The Attack

Hodges, Hillsy, Phil Dick, McGill and McGilly, amongst others, prepared for their raid on the Archway Tower. They approached it across the Heath, past Highgate Ponds, through ruined terraced streets, and into Highgate Cemetery. They passed by the heavy, black bust of Karl Marx, seemingly shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I told you so!”

They reached the arched bridge over the deserted A1 road. Looking to the right they could see the glimmer and sparkle of water in the moonlight. It shone on Phil’s helmet, too. Ahead, down the hill to Crouch End, dogs howled in the empty, unkempt gardens. On their left they spied the Tower. Carefully, they surrounded it, hiding in the overgrown shrubbery. Phil, Hillsy and McGill were carrying packs of home-made explosives, which they had made following the instructions gleaned from the Web through Mac’s head terminal.

“We should try to get inside.” whispered Phil. “It will do more damage.”

“Won’t there be locks and cameras and alarms and things?” asked Hillsy, nervously.

“Of course!” replied Phil. “But we’ll go in through a window.”

They circled around, looking for a likely spot. However, all the ground floor windows were covered in zinc sheeting, screwed and barred. They saw an old refuse store, which unbelievably had a roof level with a first-floor window. There were piles of junk and sheets of metal lying around. They climbed on to the store and began to make a bridge; their extemporising skills coming to the fore. Standing on rotten planks, resting precariously on the sill, Phil cut a hole in the double-glazed window to the flat, pulling the glass out with rubber suckers. He did the same with the inner pane, and reached in for the handle. It wasn’t locked, and had no alarm. What were these people thinking of!

Stealthily, they all crossed the rickety bridge and climbed into the room. It was a bedroom, bare of furniture except for a recently slept-in bed, but still tastefully decorated and lined with mirrored cupboards on one side. They heard a tinkling sound from another room.

“There’s someone here!” breathed Hillsy.

“Shhh! Be quiet! I’ll go and look.”

Phil carefully opened the bedroom door and crept out into the hall. He could see a light behind an open door at the end. Noiselessly, he moved towards it and looked in. A partially naked woman was sitting on a chair, her back to him, drinking a cup of coffee. With long blond hair waving down over her shoulders, she was gorgeous, but Phil had no time for that. He crept forwards, put one hand over her mouth, the other arm in front of her, his hand cupping her right breast – no time for that! – and pulled her backwards, the chair falling beneath her long, athletic legs.

She struggled; she was strong; she elbowed back into his stomach, and he almost let go, gasping for breath.

“It’s OK!” I won’t hurt you!” said Phil, hoping to calm her frenzied struggling.

Hodges and McGilly came in the room then, and tried to reassure the woman, smiling at her, and telling Phil to let her go. Hodges offered her coat to cover her swinging breasts, admiring them, but more worried by the possible effect on Hillsy than her modesty. The woman took one smell and reached for her own jumper and jeans lying on an adjacent chair.

“What the fucking hell are you doing here? In my flat? Are you squatting here?” exclaimed the woman, not at all bothered by her semi-naked state.

“We thought everyone had left.” said Hodges. “But we don’t live here. We’ve come to blow the Cloud up!”

“Like hell you will! This is my flat. I don’t live here, now, but I needed some things.” explained the woman, exasperated. “Who are you, anyway?”

“We are the Rebels.” said Hillsy. “We are striking a blow against Oodles and all this control freakery of theirs. We have to put a stop to all the wanton greed and commercialism that is threatening to destroy the world!”

“Well, good luck to that!” she said. “I want out, too. I’ll help if I can. My name’s Jacqueline d’Arcy.”

“Not, the Jacqueline?” said Phil, in awe, remembering a few Sensories that he had watched illicitly through Mac’s be-sozzled skull.

“You’ve got it, Baby!” she said, grinning. “But I’m not doing that anymore. I’ve had enough. It was only to keep a few dozy old Crystal-Heads happy, anyway. I’ve had my fun, now it’s just boring!”

“Come on!” hissed McGill. “The Enforcers will be here soon, with all this racket. No doubt she’s still plugged in and everyone else is listening!”

