Bonus Short Story: One May Change Everything

He was stoned– baked out of his mind actually. He’d been smoking weed for near on four-hours straight from a two-foot water bong. It gurgled every few seconds with heady hits. The stink of skunk was as pungent as the smoke was visible. He’d chonged out the room long ago, was only keeping the rhythm going now so as not to dissipate the fish-bowl haze that had replaced the room’s O2 content.

Most would have said he was a burn-out; that living on a modest inheritance and legal settlement from a hit and run wasn’t living at all. He disagreed. He’d been run over by a car, had all of his ribs broken, both his legs, and one of his wrists. At the time he was nineteen. By twenty, he’d been in traction six weeks, spent another year learning to write, walk, and jerk-off again. The only thing that had gotten him through the boredom was the legal work and bowlfuls of grass. He’d had it hard, and defied anyone whom said otherwise.

He liked his life, enjoyed what he had, and never took more than he needed. He was grateful for all he was given, wanted only to get baked, play video games, and “keep on keepin’ on.”

He was at his latest boss-fight when the air around him began to stir. He didn’t notice it under the darkened lights that kept his aching eyes from throbbing; he’d beaten the game three times already– a seventy-hour epic saga of the life of a former bounty-hunter turned vigilante– but he’d also played his entire library two and three times over too. With a minute budget that only allowed for one game a month around necessities like rent, food, and an ounce of Hawaiian Green, he had to stretch each game as far as it would go, and did.

But he was content in the notion– even as the smoke swirled and a shadow began to encroach on his vision. His mind was focused, mouth-half open and droopy eyes centered ahead. The smoke snaked in front of him from the ingress of something through its presence. He swatted the thickest puffs away with a quick dismissal, unaware of the shadow that phased in and out beside him.

The faint flicker of a reflection caught his eye. Had his head not turned to see himself flicker in and out of form on the adjacent couch, he might not have believed it was real. Instead, his doppelganger solidified with a curious look at his hands. His mouth fell open as the “You Are Dead” screen appeared beside him.

His doppelganger relaxed back into the couch with a heavy sniff of the air, “Wow. Man, I haven’t smelled that in years.”

His eyes focused through the smoke at himself while he involuntarily swallowed, “Wh-what the fuck?” The continue screen appeared but he was too focused on himself, “Ar-are you… me?”

The doppelganger laughed, “You wish.” He took another deep whiff of the air, “Or maybe I do… Anyway, we’re not the same person, not really.”

“B-but, you’re… me, right?”

The doppelganger, “In blood and name– Curtis J–”

“Porter,” he said with a breathless finish.

He replied with a nod, “Right, but you should know better than anyone, a person’s more than their name and DNA.” The double sensed perplexity across the television’s beam of light. “That’s just where we start. We’re all born ninety-percent the same, but our experiences as we grow are what define us.”

The real Curtis’ eyes glazed over. He blinked hard, unstuck his tongue from his dry mouth. “S-sorry, I’m not… what’s this all about? Why am I– we, here?”

His doppelganger leaned toward him across the coffee table, “Because something went wrong in this place. Here and now. Something inside us changed. And with it, the world changed too. Now, I’m here to ensure things go as they’re supposed to.”

He shook off his dull ardor for complete disbelief, “You’re nuts. What could I possibly do, or not do, that would change the world?”

He watched himself from across the table as his left eye squinted with familiar skepticism, “There are people and places that rely on you to be present in order to nudge future events toward their destined path.”

Real Curtis’ eyes were flat-out wild now, “You’re nuts.” He stood to piss, followed by his phantom self toward the bathroom. It stood in the door jamb as he relieved himself, “Christ dude, invade privacy much?”

“You don’t understand,” he said with a shake of his head. “But how could you? You’re baked out of your fucking mind all the time and all you think about’s fucking video-games.”

He shook out the last few drops, flushed the toilet, “Hey man, fuck you. Don’t go blaming me for your nut-job fantasies.”

He made to walk past himself, was frozen by a cold hand that clasped his shoulder. His own eyes looked at him with a fury he wasn’t sure he’d ever possessed. “You have no fucking idea how important you are.”

Curtis’ vision suddenly went black. Images of rallies and protests outside corporate buildings and state houses appeared.

