An excerpt from Zone 23

Our in-house satirist has the flu, or a cold, or something, and hasn’t sent us a column. So we’re publishing a chapter from his satirical dystopian sci-fi novel, Zone 23. It’s extremely long, includes gratuitous footnotes, and is otherwise difficult to read on a phone. It’s available from the evil Amazon corporation and a variety of other online booksellers, or you can order it at your local bookstore, assuming you still have a local bookstore. Here it is without further ado …

an excerpt from Zone 23
by C. J. Hopkins

The Global Proprietary Calendar System, commonly known as the G.P.C.S., and adopted throughout the United Territories in 2310, H.C.S.T.,1 despite what you’d probably naturally assume, was not a retail calendar product (which is to say an actual calendar), or any type of calendar-related product, but an Interterritorial trade agreement completely deregulating and privatizing same. Despite the dire and hysterical warnings of 24th Century apocalypticians, professional naysayers, and other critics, the G.P.C.S. had been functioning smoothly for going on over three hundred years. Now this was totally revolutionary, because after nearly five millennia of government regulation of time, consumers were finally free to choose among a wide and ever-expanding array of proprietary annotated calendar systems, most of which were moderately priced or offered at competitive corporate discounts. By this time (the time of our story, of course, so 2610, H.C.S.T.), there were four predominant (i.e. widely used) calendars, and in excess of eighty “alternative” calendars, each of which generated spin-off products and assorted licensing and franchising streams. There were also a variety of open-source calendars, and amateur calendars, and vanity calendars, which consumers were equally free to choose among, and to use for business and personal purposes, and to personalize however they liked to express their individual tastes. The G.P.C.S. was extremely popular. The Normals just loved their proprietary calendars. The only minor problem was, no one knew when it was anymore.

This, however, if you asked Greg Cramer, was nothing more than a technical glitch, and a temporary technical glitch at that.

Gregory Cramer was Senior Vice President of Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage at the Hadley Corporation of Menomonie, Wisconsin’s District 12 Northeast Regional Headquarters. He was forty-one years old, fit as a fiddle, and handsome in a completely unmemorable way. At approximately 0420 o’clock on a sleepy afternoon in officially March, he was staring into the physical screen of his HC Systems desktop Viewer, in the upper right-hand corner of which his biometric face was staring back at him. The face was smiling a becoming smile. There was nothing remotely reptilian about it. Its features were angular. Its forehead prominent. Its hairline was prematurely receding. It was receding right off the back of his head.

Cramer had an office on the 26th Floor with a view of some other 26th Floor office. There was nothing terribly wrong with his office, except that it was down on the 26th Floor. Which meant it that was not on the 70th Floor, or the 71st or 72nd Floors, in Interterritorial Security Management, which was run by Robert “Big Bob” Schirkenbeck. Cramer, of course, did not resent this (Zanoflaxithorinal relieved resentment) but he thought about it two or three times an hour as he read and responded to the thousands of queries that came up on his screen all day, most of which, in one way or another, concerned the question of when it really was. Cramer did not resent these queries, and was perfectly content to sit there and answer them (it being his job to do that and all), but somewhere, way in the back of his mind, he wondered idly whether, just possibly, some of them might not be so vital.

This one, for example, from Jim Matsumura, of TeleDynamic Systems, Inc., asking, basically, when it was. Or this one, from someone named Aksel Torres, who appeared to be some kind of salesman of something (probiotic shampoo, it looked like), beating around the bush a lot, but essentially wondering if anyone at Hadley happened to know when it really was. Which OK, here was a prime example of the kind of thing that tempted Cramer to walk the Path of Toxic Resentment, because obviously no one at Hadley did (i.e. happen to know when it really was), or why would Cramer be sitting in his office fielding queries regarding same, as opposed to sitting in some other office, on the 70th to 72nd Floors, let’s say, doing something that might conceivably get him noticed by Big Bob Schirkenbeck?

