Clandestine – 5

Soundtrack

I feel as if I’m finally beginning to understand just how difficult it can be to fall down a metaphorical rabbit hole. I think back to conspiracy theories I’ve heard, and now wonder if maybe their descent began in the same way mine did. I took a job to pay for my housing and have witnessed strange things. I have been told that a mysterious substance is involved and have now been told that I have perhaps been subjected to its use against my will and without my knowledge. It’s becoming a bit more difficult to keep telling myself that things are normal, that it’s just been an odd week.

“Are you assuming I’ve been exposed to this stuff because of how crazy I might sound?” I asked Dr. Kardos.

“I’m not trying to assume anything,” he responded calmly, “That’s why I just want to be sure.”

“What makes you think I might have been exposed, then?”

“Well, when you told me everything, you mentioned datura. I found that in this powder. I also found more than just that.”

I didn’t know what to think or really even how to respond. I flatly asked what else he had found.

“For starters, I don’t know how much you actually found out about datura, but it is generally fairly harmless. The flowers can be seen just growing on the side of the road in the southern US. The plant contains several different alkaloids which can produce psychological effects, but nothing like in the levels found in this datura. This one is different.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“It’s been severely altered. And in a way that would take a lot of time and a lot of engineering to make happen. See, datura generally contains scopolamine, but in relatively small amounts. This datura’s scopolamine levels were like nothing I’ve seen before. The levels of hyoscyamine and atropine were also lower than I have ever seen.”

“Right… and that means?”

“Sorry, I wasn’t sure how far your research had gone yet. Hyoscyamine and atropine are alkaloids which can have extensive uses on their own, but are largely not psychotropic. Scopolamine, however, has been used extensively in various countries such as Columbia and Venezuela to perform certain illegal acts.”

“What kind of illegal acts?”

“Well, Vice News published a video in which many Colombians interviewed said that they would rather die than be subjected to the effects of pure scopolamine. They tell stories of gangsters who would use the drug as a powder, blow it into a victim’s face, which would cause them to unquestionably give away all of their belongings, due to the degree in which the victims are subject to direction.”

“Oh, god. So you think that I was one of these people who has been subject to such ideas? I mean, there would have to be a reason, right? Like, how much does this stuff cost?”

“Calm down,” the doctor said, actually somewhat reassuringly. “Let’s just get answers first.”

I gave a urine test. I was anxious, and scared, and somewhat embarrassed.

After a couple of hours, I got a phone call. “Are you still nearby?” Asked the doctor.

“Actually, I still haven’t left.”

“Good. Well, not good I guess, but, uhh. Can you just please come back?”

I went back.

“Good news first,” Dr. Kardos began, “I mentioned that some of this drug has gotten into your system. Not much at all has reached you, though. It looks like whatever got to you must have been by accident. The bad news is that it seems there’s something that won’t go away.”

“What do you mean ‘go away?’”

“Most drugs have what’s called a half-life. Basically, when a drug is approved for use, there is a recorded time of how long the drug will last actively, and a time of how long a drug will still be in the system. For example, Xanax has a half-life of ____ hours, but will remain in the system for ____ hours. But I have tested this drug for its activity, and so far it seems as though there is no half-life. It’s been over 36 hours at this point, and in my subjects I don’t see any signs of this wearing off.”

“What does that mean for me?” I asked.

“It just means that you need to be careful. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on what I find out about this.”

I left feeling probably the worst I have since I moved. I got into my apartment, L still gone, and turned the TV on. I got some snacks and proceeded to call it a day, when I got a phone call.

It was J. She told me she had found out where L had gone.

“Ever been to Seattle?” She asked.

“Yes, but why are you asking me that?”

“Because I got you a ticket to go there. I know where L is and I can help you find her.”

“But I’m living here for free right now,” I protested.

“You think you are living there for free. It’s going to catch up to you eventually though.”

So, I accepted a ticket out to Seattle. What did I have to lose?

I met J at the Seattle airport, she was outside smoking a cigarette.

