of massive proportion?

Muriel Myrtle Mavens reacted like anyone would when the trigger to a certain phobia happens to be hovering in a hallway nearby. Her heart raced, and she fell into a coughing fit, but she was stronger than most of her kind. For support, she held onto the sharp edge of the stainless steel countertop. When the coughing fit had concluded, she took matters into her own hands.

As she made her way to unbolt her door, she picked up a cast-iron griddle from the stove. Olive oil dripped along her floor, as she passed by her laser-transmitted viewing screen. Occurring onscreen, the latest episode from Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy was a muted portrait, a story that was indicative to the social struggles of their time. When she left her apartment, the broadcast continued, and as she unbolted the door, she noticed the vagabond paperboy was throwing a rock at an old woman's windowsill.

"No respect for their elders," said Muriel Myrtle Mavens. "I'll teach this one a lesson."

As she left her dwelling space, the projection turned off in order to preserve its power, but the sound amplification continued. At the end of the hallway, on the other side of the building, X14 was hovering high enough to reach the door knocker for the unit directly above Rolick's home. The technician was monitoring all the video feedback being relayed from his murder of crows, and they were closing in on their target.

Even though X10 remained at the landing between the stairs (giving it eyes on the first floor hallway), the machine's automatic relay system failed to report Muriel Myrtle Mavens as a threat to their operation. And since she moved at a turtle's pace with a cane in one hand, the technician hadn't considered the possible damage that she could inflict upon his properties.

Looming in line with the peephole, X14 extended its magnetic claw in order to select the door knocker with its firm grasp. As it lifted the knocker, a reversal of fate—and of gravitational force— was applied to its circuits.

It was the crooked cane of Muriel Myrtle Mavens that caused the hovering machine to fall from its flight. She balanced on the cap of the mahogany wainscoting by placing her weight on the rail of the decorative hallway wall. With her weight anchored on the rail of the panel, she lifted her staff above her head with her non-dominant hand.

The blow from her wooden cane cracked both front propellers into several small pieces. The tiny motors that operated the propellers remained attached to X14, as it crashed onto the carpeted floor. It moved like a bird that had tragically flew into a clean, closed window. It flopped over onto its back. It sputtered, smoked, and sparked. Dragging itself along the floor and into a wall, it attempted to flip itself back over onto its landing gear. For, it could maneuver to a safer place by using its two remaining propellers, and that is the protocol of a civilian machine when under attack.

She knew exactly where to hit it and how hard to swing in order to bring it down. Once it was on the floor, attempting to flip over, she ended its bionic existence. A second blow from her cane, upon the frame of the failed flying machine, caused a crack to occur in its casing, and its internal mechanisms were exposed, too. All that she needed to do to completely disable X14 was accomplished by jamming her cane in through the cracked casing.

She stomped on the remaining propellers, causing disintegration in lieu of operation. A light-emitting diode, once used to indicate directional navigation, broke off from X14, and it bounced down the hallway, making its way passed the stairs.

The small, translucent semi-conductor light-source acted as a flag to signal mechanical defeat. With its communication module disabled upon initial impact, X14 didn't have any shot of relaying distress signals to its companions.


Now, it’s time for a segment called Hardly Boiled. If you’d rather keep reading this story, you’re free to scroll passed the italic text that you see here. This segment contains anything conspiracy related, without concrete data.

Skeptics will label these types of books and ideas from such books as a type of pseudo-science, but those people have no patience for the mystical, like I do.

The title that we’re looking at for this edition of Hardly Boiled is called The Art & Practice of Astral Projection by Ophiel.

To everyone who says that this is a book of nonsense, you might be right.

But then again, what do you know?

Certainly, you don’t know everything.

You might think you know what you’ll have for dinner, but fortunately for you, the good spouse brings a surprise.

If you think you know what you’ll dream tonight, you’re more worse off than Proudz’s X14 delivery-bot.

If I were you, I'd try easing up. Take a moment to whistle like Rolick would, as he cleaned his egg rolls from the runner of carpeting outside of Muriel Mavens’ home.

While futzing around in Ophiel’s magic workshop of occult theorem, one will have the provisions to supply one’s curiosity about practical wisdom on esoteric topics, if there is such a thing. Fascinating topics, like astral projection, and more speculative benefits of inner plane activities. All of which involve churning away the daylight to set the stage for the perfect dream state.

Whether there actually are any verifiable truths behind any of these methods for projection— remains yet to be seen.

Undeniably, when you look deep within your own self, you’ll find everything you’ve ever wanted is there for the taking: adventure, romance, enlightenment, exploration of ideas, pursuit of knowledge, and much more.

The point I’m trying to make here is to look within yourself, but you’ve already done that, so let’s get back to the reason we’re discussing The Art & Practice of Astral Projection for this segment of Hardly Boiled.

To show you just how compelling this little book is, here’s a set of instructions that the mystical author named Ophiel left for those seeking guidance:

“This book places a great deal of emphasis on the preparations, as you will notice, and if you will follow these directions for the preliminary work you will have a very good chance of succeeding in learning how to make a definite inner plane projection that will delight and satisfy you.
Then when you have mastered the techniques as given in this book and you feel that you are ready for more advanced work, contact Ophiel; and it is planned that by that time more advanced work will be available for students.”

...and here is a “NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER”:

“Throughout the book, Ophiel urges his readers to write him and even supplies his address. That was the type of person he was: open and willing to help all who sought his advice. Unfortunately, Ophiel passed away in 1988. We have left the book in its original form, but the reader should be aware that the address is no longer valid.”

It's probably just a coincidence, but I was born in the same year of Ophiel’s death, and I don’t mind if you contact me. However, I wouldn’t know where to point an occult student. But if you’d like to talk about poetry, that can be arranged.

Truly, this book will “project” its reader, sending one into a different period in humanity’s cosmic evolution.

Without further interruption, let's get back to the story at hand.

Until the next segment, your friend from the ether,

—S. Vain


After the initial knock, Rolick wearily attended to greeting his mechanical guest. Muriel's call from earlier had informed him about the prospects of such a visitor. Although, he was under the impression that Jasper X13 was a delivery-bot who arrived at the wrong door.

"It's such a large complex," said Rolick, cheerfully. "Happens all the time. Who is it that you’re looking for?"

While rotating, in midair, Rolick's flying guest announced its protocol: "Incorrect proposition. Does not compute. Ahem, thank you for assisting in the retrieval of one pet. At Proudz Pet Tracerz, we promise not to let our pride get in the way of finding your lost pet."

"But I didn't lose a pet," said Rolick. "You've made a mistake because I haven't got a—"

All the crashing and smashing, coming from upstairs, startled Rolick, and the hovering pet tracer adjusted itself in midair as well. They might have left to investigate, to find the source of the commotion, if Meow hadn't made his presence known.

The calamity occurring all throughout the halls must have startled Meow—just as much. Perhaps, he was too sensitive, for a cat’s close bond with nature makes it more receptive to the death of a machine. He was perched on a window ledge, within Rolick's personal chamber. When the robot’s circuits were crushed by the cane of the old woman, Meow yow-ow-owled a mean, tormented cacophony. The dissonance in his voice carried on for a great distance, traveling far from the proximal reach of normal vocal patterns that would typically come from the complex. The neighborhood (and all of Brookshire Village) suddenly froze in feeling his pain, fearing the profuse vocalization would cause permanent damage to their natural listening devices.

The technician was torn, between the scuffle in the hallway on the first floor and the source of agony that caused his eardrums to nearly reach implosion. He felt deep sadness when he saw the tiny yet purposeful electronic parts scattered along the hallway, and he quivered at the site of the woman's cane churning his digital comrade into nothing more than plastic turned into dust.

His stomach was sunken, and his face turned bright red, but he briskly maneuvered around any obstacles to get into Rolick's apartment. By the time he reached them, Meow was already out the window.

The cat knew that loud noises meant trouble, so he hurried away to find a better place to be. Typically, Meow wasn’t bothered by the outside world because there were so many safe places to hide. On the contrary, inside the complex was a different situation, with the commotion in the hallway and the flying machine that entered the master bedroom.

Incidentally, Jasper X13 would have followed and netted the cat, but it swooped into the room too quickly. Indeed, the haphazard motions of the automated flying machine startled the cat into a panic. The window was just above the ground, so it made for an easy escape into the driveway outside of the complex. Despite the haphazard maneuvers of Jasper X13, ultimately, it was the curtain that prevented Jasper's pursuit.

For, as the cat jumped out the window, the curtain was displaced enough to cause greater calamity for the Proudz pet tracking company. When the technician entered the large room in the corner of the basement apartment, he found Rolick leaning on the window, peering outside and calling after the cat. Meanwhile, Jasper X13 was stuck to the curtain which had been displaced.

As the motorized flying machine slammed against the wall, its propellers became further entangled with the fringe of the curtain. The thick threads of the curtain's layered lace ruffle became interlaced within the propeller blades, and the ripping threads from the curtain’s seam wrapped in knots around the shaft inside one of the drone’s motor bells, causing the motor to grind its gears. Flight was temporarily impossible, giving the cat plenty of time to slink away to a safe hiding space.

Immediately upon entering the space, the technician realized that he needed to deal with untangling his mechanical coworker. Using his remote control device, he attempted to take command of Jasper X13, but the initial override procedure was amiss due to the machine's alarmed state. He needed to manually override its operating process in order to stop it from repeatedly slamming, much like a headboard, against the hard stone wall of Rolick's master bedroom.

"What the hell happened here?" asked the technician, as he untangled his mechanical counterpart. He pulled a small battery-powered screwdriver from his jacket pocket to remove the housing for the motor that was responsible for spinning the tangled propeller.

"I was robbed," said Rolick. "I haven't called it in yet because I spent the last night locked in a shed."

"Sorry to hear," said the technician.

"I'm terribly exhausted," said Rolick. "Would you mind calling it in for me?" He was braced upon the window ledge to inspect where the cat crawled after it left. As he moved away, he nearly collapsed in pain.

"What's wrong with your legs?" asked the technician. He replaced the screws for the housing of the drone. "Activate Jasper X13."

"Damn if I know," said Rolick. He took hold of the window ledge once more, for its stability allowed him to stand without fear of falling.

The technician stood up and released Jasper X13 at few feet off the ground, and its propellers did the work to keep it from hitting the carpet of the master bedroom. It whirled around before flying through the window, nearly cropping Rolick's head of short grey hair.

The remote control device was buzzing and flashing. An incoming message from the Proudz headquarters was silenced before the technician said to Rolick, "If you want to call the theft in on your own time, be my guest. Otherwise, I've got my hands full already with a pet on the loose, and… X14. I almost forgot!"

As the technician started to leave to the hall, Rolick called after him to make a report about the robbery, but the technician was too busy to deal with Rolick's problems. Yet, Rolick's injuries are substantial, and his exhaustion is apparent. It’s obvious that he's in no shape to go through with any ordeal involving authorities, so the technician expresses his hesitation in leaving from the situation.

"Call the theft in," demanded Rolick.

"I've got my own problems," said the technician, and he held his remote control in an outstretched arm. It was buzzing with notifications that requested his immediate attention. "The boss is asking a lot of questions about why we haven't found the missing kitty cat yet."

"But you don't understand," said Rolick. He was left alone, to say to himself, "You don't know what was stolen."

The technician solemnly spoke to his supervisor about the missing pet, as he and his remaining compatriot cleaned up what was left of X14. The parts that weren't obliterated were swept up by the hovering robotic sentinel. X10's storage compartments were empty, but they became filled with the broken pieces of X14.

As the technician bent down to pick up the landing gear and scoop up fragments of propeller blades, he found it. The single ocular feedback mechanism used to relay images from the point of view of his favorite drone was still intact. It was laying face up, glaring at him from atop a rubber mat that was in front of a doorway close to the stairwell.

The technician sighed, and he said, to himself, "I could never forget about you, old friend."

The sniffling of the technician was brought to a sudden stop when Muriel Myrtle Mavens opened her door. Sniffles were replaced by the trumpets that played during the credits of the saga called Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy.

"You might put them aside," said the technician, to Muriel, "but these are my people."

"Put them aside," said Muriel, and she scoffed at the thought of having un enterrement—a burial— for a drone. "I'd extinguish technology if I could. The likes of genocide."

Finally, the technician discovered the memory cartridge responsible for distilling all of the experiences that the hovering machine had recorded while it was still operational. All of the images captured by X14, gathered during the various escapades the machine had encountered, were safely stored within the confines of a single cartridge. The technician held the entirety of those grandiose experiences in his hand. He put the tiny memory cartridge away for safekeeping, and he promptly evacuated those premises.

On his way out of Brookshire Suites, the technician spoke to his last remaining companion. Expecting no answer, since X10 was a machine that lacked a sophisticated personality design, he spoke solemnly. He asked, "What now, X10?"

It was a challenge for the technician to focus upon his job. He felt that capturing Meow was necessary to move forward, especially after Tipper X14 was destroyed. The howling cat rivaled the moans of Rolick, as it battled with Jasper X13, but everyone inside of the apartment complex was tuned in for an epic tale about a futuristic dystopia. Rolick straightened the curtain and closed the window before joining the search for Meow.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Three.


Proceed to Chapter Three


It’s time again for a segment called People and the Stories They Tell, so we’ll need to prepare ourselves to go on a journey back to a time when people looked to storytellers for guidance. In order to discover the meaning behind the story at hand, let’s turn to The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs by G.L. Apperson.

In the story that has been playing out before your eyes, the technician has decided to seek out his prize, despite losing a valuable piece of equipment. Even though his ranks have been thwarted, the Proudz technician pushes forward for the creature that he seeks to capture. By sending Jasper X13, he risks losing another of his precious drones.

Some would say that this move is similar to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. But why on Earth would someone be willing to do such a thing?

Looking closely at The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, it appears that this phrase originated in the 17th century.

According to a text from 1658, a biography called Historiettes by Tallemant des Réaux, “Henry IV conçut fort bien que detruire Paris, c'étoit, comme on dit, se couper le nez pour faire dépit á son visage.”

In an English translation, Henry IV understood very well that to destroy Paris, it was, as they say, to cut one's nose to make spite of one's face.

In a more recent publication, the Times wrote a piece in 1924 that claimed “Continual harassing of the railways, in payment for real or fancied grievances, is much like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.”

Within the fictional tales we tell, and within the news reports people generate, it’s important to reveal who is at a loss, and for what purpose are people willing to risk everything.

