Simon Says: A Short Story

by | Dec 9, 2020

Below you will find a short story about a sci-fi blogger who receives an enigmatic invitation to a secret Swiss lab, where he learns the diabolical truth behind the technology used to manage and control the COVID pandemic. It’s all fiction…or is it?

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Simon Says

I get my fair share of kooky emails from conspiracy crazies, neurotic nightcrawlers, and tormented trolls, but none so bizarre as the one I received the evening of June 14, 2021. You see, I write a popular blog about the more sinister uses of technology by mankind’s shadow organizations like the so-called “deep state.” My readers tend to be a bit on the strange side. This one email stood out from the others because it appeared almost normal, and so an exception to the norm. The subject line simply read “From the CEO.” The body of the letter was nearly as brief, reading:

“Please expect a Signal call from +41 7 455 65 28 at 15:20 your time tomorrow 15.06.21. The CEO Herr Doktor Butterini wishes to speak with you. Please confirm. Regards, Elisabeth Fischer, Secretary to the President and Chief Executive Officer, Tarteur Gmbh.”

Normally I would immediately delete a message like this one, even if it were to survive my spam filter, but there were a few details about this letter that caught my attention.

First, “Elisabeth” spelled with an “s” is a European spelling of the name and unusual for my audience, most of whom are Americans. Secondly, a quick search on Linked-In confirmed that a “Elisabeth Fischer” indeed works for Tarteur, one of the largest and most secretive pharmaceutical and biotech firms in the world. The date, with the day and month reversed from the English format, also suggested the letter had European origins, as did the 24 hour timestamp. But there were two other characteristics of this letter that particularly intrigued me.

One was that the email was sent by Proton Mail. Proton Mail is used by the ultra-wary, those for whom privacy is numero uno on their list of “must haves.” That is, people like me. Proton Mail is not as fancy as Gmail and lacks all the bells and whistles of Outlook, but you can be sure that a letter written, sent, and read on Proton Mail stays securely encrypted from one end to the other. No one, but no one, can see that mail except for the person who sent it and the person who received it.

But it was the second thing about the letter that really took my curiosity to a peak: Fischer asked me to expect the call via my Signal app. Signal is considered one of the most secure channels over which to have a Wi-Fi call, with end-to-end encryption, a system uncorrupted by the greedy and prying hands of big tech like Facebook and Google. Signal is the tool those of us who are more than slightly paranoid use to ensure no one is listening in on our calls, poking around our data, and otherwise snooping in private places where they don’t belong.

By using both Proton Mail and Signal, it was obvious to me that Ms. Fischer was being exceptionally careful with her communiqués. “Alrighty,” I thought as I reached for my keyboard. “You have my attention.” I confirmed the appointment.

The next day was generally uneventful. I managed to write 1500 words on my book in-progress, a story about how the Chinese hide secret controls in the massive hydroelectric dams they build on loan to cash strapped countries in Africa and South America. The countries are ever so grateful for China’s largess, that is until the day comes when the indebted country can’t make their loan payments. Then, in a multi-billion dollar case of getting a nasty call from a credit agency (“we can make your life miserable if you don’t pay”), the Chinese say “pay up or else.”

If the country falters, hedges, or stalls, the Chinese use the hidden controls to slow the flow of water to a trickle, and even sometimes shut it off all together for a few days, just to send the indebted country a message. Fields dry and wither, crops fail, people suffer and riot from thirst. Eventually the country’s government finds a way to make the payment. The system works pretty good for the Chinese, in my book at least.

My problem as a writer is scrambling fast enough to keep my fiction just that — fiction. Every time I read the news I find another example of fiction becoming real. Things I write about, believing at the time they are unthinkably impossible, become both thought of and quite possible. It’s a tough racket being a science-fiction writer. You have to be a little insane to stay ahead of the real world.

I really didn’t know what to expect when my Signal phone rang at exactly 15:20 later that day. The voice on the other end purred with professionalism and a slight German accent.

“Mr. Tarnish. Are you ready to speak with Herr Doktor Butterini?”
“Yes, I am. Thank you,” I said.
“He’ll be with you in one moment. Hold please.”