“Ever been here before?” She asked.

“Yeah, a couple of times, actually.”

“So, you would recognize downtown if you were to see it?”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“Just wait.”

J drove us into downtown Seattle and parked the car in an all-day lot.

Advertisements

Clandestine – 4

Soundtrack

The landlady was gone when I got back home. I went inside, unpacked, and was about to get some research done, when I got another text message. “There is still something you need to see. Don’t think you’ve figured anything out.” Figured it out? I had no clue what was going on. Also, I assumed that my first text had come from the cop that pulled me over twice, but now I’m realizing it wasn’t. Who was messaging me? “Who is this? Are you following me?” I responded.

Moments later, I felt like an idiot for responding to an anonymous number by asking if it were following me. I needed a nap.

When I woke up, it was dark. I checked my phone; I had fallen asleep for over a day and a half.

There was a reply on my phone from the unknown number. “Just meet me it the gas station down the hill from you, you know the one I’m talking about” it said. Why would I do that? What kind of an idiot does this person think I am? “No,” was my immediate response.

“Don’t you want to know why you slept forever, or what was going on with that town? I know your landlady,” they responded.

I thought more about meeting them. The gas station was a public place where I always had cell service. I would be fine; I should at least see what this person wants, and figure out how the hell they got my number.

The unknown contact and I eventually decided to meet at the gas station at 8 pm. When I arrived, I only saw the employee who was working inside, but looked around to find a black Mini Cooper, with its driver waving me over, a cigarette in their hand.

“Want a smoke?” They said as I walked to their car door.

“So, I guess I’m supposed to meet you?” I asked, accepting the cigarette.

“Yeah, that would be me.” It was a woman, she was about my age. She had the hair on one side of her head shaved, some tattoos, tee-shirt, jeans.

“How did you get my number?” I asked.

“Is that really what you’re concerned about?” She said, still looking at me through the car’s side mirror. “You have bigger problems than that.”

“Bigger problems than being stalked by someone I’ve never seen before?” I asked, trying to raise my voice, but not in a way that would start anything.

“Actually, yes. Much bigger than that. And if you quit being so skeptical and uptight, I promise to fill you in. Sit down.”

I got into the Mini. It was clean and smelled like the “Black Ice” air freshener hanging from her rearview mirror.

“How I got your number isn’t important, and you need to learn to not stress over such small things like that anymore. You have become involved in something that will test your limits much more than small stuff like that, now. And you can’t walk away from it.”

“Um, okay?” I said. I didn’t now what to say. I had too many questions. “Who are you?” Was apparently my first.

“Call me J for now, I don’t know how long this is going to last.”

“What’s going to last?” I asked.

“Us talking. I’ve tried this before, but not everyone sticks around. Just call me J.”

There was a moment of silence, and then she continued. “I used to work for L. I was her own personal little UPS, just like you are now.”

“Oh, I see…” I respond. “What did she have you deliver?”

“Do you believe in zombies?”

“Of course not,” I said.

“I was delivering something that made them. Maybe not in the same ‘resurrected-dead’ style that movies show, but it was something like it. A drug.”

“So, I’ve just become a drug mule?!” I ask, shocked.

“Not exactly. If you were to get stopped by the cops, they wouldn’t know what you were transporting. It’s not a ‘drug’ that anyone knows of. It’s nothing that can be documented, really.”

“And why is that?” I ask. Still in some sort of disbelief.

“Because anyone who is exposed to the drug is immediately fucked. That is it for them. After that, it doesn’t matter what you know or what you think you know, you are just another part in the whole thing.”

“So why did you get a hold of me? To tell me that this is awful, and that I should just walk away?”

“No!” She yelled. She suddenly seemed concerned — empathetic, for the first time. “You can’t just walk away. It doesn’t work that way. Do not try to leave this now that you have started.”

“What would happen to me? You need to be more honest with me, I mean, this is my entire life now and I feel like you’re just jerking me around.”