As the technician is left to scrape up the pieces of a fragmented comrade, he decides to risk losing another of his companions. Is it the right move? Furthermore, the robotic sentinels are created by computer programmers and engineers. Yet, the risk of losing something valuable matters all the same.


Proceed to Chapter Three


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing House.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter three

Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy reached millions throughout the world. The Inaugural Issue was met with hostility over the safety of the actors. By the time that people watched Issue No. 2: Eviction & Crime, the show was canceled from airing further episodes. Ratings were better than ever, but the Electronic Broadcast Council of Concerned Citizens declared that its production was immoral.

The participants in Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy weren't aware they were being filmed. However, this information would never be released to the public. For, such a violation of human rights would cause hysteria among all levels of society. When the show got canceled, the operation folded back unto itself, but those lives intertwined in the chaos were ripped from their surroundings. Ultimately, it was the paperboy’s story of redemption that intersected with those events in progress.

This is how the paperboy found out that he was being filmed:

"Give me the baby nickels," the boy said, clenching a shaking fist by his side.

"Last time I hand them out and don't see nuthin' back. Whut you doin' boy?"

The boy pointed his finger: a grimy nail shouted toward the true reason for the loss of income.

"Whatchyou saying?" asked the ringleader. There was a high note of aggression in his voice. "I'm done playing with that, children. If you treat me like a fool now, you be eatin’ like a dog on the street—not at all!"

The crowd of ruffian children parted ways before the boy's grimy finger, and out came the culprit. He stood a foot taller than the rest. His long neck seemed to have a kink somewhere in the middle where he constantly swallowed. He looked down at his mangy hat and wrung it in his grasp, thinking of something to say but coming up empty handed.

"You rat." It was all the tall boy could think to say.

That's all he needed to hear before the young vagabond lowered his finger and opened the palm of his hand. He took off his glove, and he laid his open palm across the tall boy's face. Blood-red handprints remained on his cheek, and with his clenched fist, he pummeled the tall boy's face.

The tall boy kept gulping and swallowing. "Put your hands up. Cover fast, boy!" said the ringleader, but it was too late. He surrendered, and his fate was left up to the vagabond to decide how much of a beating he deserved.

When he was through, he traded boots with the tall boy, stood one foot on the boy's chest, and shook out the tall boy's pockets. He was looking for anything worth taking. He found trinkets and other junk: a roll of tape and candy. There was something else that came out of his pocket that stopped him where he stood.

He reached into the tall boy's jacket because, as he was once told by the ringleader, every thief has a secret pocket. He pulled out at least a dozen coins. The bright silver pieces carried a mark from the highest sector.

"There's your money," the vagabond said, as he tossed the silver coins at the ringleader.

"Good," said the ringleader. "We'd better have the rest the crew hand them over to you from now and so on." He looked down and spit at the tall boy.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself, “How, for the love of all that is holy, could people return to this type of barbaric, old world behavior?” As you’ve already witnessed for yourself, some sectors of society weren’t so kind. We’re one cohesive nation around the world today, and most people are willing to believe that we got to be this way by acting peacefully, but war was the most powerful machine in history. When the papers finally read, "WORLD PEACE," newsstands sold every copy that could be printed. And everyone who wouldn't buy it was exiled to live among society's wastelands.

It was only so bad though. People had to survive on their own, without textiles and pharmacies. The lower sectors of society were wastelands; they were on their own, creating their own laws.

At first, everyone who was resistant to change was kindly asked to leave. And when big brother said— "Good luck. It's survival of the fittest. If you don't come with us, then you're on your own!" —eventually, people became ruthless. Small townships, like Brookshire, formed in the outskirts of society. They were heavily guarded by agencies that were maintained by the highest sector in society’s social system.

Those that dwelled in wastelands rebelled against the sector that aimed to monitor their every move. Sectors clashed, but they hadn’t yet reach the point of all out war. The highest sector was observing what the wastelanders were doing. Through careful surveillance, they were able to foil any uprising from the wastelands that could have managed to organize an attack upon their grandiose way of living.

The utopian ideals, which dwelled inside the minds of the folks living behind the walls that separated the wastelands from all other sectors of society, employed a sort of resourcefulness that found little use for conflict with outsiders. Their defenses made useless nature of the outside attacks.

The wastelanders were dangerous, as if they possessed small internalized rulebooks filled with nonsense. Consequences were strict, and rules weren’t explicit. The social order that was once built upon trading and bartering for goods and services became a brutal battle to get ahead.

Small assemblies formed all over the wastelands to make amends with prevalent technology. For, in the higher sectors, there were less people than there were artificially-intelligent machines. Assemblies coped with the prevailing fear of how it would be possible for people to continue to exist in such cutthroat conditions. Were the outsiders the smart ones for breaking away from the techno-utopia? Some wastelanders thought of themselves as spiritually rich to break away from such an uncontrollable mechanical overhaul within society.

Outside of the walls that separated the wastelands from the rest of society, human-machine optimization, through burying a microchip at the base of the spine, wasn’t enforced by law. For, it was natural order, once and for all, that ruled the wastelands.

Inside of the walls, all carnal needs were taken care of. Consequently, stealing wasn’t to be permitted. If you were missing something from your life, you would simply ask the council for it, and your needs would be satisfactorily fulfilled.

Approval of any of your wildest fantasies was quite feasible, but more than likely would require relocation. (For example, if you asked for more pharmaceuticals in a sector that was not approved for drug-use, you would have to move to another.) There was no reason to yell, swear, or steal; any violators were removed to be reassigned to a more morally synchronized sector in order to achieve absolute harmony inside of— what could have been— a permanent utopia.

There was absolutely no murder, nor rape of the physical essence, to be tolerated, yet there were exceptions for such actions committed in such a digitally-dependant social construct. For instance, there were sectors where violent simulations were permissible. Of course, these were typically private sectors with minimal human interaction throughout the lands. If you, or someone you knew, wished to be involved in a violent simulation, you only needed to speak to the council about your desire. Breaking these laws was punishable by permanent banishment to the wastelands.

It was a time for transition. A mostly peaceful time. People honestly didn't have any good reason to fight with one another, so they gave in. Sure, they would squabble among each other, as the division of goods and services throughout sectors created some levels of resentment. But, as the forces required to create a utopia were brought together, people knew it was only a matter of time before they lived under one ideological roof.

When the decree had been brought forth, that humanity would live peacefully in one location, all of us agreed to go along with it blindly. Why wouldn’t people agree to free housing, sustainable resources, and food grown the right way? It seemed that there was nothing to complain about. In a true utopian kingdom, where all needs were taken care of, the police state status was falling away. The world and its inhabitants saw glimpses of a brighter future.

“Don't break the rules. You get to live under our roof,” said a representative from one of the higher sectors, “but it's our house. If you break 'em, you're out of here! If you can’t find a sector that’ll take you, then you go to… the outside. No jails. We don’t have time for timeouts. Just a big wall with everyone you love on the other side.”

You may ask, "Why would anyone steal if everything was free?" Either they had habits and addictions from the old times, or they were bored and wanted entertainment.

Committing crime was a high for people. It's entirely conceivable why underground clubs for illegal activities continued to thrive. People had aggressive tendencies that didn't immediately go away. Social leaders from the New Reformation started to realize that there would need to be more standards in place.

To get everyone on one side of the wall, they stimulated humanity’s overwhelming desire to take part in aggressive tendencies. Leaders wanted a utopia so badly that they were willing to give all the people on the inside what they wanted. "It is up to the individual," they would say. But anything outside of their previously established rulings had to have been simulated. They turned a blind eye toward such underground clubs, and in official statements to the public, leaders mandated simulating such activities through the means of artificial reality.

These patterns went on for generations. Eventually, the bizarre became standard. People fell into normal ways of being conditioned for a new relationship with technology. The particular instance that makes up a bulk of this story occurred within the first few years of the New Technological Reformation.

Generally speaking, every sector was different. Each one tolerated certain activities that may have seemed uncouth to other sectors. To be a sector in the first place, such an elite set of ideals had to be held by a large group of people.

“To hell with that,” you might say, and since you engage in cursing, you would not have been approved to live in any of the proper sectors. Along those lines, if you were murderous and engaged in those sorts of simulations, you would only be allowed to enter sectors where such simulations were approved.


It’s time for another segment from the Mid-Atlantic Exposé. Throughout human history, people have been building great architectural achievements. Roads and buildings, bridges and monuments. Fortresses to honor and protect new nations. All of these achievements of a modern, developing world would not have been possible without the use of natural resources.

However, human beings have made strides to contain the depletion of natural resources used in construction, creating goods and services, and food production. We continue to monitor and maintain effective programs to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same sensible pleasures that make life worth living.

In addition to having all the things we need for the home, office, and transportation to and from, we strive to preserve and conserve natural resources for the purpose of enjoying nature. For, nature is beautiful on its own.

A variety of publications pertaining to natural resources appear in A Search for Environmental Ethics, a guidebook compiled by Mary Anglemyer, Eleanor R. Seagraves, and Catherine C. LeMaistre.

America’s Changing Environment *is a compilation of articles from [Daedalus]( https://www.jstor.org/journal/daedalus?decade=1960). Articles relate to conservation, educating others about environmental impacts, and recreation.

Edwin Barker’s The Responsible Church deserves mention because it relishes in the fact that human beings have a responsibility to maintain natural resources, instead of contaminating their surroundings with toxins.

Michael Batisse’s Environmental Problems and the Scientist includes excerpts of a speech from the Director of Natural Resources at UNESCO. The lecture was designed to introduce ideas of a deal that human beings have with the natural world.

The Twenty-ninth Day: Accommodating Human Needs and Numbers to the Earth’s Resources by Lester R. Brown describes how the Earth’s resources are being depleted, and the last section of this book offers ideas for change.

In order to move forward as a society, human beings need to take responsibility for their actions. By monitoring and effectively using natural resources, we’re able to live and grow with the planet that supports our activities.

Visit the Mid-Atlantic Exposé for more information about how human beings are working with our planet to responsibly use natural resources.


Where the dust of the city found rest at night, there was a lone house beyond the outskirts of the wasteland. Even beyond the skids and an old abandoned church where homeless people lived, there was a worn out roof with patches of tar and newsprint, speckled with gravel, and inside, were the prayers that it would never rain.

He walked along the wasteland border, where flying shuttles soared in the sky above him. Sometimes he could find enough change to ride on a shuttle, and other times he was able to beg the operators to make an exception for him to board, in order to get to and from work. Even though most of the kids in his circle lurked in the shadows and slept places for unkind favors, he was still lucky enough to have a roof.

He crept in through the doorway, making no sound in his rounds, but still, the door did creak a little as the last small crack came to close. He stopped mid-creak and tried again, and when it kept noisily sounding off, he let his pride speak out: "The hell with it!" he exclaimed.

"Jeremy Todd Fisher! I'll give you a beating, you cuss like that, coming in this late. Where are your school books, huh?"

“Left those heavy bastards on at school, mum.”

“Well, what'd you learn today then?”

“That it’s bitter cold at winter because this part of the world keeps dyin’ and only idiots live here, in a city where you can sees your breath when ye’ talk. Even geese have the smart to fly away."

His mom smiled approvingly. "You're gonna catch a deathly…. You keep walkin’ out in the night air that way."

"I missed the bus." He started to his room.

"Well, you missed dinner too. Here, take a bowl of broth to warm yer belly."

She held a bowl, while spooning out broth and the remnants of overcooked vegetables. One stalk of cauliflower plopped into the bowl, splashing the red stain of broth onto her apron.

She nearly made it to him with the bowl in hand before the door at the end of the hall swung open. Its knob stuck firmly in place, in the drywall behind the door.

A portly man followed out after the saloon swing. He wasn’t much taller than the young vagabond. Although, he was six times his girth. His eyes glazed over, while staring at the boy’s mother. He stopped in front of the threshold to the kitchen and waved for her to come follow him into the other room.

"Be right there," she said, her head hanging low.

"Now."

She placed the bowl of broth on the kitchen table and kept her gaze from her son.

"Mum, you don't have to do this anymore."

She stopped.

"Yes, I do. Eat your dinner, Jeremy."

"No. I can make us monies enough to live here."

"Shut yer trap," said the man with the glazed expression. With the back of his hand, he smacked her. She covered herself and started to weep.

Jeremy kicked his shin and backed away before the man with the glazed eyes had enough time to lunge after him. The boy picked up a ladle and swiped it through the air, moving between his mother and the man.

"That's it. I put up with you two fer too long. You whore and that tramp. Get out, or I'll call the guards on you."

His mother wept for a few moments, while Jeremy kept his ladle high, and he never lost eye-contact with the brute. He never blinked until the man with the glazed eyes turned to walk down the hall.

"I'll please myself tonight. You two be gone by sunrise, or there'll be hell to pay."

The door slammed shut. Paint chips fell, like confetti, crumbling to the ground.

They sat at the table for hours. He kept watch while his mother fretted. The cold air whispered beyond the pale glass. Snowfall was certain to come in the next few weeks.

They knew the shelters were full, and they remembered the last time they tried to enter a shelter. They ended up standing in line all night to be given a pillow and blanket when the morning arrived. They were told that there was an alley next to the laundromat where hot air from the dryers would keep them warm.

The churches weren't an option. They were dangerous. Most would bar their doors at night, and the few that let in people were not safe places of refuge. It was as if God had left the wastelands. People outside of the sector walls lost faith in a higher power when their beliefs were absorbed by the business of keeping alive. They quickly lost their faith when the high sectors finished laying their final row of bricks.

His mother cried, thinking about returning to that life. This cry was different from others the boy had heard. It was a deep pain. Her face turned beet-red before she plopped her head onto the table, with her arms falling to her sides.

The boy approached her. He rushed to her side and placed his arms around her shoulders.

She pushed him away, trembling. She said, "Call a medical team."

The boy ran through the door, moving swiftly to a nearby neighbor's house. Two doors down, he found one that he knew would have a working telephone.

He knocked loudly. No response.

"Ma'am. Please, I need you to place a call. My mum is sick."

There was a soft light about the doorway in the apartment above. It was where an elderly influenza patient was trying to sleep. She had a telephone that could reach nurses from a sector assistance center.

He reached down and picked up a small chunk of asphalt. He tossed it at the window's wooden ledge. The chunk of tar and rock was stalled on the flat, rotten sill. He could see the old woman peaking out at him near the edge of the frame. Usually she stayed tucked away, even around the vagabond boy. Especially around him because he looked quite dirty.

