archive - issue 18
Anyone for Karmageddon?By Ross Fleming
A warm welcome to you all... O Great and Mighty Oscar, Lord of all that is Somehow Bent out of Shape… Jack Nicholson, star of One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… Russell Crowe, male lead from A Beautiful Mind… Poker Straight, female lead from Frankly Fresh Flesh… Honoured Guests… Ladies and Gentlemen… Thank you for your presence here today. I’m your friendly host Bob and the Valkenberg Inpatients’ Recreation Room has never looked so good. The radiant auras, the shining faces: I am awed, speechless. For the latecomers see if you can find a seat over this way, loads of room nearer the television screen, make yourselves comfortable. (He indicates vaguely at the space immediately in front of him.) No sense squashing into the corner. And can we please all turn our antennae onto vibrate. The toilets are out the back door and second turn to the right, actually wherever you can find a vacant rose-bush, but don’t say that to Nurse Brown …heh heh heh
(Fellow inmate Marvin carries on silently playing Solitaire with his deck of cards, ignoring the other’s ramblings – Sewende Laan is playing on the television with the sound on mute.)
This meeting of great telepathic broadcasters, the Terribly Introverted but Tried and Tested Zombians, or TITTZ for short is indeed a unique body of beings. (Marvin takes out his handkerchief and carefully, methodically, blows his nose.) We voted at the AGM a year ago to gather here on the first day of spring, 2016. It is my privilege to welcome you all back. Apologies have been ectoplasmed in from Osama bin Laden. Oh yes and Justin Bieber was unavoidably detained coming through the local Satellite Dish - something to do with a Pirated Signal - have you got that down, Honey? (He beams down at the empty chair.) My girlfriend's note-taking has been agreeably enhanced by the recent birth of twins. First of all can we have a minutes silence in memory of Umberto Eco? God rest his soul. There there. Tthat’s quite enough, Lassie. Come away from the table-leg will you… there we go...
The moving picture has undergone a huge transformation over the last century. Before the advent of cinema, all we did at night was sit miserably around the communal fireplace and moan about how things had deteriorated. Now that we can get reality beamed into our heads, we can consider all that we are missing in terms of quality of life. In fact we can teleport ourselves into positions of power, and exist inside of the Taj Mahal, the White House, Buckingham Palace, or even the Grand Canyon.
We have here, gathered between these four walls in the gracious lodgings of the Zombian nerve-control centre, men as diverse as the monstrously manic Jack Nicholson, and who can forget Jack in that groundbreaking movie. Dear God - what a performance by a fellow-lunatic of exceptional adaptability. Again, Russell Crowe inhabited the lead role in A Beautiful Mind so accurately that none of us can differentiate between Russell and the genuine lunatic John Nash - and he went on to win the Nobel Prize for Math. How cool is that!
Even Lassie over here (pats the empty air affectionately) has had her time of glory, retired now to this haven of artists. Honey I hope you’re getting all of this down. There seems to be a rapt silence from the floor (Marvin starts suddenly and checks under the table as though someone might be hiding there.) And I want to extend a special welcome to Poker Straight, that vastly successful star of our communal midnight fantasies. Thank you so much, each and every one of you, for making yourselves available. (He wipes his brow with his handkerchief.) Let’s focus now on the important business at hand.
Topic Number One on our agenda for discussion today is Imaginary friends are not the question; Imaginary friends are the answer! We few who are assigned the broadcasting aerials of telepathy must now make hay while the sun shines. Now that the birds are frolicking and the bees are buzzing, it is high time that we celebrities made our way back to that realm that is sizzling with significance and insane with intrigue. Our Beloved Planet Zombia.
Ah Zombia, that wonderful wavelength where pictures tumble cheerfully out of the ether and into our heads. (Marvin gazes thoughtfully out of the window.) The sheer joy of seeing Rihanna walk out of the telly, hitch herself up on the sofa, and offer us all a pack of appetite suppressants, this is the very stuff of the Greater Unreality.
Yes Zombia, so much more than the last undiscovered planet of our Solar System. We are more than a geographical location; we are a way to wisdom, a path to peace, a mode of travel. Allow me to elaborate to the visitors looking in, hoping for a spiritual home.
The human brain operates at a frequency of roughly 50Hz per second, and those of us with hugely powerful electrical circuits have come to dominate the magnetosphere ever since the dawn of psychoactive drugs. The Sixties? Ah yes! The advent of the most amazing decade since the Golden Age of Ancient Greece. This was caused, if I may be frank, by the discovery of 1st generation antipsychotic drugs. As a result, all of us Aware Beings, namely TITTZ, significantly increased our broadcasting activities all at once. The radio-waves flowed in and out, the atmosphere went frantic, a million neurotics achieved Nirvana, and Zombia came to Earth in fine style. Ask The Beatles?
You look at me as I stand before you today, Uncle Bob to the little children, Comrade to the War Veterans, the Father of All True Farce to those who would gaze warmly and nostalgically into their monitors. Savior, Philanthropist, Player extraordinaire, words fail us. (There is the sound of an argument beginning from next door.) Dr. Ruth mentioned last week that I am probably intellectually impoverished, with an identity crisis; compounded by various brainwashing techniques of possibly Communist origin, but we (He gesticulates broadly and sweepingly to his left) all know the answer.
