Trouble in Paradise: January 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES - a talk with Phyllis

Mr. Ed wasn’t worried that Marty would send someone after him: he was still in the Moac state of mind, which meant that in his mind he was still in a city of a million souls and Martossa was simply on the outskirts. Even if there was something that he could be pinned on (which there wasn’t), he would have disappeared in the crowd by the time that the other person would have figured out that something wasn’t quite right. 
Besides, it seemed to Mr. Ed that this Marty-character had some skeletons rattling in his closet as well, which would be something that would keep him from doing anything erratic. He wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with that same kind of violent temper that sometimes couldn’t be contained. Then again, stranger things had happened.
Mr. Ed had made his decision: he would stick around for a while longer. He couldn’t exactly figure out though why, but he had this nagging feeling that there was some unfinished business here. It was the other thing that a business man like him just couldn’t stand: loose ends. They always meant an angle for another man to exploit.
In a way Mr. Ed’s decision to stay was something out of character, because he would never, ever, act without at least some sort of premeditation. It started to look to him like it was a late thing to start doing things that he normally wouldn’t do. First there had been the day when he had stayed in the hotel room and he didn’t do much. Now he decided to stick around in a slow town for no apparent reason. It almost made him think whether he indeed was getting old, like he was told not too long ago, or that he had become weak, or maybe both. 


Phyllis had read about the VR-world and the required VR-gear in September. She was instantly fascinated by the whole prospect of total immersion that it promised. When it went on sale in October she had bought a set of VR-gear on a whim. She had brought it along with her to West End Mansion in December, because she was sure that Jep would enjoy the new toy, although she was pretty sure that he already had one for himself. 
What she had ordered was just the basic set with the headset and the motion detectors. She had also seen the cage which is like an upgrade: you wear a harness and you’re suspended with a thick elastic that attaches to the lower back. Other, more loose elastics are attached to most other joints and the whole body is in a suit that has a thousand pressure points that give a very real sensation of touch and contact. Those same points can also provide heat and moist sensations. They are also sensors that read a person’s physiological responses that the AI of the VR tries to manipulate accordingly.
This was what the ad said: The Cage promises complete immersion and it can simulate anything, ranging from flying to being on ground in a combat simulation.


This is the shit,” Jep says when Phyllis showed him the set that she had bought, “I was one of the four thousand engineers, scientists, programmers, writers, anthropologists, biologists that worked on this project.”
The entertainment value is obvious,” Jep said, “But the whole project was funded by the joint space agencies: they will use the most advanced one to train astronauts for deep space missions.”
So being in a suit like this, it’s like touching those that are setting out to become the first settlers on Mars,” Phyllis said, “Pretty Cool.”
Yeah… I worked on the technical side of the suit,” Jep says, “You have like a thousand of those pressure points and they need to be wired in a smart way, because else you would end up with a thousand wires and you would end up looking like a roly-poly with that suit, not to mention that it would be like really heavy.”
We can’t have that,” Phyllis says, laughing.

Basically we just looked at the human body,” Jep says, “The nerve system doesn’t have that much wiring, but it still makes things work.”
It’s all group think,” Jep says, “We worked on it for over half a year, but by the end of it I can’t tell you that I did this or that. Apart from what I just told you.”

So you think you’ll get it to work?”
No problem,” Jep says, “The only thing is that the internet connection from here to the outside world is kind of bad from time to time.”
You mean that it will start to stick?”
Not exactly,” Jep says, “The audio is designed to stay intact at all times, but it’s just that other participants in the VR will become heavily pixelated: they will be reduced to a few large square cubes that have some magic in them.”
Going old school,” she says, “Or like a blind-date….”
It is,” Jep says, “Meeting people in the VR is just a start: think of the holo-deck in science-fiction movies. Just imagine:in some years every person can just have a VR-cage in their house and basically explore a whole new world.”


After the reunion on Rokset Island, Phyllis hadn’t used the VR-gear much. She played a game once, but she soon lost interest. 
The VR-therapy might be a whole other story and it had been advised by Jep for her to consider when she was in need to talk things through with a third person. She had never entered therapy before and at first she had been kind of reluctant to even consider it in the first place. At the same time, she thought that it might not hurt.


On Phyllis’ side it took a while to load, but once it had she entered a room in a high rise in a big city. It wasn’t Moac or anywhere close. This city looked more like a place in The West. She had never really been one for life in a big city: besides a vacation she wouldn’t be able to live in a place like that, if she had any choice.
There was no one in the room yet, so she walked to the window to look out and to look down. She was higher up than she had ever been. Looking down made her feel strangely queasy.
Miss Phyllis,” she hears from the far corner of the room, “You’re a blob, I’m afraid.”
You are too,” Phyllis says when she turns around, “You look like a character from anold computer game.”
I must say I get the same impression.”

