Part two of the dimension hopping saga of Swifting! Enjoy!
OVERHEAD SPY SKA-TELLITE
He watched the plane take off and then got in his car. GRL_BLU had said she’d email him her info if he needed any help. He had to assume that if the Brunette knew so much about him already that she was privy to most, if not all, of his online sources of information. Hell, probably anything connected to a computer was fucked. But he had nowhere else to start. Besides, if They (and he hated using that proverbial term) knew his next move then he’d be better off seeing what his options were.
He logged into his other email account—the one kept hidden so he could keep his Swifting as low key as possible. His inbox lit up with one new message from GRL_BLU.
So yeah. Weird shit and things probably aren’t safe. But whatever. If they know, they know. Right? So here’s my number give me a call and let’s figure this out.
Kurt eyed his smart phone warily. He couldn’t trust the damn thing. Eyes and ears and photographic memory all rolled into one. Forget that. He went to Mal-Mart, bought a burner phone and dialed the number he was given. She answered on the fourth ring.
There was a long pause before a timid, “K?”
“Yeah. It’s K.”
She breathed an audible sigh of relief. “Oh thank Tiamat. Are you OK?”
“So far so good. Nothing weird yet.”
“Are you alone?”
“I am now.”
“You shouldn’t be. I can help you. Get to Albuquerque and call me again.”
“Yeah.” She hung up after that.
Albuquerque, New Mexico didn’t seem like the kind of place Kurt wanted to end up. He’d seen it on popular t.v. shows and if art imitated life in the least, he was pretty sure Albuquerque was a cesspool of crime, drugs and moral degeneracy. All of which were fascinating to watch on television but not so much to experience in real life. The upside was that it was on the way to Arizona where Esme and Bella awaited him. At this point, it was either Albuquerque or sit around and wait for the Brunette to come knocking. His gut told him this was a bad idea. He’d known GRL_BLU from the forum for over a year now. She always seemed like a cool enough person. So fuck it. Road trip it was.
He left later than night, heading out of town and north deciding on the northern interstates in an attempt to be less obvious. He made it to Madison, Wisconsin taking breaks to sleep at rest stops and paying for everything in cash. He was at a gas station browsing for chips and soda when a short, chubby bald man entered and flashed the clerk a disarming smile.
Kurt’s thoughts immediately went to his conversation with GRL_BLU just before he left and her story of Kid_Kode running into a bald guy right before he disappeared. But that was just being paranoid. Right? There were millions of bald guys in the United States. Every one of them couldn’t be working for whoever was after him. He took a deep breath, and turning to face the drink coolers, exhaled and tried to relax.
“Oh nice. Two energy drinks for five bucks,” the bald guy said and stood beside him. “You like these?”
“Huh? Oh, I don’t know. I think all energy drinks taste the same.”
“True enough,” the bald guy chuckled. “So you on a big trip?”
The question caught Kurt off guard. “How’d you know?”
“Just an educated guess.” He studied the energy drinks, unable to choose one. “I think orange and grape. What do you think?”
“I think you should learn how to make decisions by yourself. Asking strangers for advice gets people in trouble.”
The bald guy laughed. “That’s smart.”
“Yeah,” Kurt mumbled and hurried over to another isle. He was browsing the chips, trying not to look in the guy’s direction when he felt the barrel of a gun pressed into his back and hot, fetid breath on his neck whispering, “Do you know what fear is?”
Kurt froze for an instant, unsure of what to do. “I have a pretty good idea right now.”
“Fear is nothingness. Staring the void right in its empty, vapid soul and realizing that is the potential for everything. Does that not terrify you? That all of this—the whole of existence—could some day disappear into nothingness?” Kurt opened his mouth to answer but was cut off, “Don’t worry about answering. What you think doesn’t mean a damn thing. What matters is that you, Kurt, are a catalyst of said undoing. Which is why you’re coming with me.”
“Mister, what are you doing to that man?” said a child who appeared at the end of the isle, clutching a teddy bear. Her big, innocent eyes were wide with worry. “You look mad. Are you gonna hurt him?”
The Bald Guy smiled and backed away. “Why, of course not, little one. I was just talking to him. Wasn’t I?” He turned to Kurt for affirmation, but Kurt had already fled.