What Cramer didn’t actually consider doing (the hazy concept just drifted through his mind) was writing a boilerplate response-to-query message to send back to Jim and Aksel, and whoever, regretting the fact that neither he, nor anyone at Hadley, nor anyone else, was privy to when it really was … nor, as everyone plainly knew, would anyone be for quite some time, and wondering whether, on the next occasion they felt compelled to query him, again, regarding when it really was, they might refer back to this boilerplate message, or stop and think for a half a second (before they sent their latest query) about what they were about to do, and how utterly pointless and inane it was.

This hypothetical boilerplate message, which Cramer would never even consciously contemplate much less actually set about writing would be written in terse yet extremely professional, demonstrably compassionate, irony-free language, in compliance with both the letter and spirit of Hadley Communications Policy. But terse. The message would definitely be terse. Terse, in this case, would be appropriate … because, seriously, Cramer thought to himself (and he made a mental note to up his dosage), what did it matter when it really was? Everyone knew when it was officially. The date was right there on the screen of your Viewer.2 Depending on which calendar you followed, it was 04 March, 2610, or 16 Sha´ban, 2049, or 17 Adar, 6370, or day Whatever in the Year of the Lemur, and all the other dates it officially was.

In Cramer’s personal professional opinion, which he shared in his weekly online check-ins with Charmane T.R. Haverson-Cho, the fairly-abundant Department Head of Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage who was never going to help him transfer anywhere and had zero suction with Big Bob Schirkenbeck, the G.P.C.S. was running smoothly. The one little minor ongoing glitch (i.e. the one that people like Jim Matsumura and Aksel Torres were all worked up about), was that even there, in the Western Territories, where most people tended to use the same calendar, although you were free to choose, of course, the dates had been changed so many times that you couldn’t work back from whenever it was to whenever it had been before they’d changed them, and even if you did, or thought you had, by the time you did, they’d have changed them again, which meant you would have to start all over, which would mean going back to whenever it was (i.e. the post-adjusted current date), and reentering the dates of whatever events you’d chosen to use as your set of variables, and then trying to rerun your algorithm, only to discover that one or more of the dates of your variables had also been adjusted, so you’d have to go back and adjust for that, and then start the entire process all over.

Naturally, one was free to do this. The system wouldn’t prevent you from trying. All that would happen was, after a while, this no-reply message would come up on your screen reminding you that dates and events were tentative, due to the Reconstruction Project, and so really what you were sitting there doing was probably just a waste of time. The text of these messages varied slightly, but the essential content was always the same. One was advised to do one’s best, and to plan for further, albeit diminishing, chrono- and philological adjustments, on a more or less randomly-occurring basis, out into the foreseeable future, and to otherwise, basically, have a nice day.

How had things gotten into such a state? No one really knew for certain, but the official story went something like this …

Back in the early 24th Century, at the dawn of the Age of Emergency Measures, Future/Past-Continuous, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation founded but neither owned nor controlled by The Hadley Corporation of Menomonie, Wisconsin, and run by a consortium of global corporations representing most, if not all, of the Territories, had been charged with the almost impossible task of reconstructing recorded history, the majority of which had been obliterated, or overwritten with malicious intent, during what was called The Age of Anarchy, which most intelligent people agreed, had, at some point, actually occurred.3 Intelligent people agreed on this primarily because the official story (the details of which were subject to change as Future/Past-Continuous, Inc. unearthed new informational artifacts) consistently featured The Age of Anarchy, which preceded the Age of Emergency Measures, which everyone knew for a fact had occurred. The Age of Emergency Measures had ended in 2550, H.C.S.T., so anyone over the age of sixty had been alive then, and remembered it clearly, or at least well enough to be sure it had happened. Also, although the United Territories were enjoying a Renaissance of Freedom and Prosperity, a number of these Emergency Measures remained in effect in some remote locales.

According to the Reconstruction Project’s current tentative historical timeline, the Age of Anarchy officially began somewhere circa 2100, give or take a couple of decades, and ended circa 2300 (these dates being H.C.S.T., of course). So it had lasted, at minimum, two hundred years, and possibly longer, no one was sure. At one point, back in the 2580s, the inception date had been tentatively listed as sometime circa 1940, but now, the general feeling was, that that couldn’t be right, so it had been amended.