I was told it has to do with our connection on Rokset Island,” Phyllis says, “If it unravels, it turns into, well: this.”
I see.”
Or not at all….”
We can still continue,” Mr. Ed says, “But it’s just that body language gives a lot of information. It will get us to open up or to close down.”

For a moment Phyllis asks herself whether she’s talking to a real person, but there’s something aboutthis guys’ voice that doesn’t sound artificial. There’s some sort of inhibition, like he’s keeping something back, but what exactly she can’t figure out as yet.
Well, I don’t have much experience with therapy and all that,” Phyllis starts, “But I just have some things that I need to talk through.”
Go on.”
I think it will seem to you like the basic life issues: what am I doing here, am I on the right path etc etc,” Phyllis says, “And then I had this reunion with a fewold friends and, well, it didn’t end well.”
How so?”
Someone died,” she says, “Not one of my friends, but someone at the New Years party.”
Where did you attend this party?”
Right here on Rokset Island.”

Mr. Ed leans back and he thinks of the session that he had with Jep and how it would be impossible to bring that up in this session. Phyllis saw the blob move andby the sound she could hear that Mr. Ed was probably sitting back.
I read about that one,” Mr. Ed says, “But I don’t knowall the details.”

Mr. Ed got Phyllis talking and he got her to reveal much more than she should have: she told the whole story about the history of West End Mansion, the story about AJ and his wive, the strange cowboy in the bar by the bay and finally what went down that New Year’s. She told all details, from the guy who yelled that they should get out of there, with almost everyone fleeing the estate, to the chase in the yard, how Jim got caught in a trap and how at one point they believed they saw the cowboy disappear into the night. 

Did any of you see that guys face?” Mr. Ed asks.
He was running from us,” Phyllis says, “But by the way that he moved we could easily make out that it was him. He moved like a guy who wasn’t too much into sports.”
How old was this guy?”
Not old old,” Phyllis says, “I would guess late 40s, but he certainly looked older than his age.”
I was just curious,” Mr. Ed says, “I mean, I read about it in the papers, but it just mentioned that there was something sinister about the whole thing.”

It looked like there was,” Phyllis says, “The girl had an incision in her neck and it looks like that’s where the killer had let her bleed dry. He must have caught the blood, because there wasn’t any on the scene.”
So there was this guy thatdressed up like a cowboy, and hekilled a girl and collected her blood?”
And he had set traps throughout the yard,” Phyllis says, “West End Mansion really wasn’t a good place to be: before we went there, we had all heard the spooky stories. Then my friend Tony dug up some more stories and then this whole thing happened. Can you imagine something like that?”

It’s then that the connection kicks back in and the blocks that made up Mr. Ed slowly turn into more blocks, then more blocks, until he’s sitting across from Phyllis in high definition. Her first thought is that this guy is a little creepy and that she wouldn’t have disclosed as much if she had seen him before. 
You are Mr. Ed?” she says, not really believing that a character like him can be listening to people’s personal and intimate problems.
That I am,” he says, “You sound surprised.”

It’s nothing,” she says, “I had cooked up a different kind of mental image.”
Phyllis thinks: why did I disclose all those details to this creep?

Mr. Ed sits back and he studies Phyllis. It gives her a kind of cold chill, because it feels to her that he’s doing more than just reading her.
It seems that we were getting side-lined just now,” Mr. Ed says, “What else did you want to discuss?”
Well,” she says, not sure whether she still wants to bring this up, “How long have you been a therapist?”
Why would you ask that?”
I don’t know,” she says, “Just a hunch, I guess.”

Quite a while,” Mr. Ed says, “Would it help if I turned back into a blob?”

Point taken,” she says, and she realizes that she needs to give this guy a second chance, “This one has been bugging me for quite some time…. After high school I went over the pond to study and I returned to Rokset Island right after.”
And how does that worry you?”
Well, I don’t know,” she says, “When I met with my old friends for a reunion it seemed that except for me and a friend, everyone that has left after high school has stayed overseas.”
And you worry about what could have been.”
Well, let’s see….” Mr. Ed says, while still thinking, “It’s tempting to compare our lives to those of others, but I have learned over the course of my life to compare myself less to others than I used to do.”
It’s a kind of self-defeat, because you’re not them and they will never be you. But I do understand this feeling that you could have made a different choice and how can you be certain that you made the right one.”