The Italian name Butterini did not, in my opinion, pair nicely with the decidedly Germanesque title of Herr Doktor, but I had done my homework on Tarteur’s CEO earlier in the day. There wasn’t much on him, just a few articles in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, plus some scientific papers in German he co-authored.

An Italian by birth, Sandro Luca Butterini joined Tarteur, a firm started by his grandfather after World War II, shortly after the young Butterini earned a PhD in chemistry from MIT, proving that the “Doktor” in his title was legit. At the time he joined, Butterini’s father was CEO and had moved the company’s headquarters to Saint Moritz, Switzerland, a place best known as a playground for Europe’s wealthiest swingers and jetsetters, but also for companies that like to keep their business activities off the public radar.

Even with his academic credentials and family connections, young Butterini started at the bottom of the firm, doing lab work and paying his dues. His big break came nearly 20 years later when, as head of Tarteur’s research and development division, Butterini led a team that discovered, and then productized, a rather unorthodox remedy for a common problem: female infertility.

The solution involved harvesting the urine of young virgin females, an ample supply of which Tarteur found in Europe’s Catholic monasteries. In return for a generous donation from Tarteur, chaste nuns obediently peed into sterile cups supplied by Tarteur, which were then flown back to Saint Moritz. There, in Tarteur’s labs, technicians extracted and synthesized a precious enzyme 96.4% effective at curing female infertility.

Parents desperate for a child, and willing to pay any price to have one, beat a path to Tarteur’s door. The company stock soared and their coffers swelled. Its shareholders, including Butterini, became unimaginably wealthy. A year later Butterini was named CEO, replacing his father. The son’s first act as chief executive was to take the company private. Very private.

There was little to learn about Sandro Luca Butterini after that, except for a few grainy pictures, taken by paparazzi, of Butterini on his 50 meter racing yacht or out for the evening with his fashion model girlfriend. The man was not hard on the eyes, tall, with an athletic build and dark Italian good looks. Butterini had it all, and I couldn’t believe he wanted to talk with me, or why. I waited for him to join the call.

My Signal app clicked to life.
“Mr. Tarnish?” a male voice said with an Italian accent. “This is Sandro Butterini.”
“Mr. Butterini,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Please call me Sandro,” he said. “I’m a fan of your blog and I thought we might get to know each other a little better. I have an opportunity here at Tarteur that I think might interest you.”
I wanted to say “wow,” or even “holy shit,” but I bit my tongue and responded with a professional, “I’m interested. What can you tell me about the opportunity?”
“I’d prefer we do that in person,” Butterini said. Would you be willing to fly over here to Saint Moritz? All expenses paid, of course.”
A trip to Europe on Tarteur’s nickel? That decision didn’t take long.
“It would be my pleasure,” I said.
“Great. Ms. Fischer will handle all the arrangements. We’ll meet here in my office. I also have a copy of your latest book The Tunnel Worms right here on my desk. I look forward to having it signed by the author. Okay, ciao for now. Please hold for Elisabeth.”

Another click and he was gone, replaced by Ms. Fischer’s purr. After some finagling between my schedule and his, the trip was set for three weeks out.

“Oh, one last thing Mr. Tarnish. I’ll be sending you a non-disclosure agreement, but until then, can we ask that you please keep this meeting confidential as a matter of professional courtesy?”
“Of course,” I assured her. I’d been a newspaper reporter before becoming an author, so I knew how to keep secrets.
“Very good,” she said. “Thank you. Our meeting is at 10:00. You’ll arrive the night before. Our car will be waiting for you at the airport. Your room will be at the Hotel Soldanella. My Signal number is on my Proton Mail signature. Please don’t hesitate to call if there are any complications. Goodbye!”
Click. My Signal line went dead.
“Huh,” I thought. “I wonder what this is all about.”
I was about to find out.

***

The car, a sleek black Mercedes limo, was waiting as promised at Saint Moritz’ small airport. A uniformed driver greeted me curtly, ushered me into the back, and drove me to the chic, elegant and exclusive Hotel Soldanella, with breathtaking views of the lake and Swiss Alps. A short while later I was showered and ready for dinner.

