Follow my continued adventures at

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Here's another free chapter of the science fiction dystopia I'm desperately trying to scrape up the free time to finish, for all you literary scouts out there... I've been reviewed enough times now, motherfuckers, pick me up before someone beats you to it.

(Chapter One is available at Trigger Warning: Argh, that link isn't going to work till this Monday.)

Oh, and if any readers want to help me spend less of my time ghostwriting stupid garbage for cash, so that I may instead turn my labors to finishing the last couple of chapters of LYFE in relative peace—outside the 40-plus hours a week I spend on Trigger Warning—I have helpfully set up a Patreon. Yes, I'm a parasite (chuckles). What, would you rather I crapped out a welfare baby so I could take my pay from you by force?

So: Enjoy my comically amateurish attempt at a video! I'm a writer, not a damn TV anchor.

Clickity here alors, etc.

And finally, Chapter Two...

of  LYFE

At last, the performance was over. Elektra put in a breath mint and hurried queasily down the tiger’s-eye staircase and back into the hushed streets of the Olympic district. She tried to keep her suspicious little figure in the shadows as she flitted impatiently toward her father’s apartment in the New Tiber district, where her own bed and vodka were waiting.
lt was a three-mile walk from the Olympic district to the left bank of the New Tiber. Two generations ago, before the influx of mortal immigrants from Earth Two, the left bank area had been the ‘student ghetto’ for Immortal theater-college kids; before that, the original Immortal pioneers from Earth One had made their first settlement there.
Most of the buildings were still as old as the City of Heaven itself—due to poverty, not historical sentiment. They were crawling with small dirty mammalian things and native bugs, the walls tended to crumble from disrepair, and instead of fixing up the more defunct apartments the landlords tended to simply wall them off and advise neighboring tenants to avoid the squatters. But Elektra herself was more than sentimental enough to ignore the blemishes. She liked old buildings, and not just because that was where she had to live. She liked to imagine she could feel the ghosts of the pioneers, from back when Gods were really brave, before they devolved into wine-glutted, smug heirs.
What bothered her was the degeneracy of her neighbors—which, coming from a drug addict, says a lot. New Tiber had been rough around the edges when Elektra was a kid, but at least there had once been a couple of hours’ peace in the wee hours. Now, as she approached her street, it was well after midnight, and the brawls that poured from the cut-rate brothels were just getting started.
The last few bookstores left over from the student era had been converted into Lyfe dens; as she passed Elektra could hear an argument over a drug deal blaring from the building where she had shoplifted her first copy of Twelfth Night. She felt a pang of guilt at this small  complicity in the bookstore’s eventual bakruptcy, her own guilt blown out of proportion by the first edge of Lyfe withdrawal. The more she took, it seemed, the faster the pain came.
As Elektra neared her building, she could no longer convince herself that tonight’s withdrawal would be an easy one. The withdrawal cramps which had begun beneath her rib cage were mild enough now, but she was familiar enough with the way these things accelerated to feel an anticipatory nausea. The anticipation would be less dreadful if she could look forward to coming down in privacy—that is to say, if Bartleby, her mule-headed father, would ever go to bed early like he was supposed to do.
Bartleby Burgundy had once been a show-biz legend. Granted, he was a legend by mortal standards, which weren’t very high; during his entire career it had been illegal for a mortal to play a major role in a theatrical production. Still, he was the only son of the first mortal to ever be allowed into the City of Heaven, and that, along with his great talent, had been something.
 Now he was physically crippled by his own years of Lyfe. His motor coordination and dementia were so advanced that could barely speak, which made for a lonely family life: he was the only relative Elektra knew.
Her mother, Dejanera, was a half-blooded Goddess. This sounds like a luckier break than it was. Any mortal blood was an embarrassment to begin with, and anything over fifty percent meant that you would one day die, and you were legally and socially considered mortal. Dejanera might have stood proudly behind her Romeo-and-Juliet liason if she were a more than a tick away from worm food status herself, but as it stood she was too ashamed at having been fertilized by a full mortal to do more than dump day-old Elektra in her illicit lover’s arms and hustle off to get a facial reconstruction and a legal name change.
