Archive for immortality

G.O.D

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by ofherbsandaltars

 

For the second time in 140 years, Zed was beginning to despair of his boyfriend’s inability to cope with immortal life. John had previously spent half a century in self-imposed exile, comatose inside a dusty coffin, until Zed dragged him out into the modern world of 2063. And although John had been enraged by Beef Elvis and all the other horrific inventions of that vulgar age, he had finally come to terms with their new way of life, and they had spent a blissful decade together, catching up on fifty years of blood-drinking, whiskey, grainy old westerns and spine-tingling blowjobs.

But all too soon, their happiness had been cut short – by 2075, John had lapsed back into monosyllabic misery, spending whole nights lying flat on his back on the roof, drinking whiskey and gazing mournfully up at the lurid ruination of his beloved moon, now home to the hideous Lunar Resort, a-swarm with crass, obese tourists. He refused to leave the house, burst into tears if the TV was turned on, and even the arrival of a newspaper filled with daunting inventions and alien culture could send him into a state of total catatonia for up to a week. Finally, one night in July, he quietly informed Zed that he was going back to sleep, back into his coffin, because he just couldn’t bear it anymore. He looked so hopelessly dejected that Zed didn’t even try to argue with him – instead, he vowed to join him in exile, and John managed a sad little smile in response.

Two days later, Zed had paid the rent on his apartment for the foreseeable future, and procured a coffin built for the fattest of fat people. After a ceremonial last supper of Type O Positive, he followed John into its spacious, satin-lined darkness, curling himself around John’s slim body, and making a silent but fervent wish that this time, he wouldn’t sleep for quite so long.

At first, the years passed quickly, and Zed enjoyed the vivid, intricate dreams that would unfurl inside the brain of a hibernating vampire. He drifted happily through a swirling gumbo of memory and fiction, finding himself wandering through the world he had once known and loved, the bustling dancehalls of the 1950’s, the scents of whiskey and Brylcreem and cigarette smoke, as Elvis and Johnny Cash gyrated on stage to twangy guitars. This was the rose-tinted world in which he had first met John, a fellow Brit washed up in Tennessee, when he had become entranced by his pale, flawless skin, his pretty face, his bright green eyes and bizarre sense of humour, when they had loved nothing more than to drive his vast old Cadillac out into the hills, parking up and gazing out across the city lights, sharing a bottle of whiskey and talking about nothing at all.

The decades that followed had flown by in utter contentment, and Zed had barely noticed the gradual reversal of their roles, as John began to fear and distrust each new invention, began to tear his hair out in despair and hopelessness at every song on the radio, every strange new cultural fad. Suddenly Zed was no longer the protégé, the baby vampire who must be taught – he became John’s eternal guardian, patiently explaining to him how to use a mobile phone, what the internet did, what hipsters and hashtags and 3D cinema meant. It had amused Zed, John’s increasing and endearing eccentricity, until in 2013 John gave up on life altogether, and disappeared into his coffin for an eternity. Zed had found himself abandoned in that hideous 21st century, an ancient creature lost and alone in a terrifying world, and finally, he had begun to understand the reason for John’s despair.

 

 

Zed wasn’t sure how many years had passed, when the vivid colours of his dreams began to fade, and slowly but surely, he found himself waking up. John was motionless beside him, and at first he buried his face in John’s chaotic black hair, tried to will himself back to sleep, but sleep would not come. Boredom arrived first, then a hunger so intense he felt sick. Finally, he shoved open the coffin, and crawled out, stumbling weakly into the kitchen to devour the blood supply. There was a thick layer of dust on all the worktops, and though the blood settled his stomach, it tasted musty and strange, well past its best. Zed stuffed the empty bloodbags into the bin, and wandered cautiously into the living room. He picked up the black credit card that lay on the coffee table, blew the dust bunnies off it, and pointed it at the wall. A vast screen burst into life, and he flipped through to the news channel. The date, he discovered, was Saturday, March 2nd, 2097. They had been asleep for more than two decades, and this fact disturbed him. Zed had never before given in to existential despair, had remained a conscious, functioning part of the world, every single day of his extended lifetime, and now he felt horribly lost, as though he had been tossed into the future against his will.

