by Luigi A. Rodriguez //
TW: suicide, violence, sexual harassment
“Things gotta change, yo.” – Iris
The sound of music, dancing bright bokeh lights, soft summer breezes; automated homes equipped with black mirrors that reflect sparklets, which shine off the sanguinary freckles: a corpse lies on the ground and a hole the size of half a dollar coin exudes ichor from his gore ridden face. His home was one of the most beautiful on the block. I don’t seem to remember his name right now. Sadly, I don’t think I ever knew his name. Ironic that I sold him the very same house.
Sirens can be heard from a mile away. The station is just down the boulevard. People rushed over from their walking distances after witnessing first-hand suicide.
I saw the commotion from my window. It was the second most surreal experience of my life. I knew that gun was a bad sign, he always seemed to enjoy scratching his head with that thing. I feel somehow responsible for his death, yet my logic tells me that it was inevitable. He was eccentric and distant to the point of being insufferable.
The noise of helicopters flying above my house is being drowned out by the smart home technology. Sigh. I should go outside to get a better view. At this point in the scene, agents in perfect alabaster suits were on location, asking citizens their take on the matter. From what I gather, this guy had a real problem and couldn’t adapt to this simulacral world—it’s kind of strange he didn’t ask for help. Although, life on this strange rock is rather tiresome and repetitive. Sometimes I believe that all human life amounts to is artificial work that benefits no one but the elite. We say eat the rich, but it’s the other way around. We thank them for creating the streets and eliminating societal trash, but we don’t see the implications of societal problems. I was told by my mother to stop thinking so hard but that’s an old way of thinking. Strong women think.
The guy was beginning to clot and start the onset stages of rigor mortis. The Mayor arrived; he’s an old albino man that oozes privilege and wealth. What’s really disturbing about this scenario is the enforced fascism. It goes without question that we should fear and obey the Mayor. It’s almost comforting to know that there’s nothing we can do in the eyes and power of true capitalism in all its humane, crushing ways: embodied in one of its entities that attempts to pass itself off as human. His presence is enough for one to want to commit suicide. I guess some things you can do—some can’t be done.
Sadly, I too am semicidal. Not because I’m a weak person, it’s just that I’m tired, tired of living in a world where evil people sin and we, the ‘good’ people, let it happen. I’m also tired of taking these antidepressants. Anywho, the dementia-ridden Mayor is the fall guy for this series of experiments conducted under the wholly-owned conglomerate subsidiary of Apple Incorporated. He won’t stay long. Sadly, we sold this perfect idyllic slice of golden-era America. The whole American dream is packaged and mass produced in the form of vintage smart homes. ihomes. The primordial Steve Jobs would be proud. It’s a place where crime and poverty don’t exist through the implementation of the most sophisticated technology. The mechanics and techniques are essentially 21st century. Looking to the past, we were able to move forward by utilizing ideas used solely to entertain; mainly implemented in amusement parks. However, it wasn’t until we found old schematics and designs of Disney operated property homes. Now, by combining the archaic tools, we’ve built this monument to plutocracy.
We’ve made sure to eliminate all remaining traces of criminal activities and all that associated with it such as: trash, vagraints, graffiti, drugs. A self-governing town separate from the Federal government. Ironically that’s the problem; imposed perfection can become detrimental to the human mind. Nothing’s worse than being born without a purpose, but being told a purpose is meaningless in a perfect place such as this. Futile in all senses of the word. Trash is hauled away at Mach one speeds via underground transit tunnels, then burned as fuel to maximize electrical output. Children are brainwashed into wholesome creatures via the educational facilities implemented for the workers. Mainstream non-offensive music is constantly pumped out by our other corporate entities in the record(s) industry. The entire town is isolated from outside television programming and we control the broadcast airways. Through live television, we can broadcast shows and films on the spot, then never replay them again. We own all online streaming services and other media sources outside the town(s) regardless. It’s insane how delusional people are. Volition is a complete illusion.