“I’m not trying to,” J tells me. “Just be careful. And don’t make L mad.”

J then throws a cell phone into my lap. “Use this,” she says, “it’ll be the best way to contact me, and they won’t be able to track it.”

“Oh, um, okay,” I say.

“I need to go,” J says. “Keep up that research you were doing before on datura, though. And check behind the toilet in your rented place for a sample, there is usually one there. She keeps it for emergencies.”

Just like that, she leaves me behind.

I finish the cigarette and walk back to my car. I look up datura again, only to find nothing all that interesting on the Wikipedia page. One thing catches my eye though, and that’s the fact that “Datura was used to locate missing objects by southern Paiute Indians.”

I head back home and, sure enough, there is a small bag containing a white substance behind the toilet in my bathroom. Does this mean that I should trust J, though? She didn’t really provide me with much new information. The bag – of the sandwich variety – doesn’t seem to contain much of the powder, though. So I don’t open it.

The next morning, I find that L is still gone, so there isn’t a delivery for me today, I suppose. I decide I need to find out what is going on with this new job. I take the powder to one of the colleges in the city, where I finally meet up with Dr. Kardos, who agrees to analyze the powder for me.

“This isn’t for some sort of gag, where you just brought me meth or something, right?” Asks Dr. Kardos. He is young, and seemed eager at the thought of helping me solve some sort of mystery.

“Do people do that? Why would I do that?” I ask.

“People can be cruel,” he responds. “Being the science geek can sometimes get you into trouble. But anyways, give me a couple of days and I will get back to you.”

We make some small talk, and eventually I head out the building.

A couple of days later (with still no sign from L), I get a phone call from Dr. Kardos.

“So, I haven’t really seen anything like this,” he says. “Would you mind coming down here so that I can properly explain this to you?”

When I arrive at the school, Dr. Kardos has his arms folded and is looking at me as I walk in. He isn’t wearing his glasses, they are attached to his shirt, which I haven’t seen him do before.

“Where did you get this?” He says, almost sighing the whole sentence out. “Please just be honest with me.”

I fill him in on what has been happening. He seems honest and genuinely concerned. I tell him of the job I have just taken, about the delivery I have made, about the cop and the boy with the snakes. I let everything spill out. I tell him of the Atlas of Humanity and about the man I had seen getting into the car, and of the woman in the mansion and the town at the bottom of the hill.

“Please, just keep this between us,” I say. “My job, and where I live all depend on this.”

“Okay, I understand,” he says calmly. “But, can I please just get a urine sample before you go?”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because, based on what you’re telling me, I think you might have been exposed to this drug yourself.”

Clandestine – 3

Soundtrack

I’m still not sure what made the popping noise that woke me up, but when I looked at the building, I saw people piling in. None of them were looking at me, even though I was pretty close. Close enough to recognize that they were the same people who lived in the shacks at the foot of Sasha’s mansion. They still had the same scared faces on, and seemed scared as to what would happen to them if they did not make it inside. One elderly woman happened to trip and fall over; her family members around immediately got her back on her feet, and seemed even more terrified that their family member might be stranded. But, stranded from what? What would happen to these people, should they not make it inside of the building?

My question was answered quickly enough, when one man refused to enter the building. He didn’t say much, just “no,” and “please don’t.” He didn’t even sound particularly upset, mostly just apathetic, monotone even. Those around him urged him to go inside, but he became almost erratic. He grew obviously fearful, but still did not develop any emotions in his voice. He dropped to the ground when people began physically forcing him — I couldn’t tell if it was because he’d been hurt, or if it was an attempt to not be moved. Either way, after he dropped, a gold, 90’s Ford Taurus pulled up in front of the man. Two sort-of-well-dressed men got out. They were wearing button-up flannels, had shaved heads, and khaki pants. They opened up a back door to their car, picked the man up by his elbows and shoulders, and threw him into their car; as if he were nothing more than an over-filled luggage bag.