He frowned at the TV screen, his sense of bemusement increasing as a newsreader in a neon-lime zebra-striped suit held forth with enthusiasm over ‘GOD Day’. Zed had no idea what this meant – before he went to sleep, religion seemed to be dying out, but now, GOD was on every channel he could find, always written in those imperious, demanding caps. Soon there were rapid clips of bizarrely attired humans, each one pleading with the camera, with GOD, for things they desired to be granted. Each one of them spoke with an intensity of obsessive zeal that made Zed question their sanity – they seemed wholly convinced that GOD was listening, was watching this very broadcast. After staring at this perverse spectacle for ten minutes, Zed sighed despairingly, and fired up his trusty purple laptop. It was time to decipher this sinister new decade.

 

 

For the next month, Zed drifted back into his old routine, tirelessly researching the hellish inventions of humanity, sifting through alien information until his brain throbbed and the words blurred before his eyes. Frequently he discovered things that appalled him to the depths of his vampire soul, and when this happened, he sought his oldest comfort – an entire bottle of whiskey, followed by a lengthy session of furious vomiting off the edge of his roof, until he felt soothed and exhausted enough to wander back inside for an all night viewing of Lonesome Dove. On some of these occasions, he found himself drifting into the storage room and opening up the coffin, where John still lay, smiling serenely in his sleep. Zed would watch him for hours, sometimes stroking John’s tousled hair, kissing the cold softness of his lips, yearning to wake him up, to share his confusion with the only person on the planet who would understand – the only person on the planet who remembered the world as it used to be, a world that had once made sense. But always, Zed stopped himself – he knew he couldn’t do it, not yet, not until he had made sense of the world himself. If he couldn’t explain everything to John, in words that John would understand, he would be overwhelmed completely, terrified beyond endurance by this alien environment, and Zed couldn’t bear to see that hopeless look in his eyes, all over again. And so, he would quietly close the lid over John’s sleeping face, and plod back to his laptop, where he would sit for the rest of the night, striving to understand all the things he never should have lived to see.

 

 

There were many inventions and cultural fads that baffled and infuriated Zed, but there was one he found oddly seductive. He had been surprised to discover that Facebook’s successor, Facenet, was still running, that his and John’s profiles were still live, though hopelessly outdated and all but abandoned by their human friends, now in their forties and fifties. But the very nature of Facenet’s continued success, with its aging population moving perpetually towards death, had provoked the creation of a programme that stood on the border between genius and blasphemy. It was known as the ImmortoBot, and its stated purpose was to comfort the grieving, its lurid banner adverts declaring Now there really is life after death! With ImmortoBot, your loved ones will never leave you. For just $899 a month, you’ll never be lonely again!”

The purpose of this strange piece of software was to keep a person’s Facenet profile live and active following their death. By combining information on the deceased user from Facenet, Google, and other major players in the information-for-sale business, ImmortoBot could devise a realistic but fictional plotline of the person’s continued existence, allowing them to post new Facenet statuses every day, and even to reply to the statuses of their friends and family, as though they had never left. The humans had not yet conquered death, but they had managed to deceive themselves out of grief – death was no longer final, no longer silent, instead it had become nothing more than a joyous extended vacation.

Zed pondered the ImmortoBot for several days. He was, without a doubt, the programme’s target market – lonesome and abandoned, desperately missing the boy he loved more than anything else in the world. Would it really be so wrong to bring him back, to allow himself this one tiny comfort – John’s online presence, thriving once more, for him to talk to late at night? He was wholly aware that John – the real John – would be appalled by the idea, and this knowledge held him back, but it was quickly eclipsed by stubbornness. Why should John have a say in it? Why should John have a say in anything when he had chosen, for the second time this century, to entirely abandon him, to lie comatose and useless in a box while Zed faced the world alone. If Zed had to cope with this sinister neon wilderness all by himself, the very least John could do was allow him the one small comfort of his demi-fictional online presence. Finally, Zed’s repressed irritation, combined with half a bottle of whiskey, pushed him through his initial resistance – he got out his credit card, and signed John’s Facenet account up to the ImmortoBot.