We all here present have come to realize that I, Bob (buffs fingernails on his t-shirt) am the greatest being to land on the planet since the birth of the electronic media. Untroubled, focused, strong and relatively catatonic amidst the hubbub of the busy world: I have a source of contentment far beyond all earthly ambitions. The Founder Member and Honorary Life President of the BOFF movement - Basically Optimistic Friendly Folk - I offer to humans of all orientations, colors and creeds, the possibility of an eternity, or at least a Very Long Time, spent on our woozy wavelength. I offer peace and security, and what you have to do is simple. Turn on your telly, and my lethargic brand of Nirvana will set in. There you will see me, (waves at the mute screen), my co-workers, (nods nervously at where Poker is theoretically perched), and my followers, thank you, thank you, God bless you. (There is an arbitrary roar of rage from the escalating argument in the next room.)
You wonder why we do this thing, this exposition of our art, this laying of our souls bare. I will come to that in a moment, I mean the material rewards, but spiritually we have so much (waves excitedly at the empty room) that we simply must share. The connections, the power, the intoxication, o God it’s all too much for me. I can’t go on another minute.
(The dumb television has been showing a series of adverts on apparatus for bodybuilding, whereby people with perfect bodies appeal for an investment in the healthy option. Marvin gazes blankly at this for a long time in silence, then scratches his leg and focuses on his game of Solitaire. A shouting woman chases a man in a straitjacket past the open doorway. There are sounds of a scuffle. A door slams, and there is a muffled, if ominous, silence.)
Sorry - it’s overpowering, the presence of pure Karma - that was totally over the top, forgive me people. (He takes stock of where he is, fixes his eyes on the ceiling, then continues.) Let me tell you - if we realized the enormous potential of the minds here present, if we grasped the possibilities inherent in our huge ability to affect the world, we would not be sitting here passively (glares angrily at the bottom of the notice board.) No, we would be outside of these doors, taking on the giants of our society.
You’ve heard of The American War of Independence? The Winds of Change? The Liberation Struggle? All of these were manifestations of the magnetosphere whereby a small group of people undertook to transform irrevocably all that we are into all that we can be. Do not be humble, creatures of Zombia, the time has come for us all to stand up and be counted. Wwe must move forward!! To the common man we are fantastical. We may look unreal, but to the initiated, we are Gods of the upper realm, inhabitants of more than the imagination, übermenschen.
(Spit flecks fly as Bob becomes more and more excited. Marvin is re-tieing his shoelace. His tongue extends as he focuses on the task at hand. He then straightens up, yawns and stretches. A swallow lands on the windowsill, tweets a couple of times, looks into the room, and flies off again. Bob is in a world of his own.)
And most important of all, (he settles down) you will see next to me the Great Golden Statuette of our tremendous System, The Mighty Oscar. (He holds up a ripe banana.) Ultimate Accolade for all who adhere to the discipline of C BOB P - Creatively Burnt Out But Productive. This is a lifetime award for natural talent in this remarkably satisfying profession. And do you know, if I had the chance, I’d do it again. I did it my way.
Apologies for my little digression – you will excuse a sentimentalist getting carried away at his moment of public success. Anyway, back to the second topic on the agenda for today, ‘Where to from here?’ Thank you to the lovely Cameron Diaz for bringing us back to Earth. (He winks at the back of the door. Marvin slips anxiously out of the room.) My trusted advisers, a group of elders who have counseled me on day to day decisions about organizing the planet for the past twenty five years, have said, ‘Bob, you have done your bit, you have fought the good fight. Now is the time to take us all back to your great place in the sky?’ Yes, it’s Zombia. (Marvin wanders in again and resumes his game of Solitaire.)
Our moral high ground is powerful enough to carry us into the dimension beyond. It will transcend our earthly woes and break us back into that deep feeling of health and happiness. We must implement the essence of TITTZ, this republic of telepathically gifted men and women. (Nurse Brown glances into the room and, sizing up the situation in an instant, hurries off.)
Okay chaps. What we are going to do is to hum, slowly and in three-part harmony, that ancient classic, Zom-bi-a, to the tune of Three Blind Mice. This should get us all onto alpha wavelength and activate our organs of levitation, hence drawing us onward and upward, closer and closer to the ideal state, and finally lifting us onto a final, one-way trip to Zombia. Join with me everybody. All together now, Zom-bi-a… Zom-bi-a… Zom-bi-a… Zom-bi-a…
(Nurse Brown is accompanied into the room by Two Strong Men. Bob is gently and calmly escorted away. He does not resist. Marvin re-shuffles his deck of cards and starts another game of Solitaire. He rubs his head slowly, staring at the wall. Sewende Laan continues, with the sound switched off as usual. This year’s episode of Karmageddon has now been wrapped.)
Ross Ian Fleming devotes his days to testing Telecoms software, satisfying his wife’s need for fast food, and educating his three kids. At night, however, he dreams of Poetry. He has written six small volumes of poems, all available on Amazon Kindle
Although occasionally inhabiting an imaginary land beyond description, in reality he lives in Cape Town, South Africa, the next best thing in the chain of being.
He has published work in Itch and New Coin and has won 3 online writing competitions at the SA Writers College over the past 10 years. Also see Slipnet for more.