A Dustopian Love Story
By A. Yobi Blumberg
Out on the high desert, far from most, but nearer than many, the crowd, dressed in everything from formal gowns down to not dressed at all, shifts restlessly within a large circular area. Sunset had occurred about a half-hour before. A small, but revered flame sputters and spits atop a metal flower, yet within finely wrought iron flower petals, a slight hiss, then a burp of gas causes a small flame effect to fly upwards like a quickly dying moth.
On the northeast side of the area is a stage thrown together using construction platforms, rusting with some passing age, and before the scene, anxiety, doubt, and fear are running through the crowd, specific conversations cannot glean from the cacophony of voices joined together.
Onstage, a small row of bedraggled people stand behind a short man in what used to be brightly checkered sports coat, shorts, wrapped, and worn golf shoes, and crowned with an unadorned and straightforward bucket hat drawn low over his speckled eyes. His face screwed into a look of unshaven consternation. 6 others stood behind him about 10 feet, giving the stage the aura of a presentation by teachers in a midwestern high school.
The Requisite Gen X’er of the Group on stage pipes in confidently, “There is no deadline because time is an illusion!”
Many roll their eyes; others ignore him as everyone has since the generation first corrected its Moniker with a self-righteous “X.”
Scott squinted his eyes, to minimize the glare from the stage lighting, the iconic bucket hat providing enough “hooding” to effectively mask unwanted expressions from sending the ultra-burners into a “meaning” conference to sus-out the more profound meanings he might be conveying.
“I’m conveying annoyance” he barely breathed.
“Yes. Yes? You had a question? Yeah, there in the back.” He gestured with his arm like a fly fisherman, practicing with an “air rod.”
“Is this ‘deadline,'” emphasized a high, melodic female voice, ” is it metaphorical, or a goal when we practice our Morning Coffs and Communes-It-tea?”
An inward groan almost harassed its way past his teeth, almost. He might be old; he wasn’t out of control. Not yet.
“You know MY stance on ‘The One Hug’ codifying anything into a ‘ritual’! If y’ all aren’t careful,” now a real snort of humor did leap out, punctuating the air, then echoing throughout “Temple Hall,” as near-nuts were calling it now.
They had called it so ever since Halcyon had declared a “Burning Age,” after the large scale group observation by old Hug Nation groupies, all decked out in pink for Halcyons “High Holy Nut.” They say they saw him swoon, this way and that, in ecstatic convulsions, all over the central dias of the “Parachute,” after his orgasm, only to sputter, gasp, and start shouting gibberish. The High Hipsters started exclaiming “THE Playa herself was speaking through Halcyon, THE Halcyon.”
That WAS the first time everyone started title-ing the “higher up” Playa names; only the Founders names remained normal. The One Hug had adopted an ‘a’ in front of their names, a “we” before Playa names once, or IF the name found them. Still, surely they didn’t believe this horsh- “He’s talking JUST like a Wall Street ‘BRO’,” came a voice. Scott’s reverie was cut short.
“The Meta derides the injunction of Larry and Marian to take the Playa with us out into the Default World! So what if he is The Platsky? He is above the Principles?!?” the man looked around as if to add the unspoken voices of those around him to his own.
“Given by Larry to guide us in a true and even way through the ‘re-publican,’” the man’s voice made the word sound as if corruption itself was blowing dust up into their eyes, “temptations that will, TRY and tempt us from the REAL Art Path. Avoiding all the libralisms along the way. Even IF The Meta feels like the Playa Provides.” He stopped then, turning dramatically to face the crowd and point a long, dark bony finger at Scott behind him on stage.
“I’ll bet; he doesn’t BELIEVE it!” Those in the crowd even onstage started looking genuinely nervous now. The man didn’t notice, but Scott, generally given to a constant, if small, sway at all times, had become stock still.
“How much did HE give in the year’s Fundraising to manifest Art on Her Surface?!” the man was all but shouting at the top of his lungs, whirling to face Scott full. “Tell us Platsky,” he dropped the honorific, made to spit Scott’s last name into his hand, but at the last moment, he moved his hand so that he spit directly onto the ground! ”
All were frozen as if in sheer horror at what had just done could be undone if everyone only remained perfectly still, waiting a moment out. A regular meeting this was not. Nope, no run of the mill accusation would ever be from Whitman. Whitman was, in all things, a genuis with the use of over-dramatic flare that had somehow given him some warped legitimacy over the years. Legitimate enough to make a public challenge to the order of things. “MOOPing,” or the act of leaving matter out of place was bad enough and could get your rations cut immediately. Joininng, someone’s name to their spit and MOOPing it like Whitman, had was as bad an insult anyhone couldmake. Now here came the coups de gras, “What was your GIFT to The Man this last Year, Scotto? Has The Playa Provided? I bet NonProf BMorg assigned his crappy, boring, Vanilla Camp back on Z and 330!”
There were several surprised gasps at the man’s statement; hisses slithered through throwd. A few were even muttering “Fuck Your Burn” under their breaths. Scott couldn’t tell if the F.Y.B.’s were at him or the
Whitman, or being used to ward opff evil. There was no time to figure it out; things were spiraling into dangerous territory too quickly. nHe had to stamp it out now!
“WHAT’S THAT SHIAT YER SAYIN BUDDY?!?” Scott bellowed in the loudest voice he could muster, all eyes were on him now, right, he raised his voice so rarely, a baby started in the crowd, everyone started a second time yet, he kept the momentum.
“EVERYONE knows! EVERYONE saw it! Who did not see, every single one of us ad-, of THE VILLAGE,” Scott growled, he almost said ‘adults’; he could ill afford a schism of young ones at this point
“The PolyP Elders honored our lost loved ones!” Scott almost lost all strength at that moment. He pressed on, he had to, or all his work could tip over, lost. “and don’t you EVER, QUESTION, MY MOTIVES, especially in Temple Hall! IF you ever dare again, I’ll ban ya FOREVER!” All color visibly drained from Whitman’s usually pale face.
Scott took note, and pivoted to speak to those behind Whitman, “After the Immigrant Terror, who was the Meta who made sure Marian and Danger Ranger were still alive and safe?!”, He paused waiting for a reply. If anyone did say anything, he would have been beyond surprised. He knew they loved their “benevolent dictator”. There were always some who chaffed. Scor was in his element now. Confident.
“Who did the Set-Up, The Greeting, AND even set up Center Camp for those who were able to get here?!?”
Some were nodding now, happy to be in familiar territory. Scott lowered himself casually, conversationally towards Whitman, a half smile playing across his toothless face, “You? YOU weren’t even old enough to BE a Virgin yet!” A young one in the back of the crowd let out a whoop of amusement.
The man’s eyes flew wide in shock and locked with Scotto’s for a moment. Only a moment, then he hung his head.
“THAT got him! I’m too old for this shit. Ginny, what am I gonna do?” Scotto thought to himself. Standing, he stepped back behind the podium.
“What I said is, ‘a deadline is a deadline. You don’t miss a deadline.’”
He turned, and walked directly, not too fast and not too slow, but straight from the stage.
“Fuckity-fuck-fuck,… The Platsky…” he hissed through his lips.
“…they want a fucking Meta-Platsky? I got a Meta for them…”
He stopped suddenly, straightening his arching back somewhat, as a slow, stubble smile spread across his face, making his ears pop slightly from under his dirty white hat.
“They won’t know what hit em!”
Then Scott, Scotto, Sir Jimmy Bob, Platsky, Meta-Platsky of the Burnerverse, walked off into the haze, and nothing and no one would ever be the same again.