A Novel of Espionage, Astounding Science, and Wiener Dogs
“Jablonski’s first novel reads like a surreal existentialist crisis, a stream-of-consciousness narrative that employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force. We follow blogger Zelda Alpizar, who occupies her time decoding and researching the latest cultural memes and viral sensations. She becomes embroiled in a scheme to turn humans into storage devices for code. Also wrapped up in the plot are two test subjects: security guards Alex Jitney, whose ‘milky pallor and nondescript features might instigate regrets that humans aren’t reptilian,’ and ‘too nice for his own good’ Travis Olkeshevski. And then there’s Maestoso, the titular Dachshund, who moves ‘like some sausage hovercraft.’ These characters go through private trials and tribulations, discussing matters of sex, memes, and science, as they move inexorably toward the endgame. … Jablonski is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells. … An engaging narrative.” – Publishers Weekly
Jablonski’s writing has been described as “poking fun at literary fiction, science, and Philosophy, in the way Douglas Adams spoofed sci-fi.” He is not convinced this was his intent.
Spy by night, blogger by day, Zelda Alpizar becomes infected by a contagion known to civilians as guilt, forcing her to choose between following orders or intervening to save two watchmen. Their trance-like lethargy makes them the ideal storage drives for a detonation code. Decrypting it could have lethal side-effects. Though the most important thing Zelda will ever find, the boundary between good and evil is of little value in a place where the only legend reads Here There Be Monsters.
Security guards, harbingers of dawn, are they not warriors? Beneath the polyester Travis and Alex consist of flesh and blood. A predator stalks them, more implacable than skateboarders. Putting your tax dollars to work, the NSA discovers that human storage devices offer greater security than digital ones. Dead drives tell no tales. Like all their secrets it’s soon available to the highest bidder. When Zelda infiltrates a secret society lending this service to terrorists, she sees how the private sector can be almost as wicked and incompetent as the government.
They should have chosen a more secure password. “Mary Weatherworth” is also an adult actress beloved by security guards, and an urban legend reputed to appear in mirrors when summoned thrice. Busy lady. This ambiguity entwines discrepant parties in strange ways. Connected to them all by one degree of separation, the sausage link in a karmic chain, Maestoso the Dachshund waddles across this remorseless battlefield, observing the chaos, perhaps resolving it. Avoid eye contact. You don’t want him inside your head.
The paperback is preferred. When you position it upright Maestoso’s eyes follow you around the room, anticipating your actions with some canine analogue of foreknowledge, disarming at first then strangely serene. Purchase several as guardians or talismans.
Chapter 1: Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Park Here
The equation proves what is about to happen is impossible. George checks it again: New Lexus + first one here = VIP. At a locked door in underground parking he turns his back to a security camera and picks up a phone mounted above an ashtray. Ten rings. Twenty. Fifty. Seventy. He stares at his watch. Is the minute hand speeding up or are its measurements askew in this concrete cave?
“Lodestar securitah,” says a voice in mock Southern drawl.
“Good morning. Could you please unlock the lower level?”
“Kindly turn and face the camera, sir.”
Window to an infernal soul, evil orb of black acrylic, the all-seeing eye examines George. If only he could clarify the matter by pointing to his car, the way a teacher knocks on the board for emphasis.
“I am not supposed to open it this early, sir.”
“I have work to do.”
“Very well, but I must request a slight favor in return. I could never permit another man to remain beholden to me.”
George leans against the door. His distorted reflection on the dark globe looks back like some doomed foretoken bidding him to take any path but this. “What kind of favor?”
“On third shift a man starts to think he’s wandering this vale of tears all by his lonesome. That is a heavy burden to bear. This cruel isolation has robbed me of life’s simplest pleasures. A vicarious taste of your joy would nourish my soul. If you could be so kind, a festive dance will raise my spirits and reconcile me to my duties.”
The parking lot grows hazy. An evil wizard appears and demonstrates to George how two drops of mercury plus two more equals one. But he’s only warming up. Another fundamental truth is questioned: “VIP? Are you sure?”
“I am particularly fond of that Travolta gentleman in Saturday Night Fever.”
“I don’t have to put up with this.”
“Kind sir,” says the voice in perfect semblance of wounded hospitality, “I offer to do you a favor and you insult me. Where I come from one kind deed begets another. Yours will be the pappy to mine, which makes us cousins. Do you see how we are all connected? Your dance will serve a greater good.”
“Travis, unlock this door.”
“Do I have to come down there again?” says a voice devoid of Southern gentility, posing an issue not covered in Dealing with Difficult People seminars. George braves an inner storm. A smokestack of lightning reveals distant shapes on the horizon of Time. Long ago mankind began a game by filling the roles of king of the jungle, beast of burden, and everything in between. Now a lowly watchdog refuses to play make-believe. Unlike the strength of a wild animal, George’s power is dependent on the acquiescence of others. Their consent creates it. And in its absence …
He points to the ceiling with his left hand and brings it down to his right pocket while performing squats. Endorphins percolate. Explanations vie for dominion. Maybe his car resembles a Toyota on the monitors. Maybe these cruel rites are endured by VIPs everywhere. Maybe this world is the discarded draft of one that eventually turned out better or at least no worse.
“Sir, I regret to inform you that my spirit remains earthbound. I feel forsaken as ever, orphaned from the human family.”
To the routine George adds a move from the Hokey Pokey, incorporating his calfskin briefcase. As though awaiting judgment from the cyclopean ruler of this underworld, he stops and looks up at the globe.
The click of the parking door, is it not the whispered yes of a reluctant lover? He drops the phone and seizes the knob before Travis can lock it, avoiding a scenario that could involve something even less desirable than a festive dance — assuming the predictive veracity of events from last week.
In the elevator, the tireless optimist perched on his left shoulder puts everything into perspective. “Be grateful he’s just a guard. A simple twist of history could have made him an emperor, or a conquering general, or a gym teacher.” The pessimist who once mounted the other shoulder but jumped to his death during the dance offers no counterpoint.
George peels a sweaty strand of hair off his forehead and enters the throne room of Travis the Terrible. A massive boom box broadcasts the roar of demons and the grinding of machines. Clown-sized sneakers tower over the sign-in log atop the desk. George scribbles his name and ID number like some vanquished statesman signing a treaty of unconditional surrender. A ring of cigar smoke halos his head. And another. And another. He coughs and waves them away and looks at four monitors inside the desk. Three are split-screen. One provides a full view of the parking door, his Gethsemane.
On a leather throne suspiciously similar to the CEO’s sits Travis Olkeshevski. Behind Ben Franklin glasses, ravenous green eyes devour all assumptions about the corporate pecking order. “Good morning Mr. Merkel,” he says, stretching. The seams of his shirt threaten to burst in protest. A layer of baby fat rests on a foundation of bone and muscle that makes the Neanderthal appear ectomorphic. “Have a nice day, sir.”
George enters one of the elevators behind the desk and inspects his reflection on the shiny panel above the buttons. His eyes watch his eyes watching his eyes. The regress spirals through a brier maze where gargoyles shield their faces from territory they guard but cannot bear to glimpse. With a world-weary disgust most men need sixty years to develop he kicks the faux gold paneling. “Life doesn’t change after grade school,” he says, as though past, present, and future aren’t descriptions of the same stinking beast from blind men. When the doors open he shuffles down a long bright corridor, immersed in the very important thoughts of a VIP.