They made their way out of the flat and started to go down to the basement via the emergency stairs, but Jacqueline stopped them.

“There’s someone else here,” she said. “A friend. He wittered me a message saying he would be here by now. That’s why I came back.”

“Who is it?” asked Hillsy, suspiciously.

“Don McBurn. He’s had some trouble in Israel. Now he wants out, too.” she replied.

“Whaa! Don McBurn the reporter?” enquired McGill, incredulously. “Now there’s a guy I’d like on our side. Aye, let’s away an’ meet ‘im.”

They retreated back up the stairs and climbed to the fifth floor. Jacqueline knocked at a door, shouting, “Don! Don! It’s me, Jacqui!”

They door opened and they all fell back, aghast at Don McBurn’s seared face. He looked over Jacqueline’s shoulder at the motley band of raggedly dressed dissolutes crowding in the passage behind her.

“Well, you’d better come in then. It’s all over now!”

“What do you mean, Don? What’s happened?” asked Jacqueline, concerned at the old trouper’s resignation and lack of fight.

“It’s started!” he exclaimed. “They’re throwing nuclear missiles at each other. It won’t be long before the radio-activity spreads. I think I’ve already been contaminated.”

“Who’s doing this?” exclaimed Hillsy, not as au-fait with Current Affairs as he should be.

“Israel and Iran. It’s the end!”

“Not before we blow this place up! Are you with us?” asked Hodges.

“Why?” asked Don, puzzled. “What’s this place got to do with anything? I thought it was more or less deserted, apart from the odd tenant dropping in now and again.”

“One of the Clouds is operating from here. It’s in the basement,” explained Phil.

“Is that a good idea? I know there are other places, but you risk destroying everything; all the records, all the data about our history, what we’ve done, what we’ve achieved. All our Art, History, Music, Paintings, Sculpture. Many things are only in digital form now, since one environmental disaster after another has destroyed the Cities, the Art Galleries, Museums, Theatres, Concert Halls. The Tate’s gone. Look at Sydney; under three metres of water and surrounded by burning bush and eucalyptus.”

Tom and Maddie, who were at the back of the crowd, pricked up their ears at this. They pushed forwards, eager to hear more.

“All very well,” said Hillsy. “But what about Oodles’ control over people’s lives? The Founder only lets people see what he wants them to see. Only what is commercially profitable, and what maintains his control over everyone.”

“Yes!” agreed Hodges. “We want to start again, or die trying! If you don’t want to join us, stay here and keep out of the way. Tom, Maddie! Stay with Jacqueline and guard this guy. We’ve got work to do!”

Alpha-Centauri

Ten years after leaving Earth, Captain Church and his lonely, weary crew found themselves in the middle of the Alpha-Centauri complex. They had slowed down to one-hundredth light-speed and had passed a number of stars, some many times larger than the Sun. They had seen planets, large and small, some were apparently inhabitable; but most, according to their instruments, were definitely not.

One small planet they had passed quickly by was about Earth size, and even bluey-green in colour, but they hadn’t seen any land masses on their side. The panic of avoiding its moon, which suddenly appeared out of nowhere, had caused them to reject it and explore further. They did, however, report its existence and coordinates in their Ship’s Log, beamed back to Earth, if there was anyone left to receive it.

Aurora suddenly stiffened in her seat. “There’s an incoming signal! Straight ahead!”

“Is it possible?” said a shocked Captain Church. “We had better investigate.”

The screen in front of them showed a small white dot. The superimposed false-colour radio signal emanating from it was definitely pulsing regularly. They sent their own signal back: “dot, dot, dot; dash, dash, dash; dot, dot, dot.”  The planet’s radio signal immediately repeated it, as if understanding and encouraging them.

Doctor McFly was analysing the planet’s size, motion, environment and other characteristics.

“This place looks perfect!” she gasped. “But there is obviously some intelligent life-form here already. Will they accept us?”

“Only one way to find out!” said Captain Church. “Shall we go down, Welchy?”

