By Richard E Marion & Mary L Marion
Diesel Dark and Randall Osbourne merged and charged North alongside the Atlantic Sea past the pedestrian summer folk, beyond the hot pale sands, and into a realm of gradient irregularities and examining headwinds.
Osbourne cycled gears seven through three in Diesel Dark’s 1×7 steel transmission, except for the very tip of Ronne Ledge. There, he dropped into a lower gear. UK Heavy Metal Bands jammed inside his head, motivating steel thighs mashing machined alloy platform pedals. A single 35t chainwheel pulled a collection of cogs churning tall dark rubber. Machine and man steamrolled worn macadam and fresh tide debris.
In the time it took Osbourne’s eidetic mind to parse rock roll ‘Enter Sandman,’ ‘Hellraiser,’ ‘Thunderstruck,’ and ‘Black Betty,’ they piloted past Parrot Cove Cliff, crested the peak of Verona Rupes Crest, then halted atop Parson Promontory to give the machine a rest.
Osbourne inhaled deeply until he could see distant red stars penetrating streaked steel sky.
Another BIKE, this one an 800 Custom Harley Hardtail clicked and cooled beside a vintage Corvette Stingray Split Window Coupe, onyx black, wearing gigantic Michelin Tires sized Bugatti Veyron. The communion of high rollers relaxed there at the scenic view parking. Osbourne grabbed his cell and checked in with home base, then inspected the sturdy V-Brakes. Osbourne used V-Brakes very little. The Universe loved speed too much.
The drop was a 23% grade. Osbourne was always afraid of it. He was muscularly strong, but his balance and coordination had never been any good. Hitting a baseball or walking while chewing gum were out of his league. He never rose from his seat while pedaling. He didn’t have to.
The descent was a seamless contemplation churning ocean, aluminum alloy frequencies, and relentless gravity. A half a mile down, if his fear or panic did not fail them, they would be turning West toward the Arielle Facility Of Technology & Art, where Angelique Fraser waited with Kathleen James, cool water, strong coffee, and food.
Arielle Facility was part of the renovated historic millyard district next to the River Arielle, which meandered South over the Canadian Border, bisected the infamous haunted town of Larkhall its abandoned Diamond Hospital, edged past the State Capital Dome, and finally merged with the Atlantic Sea in the Harbor Bathine.
Randall Osbourne knew Angelique Fraser from an image processing startup computer company in Massachusetts back in the 1980s. He designed high density specialized hardware circuit boards, mother boards, chassis, wires, and panels. She was a technical writer drafting documentation, contract reports, and marketing releases.
It was a small place. It didn’t feel like work at the time. They both were extreme multi-taskers, talented artists, and dedicated to math, mysticism, and consciousness. The 80s had been kind. Success was easy in the USA.
At the time, Randall drank prolifically each night, then woke up and drove by car to Massachusetts past Danvers; another town with an abandoned State Hospital, and into Peabody’s low rent section. The commute gave him time to transform into a semblance of normality.
There, Osbourne would ask Angelique silly questions such as what is consciousness, does free will exist, do bicycles have a soul, are there bad dogs? He was consistently hung over and the energy he expended bothering her helped him sober up. Angelique said there were no bad dogs, only bad owners; but he wouldn’t know because no one wanted a mutt like Osbourne.
Angelique knew who Marion Mitchell Morrison was, how tall, and long he lived. That accomplished Alpine Mountain Climber who owned the Boleskine House. Which occult Rock Guitarist named Jimmy said it was haunted. What happened October 29, 1929 in New York City that killed The Roaring Twenties.
Osbourne wheeled Diesel Dark into the lane of fresh paving leading to the Arielle Facility. Parallel to the building, the River Arielle glistened like liquid mercury in the hot dry summer. It smelled good enough to drink. The millyard complex was a well executed renovation of emptied out factories, businesses and jobs gone forever.
Like attracts like consequently the millyard hosted a museum, historical association and research center with photographs, artifacts, and manufacturing factory archives, an eclectic audio-visual studio; and artisan shops offering jewelry, painting, metal sculpture, and specialized musical instruments.
