Chapter Cat Logo SymbolChapter Cat Logo Text
Close Icon

Chapter #25

Declan 2.0 (Viva)

Page #83 Bookmark Pagee 1


The boat's captain sat back in his seat beside me and
got really quiet. I didn't like the way he was looking at
me. And he was stroking that stupid catdog's, cat
head behind its ears, making its head bobble around
between his fingers and thumb. I watched as the
bulldog on her tail made his way through the jacket
and poked his face out to see. He looked over at me
and licked his nose then looked around and started
watching Davy.
Davy was fooling around with some box with wires
sticking out of it and going into the dash. It had a
small antenna on top, surely some kind of anti-
tracking device.
The captain said, “That's a pretty big bounty.”
Davy replied, “Yeah, well. She was supposed to win
the next election by a landslide. I can't believe this is
happening.” Then he turned around and slapped me
upside the head and asked, “What the fuck happened
back there? What the hell did you do?”
Before I could speak, the captain growled, “Fuck
Kirk!” Let's turn this asshole in. Heh, heh, dead or
alive.” With a perfectly evil smile on his face, he
laughed and said, “We'll be national heroes!”
Davy wrapped his hand around my chin and said
forcefully, “What the hell did you do? Did you really
think you could escape? Where were you planning on
“I didn't do it, I swear.” I said, scared to death. “All I
know is me and my date were having a pleasant
conversation, I looked down, and when I looked back
up I saw a snork come up out of the water and slice
her throat from ear to ear.”

Page #84 Bookmark Pagee 2

He shouted in disbelief, “A snork! A fucking snork?
What the hell is that? Let me guess, bigfoot fell out of
the sky and stomped the guards to death?” Then he
slapped me again and continued, “Where did you get
the blade? Did you really think you could escape?”
Then he threw my head back against the seat and
said, “You’re lucky we found you before the cops or
the secret service.”
“Dead or alive,” the captain said, smiling and nodding
his head yes.
“Ugh, the report didn't say dead or alive, Doofus,”
Davy said, rolling his eyes, and then he pointed his
finger into the boat captain’s face and commanded,
“Now shut up about it. You'll get the money you
agreed to and that's it.” and then under his breath
whispered, “I could only imagine this idiot blabbing,”
then something I couldn't understand.
Then the limo ball pulled into an alley in a bad
neighborhood. I just wanted to run. Just get up, get
out and run hard and fast, all the way back to my
We made the block a couple of times then pulled up
to an abandoned house behind a fence covered with
wild roses and weeds growing up its twisted,
dilapidated wooden planks.
Davy looked over at captain and said, “Come on, let's
put him in the trunk. I don't know what the fuck
were going to tie you up with, but I'm sure we'll find
something. Maybe the neighborhood vandals left
some wiring behind the walls of this old house or
The house had weeds knee-high and a small,
neglected swimming pool with perfectly nasty, dark
green water, about two-thirds high with broken tile
and a cracked concrete deck around it.
There were beer bottles, cans, and garbage scattered
about, probably left behind by the local riffraff and
druggies. The back door was busted in the middle

Page #85 Bookmark Pagee 3

and half open and I thought I saw something moving
around inside.
They both grabbed me and dragged me outside. The
captain held me up against the limo while Davy
Crockett slid out the trunk from underneath the
I struggled a little bit. You know how claustrophobic I
am. Still, I was scared to death. Visions of snorks and
terror kept playing out in my already fragile mind.
I looked up at them with teary eyes and said, “Come
on, guys, at least take the cuffs off. They’re killing me
Luckily, they obliged my request then slid the trunk
I felt like I was in a coffin. Freak'n buried alive in a
coffin. Breathe deep, Dicky, just breath.
I laid there doing the best I could to relax and get
comfortable in my new surroundings and just as my
heart slowed and the tension in my bones eased a
tiny, little bit, I heard the distinct sound of a plasma
Dzzzzzzzzzzzzt Chowwwwowwww!!!
I was surely riding the crest of a heart attack,
THUMP, THUMP,THUMP. Then the splash of what I
could only imagine was a dead body crashing into the
nasty, icky swimming pool. Ew, oh. Oh, no. My
stomach knotted.
Surely the captain had shot Davy Crockett and was
going to turn me in for the bounty.
But the next sound I heard was a bunch of teenagers
whispering loudly and opening the limo's door. Holy
I heard a young woman's raspy voice exclaim, “This
bad boy's jacked, dude, check it out.”
Then I heard a guy say, “Move over. Oh, wow, we've
hit the jack pot! An untraceable limo. Check out that
scrambler on the dash guys.