The delightful smells blasted about town can be exceptionally draining. They’re supposed to make the people docile, but my hypothesis suggests that it’ll just make us go mad. Everyone’s in a panic, the sweet smell of cookie dough continues to rise, the people must forget what they’re looking at. Not for their own psychological well being, for bad word of mouth, bad publicity. This is supposed to be a place of idyllic merriment, but that contradicts human nature. In all honesty, I don’t know how to tackle this situation, the cocksuckers upstairs are going to want a specific stratagem to keep people in the town from talking… or worse… Thinking.
If I think the operations of this town are absurd, then what would the people think? They’d revolt. Sadly, common people don’t read contracts and don’t realize they’ve signed their rights away. If they ever realized how useless their Apple Pay credits are in the outside society. Financially isolated as well; upon completion of the various exams and forms required to gain an opportunity to enter a raffle that may lead to an application process for a house in the town. All the proper loopholes and exploitation of information for ulterior means. Complete subjugation of symbolic and physical capital.
The citizens shouldn’t be. Goddamn it, they’ve started to take pictures. My door opened on subconscious command. Before reaching the exit, I threw on my midi length vanta black lab coat that hung on the rack. I hurried and shouted: “Fuck off! ABI!” The citizens stared at me with a beam so content, most people turned around shuffled off without question, but one remained. He looked at me with a large grin saying: “Look at the blue flowers and green lights glow. It’s all so wonderful.”
My voice attempts to fall to the lowest pitch, “Leave, or be detained without any natural rights.” Flashing my I.D badge.
“What rights do you have left to take?”
The citizen still smiling walked backwards: Russell Jones, he lives up the street. Make note to check his files for information. I thought he was going to stop or turn around but he kept stepping back. It was abnormal. He did this long enough that the coroner and law enforcement had time to set up a perimeter.
The meds we prescribe are useless, sometimes I think they facilitate the onset stages of mental illness which is why I doubled my dosage; to keep the sparring minds guessing. The flashing lights behind me reminded me to assess the suicide. I turned and found a crew of five in white suits staring at me. The closest to my seniority was Jenni Diaz, from the ABI academy, she uttered: “What’s with the kook?”
“I don’t fully understand. Perhaps a possible growing suspicion of strange behavior arises out of the people here in this town.”
“How’d you figure that, ma’am?”
“Oh, I don’t really know. Truly I don’t.” I walked closer to the body: “Living here.” I kneeled down: “Maybe.”
The four other agents starred in patience for their chance to speak. “How long have you been in?” She walked a bit closer. “Twenty-nine months.” I took out my iPad to take notes.
“Is it as monotonous as they say?”
Flashing lights from various L.E.D cubes delivered enough lumens to illuminate an entire mile distance.
“It is all that and more. If my goal was to create an ecologically stable community where people are deprived of freedom and coerced into indentured servitude with no access to altered mental stimulation, then yes, it is most fucking montonous.”
Walking closer to the corpse.
“Okay-fine, keeping in mind that I’m your subordinate, but just me and you. If your assumptions are plausible, why continue to subject yourself to this schizophrenic imprisonment?”
“Personal reasons, mostly.”
This conversation is going to head in a bad direction. In lack of care for the dialogue, I got a closer look at the half-dollar sized hole in the man’s face by hovering over his body.
“Certainly everything is, but to continue this way of living is suicide, Ma’am.”
“Survival is suicide. All we are are suicidal beings. Perhaps society is the problem, with our facilitation, to realize that life is not about living day to day in the capitalist sense. Natural life is about surviving. At any cost to exist. Without that—that need to face death and prevail even if it means definite disfigurement or disablement. Nietzsche’s—what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; however, another philosopher added the argument that although that is true, true indeed, survival makes us simply… stranger. A significantly poignant reason when we awake to brush our teeth, we are confronted by the stranger in the mirror. Survival is and was our only purpose. Now, without it. Well… this is what we got.”
Certainly not the answer Diaz was hoping for but it is relevant to the conversation. That much is true. In expectation for a response, I finished my examination of the corpse and stepped over him again to search the nearby vicinity.
“Madam.” Diaz called out as she followed: “It seems that this place might be getting the better of you. I don’t want to suggest your cognitive faculties are compromised. That’s something you have to consider yourself. Just don’t want you to experience any similar side effects of this town. The results-”
“I am aware of the results and all that accompany it.” A surprisingly small caliber shell casing. “And, Deputy I am also sure, you and your subordinates have briefed my dossier in preparation for this operation. Besides, the devil may care what comes about from these series of experiments. Now… What information have you ascertained?”