Angelique’s place, The Arielle Facility was the first unit off the entryway. Situated next to the well groomed state road linking US Route 1A to US-1, the collection of business and craft shops faced Southeast toward the Atlantic, a handful of miles away from Parson Promontory, the second tallest point on the state’s coastline.
The Arielle Facility Of Technology & Art was a 5-story tall tower end unit. It blended in with the rest of the revamped millyard complex, 2-level Lego Block modules modern white and beige brick, with the exception of the central administration office that was four-high, maximum per town building code.
A thin ribbon of grass intense barium, that fireworks green color, surrounded the millyard units. The doors and casement windows were proportional and regular, trimmed titanium white. In the evenings, the campus was well illuminated, creating a shining village of light.
Angelique’s Unit Number 1 was taller than allowable code. It was designated Historical. True, but all exterior and interior features except the sub basement underneath Level Zero Parking looked factory fresh to Osbourne. Angelique’s husband, Edward C Fraser, had been an attorney. A good one, fair and smart but adept at detecting loopholes and exceptions. Therefore The Tower was 5 Levels above ground zero.
Angelique’s Arielle Facility more just a construction anomaly. Shoppers seeking esoterica made frequent visits to discover and buy unique things exemplifying what used to be an American culture of creativity, innovation, and artistry. History and mystery dwelt there.
The artisan shops were arranged in a counter-clockwise arc next to the river bank, beginning with the Arielle Facility, then places stocked with tangibles: metals, wood, fibers, and gems. At the far end, the other tower, was an audio-visual media production studio. This wasn’t a Strip Mall of China Imports and Fast Food Chains. It was a dynamic cultural community intimately connected not by what they had but what they had not:
An intense laissez-faire libertarianism that rarely happens and never lasts.
Osbourne wheeled his dark alloy bike inside the rear entrance to The Arielle, then parked it next to a pair of svelte carbon fiber road bikes, and a Memphis Blue Metallic Tandem Cycle with 29″ wheels and 2-Inch fat tires. That two seater cost five grand minimum. It would top out at 40MPH with powerful pilot and stoker.
Angelique was looking ragged, meaning for her, normal. “Randall, you are so brown and lovely today.”
“The privilege of local industry. By that, I mean the Web, which lets me make 10-Mile commutes up small mountains to people worth seeing. Who owns the tandem bike, is that a geared bottom bracket with an internal rear hub? That thing must climb walls.”
“It’s Kathleen’s, my Edward’s sister. It really hauls… Old ladies… You’re thirsty.”
They entered the Floor One main room, a commercial store appropriately for Art and Technology both worldly and otherworldly.
From the front, the parking and courtyard side, the clean beige and ivory brickwork flowed seamlessly inside the main showroom, meeting framed glass entry and ultramarine deeply tinted windows. They were real windows that opened, but not today since it was already One Hundred Fahrenheit outdoors.
The hypnotic blue light permeated the room, striking the beveled edges of a red church glass display case with a clear tempered top surface, populated with jewelry, prisms, timepieces, and polished stones one could purchase in small bags or in bulk.
There was standing space behind the merchandise display case, with four hanging print reproductions: William Blake, Elohim Creating Adam; M C Escher, Cimino Barbarano; Joseph Vargo, Winter’s Knight; and Jacek Yerka, Genoa Bay Vision.
On the left, exotic musical machinery including Ludwig Drums; a Fender Custom David Gilmour Stratocaster with gleaming dark body, cream-colored frets and knobs, pale maple fretboard. A Moog Little Phatty Tribute Edition, compact and serious; and some portable rack-mount electronic crossovers, equalizers, compressors, limiters, and gates.
To the rear of the musical instrument section Osbourne identified a pair of loudspeakers Dynaudio Evidence Masters, finished in Black Piano Lacquer; driven by two Hard Wired Mono Block Tube Amps, $35,998 imported from another universe.