Page #86 Bookmark Pagee 4

This thing's gotta be worth like, like, like, I don't
know, but we got the whole package here now, The
ultimate, preemo, deemo, limo. We're rich dudes.
This thing's worth a fortune.”
Another male voice chimed in, with a heavy Mexican
accent, and he said, “Nah, Vato, Theese's one.”
Then he paused a moment and patted the dash, then
continued in a slow soft voice, “Theese Bonita's our
low rider to paradise, me mooch-chachoes.”
Then he said, “Come on, benday-hoes's, get in,” Their
weight shifted the low rider and the door closed. I felt
the ball start rolling as the motor right in back of me
started humming.
Surely, they were high because they started laughing
and whoo-hooing and stomping the floor boards as
we rolled our way to larger streets, and I heard the
woman's raspy voice say, “Where we going?”
Without a second thought I heard the Mexican's voice
shout, “Viva Las Vegas, baby!” and then they all got
excited and started shouting and singing,
“Vivaaaaah! Las Vegas, whoop whoop” over and over
and singing and laughing, “Vivaaaaaaaah Las Vegas,
Vivaaaaaaah Las Vegas, baby!”
All in all, there were three distinct voices and I'm
quite sure they were all members of the intoxicated
youth. They were excitedly talking about all the
things they were going to do when they got there, and
all the fun they were going to have, and all the money
they were going to make, and on and on for quite
some time.
Eventually they calmed down as we drove down the
road a ways. I decided the best thing for me to do was
to just lay there still and quiet. Quiet as a mouse. I
had to sneeze, but I held it back like a soldier hiding
under a bridge full of enemy soldiers. Yes, sir, not a
peep from me.
I could hear them all talking, but for the most part it
all just sounded like muffled mumbling with the radio

Page #87 Bookmark Pagee 5

blasting. Except for one thing. One of the guys up
front was definitely named Elvis. The woman kept
getting all excited and yelling Elvis, Elvis, and do you
remember this, Elvis, and yaddah yaddah, Elvis.
Elvis this and Elvis that and Elvis, Elvis, Elvis. I
wonder if it was as annoying to him as it was to me.
The day began catching up to me. The humming
began pulling on my eyelids as the anxiety began to
fade like the miles behind us.
Yeah, I was getting sleepy. The mumbling and road
vibrations was more than my heavy eye lids could
take. I placed my head in a far, empty corner under
the seats to minimize any snoring noises. I just knew
a good, long, hard sleep was knocking on my door.
And I don't know why, but as I laid there drifting
away I kept wondering, 'What the hell does viva
I woke up hours later. At first, I had no idea where I
was or how I got there. But I woke up to the woman
yelling, “Holy crap Holy crappers. How long have
when been driving?” in a loud, annoyed, sleepy voice.
Then she hollered, “Elvis, Elvis.”
And that's when I remembered where I was. I was
resting peacefully in my coffin. And now I do believe
that I'd just awakened in hell.
I rolled over in my grave and tried to cover my ears
and go back to sleep but she kept on and on. “Elvis,
how much further do we have to go? I think I could
have hitchhiked to Vegas faster. Oooooh, my aching
fucking head. We gotta pull over and get some
migraine relief.”
Then I heard Elvis mumble something about hair of
the dog. I'm not sure, but he laughed and joked
around with the other guy about it for a few miles.
The woman smacked her lips loudly, smack, smack,
smack and said, “I'm so dry. We gotta stop

Page #88 Bookmark Pagee 6

“Yeah, yeah, don't worry me lil pechos granday, I
teenk we're all about ready for a peet stop. We'll get
out of the espresso tube in Lovington, just past the
Tejas border. We need to switch out the fuel cells,
I was feeling dry myself. And I had to pee. I felt the
rolloball exit the express tube as the treads found
traction. I lay there terrified, not sure what to do.
I was thinking of maybe making some noise or
tapping on the floorboard.
I didn't have to piss real bad yet, but the moment is
I lay there quietly contemplating. One of my favorite
songs was on the radio, one that me and my Mom
and Dad used to all sing together.
A few moments later somebody turned the radio
down and I heard Elvis say, “Hey, Donny, Marie, I
just had a thought. What if there's a drillion stollars
in the trunk. Those two vatos back there might have
just robbed a bank or sometheeeng.”
Then Donny and Marie said at the same time, and
oddly harmonic, “What if there's a body in there?”
And Marie shuddered, “Oohhh, there could be a dead
body in there.”
“Oly free-Olies, you guys are probably right. Those
guys were there to dump a body,” Elvis replied.
Then Marie laughed and said, “Did you see that
idiot’s face? When he turned his head and saw us
watching him blow that other poor bastard away?
And realized your blaster was in his face!”
Then they all laughed, and Elvis said, “He's probably
still running.”
Oh fuck, Elvis has a blaster. That's just great, I
thought. I was holding the pee pretty well, but I had
no plan.
Then Elvis said, “Stop smiling, Donny. Your teeth are
blinding me.”