“Righto, bach!” the Engineer replied. “There we are then!”

They were met by the Aliens, far more superior beings, and were instantly wiped out.

The Aliens ridiculed the pathetic amount of information known to Humans – it could all be contained in just a few cells; they needed whole civilisations.

The Golan Heights

Don McBurn hunkered down behind some rocks below the Golan Heights. Around him, the Palestinian Army, funded and weaponised by Iran, Syria, Egypt and other Arab States, had set out their monster guns and artillery, relentlessly firing at the Settlements inside the Wall. The hills there were now occupied only by equally vicious Israeli artillery, raining fire down on the Palestinians. Rockets and missiles fell and exploded constantly, if they weren’t first blown up in the air by anti-missile missiles. Shrapnel fell all around the seasoned Reporti-Sub, who was wondering how much more of this he could take.

He was not sure how long it could carry on before he was hit or blown to bits; he had to get out, now! He turned and began to run down the slope, scrunching and sliding on the loose stones and sand under his feet. He was well protected by a fully armoured suit, but a direct hit would finish him, as surely as those he saw killed every day.

McBurn reached his Jeep, the door swinging open. He scrambled in and told the driver, a young Palestinian, to step on it! They drove away at breakneck speed from the shelling, narrowly avoiding potholes and more explosions. Five kilometres further on, breathing a sigh of relief, they pulled into a Palestinian village, a bare place of block walls and hasty shade. He raced to reach the armoured hatch.

“That was close!” he shouted, adrenalin still pumping through his veins. “What do you think they will do now?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Army Colonel sitting at a desk inside the underground bunker, ringed with telephones, short-wave radios, and satellite receivers. “Maybe they will bomb us here, though we have been careful not send any ordnance from this location. They can trace us, of course, from the satellite images.”

“Are there still people, families, living here?” asked Don.

“Of course! Where would they go? This is their land.” replied the Colonel.

“How can you possibly win this war?” asked Don. “They may be on their knees, but Israel still has massive resources, and air power – something you seem to be lacking.”

“I have heard that Syria is due to attack soon with their missiles!” said the Colonel.

“Good God! Not nuclear?”

“Hopefully not. We shall have to wait and see!”

The first long-range Syrian missiles fell on Petah Tikvah later that very evening. They were not nuclear, yet. Most of the Syrian nuclear facilities had already been wiped out, but the Iranians were rumoured to have new, secret, as yet undiscovered bases.

The next day, in retaliation, the Israelis carpet-bombed an area all around their Wall to a ten kilometre extent. Don sheltered in the underground bunker, trying to get in contact with his Reporti-Sub base organisation at Oodles. It was time to get out! Finally, he contacted someone on the satellite phone, the aerial having been pushed up through a hole in the roof. They would send a Stealth helicopter in forty-eight hours, if the shelling subsided and they could get through. Otherwise, he was on his own. This job was getting too ridiculous – he needed a rest!

The next day, he poked his head out of the bunker. The village was completely flattened, the ground still smoking. There was rubble and stone in heaped piles surrounding craters and collapsed buildings. He saw some bodies, and many body parts. The smell was gruesome. What could he do? They were beyond help now. He withdrew back down underground with the rest of the few survivors.

The day after that, he was due to be rescued. He listened in anxiously to the Comms Set. They would be there soon; just hang on! Then he heard the unmistakeable drone and vibration of a Stealth chopper; much quieter than normal, but there, thank God! He collected all his stuff together and poked his head out of the hatch again.

The helicopter landed just as the Israelis started their shelling again, despite the International Call-signs and messages sent out by Oodles. Don raced across the scarred ground, his feet slipping, his ankles twisting this way and that. Somehow his army boots kept him upright and he instinctively ducked under the rotor blades. A huge explosion landed to his right, but then an even harsher blow nearly knocked him into the side of the chopper. There was an intense flash of whiter-than-white light that almost blinded him, and a fierce, hot wind that scorched the skin from his face. He was hauled in through the helicopter’s sliding door as it was already taking off and thrown unceremoniously onto a pile of baggage in the corner. They roared away, going south.