At the right near the entrance was a smaller collection of laptop PCs not available in the Bigbox Stores. Osbourne dared to touch one of THEM, unlike the amplifiers of fragile tube glass and molecular gold plating. He picked one up. It was actually signed; autographed in laser engraving like a work of art, which it was. By Erich Douglas Morrison.
Osbourne hefted the entity of machined metal and carbon fiber. It was about 9×12-Inches, and it nearly flew away! It weighed nothing. Mirror bright, yet revealing no fingerprints or dust.
Angelique told him, “Synthetic Intelligence. The Designer, Morrison, calls it a ‘Zombie Machine.’ A syncretic mixture of silicon, organic, and protein based particles. I don’t understand it all. But it’s so smart it runs software that transforms photographs into paintings and incredibly… the reverse…
“And it’s TELEPATHIC. Erich Morrison says it vacuums a person’s thoughts and feelings, then puts them in an alternative universe memory database… Or something?”
Angelique’s sister-in-law Kathleen James, also wed to an Edward, eyed Osbourne carefully in case his encounter with the Morrison-Machine had transformed him into a devil. He refrained from looking directly at the artwork behind the main counter, hoping she would not get too close or too curious.
Angelique passed him a bottle of frosty cold water. “We have the usual deli stuff, fresh salads, protein food bars, ice-cream, and espresso with a shot of coffee… Kathleen, do you mind if we join you upstairs?”
The tower end of the millyard had been expertly integrated with the rest of the complex, even though it had been built during 2000 BCE; a time of the Mayan’s, Stonehenge in the UK, and Abrahamic Religions. Angelique’s tower had a strange way of warping the surrounding land in ways that could be seen by eye, but not measured by science.
At Level Five, Angelique called it The Pinnacle, one could spot the Atlantic Sea, five miles east, but topographical data denied it. Below ground the original architects somehow managed to dig a dry basement and even a perfect sub-basement. Even prior to the refinishing and reinforcement, it was entirely waterproof.
The sandy soil, loamed over to sustain the front courtyard plants, provided perfect irrigation, but the water table never went inside the tower structure, although there were no special technologies or sealing. Down they went.
“Randall, you’re a machine head, you even call your bicycle ‘Diesel.’ What do you know about Cadillac Cars?”
“They engineered a V-16 in the 1930′s; World War II killed its production. Their 1959 Coupe de Ville was the most futuristic, optimistic vision of American Culture I would ever see, touch, and ride inside. I was 10 Years Old. It felt like being in church, except deeper.
“In 2003 Cadillac made another V-16 with 24-Inch alloy wheels, four-wheel steering. It was a 1000 horsepower ‘Concept Car.’ Astounding… Even a contemporary factory CTS-V Caddy achieves 60 miles per hour in less than 4 seconds with a supercharged V-8. You have a Cadillac?”
They approached the Level Zero parking area. As Osbourne grabbed the door, Angelique explained, “The car belonged to Kathleen’s husband, also named Edward. It makes her unhappy. He went missing, presumed dead, a month ago.” She put her hand on top of Osbourne’s, and together they pushed open the latched door she’d painted turquoise.
They entered a clean, fresh, uncluttered vehicle parking area. Osbourne recognized Angelique’s pretty C-class AMG Mercedes; red, her favorite car color, in the shadow of a twenty one foot long Cadillac beast: a Sayers & Scovil (S&S) ‘Victoria Endloader.’
An Antique Hearse! It was vintage 1977, 30 plus years old… But it wasn’t STOCK! The huge rear tires were thirteen inches wide, and the exhaust outlets were dual black holes the diameter of Osbourne’s fists.
“Angelique, he’s not inside?” Osbourne often spoke first, and thought later.
“No silly, he’s missing! I just told you.” She glossed over Osbourne’s imperfect attention.
Then, she stated the obvious: “It’s a ‘Hot Rod Hearse,’ for ‘Car Nuts.’ Edward A James was a Geek Guy, he worked as a Cybersecurity Specialist. But… A nighttime Hardware Gearhead. The thing has a 500 Cubic Inch Motor, Big Blocks?”