Page #89 Bookmark Pagee 7

About that time, I felt the familiar feel of slowing
down and turning into a parking lot.
This is it, I thought as we slowed to a stop and the
doors popped open.
This is it. I decided to play possum. Just lay there
and look dead. So, I scooched all the way over to the
very front edge, as close as I could possibly be. I
closed my eyes and laid my hands-on top of each
other over my heart. And I laid there as still and as
stiff as I could.
I heard them all pile out of the limo ball and talking
about what might possibly be in the trunk. I think
Donny and Marie were scared of finding a dead body,
but Elvis was thinking there'd be a huge treasure. He
was looking forward to gambling it away with wine,
women, and song.
Then came the feel and the sound of the trunk's
drawer sliding on its bearings.
The warmth of the sunlight hit my face and turned
the inside of my eyelids pink, as Marie inhaled
sharply, “Huh!”
I popped my eyes wide open and I growled as loud as
I could, “RAWwwwwwwrrrrrrr.” Startled, they all
jumped back gasping.
I jumped out and ran like hell down the street
shouting “Viva! Viva! Viva!”
I did not turn left.
And I did not turn right.
I did not turn around or slow down until I was far out
of sight for fear I'd turn to salt.
I could hear Elvis laughing at Donny and Marie, and
as his voice faded swiftly I heard him say, Morte' Man
can run!”
After running for several blocks, I darted left and
right down the tiny town's streets. I stopped to catch
my breath in a covered doorway. I heard them yelling
out, “We're coming to get you, vato!” I started running

Page #90 Bookmark Pagee 8

again. I tripped over some grass growing up through
a crack in the sidewalk as I rounded a corner. I
caught my balance and kept on going. I ran right
then left then down an alleyway where I immediately
found a garbage can to stand beside and catch my
breath a little more and relieve myself of course.
Phew, that could've been bad. Real bad. I shook it a
couple of times then peeked around the corner,
There was nothing. Not a sound at all and not a soul
around. That's good.
There was nothing but desert on the far side of the
alley and a cook standing beside an open door behind
the row of buildings. He was smoking a pungent,
rather peculiar smelling vape. It smelled like a skunk
and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why
anybody would smoke such a thing.
I zipped my pants and walked over. Gave him a nod
as I passed by, then slipped swiftly in through the
door and into a tiny cafe's kitchen. The guy shouted,
I proceeded on through a swinging door with a round
window in it.
He must've gone back to his vape. I didn't hear from
him again, but I noticed his eyes were almost closed
and bloodshot red. It was a wonder he saw me at all.
I made my way to the lavatory washed my hands and
face and ran my wet fingers through my hair to slick
it back. After drinking several handfuls of water, I
turned my wide collar up. I walked out of the lavatory
and sat down at a small round table in the far back
corner of the restaurant.
I looked across the dining room and watched the
small-town waitress walking over. She had dark
brown hair and bangs cut straight across, over a pair
of very round eyes. She said, “Back door guests are
best. What can I get'cha honey?”
I replied, “I don't know, how about a menu?”

Page #91 Bookmark Pagee 9

She giggled and said, “Oh, I'm sorry. Forgive me, I'm
the new girl.” Then she gestured open a VeeM,
displaying the menu.
I ordered a pint of cold beer and the biggest, most
expensive steak on the menu. I knew that I didn't
even possess as much as one thin bitcoin. Yeah, I
was going to have to make a run for it one way or the
other, but you gotta eat, right?
I said, “You're really cute,” and we got to talking and
she mentioned how unusual it was that I didn't have
a comband or a halo. Then she laughed and accused
me of either being a mind melder or an escaped con.
My smile narrowed as my flirting slowed down after
And then she disappeared. She was a hologram the
whole time.
A few moments later red eyes brought out my food
and the waitress reappeared and asked if everything
was to my satisfaction.
I took a bite, smiled and nodded yes while looking up
at her. It was getting close to noon and the tiny cafe
started filling up with customers.
The waitress was flying around taking orders from
the other patrons as fast as the hostess could seat
them. Ole red eyes just stood there in the waiter's
station next to the fountain drinks. He looked over at
me and then across the now crowded restaurant and
shook his head as if his thoughts were in disarray.
Like he couldn't believe it.
Well, I don't know why, the food smelled pretty good.
I looked around again and what I saw troubled me. I
noticed the round-eyed waitress pouring drinks and
bringing food out to the customers. This couldn't be
right. Holograms cannot carry food out to customers.
All the customers in the restaurant were holograms.
Holy shit, maybe they're not holograms. Maybe
they're ghosts. The whole scene was freaking me out.

