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One part surrealistic farce, one part psychotic hallucination. This dreamlike tale begins with a visit from a friend, Anton, who has been slowly losing his face. Next, we meet Gregory, whose home now includes a non-existing room. Add in a neighbor who screams for no apparent reason, the joys of purchasing photographs of events that never happened, and attempts to read an unreadable book, What You'll Never Finish, and you might begin to fathom this journey. Somewhere within the circle of life and death, isolation and romantic infatuation, there lies the discovery of who, or what, God really is. Like a modern day Alice in Wonderland for adults.
Prologue to Vinegar Wasteland. . .
The year 2012,
I wouldn't call it the best day of my life, not by a long shot. Everything had changed. And I do mean everything. Our simple government was now an industrial machine, chewing up and spitting out common citizens as it saw fit. It all seemed to happen overnight. No warning that anyone could notice. It was as if all the big businesses had merged, and their bloated greed had somehow gained an identity, and now that evil money hungry demon was loose and running the show.
I had been scooped up like so many before. Doing my little art projects on the side, creating music, freelance drawing, scraping and scrounging just getting by like countless others. I was at a coffeehouse for a reading at the time, only as a spectator. I've dabbled in poetry, but I was really just there to support a friend. The agents walked in and arrested the whole bunch of us. "Unlawful gathering with the intent of circulating anti-government propaganda," I believe they accused us of.
There was no trial, no judge, no jury. This was a different time. I was placed on a train and taken to one of the country's secret camps. Once there, I was asked a series of questions before finally placed in what looked quite a bit like a dungeon, but divided into individual cells.
In my cell sat a man, long gray scraggly hair and a beard on his face. I wondered how long he'd been in here, for the only thing worse than the smell in the cell was the smell of the man himself. It was evident he had not washed in some time, and he stank of his own bodily emissions.
I looked at him, as they pushed me in and locked the door behind me.
"So," I asked, breathing through my mouth, "what are you in for?"
He shook his head, and gave me a signal which seemed to say ‘wait a moment'.
After the guards had moved a safe distance away, he placed his hand beneath his shirt, and produced a book. Its cover read TALES FROM THE VINEGAR WASTELAND.
"You're here because of this book? Because you had it, or because you wrote it?" I asked, but he didn't answer.
I opened it and began to read silently from its pages.
Many years earlier,
"You wanted to see us, sir?"
"Yes Bennings. There's been a serious breech of national security. See this book here? It contains all fourteen of the detonation key words, in their proper sequence."
"You think it's intentional, Mr. Parker, sir?"
"I'm not sure. I imagine so, but that's what I'd like you gentlemen to find out. If not, I believe there may be some kind of psychic spill over from Project Milquetoast. There are a few things in the book, disturbingly close to events buried in the government files. Either way, it deserves our attention. We need to find a way to remove the book from circulation, and find out if this Fracalosssy is a terrorist or anti-American threat. If not, find out where he got his information, and see if he'd be willing to work for us."
"Will do, sir."
"That is unless . . . "
"Unless what, sir?"
"Unless the extraterrestrials have gotten to him first"
Somewhere in middle America,
The three boys, all fourteen years of age, sit on the porch on a summer day.
"So, did you get it?"
"Yeah, I grabbed it when my brother wasn't looking."
"Did you look at it? Show us the dirty parts!"
"I didn't find anything yet. I didn't get to read the whole thing. I saw some curse words, though."
They pass it around between themselves, flipping its pages, like young explorers on a noble quest.
"I heard that the guy that wrote it went insane when he was done. Now he doesn't leave his house and he can't drive a car or anything."
"I heard that he and the publishers are really big acidheads, and they run an LSD lab on the side. Supposedly some of the copies of the book got tainted, and you can get dosed just by reading it. One girl read it, and jumped out a window. She thought she could fly!"
Jimmy passed the book quickly to the boy on his left, unnerved by the possibility of such a thing being true.
"You guys will believe anything. Those are just made up stories. But did you hear about the typo?"
"There's supposed to be some spelling mistake in there or something, I think they did it on purpose. It's like a contest. If you find it and circle it, you mail the book back, and they'll give you a million dollars."
"A million dollars? No way! That's cool. Did you look for it?"
"I told you. I didn't really have time. I had to sneak it out real quick!"
"Aren't there clues in it too? I heard the Manson family read it before they committed all those murders!"
"You're thinking of Abbey Road by the Beatles, dimwit. The book isn't that old."
"Go put it away, man. I don't like it. It's creeping me out. Let's just go play baseball or something."
"What are you, a baby?"
"I'm with Jimmy, man. I don't like it. I saw a site on the internet about it. We're gonna get in trouble. Besides, your brother's gonna kill us."
"All right, let's just play baseball. I'll put it back, but I gotta wash my hands real quick."
"Me too, meet me back here!"
At precisely the same time, in Detroit,
It had been a bizarre day for Willard. Usually his "hey man, help a brother out?" speech brought one of two typical responses. Either he received whatever loose change the individual had been carrying, or he was met with a blank stare, the sort of expression which said, "I don't acknowledge you, therefore, you don't really exist." But today was different. There was something going on that he couldn't explain. First some rather odd gentleman had offered to buy him a cup of coffee, the expensive stuff from the gourmet coffee shop, and had questioned him about his life the whole time, even taking notes. A fancy coffee was not exactly what he had been hoping for. Still, a freebie was a freebie. Secondly, he had received some rather odd responses to his request for money.
One person had handed him a book.
Another had handed him a pamphlet warning about the very same book, and the perils entailed in owning and reading the work. The picture of the author looked familiar to Willard. From T.V. perhaps? Maybe it was the cheap booze. Everyone was beginning to look alike.