The hotel’s swanky restaurant was still closed to public dining due to COVID restrictions, but I was able to order room service: stuffed mussels flown in fresh that day from the Mediterranean, white asparagus au gratin, rice pilaf, and a liter of ice cold champagne. A dessert of vanilla cake and rich vanilla custard garnished with ripe strawberries, accompanied by black coffee, completed the meal. I finished with a shot of Fernet-Vallet as a digestif, courtesy of the hotel.

Then I stretched out on crisply ironed, thousand point Egyptian cotton sheets, lazily flipped through a few TV channels, and turned in for the night. By 8:30 AM the next morning I was breakfasted and waiting in the foyer when the limo showed up right on time. “Leave it to the Swiss,” I thought. “Punctual as usual.”

Saint Moritz’ mid-summer morning was polished bright with sunshine, and the snowcapped peaks of the Swiss Alps contrasted sharply against a cloudless, cobalt blue sky. From mountain crests I could see glittering clouds of snow blown into the cold air of their heights, but in the valley, where I was, it was warm enough inside the car for the driver to keep the windows up and the air conditioning on.

I pressed my face to the glass, astonished by the beauty outside, marveling at the foolishness of the priggish French theologian John Calvin, who curtained his carriage windows while riding through the Swiss countryside lest the beauty of the land compete with his affections for God. “Such stupidity,” I thought as the Mercedes glided past the heavily guarded gates of Tarteur’s world headquarters.

Moments later I was in the company’s spacious and naturally lit foyer, minimally decorated in glass, polished aluminum, and teak furniture. Tall white walls reached to high ceilings, accommodating colorful wall art and a few massive pieces of modern sculpture. Ms. Fischer was there to greet me. She led me past the receptionist, into and down a quiet, carpeted hallway. Most of the office doors were closed and labeled with foreign sounding names like F.X. Girod and S.P. Rammstein. Only Herr Doktor’s door had a title on it, reading “S. L. Butterini, President and Chief Executive Officer.” Otherwise, it looked the same as all the others.

Just as Ms. Fischer reached for the office door handle, I heard voices at the far end of the hall and looked down. Three men were leaving an office and walking away from me. I only caught a glimpse of them, as Ms. Fischer quickly ushered me into Butterini’s outer office, where she had her desk, but I noticed one of the three men was head and shoulders taller than the other two. He was also oddly dressed, wearing a hooded tunic that reminded me of the one worn by Obi-Wan Kenobi of Star Wars fame. But the truly odd thing, something so odd I guessed I could only have imagined it, was that as the tall man turned away from me, I saw just a piece of his face and it looked…reptilian.

“Impossible,” I thought, shaking off the image. “He is too far away.” I credited the illusion to my over-active imagination or a play of light and stepped into Butterini’s office, and then into an adjoining conference room.

In the center of the room was a large conference table of polished aluminum trimmed in white and surrounded by eight or ten white leather chairs. Three bottles of water were set out, one at the head of the table, and the other two to each side. In the middle of the table was a bottle of hand sanitizer featuring the Tateur label.

“Can I get you some coffee, Mr. Tarnish?” Ms. Fischer purred.
“That would be nice. Thank you,” I said. “Black please.”
“I’ll be right back with that, and then you’ll be joined by Butterini and Herr Doktor Epstein, our head of research and development. Please have a seat,” she said, indicating one of the leather chairs. I sat down, but stood up right away again when Butterini and his colleague, a much shorter, portly man with glasses and thinning hair, entered the room.

“Mr. Tarnish,” Butterini said, stepping toward me with his hand out. “So glad you are here. I trust your trip so far has been a comfortable one?”
“Very,” I said. “Thanks to you and your staff.”
“Excellent,” he said. “Allow me to introduce our head of R&D, Herr Doktor Alfon Epstein. Alfon, please meet Mr. Corey Tarnish, our esteemed guest for the day. Gentlemen, I trust we can forgo the titles and last names and just go with our first names. Is that okay with you?”
“Of course,” I said, relieved that the meeting was taking a casual turn.

Butterini was taller than I expected, tan, and very, very handsome. He exhibited all the poise and finesse I expected of the quintessential CEO, and then some. He radiated confidence and well mannered charm. He could have easily been a film star. Epstein, in contrast, appeared dumpy and grim. His hand felt small in mine, and I felt I needed to wipe mine with a napkin after shaking his.