Don shivered uncontrollably. He tried to relax; he was still alive; they might escape. In a few minutes he staggered up and looked out of the back side windows. His last view was of the distinctive, unmistakeable, white mushroom cloud on the horizon. It could be Jerusalem, or Damascus; he wasn’t sure. Over to the west, he just couldn’t believe his eyes as yet another mushroom cloud rose up above the purple-grey mountainous backdrop; it could be Isfahan or anywhere in Iran. He closed his eyes, weeping, the tears rolling down his face.

Somehow, they managed to get the chopper to the aircraft carrier in the Red Sea. There was no time to recuperate; he was instantly bundled onto a long-range jet plane and was hurtling back to the Oodles/Government Base in Scotland before he could get his breath.

After a few days of treatment and debriefing, he crawled back to London like a wounded dog, to die in his last refuge, the old empty flat high above Crouch End.

Armageddon

“There are still wars, of course. New wars brought about by the different claims on land that used to be empty, but now are the only places suitable for habitation. Most of these are in the tundras of the north; Siberia, Outer Mongolia, Alaska, and around the Hudson Bay. There are refugees everywhere. Greenland is fully inhabited once again, but now by a thriving, excitable Mediterranean populace, and they are defending it assiduously from some rather half-hearted Caribbean invaders, totally grid-locked and spaced-out amongst the floating ice-bergs.

“The longest running war is still the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is little hope of it ever being settled. The whole of the Middle East is full of refugees from Africa, trying to make their way north to more temperate zones, where they are blocked by the last remnants of Balkan and Russian militia. They hate the dry rocky deserts, everywhere there are stones underfoot, and there is no prospect of finding any space to settle and cultivate that isn’t already occupied by Arab tribes or fenced off by the Israelis.

“The latter are now more or less besieged, trapped behind the monstrous Wall they had built around themselves to keep everyone else out. Israel is now hemmed in, bombed to bits and dying on its feet.

“The Mediterranean sea is slowly encroaching from the west; the Gaza Strip was overwhelmed some years ago, with Palestinian refugees streaming down into the fierce heat of Egypt. America, Europe, China and Russia kept their distance, bunkered down in their own lands, trying to deal with their own problems of catastrophe and lawlessness. They would not intervene for fear of total, and final, World collapse.

“Unbelievably, despite the chaos and destruction, Oodles is still making money! The communications satellites are still circling the Earth, and the mobile aerials, wi-fi hotspots and fibre-optics are the first things to be installed in the hastily constructed new cities of concrete, steel, plastic, canvas or corrugated tin.

“With their embedded terminals, it is the only way the Ordinaries can get any news of the outside world, though it is heavily censored and manipulated to avoid panic. It is the only way they can keep in touch with their friends and relatives, increasingly dispersed around the globe, as they are herded into the new cities and refugee camps. Goods and supplies are flown in by drones, a constant buzz in the skies above, giving them little incentive to move from their shoddy apartments, tents or caves, until the next emergency, environmental catastrophe, or military crisis. What is left of the local Governments hastily try to keep one step ahead and start construction projects further north, or less readily, further south.

“Lots of people are lost in the process, by war, catastrophe and disease. But the Ordinaries are subdued and de-sensitised by the continual flow of mock experience via the Substitutes, virtual dramas, and computer-generated thrills, beamed direct into their heads, and they reject any opposition or revolt in case they lose even that. The World population is diminishing rapidly through warfare, disasters and people’s lack of desire to procreate. Subconsciously, they know there is no future for their children. Their desires are projected inwards to the ersatz Oodles experience. It is too late for them to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated in the name of “Progress”, “Consumerism”, “Growth” and “Free Enterprise”.

“But we are determined to put a stop to it, even if we die in the process. Someone has to stand up to Oodles and its web of lies, false promises, and insidious control. We will destroy the local “Cloud”, come what may. Hillsy and McGill are making explosives from the recipes I downloaded from some long-forgotten archive on the Web, and Hodges and McGilly are out rounding up the rest of the Rebels and telling them of our plans. Tom and Maddie, of course, are nowhere to be seen, probably mooning about on the Heath, but they are our future, and we will take them with us. May the Cosmos give us speed.