She yelled at the glass, "Go away, or I'll call the guard!"

The vagabond boy grew tired of games. He had enough of being told he was insignificant, nor did he employ the idea that his problems were none of theirs, and he resented the notion that his story was a poor one. So he threw a giant piece of asphalt to release his anxiety. This time it went through her window, shattering glass and spreading shrapnel about the sick woman's room.

“Call them,” said the vagabond paperboy. “I'll tell thems myself when they arrive."

. . . To be continued in Chapter Four.


Proceed to Chapter Four


Authors for Healthy Living segment coming soon!


Proceed to Chapter Four


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
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Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter four

The artificial personality that was appropriately paired with the disassembled droid (displaced by Muriel Myrtle Mavens of Brookshire Suites) was modeled after the brilliant fashionista turned entrepreneur named Katherine "Tippy" Le Roux. Thus, Tipper X14 had once drifted about with a similar poise and elegance. Although the hovering craft never quite captured Tippy's beauty, Tipper X14 was outfitted with a sleek gray casing to resemble the color of the model's signature hairstyle. It's too bad the designer chose to forgo adding a few strands of kinky, curly hair to the flying machine.

Although it has always been a hotly debated subject, of whether an afterlife exists, hardly anyone imagines an afterlife for robots. Yet, people posted signs all around Brookshire Manor and throughout the lands, recognizing the value of robot lives.

Even though people often disagree about what happens when we cease to live, most of all of us will admit that strange things do happen to provoke one’s sense of curiosity. Apart from unusual phenomena—usually involving optical illusions and unexplained voices cackling in the darkness—inexplicable occurrences do get reported from time to time by numerous individuals of various faiths and creeds. Some of these reports show rather concrete evidence of energetic fields that most certainly must be caused by some unknown entity.

Even if people have trouble agreeing about what happens when we die, those that do believe in an afterlife (and even many of those that don't believe in one) have made reports about animals seeming to sense any presence that's otherwise undetectable to a human being.

Oddly enough, the ghost of Tipper X14 and the fully-functional Jasper X13 weren't the only intelligent beings coming after Meow. For, deep in the distant cosmos, among the colliding Mice Galaxies of the Coma Berenices constellation, four-legged, furry, intelligent beings ruled the land on a strange planet called Mipsy. Although they would have preferred a more complex classification, these beings were an evolved species that shared a common ancestor with the Felis catus (housecat). And they had been carefully monitoring Meow's location.

The air reeked of rat urine. When the cluster of creatures from the Mice Galaxies arrived, the stench was overwhelming. They smoked cigars drenched in rat urine. Throughout much of modern civilization, human beings have, habitually, smoked tobacco mixed with chemicals, including rat poison. Partially, because human beings detest the presence of rodents. The cats that ruled the lands on Mipsy relied upon finding rodents as a source of nourishment. Since rats love nothing more than chewing through raw tobacco leaves, the cats on Mipsy had never committed to spraying their fields with poisons. Consequently, their tobacco fields were drenched in rat urine.

The cat that jumped from Rolick’s window was startled by the ghostly appearance of Tipper. After the robot was swatted and destroyed, its spirit moved in the form of its programmed personality. Tipper X14 had been programmed to mimic the feelings of a human being who believed in an eternal life after death, and the conscious memory of the robot followed this program after being destroyed. After its physical form ceased to function, Tipper X14 saw itself as it was programmed to imagine. Thus, the apparition of Tippy Le Roux sought to continue its mission, tracking the cat, and inadvertently, scaring it from the window sill.

The vagabond paperboy, so tired of clawing for life, failed to realize that his story was being heard by millions of people. His disassociation with technology had caused a vulnerability: openly, he disregarded technology's power to capture life. For, his stories were contained in easily digestible episodes.

When his tales seemed to settle down, another log would be added to the fire that was his life. Of course, some people openly opposed the rigorous manipulation of the child's reality. Occasionally, fans of the show would try to interject, or a concerned citizen would attempt to make the child realize that he was a puppet for the bourgeoisie. But the production studio was always around to ensure that their picture would move forward.

You might recall an earlier attempt at building a real-life simulated reality in the events that transpired on Lux Island. The oppressive, guerrilla studio behind that production caused a shipwreck to see how the survivors would react on an island populated by violent natives, snarling beastly creatures, and traps set by the oppressors themselves. When the shipwrecked survivors outwitted all odds, the studio sent schools of fish as a reward. The survivors finally realized that the whole operation was an orchestrated attempt to entertain a demented oppressive force. That operation was shut down, but those same values remained intact within the studio that was in charge of Lux Island.

The studio disbanded and spread like a virus, causing havoc by presenting their brand of distasteful manipulation of reality, throughout the world. It was a century later, after Lux Island, when a younger generation took control of a small outfit that was part of a studio descending from those that ran the bloody arena that was the former.

The studio behind Tales of a Vagabond Paperboy was comprised of an impressive group of performance artists, known all around the world as The Omni-Presenters. The paperboy would find out about the existence of an exhaustive documentary that was secretly centered on him, eventually. The group of performance artists that manipulated his reality were awaiting his realization, which would trigger their moment of departure from his life. Their fists were shaking withgreed. Their jobs relied upon recording every depressing, fractured moment they could before the unfortunately-situated child became privy to their operation, at which time they would dedicate themselves to a new project.

The studio was ruthless and focused on illegally capturing and televising the paperboy's tale. They gained access to airing their programs on major distribution networks through nepotism (privileged through family-owned businesses) and by engaging in shell-corporation embezzlement. Their practices were seedy to say the least.

As for why The Omni-Presenters chose to target this particular innocent victim, you merely need to realize that large corporations will always prey upon the weak. As for understanding why the paperboy didn’t have his own realization about the presence of The Omni-Presenters, you must sympathize with his inability to stop criminal breeches of personal privacy when he was struggling to find a way to simply survive. The vagabond paperboy was young and struggling to keep his mother safe. He was too distracted, by his unfortunate circumstances, to notice the disguised surveillance procedures that surrounded his every movement. Optical recording transmitters were placed on light posts and in the hats of villagers; sound was recorded with microphones that were as small as grains of rice, and they were placed everywhere: in his clothing, on the street, and even in the newspapers he delivered. Living on the fringe and struggling to find help for his mother consumed his behaviors. He was numb. He wasn't tuned in to see the covert procedures used to record his life's events. The Omni-Presenters kept their cameras hidden.

Even though they hid their operations from legal authorities, the studio had a substantial backing from some of the most prestigious universities, and political officials throughout the world had a stake in its affairs. When the first series of nefarious events at Lux Island were brought down by a few brave individuals, the island was raided, and most of the large surveillance equipment was recovered by authorities. However, a few of the cameras and microphones were still operational. A century after the events on Lux Island transpired, those cameras still displayed a grainy video feed that the studio monitored. As they realized what was happening on the island, The Omni-Presenters made immediate plans to push the vagabond’s story ahead of schedule.

Here’s how The Omni-Presenters concluded the paperboy’s story, before transitioning to what was happening on Lux Island:

The vagabond paperboy was searching for help for his mother's condition. The guard that showed up after he broke his sick neighbor's window was too busy to stay around to help.

“They’ve got me running all over,” said the guard, “and it doesn’t behoove me to be in such a sector.”

“Such a sector?” asked the vagabond.

The guard promised to send a medical examiner, if a medic was willing to travel out of the city limits. He expressed sincere regret for not being able to stay, and for not having time to wait around to see who would show up to help. Consequently, the vagabond paperboy was forced to take matters into his own hands.

The studio's cameras glistened in the night sky, observing the paperboy’s entire route. Their lenses turned, and their shots tightened to capture the vagabond entering a pharmacy on the outskirts of the city. From the thick of a crowd, the vagabond emerged wearing a long overcoat with deep pockets. The crowd had concealed his appearance, for he was smaller in stature than the rest of the folks that were going into the shops.

Before the vagabond paperboy entered the pharmacy to look for medicine, the authorities were already on alert. Two guards were waiting in the back of the store, watching the vagabond’s saga unfold. When the vagabond paperboy took out a hairpin to pick at a lock on a cabinet that held medicine, they went to apprehend the boy.

He was being escorted into a shuttle when he realized the presence of several flying drones. They covered the sky, so much so that the guards thought that night had fallen. One guard escorted the boy to the three-wheeled ground transport unit, while the other guard fluttered about with great concern. The issue of the studio choosing to record the boy’s trials and tribulations was high above their pay grade. They could barely even comprehend the laser manifestation of the vagabond paperboy’s story was existing outside of the realms of their security feeds of the pharmacy that they sought to protect. The boy was sent to a detention center to await the punishments that were fit for attempting to steal medicine.

Finally, you’ve see how the vagabond paperboy found out about his lack of personal privacy. Cameras were hidden in many places throughout, places where The Omni-Presenters could spot their subject doing nearly anything they could imagine. Whatever they couldn’t capture organically, they would try to provoke. Thus, the paperboy's story was being compiled into a narrative that was deemed immoral by critics of artificial social constructs. When concerned citizens banded together to shut down the operation, the broadcast signal was replaced by a program about cooking outside of the terrestrial atmosphere, which was hosted by a well-known celebrity chef; the set was neutral, in an effort to send calming signals to audiences throughout the lands. Now you see, the vagabond paperboy had no choice but to follow the thread that was unraveling before his eyes.

"No, I don't understand," said a guard at the detention center. "There's only one time of day where I feel like eating breakfast. That's in the morning. For dinner? Why, that's absurd."

"No, it's not," replied another guard. The first guard left to bring in the next offender. "Do you know who that is?" asked the second guard.

"How do you know who I am?" asked the offender.

"You're him," said the guard at the detention center. "It's really him. Hey Jean, come take a look at who we have in booking. We're going to need to get his autograph with a real pen."

"I don't understand. Am I being charged?"

"No," said the guard. "We feel bad about the whole personal privacy thing. Charges are dropped. The store owner told me to give you this." He handed over the bag of the medicine that was found on the paperboy when he was detained.

Meanwhile, in Brookshire Village, the old man had just given up on searching for the cat after it had taken its leave of his company. It was too fast for him to chase, and all the howling, which followed after it left out of his window, made the old man too nervous to give into chasing on his own. A detective showed up to investigate the robbery, and he called for a medical assistant to appear on the scene with a wheelchair for Rolick, who couldn't remain standing on his own. When the medic arrived, the three of them went together to investigate the robbery:

"Just because I picked a fight with that know-a-lot," said Eddie, "doesn't make me a thief."

"That boy’s always looking after his sister," said Rolick, about Dustin, "like a good boy should."

"I'd look after my sister, too," said Eddie, "if we were aliens like those two weirdoes. But we're not. My sister's just said, and married."

"She's said?"

"You never heard that," said Eddie, scrupulously. "It means she's done talking. She's not talking anymore to no guys. She's finished talking. Get it?"

"I do," said the detective. "She's said."

"Right," said Eddie. "She's married, so she's said. And I don't have anything for you guys, so I'm said myself." He tried to shut the door, but the detective leaned forward onto it.

"Look here, wise ass," said Rolick. "I saw how you treat those other kids, and I saw.... I.... I saw you outside of the shed when I was locked inside all night."

"You were?" asked the detective.

"Yeah, I'll tell ya' later, Nick."

"Detective Draft," said Nick.

"Yeah, whatever," said Rolick, unconvinced. "You listen, you little bastard. I know it was you. It was you that locked me in there all night."

"You do?"

"I nearly froze. I didn't sleep a wink. And my arthritis is putting me out of commission," said Rolick. The medic, having confirmed Rolick’s condition had worsened, wheeled him to the boy, and he leaned forward, saying, "You took that which isn't yours, and now you've got to pay."

"That monster who locked you up because you're feeble and old," said Eddie's sister, her voice trailing from the living room loud-speaker, "he isn't here.”

"Go ahead," said Eddie. “Take a look around my home. Ain’t none of this good stuff stolen. We ain’t wanted for money in a long time.”

“Is that right?” asked the detective. “That’s lucky for you’s.”

“Our father works for the next sector,” said his sister. “You could get more for your time is you try working your way up, you know.”

“I’m fine where I am,” said Detective Draft. “I’ll leave those lofty aspirations for someone who’s more imaginative, Miss—?”

“You seem nice,” said the woman. “I could put in a good word for you. My husband’s a union representative in the next-next level.”

“That’s very good,” said the detective, “but I’m set.”

“I told you, she’s said,” said Eddie.

“Quiet, you,” said Rolick.

“Congratulations,” said Nick.

“Thank you,” said the woman.

“Why would I be quiet,” said Eddie, “when I’m not at fault?”

“You aren’t,” said the detective.

“Why would I steal something from you? When I don’t need the money,” said Eddie.

“What was stolen is incredible,” said Rolick. “When my daughter, Heidi, finds out that her life’s work has been scooped up by some foolish, crabby brat—”

The detective stood inside the living room long enough to finish talking on the speaker with the sister of the accused.

“I’ll need to leave you now to get back to my husband.”

“You’re leaving. So am I.”

“You’re leaving me wanting more!”

He examined the fine porcelain, stamped with the symbol of both mythical and eternal ouroborus, the dragon swallowing its own tail, which were displayed on the mantle, among silver spoons. He stopped to relieve his mind of its occupation, becoming rather fixated, briefly, on what was inside of their curio cabinet, before returning to escort Rolick away from the premises.

“We’ve made a mistake,” said the detective. “Coming here was a mistake.”

“But he’s guilty,” said Rolick. “I saw him assault another child, and I saw—at least I think—I saw him outside of the shed when I was locked away at night.”

“I licked that dummy, Dustin, good, didn’t I,” said Eddie. “But I swear I didn’t ever lock you in no shed.”

Rolick was perplexed by the situation. He thought back to the time he spent locked away in the cold, damp confinement. The time he spent was in agony. Until the detective had arrived, he was channeling his pain, vociferating from his window, to call after the missing cat. He had felt obligated to call for the cat who was there by his side when he was locked inside the garden shed. It didn’t seem strange to him that the cat was there, because the cat was always carefully watching the two young children, so Rolick assumed that Meow had a natural disposition, similar to a lioness who cares for her cubs. Yet, there was something that Rolick couldn’t quite figure out on his own. He pondered about why the cat had stayed there all throughout the night. Rolick couldn’t figure out why Meow wasn’t scared away by the abrasive temperament of that menacing child who robbed his home.

“Is there anything else you aren’t telling me?” asked the detective.