The point being, at least in the minds of the Normals, this Age of Anarchy (whatever the dates were) was like a bridge, a temporal bridge, stretched across a river of time, linking the present (i.e. the world they knew) to a distant pathological past, the facts of which were at best unproven, and at worst were purely hypothetical. Unfortunately (and this was the root of the problem), at some point during the Age of Anarchy, in the mid-to-late 22nd Century, it was thought, this temporal bridge to the distant past had been tactically nuked beyond all recognition.4 In other words, nobody actually knew what had happened during this Age of Anarchy … or when, or where, or why it had happened, or not in any definitive way.

Thus, for over two hundred years, or as long as anyone alive could remember, the official dates of The Age of Anarchy (as well as the dates of the events it comprised, along with the facts of those events themselves) had been continually adjusted, and revised, and rewritten, as Future/Past-Continuous, Inc. discovered and correlated new information. This, in turn, it went without saying, had triggered the adjustment of any and all dates prior or subsequent to the dates in question (and the events to which said dates referred), which dates (and often the events themselves), prior to the latest adjustment, had been based on the original dates in question (of events which had or had not occurred).

Which OK, probably sounds confusing, but over time had gotten to be as routine as any other software update. You’d get this little message on your screen advising you that something that had always happened on 16 November, 2120, the Neu-Hohenschönhausen Unrest, in this case, had, it turned out, really happened on 23 June, 2119, pending official verification. And sometimes something that had always happened on 24 August, 2183, in this case, the North Mississauga Massacre, had actually never happened at all, and Haley Dean Morrison, the alleged perpetrator, had never been born in Halton Hills, or anywhere else, and had never existed, and the whole thing had just been invented out of whole cloth by anonymous “persons of malicious intent,” pending verification, of course. Pretty much every official date (and the alleged event that took place on that date) was pending some kind of verification, or pending the results of the correlation of other dates of possible influence.

Now as Cramer was fond of reminding people (in a needless to say professional manner), this monstrous historico-calendrical clusterfuck was in no way the fault of Future/Past-Continuous, or the Hadley Corporation of Menomonie, Wisconsin. It was entirely the fault of the Cyberterrorists, the so-called “persons of malicious intent,” who had generated veritable shitloads of nonsense and hacked it into the historical records. These “persons of malicious intent” had made up people who’d never existed, falsified records of their births and deaths, and involved them, not just in major events, like the non-occurent North Mississauga Massacre, but also in mundane and meaningless events, which no one knew about, and which had never taken place. They had dreamed up fake international conflicts, insurgent struggles, earthquakes, floods, utterly useless consumer products, financial crises, sexual practices, medical conditions, mathematical theorems, et cetera, the list went on and on. Then, when whatever actually happened during the Age of Anarchy happened, which regardless of the details (which were being verified) was definitely some kind of global catastrophe, and with so much information destroyed, or written over, or rendered unreadable, whatever frame of reference there had been to help one distinguish the real from the fake had been twisted so hopelessly out of shape that no one could really say anymore, or not with any reliability, what had or hadn’t really happened.

However (and this was the crucial point, it being more or less the core assumption upon which the whole Reconstruction was based), the fact of The Age of Anarchy itself (i.e. the fact that it had actually occurred, and comprised a sequence of actual events, however subject to verification by Future/Past-Continuous, Inc.), while of course one was free to say what one wanted, was not a fact that was up for debate or inquisitive discussion by serious people. Not that any such discussion, or debate, was in any way officially discouraged, or censored, or anything despotic like that. No, the subject just never seemed to come up. Future/Past-Continuous, Inc. was not, after all, some malevolent autocracy intentionally falsifying historical records to perpetually confuse and exhaust the public. On the contrary, it was a global consortium of well-respected corporate partners working on a strictly not-for-profit basis while maintaining the highest transparency standards. The entire Reconstruction Project was meticulously documented and available online. One could, if one was so inclined, access the records of every adjustment considered, debated and ultimately made, and the online discussions regarding those adjustments, and every advisory relating thereto, going back almost three hundred years, at the Reconstruction Project’s website: http://www.recon.proj.

