Calvin Corso

Calvin Corso

I hid down an alleyway off of Powys Street in Woolwich, South East London. Soldiers ran hither & thither looking for stragglers who had not found a roof before curfew. Sounds of sporadic gun-fire pierced the air.

I had information on me that any squaddie would shoot me on site for. I had the name of one of the illegal prophets.... one of the forbidden shamen.... one of the outlawed mystics.... Calvin Corso. The soldiers had missed me & I felt great. I ran into the red neon twilight & padded over the last remaining cobble stones of Woolwich. I ran into the second hand charity complex at the end of Powys Street.

The Woolwich Coronet, which overlooks the River Thames, used to be a cinema & part time venue for Rock bands in the twentieth century. It then became the “New Wine Church” at the beginning of the twenty first century & now, as the millennial clock ticks away at the end of 2k's first hundred years, The Woolwich Coronet houses the baroque tunnels & terraces of the biggest bargain basement in the south east of the city.

“Riverscape Mews” is open 24/7 & is a continually thriving thorn in the side of “law & order” as we have come to know & loath it in 2099. Once through its selection of curving glass doors I knew the military wouldn't dare follow. They were not well received where they were outnumbered. Most families had lost a relative to the bullet at the hands of the British Army in the last twenty years. Most families had the pleasure of admitting to the slaying of a uniformed bully or two within the same time-frame.

Things started going this way around 2076 when the unelected authorities started genetically producing soldiers. “Guardians” they were called.... supposed to emulate the moral perfection of the guardians discussed in Plato's “Republic”. Of course the only thing these “ubermensch” guarded was wealth stolen from the masses of poor people on a global level & kept in the safes & strongboxes of the minority of rich landowners who paid the squaddies wages.

Of course these super-soldiers had all the initiative of inanimate objects but, hey, that's progress!

The authorities displayed even more stupidity than was normal for them. They had even ensured that all the soldiers looked exactly the same. Their physique, facial characteristics & brain had all been grown from DNA that had been taken from an actor that had been cryogenically frozen in the early part of the twenty first century. Apparently his films are a big hit amongst the leaders of this the 51st state of America.

We proletariat are forbidden access to his movies for fear that we may be able to pre-empt the strategy of the military. The actor in question was one Arnold Schwarzenegger &, if thousands of Arnie clones were anything to go by, he had been an ungainly, muscle bound dullard who overcompensated for his lack of style by speaking in a forced, grating boom that was supposed to give the impression of manliness.

Some said that Arnie has actually been revived from his freeze tank & was, at present, a close advisor to President George W Bush the Third.

I think the main reason folk on Airstrip One {Britain} resented being policed by an army of Arnies was the fact that they symbolised the fact that Britain was an occupied country.

The Woolwich Coronet {“Riverscape Mews”} had, by the middle of the twenty first century, expanded in size through the excavation & drainage of a gigantic network of subterranean walkways which now housed market stalls, cafes, pubs, music venues, psychedelic drug parlours & advice centres. Several attempts to bring it down had been made by the unelected government of Airstrip One. Although this government had no power in Scotland, Ireland or Wales it still held a tenuous grip on the sovereignty of what was once known as England.

All attempts at destroying Riverside Mews had failed. One subterranean explosion which totally failed to penetrate the lead- lined titanium outer shell of the underground charity mall did succeed in blasting a hole through to a series of hitherto undiscovered giant caves. The resultant shaft between the loose clay that London's built on & these giant caverns thousands of miles under the earth then proceeded to drain the River Thames of its water. From Oxford to the Thames Estuary there was now just a long, unsightly mud-slide. Plenty of speculators had plans for it but none had enough resources to implement them with. For five years now everyone had just acted like nothing had happened. The stench was so bad that Londoners all felt that it was a stroke of luck they had all been wearing anti-fume face masks for the last twenty years when out of doors. All evidence of other species was now gone forever in England's capital city.

I went down to level twenty five in a lift playing songs from the twentieth century punk band “Crass”. I stepped out onto the level that was given up totally to the service formally known as Woolwich Library. Every book I saw I wanted to wear. There were studies on the prehistoric life that once roamed this part of the world {a subject dismissed & criminalised by the creation theorists in government}. There were books on piracy through the ages. There were books on “Underground bands”, composers & DJs from the twentieth & twenty first centuries. Just as I was about to pick up a book about the Fordham Park Free Festival in Deptford from 1989 to 1995 I remembered why I was here.

Calvin Corso. The name I had been given a day ago. It didn't seem like any of the books on the shelves before me were by this mysterious magus.

Suddenly one caught my eye. Unlike the bright holographic covers of all the others this was just black with silver letters that spelt the name Calvin Corso. I picked up the book & put it over my head.