Fortunately Butterini came to my rescue by picking up the bottle of hand sanitizer and spraying it on his hands. “We still encourage everyone to use this even though our vaccine has proven to be 98.7% effective. It’s just good practice.”
Epstein and I followed Butterini’s example. Ms. Fischer returned with three cups of coffee, set them on the table and left the room.
“Well,” Butterini said, taking a seat at the head of the table and gesturing for us to sit. “I am guessing you’d like to know why you are here.”
“Yes, I would,” I said, taking a sip from my coffee.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” he said. “And a video is worth ten thousand, so we are about to watch one that will explain everything. But first, I’d like to play a game.”
“A game?”
“Yes, yes, a game,” Butterini said, smiling. “A game involving a game. I think you’ll find it fascinating. Alfon, what time is it in Asia?”
Epstein checked his watch. “A good time,” he said.
“Perfect,” Butterini said. “Corey, I’d like you to use your phone to find football games, or soccer games as you Americans call them, that are currently underway in Asia right now. Any game in any city will do. It just needs to be televised so we can see it here. Would you do that for me please?”
“Soccer games? In Asia?” I said.
“Yes, yes,” Butterini said. Any live game.”
“What the hell,” I thought. I decided to play along.
“Er, okay,” I said, picking up my phone. Epstein told me the Wi-Fi code and I logged in. A moment later I found a list of soccer games scheduled for Asia that week, and three already underway: one in Japan, another in Australia, and a third in Thailand.
“Any game?” I said. “Anywhere in Asia?”
“Yes,” Butterini said. “Any live action game. What did you find?”
“I found three.”
“Pick one.”
“Alright,” I said. “See if you can find this match between the Cerezo Osaka and the Gamba Osaka. It’s Gamba Osaka 1 to 0 with 43 minutes left to play.”

Butterini nodded at Epstein, who placed his right hand lightly on the polished aluminum conference table in front of him. A control panel glowed to life beneath his hand. Epstein tapped, and a screen in the front of the room came alive with cable news.
“Cerezo Osaka versus the Gamba Osaka, you said?” asked Epstein.
“Yes.”
“Ah. Here it is.”
The screen showed the game underway, the score still 1 to 0.
“Perfect,” said Butterini, jumping up from his chair. “Now we are going to start our game.”
Butterini seemed as excited as a child. He stepped close to the screen, not watching the players, but rather examining its edges where I could see bits of the attending crowd.
“Now pick a color, Corey. Any primary color.”
I was curious. “Red.”
“Red it is. Now one last choice. I want you to pick a direction, right or left. It doesn’t matter. Either one will do.”
“Seriously?” I asked.
Butterini turned away from the screen and looked straight at me. His gaze was intense and he was no longer smiling. I could see why he was CEO.
“Yes, of course I am serious. What we are about to show you is very serious business.”
“Alright then. Left,” I said.
“Alfon, I want you to show Corey here what we can do. Please have everyone at this game who is wearing predominantly red raise their left hands over their heads.”
Epstein tapped a few keys on the controls while Butterini turned his gaze back to the screen.