Hardly anyone was so inclined. The Normals had better things to do with their time than wade through zetabytes of digital records verifying the verification of obscure and irrelevant historical data, and anyway there were people who did that, oversight committees or whatever they were … and the simple fact of the matter was, nobody really cared when it was. Well, OK, sure, some people cared, professional historians, heortologists and such, and Future/Past-Continuous, Inc., and other corporations whose products and services depended on the Reconstruction Project, and investors in these corporations. But that was different, because all these parties cared in a strictly professional capacity. They understood that it might take centuries to figure out when it really was. And thus, in the meantime, what was the point of querying Cramer over and over? There was no point. That was the point. And was why these professionals didn’t do that. Because they understood how pointless it was. As long as the folks at Future/Past-Continuous were in the process of working it all out (i.e deciding what had actually happened and assigning specific dates to that stuff), and then posting it all on the World Wide Web in a way that made some narrative sense, what did it possibly matter to anyone whether the Neu-Hohenschönhausen Unrest had happened in 2119, or in 2120, or 2130, or when the Visigoths had entered Rome, or in which American Civil War the Battle of Port Royal Sound had been fought?

The answer was, it didn’t matter, except to cognitively-challenged persons, like Jim Matsumura and Aksel Torres, and the thousands of other inveterate losers whose queries it was Cramer’s job to answer, rather than it being his job (for example) to assist in Regional Security Services, or even Regional A.S.P. Management, where Cramer’s talents and exemplary soft-skills would surely be noticed by Big Bob Schirkenbeck. Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage was nowhere anywhere near the vicinity of Big Bob Schirkenbeck’s radar screen, which Cramer needed to appear upon if he ever wanted to get anywhere at Hadley, at least within its Security divisions.

Security, Cramer sensed, was his Path, or was one of his Path(s), and he wasn’t on it, or in it, or anywhere near its vicinity. He was forty-four floors below its vicinity. He’d been there forever, almost a year. During this year he’d surreptitiously downloaded, digitally copied and carefully analyzed every available Hadley organogram, and he had yet to find one viable route from Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage to any Schirkenbeck-run division. He’d transferred down there from Consumer Collections, mostly for the Senior VP title, but also because he had heard a rumor that Charmane T.R. Haverson-Cho, the fairly-abundant Department Head of Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage, had some kind of suction with Big Bob Schirkenbeck, which it turned out later she did not have. Cramer found out who’d started this rumor, and he’d prayed to the One for forgiveness, of course, because holding on to resentments was toxic, and borderline Anti-Social behavior, but he had not forgotten the name of this person, who according to the ironclad law of Karma would someday reap what he had sown. In the meantime, however, he needed out of Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage. And he needed out on a vaguely upward Big Bob Schirkenbeck-oriented vector. Which it seemed one could not locate from here, or from anywhere else one could locate from here. Wherever this vector originated was somewhere Cramer could not locate.

Another query came in on his screen, this one from someone named Meredith Moone, who claimed to be some sort of entertainer and needed to know when it really was. Cramer watched from outside his body as his finger reached toward the screen and very nearly deleted the query, but he caught himself at the very last second. He pushed back from his desk in horror. He couldn’t believe he’d almost done that. Deleting a query, or any other form of written or verbal communication, was tantamount to professional suicide, and doing so with knowledge and forethought was technically an act of corporate sabotage.

Now as terrifying as this moment was, this near total loss of control on his part, it was also a blessing, as Cramer knew, as it meant that he had now hit bottom. Which meant that any second now … yes, here it came, his Moment of Clarity. He got out physical pen and paper (which he could carry out with him, and dispose of later) and set about taking fearless inventory.