It took Zed a number of weeks to fully understand the mystery of GOD, the strange religious fervour he was now surrounded by, but all too soon, GOD became a continual blight on his existence. After many nights of brain-aching internet research, he had finally managed to delve into the history of GOD, discovering that this seismic shift in modern religion had taken place just three years after he and John retreated into the coffin. In 2078, a group of Texan evangelists had threatened to nuke the entire United States in a violent effort to bring about the second coming. The rebellion had been quashed with only moderate loss of life, but it had brought the eternal problem of religious warfare to a head. At an international summit in Berlin, it was finally agreed that the issue was the sheer impossibility of reaching a consensus, where different religions were involved. Even the early 21st century rise in atheism had caused problems, spawning a generation of suicidal children taught to believe themselves nothing more than soulless lumps of meat, existing in a world where nothing mattered – so many of these children had hurled themselves to their meaningless deaths from the tops of skyscrapers in the early 2030s. It was clear that religion was natural, even essential, to the human mindset, but was it logical to base one’s beliefs on perverse, antiquated texts, to pray to a God who hadn’t been seen in millennia?

After much debate, an innovative solution was reached. Humanity would take religion into its own hands – make it literal, make it profitable, make it work. Immediately following the summit, there was an ugly scramble by global corporations to seize world control of religion, and over the next eighteen months, many gods were born, and died their lonely deaths. One victor emerged, unstoppable, from the chaos – G.O.D, the Google Omnipotent-love Deity, powered into existence by the most powerful, all-knowing company on the planet, easily able to answer simple prayers before they were even spoken, via an exhaustive knowledge of the user’s internet browsing history. Google already knew the world’s deepest, darkest secrets, and now, Google had been reborn as the One True God. Within ten years, GOD was everywhere – on every single phone and computer, in the form of the PrayerStation, which beamed the desperation of human souls directly into the stratosphere, bouncing off satellite dishes and rerouting to GOD’s Island in the middle of the Atlantic, a floating ecosystem of nuns and monks who worked tirelessly to shepherd the lost sheep. Lonely people would install GOD’s Eye cameras in their homes, and it comforted them to know that they were no longer alone, that GOD was truly watching, truly listening to their every word, and even responding with messages of comfort and salvation that would flash up on their computer screens.

Above all, the constantly evolving strength of GOD was driven by the fervent success of GOD Day. By the time of Zed’s awakening in 2097, every Saturday had become a minor GOD Day, with additional bi-annual celebrations of vast decadence. Humanity would be whipped into a frenzy by the promise of prayers granted, not with mere words of wisdom, but with cold hard cash. Every GOD Day, 150 people in the USA would have their greatest wishes granted. Every GOD Day, the TV stations portrayed endless sob stories of families in need, until 10pm, when the chosen wishes would be granted, and the victors were paraded before the nation, weeping tears of joy, as the world poured out its love and thanks to the eternal goodness of GOD.

Zed watched much of the GOD Day coverage in a state of speechless bemusement, but it was when he stepped outside his flat that the true horror hit him. Everywhere he went, humans were dragging around vast neon crosses, wearing wreaths of luminous peas that dripped realistic phosphorescent blood. They were gathered in groups with their phones held aloft, falling to their knees and weeping in the streets as they poured out their desperate pleas to the PrayerStation. Wherever he went, shopkeepers asked him what he had prayed for, or who was his choice of this week’s TV darlings. Everywhere, the nation was awash with desperate obsession – Zed felt as though he were surrounded by children frantically awaiting the coming of Santa Claus, except that it never, ever ended. Every single week he had to endure the same frantic insanity, until he refused to leave his flat at all on weekends, but still the 10pm fireworks and cries of joy and despair drove him slowly out of his mind.