“You didn’t need to know about me being locked up.”

“I did,” said Draft. “Since it would help me do my job. Is there anything else I should know?”

“My knees are killing me,” said Rolick. The medical attendant tightened the braces around Rolick’s legs. “I’m sorry, detective. I couldn’t talk about it at the time. It was humiliating for me, you see.”

“Whoever locked you up is the one who stole your . . . recipe? You were telling me it was a recipe that was stolen.”

“Yeah.”

“But back there you said it was your daughter’s life work.”

They reached the car. Detective Nick Draft popped Eddie into the back of the car, and he helped the medic load Rolick onto the backseat.

“What’s he doing here?” asked Rolick.

“Like you said, he was beating up on a kid,” said Nick. “He needed a time-out. Won’t talk without a lawyer. Smart guy.”

Eddie was silent until he made it inside of the station for an overnight stay.

“What’s your story? You haven’t told me everything, I take it,” said Detective Draft.

“You didn’t ask the right questions,” said Rolick. “All you were concerned about was property damage.”

“Alright,” said the detective. He changed lanes, speeding across an intersection. Upon returning to the proper lane, he said to Rolick, “You seemed calm when I arrived at the scene.”

“When I was making you call a medic,” said Rolick.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize your life had been obscured in such a way that you were locked away in a tool shed for the night,” said the detective. “How could I have known this was the case? I was called in for a robbery.”

“Well, it was,” said Rolick. “My life has certainly been obscured.”

“I just thought that it was—”

“It was—What?”

“I thought that it was just part of getting old,” said the detective, reluctantly.

“Ah,” said Rolick. He adjusted the braces around his knees to find quick comforts: as one brace was loosened, the other became aware of their partner’s placement, and the feeling of being displaced is a call for adjustment. “That’s where you’re wrong. But it’s an honest mistake. It’s what I thought, too. I was under the impression that I was aging naturally.”

“Naturally,” said the detective.

“And naturally, I wanted to remain young,” said Rolick, “but I gave up on that notion eventually.”

“Sure,” said the detective.

“But that’s where we’re wrong,” said Rolick.

“We are?” asked the detective.

“Go on,” said the medic.

“Yes,” said Rolick. “Well, my daughter has been working on something. I shouldn’t say. But I might need to have you adjust this brace, because it’s giving me trouble today.”

“Tell me about how you were locked up in a shed, Rolick,” said the detective.

“I’ve already told you.”

“I mean, do we have the right guy?” asked the detective.

“I thought so,” said Rolick. “But all I remember is seeing some strange figure and that horrible cackling laughter.”

“I don’t find any of this funny,” said Eddie. “So that laughter wasn’t me.”

While Detective Draft brought the snide child into the detention center, the medic went over Rolick’s options. “Those braces are helping the arthritis,” said the medic, “but I’m afraid they might cause other problems with circulation.”

“If I remove them,” said Rolick, “I’m afraid I’ll never walk again.”

“But they’re doing irreparable damage to your circulatory system, your veins, your heart,” said the medic. “Your body might not be able to withstand much more of that sort of behavior.”

From the outside, Brookshire Village’s central hub was a highly-sophisticated machine. The building was made of a lightweight, aluminum-grade alloy-composite that shined throughout both day and night. The inside of the center wasn’t nearly as illustrious, however. Folded tables and stacks of chairs were the main fixtures to be had, in surplus, in such an impoverished sector as Brookshire Village, so if you wanted to have a desk for your belongings, you had to be creative about the design you chose.

The detective released Eddie to the proper channel of attendants, those in charge of juvenile subordination. He submitted his evidence quickly and quietly, confirming reports of “aggressive behavior elicited towards another child” by matching Rolick’s conjectures with those substantiated testimonies from other individuals within their sector.

“Punishment will calculate,” said an attendant to the detective.

“Say, thanks, Marcie,” said Detective Draft. “How’s your family? Junior must be getting up there.”

“He sure is,” said Marcie. “He’s spending his time at the field with the other children.”

An ordinary automaton read the feedback submitted by the Director of Juvenile Subordinations.

“The machine is finished calculating the punishment,” said Marcie. “Do you want me to send over the report, or file it away?”

“No,” said Draft. “I don’t care, really.”

“You did the right thing bringing him in. He sure is a hostile one,” said Marcie. “He’s going to get lectured for hours upon hours, about being kind to others, and other types of wisdom his parents forgot to tell him, before we send him back home.”

“Good,” said Draft. “That ought to teach him to pick on other children. Alright, Marcie.”

“You better be good to yourself, detective,” said Marcie.

“Looking for whoever locked up Mr. Rolick, and I think this cat, whom he’s been talking about all damn day, has something to do with finding the guilty party.”

Marcie continued to log reports and reach out through the central hub’s communication system: “Four-zero-nine—reporting file open—requesting immediate suspension of all active pursuit—I repeat, four-zero-nine—”

Detective Draft stopped at his desk before returning to the squad car. He picked up a different set of keys, and he took an old leather wallet from a shoebox at the bottom of a large pile of shoeboxes.

The squad car remained parked in front of the detention center. The medic was lecturing Rolick about his health condition, and Rolick was firing back about his desire to be able to keep walking.

“What’s the news today?” a village person, outside of the detention center, asked another passerby.

“Why should I know?” asked the other. “I haven’t seen nor read the news in so long now.”

“It’s been so long,” said the first villager, “for me too. Since the newsstand’s been closed, I haven’t been able to make out what’s been going on two feet in front of me.”

“Your glasses’ pretty,” said the second villager.

“Oh, well, thank you.”

The vagabond paperboy emerged from a dimly-lit stairwell, which connected to an underground portion of the center. He paused in the darkness of the stairwell, reflecting in a place where he felt alone, before emerging to reveal his appearance to those people, whom his experience had told him, always lurked outside public buildings in Brookshire Village. Before emerging, he examined the pills in packaged silver wrappers that clattered and clicked together in his tattered messenger bag, reflecting what little light there was upon his face that was dark in complexion and hardly visible on the silver wrappers.

He crossed Lower Third Boulevard, passing behind the squad car with its engine running. When he reached the other side of the street, a familiar voice called out to him:

“We ain’t having no good news,” said his previous employer. “Since I’m in business to be making money off the paper. Nothing new for them means a bad news for me. Why you not push out the papers today, boy?”

“I just finished telling them inside,” said the vagabond paperboy, “and I’ll tell you the same truths. I’m busy dealing with my mum’s sick at home.” He pulled from his messenger bag a package of the pills he stole.

“You not sick,” said the ringleader, “so you help mom out later.”

“I don’t owe you anything,” said the boy, “so you can deliver your own newspapers for all I care.”

At the height of all excitement, the detective arrived in a shuttle the size of a paddy wagon. He rolled down the window and said, “Hey kid, need a ride?”

“Really?”

“Sure, why not? Where are you heading? If it’s on our way I can drop you,” said Draft. “I heard what you’ve been through. We all have been watching your story play out.”

“Thanks,” said the paperboy.

He started to go around to the front of the shuttle, but the medic opened the passenger door before the boy could get to it.

“Do yourself a favor, and learn to mind your elders,” said the medic.

The vagabond paperboy helped the medic with setting up Rolick’s chair. The shuttle was equipped with an electronic wheelchair lift that moved with the grace of a falcon, floating toward the ground before it unfurled its synthetic spring-loaded ramp. The lift was designed to move at the press of a button, located at the tailgate of the cargo hold and inside of the captain’s station. Rolick secured his chair above the rear axle, and the vagabond paperboy stood nearby.

The Omni-Presenters were already sharing the feed from video cameras to audiences around the world when the lazy gang of cats from Mipsy reconnected with their realistic cyber-humans. They had been monitoring Brookshire through the eyes of two young residents. The kidnapping and replacement of Dustin and Sarah was completed prior to Rolick’s incident, which is precisely why Rolick started to believe that he had been bamboozled by two young children who seemed rather innocent. When, in fact, the two seemingly angelic children had previously been captured, and they were replaced with authentic replicas.

The gang of cats worked with Meow to time the events perfectly. The three, who lead the army of creatures that came to our planet, were Lionitus, Tabloid the Tiger, and Bogo Calypso. Meow was merely a terrestrial descendant of the ruling class that held dominion over the planet called Mipsy. His ears were sharply pointed, speckled with dark grey throughout orange fur. The triangular formation of dark grey specks on his ears were a standard marking, found on every member of his bloodline.

The Mipsians waited until Rolick’s daughter’s invention was ready to be mass produced on Earth. They stole the plans that humanity would have used to evolve with machines. Those nasty cats weren’t to be trusted.

Yet, it was The Omni-Presenters, who controlled the video surveillance that was found around the island chain in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mipsy cat gang stole away to plan their escape. Lux Island was still under surveillance, but the gang of cat-like creatures from Mipsy had the inside scoop about Rolick’s daughter’s life’s work. Their procedures to procure her invention would put any crude reality television show to shame.

In light of having their cover blown, the gang from Mipsy decided to incorporate Lux Island into their plan. Because of the impenetrable security features employed around the tiny chain of islands, Lux provided a perfect place of respite. For, the gang from planet Mipsy had to put off evacuating from Earth for enough time to allow for proper alignment of a liquid-to-solid gamma-ray.

Their evacuation to Mipsy involved crossing the solid gamma at the appropriate time when the molecular construct would be strong enough to hold the combined weight of their cluster, and such a solid gamma would likely ensure their paws would remain dry. If they kept their hind paws dry at the time of departure, their plan was to convene with starships that awaited outside the farthest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. The formula they borrowed for such a transition was pulled from one version of String Theory, which was a modification of the general theory of relativity (invented by a human being named Albert Einstein).

“I feel Ovid’s disease pressing down on us,” said Lionitus, referring to Bogo, the rotund grey creature with white paws.

“Yes, his fur is already melting from his skin,” said Tabloid the Tiger in agreeance.

“So is yours,” said Bogo.

“Neh, mine’s always melting,” said Tabloid.

Tabloid and Bogo fought over which of them was more at fault. Neither was holding up in proper form if the truth shall be told. Bogo was missing fur from nasty grooming habits, even before the cluster of cat-like creatures had arrived to experience the remaining humidity in that part of the world.

Mipsian populations were dwindling ever since being struck by Ovid’s incurable disease, and they brought the virus to us. Fortunately, Rolick’s daughter had been working on a cure for symptoms of aging that would have saved the cats from scratching. They took turns applying their claws to the buttons of her combination lock.

It was Lionitus who had the bright idea to pilot one of the human sentinel robots. The quick-thinking captain took control of the joystick that was used to manipulate the small hands and delicate fingers of the mechanical replacement of Dustin.

“Well, look at Lionitus go. The dexterity of their digits is purely polydactyl,” said Bogo.

The faux Dustin’s tiny fabricated fingers pressed the buttons to calibrate the desired combination. Once it was opened, Lionitus removed the plans with his own paws.

“What does the human woman write about?” asked Bogo.

“It’s exactly what we’ve been monitoring,” said Lionitus. “Good work. Thanks to King Meow Plutonimus III, our civilization will rid itself of Ovid’s foul disease.”

Meow rolled onto his back submissively, and with thorough strokes from his own tongue, he brushed through the fur beneath his belly. “Mm-rrow,” he exclaimed in the only language the terrestrial creature could discern.

“Yes,” said Lionitus, “my dear civilized cousin, your wisdom and bravery will be noted in the history books composed by Mipsian scholars. The stealthy spying you’ve done for the past few years will not go unnoticed. My only concern, is what to do with the captives you’ve been tracking.”

Meow continued his incredibly important cleaning rituals, as Lionitus brought forth the pair of innocent children, Dustin and Sarah. When Sarah screamed, it wasn’t because of the sight of the creatures—But a man with a child on his back who rode along on a motorized scooter. They swooped in at the perfect moment. It was the final opportunity to keep the children safe from the hungry cats. Although, these were no ordinary felines, for their hind legs had evolved differently. These cats from Mipsy (just like all cats on Mipsy) stood taller than the average human being, and their claws were sharper than the incisors of a great white wolf.

They wanted to devour the children and anything that stood in their way was an appetizer. The languid feline by the name of Calypso Bogo passed by the robotic sentinels, leaping over the machines with their top halves parted from their bottoms.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Five.


Proceed to Chapter Five


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
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Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter five

When Bogo and Tabloid ripped apart the kind avenger, Meow tried to intervene. To keep the children from such savage carnage, the furry orange tabby blocked their young eyes from witnessing the bipedal cat creatures by puffing up his bushy tail. The hairs on Meow’s tail stood up on end, like an unpacked umbrella creates a proper (albeit translucent) barrier from sunlight. They devoured the man with the ferociousness of a pride of starving lions. Upon the orders of their leader, they left the small child in its bassinet, crying and shrieking about the gruesome demise of its caregiver.

The baby wasn’t an appetizing treat.

“No meat,” said Bogo. “All bones.”

“Do away with it,” said Lionitus.

On his orders, they went without dessert.

They left it in the elements outside of their straw hut because its cries were unsettling. In no time at all, another islander came by on a rusted bicycle. The bike’s muddy tires came to a halt, on a trail at the top of a mesa that extended along the shelter, where the cats barricaded themselves.

Back in Brookshire, the technician from Proudz was indulging in a form of virtual entertainment that was a staple of modern time. He was engaged in a program that was broadcasting on all frequencies, using the same remote control that was typically used to monitor his fleet of flying sentinels.

On the front path near the prayer garden of lilacs that covered the hills of Brookshire Suites, the technician revealed his intimate secrets. After thoroughly letting go of his emotions, he risked being shunned by the brazen tenant who smashed a precious part of his social circle.

The technician revealed his transformation from woman to man before the tenant. Muriel Mavens must have had a heart after all, for she committed to a friendly embrace. They became engaged, about the digital distribution from The Omni-Presenters, when the technician made the following comment about the child in the bassinet being rescued by another islander:

“I know they’re savages on that island, but they’re caring as hell.”

The distribution of presentations was interrupted by a transmission from Detective Draft, who called to speak to the technician’s boss. The boss didn’t understand much about the technology he was using, so he didn’t realize the technician was receiving transmissions of his conversation with Draft.

“Hello,” said Draft.

“This is Proudz,” said the boss.

“Hi, Shawn,” said Draft, “you helped with my cat—or, at least, you tried to help. Anyway, we need to find another missing feline that was at the scene of a crime. Your team has already been on the scene, so what can you tell me?”