Page #92 Bookmark Pagee 10

I looked out the window and a tumbleweed pranced
down the street. The building across the street had a
small tree growing inside of it. One of its branches
was growing outside of the window. I decided I’d
better make a break for it. If I eat much more, I'll be
too full to run.
I took a long, slow sip of beer, and as I looked over
the brim of my mug, I saw two cops sit down a couple
of tables in front of me. Ghosts or not, I had to go. I
eased myself out of my seat and headed towards the
restroom. The door to the kitchen was just before the
restroom vestibule. I crept up to it and slipped quietly
into the kitchen. I was planning on making a break
for the back door, but ole red eyes was standing
there, making himself a hamburger right in my way.
Startled, I jumped back.
He said, “What a freak show out there, huh?”
I wasn't sure what to say. I just nodded my head and
said, “Yuh-huh, it sure is.”
“I knew you were real. There ain’t no holograms out
back, that's for sure.”
I was angling to run around him, but he put his hand
on my chest and said, “You know, you're the first real
person I've seen around here in months.”
“What? Why? or um, what happened to everybody?” I
He flipped his burger, put cheese on it, and without
lifting his head he whispered, “The fading.”
He paused a moment, then his patty hissed as he
took the spatula and squished it on the grill.
His eyebrows crinkled and his blood shot eyes teared
as he told me, “Everybody and everything real is
disappearing so fast around here.” His body quivered
as he shook his head and sniveled. “Nobody’s
reporting it. Nobody’s talking about it. Everybody just
acts like it's so normal and like everything's just

Page #93 Bookmark Pagee 11

Then he scooped up his patty and put it on a bun
with some ketchup. Now I was wound up. Anxious to
just get the hell out of there. I wanted to run like hell,
but I could tell he needed to get this story off his
chest. Besides, there was really no polite way around
him or excusing myself at this point, and he probably
knew full well, I hadn’t paid for that steak. So, I stood
there nodding and motioning my hand for him to
come on, already, with the story.
He looked me in the eye as he smashed his burger
against the plate and told me, “Here a while back,
some strangers pulled up into town. Said they were
from the synopsis insurance company. Said, we’re
the only ones that are government sponsored. Then
they proceeded to scare the hell out of all the local
residents by showing them all kinds of horrible things
that could happen to them in real life. And then they
told everybody how safe it was in VR and that the
only difference between it and real life is that you
never really get hurt in virtual reality.”
“No, come on. You have to be joking,” I said.
Then he took a bite of his burger, started chewing,
and said between chomps, “Nah, chomp, chomp,
smack, next thing you know, construction droids
started coming in and converting the local hotel in to
a VR lab. And next the hospital rooms and before
long, pretty much every large building in town was
converted to a VR lab. They even built VR condos that
look like huge mausoleums, and then they erected
that crazy Synopsis building across town. They put
up holoprojectors, speakers, and cameras all over
town, so that the people in VR could visit people that
still lived in real life. They must've brainwashed them
into talking all their friends and relatives into joining
them somehow.
“People were cashing in their life savings for a spot on
the new server. They sold everybody in town a bed
and a hookup, everybody that could afford their

Page #94 Bookmark Pagee 12

outlandish rates, that is. Then they dropped the price
and gave out coupons, two for one! And nearly
everybody else in town signed up to lay down. There
were only a few of us left.”
He opened a cupboard, poured himself some milk,
chugged down about half a glass, and continued,
“Next thing you know some new cops showed up on
the local beat and started bullying everybody else in
town into the matrix, using the letter of the law and
all kinds of tactics. Don't hang around too long. I'm
sure they’re watching you.”
I marveled at his words. For a moment, I was
“What about you?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Somebody
has to feed them.”
How could this have happened? How could it be?
He took another bite of his burger, then started to
put it down on a plate next to the grill.
Me? I said, “Excuse me,” then I took off. I ran hard
and fast. I'd bet I was out that back door before his
burger made it from mouth to plate. I didn't want any
part of this town. I didn't know where the hell I was
going, but I knew I had to go. This town just ain't
I ran and ran straight out into the desert. I ran for a
long, long ways. I turned westward and ran through a
low-lying valley. My breath, arms, and legs were
flowing smoothly.
It was liberating. I felt so free just jogging across the
clay, dirt, and rocks, and for the first time in a long
time, I felt like the young and strong man that I was.
I felt so free, like I had some chance to escape the
madness. I ran and ran and I do believe I was doing
my best to escape my life.
I scurried up a small cliff, grabbing scrub branches
and footing their trunks.