Books in 2099 are usually available in two forms. There is the traditional paper, plastic or hemp varieties that require the reading of words. Then there is the virtual reality “boxes” like “Calvin Corso”. These boxes cover the whole head & let the wearer know if anybody or anything is about to disturb the reader in the real world. When I say “boxes” I'm using a generic term. They come in all shapes & sizes. There are pyramids, octagons, globes, etc. The exterior usually sports a hologram advertising the contents. Some even have two dimensional films playing across them. The films either consist of an advert loop or a representation of what the “reader” is experiencing {depending on what the wearer chose to reveal}. Earlier virtual reality kits had used gloves, sensor pads & even boots, gyroscopes & immersion tanks as interfaces connected to the authors creations. This had all been simplified resulting in the “box” or helmet form. Such was the evolution of technology in the last twenty years that even blind or deaf wearers of the helmet enjoyed the contents of the books.

No one could quite believe the paradox that basic amenities like fresh food & unpolluted water were hard to come by but digital technology was multiplying at an exponential rate.

The technology involved a direst mechanism to brain interface rather than relying on tricking the senses. Cybernetic contact pads generated electrical impulses & fed information straight into the mind of the reader. Most of this technology had been developed outside of governmental & corporate control & most VR books had been banned.... particularly books by the ever-growing list of outlawed prophets. Most of these prophets were women but there were rumours that many were not from Earth. At least not this dimension of Earth.

As soon as I put on the black box with “Calvin Corso” written on every surface I was in another world. Some VR books presented the wearer with a menu, an introduction or a list of chapters. Some, like this, threw the wearer straight in at the deep end.

I found myself standing in a run-down room next to an operating table. Yellowed paint & the tattered remains of floral wall-paper surrounded me. The entrance to the room was enshrouded in green smoke.

A figure started gliding through the mist towards me. As the figure became more clearly defined I realised he was about four foot tall. It looked like a bald male child with a disproportionately large forehead. He was wearing a long black coat with huge wing collars with white trim that spread from their edges like pointed teeth. His skin was pale & anaemic. On closer inspection his facial characteristics were those of an ancient being rather than a child but something about him still exuded a child-like countenance. He seemed to glide through the smoke rather than walk. He stopped in front of me.

“I'm Calvin Corso.”

“I gather this is a sim I see before me & not a representation of the physical appearance of the author himself.” I replied.

“You gather wrong. I am the real Calvin Corso.”

“Well unless your book links us to the VR web & you are connected to the specific edition I am wearing I can only assume that you are a programmed representation of Calvin. I am prepared to believe that this representation is accurate though.”

“Wrong again. I am the real Calvin Corso.”

His voice was high pitched & demonstrative.

“How can you be real? Even my form is this books interpretation of the organism wearing it.”

I considered this books impression of me to be the most accurate I'd ever encountered. Some books made you too tall, too fat, too thin, too young, too old, wrong hair, wrong eyes, nose mouth, etc., etc. This was uncanny in its accuracy.

“Young man,” said my host, “You are not in a virtual room, in a virtual body, talking to a virtual author. You have been physically transported here via the teleportation device set in my book.”

“That's impossible!” I protested.

“Why?” he asked.

“That kind of technology is centuries ahead of us!”

“Ahead of you but not ahead of the place I come from.”

“Another planet?” I asked.

No inter-stellar contact had ever been made before. At least none I knew about.

“Another dimension of Earth.” he replied.

I stood and considered this. Surely this was very slick VR.

“This is not slick VR.” said Calvin.

“You can read my mind?”

“Yes”.

Well I had to admit I'd never heard of a VR box able to do that before.

“That's because they can't.” he said.

I was in shock now.

“Don't worry you'll get used to it.”

Well I may as well not use my mouth, I thought.

“Whatever you prefer.” He was using his.

“Can you project your thoughts into my head?”

Of course, he thought.

I was surprised to find that his voice in my head was the same timbre as his speaking voice.

It is surprising that we seem to perceive another's thoughts as if they are words heard aurally, thought Calvin, in my head. He continued verbally, “I'm still working on pictorial thoughts and unlocking the subconscious.”

“Of course! In this VR experience we have the illusion of telepathy! We don't need the physical appearance of speech! Everything's plugged directly into my brain! You could talk through your ears or your arse for all it mattered! I would still receive it as aural information! That explains why this telepathy still relies on speech patterns!” I felt confident that I'd got it right this time.

“Wrong.” he said.

“Come on.” I didn't believe him.