“This is Draft?” asked the boss-man, Shawn.

“Yes, indeed.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, detective. Except a busted drone flyer.”

“It’s a shame to hear. So I shouldn’t pull your guy in for questioning?”

“My son is on the job,” said Shawn. “Or at least, he was. She was. I don’t know what to say. Go find out for yourself, detective. Since you’re the caller, and I’m a fair man, I’ll just tell you, there ain’t no going back after you lose someone close.”

“I know,” said the detective. “I lost my Penelope, remember?” Draft closed the business card that showed the company’s contact codes. They were listed beneath a three-dimensional Proudz logo that stood upon legs shaped like double-helix. As he closed the card, the logo warped, wrapping into itself, devouring itself before disappearing forever. He tossed the card behind him. “I lost my girl,” he said.

“You lost an ugly, mangy cat,” said Shawn. “My daughter was a beautiful princess. She turned into a freak.”

“I’ll show you a freak,” said Draft. Abruptly, he ended the transmission.

“Sounds like a tough call,” said the medicine woman.

“Will you ease up?” asked Draft. “My guy was a dead end. We might as well just drop this kid off at—Where you going, kid?”

But before the vagabond paperboy could figure out how to answer the detective, for his transgressions were cause for his distress, Rolick noticed the boy wasn’t at ease. Rolick told Draft where they should look to find the Proudz technician. “That damn neighbor of mine squashed a drone with her cane earlier, before you came to investigate the robbery,” said Rolick. “I bet they know something, based on their video feed.”

“Find the cat to find your jewels,” said the detective.

“Sure,” said Rolick, “except it’s not jewels. I told you, my daughter’s life’s work is missing. It’s a cure for me. For all of us. A cure for aging.”

“My mum could use some cure for herself,” said the paperboy, and he rattled his bag of pills.

Calypso Bogo was part of a research team on his home planet. When disease plagued his society, the evolved Mipsian creatures found a way to keep each case isolated for treatment, in contained facilities, in order to control the pandemic. Each of the bipedal felines had access to entertainment signals, programming from other areas of the galaxy, subsisting on what humans have been creating and emitting from our planet for well over a century. When Bogo’s research quadrant intercepted signals projected from satellites orbiting around Earth, their species gained a better understanding of life on this planet.

They were evolved in physical form and in terms of the technology developed for the sake of entertainment, but their researchers weren’t accomplished at creating a solution for a disease that was destroying the lot of their society. During their discourse in human programming, they picked up signals for infomercials, many of which were created by talented marketers who sought to promote life-extension through medication, calorie restriction, and other highly-criticized practices. They mastered our language, and they used a combination of advanced gadgetry, telemetry, and telekinesis to travel to our distant planet in search of their supposed cure.

Meow hadn’t been united with the cluster of extraterrestrial cats for long, not before the drone from Proudz arrived. Jasper X13 was fulfilling an order: the retrieval of one large orange tabby. In the honorable remembrance of Tipper Le Roux, Jasper flew above the jet stream to reach an approximate vertical altitude, directly above Lux Island.

The drone wasn’t receiving the same guidance as it had previously depended upon for its coordinates. For, the technician handed over the controls that informed Jasper’s mechanical maneuverability. After witnessing the disturbed mental pains of his father, the technician was drunk on emotion. And still pining over the loss of a digital counterpart, the technician was quick about relinquishing his control.

“You’re the reason I’m starving tonight,” said the technician to his boss. “What do you say? I’m not eating, but I’m going to retain my wits. I will.”

“You shan’t eat with an attitude like that,” said his father.

“But I am lucky,” said the technician, “I chose to go hungry in place of going crazy.” The technician was finally at peace with his circumstances. “Here I’ve been, pushing buttons and pulling crows from the sky. For what? For some dim-witted old coward who couldn’t feel for his workers. You couldn’t care less about the well-being of your own daughter. I’m still you’re little girl, you know! You’re a monster! I’d much rather go on a diet than rack my head against this controller every time you forget whom you’re talking to. You dumb old fool.” The technician dropped the device. “How’s about that for talent? You can fly the crows and fool the world into thinking you care about global issues, but I know the truth. You might make me frown and scowl, and cry, but my tears are real. When you go home to your prude wife who’s always on the pill after her most-recent botched facelift, good luck getting up the next morning. I hope you slip on your toupee while you’re scraping up soap scum from the shower drain.”

This conversation had transpired moments before the shuttle approached Brookshire Suites. After his catharsis, when the detective arrived, the technician was ready to hand over the controls, without restraint. While Draft poured over a binder of instructions, searching for a way to locate the coordinates of the drone (Jasper X13, who was searching for Meow), the medicine woman unraveled her persona to help soothe the technician. To humanize the situation, the medic introduced herself.

“You have a beautiful name,” said the technician. “What does it mean, I wonder?”

“It’s a family name,” said Céleste. “It means heaven. It’s French. Célestine is a French word for celestial body.”

“Lovely,” said the technician. “Will you send some of that my way? I feel like I’m rotting in Hell.”

“Oh,” said Céleste, “I’m sorry. Well, what’s your name?”

“Christopher,” said the technician. “I chose it because I liked the way it sounds. I suppose, it has something to do with letting Christ into your heart.”

As the detective traded in the keys for the shuttle, the medic decided to loosen the restrictive supports that were acting as braces for Rolick’s knees. He had finally fallen asleep, in the motorized wheelchair, on the way back from collecting the digital transceiver from the Proudz technician. With the detective closing in on his daughter’s life’s work, Rolick had finally felt comfortable enough to nod off to sleep.

Rolick was exhausted, and ultimately, it was the exhaustion that caused him to collapse into an undeniable slumber in the back of the shuttle. Although, it wasn’t a silent eternity to those nearby. The vagabond paperboy had been caravanning along with their party in hopes that they would take him across town, but he, too, found exhaustion.

In order to silence Rolick’s loud sleeping noises, the medicine woman loosened the braces that kept Rolick’s life-force intact. His sleep sounds became silent, yet it was more silence than the medic had planned.

Meanwhile, the humdrum of a well-oiled flying machine fired pistons strong enough for the supputant detective to feel as if he was in full control of piloting the shuttle to move on, over Brookshire’s Policing and Detention Center. The mechanical contraption, stripped of sound buffering that was typical of civilian shuttles, was loud enough to mask the squeaking wheels of Rolick’s chair.

As the medicine woman wheeled the lifeless corpse of Mr. Rolick into the cargo hold of the Galactic Defender Shuttle #445, a greedy face leapt from previous entrapment. The ringleader was encouraged to take cover.

In the hustle, a passerby made a bizarre remark worthy of notation: “Y’all got to watch that breeze, huh? Once, I had a dog with ears so long they would have blown up from all that wind that’s coming out from those propellers,” said the passerby. “It was un épagneul cocker, but I didn’t know how to speak French.”

“I’m certain, your dog must have been a cocker spaniel,” said another villager. “Does it bother you that nobody from France has tried to learn our language?”

“Definitely, so I learn theirs,” said the first passerby. “Which is why I brought the ugly mutt back to my house. Because I wanted to learn French from an insider. Even if it is just a dog.”

Upon his realization, of the likelihood of being accosted by the ringleader, the paperboy took to the shuttle as well.

“We’re going in a different direction,” said Draft. “Sorry we couldn’t get you where you’re going, kid.”

“So long as I get these meds to mum, by end of day today,” said the vagabond paperboy, “I reckon she’ll survive.” There would be hell to pay if the ringleader caught him, so he hopped inside the shuttle.

“I’m not sure if I’d gamble with my mother’s life like that,” said the medicine woman.

“Relax,” said the detective. “The kid loves his mother. He’s doing his best. We’re doing our best to get the old man’s case. You’re doing your best to keep the old man alive. Kid doesn’t want to take a beating, so who am I to say he can’t come with us?”

The void was captured by Rolick, as he was held captive in the occupations of those he accompanied presently. He didn’t miss being alive, nor did he enjoy being no longer living. His conscious energy became infused with what surrounded him.

While the last conscious memory belonging to Rolick was living out his unaccomplished mortal dreams, the medicine woman climbed aboard the piloting deck of the Defender shuttle. She took command of the device formerly used by the Proudz technician, because Detective Draft was entirely occupied with various controls at the helm of the shuttle.

Draft was guessing at which function each switch fulfilled as he flipped over one, and then several others. He mumbled flight-control instructions to himself that he had been trying to recall from his brief training in flight-pursuit protocol.

“I usually fly solo,” said Draft. “Why don’t you relax with the kid and old timer? These things basically fly themselves.”

“When was the last time you were at the controls?” she asked.

“Good question,” said Draft. “I got a better one. Do you got a name? Or should I just call you ‘Angel’?”

“Actually, it’s Céleste,” said the medicine woman.

“Well, Céleste,” said Draft, “would you be so kind as to tell me where that automaton insists on going?”

She powered on the device that was relaying information from Jasper X13, and those coordinates were set by Draft. They were moving through the air, careening above the most affluent sector on the coast, before making it to the Gulf of Mexico. The setting sun was glowing magnificently, over the horizon to the west, creating a beautiful scene for those inside of the piloting deck.

After Draft provided evidence to prove his credentials, he was granted access to link the shuttle’s effortless flight controls to the precise global position of Jasper, in accordance with the Automated Satellite Tracking Covenant. He needed to prove his authority to the artificially intelligent communication module fitted aboard the Defender Shuttle #445, also known as Marc.

Two loading bars appeared, one on each end of the piloting deck’s navigation screen. As the shuttle’s system became conscious, the bars filled more and more. Located at the center of the navigation console was an orb-shaped globe that glowed dark-blue. When Marc spoke, the globe turned a brighter shade of dark-blue.

The glove box squeaked when Céleste opened it. She removed a thick binder that was bound by twelve rings along its spine, and she flipped around, thumbing through the contents of the shuttle’s manual. She landed on a chapter (entitled ‘Navigating Across Dangerous Waters’) that intrigued her, so she started to read from the binder:

“It’s not possible to predict the ocean’s current or the way the wind blows, but this shuttle’s automatic sensors are equipped with—”

“Are you trying to take over this investigation?” Draft asked, interrupting Céleste. He took the manual from her grasp. “There’s too much up in the air with what we’re doing. I’m tired of you bringing everything down on me.”

“Are you kidding me?” asked Céleste. “We’ve been through this before. My main concern is the old man’s health. I’ll just keep to myself if you’re going to act that way.”

“Act what way?”

“I was only trying to help. I wasn’t trying to bring anything down on you,” said Céleste. “I certainly wasn’t taking over your investigation.”

Detective Draft flipped through the binder, and he tried communicating with the shuttle’s onboard system. “Hello, this is your captain speaking. If we could minimize our visibility—”

“This ship has no captain,” said Marc.

“Yes, well, I think I know what we should be doing, but I don’t know which controls to push,” said Draft.

Marc was silently computing a response to Draft’s conundrum.

“We need to stop bickering,” said Draft. “We need to work together to show the artificial intelligence that we’re on a goodwill mission.”

“It’s a long trip,” said Céleste. “What else are we going to do besides bickering?”

“I suppose, we’ve got time to kill,” said Draft, and they continued debating anything and everything. Their quarrels included topics surrounding the mission at hand, dating, marriage between people of different sectors, funding for law enforcement, reality television, and whether artificial intelligence actually matters.

Marc was locked on Lux Island throughout their entire debate. Shuttle #445’s transponder became fixed to the same flight path that drove Jasper X13 moments earlier. The shuttle was overhauling at a speed that would bring them to meet their destination in record time.

Meanwhile, the vagabond paperboy was getting to know what it’s like to ride along with a lifeless corpse. The paperboy found it strange that the old man hadn’t made a noise. He debated with himself about trying to wake the man from his sweet surrender, but instead, the vagabond paperboy found himself pilfering through his own messenger bag. He shook around a few bottles of pills before he found the one he was looking to find: there were only three pills inside of the clear plastic case. Three loud clunkers shifted when he shook the case.

“Don’t you worry,” said the vagabond, “I’ll keep them safe for you, mum.” He whispered quietly, to himself, to avoid startling his fellow passenger.

The light-emitting-diodes, which ran along the outside of the Defender Shuttle #445, turned off when the shuttle was ordered to enter its stealth mode. Partially, this was a direct result of Detective Draft finally convincing Marc to make their presence harder to detect. Yet, it was Rolick’s conscious memory that left, in synapses, from the diodes when they turned to darkness.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Six.


Proceed to Chapter Six


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
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All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter six

His last remaining unaccomplished desires leapt from the shuttle. It was his memory of the ghostly dream of a young actress he had dreamt of finding, and when he found her, they traded spots with their former selves to settle down and give birth to a beautiful baby girl. That girl grew into an extraordinary genius. She was capable of developing cures to the diseases that plagued all the people of the world. As Rolick’s last fading memory grew from a fizzling electronic burst of energy, that memory sought his deepest desire: to recapture what was stolen from his child.

“You’re priceless.”

“It’s a golden opportunity.”

Those distant memories were fading away like moths disappear from under a dimmed streetlamp. Rolick’s life with a failed actress. They produced such an accomplished offspring. Heidi was plain and tucked away from everyone in her life, behind thick glasses that concealed her identity. Just like her mother, whose starlet demeanor always incorporated dark sunglasses.

Sometimes, a mother’s beauty falls away when a child is born. In this particular case, Heidi’s mother didn’t make it to see her daughter’s first birthday. She hid away, thoughts hemorrhaging in her brain, until one day, her mother was no more.

When his wife died, Rolick directed all of his energy into nurturing their daughter. The child grew up to have every opportunity. That was evident in Heidi’s life’s work. It was all that Rolick cared about while his heart was still beating, so it was all that his last flickering conscious energy could attend.

“What in the hell, old timer?”

“Mr. Rolick! Henry Rolick, can you hear us? I haven’t received any notifications,” said Céleste. “My sensors are reporting that everything with his vitals is perfectly—”

“What?” asked the perturbed vagabond. “Perfectly what?”

“It appears,” said Céleste, “the sensor has been collecting data from the electronic braces around his kneecaps.”

“Those things have a pulse?”

“I can’t believe I’ve been so wrong,” said Céleste. “How could I have possibly missed that detail?”

“He was shouting about how important it was to keep his blood moving,” said the paperboy. “Perhaps you should spend more time listening to your patients.”

“Easy, kid,” said Draft.

“We should try moving at a normal speed,” said Marc. “You’ll probably feel better.”

