All the World’s a Prison
ing the world is spinning is slowing down, slowing, the world is different now. There are no walls, only heighty windo’panes between thin obsidian dividers. The floor is black, the ceiling is black, the big horseshoe table in the center of the room is solid sterling silver and each of the chairs tucked beneath it are made of gold, pure gold.
“What the fuck?!” It was Jonathan Knox. Goodie. “Cody, look outside! ”
Cody walks to the windows and looks. Down below is a sea of massive blackish-gray cube structures adrift beneath a hazy cover of misty clou’.
“What…” as he’s stepping slowly back. “What is this?”
“This is High Tower, boys,” says Howard Dean, Master God of Technology. “Formally known as True Earth, as per the latest meeting of The Advisorate.”
“How thick are those windows?” Jonathan Knox asks.
“Thick enough,” Howard replies. “Why?”
Lookin’at’im out the side of one eye, Jonathan Knox sneers, “Because I’m gonna throw you the fuck through one, scumbag.”
“Would you give it a Goddamn rest, Jonathan?” Cody pleads, holding his ruined arm by the shoulder. “We’re out of our league here, ‘man. It’s over! Just give it a fucking rest, do us all a favor and give it a fuCKING REST ALREADLY, ALL RIGHT?!”
“Christ almighty,” vituperates Jonathan Knox, “listen’a this fucking guy! It’s the gaggling fagget himself! What, is your story over? Did the adversary ’s appearance in your life turn out to not have the übercosmic spiritual meaning you thought it would?”
“Shut up, Knox.”
“You spoke about how I didn’t need to be here earlier, when we were driving in the truck, when you were so fucking sure of yourself!”
“I said shut up, Knox!”
“You shut up! You’re a miserable fucking asshole and you think this is all about you, but in actuality this is all about me! I told you all about the seven Earths and you didn’t give a single shit, but that’s where this is going! That’s where this was going all along, you piece of shit, and now that it’s here I’m not–”
Jonathan Knox’s legs begin to wobble.
“–not I’m not–”
He begins to convulse standing up.
“–not gonna not I’m not I’m Jonathan Knottkxxzx–”
Plasteric beads of spit grow in the corners of his mouth and join together before his front teeth.
“Jonathan Knox is hard to kill I’m hard to kill kill hard hard to kill hard t–”
Jonathan Knox hits the floor hard, dirty. Blood runs freely from his ears, pools on either side of his head. Makes him look like an elephant almost.
“Jonathan,” Cody says.
“Knox, get up.”
The body stops shaking. The puddles continue to grow.
Copy approaches his body. “Jonathan, get the fuc–”
“Give it a rest, Cody,” says Dean. He walks over, as to inspect the body. Kicks it once. “He’s ganked. Slept. Goosed. Out’a here.”
“What do you–”
“Jonathan Knox is dead, Cody. He’s been emancipated from the drone of the mortal coil.”
Rather than falling to his knees and hollering catharticlike he did for The Whoreson, Cody brings his good hand slowly to his cheek and scratches it a couple times with his stubble.
“He sustained a traumatic cranial injury when you clocked him upside the head with your gun,” Dean explains. “When you hit him, you essentially primed a time bomb.”
“Well…” Cody says. “…is what it is. What’s going on with this planet, though?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” says a voice all too familiar to Sully Cody Donovan, the son of a ‘man who watched television like it was his job, ‘cause it was. He was a prolific and respected analyst of television series of the action and drama genres, dad Donovan was, and in between his stints of dramas and action programs, he would watch the news to stay informed about the world. He wasn’t partial to any one bias, he would watch all the different news stations – this was all back when the illusion of multiple news stations was still put on by The Internet Culture Company, you see. He would settle on one for a couple minutes, flip to the next, stay there ‘til the commercials hit, start flipping through again. Through all those flipped channels a myriad of voices spoke to the Donovan household, but one specific voice always seemed to leak out and touch Sully’s ears more than the rest, especially in the year of 2004: the voice of George W. Bush. “This here is True Earth, Sully.”
Cody watches in awe as George W. Bush walks to him from the center of the room. Bush takes him under his arm. It’s warm under there, warm and arid like a Texan desert.
Together they gaze over the planet.
“You see all the structures down there, Cody?” asks George W. Bush. “All those buildings packed so close together they look like the ocean after a tanker’s spilled? You see all them?”
“Yes,” Cody says, tears coming to his eyes. “Yes, I… I do.”
“You know what those are?”
Cody weeps openly beneath the arm of the one who’s called George W. Bush.
“They’re prisons, Sully’boi. All the world’s a prison, and I am its warden. My name is George W. Bush, Master God of Control, and I’d like to know just what the fuck you think you’re doing here in my High Tower.”
“The Bookmaker,” incants Cody in a groaning voice not his own. “The Bookmaker moves to end it all.”