I could not see much of the audience. Most of the screen was devoted to the game. But what I did see amazed me. Every spectator wearing predominately red, on their caps or clothes, raised their left hands high over their heads, just like a school child who knows the answer to teacher’s question.
“Now have them wave with their raised hands,” Butterini said, without turning away from the screen.
The spectators obediently waved.
“Amazing,” I said slowly. “Is this some kind of trick?”
“How could it be?” Butterini said, turning back to me. “You picked the game. You picked the color and the action. How could we have known? But let there be no doubt in your mind. Did you say there were three games underway now?”
“Yes, one in…”
Butterini cut me off sharply. “No! Don’t tell me all the choices. That would pollute the test. In fact, let’s not use football at all. Here,” he said walking behind me and tapping my table top. A control panel glowed to life before me. “I want you to pick any channel showing live coverage. This is the channel button.”
I tapped the button he was pointing to. A soap commercial came on the screen. I tapped again and again until I came to a news channel showing swarms of refugees fleeing a conflict in Ethiopia.
“OK, quick!” Butterini said. “Before we lose the shot. Pick a color, action, and gender this time. Male or female. Go!”
“Blue. Right. Female.”
Epstein tapped some keys, and every female on the screen wearing predominately blue raised her right hand. Some of them were carrying babies, which they had to awkwardly shift to their left arm. Some were carrying bundles they dropped to the ground in order to obey Epstein’s silent command. The women’s faces looked alarmed, and some of them began to cry out, causing additional chaos in the horde.
“Abort test,” Butterini commanded. Epstein tapped a key and the bewildered women regained control of their arms and children. We watched in silence until the newscaster, who had his back to the crowd, said: “This is Ali Emrah broadcasting live from Ethiopia.”
Butterini turned to me.
“Another test?” he said quietly.
“No. No,” I said. “I’ve seen enough.”
Butterini nodded at Epstein and the screen went blank.
“It’s quite amazing, isn’t it?” Butterini said softly, almost to no one.
“Yes…well, maybe,” I said rubbing my forehead. “But what exactly is ‘it’?”
Butterini looked at Epstein, whose one eyebrow lifted almost imperceptibly.
“We call it ‘Simon,’ after the child’s game,” Butterini said sitting down and taking a sip from his water.
“You mean the game ‘Simon Says’?”
“Precisely. We issue the command and they must obey.”
I glared at Butterini.
“I’m not sure I want to be involved with this.”
“Good. That’s exactly why I do want you involved, to win over skeptics like yourself. You see, we want to announce Simon’s capabilities to the world, and we know the reaction will be overwhelmingly similar to yours. Negative. But we need a public relations master on our team, someone with a loyal following of skeptics, someone who can help the world see the good Simon can bring to it. It’s that very skepticism, that propensity for seeing a dark hand behind everything, that makes you that person. We want you to convince the skeptics, the pessimists, indeed the rest of the world, that Simon is a force for good and not evil.”
“I guess that depends on who is doing the controlling,” I said, thinking about how I could end this meeting and go home as quickly as possible.
“I understand your concerns. That’s exactly why I like you, Corey. You can be instrumental in shaping who decides to control Simon, and how it is controlled. You could become part of a team of ethicists who develop standards and policies that live on long after you and I are gone. You could become part of shaping the future, not just of Tarteur, not just of the world as we know it today, but of the world as it can be tomorrow, of mankind’s very future. Imagine Corey. No war. No violence. No rape. No crime. With Simon, we can simply control all of that negative behavior out of humans. We can stop it before it happens.”
“Exactly how much control do you have over humans?”
“Let us show you. Alfon, run the beer demo. Let’s use one of the other football games.”

Epstein tapped the controls on the table top, and the Australian soccer game appeared on the screen. Butterini studied the sidelines for a moment and then said, “Come here, Corey. Help me pick out a test subject.”
I suspected I knew what he was planning, so I stepped up to the screen, looked over the audience, and pointed to a large woman wearing a bright yellow blazer. I felt slimy participating, but to be honest, I was really curious about Simon and its capabilities.
“That one,” I said.
“Beer? Coke? Water? Candy?”
“Budweiser and a Snickers bar.”
“Fine, that is, providing they have both at the snack bar. Okay Alfon. Go.”
Epstein tapped the table. The large woman wearing yellow rose from her seat and left the screen.
“Good,” Butterini said. “Let’s give her some time to make her purchases. In the meanwhile, I’m sure you have a million questions, and we will do our best to answer them. Shoot, as you say in America.” He laughed. I sat down.
“How did you do it?”
“Of course you would want to know that. Alfon, show him.”

Epstein had been carrying a small briefcase when he entered the room. He now placed it on the conference table, opened it, and pulled out a digital temperature gun like the ones they use at airports and restaurants. These are the handheld devices they point at your forehead or forearm to quickly take your body temperature. They had used one on me when I boarded my flight to Switzerland from Seattle, and again when I arrived in Saint Moritz, just to be sure I wasn’t running a fever and needing quarantine.
“An ordinary looking thermal gun. Yes?” Butterini said.
“Yes.”
“Have you ever looked inside one?”
“No. Of course not. Why would I?”
“Show him, Alfon.”