The man was staring into the abysmal sky devoid of thought: collapsed synapses coagulated around his shattered skull.
“Nothing too telling, a simple non-violent suicide; I’d have to continue my investigation for motive or pyschological history.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, your analysis is complete enough for your underlings to do the footwork, you should take the free time to visit your loved ones.”
“Vacation? Ma’am wouldn’t that upset the old men upstairs?”
“At this point in my career, it doesn’t matter a thing to me, all the research to better serve a cold calculated corporation. I’d rather resign.”
“Then, why continue on with these crimes against humanity?”
“Why not is a sufficient enough answer. Which is to say the exact same answer given to us when we ask our parents the simple question: ‘Why do I exist?’”
Diaz started to question my thinking, sadly, she doesn’t know that I do this to expedite my encounters with people. Diaz hadn’t said a word yet; this was my opportunity to further investigate. All around, the darkness began to settle for the night, temperatures dropped even further. Moisture began to collect throughout the vicinity. I found no other pertinent information during my leisurely amble. Neon lights from the townsquare blare in the background behind us. The company vehicles started to fog up. Mist crept onto the scene. The surrounding forest trees give breath to atmospheric haze and claustrophobia.
“You know what’s interesting, ma’am?!”
This caught me by surprise.
“There are no restrictions barring you from leaving the town. You’re not a citizen here. So why bull shit? This isolation you’re doing to yourself is bad for mental health and someone like you knows that, so, you’re going to tell me the fuck’s up?”
She had me stumped.
“Diaz, if I told you some things are classified and that others are personal. You should consider your line of questioning. I understand you see yourself as an associate. A close one at that. Despite it all, if I were to divulge my essence as in who I am, you’d be lost for words. I believe we are closer than associates, so I’ll tell you this: I am shaping hurt… Shaping hurt for myself and everyone here under the employment of Apple incorporated, and sadly… there’s nothing I can do… and believe me. Shame takes hold.”
While telling her this, I noticed the same smiling man from earlier, he was standing out in the distance. These people are starting to irritate me, perhaps Diaz is right.
“Diaz, gather your men and finish the investigation; tomorrow I will be going to town hall. The mayor has gotten word of this; nevertheless, I do believe him and his cronies don’t fully comprehend the homicides let alone the suicides.”
There was no response from Diaz, she did as I ordered, without question. Sometimes I think there too lies the problem. Even if this edict was neutral, what if it wasn’t? Honestly, we all work for the same draconian corporation.
The next morning, everything ran clockwork again, no one seemed to care. Who could blame them? I certainly didn’t. That was the problem with this town. Having just walked off my doorstep, Diaz’s conversation was still fresh in my mind, manly because it was all true. This town is suffocating. From the perfect ihomes to the perfect main street. Everything was perfect about Celebration, the name itself captures the ideal pretentiousness of the corporation’s intent. Love to the point of celebration.
“Morning!” A random homeowner shouts.
A reason for my growing hatred of this place is the guidelines. Totalitarian in all its glory. They coerce everyone with fines and penalties if there is violation. Too many and you lose the house. I’ve always hated the tasteless designs of the buildings, a trite rendition of early 2000s Americana, the mediocre architects let me down. The black mirrors and solar panels reflect everything that walks by. All around the citizens were tending to their homes. Making sure it’s all within ordinates. The houses are so clean it’s insane. Immaculate yet disgusting. Makes me wonder who owns who. Big home and all alone. Popular but unknown. A proper summation of all the inhabitants and their lives.
Convenience. That was one of the main intentions when creating this place. Everything was within walking distance. Goddamn it, I can hear the Disney licensed music from here, better put in the noise canceling earplugs. The town shopping square was the heartland mecca pumping with life and neon lights. All the simulacral storefronts used to make the citizens believe they’re living in the real world. There’s no liquor stores, no department stores, no gas stations, no name brand fast food. We picked a location far from any city or town: complete isolation. The eerie nature of a complacent place where people chose to escape reality with a wholesome misrepresentation. Diaz was right: this is a town where people come to die.