There wasn’t a single programme on modern TV that Zed understood or enjoyed, but GOD Day was by far the worst. He had even been known to flip the channel onto reruns of the Dump Diaries to avoid it, and Dump Diaries was the lowest of the low, the inevitable depths of the reality TV barrel, wherein normal people recorded their most trivial and pointless thoughts whilst sitting on the toilet in a specially made Poop Confession Booth. By the eighth week of this routine, Zed was truly beginning to despair, finding himself, once again, voluntarily and avidly watching nondescript mortals pondering their shopping lists, or moaning about their boyfriend’s toenails, punctuated by the soft splashing of faeces hitting toilet water. Was this really what his life had become? Had he truly survived 166 years on this planet to rot away in a lonely apartment, his sole entertainment a fat man taking the longest shit in existence? Zed didn’t know whether to laugh or cry during these moments of ghastly introspection, but inevitably he would whip himself into an existential fury, and end up vomiting whiskey and bloodclots off the edge of his roof, interspersed with howling insults at the GOD Day revelers in the streets below.

Yet another source of consternation was John’s ImmortoBot reincarnation. Zed was beginning to suspect that the ImmortoBot was slightly homophobic. John’s online persona had explained its twenty year absence with a rather lame tale of amnesia, brought on by a freak windsurfing accident in Benidorm, which didn’t particularly impress Zed – John despised hot countries, despised the culture of British people on holiday, burning themselves lobster-red and balancing cans of TitWhizz on their wobbling beer-guts – Zed found it impossible to envisage John ever wanting to go to Benidorm. Grudgingly, he made allowance for this initial error – presumably the ImmortoBot didn’t often have to contend with the peculiarities of a vampire gone missing for decades. Nonetheless, the ImmortoBot’s inaccuracies continued to spiral out of control. Within two weeks, John had made a heartfelt confession that, for the majority of his life, he had been ‘confused’ about his sexuality, which downgraded their 140 year relationship to a mere teenage fumble. Three days later, John was excited to be going on a date – with a woman. Zed watched these events unfold in a state of increasing bemusement, but somehow, he couldn’t bear to look away. Next, came a disturbingly convincing photograph of John on a beach, his arm around a pretty blonde called Miranda. What Zed found most horrifying of all, however, was that the ImmortoBot had taken the liberty of ageing John as though he were human. Zed’s pale, pretty-faced boyfriend was now rotund, greying, bizarrely sunburned and developing a bald patch. That night, Zed vomited off the roof for three straight hours.

Zed’s state of ever-growing disgust finally peaked on Friday 24th June. It had been impossible to ignore the building atmosphere of delirious excitement that was sweeping the nation – tomorrow was Midsummer GODmas, one of the two major religious holidays, and the humans were going crazy. Tomorrow, 2,000 Americans would have their most lavish prayers answered, and a further 1,000 would be given the power to smite their most hated enemy. The result was an intoxicating cocktail of greed and wrath, and everywhere Zed went, mortals were drooling over luxury hover-yachts, private rockets and permanent rooms on the Lunar Resort, interspersed with violent imaginings of their troublesome neighbours being lynched, their bosses being castrated, that dog that never stopped barking being throttled with its own tongue. Even on the Dump Diaries, the ponderings from the Poop Booth ran on similarly vicious lines, and for the past three nights, Zed had vomited off the roof until his throat bled and stars danced before his eyes, but still the horror wouldn’t leave him. On Friday 24th June, he sat on the sofa in front of Lonesome Dove, and cried into his bottle of whiskey, overwhelmed with despair, until in the desperate hope of comfort, he logged onto Facenet. John’s chubby sunburned alterego popped up, happily declaring that Miranda was now pregnant, and Zed howled with horror, hurling his whiskey bottle at the wall, where it exploded into a million sparkling fragments

As Zed stared blankly at the mess of whiskey and broken glass, he knew that he couldn’t bear it any longer. It was time to wake up John, whether he liked it or not.

 

 

In the storage room, inside the faded satin luxury of his oversized coffin, John was still sleeping. Zed brought in an armful of blood bags – he knew only too well that John had perfected laziness into an art form, could sleep through earthquakes and gunfire; kick-starting his metabolism with a bag of blood was the only thing that would rouse him. Crouching down next to the coffin, Zed broke open the IV tube on a bag of blood, and poked the end into John’s mouth. John smiled in his sleep, beginning to quietly drink, until the bag ran dry, and the smooth skin of his forehead puckered into a bemused frown. Zed removed the tube from his mouth, and gave John a poke in the chest, saying his name.