I had seen enough. I started the car. They didn’t hear that, but when the headlights came on, the two men in khakis – who were now smoking outside the car – stared at me. As I pulled out of the parking lot, one seemed to elbow the other. I didn’t think much of it as I was leaving town. My mind was more focused on what the hell was going on with those people.

Tired, since it was still only 2 a.m. and I hadn’t slept more than an hour, I began to drift off the road. That’s when I pulled into a gas station for an energy drink; and that’s also when I noticed the gold Taurus at the other end of the parking lot. They had seen me, and they had followed me these last 100 or so miles.

I got back into my car and tried to remain calm. I sat there and waited until the men had another cigarette and got out of the car — that’s when I burned out of the lot and got back onto the highway. I drove for another 100 miles, and I didn’t see any headlights behind me. I thought I was in the clear until I saw headlights in the rear view mirror. It was close to sunrise at this point, but right before sunrise. Sometimes I think that’s the darkest part of the night.

“I told you you should have left,” said the officer from this morning, and from the night before.

“Why are you stalking me?!” I yelled. “Tell me what is happening. Now!” My voice started to quiver.

“I’ll tell you what I can, but I want you to know that I didn’t want you to get involved in any of this. It seems like you already are though. Do you personally know Sasha?”

“Sasha? That woman I made a delivery for?”

“Apparently not. What did you deliver to her?”

“I don’t know. That woman wouldn’t even tell me if her name was Sasha or not.”

“Well, who are you working for?”

“I thought you were going to help me,” I responded.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” He said. He genuinely seemed very anxious. “Sasha owns this town. And I don’t just mean she’s rich — she’s rich, too. But she owns this town.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. “How could someone own a town in more than just a financial way?”

“Look, I followed you a long ways just to make sure you weren’t going to get hurt. She is going to wonder where I am soon, and that won’t be good. For either of us.” He sped his speech. “So, let me tell you this: she is drugging the town. I have a wife and kids. I pleaded with her when everything changed and she made me a deal. I am the town sheriff and I control the ones who won’t take.”

“Take to what?” I asked.

“Have you ever heard of datura? Look, it doesn’t matter. Just, whoever you’re working for, stop. It’s not worth getting involved in all of this. And all of this is bigger than you can imagine. I need to leave now. I’m sorry.”

And just like that, he sped off on his bike.

I didn’t know what to make of the conversation — what could I? I didn’t know what datura was, or who Sasha was. I was never going to go back to that town again, and why should I? That kid, just hanging by snakes… and that cop didn’t do anything about it! Why should I trust him? I just made a weird delivery to a weird town, where a lot of backwoods hicks wanted to scare me.

I pulled into a motel and the west side of Kansas and slept for over twelve hours. When I woke up, I looked up datura, just out of curiosity. I went on the Wikipedia page, but could only read for a few minutes before the hotel’s WiFi shut off. The line that most caught my eye was under the “effects” part of the page, which stated that “Datura intoxication typically produces effects similar to that of an anticholinergic delirium (usually involving a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy).”

My first reaction was to joke that that must be why the town was acting so weird. But then I thought harder, was this some sort of cult? Was everyone in that town either drugged, or involved in some religious garbage and wanted me to join? Or, was I running on little sleep and just being paranoid about all of the weird people in one weird town? But then, what was the “Atlas of Humanity?”

Driving back to my new home, I couldn’t really come to a conclusion.

Clandestine – 2

Soundtrack

“You lost, friend?” Comes a loud voice, which sounds oddly familiar. I wipe the sleep from my eyes, put on my glasses, and look out the window. It is the cop from last night. Did he follow me here?

I roll down the window of my car. “What do you mean? I’m sorry if I wasn’t supposed to stay here; I’m leaving now.”

“You best do that. And go back where you came from, remember?”

When he says ‘remember’ his voice changes. It gets lower, sadder, and even louder. Immediately, without trying or even thinking, the image of the boy hanging from the highway sign by snakes comes back to mind. I shutter.

“I’m leaving,” I say in a rush, starting my car.