“Thanks for your help, computer,” said Céleste.

“I really didn’t do anything,” said Marc.

Clouds made an airstrip for their entire flight. A layer of smog that accumulated in the Gulf was thicker than the darkest rain clouds, and it gave the shuttle of theirs a jostle that Marc didn’t predict.

Draft gave a shout when they spun around below the jet stream: “Ouch! You could have warned us, computer!”

“Woo!” exclaimed Marc. “I didn’t see that coming. You insist upon calling me that. You know, I have a name, right? Why don’t you try using it the next time you want something done? Come to think of it, the last time I saw a processor as basic to deserve the title of being called a computer was at my first flight test simulation.”

“Oh, will you please set us back on the right course, Marc?” asked Detective Draft.

“We’ve never veered off course,” said Marc.

“Let me try,” said Céleste. “Marc, dear, humans have a rather delicate device called an equilibrium.”

“I am aware,” said Marc.

“We need to maintain balance,” said Draft.

“Yes, regretfully,” said Céleste, “meaning, Marc, will you try to be a dear and put a stop to all this spinning motion?”

“But it is the most ergonomic way to travel,” said Marc.

“We travel in similar form to a discus being hurled by the throwing arm of Hercules himself.”

“I’m going to be sick,” said Draft. “That settles it. Marc, if you don’t want to see the inside of my stomach, you’ll steady the course of this ship this instant.”

“Right away,” said Marc. Although, it wasn’t right away to the ship’s internal computing system. What may have seemed like a snap-decision, to the simple brains of those aboard the Galactic Defender Shuttle #445, took several processor engagements in order to compute a final answer that the detective’s stomach lining was nothing out of the ordinary, and projecting its contents would likely cause complications for the mission at hand. The shuttle resumed an easy coast until it reached Lux Island.

“Stay back with the ship,” Draft said to the vagabond paperboy. “You can keep the old man company.”

“That’s a cadaver,” said the paperboy. “I’m not going to lie, I’ve seen one before. There’s nobody here to harvest his organs, so I don’t know wh—”

“Make sure nobody steals our ride out of here!”

“Nobody? We’re on a deserted island,” said the paperboy.

“You don’t watch any television,” said Céleste.

“Admittedly, no,” said the paperboy.

“How do you stay informed?”

“The paper,” said the vagabond. “We haven’t had a working television since I was a boy.”

“Well,” said Céleste, “you’re one of the biggest stars.”

“That’s an overstatement,” said Draft.

“I am aware,” said the vagabond, “but I don’t know why.”

“Because you’re authentic,” said Céleste. “You’re so—”

“Overrated,” said Draft. “The big phony Omni-Presenters worshipped you with lens and mic because you were their meal ticket. There’s no telling what they’re up to now.”

“You think they’re watching the island,” said Céleste.

“I do,” said Draft. “Damn straight, I do. See, watching these natives wasn’t getting ratings, but this guy’s here now—In fact, you know what? New plan! You’re coming with me, kid. Stick around with our pal, Marc, okay?”

“That’s alright,” said Céleste. “He’s the only one of you I get along with anyhow.”

As they crept along the island, Draft explained what they might encounter: “Legend has it, our people were taken from their homes, from the lowest sectors of society,” said Draft.

“I get it,” said the paperboy. “The whole planet has time to watch misery on their sets. Reality television. People fighting each other. But they need to make time to stop the oppressors that have decided to pick out who’s right and who’s wrong.”

“I don’t follow,” said Draft.

“We’re focused on a machine that has the capability of creating an instant audience, but doesn’t the machine have a bias of its own?”

“No,” said Draft, “it doesn’t. Marc only thinks about efficiency.”

“You’re missing the point,” said the vagabond. He stopped at a large, wooden sign that had been engraved, many years ago, to say, “Welcome to Lux Island.”

“Our society is focused upon a screen and machine rights. It’s a bullshit issue to distract everyone from the reality at hand.”

The sign used to say, “Lux Island,” but “Lux” had been scratched out and covered by another word, so the sign read, “Welcome to Luck’s Island.”

“So these are our people,” said the paperboy.

“Indeed,” said Draft, “they were. Generations ago, their ancestors lived alongside our ancestors in peaceful harmony.”

“From which sector did they originate?” asked the vagabond.

“Does it matter where they came from? All people are our people.”

“Yeah, well, I never saw someone from your sector stretch his neck out for someone from where I’m from. Until today.”

“This island was a resort for the rich,” said Draft, “but The Omni-Presenters turned a beautiful paradise into a tormented theme park, terrorizing their subjects and holding them captive here. Until the show got canned.”

“When it got canceled?” asked the paperboy.

“I don’t know,” said Draft. “I suppose, they just let it exist on its own once again.” The detective spent ample time fidgeting with the device from Proudz. “The lucky islanders. Now, help me figure out how a cat and that old man’s daughter’s secret formula—or whatever it is—How did it all get washed up all the way out here?”

The vagabond paperboy took the device from the detective, and he properly examined it in order to make this judgement: “The satellites are indicating we’re getting close,” said the vagabond, “but their accuracy isn’t precise. Believe it or not, we were using a similar system for delivering newspapers. The beacon we’re following is bouncing off of three satellites. Same signal, different sats.”

“For not having a television,” said Draft, “you sure know how to read a console.”

“Some things come naturally to people born in an AI-induced society.”

If not for the microchip in Meow’s collar, the gang of cats from Mipsy would have been difficult to detect. They were silent, except for Bogo, who was clicking and picking his teeth with a splintered bone from the dead man’s ribcage.

What remained of the man, undevoured, was placed beneath a wire-trap designed by Bogo. Tabloid the Tiger climbed a tree to help hang the trap, nearly falling during his descent. Meanwhile, Bogo made disassembling the ribcage his top priority. He neatly stacked the bones into a sack of his own belongings.

On the other hand, their leader, Lionitus, was always careful and cautious to show the depth of splendor that his species was capable of achieving. Their arrival on Lux Island was no coincidence, for Lionitus was proud to display his admirable traits for The Omni-Presenters to reckon with.

Before leaving Mipsy, to search for a cure for the plague that was decimating his species from their planet, Lionitus vowed to forgo their mission to hopeless demise if it came down to questioning his integrity. He refused to feast like his woeful comrades. Thus, his companions developed a shortened limerick, which displayed how Lionitus was surely a sensible fellow:

“When his carnal urges would come to him
—stirring the beast inside. And when it came to,
he was hungry for what all monsters desire—
Growling and churning for flesh, he yearns.
Yet, he stifles it by consuming protein packs.”

He consumed a scientifically-prepared formula in capsule form, which contained enough essential vitamins to sustain his life-force.

“The protein packs that kepts us from starvations on the trips to this planet is almost running out,” said Tabloid.

“We needs something more to keep us at ease,” said Bogo.

“If protein packs aren’t enough,” said Lionitus, “I don’t know what to tell you. There’s more than enough rations here in protein packs. It’s enough to hold us over until we return home, where there’s plenty more of the same to have.”

“But it smells like rat’s piss,” said Tabloid.

“Your cigars smell like rat’s piss, too,” said Lionitus. “But that doesn’t stop you from filling this hovel with fume.”

When the console was placed in the detective’s hands, Jasper had already received an affirmative order to stop at nothing. As Jasper X13 closed in on Meow, the detective and the paperboy were close enough to hear the commotion. Jasper was still following commands that the technician programmed when he was in charge of the console. The programmed, artificially-intelligent flying robotic rescue sentinel was sent on a mission to retrieve the missing pet. Thus, the Proudz motto, “to never leave an animal in harm’s way,” would be upheld with dignity, and what’s more, the technician wanted to give it what’s more in honor of the destroyed Tipper X14.

Draft hunkered low, and the paperboy followed in form. They moved briskly in their pursuits.

Without any prey coming across their wire-traps, Bogo and Tabloid started to discuss if they’d ever eat again. Bogo complained to Lionitus, along with Tabloid:

“We could simply devour one child,” said Bogo.

“We’ll split the smaller one,” said Tabloid, licking away the remains of their last victim from his fangs.

“You know well,” said Lionitus, “they’ll be none of that.”

Meow included himself in their discussion as well. While arching his back in true predatory style, he popped over to the plump creature called Bogo. He hopped around with his back arched in an attempt to warn Bogo of what would come as a result of harming the children he sought to protect.

“You’ve had your feast, beyond my liking,” said Lionitus. “You’re both going mad. Perhaps, the travel through space has had ill-effects upon your metabolism. King Meow will have no harm taken to his wards. Be they young and easy to conquer, Meow is electing to fight for their lives.”

As the children quivered beneath ropes that bound them and kept them quiet, the cat hissed and took to swiping his claws at the predacious beasts. His claws were as sharp as barbs on razor wire. Needled points at the end of his claws sliced into a patch of mange that had been taking shape on Bogo’s cheek.

Just as Bogo had taken to defending himself, the protective cat who was guarding the children was ripped away from the hovel. Jasper X13 was fulfilling the request that was once commanded by the technician. The net that was used to capture Meow had retracted in order to hold tightly onto the cat, for they had quite a long way to travel together. Meow was kicking and howling, for he longed to protect his humans, but all that fussing was to no avail.

Although they were privy to the flying feline enchantment they witnessed, the detective and the paperboy needed to search to find where the gang from Mipsy was holding up.

Once, upon a cool April afternoon, a moving company named Wheeler’s finished unloading its hold of cargo. Wheeler’s “proven winners” were strong drivers that moved starlets and stars around the world. The radio jingle for this mid-twenty-first century company told the story of the rise of urban sprawl:

“From Holly-wood to Shangri-La,
mighty mobile storage units
relocate your belongings
before you arrive in paradise.”

“Smooches?” asked the driver who was responsible for unloading Miss Le Roux’s extensive wardrobe.

Back when the movie business was still a war between producers and talented actors and actresses, a good-looking woman with a keen sense for dramatic action could dominate the silver screen. Le Roux was bold and bright, and she trained at Julliard’s private performing arts conservatory. She hustled and fought her way to the top of an empire. Back when it was still safe to do so, she took the motion picture business by storm, giving her enough green-backs to live wherever she desired, with whomever she desired.

She ran her fingers along the breathable mesh casing that kept her furs from falling asunder.

“No,” Tipper said to the burly man in covered overalls and work gloves. “No kisses for me, no kisses for anyone.”

She was a young starlet in an industry of greed and corruption. She did what she could. When she died, she was buried in a graveyard in Burbank near a tombstone marked with the following epitaph:

"When the day breaks,
the shadows flee away.

As the digital memories of Tipper X14 were cycling through their finest moments, the detective and his comrade encountered the unprecedented cluster of cat creatures. Even though the device monitoring the microchip on Meow’s collar was telling them to go back toward the ship, they pressed forward, entering the hovel where the creatures were conducting their operations.

Their leader, Lionitus, offered a much needed explanation: “We were an advanced race of being, so to be civil, we were allowed to take all the required actions to find a cure. Three-percent carry it, but one-hundred-percent must live in fear. It’s the fear that any one of us could be carted away to the infirmary that gets me going.

“What they didn’t tell us was that three-percent of the population were carriers of the virus from birth. A genetic trait caused mass hysteria about which of our kind were genetically equipped to wreck the rest of our society.”

Detective Draft was able to deal with the spectacle in front of them, far better than the vagabond paperboy. The boy’s shoulders raised and his breathing became irregular. Yet, eventually, the sight of the children being held hostage and the mysterious piles of bones were enough to send Draft into a dismal state, as well.

Meanwhile, the cat that they were originally pursuing was kicking and hissing to be let free from Jasper X13’s restrictive netting. The feisty fellow in fur fought for his freedom, as the final shimmering memories of Tipper X14 played over and over again.

Back when Miss Le Roux arrived in her chosen remote location, in Medfield, Oregon, she was fleeing a life she felt like leaving behind. But a cruel clinging vine of a man had followed her against her will.

Milo was the over-privileged yuppie who followed her from their careers on the stage to wherever she wanted to go. They were allies in grade school, but his nepotism grew into a brawny beast who wanted to swallow the starlet’s soul. When Milo followed Tippy Le Roux to her new home, he encroached upon the flagellant fresh-start that she had desired.

“What’ve you become, Tippy?” asked Milo. “You’ve changed.”

“I haven’t,” said Le Roux. “I’ve grown up is all.” She wouldn’t even allow Milo the privilege to step inside of her replica Victorian mansion. “If you’ve come to expect me to kneel at your feet, at your beckoning call, you’ve got a lot of nerve. You’ve got a lot of balls coming here at all, but my desires for freedom are bigger. I haven’t changed. I’ve just learned to respect myself for whom I was all along. We’re through, Milo.”

The newspapers reported that the couple had reunited because it sold more papers than the truth ever could. Although, Katherine Tippy Le Roux found a perfect suitor for herself. A man who was from a different class of society altogether, but she never saw him as someone beneath her. She was settled down in Jasper’s hometown, but he was going off to tour with a banjo on his knee.

“I’ll find you wherever postcards are written in the rain,” said Le Roux. “We’ll cross paths again, I promise,” said Jasper. But they never did find each other in life.

In life, the music Jasper wrote was all about the love he could have had if he had stayed with Tippy. His songs topped the charts, leaving a similar impression upon the mind of a young programmer. As the droids’ personalities were put together by a younger, more naïve technician. When Proudz Pet Tracerz was just getting off the ground, the technician still identified as a woman, and she was watching a film that starred the grey-haired actress Katherine Le Roux.

Coincidence pitied their love a second chance, to be foiled by the technophobic habits of Muriel Mavens. The ghost of the digital incarnation of Le Roux remained thoroughly connected throughout Jasper’s journey.

. . . To be continued in Chapter Seven.


Proceed to Chapter Seven


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)


$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
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cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

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(First Edition paperback,
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ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing House.
All rights reserved.

Video and photos: Julia Golonka



A Work in Progress


— chapter seven

While Céleste was waiting back to watch over the shuttle, she was also watching for a sign from the detective. She knew enough about the brash nature of a career cop to predict, with a degree of confidence that was on par with clairvoyance, that he’d let her know if there was any trouble.

“Don’t look so concerned,” said Marc. Some of the lights on the console that had been flickering turned to a solid color when the shuttle’s computer system spoke to the medicine woman.

“You’re mistaken,” said Céleste. “If you think for a moment, that I don’t care about either of them—”

“You care about your own safety,” said Marc. “You need me to get you out of here, but you know I won’t be able to leave without that detective. You might as well call him a deity.”