At some point in the recent past, weeks or possibly months before (it didn’t matter exactly when), he had stopped surrendering to the Will of One and started surrendering to his own Self Will, which had led him down a destructive Path, and now to this nearly self-destructive act. He hadn’t consciously chosen to do this, but nonetheless he’d chosen to do this. He’d done this out of fear, of course (he wrote the word FEAR in upper case letters), RESENTMENT (ditto), SELF-CENTERED THINKING, and FEAR OF INSUFFICIENT ABUNDANCE, and ENVY OF THOSE WITH GREATER ABUNDANCE, and a number of other standard phrases he had memorized from The Path(s) to Prosperity. He drew little circles around these phrases, and lines from these circles to other circles, in which he scribbled selected keywords referring back to events in his childhood that had triggered these negative fears and resentments, which every Variant-Positive experienced, but each in their own individualized way. Between, and around, and intersecting these circles, he drew another series of lines, which he labeled with the names of the destructive Path(s) that corresponded to his fears and resentments and to each of their respective triggering events. The upshot of all this scribbling was, through a series of resentment- and fear-based choices, he had wandered off his spiritual Path, and away from the light of unlimited abundance, and that was why he stuck down there in Info-Management, Maintenance & Storage.

Now at this point he had about forty-five seconds to take advantage of this Moment of Clarity and resurrender to the Will of the One before his own Self Will took over and set him back on some negative Path. Cramer knew this. He had been here before, and had weathered other such spiritual crises. The first thing he needed to do was surrender. He could not think his way out of this mess. His thinking is what had gotten him into it. Thinking was what he needed to surrender. What he needed now was not a plan, but was, rather, a miracle, an act of Grace, a transdivisional karmic intervention from one of the infinite Many of the One. He took out his personal All-in-One (i.e. not his Hadley-issued Viewer), pulled up his dog-eared digital copy of The Path(s) to Prosperity and clicked at random. The following passage came up on his screen:

“The Unseeking Seeker, seeking the One, seeks but the Unseeking Self of the Seeker, mistaking the Unseeking Self of the Seeker for Seeking Self of the Unseeking Seeker. In so doing, the Unseeking Seeker, taking the Unseeking Self of the Seeker for one of the Aspects of the Oneness of the One, walks the Path(s) of Separation, Deprivation and Spiritual Delusion, perceiving only the Multiplicity, and never the Abundant Oneness of the One. In contrast to the Unseeking Seeker, the Seeking Seeker, seeking the One, seeks but the Seeking Self of the Seeker, knowing the Seeking Self of the Seeker to be but one Aspect of the Oneness of the One. In so doing, the Seeking Seeker, perceiving the Oneness of the Multiplicity, and knowing this Oneness to be but one Aspect of the Multiplicitous Oneness of the One, walks the Path(s) of Surrender and Detachment, opening the Self to Infinite Abundance.”

Believe it or not, this particular passage, which Cramer had chosen totally at random, and that to anyone unfamiliar with the Path(s) probably sounded like gobbledegook, was exactly what he needed to read at that moment. Not that he understood a word of it, but understanding was not the point. The point was, he needed to reopen his Self, abandon the Path of Separation, Deprivation and Spiritual Delusion, and reseek the Path(s) of Surrender and Detachment, ideally in some sort of unseeking way. He needed to actively (i.e. physically) do this, immediately, right there in his office. He checked to make sure the door was locked, then he got down on his knees and prayed.

All of this was more or less standard procedure for Normals in states of spiritual crisis … reaching one’s bottom, the Moment of Clarity, opening The Path(s) to a random passage, and interpreting whatever the passage said as instructions for how to get out the crisis. The Path(s) to Prosperity was not just another essentially useless sacred text, like the Christian Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an, the Sutras, the Vedas, or Bhagavad Gita. It was more like a spiritual owner’s manual (which came with a metaphysical roadmap), the vehicle in this case being your soul, or spirit, or purusha, or whatever you called it.

Which is to say, it actually worked.

It didn’t matter what you believed (you could stay a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or whatever it was you were) as long as you could also accept the central, spiritually revolutionary concept upon which The Path(s) to Prosperity was based, namely, that Abundance was infinitely available to anyone and everyone, without conditions, and that all you had to do was apprehend that, and reach out and take as much as you wanted. Abundance meant not just material Abundance (i.e. money, which it certainly meant), but also emotional and spiritual Abundance, which according to Chapters 1 through 9, 12, 15 and Endnote 40, were the sources from which material Abundance, despite all appearances, ultimately emanated.

