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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 Infinite Jest of security guards. Goodreads
Crisp leaves enshroud Milwaukee, never as beautiful in life as they are in death. All rejoice in the tomb of summer, frolicking in the burial ground of a time that is no more. This remorseless decomposition, land of nostalgia and déjà vu, idyllic for football and hunting and lakefront bonfires at night, it calls from a place beyond instinct, one primal or mystical and ineptly mapped by our concepts. If Nature speaks through her patterns, what are we to make of this delirious paean to necrophilia, this hypnotic Ode to Mortality?
The Yellow Warbler can’t hide forever. Surrounded by a sweet-scented auburn cloud, you perch on a branch above a blacktopped road, basking in the heavens of this idyllic season. Summer is a lowly transitional phase, an impetuous adolescent, a brutish prototype from which evolves the exemplar of fall. Remove the caps from your binoculars. For once Time is an ally.
A raucous guitar grows louder as an SUV approaches and flashes past below. From the shadows across the street, a man and dog appear. He tilts his head back for a mouthful of Fiddle Faddle and throws the box beneath the tree. “Listen to the guitar’s pitch decrease as the sound waves are stretched further apart. This is how we know the universe is expanding, the Doppler Effect.”
“I didn’t climb up here to have a conversation. You’ll scare the damn birds away.”
“If it’s getting bigger, you’re smaller today than yesterday, less meaningful now than a moment ago. What happens when something keeps shrinking?”
Long and slender like a Doberman by Dali, the dog howls and wags its tail as if delighted by the news. Brown spots over his eyes conspire with lips upturned at the corners of his gator snout to cast a countenance of cruel mirth. A tie-dyed bandana does nothing to mitigate this impression. Vertigo compels you to look skyward, as though man can only find comfort from his essence, which is not the substance of earth but the nothingness of space.
“Don’t forget there are countless universes, all part of the multiverse,” says the man. “There will be a billion more by the time you take another breath. They have the fecundity of aphids. It’s funny how modern physics adds new dimensions to the vanity of life lamented by the ancients. Solomon didn’t know the half of it.”
Let go of the branch. What difference does it make? You were already falling.
Basking in the sun while resting its posterior in a shadow, his dog could be mistaken for a Tiktaalik emerging from the sea to explore the land, or the missing link between Being and Nothingness. Though initially deterred by your moans and writhing, two crows land under the tree and peck at the remaining nuggets of Fiddle Faddle. Stretched like a rolling pin, the dog points at them.
“These magnificent birds,” says the man, “so intelligent they place walnuts on the road to be opened by traffic, can there be any doubt they’re acknowledging this as a blessing from their crow god, a deity characterized not only by darkness, but wisdom?”
“Maybe they’re hungry.”
“To think is to think about causes. They’re not postulating some grand unified theory involving caramel popcorn, gravity, and probability.” A scowl kneads a tragic mask across his features. “This is the dawn of a new horizon of study, the uncharted territory beyond the intersection of metaphysics and ornithology.”
“It was a stupid accident. The box just plopped there. This universe isn’t about them. It isn’t about any of us.”
The man towers over you. “Incorrect. It is about my Dachshund. Come along Maestoso.” They depart, the dog gliding away like some salami hovercraft.
The stars, are they not confetti? There is a direct relation between the number of them and the triviality of you. Squint your eyes. The constellation of a long slender hound appears, marking the heavens more objectively than dippers or crabs or bowmen. Trace it with your finger. The dog glares as if perturbed by your discovery. Heaven is not a Rorschach after all.
Perhaps the ancients didn’t name him for a reason, or only spoke the name during ceremonies where his guidance was sought, his wrath placated. They looked to the stars and the stars looked back. What became of them? Survival was not among the blessings from this deity. His ferocity makes him more humanlike than one of love. Close your eyes and seize the earth. So solid. So flat and stationary. Your senses are liars and fools.
“What about those other universes, the Multiverse?” you whisper, assuming the fetal position. It worked once. “Screw it. All politics is local. As long as they aren’t connected they don’t dilute the significance of this one.”
The hound in the sky continues to scowl, as he did before you were born, before all men were born.
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.