Epstein picked up the gun and pried off its plastic cover. The insides were stuffed from one end to the other with a strange system of technology unlike any I had ever seen…not the circuitboard and some wires that I expected, but something else, something…alien.
“What…what is that?” I stammered, sitting down again.
“It’s something you’ve never seen before, Corey. Something special. Something wonderful. Something we humans could not have invented for another thousand years. But we had help Corey, from friendlies, help that goes back to the 1950s when your government, and its secret military labs, first began experimenting with mind control. Do you remember The Manchurian Candidate, Corey?”
“The novel or the movie? I remember them both. The son of a prominent political family is brainwashed into becoming an assassin.”
“Yes,” said Butterini. “Brainwashing. That’s what they called it in the 1940s and 50s. But that was nearly 80 years ago Corey. That was version 1.0. What you are looking at here,” Butterini said, picking up the thermal gun, “is version 108.0. We’ve come a long, long way with it.”
“Let me guess,” I said, examining the gun. “When you point this thing at my head and pull the trigger…”
“It embeds a neural program deep in your brain, one that lets Simon take control. It actually alters your DNA, Corey. That’s how sophisticated this technology is. It’s…it’s simply breathtaking.”
“So all you needed then was a reason to use it on everyone.”
“Exactly,” Butterini said. He paused.
I didn’t want to believe it, but it needed to be said.
“COVID.”
“We invented it,” he said.
“So you could scare everyone into getting zapped by this…this thing.”
“Yes.”
“But people died, Butterini,” I said, getting to my feet.
“It was necessary.”
People died! It was not necessary. This is crazy!”
“We had the vaccine,” Epstein said. I stopped breathing.
“What do you mean you had the vaccine?” I said, towering over the table.
“Corey, please sit down and let me explain,” Butterini said, stepping to my side and opening his hand toward my empty seat. “Please.”
I sat down.
“We developed COVID and the vaccine at the same time. We knew the vaccine would work before the first person was ever even infected with COVID.”
I glared at Butterini.
“Then COVID was a ruse,” I said. “A decoy. Something you used just so you could use your goddamn toy gun on people. Well I don’t want any part of this. It’s sick.” I was shouting.
“I was afraid you might feel that way,” Butterini said. “But I was hoping you would not. I was hoping that, given your imagination, you could see the bigger picture, the long term game, a world of order, free of chaos, free of violence. It’s all possible Corey. The entities that gave us this technology know it’s possible. It’s worked elsewhere, on other planets even, and it can work here. But we need someone with your talent to help us reveal Simon to the world in a way that people will accept it and not be afraid of its awesome power. We need you, Corey.”
“And if I say no?”
“Then you are free to go,” add Butterini.
Really? Free to go, you say? Am I really free to do anything? Why don’t you just use your fucking toy to force me to accept your offer? You can control me like a robot. Why not do it?”
“Because then we would not get the best of you, Corey. Your passion. Your ingenuity. Your life force. That still requires your free will.”
“You figure?” I said, standing up to go. “My answer is no. Go find some other pawn on your chess board of world domination. I don’t want any part of it. In fact, I just want to forget about this whole goddamn thing as if it’s a bad dream.”
Butterini looked at me with a slightly crooked smile.
“We can do that. We can make you forget the whole thing, and we will. But not until you’ve had some time to think over our offer. Alfon?”

Epstein pulled some papers from the briefcase and slid them across the table toward me. I glanced at them. It was an employment contract with the salary printed in bold at the top. The numbers took my breath away.

“Nice, yes?” Butterini said. “And the benefits are just as rich. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, Corey, a once in a lifetime chance to make certain Simon is used for good and not evil, and for you to live a life of unimaginable wealth and power. Please don’t be rash. I want you to think about this opportunity very, very carefully.”

“Herr Doktor,” Epstein interrupted, gesturing toward the screen at the front of the room. “You and your guest will want to see this.”
The woman in yellow had returned to her seat. She was carrying a Budweiser beer in one hand and a Snickers candy bar in the other.
Butterini turned to me with a knowing glance.
“My answer is still no,” I said, turning to the door, but privately, I was not sure.
Butterini was silent for a moment.
“Very well,” he finally said. “Ms. Fischer will show you out. Thank you for your time.”
I put my hand on the door.
“Oh. One last thing, Corey. What kind of beer do you like?”
I looked at Butturini and Epstein like they were dog shit, said nothing, and walked out.