“No…” John mumbled. “Go ‘way…”

“Please wake up,” Zed persisted, beginning to gently shake his shoulders. “I want to talk to you…”

“Nooo…” John groaned despairingly, “They’re mine!  Jus’…jus’…leave ‘em alone!”

Zed laughed, and shook him harder. John’s mumblings became more and more irate, until his eyes snapped open, his pupils dilating with fury, and he launched himself out of the coffin, landing on top of Zed and violently punching him in the ear as he howled,

“GIVE THEM BACK, YOU BASTARD MOTHERFUCKER! YOU SCUMBAG FUCKING-”

“It’s me!” Zed protested, trying desperately to grab John’s wrists before he received another fist to the face. “Stop hitting me!”

After several seconds of violent flailing, the manic light faded from John’s green eyes, and he went limp, staring at Zed with an expression of confusion. Zed shuffled out from underneath him, grabbed a second blood bag, and held it out, suggesting,

“Drink this.”

John regarded it suspiciously, but eventually accepted, biting into the plastic and slurping up the blood, still looking decidedly bemused. When the blood was gone, Zed asked,

“Why did you attack me?”

“Thought you were George W Bush,” John said thoughtfully. “I’d found the last pack of Lucky Strikes on the entire planet, hidden inside a fat man’s beard. But just as I was about to light one, George called them terrorist sticks and started tossing them into a puddle…”

“He’s dead, remember?” Zed replied, grinning. “He’s been dead for ages. And no one says terrorist anymore, they’re evilists now.”

John rolled his eyes, and bit into the final blood bag. There was a rapid explosion of fireworks from the night outside, and a chorus of human voices yelled,

“WE LOVE YOU, GOD!”

John took the bag out of his mouth, and frowned at Zed, demanding,

“What the fuck’s going on out there?”

Zed stood up, and dragged John to his feet, leading him down the corridor and into the living room. He mutely zapped the TV onto the news channel, where the pre-GODmas build-up was well underway. John dumped himself down on the sofa, and frowned at the screen. An obese woman was promising to commit the life and soul of her firstborn daughter to the eternal service of GOD, if she could be granted a BMW Supersonic with a luminous rainbow paint job. Next came a red-faced man with tiny piggish eyes, who was begging for the opportunity to smite his cheating wife – he wanted to heat up her curling iron and then sodomise her with it. John shuddered at this idea, looking horrified. Glancing up at Zed, he asked fearfully,

“Is this a thing now? A new sexual kink? Have you tried it? It sounds awful!”

Zed laughed, sitting down and sliding his arm around John’s waist.

“It’s not a thing,” Zed reassured him, “And I definitely haven’t tried it. This is what happens tomorrow: GODmas – people get stuff they want, or they get to do horrible things to the people they hate – all legal and government sanctioned. And then the rest of the world watches it on TV and gets really excited.”

“God…does this for people?” John asked, glancing nervously over his shoulder. “There’s an actual God now? Since when? Is he scary? What does he wear? Does he still hate gays?”

Zed laughed, leaning over to give him a kiss. John pulled away, casting another fearful glance at the ceiling, until Zed told him,

“God can’t see us here. He’s not a real God – it’s just this ridiculous new Google stunt. Hang on.”

He opened the laptop, and flipped to the most succinct page he had yet found on the GOD phenomenon. John read it with a frown, before snorting with laughter and muttering,

“Google Omnipotent-love Deity! That doesn’t even spell God! It just sounds like a terrible sex toy for kinky Catholics!”

Just then, the laptop let out a gleeful ping, and Zed’s other tab started flashing. Before he could intervene, John had flicked over to Facenet, where his own aged and bloated face was staring back at him, once again depicted on the beach with Miranda, holding out a pregnancy test as both of them smiled soppily at each other.

