“Dad, are you okay?” I gasped, as I clenched my dad’s hand.
My hand was plastered to the wall. Get a grip on yourself. This is what you wanted.
I peeled some residue off the white, powdered sugar wall. I’m cleaning, just like I always do at home. Stop distracting yourself from your emotions.
My dad continues to pant heavily. His eyes are bulging, eyebrows in a tent shape on his forehead.
A nurse casually enters the room. She’s chewing gum and catching the bubbles in what looks like a Bubble wand. Her white coat blends in with the white, sterile, immaculate walls. Her name tag says: Wanda
“Hi, I’m Nurse Wanda. Are you Arthur’s son, Yaniel?” she asks, as she blows another bubble.
Puzzled at her calm, disinterested manner, I froze without saying a word.
I look over at my dad and notice the color is coming back to his face. His cheeks slowly turn a blush color.
“Yes..yes... I am.” I managed to blurt out, still in shock..“Is...is my dad okay?”
“Oh yeah, he’s fine.” She twirled her long blond hair between her fingers, and blew another big bubble. “Your dad’s condition is normal for someone who just completed the Program. The doctors said the operation went well. The voxel-based-lesion mappings came back normal. He should be out of the conspiracist mindset in no time, but for now, he’s going to continue having some bad dreams. It’s a side effect. I wouldn’t worry. You should get some rest. Looks like you’ve been through a lot.
“Don’t forget to stop by the front desk on your way out and send payment. We only accept crypto, so please have your wallet address handy. Our front desk is very busy. Lots of conspiracists here these days.”
A few days earlier, Arthur was at home with his son, Yaniel.
“Dad!” - Yaniel, exclaimed.
“Talk softer! You’re hurting my ears,” Arthur begrudgingly answered, as he slid his fat, stumpy fingers across the TV remote.
The Television went black for a few moments while the connection switched to his laptop. Tony Soprano’s face, his desktop background, flickered for a few moments.
WATCH AGAIN, and a little arrow appeared on the screen.
Arthur pressed YES.
Movie posters of all three Godfather movies lined the wall.
Arthur yawned, checked his watch, and twisted his black mustache with his stumpy fingers.
“Dad, now that I have some time off of work, can we take the kayak out? It’s getting a bit dusty. Let’s take it out for a spin.”
“Hell, no!” Arthur exclaims. “Those things are way too dangerous. You know I would never set foot in a hospital."
“I really don’t think so, Dad. I probably wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the hospital. You know premature babies don’t survive without infant incubators, and you can only get an incubator at a hospital. Plus, what about Uncle Lenny? He’s a doctor.”
“Hospitals are full of sheeple. People who aren’t strong enough to take care of themselves. I heard they give you Mochi at the hospital. It’s this little sugary dough ball. The doctors and nurses pretend to be nice to you by giving you sugar, but really they’re just out for your fucking money, just like those sugar drug companies. They’re all a bunch of crooks.” Arthur let out a big, bellowed hoarse laugh.
“Dad, are you smoking cigarettes again?”
“Son, the only thing I’m smoking is these.”
Arthur walks over to the other room, a small closet-sized space, enters the pin code on a lockbox, and opens an entire case of hand guns. He pulls out one gun, and smiles. The shiny black metal sparkles on his teeth.
“This, son, is my protection from the loonies.”
He fires a shot straight in the air. Some white plaster comes off the ceiling.
Shit. Dad is really starting to lose his mind. Never in my life have I been so scared, yet determined.
Lenny was one of Arthur’s best friends from childhood. Every Sunday, they caught up on Zoom.
“Lenny, are you there?” Arthur says as he speaks into his laptop while lounging in his exquisite burgundy velvet armchair, the television still on full blast playing The Irishman. His wife bought the armchair on one of her many trips East. She invited Arthur, but Arthur refused. He doesn’t like those people -- the China people.
Arthur would always say, “I don’t have anything against the China People, “ I just don’t like them, and this is a free country. I can like, or not like, whoever I want.”
Lenny is on the other end. “Yeah, I’m here, bud. Is the coast clear? Don’t forget to connect to the VPN.”
Lenny is smoking a cigar. The Zoom screen turns hazy from the smoke and Arthur and Lenny share a good laugh.
“Is that a Cuban? Is it fancy shit?”
“Oh yeah, of course it is. We’ve been friends for too long, Arthur, for you to think anything different.
They laugh again. Arthur’s belly bounces up and down like a slinky. He undoes the last two buttons on his shirt; it’s Armani, the cloth is imported from Morocco, a place that Arthur would never visit. He would always say that it’s too far and he doesn’t want to give those people his money.
“Lenny, can you front me some cigars next time we see each other? I’d say come over tonight, but the wife would get mad. She says I can’t have guests since I have the coronavirus. I think she’s full of shit, just like all those doctors. I feel fine, I’m a strong man. The CDC is looping their lies again, trying to get all the sheeple to listen. You and me are smarter than that, though. We won’t fall for that bullshit. By the way, have you ever heard of someone dying from smoking?”