“Good. Go.”

I leave the lot feeling just as bad as I did last night. The location where I am supposed to drop off the letter is just about ten miles outside of town. I reach the small community by 10 a.m. There is no one in sight. The road is made of dirt, and I see a few houses every now and then on the left and right side of the road.

I wonder what the hell was up with that kid, and with that cop. Was this all some sort of backwoods joke on passers by? I begin to feel sleepy. Almost like I am going to fall asleep at the wheel, just out of no where. I stop to calm down and have a cigarette at a small park I find. There’s not much here, just some rusty swings, some gravel, a chain-link fence missing the gate, dead trees in the middle of summer, and some matching cigarette butts. I glare at the envelope I am to deliver. What could be inside this? I hold the envelope to the light to try and read through it. I think I can see the word “Human” somewhere, but I’m not even entirely sure.

“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS came on my CD player. It’s a good song. I forgot about making this CD, there’s a lot of good songs on it.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division came on next.

Odd pairing, I thought, but also sort of funny. I started another cigarette.

“Never Tear Us Apart” started again. Followed by “Love Will Tear Us Apart” again. Tired of hearing the same two songs twice, I pulled the key from the ignition. The radio didn’t stop, though. I pressed the power button and it still didn’t stop. I pressed the eject button; the CD didn’t come out, but the music had stopped. Something didn’t feel right; I lit another cigarette.

Just as I did, “Never…” started playing again, at full volume. About thirty seconds in, “Love…” began playing. I ran to the car, and pressed the power button again, to no avail. I looked at the radio.

666

That’s all that was on the radio. The music kept playing and I opened the trunk for a wrench to disconnect the battery. Just as I opened the trunk, the music stopped.

What could I do, really? The car went back to normal. I was a bit freaked out, but I needed to make my delivery. I kept driving on back roads, and the streets seemed to get worse: more potholes, more rocks. The houses also went down drastically in quality. That is, until I got to a golden gate, with a drive-up box to talk to the owners of the house up the hill. The house was the one I was to make the delivery at. I drove to the box and pressed the call button. “Who is it?” responded an elderly-sounding woman’s voice.

“I have a package,” I said.

“And you’re sure it’s for me? For this address?”

I repeated the address to her.

“Well, who are you with?”

“Ma’am, I’m just trying to make a delivery for my landlady. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I am not with a corporation or anything. Can I please just come drop this off to you?”

She let me in. As I drove up the winded road to her house, I realized it wasn’t much of a house at all — it was a mansion.

“I’m sorry I was so annoying at the gate,” she told me over the tea she eventually made us.

Her mansion seemed to go on forever. We were sitting near a large fireplace, in elegant red couches.

“It’s just,” she continued, “you saw all of those shacks on the way up. They’ve got me beginning to think this was all a bad idea.”

“What was a bad idea?” I asked.

She sighed. “You have something for me?”

I handed her the envelope. All it said on it was For Sasha. “Can you tell me what it’s about? I don’t want to pry, but I drove a long way and my landlady is really making a big deal out of these deliveries…”

“You’re right, you shouldn’t pry. I think maybe you should go now.” Her tone was completely different, like she had snapped.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry if I asked something offensive…”

She didn’t even look at me as I left out the long, stone hallway. Along the way, I saw something move into the room next to the front door along the floor. I peaked my head in before I left, to see a snake slithering through the room.

I found it a bit unsettling when the people who lived in the cheapest housed gave me sad, almost scared faces as I drove passed. They were gone so quickly and out of view, so my mind moved on to other questions faster than it probably should have.

I ended up back in town quicker this time — strange how not having my car radio become possessed during a smoke break will make that happen. I had to get gas at the gas station which was now open. As I went inside and b-lined for the snack isle, I got a message on my phone from an unknown number.

“New delivery boy, huh? I think there’s something you should see,” it read.