And now you’re going to tell me that we’re less free than we like to believe that we are, etc etc.”
In a nutshell,” Mr. Ed says, “I also live in the territories and this is where I have made my fortune. Were there times in the past when I asked myself whether I was doing the right thing? Sure. But it’s also about something else: you have to see things before you. By that I mean that you have to have this feeling that you have an honest shot at something great. And I have a feeling that you didn’t have that over in The West.”
And even if we live somewhere else our basic tendencies stay with us,” Mr. Ed says, “I think that a very contemporary theme is that we all want to chase boredom from our lives by planning an activity for every minute of our day. Do you believe that would be any different if you lived somewhere else? Or what about this existential abyss that we all face from time to time: how do we give meaning to our existence? All those questions are more about life than about a place where you live.”
What are you getting at?” Phyllis asks.
Bottom line: you will never be completely sure.”

Mr. Ed sits back some more and Phyllis feels more relaxed.
Now let me ask you something,” Phyllis says, “You made your fortune?”

Mr. Ed smirks, “I sure did.”
How does that work?”
You want to know whether I’m the real deal?”

Phyllis nods.
Whatcan I say?” Mr. Ed says, “I made it as a business man and let’s just say that this is my way of making amends.”

Phyllis sees something in the eyes of Mr. Ed: this guy did something bad.
Once in a while I mentor a group of people,” Mr. Ed says, “I figure I have something to give, since I have been very successful at what I do.”
You don’t think you need special training for this?”
For the extreme cases: yes, and that has to be a sort of calling, because I can imagine that’s like pouring juice down the drain, no offense,” Mr. Ed says, “I only talk to people like you and me.”

Phyllis thinks: people like you and me?
You did give me some things to think about,” she says, “I appreciate your honesty.”
You can call me Coach if you want,” Mr. Ed says, smirking, “Coach Ed.”

One question for you though,” Mr. Ed says in plotting voice, “If there was a 15 foot fence all around that property: how can you be so sure that the cowboy got away?”
Phyllis realizes that she never disclosed that information and she says in a soft voice, “I guess we will never know.”


Later on she convinces herself he must have read it in the papers, or that she might have told it after all. Or maybe there’s anaerialphoto somewhere online that shows all the property belonging to West End Mansion.


That night Mr. Ed plays a violent computer game: he shoots thugs for a few hours until sleep kicks in. 
Playing these kind of computer games was something else that he had picked up recently, after he had read something about mirror neurons. Playing the game tricks our brain into believing that we’re actually there and doing what the game character is up to. 

The effect was too weak though for Mr. Ed’s taste, but it did help him to bring back certain old memories. The sound-track came first:Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba bad to the bone….




Friday, January 18, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES - a talk with Marty

Mr. Ed had been in Martossa for three days, helping those that were in need of wisdom. There had been that young kid on Wednesday, then Thursday there was that young guy up in The West via the VR. Today there hadn’t been anything for Mr. Ed though: he had stayed locked up in the hotel room and hadn’t done too much. It wasn’t much like him to stay in and do nothing, but as it was, he had come from Moac and when the train had rolled into Martossa it had hit him that he was dead tired. 
Moac was the name of the big city with the hustle and bustle. It was a metropole by any traditional standard and it literally was far away from the small fisher man’s town by the name of Martossa that he had found himself in now. 
There was a rail connection between Moac and Martossa. It was a high speed connection with few stops in between, but still the travel took a good four hours. There was always a transition from the city scape, to the jungle outside, then the large plains that turned into deserts and finally another jungle, a good hour before the train would arrive in Martossa. 


When night fell Mr. Ed went out for a stroll and he ended up in some bar in the bay. It was a rugged bar and the bar keep kept a vigilant eye on Mr. Ed the minute he stepped in. Some people just have that strong intuitive understanding of other human beings and to the barkeep it seemed that Mr. Ed might be trouble. He was probably one of those that would much later refer to Mr. Ed as that monster on two legs. 
Mr. Ed took a seat at the bar and he had ordered a plate and a beer. There were about eight or nine lone warriors like him and they all ate their meals, while the juke box was blaring and they guzzled watery tap beer. Perhaps misfits was a more proper term for the likes of them. Or maybe they were all just men without women to keep them from destroying themselves. On the low tables there were a few couples, although to Mr. Ed it didn’t look like the kind of place where he would take his lady for a night on the town. 
The food was simple, but good: a steak that covered half the plate, some fries and a cob of corn. Mr. Ed took his time with his dinner, since he was always told that eating slowly promotes good digestion. When he was younger he took that as the sole reason why he wasn’t fat, but then later on he learned that it has more to do with not being a lazy ass, and with having lean genes. Mr. Ed couldn’t stand laziness.