As for Bartleby’s extended family, as far as Elektra knew, most of them were still working the Lyfe mines back on Earth Two. That is, if the family line hadn’t been wiped out en masse in a mineshaft collapse or died off of cancer; Lyfe was even more toxic to mortals in its raw form than it was when refined, and the very atmosphere of the main planet was carcinogenic.
So Bartleby was the only person who could stop Elektra from having peace at home – but he did a very good job of that. If he would just snuggle up in bed for the 12 hours of nightly rest that the pro bono doctor had ordered for his condition[1], she could writhe and claw her hair and slurp vodka and swear at the Gods in privacy. Alone, when the worst of it had passed, she might have been able to will up a couple of hours’ sleep before she had to go to work.
            But no. The fetid air that loafed in grey currents down their street already brought her ill vibes from the dregs of her father’s consciousness. She knew that he would be awake, that his three brain cells habitually divided their time between reminding him to breathe, reminding him to be angry, and driving him to cling to his dear little girl, the apple of his eye, his hope for the future.
Pathetic mortal ghetto-trash brain-damaged pig-fuck. He’s probably the last mortal in the C of H who believes in ‘the future,’ and he hasn’t felt his legs since 3007. He never seemed to suspect she was shooting the drug that had put him in a wheelchair, but she didn’t know whether this was because she was a still a good actress, or whether he found the fact too depressing to admit to himself. Retards have an easy time believing whatever they want. Can’t wait till I’m that dumb. He doesn’t even remember all the times he beat me up for no Goddamned reason. He thinks we love each other.
            The smog from the wood furnaces that heated the brothels was suddenly stirred by a cold breeze; fall was coming again. On this particular moon, fall came about once every six Old Earth months. Elektra put her hood up and then realized she should have been wearing it anyhow. It was no good to be obviously female in the Tiber district in the wee hours. You never knew when the brothels were short on women.
From her hood, she felt safe to watch the spectacle of mortal pain. In front of her building, a mortal with embarrassing track marks was harassing a God who was waiting for a taxi in front of the neighborhood turbo-brothel.
The turbo-brothel scared Elektra. She had never been inside one, but from her father’s apartment she could see the alley where the bedraggled employees took their breaks. And she knew the concept, from listening to her immortal schoolmates brag back in college: it was an exaggeration of a fad from the turn of the last millennium, called ‘speed dating.’
Speed dating had been invented back on Earth One -- so they said – in order to half-fix a scheduling problem. Employees in some less-civilized industrialized countries, where more than enough goods were produced by machines to render them all affluent, agreed nonetheless to work unnecessarily long weeks and generally forego vacations, apparently due to a vague but strong fear of not working enough to please a single deity whom they had never met, nor even seen on stage.
The main problem with this situation—as far as the Old Earthers concerned were consciously aware—was that when they wanted romance, they found they didn’t have the time for proper courtship.
So they’d turned the gentle ritual of dating into a factory line. A chain of women shifted once every thirty seconds in the opposite direction to a chain of men, so that the parties involved could get a first impression of a hundred possible mates in the time it normally took to suffer one dinner date. It seemed a bit of a clanking way to synthesize the old coup de foudre, but it was nothing compared to the modern turbo-brothel.
In the turbo-brothel, the chain of women was stationary. Each woman got her thirty seconds with each man, but instead of paying a membership fee she was paid by the brothel, which charged the males per chain. And they didn’t just talk. Each female in the chain got a different wage to perform a specific part of the process of a specific sex act—over and over—man after man. It was dull work at best.
There was a chain for blow jobs, a chain for vaginal sex, a chain of slumming interns devoted to sensual touching. There were rumored to be special boy-brothels catering to Goddesses and gay Gods, but Elektra didn’t know where they were[2]. There was a special punitive chain, manned by girls and boys who had been convicted of the worst crimes, such as Possession of Lyfe as a Mortal—an act which, though entirely ordinary, was also virulently illegal, should anyone take it in their head to get anyone else persecuted for it. This chain was an official part of the correctional system, and it was entirely devoted to dry anal penetration. It was cheap and shockingly popular; the Gods, it seemed, got off on causing pain.