Passing my way through the colorful upscale sprawl; an overwhelming sensation of melancholy set in. A feeling not experienced since my youth. The dark looming cloud that dampens me with ephemeral misery caused by blissful content that emanates from nearby families. Broken men and women hoping to live in a delusion that harbors them the pain which is found in that sliver best defined as actuality. Nothing has been real ever since humans decided to reenter Plato’s allegorical cave. There goes the Roomba T-1000, the best automated vacuum the military can buy.
Reaching town hall, I walk towards the empty parking lot that no one uses, there’s a company entrance not accessible to the public. When you reach the door, it falls into a staircase, descend down to find a long narrow stretch that leads to various offices and rooms. Right at the end of the hallway is the Mayor’s office.
Once at his door, I walked in, the secretary had no way of apprehending my arrival.
“Hey! Shit—Aw…damn it!” She arises from her seat.
Inside the office, the Mayor was watching an old obsolete plasma screen television, something I hadn’t seen…
“She stormed in, I’m sorry, I’m- and what the hell’s your problem? You can’t just barge in on Celebration pro-”
“Leave us, she has the authorization to be here.” A dry baritone voice from the hallway floated in. The dinosauric device rattled a repressed part of my mind.
“Of course, Mr. Vanderbilt, apologies.” The secretary scurries out of the room.
“Mr. Town Manager, good to see you’re looking as sycophantic as ever.” The young privileged offspring of the Mayor’s son dressed in his oppressive red suit.
“Madam, I’d watch your throat. The last time I checked the ABI, my father was Deputy Director.”
“Very parasitic and astute, boy; however, it seems your memory is hazy. Either that or you really are that intellectually inferior because your father and I are equally valuable to the board. Now, does anyone remember who’s up for an evaluation? Hmmm? No, if I were you, I’d get your father to juke the stats.”
His grandfather sat at his desk, watching old cartoons, reruns of Loony Toons.
“Stupid bitch. I’m in charge here. Grandad has no power, he just signs papers, I set everything up. Make deals. Lineup appropriate measu-”
“You sit around here, same as your grandfather doing nothing, getting a seven figure salary for being born into your family.” I took out a cigarette from my jacket. “This is something that you don’t want to hear, but know this: I will initiate the paperwork to terminate Celebration,” lighting the cigarette.
“That’s preposterous… but go ahead, the town’s a success in the eyes of Apple; they’d never allow it… Alright…” He’s losing composure. “Alright, look bitch. All you’re gonna get is a simple resounding unanimous: why?” He’s not lying. “Valid… But, why? Why? Because you put in the paperwork?”
“Grandad has more pull here than you and he can’t get that shit done. Believe me. At this point, the directors won’t shut it down and even if they could, they’d just sooner sell the property to another co-op. They’ll continue the operation; same as usual.”
“Aware of that, yes, but in the mean ti-”
“Mean time? What?! What are you gonna do?” He took a step closer. “Go whistleblower?” Another noticeable step in my personal space.
“Nobody. Look, and I literally mean nobody will give one flying fuck about what’s going on here. Y’think anyone gives a shit about professionals being exploited? They’re the new poor, now, no one gives a fuck.” His toxic masculine smerk.
“Also, hey, did you fuck’n forget? These towns are to repair the planet, not save people. Save the earth; save ourselves. What? What? You thought they went with the experiment because you made up the bright brilliant idea to invest in a master planned community. Thought you could make a place to erase the traumatic past. No? You wanted to save the earth’s atmosphere so we don’t over copulate and die of fear.”
Plumes of smoke filled my lungs—dragging on the cigarette to remember who I am. The inhalation ripped the microcapillaries and stretched my organs: the burning pestilence of memory.
“On the plus side, believe me, the suicides and homicides are not a problem. The faster they kill themselves the better. This is our world, they’re just living in it.”
This idea of his immolated my mind in a place I haven’t felt since my youth. The ember razing the vanta black abysmal void in the recesses of my shadow-self.
The old man sat in silence, trying to get a better listen, trying to comprehend the absurdity. I walked up to the town manager. He leered at me with subconscious Freudian attraction.
“You finally gonna make use of that mouth or w-”
Driving the cigarette ember deep into his eye socket. Falling to the floor, he winced as the filtered tip stood bent attached to his retinas, moving about in the direction he darted his gaze.