Arthur laughs, another big belly laugh, and his voice gets more coarse. He coughs and a giant spitball comes out of his mouth. He takes the crystal water glass on the table and spits it out, chhhhhaarrrppoooo!!
“Wife keeps buying all this shit for the house. She just bought us these crystal wine glasses.
“What a money guzzler!” Lenny exclaims. “It’s like she just throws your money out. Or maybe shopping is an addiction she developed to cope with her little shit of a husband?”
“Ha-ha! Stop with your conspiracy theories, Lenny. We’re too old, and too smart, for that shit.”
“Yeah, I know. We’re sarcastic assholes. It’s just the way we were born.” Arthur laughs hard, again, leaning back in his chair, as he puts his big stumpy hands on his large belly.
His belly jiggles like a slinky.
Lenny is starting to get impatient. It’s almost 10pm, and that’s when he told the Whiterabbit that he and Arthur would join the scheduled Zoom meeting. But before they joined, there was just one more thing he felt he needed to say to get Arthur’s buy-in.
“By the way” the words quickly escape from Lenny’s mouth, “I don’t know anyone who died from smoking. Health departments, Center for Disease Control, my ass. People die from lung cancer, from heart attacks. That happens to people naturally. It’s in your genes. No one dies from smoking.”
“My man, you’re one of the few people in my life who gets me.” Arthur lets a big smile take over his plump, rosy face; but, his big blue eyes, glazed over from the television, radiate signals of fear.
HELLO. THIS IS WHITERABBIT273. WHAT CAN I HELP YOU WITH TODAY?
Silence. Neither Arthur nor Lenny type anything.
“Lenny,” Arthur whispers into his laptop, hunched over, beaming with anticipation. What do I say? You’ve done this before, haven’t you? What’s the protocol?
“Yeah. I’ve been on calls with the Whiterabbit. He’s one of us, don’t worry. He’s going to guide you through the process. Be patient. I’m going to leave for now.
Lenny signs off. Now, only the chat window is active.
A new video appears on screen. Yaniel65 joined the meeting.
“Hey...dad” this was all that I could get out. Never in a million years did I expect to be on a Zoom call on a Saturday afternoon with my dad and some entity who calls themselves the Whiterabbit. But, I did my research. And Lenny and I spoke. The Bubble Program is what my dad needs. The results are positive, but I’m not sure about their means.
Whiterabbit273: Hi, Arthur. I’m here to guide you. You just need to relax.
Corleone23: Guide me? Where? Who is Whiterabbit? What is going on? Yaniel!!
Yaniel65: Dad, this is best for you. Try to relax. I need to go now.
Yaniel signs off.
WhiteRabbit273: Hi, Arthur. I’m here to help. I know you’ve been spamming Internet forums with hate speech. I know you tried to break Twitter. I know you’re involved in the Mochi sugar conspiracy. I know you’re getting ready to dump gallon tons of sugar into the Allegheny River. I know you have guns, and I know you’re dangerous.
Corleone23: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
WhiteRabbit273: Cut it out, Arthur. We’ve been tracking your Internet logs. We have some records here that show you’ve been buying very large quantities of bitcoin. Latest record shows you bought 100 bitcoin. We suspect you are also money laundering.
Corleone23: Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know shit about bitcoin. My son works in the industry, but I think it’s all fake. It’s all play money. A bunch of garbage.
WhiteRabbit273: Bitcoin is at 60k USD. I don’t know any garbage that’s worth that much.
Corleone23: It’s garbage, expensive garbage, just like all the antiques my wife buys from overseas. The government is in on it, of course. They found some narcs and told them to use bitcoin to buy their shipments. It’s much better than cash, and the Feds just take a cut. Cocaine, heroine, meth….all those drugs are now in total control by the Fed, and it’s all driven by bitcoin. Anyway, I’m getting tired. I’m out.
Arthur attempts to sign out of Zoom, but his computer is frozen. He tries to close his laptop screen, but it’s glued upright. The resistance is unbearable. The screen simply won’t close. He tries to get out of his chair, but he can’t move. He’s paralyzed.
Only thing he can do is type.
Arthur: Hey, this is not funny. What’s going on?
WhiteRabbit273: It’s okay, Arthur. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be. We do these surgeries on conspiracists all the time, and have very positive results. Right now, you’re entering The Bubble. Hang tight. We need to do a quick operation on your brain to rejigger some neural pathways, to get you to think better. You’ll be happier, I promise. And less dangerous.
A small incision laser comes out of Arthur’s laptop, and creates an “X” with pixie dust on Arthur’s forehead.
Silence. The Zoom screen, and the room turn pitch black.