 Old Henry Ford’s genius was infinite, thought Elektra, who had been taught about the Old Gods in school. And I hope I never get any closer to it. The only advantage of working at a new, turbo-style brothel as opposed to the old-fashioned kind was that the former, since they belonged to the penal system, were legal to work in. The ordinary cathouses were periodically raided by the police—particularly when the anal line across town was short-handed.
 When she wanted to put her own level of unhappiness in perspective, Elektra simply peered out her father’s window at the spectacle of the turbo-girls who tried to take Lyfe breaks in the alley. The zipper-openers were too poor for drugs, and merely smoked cigarettes, but they seemed relatively happy. The cum-swallowers were well dressed, and they often tried to whip out a needle, but most of their break time was wasted vomiting behind a Dumpster filled with inside-out condoms. Only the girls on the vaginal chain managed to get properly numb; they went back inside glassy-eyed and laughing.
The God who now staggered grinning around the door to Elektra’s apartment seemed to have come from the blow-job-plus-swallow line. Or maybe he had done straight-up vaginal while shooting an ounce or so of Lyfe; at any rate he glowed like a ten-year-old boy in an orange juice commercial, and he giggled like a dirty old man. He didn’t seem at all annoyed by the needling panhandler.
“C’mon maaaan, can you spare a quarter-gram? I got six kids an I don’t wanta hafta go home an beatem to death…”
The God smiled remotely.
Elektra would have kicked the leech. Somewhere there’s a mom who got really fucking sick of you, puke-boy. But the God gave the animal a magnanimous sneer. “Oh, certainly. Here you are, my dear child. Bless you. Haw haw haw!”
Fuck, he’s wasted, thought Elektra. Bastard. I’m probably way too clean-looking to get a quarter off him… it’s crazy how my eyes still look young… if he could only see the bags under my heart…
“OK, OK,” the panhandler said, “but I got my woman to think of too… she’s gonna need a whole gram… please, your Lordship!” Elektra’s stomach turned in embarrassment as the human monster clasped its paws together in prayer; her stomach turned harder as the God graciously doled out more delicious costly Lyfe, as Elektra clung to her stupid pride and wrestled her building’s rusty front lock open with her shaking hands and ran up the stairs.
Their apartment smelled like beer cans that needed to be taken out, medications that a shaking hand had dripped onto the floor, and instant taco soup. Her father, as predicted, was slouched snuffling in his wheelchair in wait. By the time the door had closed behind her he was as animated as he ever got, with something like a light in his eyes, mouth drooping open; he windmilled his arms toward his sunken chest to demand a hug, unselfconsciously greedy to press his pile of dying flesh to another.
His personal aroma was ‘dirty cat litter.’ Oh, no. Is he not changing his own diapers anymore? Jesus, if I wanted to wipe somebody’s ass I would have had a goddamn child myself… yeah, that’s just what I need… She distracted herself with the thought of her vodka bottle, stashed in the freezer where he couldn’t reach.
It wasn’t there because she was afraid he would drink it on her. It was there because she was worried he would throw it down the toilet when he was in the mood to self-righteously call her an alcoholic. Now that Lyfe had made him into a thing, he had gotten to be maddeningly judgmental about what people who still had minds did with them. The only words you can say anymore are ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’… well, I guess there’s not much more than that to say about life, huh?
The smell was too much. She wrenched herself out of his skeletal embrace and smiled coldly, shivering, as she backed up the two steps it took to get from the mini-foyer to the kitchenette. She began to fix her drink, smiling harder: It’s legal. So go fuck yourself.
She knocked it back in one and sighed, relaxing in the close, dusty, familiar air. Even if she wanted to choke her father sixty percent of the time, once his greed for love was appeased and she had something warm in her veins, she never felt as good as when she got settled inside his little world. She poured another drink and looked at the familiar things.
Nothing had changed since she was a teenager. Same smelly sofa. Same bare hardwood floor, the varnish worn away and never renewed. Same plastic shelves of masculine knickknacks: wrought iron fixtures collected from abandoned buildings, ceramic statues of sports stars with eyes painted on crooked, souvenir trinkets from father-daughter outings.
The bookshelves were full of paperback books that both of them had read twice; their spines were blocked from view by photos of Elektra as a fresh little choirgirl, in faded plastic frames. Bartleby’s lair was graciously static, sealed away, with nothing to herald the progress of time except for slow decay. When Elektra bothered to clean, she put each knick-knack back precisely where it had always been; each one matched the spot on the furniture which it had protected from photo-fading, like blocking marks on a stage.