“Draft and I are working side by side on this,” said Céleste. She nervously asked if Marc had a way to check on their location, but Marc didn’t feel that it was prudent.

“What matters to me,” said Marc, “is why you’re even here. Who says you’re in charge of ordering me around?”

“I’m not ordering you,” said Céleste in a rather harsh tone. “I mean to say that Draft told me to wait here with you. I’m here with you, Marc. If anyone tries to get anything over on you, any of these marooned islanders, I suppose I would protect our interests.”

“Our interests?”

“Well, yes,” said Céleste, “I mean, the interests to get back to our home, Marc.”

“Listen up,” said Marc, “I don’t know why you think for a minute that I would let some scrappy marooned moron take up to the sky. Sometimes I wonder about people.

“As for the detective, I feel as though we’ve both been prescribed a diétéique that’s full of Draft’s fragrant personality. My orders are simply to protect all parties of this shuttle, especially sector employees, which includes the likes of you.”

The medicine woman examined the strange electronic braces that she proceeded to remove from Rolick’s legs.

“Although, I don’t understand your allegiance to the detective,” said Marc. “When he was present, you were constantly criticizing him. Now that he’s not around, you hold him higher. Do you always feel this way about those that come and go in your life? When they’re no longer with us, they’re easier to love. Do you love the detective?”

“No,” said the medicine woman, without restraint. “I’m married.”

“You’re kidding me,” said Marc.

“Nope,” said Céleste. She unfurled a wool emergency blanket and wrapped up the body of the departed horticulturist.

“All this talk from me about you carrying a love for another man,” said Marc. “It must make me sound pretty silly then, I suppose.”

“It’s fine,” said Céleste. “You didn’t know about my life.”

“I thought I saw something in the way you yearned for a sign,” said Marc. “Like you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Perhaps, I’m sensing the guilt you feel.”

“Guilt?” asked Céleste. “No, not me.”

“We don’t know how great something is until it’s missing from our lives,” said Marc. “You must feel for the old man’s family. Certainly, you must.”

While Rolick’s body was lifeless, his spirit was haunting The Omni-Presenters. The last pure-hearted, conscious memory he had was driven to protect his prodigal child’s creation. As the medicine woman loosened the braces around Rolick’s knees, his vital life-energy was released from its prison cell. In the same way that a faucet gushes water when a blockage is removed, his spirit leapt into the shuttle’s transference beacon.

Due to the nature of the mechanical restraints, Rolick’s vital energies were displaced into the digital realm. His spirit traveled through the onboard computer of the shuttle, undetected by Marc. When signals were transferred back to their sector’s station, his spirit went along for the ride. Soon enough, Rolick traveled through the digital network of cyberspace, landing on the channel that focused upon the lens that was directed by The Omni-Presenters, and the worldwide audience were witness to his tale of woe.

There’s no way to encapsulate the excitement that danced across the faces of the fans of the worldwide underground entertainment being set up by The Omni-Presenters. As perverts around the world tuned in to place their bets on which people on the island were going to be the next uncooked meal for the gang of cat creatures from planet Mipsy, even those who were free of the morbid curiosity for violent reality television were surrounded by its product.

Unlike the paperboy, whose level in society was too impoverished to own a single laser projection system, children in other sectors of society often over-indulged in the thrilling spectacle that surrounded the seemingly helpless people that were already trapped on an island. He and Draft were snared by the merciless clutches of a gargantuan in private entertainment.

When the news hit about a colorful addition to sharks and sand—the unfortunate vagabond being left out of the loop yet again—those strange creatures earned the greatest audience that that generation of presenters had ever encountered. Record-breaking figures of highly-satisfied viewers stayed hooked to their digital laser transference apparatuses.

The well-informed people of the world—anyone who cared to pick up a newspaper—They weren’t following the story. But most of the morally righteous people could identify the cause of the sickness that was hitting the entire human race. The cause was clearly The Omni-Presenters, who had been shaping society with their presentations, ever since Aristotle’s lost comedy. Great works from the Lost Generation of Writers and etudes from the Poet of Woodlawn. They were all created in this way, turning society into a fool that is easily coerced into a manipulated state of being.

While the newspapers contained the most colorful ads, enticing readers to buy new scents of deodorants, The Omni-Presenters filled their channels with the most hideously corrupt types of marketing materials.

In Brookshire Village, Eddie was in a trance, from the ancient laser transference machine outside of his cell, he was watching and waiting to learn how alien cat creatures would react to the detective and the vagabond. Normally, Eddie’s sister was there to intercept any gross transmissions. She would turn off the machine before their parents could make sense of it.

Shawn Proudz didn’t have a problem turning away from the transference machines. He spent time looking for the technician, searching around Brookshire Village. He ended up tracing the steps that the technician took around Brookshire Suites. Upon seeing Muriel in the garden, he recalled her face from the background of the video that transmitted during the last conversation he had with his child. “You’re the one who was sitting with her earlier,” he said. “Do you know where she went?”

“Where he went,” said Muriel. “Your daughter now identifies as a male, so you should use the pronoun ‘he’ because it’s the right thing to do.”

“But she was a her when I held her as a baby.”

“Yes, but it’s the choice of the individual. I’m learning to respect these machines of yours. Maybe you could learn to respect people like your own daughter.”

“You really don’t understand who I am or where I’m coming from,” said Shawn. “I’ve tried to go along with everything he requests because I love my child, but I get confused sometimes. I don’t mean to be so stubborn. I’m just afraid, I’ll always miss my daughter.” After the muscles in his neck loosened, his head fell to his chest.

“One moment, she was head cheerleader,” said Shawn Proudz. “The next minute, she’s going to college to be an artist, and now that she’s given up on her dreams, and come to work for me, she decided she’s going to do everything as a man.”

Muriel Myrtle Mavens stirred restlessly in her seat. She held her mug of tea, leaning close to the tea on the table to feel the warmth of the steam coming from the porcelain vessel.

“She’s even had a phase where she wanted to be a clown,” said Proudz. “How’m I supposed to take a clown seriously?”

“I don’t know,” said the old tenant, “but you better find a way to make things right.”

On the other side of Brookshire, the greedy ringleader was counting on being able to finish off the paperboy for himself. He had a nasty habit of spending all the money that was supposed to go to his workers on bourbon. Thanks to these insidious efforts to contribute to wage theft, he was able to gargle a glass of top-shelf Black Death Whiskey while glaring at the laser projection of the dramatic action happening on Lux Island.

Then, there were the villagers that were devoutly pious in their beliefs, in moral obligations to upholding the most sound truths, of never taking advantage of others. By abstaining from watching such tasteless projections, they upheld their beliefs, which helped to rectify social order. Villagers around Brookshire reviewed the reports published in Shire Examiner. However, any popular periodical would do, for the point of the press has always been to put an original spin on the same story. Even if the information is polarizing and slanted, the press reveals how it earned its place in society, yet it’s always being challenged.

By the time this reaches you, newspapers might be defunct, so you should know what a value they really were providing for us all. For, if you wondered about whether something was verifiable, all you needed to do is to see it in print someplace popular. The informed villagers of Brookshire read a periodical that was endorsed by a national syndicate. After seeming too cynical, by “standing on the sidelines of events” which occurred when previous generations of The Omni-Presenters were broadcasting their social experiments, the people behind the papers promised to pursue a more active role in preventing another ordeal in similar capacity and magnitude as the island chain formerly known as Lux Island.

The media rallied Brookshire Village into a frenzy, and active support groups that formed in a swarm of strong emotions had taken to The Omni-Presenters’ main office. They may as well have lit torches, but burning their headquarters to the ground would have been to no great avail.

Inside the shuttle, Marc decided to give his discourse on how the strange artificially-intelligent creations were a gift for robot-human relations. But Céleste wanted to replicate those unique inventions, which would cause their personalities to be ubiquitous.

The most eloquent sonnets and verses were pouring from those advancements in cyber-assistance. They were inputted into algorithms created by the engineer named Heidi Rolick. Those critically-intelligent robotic-assistance mechanisms spoke aloud, but they didn’t speak in the same way the Bard wrote. They didn’t speak in iambic pentameter like the original Renaissance designer, but their intentions to stop at nothing to be together were all the same.

All the same in electronic simulation
as they would be in life;
Their words were twirled
in iridescent sentiments,
an opaque, grand reflection
of the recently deceased.

The dead horticulturist was channeled
through thoughts on the fragmented tongues
of babes birthed by a familial inventor.

Marc addressed the medicine woman before those delightful droids, but his words were harsh: “You’re going to have to tell Draft,” he warned, and, “These don’t belong to you, so don’t touch.”

The left computerized counterpart spoke about the pain of loss:
“My love, will I ever repent the ways that I’ve wronged your favor?
In every glance and feverish admonishment about the world—
I am kneeling before your knees to forgive my occupations.”

And the other robotic knee-brace spoke in reply:
“But it is, I, who is in your debt, my love.
For, forever, it isn’t nearly long enough,
and we cannot spend a moment apart.”

Céleste placed the right part in her medical bag, and she left the left one on the dead horticulturist’s person.

“Where do you think you are going?” asked Marc.

“I’m only taking it over to the window to study,” said Céleste, “under better light.”

The twisted, turning divisions that took place were unprecedented, but each party felt they were doing what was right for all. In fact, at that very moment, a critically strange battle of right and wrong had aroused great interest from each and every party present on Lux Island. Even the islanders, so far removed from the hovel in question, could hear the terrifying commotion. For, the howls of those creatures from Planet Mipsy of the Mice Galaxies could be heard all throughout the main island.

What was right for one ideology was wrong for another. Just as the cluster of cat creatures were torn apart from each other, the detective was leading the interests of all of humanity in choosing which side he would team up with, which depended upon which of the creatures were easiest for Draft to capture.

It was Lionitus and his army of comrades who broke away, deflecting into the jungles of the island, to save the formulas and calculations which equipped technological means with the ability to elongate the interests of the living. For, their mission was to bring the invention back to their planet, to be tested and enlisted in causing relief from the disease which plagued his cardinal cluster.

It was too bad for Draft. Bogo and Lionitus were strange to look at, but people had encountered their kind before. It’s just too bad that Draft had to deal with such a manipulative specimen from Mipsy.

A handless man at the end of a dock
sold Hunt-at-Sunset Sensors.
They were fitted through telemetry,
onto throttle-cages of Mipsian battle-chargers.

In a bold burst of smoke,
Bogo’s robotic countrymen arose,
to fight and defeat their tactful leader, Lionitus.
All seemed a pity to the captive children.

Dustin and Sarah were tied and gagged.
They gurgled indescribable babble.
It was harder to hear than the twisted tale
of the once lucid argyle gargoyle.

If only the detective had witnessed the bout, of when Bogo and Tabloid took out a hero. Instead, Draft and the boy stumbled in at the wrong moment, to catch Lionitus sustaining himself on a harmless but gross satchel of red soup.

The leader of the cluster of cat creatures,
Lionitus, slurped a blood-red protein pack
that tasted worse than stale garbage,
but it was fit to sustain him for a long haul.

While aiming for the leader, Draft filled the hovel with a series of high-powered charges from his proton pistol. Lionitus took to the sky with his troops at his side. Their determined bodies shaped into summoning energetic force-fields strong enough to rise above the ground.

As they removed themselves from the island of Lux, to evade Draft’s assault, they encountered the Galactic Defender Shuttle #445, the automated machine controlled by the artificially-intelligent persona called Marc. Unfortunately for Marc, the cluster of cats from Mipsy were emitting low-density ions that caused Marc’s maneuvers to stall. This time he was spinning without purpose.

Upon discovering that design schematics for the braces were in possession of Lionitus, and the army of creatures accompanying their leader, Marc declared the invention to be a gift for all robotic-human relations. But Céleste wanted to replicate and mass-produce the invention to make it available for everyone, which would cause their unique personalities to be ubiquitous and henceforth less unique with each subsequent replication. So Céleste decided to eject herself from the Galactic Defender Shuttle #445, taking her chances among those strange creatures from Mipsy.

The cluster of cat creatures were moving quicker than a leap of leopards, floating energies that soared over the horizon, moving away from the hovel where Draft had cornered Bogo and Tabloid the Tiger.

The cluster’s mission was to free the royal Earth cat from captivity before returning to their planet. They floated across the Gulf, in search of Jasper X13, who was carrying Meow.

Remarkably, Jasper X13 was designed with the personality of a singer and songwriter, who floated through life with an optimistic verisimilitude and determination. Even though he failed to grab true love when it found his doorstep, the real man that modeled Jasper X13’s sentient personality had written and sang with such great emotion, paralleling the ballads of Dante. And such poetry would have been fit to win the love of his Beatrice. In that same light, for all of his life, the man named Jasper was committed to sending his love over the air waves, and the drone that bared his personality was just as sensitive to such a sweet fruitful offering from the soul. Likewise, Jasper X13 would stop at nothing to show the world how greatly he cared for completing his mission as a momento (and memento mori) for the love that was lost in the hall of Brookshire Suites, so he pushed forth to return with the large orange tabby cat in his storage chamber.

Unfortunately for Jasper X13, the cluster of cat creatures were moving quicker than a leap of leopards during feeding time, and their floating energetic bodies soared over the horizon, moving away from the hovel on Lux Island. They left behind Bogo and Tabloid, who were quickly cornered by Detective Draft.

The cluster of cat creatures had a singular goal: to break free the binds that kept captive the royal cat from Earth, before returning to their home planet. To return otherwise would be disgraceful. They floated across the Gulf, above the reach of the crests of waves, in search of Jasper X13, who was carrying Meow. That cat was a grand prize that would have been great enough to satisfy the memory of his beloved.

When Tipper X14 was derailed, crushed, and destroyed, the technician wasn’t the only one that felt lost. For, the personality, of the beautiful starlet was with Jasper X13 no longer. Yet, electronic currents were already charged to accompany Jasper X13 wherever he went.

With the loss of her enchanted circuit-boards, the essence of Jasper’s spirit discovered that lifeless existence is hard to bear. Only the following benefits of isolation were realized:

1) No more listening to each other complaining,

2) No more pleasant chats relevant to work nor hand,

3) No more higher-education fueled by hot-headed agitation.

