Days were following the same old, boring pattern. They were like an endless rerun of one dull episode of a shitty telenovela, slowed down to half speed. C. J. was slouching on the couch and staring at his cell phone. Still nothing new in the government’s list. He smoked the last of his joint and turned on the TV, lethargically. The anchor of the morning program was discussing with her guest the recent megadraught and the resulting wildfires that had been tormenting the western part of the country in recent months. C. J. watched for a while helicopter footage of the sea of flames raging down on the hills. Then he pulled a hand grenade out of his rear pocket and cast it at the screen. A sharp clank followed and the grenade rolled on the floor. The TV went off. C. J. stretched his upper body and walked lazily to the master bedroom to get changed.
Far outside the City, in another dimension, a refuge was found in the desolate Valley where C. J. was building a world of his own. The place was his personal retreat and hideaway. He designed and created this world purely for his own amusement. As a matter of fact, C. J. had speculated that he would have snapped a long time ago without his creative hobby. Here he could really blow off steam that had been building up in the factual, outside world. This place was his own private masterpiece.
C. J. was patrolling the streets of the forgotten Town as usually. He stepped into the Temple of the Sun God and climbed the stairs to the top of the highest tower. From up there, one could see the whole surrounding kingdom: dozens of buildings and streets built of limestone, the central square, working class district, lush green slopes, and farther away majestic mountain peaks in every direction. C. J. didn’t notice anything unordinary happening in the land below. Only a lone, giant spider was intimidating a couple of villagers in the eastern quarters.
Having descended the tower, C. J. walked past the altar room which had a rectangular, smooth rock platform in the middle. Several gilded sculptures of the Sun God decorated the corners of the room. C. J. rushed towards the working class district. He took his bow, aimed from a distance and flung an arrow in the air which ended up piercing the spider’s head. The creature went up in smoke. C. J. came closer and collected the spider’s eyes from the ground. A few herders were observing him from nearby while walking their llamas on a leash, nonchalantly.
“No problem,” C. J. muttered to them. Undoubtedly he thought of himself as the self-appointed God-Creator of this community.
Today he had planned to continue the project in the noblemen’s quarter. His idea was to construct a guardian’s house by the entrance of the area. He had already been mining plenty of limestone to carry out the project. Not thinking twice, he got down to it and started to skillfully pile up stones for the front wall of the house.
In the evening C. J. was back in the saddle of his motorbike and racing through the city center. He had already come to know the place, through and through. C. J. drove off the road and cut through an empty lawn towards the river bank. As the bike was approaching the ramp, he accelerated to full speed. Soon the wheels got off the ground and for a moment he was gliding through the air. Wind blew in his face and down below the dark water reflected the city lights. Then the motorbike bumped smoothly on its two wheels on the opposite side of the river—a perfect landing—and C. J. steered it back on the track.
The purple glow of Malibu was visible at the end of the street. C. J. parked his motorbike next to the nightclub, as usual, and got inside. Today he was wearing a brown leather jacket and black, tight beanie for a change. Filling up the wardrobe with all sorts of clothing was not just vanity but it could also offer you a bit of anonymity here. C. J. went to the bar and then sat at the table within earshot of the mixed group that was hanging by the counter. Most of them stood around the person (Morpheus) who himself was sitting on a stool. He wore a white tank top and the red-dyed dreadlocks hung on both sides of his face.
This guy, i.e. yesterday’s Buzzo and the day before’s Rat King, had caught C. J.’s wandering attention. He had his reasons to suspect that the man was involved in some kind of shady business to say the least. The guy might well be nothing but a petty minion but he played a role in the game anyway. In these matters, C. J. trusted strongly his gut. Now he was eager to know more.
Morpheus was once again trying to lure the crowd that was sick of the country’s ongoing state of paralysis caused by the virus. C. J. sipped his drink quietly at the table nearby and made mental notes of tonight’s preach. The words of Morpheus had acquired a new, more proactive style. He was challenging the listeners to play his game.
“You don’t need to submit and wait passively what they’ll figure out for you,” Morpheus said. “You should take matters into your own hands, bros. You should demand your fair share of the cake. If we all get together on this, I tell you we can shake the current balance of power. Together we can turn things around for good!”
After the speech, Morpheus handed out his cards to the people around him who were already bursting with excitement. C. J. had heard enough and decided to leave the nightclub. Outside of Malibu, he realized the sorry fact that his pristine, red sportbike had gone missing. He swore quietly to himself and headed to the street to hunt for some new wheels. The first one that C. J. found was an old, rust-colored Impala. He smashed the window with his elbow and opened the door.
As C. J. adjusted the rearview mirror, he noticed that Morpheus was leaving the nightclub. He felt now particularly relieved that the car alarm hadn’t gone off. Next, he cracked open the dashboard and started the car. The Bull Is Wrong was playing on the radio. C. J. hit the gas and begun to follow the black SUV that was driven by Morpheus, from a safe distance. He was struggling in his Impala to keep up with Morpheus’ fast machine and on his mind sent that thug who had snatched his beloved motorbike straight to hell.
Morpheus weaved fast through the heavy traffic of downtown. As C. J. drove through the crossroads behind him and tried to make a sharp turn, he suddenly lost control of the car and crashed the side into a passing vehicle. “Fuck!” He yelled and then sped up again. With pure luck he managed to keep Morpheus more or less in sight until they reached the coastal highway. Then the black SUV started to gradually increase the distance between them and finally had turned into a tiny dot far ahead. The motor was whining as C. J. kept pushing the worn thing to the limit. Suddenly the passenger door, which had taken damage from the collision, separated from its hinges and flew off into the highway. C. J. beat his head against the steering wheel.
Strong winds howled inside the car and drowned out the rhythms of Spanish radio. Soon C. J. saw a sign at the side of the highway that welcomed you to Laguna Beach. The black SUV had completely vanished from sight by now. C. J. drove down the palm tree–lined street, keeping an eye on it. The streets of the small town were silent. For the next fifteen minutes, C. J. kept driving around Laguna Beach but couldn’t locate Morpheus anymore. Hope of finding him had been slowly fading and he drove back to Main Street.
On his way back home, C. J. spotted a parked, black car on a side street with the lights on. He pulled up his vehicle shortly after the crossroad, put a cigarette in his mouth and remained on the spot, observing closely the familiar-looking SUV.