My mind reeled on the flight back to Seattle. Did I believe what I had just seen? Was it real, or was it just a really bad dream? How much of what I was doing now, or had been doing, was of my own choice, and how much of it was fucking Simon pulling strings in the background of my life? I recalled a book I’d read in college called Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who postulated that none of the decisions we make are actually our own. They are all made for us.

“Maybe Wilson is right,” I thought as I stared out the plane’s portal at the darkness outside. I ordered a vodka martini from the steward, and then another. “At least I can drink what I want to,” I thought.

It was dark and raining in Seattle when my plane touched down. I caught an Uber home, took the elevator to my flat on the eighth floor, flipped on the lights, and kicked off my shoes. I scrounged through the fridge for food. Nothing. I found a can of chili in the cupboard and tossed it in a pan. Soon the smell of ground beef and spices reached my hungry nostrils. “I want beer with this,” I thought. “Tuborg beer. In a bottle.”
I tore myself away from the thought.
“No! It’s them. It’s those motherfuckers controlling me.” But then I began to rationalize.
“No. Come on, Corey. It’s just beer,” I said to myself. “You like beer with chili. There’s a convenience store just two blocks away. Go get yourself some beer and stop being paranoid.”
I turned the heat off the chili and put on my shoes and rain jacket. Soon enough I was searching the market’s beer cooler for Tuborg in bottles. No luck.
“Got any Tuborg?“ I asked the store clerk.
“Nope,” he said without looking up.
Suddenly I didn’t want Tuborg anymore. I wanted Budweiser.
“Fuckers!” I screamed, pushing my hands to my temples. “Motherfuckers!”
I ran out of the store, leaving the bewildered clerk behind me. I ran through the rain to my apartment.
“No,” I said. “I won’t let them.”
I opened the door and walked inside.
“No. I won’t let them.”
I went into my bedroom and unlocked my gun cabinet.
“No. I won’t let them.”
I walked out onto my balcony and looked up at the night sky. The rain soaked my face.
“No. I won’t let them.”
I placed the barrel of my 0.38 revolver into my mouth and pulled the trigger. The top of my head blew off in a geyser of blood and brain matter. My body toppled over the railing and fell eight stories down to the concrete below.

My spirit hovered above my dead body. I had let them, but now I was free, truly free. As my spirit moved higher and higher, I felt sorry for the body I was leaving, and for the billions of humans still trapped in robotic prisons of flesh and bone, avatars of a force they cannot see or even begin to understand.

Maybe I could’ve been a force for good with Tarteur, but none of that mattered to me now. I was going elsewhere with other things on my mind.

###

Books by Brant

Newly Published!

For Christmas 2018, my brother, a pilot with American Airlines, gave me a gift that became the experience of a lifetime: 12 months of free travel anywhere American Airlines flies.

Thus began a year long journey that took me from the rocky coasts of Portugal, to the hot sands of Morocco, to the mangrove swamps of Panama, with many places beyond and between. In cheap hostels and the backwaters of the nomadic milieu, I discovered a treasure chest of colorful and fascinating people. I tell their stories and a bit of my own.

The trip became as much a spiritual and emotional journey inward as it was a literal outward one, and found me in a place those of you who are in the second half of life are likely to recognize.

With references to the philosophies of Carl Gustav Jung, Jesus, Bob Dylan, and the Buddha, Blue Skyways is an international romp by a man in his 60’s with not much more than a pack on his back, and still much to learn.

A suspense/thriller novel!

When a university student uses advanced software to analyze dreams from around the world, he discovers odd, unexplainable patterns in the data. Where one dream ends, another begins…even though the dreamers are strangers. Unique objects appear in one person’s dream and reappear in another's.

The patterns form a map pointing to an ancient, lost object, but when the student is mysteriously murdered, his deadbeat brother and estranged wife embark on an international race to recover the map's buried treasure. Along the way, the troubled couple are opposed by dark forces of the religious underworld, who launch a global pandemic to ensure the map's secret remains lost forever.

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