Opening one’s Self to unlimited Abundance (“partaking in the Infinite Oneness of the One”) was the goal of the program, which one attained by following a series of simple Steps, and meditating and praying regularly, and visualizing infinite Abundance. While the wording of these Steps was lucid enough to be understood by a six year-old child, the philosophy underlying the Path(s), and the multiplicitous Oneness of the One, was actually rather challenging to grasp, or was impossible to grasp, or was utter nonsense.5 In essence, what it all boiled down to was that every lack, or temporary shortfall, of spiritual and/or material Abundance could be ascribed to the same basic error … misapprehension of the Oneness of of the One. For example, attempting to define the One led straight to the Path of Knowing the Unknowable, whereas questioning the infinite nature of the One, one walked the Path of Proving the Unprovable. Failure to meet the terms of one’s debts, including, but not limited to, timely payment of interest thereon, was Walking the Path of Attaining the Unattainable. Making unauthorized copies at work was Walking the Path of Possessing the Unpossessable. And these were just a few of the negative Path(s). Walking any one of these negative Path(s) invariably led to diminished Abundance, and conversely, diminished Abundance proved that one was walking such a negative Path. And so on. The point was, diminished Abundance was never the result of external factors. It was always the result of some unconscious choice, which was based on some spiritual misapprehension. And thus the question (for the Seeker in crisis) was never how to change the world (i.e. something in the actual physical world). The question was always how to change the way one perceived, or apprehended, the world, and above all else the choices one made, not one’s conscious choices, of course, but one’s unconscious, or Karmic choices.

Cramer, down on his knees on the carpet, strategically positioned so as not to be seen by the person in the office across from his office, who sometimes glanced in Cramer’s direction, and looked to be about his age, but whose hairline was only slightly receding, knew all this, this stuff about choices, and the Path(s), and so on, to be the truth. This knowledge was not a matter of faith. This knowledge was fact. It was cause and effect. Choosing Abundance produced Abundance, as anyone abundant was living proof. Big Bob Schirkenbeck was a shining example. Here was a man who was clearly walking one or more of the The Path(s) to Prosperity. Here was a man who had chosen Abundance. Serious Abundance. Unlimited Abundance. This was a man who understood the Game, who understood that winning the Game was never just a matter of defeating your opponent in a crushingly decisive and humiliating way, but was always, ultimately, an expression of your Self, your Will to Win … your Will to Abundance. Which was really, in the end, what it all came down to, and was nothing less than the seminal axiom upon which The Path(s) of Prosperity was based. Winners won, and losers lost, not because of random factors like physical strength, intellectual prowess, or access to readily available capital. Winners won because they chose to win. They chose success. They chose Abundance. And in so doing they affirmed Abundance, and they affirmed the infinite Oneness of the One. The obverse, sadly, was also true. Losers lost because they chose to lose. They chose to fail. They chose to suffer. And in so doing they denied Abundance, and they denied the infinite Oneness of the One.

Cramer, whose ankles were starting to cramp, fervently believed in the Oneness of the One, and in the loving, compassionate Will thereof, and that everything that happened was a matter of choice. So somehow he had chosen this challenge. Somewhere in this trap he was in was some kind of karmic lesson to be learned. He prayed to the One to be taught this lesson, and for the One to guide him back onto his Path(s), and to make him more like Big Bob Schirkenbeck, and to send him a sign and …

His intercom rang.


“Sorry to bother you, Greg.”

“What is it, Gloria?” he said, from the floor.

“There’s a Kyle Bentley-Briggs on line three for you, Greg.”

Cramer’s virtual assistant, Gloria, reminded Cramer of this dental hygienist he’d dated once, for like forty-five minutes. He’d been asking to have her voice reprogrammed, but the IT guys had been slow to respond.

“I’ll call him back.”

“All right, Greg.”

“Thank you, Gloria.”

“Oh, and Greg?”


“He mentioned a Security matter. I thought you’d want to …”

Cramer’s heart stopped.


He leapt up and reached for his phone.

“I’ll go ahead and take that message for you, Greg.”

“No! Wait! Gloria! Wait!”

“Yes, Greg?”

“Put him through.”

“All right, Greg. Transferring now.”

Cramer closed his eyes and prayed.

“Greg, it’s Kyle.”

