A feckless young architect falls in with a sixteen-year-old’s dubious trucking venture. Drug-addled Randy bemoans his fate as a slave employee in New Fascist Australia. An archeologist arrives on a tiny artificial gravity platform to give a scholarly lecture to barbarian colonists. And the Conscious Reach Corporation sets out to cure an entire city’s mental illness.
Synopses and Notes
A feckless architectural school graduate falls in with a sixteen-year-old’s dubious trucking venture that takes them to the rural south in deep night. There they encounter a massive roadblock, and construction strikers with the power to eradicate all light.
“Roadblock” was originally a chapter in Zarreich, a sprawling, unpublishable rough draft novel that incorporated dozens of my most bewildering dreams, and which led an army of confused characters across endless psychic minefields. In “Roadblock,” it’s pretty obvious that Oceanmouth is the perfect psychological dream companion.
“Roadblock” was previously published on Ethernet in 2013.
Randy and Laura
Randy lives in the drug-addled delusion that he’s a slave employee at New Fascist Australia Toll Road Number One. Laura, who also works at the urban American gas station generating this fantasy, hopes to save enough cash at the menial job to escape both Randy and her tyrannical father, whom Randy worships as the NFA Gasoline Minister.
“Randy and Laura,” which also sprang from a dream, would still work as a flashback to Randy Perrine’s bizarre past in my novel Sortmind, from which this story originated, but it would’ve merely been a long detour if I’d kept it in the novel.
Archeologist Sairjin ShiriKor arrives on a tiny artificial gravity platform in deep space to give a scholarly lecture. But the barbarian colonists scoff at her evident delusion that she’s anything but a criminal sent to be incarcerated on the changeless and apparently motionless platform.
“Perpetual Starlit Night” was previously published in Twisted Tails VII (Double Dragon Publishing, 2013), and, like all the stories in this collection, was updated and further polished in 2021.
A big plus to including this story in The Damage Patrol Quartet is leaving “Perpetual Starlit Night” as is, the perfect surreal story, no further explanations needed. Recently I’d had the idea of turning this previously published work into the first four chapters of a novel, and I came up with a fairly detailed plot for what would happen as Sairjin slowly accepted her inexplicable new life. But I’m not sure I ever deeply wanted to expand the story; it seems more fitting to have closure on it and put it out the way it is. In any case, having it here as a story doesn’t preclude later making it into a novel. I have to admit that something about the Shi Idnin character does beckon.
The Conscious Reach Corporation sets out to cure an entire city’s mental illness, one tormented soul at a time. IT technician Lucy earns a promotion to head the Damage Patrol unit, but her uncanny ability to reach inside the wounded and burn out their traumas leads her to the evil at the root of the corporation.
What can you say about a story that unfolded in half a second as you walked to lunch in downtown Dallas? What if you really had to update thousands and thousands of psychological messes? Who gave you that authority?
All words and images copyright by Michael D. Smith