His doppelganger growled through his teeth, “You’re supposed to be there when it starts to crumble.” Crowds marched, pumped fists in the air rhythmically with distorted chants. “You’re meant to be on the front-fucking-line of a war for freedom– the final war.” Tanks began to roll forward from close, wide angles along city streets packed with protesters. “You’re supposed to be the voice of logic and reason in a new world.”

Curtis was ready to pass out. His head swam as names and dates, and countless vids and images flooded his brain from places and events that had yet to take place. He swayed on his feet.

His own voice was muddy through waters of confusion, “You are meant to be the General in a war that will end with one side eradicated or the other enslaved, forever.”

People rioted in the streets, attacked the tanks en-masse. Their guns smoked. Explosions shook the silent movie-reel. Some people managed to climb atop a tank, wrench its hatch open to drag out its crew. The vehicle turned on the others. More explosions, shaking scenery. Jets rocketed past over head.

“You’re meant to be there,” he said as his vision went black. “To lead the free against their oppressors and take the world back.”

He fell backward, head spinning. His head hit the floor as his vision narrowed to a black cone. His face loomed over him from his doppelganger. Its last words struggled to breach the static of his waning consciousness, “You cannot fail. A thousand men may never change a thing, while one may change everything. You are one.”

His vision went black. Silence engulfed him. In a blink he was once more awake, face hovering over the bong for another hit as the boss-battle began again. He swallowed hard, hit pause to slide the bong across the table. After a moment of aimless steps he found himself before the sliding glass doors of his twelfth floor apartment. They opened, gave passage to his balcony in the sun of a rising morning he once more saw from the wrong side.

He stepped to the balcony’s edge, breathless. Beneath him, the city sprawled outward like a patchwork quilt of humanity composed of all grays and whites. The bits of color were few, far between.

He wasn’t sure what the hell had happened. He’d been baked before, but somehow this was different, more than just a stoned daydream. He felt a tickle at the back of his skull, pulled his hand away to see blood.

“One may change everything,” echoed through his head like a whisper on wind.

But where to begin, and how?

He looked from the crimson on his finger-tips to the drab city. Color seemed as good a start as any. However he was meant to change the world it would start there. He swallowed hard, relaxed, and turned away to begin.

100th Post Bonus Story: Tearing Down the Wall

Riven was a seventeen year-old kid. He had that Berlin-punker look that had been lost sometime in the 1980’s then re-discovered decades later by a new-wave of punk and rebellion. He was all decked out in leather, denim and flannel with studded shoulder-pads and three-inch spikes gelled into his bright pink hair. The term Misfit might have fit him, were he not usually surrounded by a crowd of similarly-clad punkers like him. Like them, his face was a perpetual sneer, accented by gauged ears and piercings any where they’d fit along his face. It was said he had more metal in him than an android.

It had become commonplace in the last couple years for the more counter-cultured youth to trend toward Riven’s lifestyle. In itself, it was the pinnacle of excess; an extension of the peaks of great rock-icons and their most offensive acts. But where Townsend trashed hotel rooms, and thirty-years later, their cultural offspring like Cobain smashed guitars and live-sets, Riven and the others took things to their logical, next step. Riots were common wherever the neo-punkers gathered, usually dispersed only after days of wild amphetamine and booze-filled destruction.

It was admirable, in a way. The kids like Riven had been threatening to “fight the man” and “bring chaos to the system,” since roughly time began. That was the way with teenaged rebellion, a sort of cataclysmic byproduct of the child-ego learning it wasn’t special, and its dreams more than likely weren’t coming true. Where most would have sunken deeper into hormone-fueled angst though, Riven and the others like him did something astonishing; they suppressed it into a ball, formed a core of outrage against the wrongs in the world. Most importantly, they unleashed it at the people they felt were most responsible for it; cops, governments, men and women on Wall-Street in suits.

The targets of their rage were often society’s elite, the upper echelon of what humanity had to offer even if it seemed lame in comparison to its aggressors. Those elite though, were cowards. They were too concerned with profit-margins, power-trips, and corporate bottom-lines or banging their secretaries and bosses to fight the aggression first-hand. They were weak, fawns to the proverbial wolf-pack that Riven represented. Such is the nature of the strong, the truly powerful, to prey upon the weak.