The plain redbrick building was unfashionable, and the old flower-print paper on the walls was mottled with old moisture stains. But Bartleby had covered as much of the ugliness as he could with his old theater show posters. Bright images of legendary show-biz Gods—many dead of accidents and suicides by now—looked down on them like Catholic saints.
Their mouths were open in song, or grinning, usually with far too much confidence and charm for the characters they were supposed to have played. The shot of Hipparchus’s uncle as a cleft-chinned Hamlet, with his chest puffed out beyond his nose as he clutched poor Yorick, was particularly awful, if Elektra let herself think about it. But when she didn’t think, the posters made the apartment look better populated.
The posters, to an outsider, would seem to have nothing to do with Bartleby. They pictured the Gods who had held the leading roles in the shows he’d amicably stolen. Stealing the show was the only way he could have built a reputation: for all of Bartleby’s career, it had been against the law for a non-Immortal to play major parts.
In the City of Heaven, where real life meant little to Gods because it was so long and easy, and even less to mortals because it was so short and brutish, art was the dominant activity, and live theater the dominant art form. To Immortals, a reproducible medium like film or television gave too few Gods the chance to bask in the limelight. Not to mention the fact that the remaining televisions and film cameras were wearing out, and no one knew how to make more.
Even with theater as the major engine of stardom, there still were never enough lead roles to satisfy all of Heaven’s vanity. So in 2974, as soon as Lemon Burgundy became the first legal immigrant from Earth Two, it had been ruled a “defilement of the infinite beauty of artistic endeavor” for finite flesh to step out of the chorus. The law was nominally repealed just before Elektra began theater school, but a mortal had yet to be given a major role in a professional production; the joke that seemed to have been played in the end on the Equal Arts Movement left her feeling paralyzed by disappointment.
 Bartleby, however, was always as cheerfully stubborn as his legendary sire. He had sung and mimed and capered as though any reward could be his. His backup harmonies could turn a pulp love song into Handel’s Messiah; his impromptu stage business could turn a bad tragedy into a good comedy, an unfunny comedy to a tearjerker. The more progressive theater critics of the time bravely declared him the best singer in several long-ago productions; though he refused to participate in the Movement that got the anti-mortal law repealed, he was its unofficial poster child.
Even the Gods he upstaged quietly nodded to his qualities. Most of them were relatively gracious, and he was invited to their cocktail parties as a brilliant curiosity—which was how he got addicted to Lyfe, but no one really meant him any harm. And a few quarter- or even half-immortal females were drawn into his circle of groupies—a high prize, even if they wouldn’t quite marry him. This was both how Elektra received the dubious gift of life, and why Bartleby was so proud of her existence. He deserved those posters on the wall, even if he wasn’t in them, as much as he deserved to hold his part-Immortal daughter in his arms.
But he would have agreed that he was nothing compared to his father, the great Lemon Burgundy.
Even to his own descendants, Lemon Burgundy was nothing more real than a legend. He had been the thin one-man wedge that began the Great Immigration of mortal masses from Earth Two to the City of Heaven, more prosaically known as Moon Two. It was a soft invasion which disgusted some Gods, most of all those who profited most effortlessly from it: the wives and sons and daughters of the executives and stockholders of DeLeon, the corporation which refined carcinogenic ore into Lyfe.
Their revulsion toward the new immigrants was not incomprehensible. Before the emigration of the mortals from earth Two, the only way death came into the Gods’ lives was through violence or suicide, and thus the subject was almost utterly taboo. They had emphatically forgotten that their ancestors had been born mortal as well.
According to legend, it was around the year 2300[3] that the denizens of a worn-out, overcrowded, and clearly mortal Earth One had finally lived the ideals of the old Star Trek franchise and launched their huddled masses into the skies.
Well, some of their masses… and not the particularly huddled ones. The Nina II was the first and only vessel capable of interstellar travel which Earth creatures ever built, and it was only big enough to comfortably house the small slice of Earth One’s fifty billion hominids who belonged to the Hyper-plutocracy.