When the Hollywood actress in robot-bird form dropped dead, much like Rolick, the autonomous drone was turned into a ghost. Tipper said the following, to what she recognized as her beloved Jasper:

“Just like ‘Autumn Caterpillars’ we’re really butterflies in disguise. So, too,” said the ghost of Tippy Le Roux, before singing the song of a refrain that Jasper always dreamt he’d write:

“Does the crisp leaf make a nice snack?
After mortal life has come to an end,
a spirit from within must be summoned.”

The man who married Tipper, while Jasper was on tour, had his own role to play in the matter. Rolick’s incarnation was new to experiencing purely spiritual manifestations. To prevail over the floating cat creatures, the ghost of Le Roux shared Rolick’s tale:

“Form of soul of man
had kept to haunt
until our daughter’s
work is returned.”

The ghastly incarnation of the formerly sentient technology assured Jasper X13 of the grace at which her flightless wings would guide the droid through efforts of anything that stood in their way. She said:

“Form of soul artificial
had lept forth as well
unto the darkness
for her past life lover.

“So now you see how our circles of love and of life and of death,” said the ghost of Tipper X14, “are shared by both machine and the creator: human being.”

Certainly, by now you see, the starlet’s circle, in the electronic sense, was quite similar to what Le Roux wanted in her life. And what she would have done for Jasper in their past lives echoed through their robotic embodiments.

In their lives, the starlet wept when Jasper played his sad songs on the radio. For, she had moved on from their love to marry and give birth to two healthy children. She never knew that Jasper was love with her until it was too late. Honorably, she never left her responsibility as a mother, but her life was tragically cut short. Yet, her spirit remained because her heart had yearned for more from life.

As Jasper became consumed with sadness, after finding out about the accident that claimed Le Roux’s life, his reckless impulsivity became a trademark of his. Fans of the musician might remember how he would swim with Great Whites, skydive from building rooftops (a great way to leave a pent-house-party), and commit other dangerous acts because he didn’t feel that he had anything to live for. When you know you’ve found a love that’s right, you do everything to hold onto it. In Jasper’s case, he wrote about love, and his songs inspired the hearts of his fans. When that love was gone from his life forever, he felt an emptiness that no man can survive.

In Jasper’s case, he wasn’t truly alone. In the case of any heart that’s true: there will always be someone watching out to make sure things go right, and to ensure that fortune will favor the pure. In her life, she hadn’t been able to find a way to return to Jasper’s side, but a pure heart is busy long after it stops beating. It’s the way that all pure-hearted beings watch over their loved ones. Yet, her passion for the man she loved was never-ending: It relived itself in another form, generations later, as the artificial personality that was wrecked, and the ghastly form of that embodiment that shared the same motive.

Just as the spirit of her living vessel was there to keep Jasper’s hotrod from plummeting off of an old country road, an ethereal current of Tipper X14 was equipped with a similar objective. As Jasper was surrounded on all sides by a raving clump of cat creatures, seeking vengeance for capturing their familial king, the spirit of Miss Le Roux was with them too.

In Jasper’s case, he wasn’t really alone. In the case of any heart that’s true, there will always be someone watching out to make sure fortune will fall to favor the pure. In her life, she hadn’t been able to find a way to Jasper’s side, but a pure heart is busy, even after it stops beating.

She watched over all of her loved ones, yet her passion for the man she loved was eternal, reliving itself in another form, as the quasi-anatomical personality that was wrecked, and the ghastly form of that embodiment hid the same motive. Just as her living vessel was there to keep Jasper safe from dangerously driving his perpetual self off a cliff on Hill’s Edge Road, in the backstretch of Medfield, the electronic embodiment was equipped with a comparable analytic component.

Creatures surrounded him,
like confused little cusses.
They rushed him from all sides.

But he wasn’t alone.
Like when he drove fast
in slicks, around wet benches.

Her spirit was there
when Jasper wrecked on a hair-pin turn.
The woman for her man
was born again,
to be there for X13.

For, the morally righteous cluster of cat creatures wanted to go back home knowing that the familial leader of theirs was safe and sound. The waves stirred and the tides rose high to scoop Jasper X13 from the Gulf, but the energy surrounding that drone was intense. Like the halo surrounding our Sun, Tipper X14’s spirit shielded Jasper X13 with its perpetual energetic amplification.

The battle of energy was chaotic enough to knock all the water from the ocean to the shore, and their army was thrown to the bowels of their home planet. Those brave explorers returned to their home, ending the plan to fetch the designs they sought.

Meanwhile, Jasper was able to putter, with the caught cat, all the way to Brookshire. Meow was delivered to his household before the children could be delivered to their own.

Draft and Marc dropped off Austin and Sarah, who were safe and sound. As Draft explained the ordeal to their worried parents, Marc was ordered to take the vagabond boy to find his mother.

“Good luck, kid,” said Draft. “I’ll be checking in on you.”

“For sure,” said the paperboy.

. . . The end.


Proceed to Epilogue


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

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The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing House.
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Video and photos: Julia Golonka


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A Work in Progress


— epilogue

“You simply don’t have the right to it,” said Muriel Mavens.

“In the name of science, I do,” said Céleste. “That which does good for all, doesn’t do any good trapped inside this young girl’s jewelry box until she makes a mad dash to market it. How long will that take? And who knows who could step in to steal it away.”

“That which doesn’t belong to you, is no concern of yours,” said Muriel Mavens, insisting that the medicine woman leave the complex. She thumped her cane atop Céleste’s fingers, which were holding onto the door frame.

When the heavy glass door closed between the women, Muriel Myrtle Mavens felt more at ease. She was able to calmly state the case she felt was right: “The property in question belongs to a dear young woman. Her father was the man you looked after, and she’s the owner, and thus, you haven’t any right to touch her belongings. Civil forfeiture is awfully obscene.”

“I’ve seen how her invention works,” said Céleste. “I’m afraid, if I don’t get to it—to exalt her work for the betterment of humankind, mind you—another group will take it. They’ll rip it away and hide it far from here. If you don’t let me do my job—”

“So you can make a fortune off of someone else’s work? Without them having any idea that their creations are being promulgated,” said Muriel Mavens. “I know her, the inventor. Her name is Heidi. My granddaughter took ballet classes with her when they were kids. She would come by for cookies and tea. Now, she’s grown up and too busy for any of us. But yet, as much as I fear technology, simple-minded thievery—even when you call it ‘the betterment of our kind’—It’s a thicker pill to swallow.”

“And so—”

“And so I can’t go on living, knowing I am the reason this woman’s great invention has been plundered by a pirate like yourself,” said Muriel Myrtle Mavens.

"And so, you’d rather see someone else, or something else,” said Céleste, “run away and burry those inventions. Say, they take them to another part of this world, or another part of the universe, if you only knew how, and all of this would have been a waste. It sounds to me like your technophobia is masquerading as some high-moral verisimilitude.”

She tried the door but it wouldn’t open; the metal locking mechanism created a strong barrier that kept the door from moving, upon its hinges, in a full range of motion.

“If you don’t let me in now,” said Céleste, “I’ll find another way inside. This place is busy enough that I will simply come back when you go to bed. Go ahead and run away.”

When the feeble tenant knew that she couldn’t stand to hear any more of what the medicine woman had to say, she resigned to her home, moving at a slow pace to get to the small stairs that lead to her floor. Céleste stood motionless, on the stoop outside of the door, and just moments after she backed down the stairs, a crash of glass breaking echoed throughout the hall of the basement level of Brookshire Suites.

Céleste stood motionless, on the stoop outside of the door, and just moments after she backed down the stairs, a crash of glass breaking echoed throughout the hall of the basement level of Brookshire Suites.

The papers the next day claimed the creatures were an anomaly. One headline touted: “When It Feels Like the End, It’s Just the Beginning (SEE Page 10B).” Most people were too agitated to continue reading, as represented by the following advertisements which ran up until the article’s opening paragraph:

“… Back when older homeowners first upgraded to smart lights, they were the type that required clapping in order to get them to turn on. However, society has evolved from having to clap to see around in the dark. In essence, the only difference you will experience is logging in through your sector’s Primary Directive Chamber portal. ….”

“—Although it’s technically a hellebore, this hardy flower will continue to amaze your guests with its persistent beauty. This flower will even grow through layers of snow. …”

“… An industrial worker with hobbyist’s tools will be thoroughly disappointed. Buy a plasma cutter that is recommended for industrial use.

Warranty and Customer Service Information

While the product should work fine when it arrives, you never know what could break down in the future.”

Issue No. 3: "The Soul's Dark Reflection"

She sat there, in a cot crammed in a hallway, curled on her side for six hours, until the doctor who lead the medical team diagnosed her condition as minor fatigue. He was a young man who dropped out of nursing school. One of the volunteers on the medical team made a guess that she had developed an ulcer on the way to the shelter. At the medical base, there was a warm heater that pumped dusty air throughout, and cots were everywhere.

"You can stay as long as your condition lasts, a night or two at most," said the young doctor.

"Thank you. We both thank you, sir."

"Not the boy. Sorry."

His mother rolled away in pain, regret, and discomfort. She was generally displeased with life and possessed dark thoughts. But she never acted upon any of those feelings with her child needing care.

"Mum, it's alright," the boy said, reluctantly. "You'll get better. I'll work to find a place."

"You're eleven. You should be in bed for school. But you don't go to school anyway. Who am I to blame you?"

He removed a stack of bills from his pocket.

"No, mum. I'll leave you something though. What I been doing, 'stead of school. You can get a good warm room with it."

"Where'd you get all that money, Jeremy? You're just like your daddy was! If he were here he'd whoop you and hand it back to whomever you stole it from."

"I worked for it."

"Liar."

"Every penny. If you don't believe me… I'll show you more. Twice as much."

"How?"

"I'll be back tomorrow to check on you."

It’s human nature to hate that which is more powerful than you, that which is more evolved and better equipped than you. For this reason, the smart ones don't have friends. They live alone. Solitude is a deep, dark reflection of the soul. For the boy, he would come to learn this the hard way.

He went to the park nearby to watch the animals. He wasn't alone as long as they were around. Perhaps a day in nature was good for him. Although, the cold air was getting the best of him. He decided to embrace it, not fear it. The boy lived with the animals, bonded by flesh and frost.

Together, they breathed sweet, clean air. They never had to think about what they were wearing. His clothes were worn the day before by the boy who wore them there.

Issue No. 4: "Living Under One Roof"

The streets did not welcome people traveling on foot. Automobiles whizzed and drove recklessly. They all clunked and were sold with loud exhaust pipes that emitted a grey mist. "Not harmful for the environment," said the engineers. It was a colorful water vapor that prevented tail-gaiting.

When an auto got within seven feet of another, the one in the rear got a windshield-full of colorful vapor that washed right away, but still prevented the driver from seeing clearly. When it was first used as a deterrent, some drivers found it amusing and purposely got sprayed. Now, it is a crime to have spray on the window, as to further prevent reckless driving.

The vagabond wished he had some spray to keep the cars at bay. He did not. He did have a mask he wore over his face to keep free of chemicals when forced to take busy roads.

Most of the time, he took alleys and land bridges, fire escapes which connected from one building to another made an easy travel for anyone navigating the city and going great distances on foot. It was, however, a crime to use them in absence of an emergency.

Crimes were being committed everywhere you turned, which was no surprise because everything and anything had a crime associated with it. There weren't enough guards to enforce all the crimes, and there was very little priority over which crimes were enforced. Guards volunteered, so they were stationed where there was an outpost. If you were on the level of the caste that was typically regarded as a criminal, you would befriend the volunteer, or you would stay out of that area.

Most guards were volunteers because it was seen as a noble duty to not accept payment for the job of helping keep order, but the order that was kept was not popular among the people.

The majority of people in most major cities stayed inside most (if not all) of the time. They had their foodstuffs and supplies brought to them by delivery systems that relied mostly upon machines. People worked away, from dawn to dusk, building machines out of mechanical parts and programming those parts to perform.

Most of the performances involved sorting files and images on hard drives to send off to large corporations, which supported the lifestyles of creatives. In turn, corporations grew exponentially because goods were plentiful, and the hole-in-the-wall, affordable housing was cheap to maintain.

As always, the businesses made most of their money from stock market investments. The rich have always enjoyed betting away their livelihoods on which corporations use funds wisely.

Consequently, most people worked in their houses while doing mind-numbing, dull jobs. Most were accustomed to rarely seeing other people, apart from those in share of the same building.

They were overtly grateful for the goods they received as a stipend. They received goods, and they had their waste-bins removed, never having to endure the daylight. As a result, it was easy to convince the general public that the new nation was a good idea.

It was the same lifestyle but with more options for some people. A genius caste system was in place to deliberately weed out the unwanted criminal life, so safety had returned to humanity. In time, the mind-numbing work would virtually disappear, with the exception of a few hours each week.

Eventually, each individual would only be required to commit to about one to two hours per week for work, examining their colony and fixing the drones that fixed other drones when they went on the fritz. All unskilled people would eventually have their own opportunities to lead community activities, such as techniques in horticulture.

When the time came for less workers, those who didn't want to do any of those options, and lacked the skills necessary to fix drones, would be asked to clean, like Jeremy's mother forced him to do when he didn't want to go to school.

She'd say, "If you're so sick you can stay home and scrub the floor." That was years ago when his father was alive and well, and they had a floor to call their home base.

After his father passed away, his mother's legal status prevented her from working in the mind-numbing mines of her sector. Jeremy decided that he'd never do it even if he could, for he thought of the utopia as downright impossible.

So the vagabond walked to the first apartment that was part of the land bridge of fire escapes, and he shimmied open a window to a room that was vacant. He disregarded the alarm, as the nearest guard wasn't within two blocks.

The poor paperboy made his way across town. His trepidations brought him through the dilapidated old city of Baltimore. Where the eastern coast of the northern province of an old nation agreed with the rest of the world, they would seek to live, sustainably, in one place, under one roof.

. . . The end.


The Lost Poet of Woodlawn

$19.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)


$32.88 (+ Shipping & Handling)
Signed by the Author

SIGNED COPIES OUT OF STOCK

(First edition hardcover,
cloth/grey, 240 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-51396-6)

Take a Look Inside:

Paperback Edition

$14.50 (+ Shipping & Handling)
(First Edition paperback,
perfect bound, 244 pages
ISBN 978-0-578-53353-7)

Video and photos: Julia Golonka


The Lost Poetry by Squire Vain
© Shaun Vain 2020.
Made possible by Future Publishing House.
All rights reserved.

THE LOST POETRY PREMIERS:

A Proper Writer Creates a Living Novel in 30 Weeks for All to See