(PKD’s Blog #4)

The Rift Valley – Part II

Twelve hours later, they landed on a makeshift runway in Tanzania on the red, sandy soil, cleared of scrub. They grabbed two rucksacks and a tent-bag, jumped out of the tiny four-seater plane and ran over to the side of the strip. The plane took off again immediately, leaving them stranded, with not a soul around. “Man, it’s hot!” thought Indigo. “Almost as hot as she was last night!”

They set up camp amongst the barren, heat radiating rocks of the Olduvai Gorge. It was so hot, Jacqueline climbed into the low tent and began to take off all her clothes, so he pulled his hat low, took out the map, and looked about for a cave, the cave that The Founder had told him about. It was much too sticky for anything else at this time of day.

When he got back, in the late afternoon, she was asleep inside the tent, completely naked and lying on her back, her arms and legs akimbo, perspiration rolling down her breasts and tummy.

“Wakey, wakey!” he shouted, rudely planting a kiss on a tempting nipple. “We had better move camp up into the cave I’ve found. It will be dark soon, and very quickly. Then it will be too cold to stay out here!”

“I was having such a lovely dream!” she sighed. “About a man I once knew who didn’t stop for such domestic arrangements.”

“Later, my flower! Get dressed and move. It will be much more comfortable up there.”

After a very comfortable and at times rather hectic night, they awoke to prepare coffee and bacon in the mouth of the cave, the morning sun slanting in and lighting up the very back of the cave. Sloughing off their dazed bleariness, they began to explore.

They soon found evidence of ancient human habitation, probably small family groups. There were paintings of a journey on the walls of the cave; past or future, they could not tell. They pressed on further back into the dark recess.

They came to a low arch in the rock, pitch-black beyond.

“We had better be careful,” said Indigo. “This is always the point where something nasty happens!”

They cautiously edged through the narrow opening and, almost immediately, a round boulder rolled behind them, cutting them off from their camp, light, warmth and equipment. Fortunately, he had a torch in his shoulder-bag. They pressed on, hoping to find a way out. There were various hazards: snakes, bats, spiders, underground lakes. Ugh! He hated spiders! He kept his hat on at all times.

“Don’t be afraid, Indy! I’ve seen it all before!” said Jacqueline, nonchalantly.

Well, that’s progress he thought. At least they were on first-name terms now!

They reached a cavern, deep in the mountain, that could not have been seen by human eyes since the figures of the ancient huntsmen and animals were drawn on the walls, and the people left on their epic World journey, 70,000 years ago.

There was an altar in the middle of the cavern, and on the altar, to Indigo’s and Jacqueline’s startled surprise, a round, symmetrical shape lay beneath layers of red dust, untouched for thousands of years. Indigo brushed his fingertips over it, and a metallic gleam glistened in his torchlight.

The object was a small, shiny, titanium cylinder with rounded ends. It looked as though it could be unscrewed. Indigo gingerly lifted it from the slab of rock, but the ground immediately fell from beneath his feet and he threw the cylinder to the girl.

He rushed feet first down a shaft, bouncing off the rough rocky walls, into an underground river. It was cold, but flowing; there must be an exit. He shouted to Jacqueline, telling her to climb down, with the cylinder. Which she did, expertly, of course.

They waded in the direction of the stream’s flow, eventually seeing light ahead, and finally emerged into the dazzling sunlight again, under the very peak of Mount Lemakarot looming over their right shoulders. They splashed along the shallow, clear stream, which discharged into the dried-up Lake Magadi in front of them. The evaporation was almost immediate, and the mud was steaming.

They hunkered down at the side of the stream and Indigo unscrewed the lid of the cylinder. A roll of paper fell out. To his shock and disbelief, it was headed with the “Oodles” logo, dated with last week’s date, giving them directions to a safe spot where they could be picked up.