The Bald Guy watched from the window as his quarry got in his car and sped off, almost hitting 2 people in his frantic haste to escape. “Now look what you did little one. You let him get away.” The Bald Guy turned to give an admonishing smile to the little girl, but she too was gone.
He saw her at the counter with her mother, buying chocolate milk and pretzels, her eyes alight with joy and the uncomfortable situation already forgotten.
“You got played,” said a voice at his ear. “We had him dead to rights.”
He nodded at the Brunette’s statement. “They’re getting brazen. They must really want this one. C’mon. I’m hungry for some chicken fried steak. I saw a diner right off the I.”
Kurt drove frantically for hours, unsure and unconcerned with the direction. He stopped only when he had to get gas and stayed awake with caffeine pills and energy drinks. He hadn’t seen the Brunette or Bald Guy since Wisconsin and hoped that he had finally given them the slip. He couldn’t keep this up. Exhaustion was setting in and he had to stop for a while. Get his bearings. Figure out where he was going to go from there. He saw signs indicating Durango, Colorado was coming up and decided to stop. Durango was a quaint mountain town just across the border from New Mexico. It housed a thriving tourist industry, a small college and Ska Brewery. He really needed a good beer and Ska Brewery had always been a favorite.
He was well into his second beer and half a cheeseburger when he saw a man browsing the merchandise corner, shooting quick glances in his direction. He tried to ignore him—tell himself he was over reacting. The guy wasn’t bald. He wasn’t a hot brunette chick in disguise. Just some blonde dude who was way too tan and looked about 30. Nothing to worry about.
Until the guy walked over and said, “Hey. They have good cheeseburgers here?”
“I guess. Yeah.” Said Kurt, avoiding eye contact in hopes of making the creeper go away.
He didn’t. “Great. Gonna have to try it. The beer good too?”
“Yeah. Beer’s good too. Now if you don’t mind…”
“Right, right. See, I just drove in from Salt Lake City. Just asking some friendly tourist questions.”
“You a Mormon?”
“A Mormon. You’re from Utah, you said.”
“Not everyone from Utah is a Mormon. Besides, if I was a Mormon, you think I’d be in a bar?”
“I dunno what you religious types do. Look man—“
“Look, Jim. I’m done answering friendly questions. Now for the love of God, leave me alone!”
Jim raised his hands in mock surrender and took a few steps back. “No need to get all bent out of shape. I’m just trying–”
“Just trying to be friendly. Yeah. I get it. But if you knew what I’d been through lately you’d understand that I’m the last guy you wanna be friendly with. Now leave me alone.”
“Right. Sure.” He made like he was leaving and threw, “Women, huh?” over his shoulder.
Kurt bristled. This guy was seriously testing his patience. “What did you just say?”
“Women. Hell, whatever happened to you, it’s plain to see that a big part of it has to do with a woman.”
“Mind your fuckin’ business,” he growled while tossing some cash at the bartender and marching out the door.
Jim walked slowly and deliberately toward him as he fumbled for his keys, unable to fit them into the lock.
“Kurt. I’m one of the good guys. I’m here to help.”
Kurt dropped his keys with a curse. “Yeah right. You’re a liar like the rest.”
“The rest? You mean the Brunette and the Bald Guy? I don’t work for them. I work against them.”
Kurt paused for a second and glanced at Jim.
“I’m telling you the truth. Just calm down and come back inside. We can talk and if you don’t like what I have to say you can leave. No questions. No following you. Just…let’s talk, alright?”
Kurt stood there for a brief moment obviously struggling with the decision. “Alright. One beer. I need some answers.”
“Me and the people I work with are a conglomerate of sorts. You are aware of the existence of other universes? Parallel dimensions?”
“Of course. Bubbles within bubbles within bubbles.”
“Or cells within cells, yes? Now imagine each and every possible universe within your own is part of an even larger cell, or your prime universe, so to speak.”
“And that prime cell is only one of a countless number of cells within the whole Mind.”
“Like the mind of God?”
“If you want to call It that. Though most of us consider that kinda tacky.”
“Oh wow,” Kurt stammered as his mind was blown. “So each of these cells—these universes—exist as its own separate dimension?”
“Now you’re getting it!”