WHAT”John exclaimed, his eyes widening, “The fuck is this! Is that supposed to be me? What the fuck have they done to my face?! And who the fuck is that woman and WHY IS SHE SMILING AT ME?!”

“Umm…” said Zed, feeling his insides freeze with shame. “She’s…she’s your girlfriend. She’s pregnant. But…but it’s not real!” he added hastily, as John fixed him with a horrified green glare. “It’s just this computer programme that pretends you’re still alive and happy, and I only did it because I missed you so much!”

“You missed me?” John repeated hysterically. “You missed me so much that you decided to turn me into a fat red balding HETEROSEXUAL?!”

“I didn’t mean to!” Zed protested. “I didn’t get to choose what happened, I just paid for it!”

John fixed him with a long and withering gaze of total disgust, before standing up haughtily, and stomping away down the corridor. Zed jumped up and ran after him, pulling him to a halt outside the storage room and pleading,

“Don’t go back to sleep, John! I’m sorry – I’ll get it shut down tomorrow, I promise, just please don’t leave me again?”

John slowly turned around, drawing himself up to his full height, and scowling up at Zed.

“I’ve got some whiskey?” Zed offered nervously. “Have a drink with me?”

John continued to scowl at him, his lower lip sticking out in a sullen pout, but Zed took his silence for assent, and wandered into the kitchen. There was only a quarter of a bottle left, now that he’d smashed the other one, but it would have to do. He led the way up the stairs to the roof, and John followed along behind, grumbling under his breath.

When they emerged into the night air, John’s eyes immediately flicked towards the moon. Its glittering belts of red, white and blue were flashing on and off, and across its middle it declared in luminous green capitals “WE LUV GOD!” John shuddered violently, and snatched the bottle out of Zed’s hand. As he wandered around the rooftop, swigging from the bottle, he stared out across the neon-lit city skyline, his eyes finally coming to rest on a nearby rooftop, where several blazing crosses had been erected. Pointing an imperious finger at this bizarre spectacle, he demanded,

“What the hell is that? Who the fuck needs four burning crosses, isn’t one enough to make a point?! And there’s a…there’s a…” he peered into the distance, before exclaiming, “There’s a fucking black guy standing next to them! Who do the racists hate this time?!”

“It’s not racist,” Zed explained, “Not anymore. You know what modern people are like – if they can make something glow, they’ll always do it. At least those bloody luminous peas are dying out now though, I hated those things…”

John sighed, and went to sit down on the edge of the roof. He hesitated, wrinkling his nose, and sat down on a different spot.

“You’ve been puking off the roof again,” he said accusingly, “haven’t you?”

“Almost every night,” Zed admitted, sitting down next to him. “I’ve only been awake for three months, but it’s been awful…”

John said nothing, frowning at the whiskey bottle, but Zed could tell what he was thinking.

“I know you didn’t want to be woken up,” he said, taking John’s hand, “Not when everything’s so terrible, but I just couldn’t bear it on my own anymore. You made me what I am so that you’d never have to be alone – don’t I get to ask the same of you?”

John glanced up at him, sighed, and took a large gulp of whiskey.

“Haven’t they invented time machines yet?” he asked despairingly. “Can’t we just go back? Can’t we just go back to how the world used to be, when it wasn’t awful?”

Zed shook his head. “That was one of the first things I looked up. They invented a time machine twelve years ago, but it turned people inside out. After it totally eviscerated twenty volunteers, the inventor smashed it to bits, burned all his notes and then shot himself in the face. Sorry…”

“Hmm,” John conceded gloomily. “I suppose I’d even rather be here than turned inside out…”

He drained the whiskey bottle, and Zed suggested,

“Come for a walk with me? It’ll be crazy out there, but there’s no more booze in the flat…”

John blew a pessimistic raspberry, but nonetheless stood up, and plodded towards the stairs.