“Kyle, buddy! How the heck are you?”

His eyes were still closed.

“Good. You?”


“Good. Is this a bad time?”

“No. What’s up?”

“Nothing … well … something, actually … I need to talk to you.”

“What’s going on?”

“It’s Valentina. She’s …”

Kyle choked up. Cramer was getting goosebumps now.

“I can’t … look, I’d rather not talk on the phone. Could you meet me somewhere?”

“Sure. When?”

“How about tonight? I know it’s short notice.”

“No. No problem. I’m here for you, buddy.”

Cramer took the call off speaker.

“Just tell me what we’re dealing with here. Gloria mentioned a Security matter …”

Several seconds of silence followed.

“Kyle? You there?”

“Listen, Greg … I can’t … I mean … they’re recording this, aren’t they?”

“What? This call?”


“You serious?”


“This is Info-Management and Maintenance. Nothing going on on down here …”

Another few seconds of silence followed.

“Still … I’d rather talk in person.”

“How about Rosie’s? Twenty-one hundred?”


“Yeah. You remember Rosie’s?”

“Rosie’s … yeah. I can get there by then.”

“Where are you now?”

“I’m on the train.”

“The train?”

“Why? Is that a problem?”

Cramer winced.

“No, no problem. It’s just … it just doesn’t sound like the train.”

Another excruciating second of silence.

“Let’s talk tonight in person, OK?”

“Sure, no problem, and listen … Kyle?”


“Whatever this is, we’ll handle it.”

“Thanks, Greg.”

“Don’t mention it, buddy.”

“I didn’t know who else to call.”

“Absolutely. You did the right thing.”

Kyle clicked off. Cramer hung up. He sat there a moment, unable to breathe. Another query came in on his screen.


1 Or 6070, I.T.S.T, or 1740, I.M.S.T., or 2231, R.A.S.T, or the Year of the Neotropic Cormorant (not to be confused, as it often was, with the Year of the Double-Crested Cormorant).

2 Synchronization was not a problem. Proprietary dates were easily converted, and, naturally, after two or three centuries, people were used to the competing platforms.

3 This Herculean or Sisyphean effort was known as the Reconstruction Project.

4 Mostly metaphorically, of course, the bulk of the actual tactical nuking having already taken place at that point.

5 For example, according to The Path(s) to Prosperity, the One, an abstract singularity, did not contain but comprised the Many. The One was the Many, and the Many were One. Each of the Many were also One, each One of which comprised the Many, each and every One of which, when taken as a whole, comprised the One. Each One of the Many had infinite Aspects, each of which were also Aspects, not only of the One comprising that Many, but of every other One of the Many, which, ultimately, of course, were also One. Thus the Multiplicity of the One, notwithstanding the fact that each of these infinite Aspects was essentially singular, nevertheless retained its Oneness. All of these unique, singular Aspects, each no more than a grain of sand on an endless beach that stretched throughout the infinite fabric of Space-Time itself, beginning in its end, ending in its beginning, together comprised a meta-singularity, the Multiplicitous Oneness of the One, which after years of meditation and contemplation of The Path(s) to Prosperity one came to know by its other name, the Oneness of the Unnameable One. Later, after many more years of meditation, contemplation, and attendance at various retreats and seminars, one came to understand that these various “names” were really just provisional names, substitutes for the Nameless Name, which no one knew, and could never be spoken. Consciousness being but one of its Aspects, how could one ever know the One? One couldn’t, or not entirely, anyway. Even those with limited Knowledge, and one could always tell who they were, as Abundance flowed like a stream toward them, knew and accepted the limits of their Knowledge, which acceptance then increased their Knowledge, which increased their Abundance, and on, and on.

Photo: Jordan Richmond/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

CJ Hopkins Summer 2018 thumbnailDISCLAIMER: The preceding excerpt is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, which we understand is pretty gosh darn funny, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.

One thought on “An excerpt from Zone 23

  1. Serious, reality-mirroring content, anything that’s about anything that’s below the dressing, ought to be tagged as satirical, dystopian, surreal, “fiction”.

    The Law of Inversion, so ubiquitous in human affairs.


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