“I’ve been at it for a while. Swifting and all…”
“Ah yes. And that’s where the crux of your problem lies. You see, Swifting between universes within the same dimension is seen as normal and within the confines of the Mind’s goal. Most of the time people Swift without ever realizing it. Little shifts here and there to help their progress. It’s when violent shifts happen and people become aware that worries those that seek to harm you.”
“Why?” He didn’t ask for this. Never set out trying to Swift into different places. He didn’t understand why anyone would want to harm him.
“These anomalies like you break free of the cell. They can eventually Swift to different dimensions altogether. Places where they aren’t meant to exist. Places where their unnatural presence can irrevocably alter the Mind’s goal for that particular cell. You get it?”
“Yeah. Shit can get really messed up if we end up where we aren’t supposed to.”
“Right.” He leaned in closely. “So when did you first notice your Swifting?”
“You mean when it dawned on me? Simple. It was after I got back from a road trip to California in 2005. On the way home, we almost got hit by a train.”
“Yeah. And when we got home we found out that Billy Graham wasn’t, in fact, dead.”
“The preacher? And you remember him being dead?”
“Yeah. He died in the 90’s. President Clinton played the sax at his funeral. It was on television. I watched it with my mom. She kept saying what a great man he was. My friend that was with me remembered him dying at the same time too.”
“Interesting. Where’s your friend now?”
“Haven’t seen or heard from him in years.”
Jim nodded sagely. “He’s probably dead by now.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Look, the Mind has a way of…dealing with problems like you and your friend. You’ve already met them.”
“You mean Brunette and the Bald Guy?”
Jim nodded. “Yup. Agents of the Mind, we call them. They are specially privileged individuals who get to hop universes and dimensions enforcing the Mind’s goal.”
“Wait, are you saying the Mind is trying to kill me?”
Jim smirked and sipped his beer in reply.
“Weird how things turn out sometimes. Now as fun as our little chat was, we’ve gone over our time. You need to get back on the road. The Brunette and the Bald Guy are probably close behind if they’re not already here. You need to keep moving. Get to where you’re going.”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ve been playing this cat and mouse game with these idiots for longer than I care to remember…or admit. Safe travels.” Jim walked to the bar, paid the tab and left.
I thought I’d never forgive Ryan Gosling after “Blue Valentine”. I thought I’d never be able to sit through one of his crappy movies again. Then along came “Drive” and now I don’t want to punch the guy in the face (as much) anymore.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT!
“Drive” follows the Driver (Gosling) as he tries to make right with some gangsters so he can protect his girl. It’s the usuaI duffle bag full of money, car chases and flying bullets moviegoers have come to expect from the genre. I know, you’ve seen this movie a hundred times. But you haven’t seen it like this.
There’s a slew of awesome actors in this movie: Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks (whose death will haunt your dreams later). Oh, and I guess there’s Ryan Gosling, too.
Gosling doesn’t have much dialogue and that’s alright by me. He talked plenty in that other unmentionable movie. To make up for his lack of dialogue, he walks or drives around beating the shit out of a whole colorful cast of gangsters including (Ron Perlman). In case you were wondering, not once during the entire movie did Ron turn into Hellboy. Which is kind of sad because I was really hoping for a Hellboy cameo in a Ryan Gosling movie. I was disappointed when it wasn’t in BV because that movie needed Hellboy to save it from itself. While I wasn’t happy with this sans-Hellboy situation, I was too distracted by “Drives” intense violence to let it seriously irk me.
Which brings me to the intense violence. This movie is chock full of blood, fists and bullets. And all of that can be a bit jarring. It’s not like watching a horror movie. You’re expecting blood and gore to be flying all over the place. But in Drive, the violence acts as a character itself. It is necessary. Gosling’s character doesn’t start out as a gangster killing badass. He drives cars for the movies, steals a few on the side and is pretty much your typical black hat with a white heart. But once things start going wrong and Gosling gets caught up trying to protect his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, he starts sliding head first into a dark pit.
The violence acts as a wedge between Gosling and any hope of a normal life with Irene and Benicio. Irene is horrified by what the Driver is doing (despite the fact he’s doing it to protect her and her son) and any affection she has toward him quickly dissipates.
Meanwhile, there’s no turning back for the Driver. Once Gosling kills a couple of gangsters he’s in it for the long haul, despite his best attempts to make things right and step away. There is no escaping the violence. Thus, while the violence acts as a wedge between him and a normal life, it also acts as a driving force that pushes him through his struggles and ends up saving his life.