After finishing his plate, Mr. Ed looked up to see if there was anyone to strike a conversation with. 
Cheers,” Mr. Ed says to the guy next to him.
Likewise,” the guy next to him says, “You had a good appetite there, chief.”
I did,” Mr. Ed says, “Must be the fresh air or something like that.”
It can make a man hungry indeed.”
It sure did,” Mr. Ed says.

Marty takes a look at Mr. Ed, to see if he knows him from someplace.
I’m not from here,” Mr. Ed says, as if reading Marty’s thoughts.
Import myself,” Marty says, “A little over ten years.”
That’s a good long time,” Mr. Ed says.
It is,” Marty says, “But it went by just like 1, 2, 3….”
When times are good, they usually do.”
They were,” Marty says, “I guess.”

You’re from the big city?” Marty asks.
Moac,” Mr. Ed says, “So it’s kind of a life-line to come out here when things get a little too hectic. But you must have heard that one before.”
Moac is one hell of a town,” Marty says, “I myself lived there for about five years. Five good years, but then at some point I was done with it: I had done enough boozing, I had picked up enough women, I had gone to enough parties.”
I get the feeling,” Mr. Ed says.
And there was nothing holding me there,” Marty says, “At least not that I can think of.”
You just got a place here and moved out?”
Sometimes it works just like that.”
I wish I could make a fresh start like that.”

Marty takes a sip from his beer.
Well, it wasn’t just thatsimple,” Marty explains, “The prices here are high, I mean, who wouldn’t want to live up here, right?”
On the coast, with beaches and more moderate climate than the big city: I can imagine.”
Little by little, you know.”

Mr. Ed isn’t too interested in those kinds of details.
Not much crime here either, I suppose.”
Break and entry, theft, that kind of thing,” Marty says, “Accidents.”

But it’s mostly rumors,” Marty says, “Every year we have some folks dying on the bends when they come up from the deep too fast, because there are no decompression tanks here. Some people drown when they go out for a swim. Some car crashes. We had an electrocution some years ago.”

In Moac those things aren’t really talked about, nor do they appear in the papers,” Mr. Ed says and he thinks it over, “In a way it’s like those kind of things never happened.”

And that’s just the thing:” Marty says, “Because these things aren’t talked about some crazy lunatic is more likely to go out on some crazy spree.”
You’re right,” Mr. Ed says, “Even though we have law and order, and they’re verythorough.”
You know, talk, stories: it tells us who we are,” Marty says, “The good and the bad, just like life itself: good and bad are a pair. And in a way stories about that inoculate us against doing those bad things ourselves.”
So that’s how it is with all the bad in the city?”
If you were to ask me….”

Mr. Ed takes a moment to think that statement of Marty over. Mr. Ed thinks: he’s oversimplifying.
You do know what they say in the city right:” Mr. Ed says, “The real big monsters live out in the country.”
Then you must know as well that we say that the monsters come from the city to buy a cabin out in the woods or up in the mountains,” Marty says, “Then they go into the city to do their bad thing and then head back out to the country when it gets too hot under their feet.”
The other way round wouldn’t work….” Mr. Ed says, conniving.

Unless you have like a whole town that conspires together to do some kind of bad thing,” Marty says, “But that’s still out in the country.”
We need some more beers,” Marty says.


The small talk continues, until they have determined a common ground: the service. It turns out that they were both drafted for the Gulf war and they had both seen things that a man shouldn’t see too much of: brutality, raping, killing, death. When they were there they understood jack-shit of the conflict and they basically winged it day by day in a hot desert hell, while every few days or so one or more men from their platoon were killed.

No problems going back to civilian life when you came back?” Mr. Ed asks. 
I guess life just went on, but something inside of me was gone,” Marty says, “I worked to forget and then at night I drank to forget more.”
I hear you,” Mr. Ed says, “There were weeks when I downed a whole bottle of whiskey, a few six packs, I popped pills. I did it all.”
No pills. That’s for lab rats, we used to say,” Marty says, “Looking back I don’t understand that I wasn’t fired.”
I feel worse for the wive,” Mr. Ed says, “I was on bound on self-destruction and there was nothing she could do.”