I responded with a “who is this,” only to get no response. I paid for my gas and chips and went to start my car. It started, but didn’t sound okay. I pulled over in the still closed “Atlas of Humanity” parking lot since it was still abandoned, and looked at the engine. Everything seemed fine, but when I went to start the car to leave, nothing happened. The engine didn’t turn, the lights didn’t come on, nothing.

I had just made a long, stressful drive out to a place I didn’t really want to go, where I didn’t really feel comfortable, to do something I didn’t really want to do. And now my car had died. To make the best of my situation, I decided to cut my losses and make a day of things. I stopped by the local liquor store, grabbed some more snacks, and went on a hike in the northern Kansas nothingness to take my mind of of things, or at least to organize the thoughts inside my head from the last day.

The day-hike quickly turned into a night hike. I got lost. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, as I followed the map I had previously downloaded onto my phone. The whole time, it said I was only a couple miles away from where I had started at most, but when I turned back to go to my car it took me hours. I am back at my car now, and it still will not start. Something is wrong, though. Someone has done something to my car and is keeping me here. It’s too late to do anything about it now, though. I have no choice but to camp out in my car again, in the same lot I was in before. I hope that cop isn’t watching me.

I eventually fell asleep for a little while. But I woke up to a loud pop.

I looked up at the lot, and at the “Atlas of Humanity” place — it wasn’t empty anymore.

Clandestine – 1

Soundtrack

I moved because there was nothing for me where I came from before. There were more people, and more businesses, and more “friends,” but there just wasn’t what I needed. I need to think. I need a fresh start more than anything, I guess.

I did things where I came from that I am not exactly proud of, and don’t exactly want to relive. I want to get away. I need to think, that’s all. You can’t think when your home in the city is filled with people who have bigger, louder problems than yours. They rant and rave, they stay up late and drain all of their emotions, they eat whatever. And I mean, like garbage on a plate — and it smells, and their conversations drain me, and make me want to go mad.

But here I can breathe. I can think, and I can make for myself what I want.

I found a spot in the middle of nowhere. Here I am thirty miles from the nearest town, and twenty from the nearest grocery store. There is almost nothing to see in every view, but it somehow means everything to me. There is a beauty in being surrounded by nothing, knowing that nothing is your closest “thing.”

When I moved here, I agreed to work out a plan with the Landowner. I will drive (an undetermined amount of miles) every month and deliver “special packages” around the country. “It’s nothing harmful or illegal, I promise,” L tells me. “Your help could really fulfill some important goals, though. I don’t have the energy or the time to make all of these stops on my own.” I say that the deal sounds great to me and move in. The house is a two story, green adobe home. I live above the garage in a studio-style setup. There is a bathroom, a small kitchen, my bed, and a closet. I don’t need much else – I don’t own much else. I can see out of two windows — one to each side of the house, and can sometimes hear L loudly making phone calls. She is out of town this week, and I have my first delivery.

I am to go to a small town on the north side of Kansas. I have an envelope to deliver there. “I don’t trust the post much anymore,” L tells me when she gives me the envelope, “I doubt any USPS truck is going to go here, anyways,” she concludes. She then leaves on another “vacation,” and asks me to finish the delivery by the end of the week. Kansas is fairly close to here, but I have nothing else to do and I set off.

I begin driving through the nearest city and when I reach its outskirts, I start to think. Why is L always going on vacations? There is no way she makes so much money she can really go somewhere almost every week. I ultimately decide she must be some sort of millionaire retiree, though, and journey on.

When I reach the edge of the Kansas border, I see something in the distance. It looks like some sort of fake alien. There is a cartoonishly large head upon a small body. Above that is a billboard. I can’t quite read it out yet, but as I get closer it says “Travelled so far?” The billboards is just black, with plain white font on it. There is no advertising for anything. As I get closer, I realize that what’s under the sign isn’t a fake alien at all. What I see is much worse.