The Hypers seemed, as well as mortal scholars could piece things together, to have ruled the Old World in its dying days.[4] They neglected to announce their departure till they were on the launching pad; they left behind a few loyal, non-Hyper lieutenants to reassure the citizens that the ship would soon return for them, if it appeared that their services would be necessary. There was of course grumbling, but with no Hypers on hand to behead, the lieutenants were merely satirized. A few high-functioning cocaine addicts and androids had been chosen to go along for use as scouting parties, and it was implied that the mission would surely generate even more attractive posts for non-Hypers eventually.
At the first solar system the Nina II approached, this clattering vanguard were sent ahead in a skiff with a hearty cheer—followed by days of even heartier fingernail-biting. The Hyperdrive had sounded like a good idea in science fiction films, but in the near reaches of space its practicality turned out to be almost comically limited. In tests performed within the carbon-doused atmosphere of late-period Earth One, it had indeed transported objects from point to point with infinite speed. Unfortunately, in the clean vacuum of outer space, all it seemed to accomplish was to turn every exposed metal surface an extremely violent shade of orange. The nuclear fuel store was running dangerously low, and people’s eyes hurt. The likelihood of the first solar system’s being human-friendly had been estimated at something between nil and hopeless.
But in a week the androids came back, mainly intact, to inform the Nina’s passengers that they were almost lucky.
None of the planets in the system were hospitable, and all of the cokeheads had died trying to force the issue. But the largest planet—a nearly Jupiter-sized fellow, though solid instead of gaseous, and which they named Earth Two despite its size—was orbited by a quite large and promising moon.
The moon was a carbon-rich planetoid, blessed with giant schools of mercury-poor fish in its potable waters, an Earth-One-like atmosphere, and an abundance of furry land creatures—most of which were cute, with the notable exception of the Garbage Eaters, which, while dreadfully ferocious, were, as their name implied, useful as an alternative to landfill. The dark side of Moon II may have been a bit too chilly for comfortable inhabitation but the warm side was so tidily verdant it appeared to have already been landscaped.
They sent a second, less battered AI crew in to investigate the natural resources of the solar system at large; the moon, though lovely as real estate, would simply never yield enough mineral ore to support them in the style to which they were accustomed.
But the robots discovered that the smaller planets of the system (all in conveniently close-nestled orbits; it was far more compact than the sloppy old Sol system) were rich in various ores common to Earth One.
And Earth Two itself turned out to be miraculously blessed with a queer semiorganic ore no one had heard of before, and which granted a boon of which mankind had almost stopped bothering to dream.
This ore, the deadpan robots declared, slathered thickly under the huge planet’s carcinogenic soil, seemed likely to possess properties which could extend human longetivity— almost indefinitely, in fact, in theory.
Theory be damned: this was immortality! The mothership made a beeline for the blessed moon. As they approached for landing, toasting the last Champagne in the universe, the Hypers renamed themselves Immortals.
What’s more, the Lyfe-filled planet itself turned out, in fact, to be very nearly inhabitable—another stroke of luck. (The robots eventually admitted that the cokeheads who died here had simply tried to eat too much Lyfe ore at once, despite the very-nearly-violent attempts of the androids to helpfully intervene.) It had a fair amount of fetid, stagnant water, almost enough oxygen for human health, and a certain amount of vegetation, mostly tubers; there were horrible, evil-tempered, but mostly edible lizards, amazingly ugly and bad-tasting but protein-rich fish, and even some diseased-looking mammalians. Earth Two boasted barely enough of every necessity, in short, to support human life, though very uncomfortably.
Due to an ongoing fiesta of volcanic explosions (and explosive earthquakes) it also had an atmosphere so filled with carbon particles it was like standing in the middle of a 21st-century freeway, and the sky was always the color of bile, especially during the acid storms. The gravity of the massive sphere was strong enough to make walking impossible for the human physique, but a strong specimen could crawl. The murkish atmopshere exerted an unhealthy force on human organs, and most of the non-Lyfe mineral deposits—particularly those which tended to be intertwined with the Lyfe veins—were violently carcinogenic.