“You are physically here and this is real telepathy.” I can flip between speech and thought at will. I cannot speak through my ears or my, ahem, arse as you put it. The fact that you perceive my thoughts in the same timbre as my voice is a fact that still mystifies me. I have theories though. It may be that you heard my voice and your brain therefore interprets my thoughts through that medium. It may be that my knowledge of my voice influences the mode in which I transfer my own thoughts. I still need to research this phenomenon. “Is that ok?” he asked with his mouth.

“I suppose. I find the concept of my own thoughts being read a new and shocking development in VR. I can only imagine that I am physically reciting those thoughts in the library and this book is assimilating the words and fitting them into this scenario.”

“You are no longer in the library young man.”

“Look, everyone knows that interactive VR relies on the reader physically speaking in order for the book to relate to the readers wishes. Everyone knows that that is why libraries are amongst the noisiest places on Earth!”

“You are not on Earth as you understand it Mr Rewind.”

“How did you know my name?”

“I've been expecting you. That's why I teleported the device you are wearing into the library. By the way you can take it off now.”

I felt my head and was amazed to find the box still over it. I hadn't noticed. During VR experiences the helmet usually temporarily disappeared. I took it off. Nothing changed. This was clever VR indeed!

“It is not VR Mr Rewind.”

“Jeeeesus you play it right down the line Mr Corso!”

“Whatever.”

“What now?”

“Lay on the table.”

I did as I was told. He glided over to one side of the operating table, produced a large, curved knife and thrust it through my belly button and deep into my stomach. He withdrew it and rammed his fist and most of his fore-arm into my body. There was blood everywhere. I passed out.

I came round.

“You are cleansed Mr Rewind.”

There was no sign of blood or wound or anything. Even my waistcoat and white frock shirt bore no signs of penetration. My crushed velvet drainpipe trousers, black winkle-picker shoes and red spats were as unblemished as ever. He handed me my black drape jacket with red trim as I swung off of the operating table. I was glad I hadn't lost that. It had been passed down through a fair few generations in my family and went so well with the black trousers I had on.

“Thank you.” I said

“Now Mr Rewind.... go and travel the dimensional planes and oppose the disease of militarism wherever you find it.”

With that he clapped his hands and I was back in the library.

The book was in my hands.... not on my head as was normal when a program ended.

I looked around and hundreds of people were staring at me. I must have looked very visibly shocked. A hippie came up to me, grinned and spoke....

“It's not that you materialised out of thin air man. Few of us would have noticed that if it had been instant. It was the build up, the thunder, the lightening, the wailing and the three or four minutes of maniacal laughter that preceded it and heralded your arrival that drew everyone's attention. Top show dude!”

“I wasn't aware of that. Suddenly I was there and now I'm here.”

“Wow!” said the hippie.

“Tell me about it.”

Four strangely normal looking men ripped off their wigs and shades. They were Arnies. They jumped on me.

I don't know what the crowd did with them then but I was suddenly back in Calvin Corso's bed-sit.

“I think I'll have to adjust the epic level on the subterranean side of the transportation.” As he said this Calvin pulled a series of strange facial expressions and hand movements as if he were a sped up piece of film. He then stood stock still.

Just before I dematerialised I took a closer look at his face. His eyebrows comprised of a solid black strip directly across the bottom of his fore-head in a horizontal line. His eyes were long, thin horizontal strips too. His nose was small and snub and his mouth was wide and thin. It was as if his fore-head had squashed his features down towards his neck.

POW!

I was back in the library.

A crowd had jumped on the Arnies and the ensuing melee was a tangle of arms and legs.

I jumped in. Nobody in anti-government circles expected other people to fight their battles for them.

A crowd of about twenty people, including myself, carried the Arnies kicking and swearing up four massive escalators {bought by the people of Woolwich at a second hand shopping mall equipment sale. They were big antique twentieth century models. All chrome and strengthened glass}.

The Arnies were dragged across the entrance foyer and thrown out into the street. Killing or beating were only used if unavoidable or as a last resort. The Arnies were not so moral. It would have been useless interrogating them because the Arnies were always the last to know why it was they were told to do something. They were bred and reared not to ask questions. Capture and re-education? This had never worked yet so most revolutionaries had given up on the idea.

The hippie asked me who I was and I explained about Calvin Corso and the fact that I had come back and somehow instantly attained a quantity of knowledge about the multiverse that would prove incredibly useful in our fight against the Arnies and their leaders. I led him and a growing crowd back to the library.

The hippie tried on the box I had put back on the shelf before I joined the melee.

He physically disappeared. The crowd went “Oooooh.”

After a few seconds he was back with the book in his hands.

“You were only gone a few seconds.” I said.

“It was about fifteen minutes where I was!”

Someone else tried it on. This time it was an ageing twenty third generation punk Rocker with orange spiky hair. He was dressed in a black PVC suit and had hand-cuffs hanging from a bullet belt. He had wrap-round, black shades on. He was well into his eighties. He stood, resting on his zimmer frame. It was painted black with miniature silver skulls set into it that ran down each leg.