 

 

As they made their way towards Walmart, Zed kept hold of John’s hand, towing him along as he stared around himself in a state of speechless disgust. The night air was thick with the stench of rancid cinnamon, belching out of the exhaust grills in a glittering line of Honda Godspurs, several of which had been fitted with blazing orange crosses that towered into the night sky, American flags fluttering in the breeze. As they continued up the road, they passed a group of teenagers, one holding up a phone while the others threw themselves about in a crazed, violent jig to a tinny rendition of ‘GODmas Vengeance’. Gangs of fat, shirtless men were reeling past, swigging from cross-shaped vessels of obscenely luminous yellow liquid.

Why,” John hissed in Zed’s ear, “Is everyone drinking radioactive piss?!”

Zed burst out laughing, dragging John into a nearby doorway to kiss him. When they finally broke apart, John gave him a reluctant smile, and they continued on their way.

“The radioactive piss,” Zed explained, “It’s called BlessedBeer – it’s the official drink of GODmas, and one in a thousand caps wins you a year’s supply.”

Wonderful,” John replied sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “How did I ever live without a year’s supply of nuclear urine! Have you ever fed on these people? I bet they taste revolting!”

Zed opened his mouth to reply, but a deafening rumbling interrupted him, as a vast gleaming BMW Supersonic came growling past, three fat drunken men hanging out of the windows, hollering,

“TITS OUT FOR GOD! YEAHHHHHHH!”

“Oh, will you just FUCK OFF AND DIE!!” John shrieked at the retreating car, leaping up and down in a furious wardance, and Zed laughed, taking his hand and pulling him away from the road.

“It’s much better now that you’re here,” he said, smiling.

John glanced up at him with a frown, retorting sulkily,

“There’s something wrong with you. You’re only happy when I’m suffering!”

“I’m not happy that you’re suffering,” Zed disagreed. “You haven’t been here the last few months. Do you know what I’ve been doing, since I woke up? I’ve been watching people sitting on the loo, taking awful shits and talking about nothing – every single day! That has been the highlight of my day for the past three months. That’s how bad my life’s been, without you in it.”

John glanced up at him, and Zed could see him trying very hard not to laugh.

“Watching people shit?” he repeated. “How? And…and why?”

“It’s a programme called Dump Diaries. I haven’t literally been lurking around in toilets, getting my sexual kicks from fat men shitting…”

John sniggered, and wandered off into Walmart, looking happier than he had all night.

 

 

They passed the wall of PrayerStations, where people were making last minute drunken demands on GOD, and made their way to the booze aisle. Most of the shelves were weighed down with luminous vessels of BlessedBeer, but Zed managed to grab two dusty bottles of whiskey from the back of the shelf. As they turned towards the tills, John stated,

“I want something to smoke. I can still see George Fucking Bush tossing my Luckies into a puddle.”

“But you know that-”

“I know, I know,” John interrupted irritably, “Anti-Tobacco Act of 2036, this century’s biggest blight on my life! Don’t they sell any of those things anymore though, those pretend cigarette pussy-sticks?”

Zed laughed. “Yeah, but they’ve gone a bit…GODly…”

He led the way up another aisle, and plucked off the shelf something that appeared to be a cross between a crucifix and a cigar, the words Halo Haze scrawled down its length. John eyed it with suspicion, clearly reluctant to partake in anything GOD-related, but eventually he sighed, and took it from Zed.

 

 

When they emerged into the night, John took a dubious drag on his holy cigar, and blew out a cloud of phosphorescent golden vapour. As he stared at it in horror, it began to swirl around his head, as though he was wearing a shimmering halo.

“Fucking hell,” he muttered. “There really is nothing left that they can’t make glow…”

Zed smirked. “You can even get an implant put in your dick that glows – you can have a hard-on for hours, a massive, purple-glowing boner! I was actually quite tempted with that…”

“Don’t you dare!” John exclaimed, gaping up at him in horror. “Don’t you even think about it! If you get your dick sliced open and turned into a…a…a fucking lumo-dildo, I’m going to be celibate forever!”

Zed laughed, and John took another irritable drag on his cigar, turning back towards the flat, when something stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Do you hear that?” he asked, glancing back with an expression of sheer amazement.