“You don’t know me.”
I remember walking down the street near derelict and dilapidated buildings of South Central, Los Angeles; retro neon lights plastered around the neighborhood. Fluorescent glow in the dark graffiti in the shape of the Playboy™ logo illuminated the sprawl as I made my way over to the intersection. Shadows surrounded the vicinity, and again as usual, was little Omar. I hated him because he was the problem with us young people, he was around eleven, but acted twenty.
“Fuck y’want Omar?”
“I want you, na, what y’got?”
“Nothing for you. Plus you wouldn’t know what to do wit me even if you got it.”
His eyes always stares directly into my retinas, a trick he learned from his time on the streets, doing the evil acts that men do.
“Shit, I’d train you hard af bitch, I know you be open and wet.”
“Y’talk all big but y’know n’ everyone knows you got like a two inch dick. What y’gonna do with your tiny little baby dick pipe?”
“Man fuck you hoe, you’ll give it up, I’ll be up in that ass. Member, this playboys™
Bitch!” He just stood still as I kept walking on.
The problem with society is that it produces poverty and violence. Hoarding resources and limiting a fabricated idea of wealth; this creates social intersectionality. All along the concrete walls broken into terrorized sections. These factions arose from generations of crime families. It’s an unspoken thing that the Playboys™own this territory. It creates a community stagnated in a morally gray gradient. Then again, Los Angeles is a morally corrupt place where lost angels travel to die. Speaking of which, the idyllic neon color chromatic city lights blare on through the piercing spires and towers that claw at the sky. Blade Runner blues is the only way to describe it.
At the end of the block was a liquor store, my first occupation. There’s no better place to learn survival tactics than a chaotic, capricious environment. The streets were close knit by design, the area designated to socioeconomically segregate people of color, once gentrified; now, distraught like all the others. These high rise apartment buildings coerce the poor to the bottom—the rich to the tip top. Down here, this is all we got. I make nineteen dollars an hour, under the table, tax free. That’s not even minimum wage. However, it beats slangin rocks or prositiution. Plus, this place isn’t like it used to be. Besides, I got the heater for protection, a Vigilante .44 magnum. I also get free sodas and cup o’ noodles.
Late into the night, I restocked the fridge like always, there’s less people by closing. I was playing ‘1-800 Suicide’ by the Gravediggaz on the portable bluetooth boombox. It was a small local liquor store that served as the neighborhood supermarket. Everything in the ghetto was designed to keep people from escaping, there was everything we could ask for in a three mile radius. We sold: eggs, cereal, milk, dog food, water, cigarettes, blunts, weed, bread. Not to mention the titular liquor. The place was liminal and cramped with no modern features of the time. It was unkempt. I would try my best to keep the place appealing, but that wasn’t my job. ‘Survival of the Fittest’ by Mobb Deep started to play. Finishing price pointing, I walked over to the storage room where we break down boxes, there’s a doorway that enters the refrigerator. Before the store is closed, the refrigerator shelves must be filled with the precious alcohol. From behind the rows of lined adult beverages was a man grabbing a six pack of Modelo Negra. In response, I walked back into the cashier’s room, the refrigerator leading its way back.
Closing the fridge door, I walk over to the cash register, when I notice little Omar walking in. I didn’t say anything or acknowledge him.
In broken Spanish: “Va ser doce cincuenta.”
I walked over to the exchange hole in the bullet proof glass wall.
The tired looking Mexican man reached into his wallet.
DHAK! His exit spatter splashed against the glass. DHAK-DHAK. The bullet proof glass cracked around the heated molten slugs. I dropped to the floor. Through the transparent glass, Omar can be seen pilfering the dead man, robbing him of his hard earned paper and jewelry. Omar shoving his gold chains and wallet into his pocket.
“Empty the register bitch! Bitch open that shit!” Waving his gun at the hole. “Fuck outta here!”
He looks around.
“Told ya bitch, I’ma get some pussy, told ya bitch!” Slamming his open palm on the countertop. He walks toward the storage room. A quick quiet calmness. I stood up. I can hear his heavy footsteps stomp away. I can hear them distinctly round the corner. Pressing the police department notification trigger. “Fuck off Omar!”