All in all, this movie grabbed me. Unexpectedly, even. I actually set aside the blog I was writing because I was too engrossed by what was going on. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an excellent dark, disturbing story come from Hollywood. Watching the Driver stroll around in his blood splattered scorpion jacket administering vigilante justice to the evil was just what I needed to get the machismo pumping.
Good on you, Ryan Gosling. Good on you.
I gave this movie a try because the concept was cool. Let me be more specific, the concept was cool in the preview. Time is currency. Everybody stops aging at 25 and gets one more year to live. That’s neato. But in the movie the concept is never clearly explained and actually becomes more confusing. For instance, how exactly is time taken off of people’s lives? How is it transferred into currency and a person’s life span added or subtracted to? The mysteries of their universe remain unsolved and make it harder to suspend the necessary belief.
The story unfolds through a bold display of alpha maleness that scores Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) a century’s worth of time from a rich guy who had grown tired of living. Said rich guy also informs JT of the whole conspiracy of the Rich to subjugate the poor and suck the life out of them so they could live forever. He then rushes to meet his mother whose clock is quickly running out.
By the way, JT’s relationship with his “mother” is just plain weird. Like, Stephen King’s ‘Sleepwalkers’ creepy. For one, she’s hot and they look exactly the same age. It’s skeevy. They are both “25”, though his mother is supposed to be fifty. I was literally uncomfortable in my own living room watching the interaction between the two. All I could think was, he probably banged her in his trailer between takes and then had to call her “mom”. I may have thrown up in my mouth a little.
But when JT’s Oedipal fantasy is cut short (he was seriously crying in the rain when momma ran out of time) I saw a glimmer of hope. He wins some money…er time, meets a girl and kills some people in a burst of machismo all while dodging the time cops. And throughout it all was cardboard dialogue that would’ve made Bruce Campbell proud.
The underlying themes were worthy of a dystopian sci-fi adventure. Time=Money=Life. Rich vs. Poor class war. But the good times didn’t last. The story morphed into a Robin Hood meets Bonnie and Clyde catastrophe that left nothing to the imagination. It was as predictable as an N’Sync video and twice as annoying.
This troubles me. I thought action sci-fi was ironclad. I thought nothing could ruin it no matter how cheesy it got. I thought that if this titan of genres could survive the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ashton Kutcher, Wynona Ryder and Vin Diesel that it would endure Justin Timberlake. I have been proven wrong. And I feel horrible that I was once again duped by tricky editing and clips of way-too-skinny hot chicks into wasting Microsoft Points.
The City of Thieves was a post-apocalyptic wonder. The entire city was one huge, walled platform. Pieced together with flotsam and debris, NuBab, the City of Thieves, was the ONLY sanctuary in all the Dark Country. And, even then, calling it a sanctuary was an insult to real sanctuaries everywhere. Buck Fantastic and Plan B had already killed six people and they’d only taken about that many steps into the town.
“Cutthroat aren’t they?” said Plan B as he re-holstered his two handguns. Excepting his brain, Plan B was artificially organic, what the Old American Forseers would call a “Cyborg”.
“Little bit. Criminals from all of the Fortified Cities are banished to the Dark Country. They are free to live out their lives if they survive the trek, which is unlikely seeing as how it’s a constant struggle with mutated elements and undead monstrosities,” answered Buck.
“And if they don’t make it?”
Buck shrugged. “We killed more than a few of those poor zombie bastards on our way here.”
“I get it. So only the real pricks survive.”
“Yeah. And us.”
“That’s what I said.” Plan B flashed his charismatic smile (the one trait his conversion to a machine-man couldn’t seem to harden or alter). “So what are we doing here?”
“Got a job. Supposed to meet an old merc buddy at a dive called the Bootlegging Senator.”
“Alcohol and politics. A combination that’s sure to end in a fist fight. Sounds like my kind of bar,” Plan B smiled.
“No doubt. Hold on, I’m gonna ask this guy for directions. Hey old timer,” he said and heaved a slouching wino to his feet. He slapped the man a few times to wake him from his alcohol coma. “Hey! Earth to bum! How do you get to the Bootlegging Senator? Hello?”