I see a body. I don’t know if it is real or not, but it’s a body. Above that is not some silly alien head — it’s snakes. A ball of snakes is wrapped around this person’s head and is holding them up by the sign, as if they are hanging. “That has to be a mannequin,” I think to myself, not wanting to stop. I pass, and the human and snakes become more clear — it is a boy’s body hanging, and the snakes are red. I almost swerve off the road staring, when I am pulled over by a police officer.

“Sir! Sir!” I exclaim when he walks up besides my car.

“Shut up,” he whispers.

“No, you didn’t see that kid?! You need to send h—”

“Stop. Stop right now,” He says slowly, but with a loud force that gets me to quit. “What you saw was nothing, and I suggest you go home.”

“I won’t have a home if I don’t keep going,” I say, “This is all I’ve got.”

“Look, kid,” he knelt down to my car and looked me deep in the eye. “We are all a part of something, we just don’t know it. We should be glad we don’t know it. Once you start knowing what you shouldn’t know — what there is out there to behold… Just get out of here and pretend tonight never happened.”

He doesn’t say anything else, but with the look in his face, I can tell he is terrified. He slowly walks back to his car and I slowly get back onto the highway. I am shaking from what just happened. If the police aren’t going to even acknowledge that boy, how are they to ever help me here? I felt as though I were totally on my own. It was the middle of the night now, and I knew I was getting close to my first delivery.

I park in an abandoned lot. I am in an extremely small town in northern Kansas. It is flat here and there is only a gas station (which is closed), a grocery store (which is closed), and a mega-complex (which is shut-down) with the old outline of a sign that has been taken down which reads “Atlas Of Humanity.” This is the abandoned lot which I am camping in my car at.

I begin to think of my move, and about what I am doing with my life. I chose to walk away from the city, to face my anxiety and move into the forest. I made a deal with someone who I hardly know, to do god knows what. I can’t help but feel as though I am a part of something now, though. I have to, if not finish, a least find out what I have started. I fall asleep thinking of what the morning will hold in store for me, and what I will find.

I awake to a knock at my car window.

A Note About Amber

The sky is cotton candy colored this evening on my walk home. It makes me think of Amber, who is always impressed with and struck by the sky in ways I can seldom recognize. It is something I envy, and something I deeply admire about her; she has the ability to do this with many things. Always seeming capable of making literal poop seem like something much more elevated and, perhaps, lovely than it is. She is a constant inspiration to me.

As someone who is generally more anxious than Harvey Weinstein walking through a ring of female kick boxers, Amber has — without her conscious knowledge (I think) — shown me several different ways to cope with my mind.

“Woah!” She will often exclaim while we are driving around, myself completely oblivious as to what could possibly be so amusing. When she points to the sky, I will sometimes almost hit another car while driving. At the stop lights, or on a hike, or when she is driving, I can usually see what she means, though. The sky can be an incredible thing to look at. Yet, even when I do not always see beauty in the sky, Amber can.

As someone who writes and makes music, I can recognize that Amber inspires me. She is the main reason I am able to make music and write so much.

Anyways, today is her birthday and it didn’t seem right to let that go unnoticed.

Happy birthday, Amber!

#Dogs4BbySitters!

When the local news predicted that “dogs could be taking retail jobs by 2025,” I only raised half an eyebrow. When my NSU professors told me that “dogs will probably not take retail jobs, but will absolutely take babysitting jobs,” I was even less impressed. When Fox News stated that “the Democrats want the next president to be a dog and will do anything to trick you into voting for one,” I was just angry. But then 2025 came, and we slowly saw what the networks were talking about. Except Fox, they are literally insane garbage.

In 2020, we somewhat developed the technology to sort of figure out what dogs were thinking (this is to say that their thoughts were projected onto a screen, but only as graphs and charts that were 99.9% arbitrary). The technology kept advancing, though, and by 2024 humans could project in vivid detail, the thoughts of a canine companion. The thoughts started off as what one might expect it would be: “Let’s go on a walk,” “I want some more food,” “Get rid of the mail man,” etc. Yet, within a year, the thoughts quickly developed into more serious matters: “Do you know what you’re feeding your children, what is wrong with you?”; “Why is it that you love black labs, but seem cautious around black people?”; “Blowing pot smoke in our faces won’t really get us that high, mostly it’ll just make us quit trusting you,” so on and so forth. This uptick in canine knowledge is what sparked the #dogs4bbysitters movement: one that is based on allowing dogs to make their family extra income by replacing sitters and nannies.