“Omar’s coming yo!” The entrance refrigerator door slams open. Each step from then on became more significant—plainer and sweeter—cold echoes from a distraught child left behind.
“Please don’t open that door Omar! Just go home, I won’t tell the cops shit, just fuck off.”
“Omar’s coming on that ass, yo!”
He kicked the refrigerator door open.
A noise echoed throughout the ghetto. The sound of a magnum round is something beyond the normal layman’s comprehension. Its intended purpose was to kill elephants. When the hammer triggers the blast, it is so loud that it can be felt for miles.
His tiny insignificant head twisted from the immense pressure of being forced to burst and spurt out the sanguinary viscous liquid in the projectile’s direction. The .357 slug threw him back into the refrigerator room, his face flattened out, collapsing into itself—disappearing. Coating the nearby diameter in droplets of crimson iron ichor. Pulverized remnants of skull and cranial tissue dashed about. He slammed against a shelf full of beverages and everything that was described hit the ground all at once. The entire scenario must have lasted no more than a split second, but of course, humans have a way of distorting time.
I walked over. Each everlasting step closer to misanthropy and philanthropy. I opened the refrigerator door to see his convulsing corpse pour liters of bodily fluids. My brain asked: ‘who’s going to clean this shit up?’
So, I shot him two more times… the recoil broke my wrist. This is when shame takes hold.
Vanderbilt dragged himself on the floor. His grandfather couldn’t care less. PLAKA!
“You seem to forget who spearheaded this operation. With that comes information. As we all know in the twenty-second century, information is power.”
“Like the mail!” Shouted the old Alzheimer man. Vanderbilt tried to make his way over to his grandfather.
“By assessing the data I was able to extrapolate a proper scenario that could bring closure to Celebration. Some of these poor bastards here do have professions that can prove to be useful.”
Vanderbilt started to nod off. I shuffled over to kick him in the stomach.
“Don’t doze off now.” I kneel down to reach my arm out to meet his face. Sliding my fingers about his visage. His docile broken dehumanized smile. Reaching my fingers up to the cigarette to move it in the direction of my choosing. He cries out.
“There’s an intriguing citizen you should meet.”
“There he arrives now.”
“Why do this?” His good eye; trying desperately to comprehend survival.
“Earlier on you said professionals are the new poor, no one cares, well Mister Russell Jones does. You see, mister soon to be dead, some people suffer. Mr. Jones survived the war, found education, became a professional using the G.I bill. Leaving him inexorably here. Not everyone is born wealthy like you Mr. Vanderbilt, but ah… Yes, an answer to your question. Why not? Sometimes things gotta change, yo.” I slapped his face before rising. My newly made acquaintance barged in through the beautifully varnished maple wood doors armed with an M16 automatic rifle provided by me.
“Vanderbilt, this is Mr. Jones. He’ll be the end of you. As an added bonus to be sure, we’ve decided to leave your Alzheimer ridden grandfather alone because to reiterate… Why not… Now, Mr. Jones, if you would be so kind as to please do me the honors.”
“With all the power invested in me.” He raised his rifle at Vanderbilt.
I didn’t think to stay. Ambling through the maple doorway I could hear a familiar click-click trigger, then a hail of thunder. It was a quick spray: Vanderbilt didn’t suffer. He deserved it too, but didn’t.
The difference between him and Omar is that we didn’t have a chance in society. My position in the corporation was not to be expected of someone from my socioeconomic background. Vanderbilt had all the opportunities to make a better society. I suppose I did as well, perhaps, the systemic problems of society blind us from that epiphany. Simple: ‘Shame, the feeling that will save mankind.” Solaris-Tarkovsky. Up until now I’ve felt manipulated my entire life. Always determined to accomplish even if it meant destroying people. Anybody, without remorse. That led me to this inexorable moment. Suicide can be figuritve and literal but the former is the worst of the two. Dying at twenty-five but buried at eighty-nine. That’s the real tragedy. Life is too absurd to accept the things we can change. Perhaps, this may be the start of a better tomorrow.
Making my way up stairs; I thought about the dirty rain gutters that I hadn’t cleaned out yet.