Marty thinks: he has a wife,thatguy?
Well,” Marty says, “My wife had split before I joined the service.”
Was that why you joined?” Mr. Ed asks, “You had nothing left to loose?”
I needed to drag myself through some desert hell, like a dog that has lost his mind,” Marty says, “Emotionally I was a wreck and on some level I figured that I would find some sort of balance if I would wreck myself physically. I wanted to feel pain and grind my bones.”
Booze can do that just fine,” Mr. Ed says.
It wasn’t like that: the ex had left me emotionally humiliated and I wanted the same, but on physical level.”

The bartender puts two more beers in front of them.
Jesus,” Mr. Ed says, “That’s about the worst pre-army story I ever heard. And I heard a lot of them.”
Then what’s yours?”

I needed adventure,” Mr. Ed says, “And maybe I needed a break.”
What did your girl think of that?”
She was upset, obviously,” Mr. Ed says, “I mean I could understand that: we just about made it and I had some dough stashed away.”
Then why did you go?”
Just one of those things, I guess,” Mr. Ed says, “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to hold a gun and to kill some bad guys.”

Well,” Marty says, “I myself have only been in a handful of gunpoint situations and I thank the Big Man for that.”
Ahuh,” Mr. Ed says, “Between you and me: I thrived on that, but now that you mention it: most guys weren’t like that. They just wanted to get it over with and go home.”
Most guys don’t draw just like that,” Marty says, “Many times it’s because things are tight. Nothing better to do or a man is strapped for cash.”

Mr. Ed didn’t register the last thing Marty said, but instead he thought back at those combat situations when he had held that heavy gun in his hand and it had just trumped everyone around him down. Mr. Ed still remembers the feeling: damn good.
We had one guy in our platoon who was just like what you claimed: he loved the thrill,” Marty says, “One day he had gone missing, until we had found him in the middle of a village of women and children. That bastard had killed every single one of them. The guy had such a smug look on his face. He fucking enjoyed it.”
What happened then?” Mr. Ed asks, but Marty is too stuck on his story to stray off just like that.
There’s certain things you don’t do, especially in war. We were all men with women and children. To have seen this guy do something like this: it was too much for us,” Marty says, “So we tied this guy down and debated what we should do to him, until one of the other guys found a woman that had gone into hiding. I know what we’re gonna do one of the guys said. We all understood what he meant: we tied the crazy fucker to a tree and let this lady have her way with him. At first she was so scared that she couldn’t even get to her feet and in all honesty she must have believed that we were as sick as that guy, but after some minutes she understood it. She took the knife and started butchering, but she made sure that that sick fuck didn’t die too soon, but that he suffered. All the way through what lasted maybe 30-40 minutes that sick smug grin stayed on his face.”
We weren’t proud of what we did,” Marty says, “But we just couldn’t let that fucker get away with it.”
No shit.”

We returned with five out of a platoon of 24,” Marty says.
I was the only one,” Mr. Ed says in a cold voice and it gave Marty a chill down his spine. For split second Marty thought: this fella is like that guy.

Marty didn’t want to know what happened, but he still asked: “What happened?”
There was an altercation,” Mr. Ed says, and his face looses all expression and his eyes get this blind stare, that makes the other man look right down the abyss and beyond good or evil, “I was like the stranger that came to town and who drew faster than anyone else.”
That sounds like an old Western,” Marty says, “And you know that those always have a silver lining.”
This was no such story,” Mr. Ed says, “This was real life.”
You killed them all….” Marty says.

I sure did,” Mr. Ed says.
Jesus….” Marty says and he thinks: so that’s what he did when he was all by himself in some God forsaken hell hole. That’s the measure of this man.

The barkeep announces the last round. 
Maybe we should call it a night,” Marty says.
Maybe we should,” Mr. Ed says, and for a moment it looks like he was looking for his cowboy hat, although it might just as well have been the men’s room. 

Mr. Ed slammed a twenty dollar bill on the counter and Marty doubled it.
Until next time, partner,” Marty says, “The war made a lot of good guys crazy.”
It sure did,” Mr. Ed says, while gesturing so longand he walked right out of the door. 


That night Marty double checked the doors and he let the dog loose in the house. He wasn’t one to get scared too easily, but this guy was plane crazy. Marty figured that he was capable of acting erratic once he realized that he might have disclosed just about too much. 
It was all easy enough though: in a way what makes a man is what he does when he thinks that no one is looking. That’s exactly what makes Mr. Ed so dangerous, because it makes sense to reason that he will act alike when someone crosses his path. This is the kind of man who will stab another in the back, or maybe more in line with this character, he will use a shotgun with a big caliber.