Zed paused to listen, and his eyes widened. John suddenly beamed widely, grabbing Zed’s hand and dragging him up the street at top speed. An alien sound was filling the air, completely at odds with the throbbing electronic bleep-and-squelch of ‘GODmas Vengeance’, the drunken prayers, the blazing crosses and the stench of rancid cinnamon. The sound was Elvis, and he was belting out Hound Dog, raucous and joyful above the bouncing riffs of a twangy guitar. John broke into a run, laughing with disbelief, and Zed had to restrain him from leaping right over a car in a decidedly un-human manner. Soon they came upon a vast glowing sign, declaring,

“Granted by GOD, on June 1st 2097 – Axton’s Antiquity Bar!”

John barely paused to read it, before dragging Zed around the corner. On a gloomy, deserted sidestreet, stood what appeared to be an old fashioned cinema, the dully-lit sign above its steps announcing,

“TONIGHT: ELVIS, LIVE ON STAGE!”

John beamed ecstatically, and towed Zed up the stairs. Inside the darkened room, it was hot and humid, the air thick with a scent that Zed hadn’t smelled in half a century, a scent so nostalgic it brought tears to his eyes. It was cigarette smoke, and beer, and sweat, and at the front of the room, a young, beautiful human boy with a voice like roughened gold was still howling out Hound Dog.

John had gone bounding across the room before Zed could blink, dropping to his knees in front of the stage and staring in open mouthed wonder at the boy. Zed made a quick detour to the bar to buy a pack of illicit brand-less smokes and a lighter, before joining John at the front. As he lit a cigarette for John, then for himself, they stared at each other in silent ecstasy, inhaling the half-forgotten poison, feeling it burn down into their lungs, until John’s lips were on Zed’s, his mouth tasting dirty and smoky and alive just as it had in those long ago days, before the world went directly to hell. The boy on stage segued into a hectic, bouncing rendition of Blue Suede Shoes, and John broke away from Zed, snatching a bottle of whiskey out of his hand, flicking off the cap and leaping manically around the dancefloor, gulping from the bottle and sucking down vast lungfuls of smoke, his green eyes glittering behind a film of tears. Zed just stood back and watched him, smoking his cigarette and feeling as though his heart would rupture with joy – feeling as though this moment could sustain him through a hundred years of torment, that whatever the world might throw at him tomorrow, he would always have this moment

He was broken out of his reverie when John came leaping across the room, hurling himself into Zed’s arms, and dragging him towards the bathroom. The bottle in his hand was as good as empty, and as he pushed open the bathroom door he tripped over his own feet and Zed had to grab him before he hit the concrete. Undeterred, John hauled him into the nearest bathroom stall, wriggled out of his jeans and began clumsily fumbling at Zed’s fly. Zed pushed his hands away and dropped to his knees, taking John’s cock in his mouth, until John shivered and mumbled,

“No…not like that… Just fuck me, Zed, right here – just fuck me…”

Zed stood up, surprised, unable to remember the last time this request had been made, and he pointed out,

“I haven’t…got any lube though…”

“Then spit on it!” John retorted imperiously, sprawling out across the closed toilet lid. “Fucking spit on it, and then fuck me with it!”

Zed tried not to laugh, as John drunkenly snatched the cigarettes out of his pocket, and lit himself a new one, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply with an expression of utter bliss. Zed spat into his hand, smeared saliva over his cock, and knelt back down on the dirty tiles. John still had his eyes closed, and appeared to have passed out drunk, but for the fact that he was blowing out a vast plume of cigarette smoke. As soon as Zed started cautiously entering him, his eyes snapped open and he beamed drunkenly, grabbing Zed’s hips and grinding against him, sucking up cigarette smoke and letting it out in a blissful moan. Through the wall, they could hear Elvis slowing the tempo, crooning out You Were Always On My Mind, and soon, they were softly singing along, clinging to each other in the dirty, smoky little stall. The neon wasteland outside the walls of this dingy old bar had faded into nothingness, until all that remained was that golden voice – was John’s slim body against Zed’s, the burnt-out taste of his hot wet mouth, and just for a moment, the world was alright again.

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