“Excuse me?” George W. looks to Howard Dean. Long gone. Probably went to explore beneath the tower with Al Sharpton. “What are you talking about? What is The Bookmaker? ”
“He’ll end it all, he’ll burn Existence to the fucking ground. First the universes, then the astral planes, then all of Existence will be terminated. It all stARTS HERE,” Cody begins to scream, “IT ALL BEGINS IN THIS GOD-FORSAKEN FUCKING SHITHOLE OF A PISSPOT FUCKING UNIVERSE!”
Cody stands and sprints across the tower, leaps effortlessly over the big horseshoe table and all its accompanying chairs.
“I’LL BURN IT ALL! I’LL BURN IT ALL TO THE FUCKIN–”
Cody strikes the window dome-first and spills out hard on the floor. His forehead is flattened a bit and blood dribbles from his nose, mouth, ears, the whole thing.
“What,” George W. Bush asks the Universe, “the fuck?”
She doesn’t answer.
Howard Dean appears between Bush and Jonathan Knox’s corpse. He looks over at Cody’s corpse and grimaces in disgust.
“Hiya, Boss,” he says. “He misbehave or something?”
“Did it to himself,” George explains. “We were just talking, then his mouth got running. He said some… worrisome things to me, Howard.”
“What’d he say, George?”
“He said something about The Bookmaker, that it was going to destroy this Universe, along with the rest of existence.” He nods at the body by the window. “Then he ran across the room fast enough to brain himself on the window.”
Howard stares at the shleemo for a couple seconds. Only a couple seconds, though. “Well I’ve never heard of anyone called The Bookmaker, boss. Maybe it’s another God?”
“No,” George decides. “Not possible. We are the only ones.”
“Oh that’s rich,” The Suited Man proclaims.
“What?” asks Tom Foolery.
“I know we are,” says Dean with a respectful aversion of eye contact. “But Al Sharpton and I are the only Gods here, and we didn’t cause the human to kill himself. I can only assume you didn–”
“Of course I didn’t!” George booms. “I was interrogating the bastard!”
“Yes, yes, of course, Boss,” Dean mews. “So if we didn’t do it, and you didn’t do it… then who did?”
George walks and stares out over True Earth. How long has it been since he claimed his rule over this planet? Has the food run out down below? Are any of the prisoners still alive, or does the rock now truly belong to the Master God of Control, the one true Master of Masters? And what of the fragment of Wuester domed beneath the tower, what of the inhabitants? Have they evolved to flourish without natural light, or have they run out of air and perished? Were any of them more than mere Beings? Could a High Being, even a Demigod have possibly been flying under Bush’s radar all this time?
“Dean,” Bush says to the window.
“I want you to take those bodies, go back to Sharpton, and work on them. Send them back to Bionic Earth.”
“Work on them, Sir?” Howard asks. “In what way?”
“Well, you’re meant to send them back to Wuester of Bionic Earth where they’ll be pursued by bounty hunters armed with guns that shoot energy, not to mention that unkillable cyborg monster thing. Christ almighty, Dean, you’re the Master God of Technology! Make something the fuck up! ”
“Yessir!” He runs for the lift.
“Dean!” shouts Bush.
Dean skids to a stop and turns.
“I want you to be straight with me now, straight’n’narrow. Do you have any clue who The Bookmaker may be, any inkling of an idea at all?”
“Not a one, Boss,” Howard Dean disappoints. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking,” he says, then just shakes his head. “I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’m the Master God of Control, I know and see everything, damnit! I knew you were bringing those two here, I knew the instant y’all’d show up, I knew I‘d have to arrive a few minutes late to achieve my desired dramatic effect; I knew exactly how all this was going to go down! But then he said The Bookmaker, then he started talking about the end of the Universe. This is my Universe, Howard! I dredged the seven Earths from their alternate iterations all by myself, I made this Universe my bitch and now, during a goddamn meeting I knew would happen, a human got possessed before my own eyes and dropped me a load of unexpected and confusing information.”
George looks at Howard very steadily.
“I don’t know what the fuck is going on, Howard Dean, and that makes me very uncomfy. After you and Sharpton send the ‘mans back to Bionic Earth, you are to summon the rest of The Advisorate back to High Tower. We’re all going to hold up here for a little while, see how things play out. Clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” Dean says. “Crystal.”
“Then get a move on, partner.”
Master God of Technology Howard Dean gets a move on. He doesn’t bother with the lift, he just teleports down to Sharpton and zaps the bodies with him. Leaves the bloodstains behind, though. George sighs. The stains all disappear.
“All the world’s a prison,” Master God of Control George W. Bush whispers to himself as he gazes out upon True Earth, “and I am its warden… Christ almighty, I’m no warden. I’m a failure.”
One Earth is destroyed. Another was felled into apocalypse. A third is a dead hunk of barren cells. The cloudy sky stares up at George brazenly. “The fall of my seven Earths has begun… and there’s no one to blame but myself…”
A week or three ago I was in the pits so, being me, I pulled down a copy of one of the books I wrote, opened to a page, and read this. Had me cracking up… so imagine how good it’ll be to you, a human who’s already in a fantastic mood!