“It’s not like my old nanny was any better than someone who licks their butt, anyways,” one mother and doggy-nanny-hirer declared. Another added that “If my human nanny steals from me, it’s my pearls and earrings; if my doggy nanny steals, it’s my bacon and my herb-crusted polenta.”

Yet, in times like these, when the national driving age has decreased to 14, (because President Nick Cage says, “I sell amazing properties like mad. Literally like that crazy guy I played in that movie… what was it… National Treasure, or something, that’s it(1). So, whatever, let 14-year-olds drive,”) we are forced to look at what our country has become. National Geographic recently published an article entitled “The top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Your Dog, Nanny,” which displays graphic photos of doggy nannies raiding refrigerators, drinking from babies’ toilets, pooping in baby jumpers, and worst of all, playing the “airplane” game with the baby food, only to selfishly feed themselves instead. This is not to say that the babies went hungry; in fact, almost all doggy nannies are guilty of both themselves and the baby gaining an average of half a pound upon dismissal of sitting duties.

“It’s just like, why would you let a dog do that? I mean, I’ve been at [retail store name omitted] for like, six months now. If that’s not responsibility, then I don’t know what is. Seriously, I’m more responsible than that dog. How much is that dog getting paid, anyways?” Voiced one concerned neighbor, before asking if he made more than the doggy-nanny—several times.

An engineering-based school in Arizona has conducted a study on the new nannies, stating that drug-related babysitter arrests and episodes are at an all time low. “Instead of just following the natural trend of placing a baby in a large cage and giving it an iPad, the dogs seem to actually interact with the children. I really haven’t seen anything like it for several years,” states one of the college’s professors. Overall, the study has shown that dog-sitters spend an average of 70% more time just looking at the child they are watching, compared to human sitters. “That time really adds up,” another student tells me, “Some kids have just ruined their lives, or their parents’ homes by the time you look at them again, but the dogs seem quite a bit more alert.” This may possibly be attributed to the fact that dogs still cannot legally have their own phone plans. “Ever since president Cage has mandated watching at least two of his movies a week, average screen-time for an American has gone up from about 20, to 22 hours a day. This does, of course, not count for any time spent watching TV before bed, as many still like to do. But since dogs cannot legally have their own phone plans, their screen-time is significantly less. Plus, given their greyscale vision and notoriously bad password-making, most dogs become fed up with electronics fairly quickly, even when they do show an interest at first,” the student informed me.

Another professor at the school (who was not involved in this study) voiced her concerns, “It’s just not natural,” she says. “I don’t think any person, or dog, who is so disconnected should really have any responsibilities. What if a child asks for the current head count on the Kardashian family, or if they have not seen the latest video of a cat doing something boorish and lame? Dogs, from what I have gathered on Instagram, do not even seem to like cats. A child watched by a dog will miss out on these things that really matter—the reason that millions of Americans wake up every morning.”

When I shared this interview with leading members of the #dogs4bbysitters movement, they were not surprised. “This is why I take those responsibilities upon myself,” one leader told me, “I think it’s more of an ethical problem, and so of course I spend my nights not just plugging in my baby’s iPad, but also rocking him to sleep, assuring him of how many Kardashians there are, and telling him the dire differences between the Tumblr and Twitter communities daily.”

The group hopes to have dogs replacing at least 40% of sitters by 2027, and is also Kickstarting a small robot that can still keep babies and young children updated on the internet 24/7 via a loudspeaker which will read out the world’s most-viewed Tweets, so that all of a parent’s worries can be covered.

(1) Seriously, look up some of the properties he’s bought and sold. Just Google it.