“Tearing Down the Wall” was a movement arranged by the few, level-headed anarchists inside the neo-punks. A reference to the literal end of the Cold War, a conflict fought for the minds and hearts of the two-greatest super-powers’ citizens with words and clandestine actions rather than all-out war. It seemed apt to the metaphorically minded. With little more than word of mouth to spread the date and time, a few thousand punkers– Riven included– managed to form a new-age Woodstock in the center of wall-street in New-York.

For a while, things were peaceful. The NYPD couldn’t help but shut down the trading buildings, cordon off the area, and let the mayhem inside carry on in its drug-fueled, screeching distortion, and sex-crazed way. Wall-Street became freak capital USA in mere hours. People from all around the world showed up over the course of a week to party, fuck, and fight. NYC’s mayor, too afraid of a riot to risk dispersing the crowds, gave orders for the police to hold their lines and not break ranks. They were smart enough to hold to his orders, for a while at least.

The various news stations played vids and on-site reports of the chaos along “The Wall” night and day. The twenty-four coverage drove their ratings through the roof. Advertisers scrambled to pay higher fees to have their commercials show-cased at the peak ratings hours. The media corps made out like bandits, and the advertising agencies nearly bankrupted more than a few, major companies whose marketing budgets rampaged out of control.

Then the unthinkable happened– or rather, the statistically-obvious happened.

There was something to be said of the new Woodstock and how, despite the untold numbers of drugs and genitals used, the anarchists managed to contain themselves as long as they did. In retrospect though, everyone on both sides knew it couldn’t last forever. The stock markets had already taken a nose-dive, and more than a few people had lost more money than they could stand to live with. Most ate the ends of pistols or full pill-bottles before the week was out.

It was the night of the sixth day since they’d begun to tear down the wall. Riven and a few pals were doped up, boozed-out, and smoking near a line of riot-gear clad cops. In as few words as possible, one of those cops was a hot chick who’d more them more than a look or too. Anarchy is that way for some, especially the ones embedded in the system. It’s like a drug, even more-so than the drugs themselves. It was a dangerous and rampant, youthful energy that most neo-punkers embodied. It made them appear as immortals, each a high-lander ready to die by the sword for the cause. More than a few men and women outside joined their ranks for even small tastes of the power they exuded.

That cop joined too, broke ranks when Riven and his pals pulled and coaxed her out to the chaos. Either from fear or jealousy, one of the other riot cops didn’t like it. Cue the melee as the hot-chick’s colleagues rushed Riven and the others with batons and shields. It didn’t take more than a minute, literally, for the crowd along The Wall to surge, break its melange of insanity, and join in the brutality.

Tear-Gas was launched, but most were so drugged it didn’t matter. Nothing could stop the madness that had brewed, waited for just this type of even to explain. Before the end of the night, Wall Street was a bath of blood, fire, and rage. There were never any official numbers released, but it was well-known that hundreds on both sides were dead. It was even more well known that somehow the National Guard had been called out to contain the situation. Thousands of drug-crazed, insanely-righteous and pissed off people were given a literal keg of explosives in the form of a National Guard convoy.

Like most, Riven made it out of The Wall a few days later, more broken and bruised than before. The intervening time and its effects though, made it all the more worth it. No-one’s quite sure how, though their always prepared to point fingers elsewhere, but The Wall was torn apart. Literally. The anarchists had managed to secure a load of non-lethal explosives from the Guard convoy entrenched on the outskirts with guns at the ready. Combined with some convenience store products, and good, old-fashioned know-how, they constructed real, lethal bombs.

At roughly five AM on the seventh day, a half-block of Wall-Street was collectively leveled from detonated, home-made explosives. There hadn’t been such carnage seen in NYC since the Towers fell decades earlier. The hundreds dead and wounded from the destruction joined the victims of the brawl with the riot-cops and the Guard. Before the end of the day, The Wall was unrecognizable. Not a single building escaped unscathed. And just as they had arrived, most of the punkers– bleeding or not–filed back to the woodwork and disappeared.

Among them were Riven with his hot-chick cop, and couple buddies, bruised and bloodied from the brawl, but alive– the damage wasn’t anything more booze or drugs couldn’t handle.

In the end, the US market crashed, the Global economy tanked, and most if not all everyone felt it. In the midst of the chaos that ensued, those sophisticated, Elitist humans became more animal than anything. Meanwhile, spurred by the Punkers ways, the rest have took to their own kinds of anarchy, where a curiously-peaceful, almost Utopian coexistence has arose.

Funny to think all it took was tearing down the Wall.