But these were lemons which practically made themselves into lemonade. After all, the resource drain and pollution engendered by rat-like breeding in the Old World, mainly on the part of the the peasant masses, who had nothing pleasant in their lives besides copulation, had been the leading cause of the planet’s premature death. Earth Two, by its unpleasant nature, was quite safe from their ravages. They could have unprotected sex till they were blue in the face if they liked, and mine Lyfe for the moon’s population for their keep, and die of cancer (or organ squashing) too quickly to choke out the planet’s repulsive ecosystem with their overlapping generations.
The second major cause of the mother planet’s death had been the emissions from the gigantic single-family tanks the Hypers drove around to protect themselves from highway robbery (and collisions with other tanks). And in the New World, this trouble would naturally absent itself as well: there was no detectable petroleum in the solar system. This wasn’t an inconvenience, since there was plenty of plutonium for intra-system travel, and the moon was small enough to be navigated with the aid of the large horse-bodied, lagomorph-faced quadrupeds who lived there. And, of course, there would be no question of having to armor one’s conveyance against a space-age Robin Hood. Unless, of course, said hood somehow contrived to pull his face out of the green-grey mud long enough to build a moon rocket. Ho ho. The perfect world!  
The Immortals sent word to the peasant lieutenants back on earth: they were welcome to make their escape as soon as the ship could get back to pick them up. With approximately four thousand times more passengers packed into the spaceliner than  it had been built to hold, and no wine of any type left at all, the Nina II experience was something less of a luxury cruise as its disintegrating nuclear drive wheezed through its second and final journey.
But if one ever got a chance to squeeze onto a corner of one of the triple-king-size antigravity mattresses that had buoyed one passenger apiece on the original flight, it was a heavenly sensation, an episode to tell the grandchildren about. And since the planet imploded four minutes after the peasants’ takeoff, nobody—not even the bodies with dysentery—complained much.
In the end the situation on Earth Two turned out to be more perfect than the Immortals initially thought. There had been some worry that, simply by handling Lyfe, the second-wave immigrants might be granted enough health to overcome the carcinogens, live normal life spans, and ravage Earth Two the way they had done the Old World. But due to something mysterious (whether there had been a radiation storm on one of the passages, or a mutation due to the different atmospheres on the two globes, or something else, was a point on which Science never released a clear verdict), Lyfe didn’t have quite the same effect on the miners of Earth Two as it had on the Immortals in the City of Heaven.
It did get the peasants high. That it did very well, the same way it did to the Gods. Symptoms for both groups included numbness (but only where one wanted to be numb), creativity, energy, talkativity, receptivity, immunity to nausea and boredom; ability to tolerate horrible people, singing in tune, a temporary increase in good looks and good luck, mild and pleasant hallucinations, non-irritability, charm, and periodic spikes in the overall euphoria. For the first hundred highs or so, both groups were in the same delicious boat.
But the long-term effects were divergent, to say the least. True, both groups developed a psychological addiction to Lyfe during those first hundred experiences. But for the Gods this was a very good thing, since it reminded them to take the drugs that guaranteed them good health. They simply could not forget their vitamins.
But the same compulsion only compounded the miseries of the Lyfe process in mortals. Immortals could forego Lyfe for several days if need be, with no pain, as generations of university students who displeased their parents enough to make gaps in the money stream discovered. They simply bummed a lot of cigarettes, which of course they smoked with impunity.
Mortal users, on the other hand, began to suffer a physical addiction, complete with shaky, painful withdrawals upon cessation of use, often accompanied by hallucinations, paranoia, itching skin, free-floating terror, occasional blood-vomiting, and a degree of apathy which the human brain had been heretofore incapable of generating. High or not, they were continually gnawed by a boundless craving for liquor and tobacco, which tended to further compound their deterioration. Fresh shots of Lyfe would fix them up and bring back the old euphoria, but the pain would start again a few hours after the joy began to fade—a joy whose half-life contracted slightly with each use once this phase had set in.
To add insult to injury, there was no health benefit for a mortal Lyfe addict. In fact, the drug rapidly accelerated the aging process in mortals, often inducing noticeable brain damage after as few as ten years’ use, nerve paralysis and loss of sensation in the limbs a decade or so thereafter, and in most cases, confinement to a wheelchair sometime during the fifth decade of life. But since the Lyfe mines where 95 percent of them worked collapsed on a regular basis, and most of them would have cancer by 40 anyway, a few halfway-decent years of post-workshift bliss seemed like a good bet.