“Eh?” The bum’s breath smelled like the rotting corpses of Rank and Rancid after they killed each other in a fight and no one was around to find the bodies. Buck instinctively dropped him and covered his nose and mouth.
“The Bootlegging Senator. Do you know where it is?”
“’Course! Everyone knows, but no one says anything. Some call it a conspiracy. I call it conspiring against the truth!”
“What in the name of the Goddess Paige are you babbling about?” said Buck.
“Listen. Way I hear it, they was here before people showed up and rebuilt. But they was dormant, see? On account of them needin some living organisms to feed on and this being right smack dab in the middle of the Dark Country. Nothing livin out here cept the dead! Heh. Heh.” The geezer coughed into his hand. “Once the people moved in they woke up and infected the first. All worms are one worm!”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” asked Plan B, flabbergasted.
“Nothing. He’s crazy. Let’s find it ourselves.”
And find it they did. They literally stumbled upon it after another hour of wading through crowded streets sticky with sweat and humidity, snapping the wrists of pickpockets and the occasional necks of would-be muggers. As a matter of fact, Plan B noticed the sign while dangling a thief in the air in front of him.
“Hey. Isn’t that the place?” Plan B tossed his prey aside like a rag doll and started toward his discovery.
“Smoothly done,” said Buck.
The Bootlegging Senator was pieced together with driftwood and built into some ancient ruins. It was a classy three story establishment. The real spiffy kind with half-naked jezebels hanging from the windows cat-calling for customers and un-sober men stumbling out the door and into the welcoming arms of thieves. Inside was a smoky, humid crowd of bodies with a permeating stench somewhere in the realm of “funky jockstrap.” Rickety wooden tables and chairs salvaged from a junk heap filled the room past capacity.
“They must have live music tonight!” Plan B roared above the din.
The crowd was rowdy and the two newcomers had to dodge a bar fight that broke out as they stepped in. Buck overheard the two combatants argue shortly before the violence started.
“No! Fifteen percent is twenty credits!” yelled a Sasquatch of a man at his shrewish counterpart.
“In this economy? Please! She’ll be lucky to get 10 percent.”
“Cheap asstard!” Sasquatch charged blindly toward the object of his fury.
Buck, caught in the middle, nonchalantly stiff-armed the charging drunk and stepped around the pile of sweaty bodies battling over the tip.
“Buck! Over here!” A voice called above the ruckus. Buck’s old mercenary buddy, Carl, sat in a corner.
The two adventurers joined him and ordered a round.
Carl was a bear of a man with a huge barrel chest clumsily situated atop skinny legs. He had a massive red and white beard that fell halfway down his chest and a crop of thinning reddish white hair covering his shoulders. His face was scarred from his many close encounters with death, cunning and stubbornness hidden behind his eyes.
“Carl! Good to see you! It’s been a while!” Buck shook his friend’s hand.
“Since the Rip Wars. I never seen a man kill a demon the way you did, Buck. It was like art.”
“I’m an artist,” Plan B chimed in. “Or will be one day when I retire from the road.”
“Who’s your friend?” Carl asked Buck, only acknowledging Plan B’s presence with a short nod in his direction.
“I’m Plan B,” said the cyborg and extended his hand.
“Plan B? What’s that mean? Plan B?” Carl smirked.
“I’m what happens when Plan A doesn’t work.”
“How often is that?”
“More often than I’d like to admit,” said Buck. “He ain’t lying though. He’s got weapons stashed more places than a two-slotted jezebel.”
“Well if you’re a friend of Buck’s, you’re alright by me.”
“That’s a relief,” sneered Plan B, mischief playing behind his eternal smile.
“So Carl,” said Buck. “What’s going on?”
Carl finished his pint and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Somethin’s rotten in the City o’ Theives.”
“Looks like a lot is rotten in this swamp slum. What can possibly be so out of the ordinary?” Plan B wondered.
“Exactly,” growled the seasoned fighter and leaned in. “What could possibly be wrong in slaggin’ NuBab? This is the only place where wrong is right! Anything goes here. It’s every beastly bastard for himself. And none of this turd pile’s denizens are more corrupt, more greedy, more evil than its leaders, the Council of Thieves. Which is where the problem starts. Finish yer swill and I’ll show you.”