“Angelique, Big Block, it’s called a Big Block. Let me guess: balanced, ported, polished, roller cam, forged rods, turbo 400, 3.89 positraction?”
“That sounds like what he used to call it… Well it’s ALL here. It ran perfectly until Edward went missing. It ran fourteen quarters? Fourteens in the quarter mile? That’s it! Kathleen had it brought here; I have room, for now. It no longer moves on its own. It doesn’t even open.
“The big car, the hearse, it just froze up, it seized. Kathleen couldn’t even use the keys to get inside; they wouldn’t turn!
“Kathleen had it trucked here by flatbed. Expensive! Flatbed… It even refused to roll. Look inside there! Clean and bright. Edward had bought it from someone who had it restyled. It really looks like a huge station wagon. It has a genuine Hurst Floor Shifter. The floor shifts. He was really strange.”
“He married your husband’s sister,” Obsbourne blurted, then wondered if the devil really had come out of Erich Morrison’s Zombie Machine and possessed him.
“Angelique, perhaps the hearse is a metaphor, a clue. Edward Anton James left it behind to tell us something.” “How do you know that?” She asked him.
“Just a hunch, I felt it, some sort of idea in my head upstairs when I touched that strange computer,” he told her, realizing he wasn’t even sure what he was trying to say… That machine had talked to him somehow.
Angelique repeated, “Zombie Machine, Erich Morrison called the PC Computer a Zombie Machine. It works even when it’s off you know.” She didn’t sound surprised. “What’s the Cadillac trying to say?”
“Well, the vehicle it’s PROBABLY a 1977. Telling by the front end, bold, blocky, square yet understated. The doors are slab-sided. But, the rear is more like a ’60 Cadillac, softer, virtually organic. Fins on it like a ’60 but they’ve been modified, enhanced, heightened. Plus there’s an additional bottom fin, like on a ’61 Eldorado Biarritz.” She stared at him.
“I think the Caddy is now more a big Limousine than a one-way ride to destiny… The padded landau top and decorative bars are gone, the roof’s lowered and chopped. Look, an extra window was spliced in the rear section, so passengers can see out.
“Edward James’s Hot-Rod Car’s an Astral-Ride: ‘Welcome to hyperspace!’ Let’s go back up and be with Kathleen, OK?” They headed back up the stairs. Angelique was in her 60′s, but fit, as lively and resilient as steel, brighter than a supernova. She looked pretty he noticed.
Kathleen was the same age as Angelique. It was her tandem bicycle with smooth fat tires and machined polished hubs that gleamed like silverware, clean enough to eat off. He was contemplating the two objects of interest. The custom 600 horsepower Drag Racing Hot Rod and that elegant exotic internal geared bicycle for two riders.
The Tower, Unit 1, was a stack consisting of a sales & display area, office & food zone, living & entertaining, sleeping & private research library, and Level Five, The Pinnacle, Angelique called it.
“Edward James was brilliant. The world does not want to see light,” Angelique said on their way back upstairs to Kathleen James.
“Harry Houdini, sensational showman, illusionist, and student of the paranormal; died in 1926 at age 52. Ernest Hemingway, soldier, writer, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize. Finished at age 61 by his own hand, a suicide. Terence McKenna, biochemist, philosopher, shaman, psychedelic voyager, enemy to both men of cloth and sanctioned science. They hated him. Year 2000 at just 53.
“Musicians. The infamous ’27 Club’: Robert Johnson, Blues singer; Jimi Hendrix, sublime guitarist; your favorite, sweet Jimmy Morrison, The Doors’s Lyricist. Poet.”
“Robert Johnson’s Blues song ‘Hellhound on My Trail,’ is about The Faustian Deal, selling one’s soul to The Devil,” added Randall. “Impossible,” she replied. “Why, Angel?” “Because Mankind created The Devil, ‘In His Own Image.’ The Devil is us.”
They passed Level Three. Hesitated. Continued to Level Five. Angelique’s Pinnacle Floor.