Of course the miners weren’t supposed to have access to the refined Lyfe. But there was also an administrative class among the mortals, known as the “Fortunate Five”; they comprised five percent of the main planet’s population, and their membership was determined by random lots drawn at birth. They were well-paid and healthy for Earth-dwellers, safe but bored bureaucrats whose sons and daughters, unless equally fortunate, would return to the usual fate in the mines.
The Gods had never made any promises that the Five would ever be anything more. But pipe dreams were rampant anyway. Many beaurocrats supposed that if they piled up enough black-market profit, they could pass themselves off as so virtuously frugal that they would be miraculously brought up on a rocket to help administrate the City of Heaven. More realistically, they supposed they could at least buy lucky ballots for their offspring and keep them out of the mines.
But as the centuries passed, the miles of space between the two globes kept the social system beautifully stable. The way things were began to be taken for granted as millions of mortals, then billions, were buried young in the new Earth; the generation of Gods that first settled the new moon was slowly lost to sporting accidents, jealous murder, and those chilling, inexplicable, constant suicides; a thousand years later, the origins of civilization were visible only through the fun-house glass of song and story. The Fortunate Five forgot their dreams and began to think of the illicit Lyfe trade as a convenient habit that allowed them to buy more imported grapelike beverages. Though it remained illegal for mortals to consume Lyfe, the drug tended to make them pass on just after their peak working years had gone. So abuse was tacitly condoned, though a lingering moral taint made addicts conveniently easy to shame—and anyone suspected for more serious crimes of sedition could be easily picked up and secreted away for Lyfe.
But nothing stays the same forever. A bubble can form in the depths just when the surface seems smoothest, and the change it brings can seem like a beautiful idea at the time. In the late 30th century, through an accident of Art, a mortal was brought up into the City of Heaven.
This was Lemon Burgundy, known in legend as the Beautiful Son. He did not win a lottery, sneak aboard a rocket, or lead a peasant revolution; he accidentally forced entry through his innocent brilliance.[5] He was feared at first, caricatured in the press as a demon of envy, a hairy-faced savage swinging an ax; but in real life, offstage, he was a pallid, shy, drooping creature with a weak little rosebud smile. He never grumbled about the discriminatory arts law, accepting it as the common wisdom—even though it was initially passed out of personal jealousy, to destroy him personally. He accepted his humble status in the chorus as a great honor.
His equally humble acceptance of the insufficient pay of a chorister—and his acceptance of the consequent necessity of a day job as butler to the family which had brought him up—set  wheels turning in the heads of other Gods.
What if we didn’t have to wash our socks?, they mused. What if we didn’t have to pack the plutonium into the offworld-mining bots ourselves? What if I had someone I could force to shave my calluses? This neck rub android isn’t any more sensitive than my wife…  
And so began the Great Immigration. On the prosaic level, technical schools were set up on Earth II in order that mortals deemed clean, talented, and decent enough to make the jump might already know how to give massages, run washing machines, and speak comprehensibly when they arrived in the City of Heaven[6].
On the poetic level, Bartleby’s generation of mortals was quickly tested for musical talent to see how many of them could be trained to fill the chorus positions that were such a shame and a burden to the less talented Gods. With the choruses filled by nothings who had no other option, there could be more productions, and so more stars and celebrities! Except to the social conservatives, the Great Immigration began to look like a great idea all around—until the inexorable effects of the extremely low wages the Gods were willing to pay to their servants began to be felt in the swelling seedy parts of town. But by then it was too late, and the Immortals had to learn to live penned into their own neighborhoods.
The hygiene of the mortals in their tenements may have horrified their employers; but to the first generation of immigrants themselves, a life lived almost one hundred percent above the surface of the planetoid, with clean air and no earthquakes, was an orgy of beauty and grace. Lemon Burgundy, the Savior, became a sort of mortal god, and while he was still in theater his life was already a legend in oral history. When Bartleby’s generation of interlopers got enough education that a few were able to write a bit, the tale was recorded in painfully pious prose:
(... to be continued...)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anyone can post, but please, if you want to be anonymous, come up with an amusing handle so we can tell you apart. Thanks!