Page #95 Bookmark Pagee 13

I pulled myself about halfway up the small cliff and
crested the highway where I saw a rolo-ball coming in
the distance. So, I crouched back down. My head just
poking up enough to watch the sun fall below some
dark clouds in the distance. Desert lightning flashed
as the gravity of a high mountain's peak pulled rain
down upon it in the distance.
The ball passed, and I watched its lights fade.
I bellied over the top of the cliff and pulled myself up
by a guardrail. I slipped and scratched my chubby
little belly button. It hurt, but I made it to my feet
and started walking down the roadway.
Night was falling and so was the temperature. There
was little more than black top and the fading desert
sky up ahead. A cool wind started blowing across the
plains from the distant rain. The gusts were
downright cold. All I had on was slacks and
bloodstained dress shoes that were killing my feet, a
collared shirt, and a jacket that matched my slacks,
the outfit that they provided me for my date. I walked
up that low-pitched road for miles and miles, it
seemed, and when I got to the top of the hill, I turned
around. I waved goodbye that creepy little town
whose lights were glowing in the distance.
I started down the hill and walked and walked. I
must've walked forever. My arms clutching my jacket
closed most of the way.
There was nothing to do but think. The image of that
snork slicing that woman's throat played over and
over in my mind. The blood pumping out of her neck.
Oh, my God, that was so disgusting. I tried to put it
away and out of my mind, but it wasn't easy.
I started thinking about Mom and teared up. I hadn’t
seen her in so long. I wanted to go home. I wanna go
home so bad. I wonder how she's doing. Maybe I
should have written her a couple of times in jail.
Maybe I could figure out something. There's gotta be
a way to get back home again.

Page #96 Bookmark Pagee 14

I got all emotional for a mile or two, reminiscing
about good times and old friends. I laughed, thinking
of Chaz and that stupid, vibrating belt buckle. I could
almost hear his voice saying, “Ronco's handy
fisherman!” Good God, what kind of race of beings
have we become?
The sun faded, and the road up ahead began to wind
around a low-lying mountain. The stars were coming
out and I picked up a gnarly stick just in case some
hungry coyote comes around to try and take a bite
out of me. Then I drifted back into my thoughts.
Ole red eyes back there. He was the caretaker of a
ghost town. What a creepy place. Said he had to feed
them as if the food he was serving them up was real.
That was kind of weird. I guess no weirder than
everybody just carrying on with their day to day lives
as an avatar. I mean, if you're going to live in VR why
not go somewhere interesting like Mars? They got
three breasted women up there! I miss my halo. I
miss Marshella. Last time I saw her, I told her, “I'll be
back,” but I never made it back. Making love to her
was so good. I know it wasn't real, but she was good,
one breast in each hand and one in my mouth, Mmm
I started getting horny thinking about her and
decided maybe I should come back down to reality.
After all, my feet and legs were killing me, and I
needed a place to lay down for the night.
Step, step, step. It was so quiet, the only sound the
gravel under my feet. Step step.
There were a handful of lights in the far distance, but
other than that, nothing at all.
Badlands as far as I could see in the dimming
twilight. Nowhere to sleep and nowhere to hide, step,
I clutched the stick as a sound echoed in the growing
darkness. Up ahead I saw the silhouette of a low tree.
With aching legs, I walked towards it. When I finally

Page #97 Bookmark Pagee 15

made my way to it, I leaned up against it for a
second, looking... listening.... Not hearing or seeing
anything at all, I sat down slowly and leaned my back
up against it. Relaxing my aching body, I laid my arm
on a root that bent out of the ground by the tree. The
tree itself looked familiar in some strange way,
something about the way it was leaning.
Anyway, it was about as comfortable as could be
expected out here. I gazed out at the stars twinkling
so far away and I wondered. Yeah, I wondered if
anybody ever pulled off the road and pissed beside
this tree.
Yeah, I know, it's not easy being me. No, it's not easy
being Dicky Duncan Declan. That was my last
thought of the day. Exhausted and beat, I drifted