He disappeared.

He returned.

Next was a woman dressed in a black rubber cat-suit wearing big red boots. She had red velvet gloves on and across the back of her all-in-one was a red anarchy sign. A red plastic zip ran along her crutch. She had the tight musculature of an avid dancer. She had a black bob haircut and must have been in her mid-forties. She wore a red utility belt with pockets all around it.

She disappeared.

She returned.

An old Witch took it next. She was quite possibly in her nineties. She wore a paisley cloak with a pointed hood. Her shuffling gait and mad, staring eyes revealed a life of extreme and extraordinary experiences.

She disappeared.

“That'll be a meeting of the minds.” said the hippie.

She didn't return after a few seconds. Then a few more seconds. Then a few more. Then she returned and was laughing hysterically. She handed the book to a teenage boy. He was dressed in a denim jacket, flared denim jeans and had a huge pair of black, platform boots. Each had a giant red star on its toe. He was bald with a red star tattooed on the top of his head. The fact that he was incredibly thin made his boots look cartoon-like in their hugeness.

He disappeared.

A few seconds and he was back.

He handed the book back to the zimmerpunk and said, “He wants another word with you.”

The zimmerpunk left.

Six seconds.

The zimmerpunk returned. He then handed the box to a woman in her mid-thirties who was heavily pregnant. She had made art out of her physique by dressing as a clown. She wore bright yellow and red dungarees, a big red nose and a green curly wig. She had a massive plastic sun-flower in a button hole near her neck and she wore red shoes that were at least three times longer that they would normally be. Unlike a clown she didn't seem to be in any danger of toppling. I suppose if you have to walk slow you might as well make a performance out of it. I gathered she avoided slap-stick in her present condition. Her giant made-up red and green lips grinned just before she disappeared. Ten minutes went by and around one hundred and fifty people dutifully waited.... chatting.

When she reappeared she was holding her new-born baby wrapped in a red silken blanket.

Everyone cheered.

“You got a name for her yet?” asked the hippie.

“Lilith.”

“That's a coincidence,” I said, “my grandmother's name is Lilith.” The clown grinned and was escorted away by her friends. Her make-up was heavily smeared as a result of an obviously typical labour. It had obviously taken a lot longer than ten minutes in the dimension of Calvin Corso.

My grandmother, Lilith Ameena Rewind, was, at present, ninety six years old and still kicking. She had been born on the 30/3/2003 and had witnessed practically all of the twenty first century. The name Lilith came from the Sumerian Goddess of storms and hurricanes and was “the first woman” in the original book of Genesis in the earliest versions of the Old Testament of the Bible. She fled the Garden of Eden when she fell out with Adam. He'd wanted to dominate her and have her beneath him in love-making. He was intransigent. The male God of the Bible then created the more compliant Eve for him. My great grandmother and great grandfather were not too impressed with the concept of a male God so named my grandmother Lilith to embrace a new age where they hoped patriarchal society would give way to a level playing field between the genders. Ameena was a hybrid name embracing my grandmother's multiracial origins. Amina means honest in Arabic and Amena means honest in Celtic. Both were pronounced the same.... Ameena. My grandmother was born at 12:12pm. I was born at 4:30am on 16/1/2059, the exact same time that the son of my mum's sister was born. My mum's name is Kali Rewind and his mum's is Eris Rewind. For the Hindu Goddess of Chaos and the Greek Goddess of Chaos to both give birth at the same time was an incredible piece of syncronicity. Their mum, Lilith Ameena Rewind, was ecstatic about the whole thing. After all.... she is a Witch.

My nan's parents were called Shiva and Bobby Rewind. I have Asian, North African, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon blood. I consider myself as a true child of the twenty first century. Neither I, my mum and dad, nor my aunt, uncle or my four grandparents regarded themselves as having a nationality. As with my great-grandparents on my mother's side {Shiva and Bobby} we regarded ourselves as citizens of the world. This was now a general understanding between all anti-government activists. True internationalism. Our motto is “All Flags Burn.” Apparently my great grandfather played alongside a punk band called “All Flags Burn” when he was the singer in a pychedelapunkaglammajazzabilly band called “Psycho's Mum” in the mid nineteen eighties.

Calvin Corso had now got through to about fifty people. As he continued I slipped out of the library.

What information had he imparted to us all?

Well that would be telling. Unless I speak to you personally how do I know you're not an Arnie?


From the diaries of Baphomet Rewind Summer Solstice 2099.


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Based on a dream I had just over a year ago & first put into a narrative shortly afterwards. This version completed 21/10/2004

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