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These Dead Amongst Us Again by Richard Barr

A shift in the paradigm occurred while they took their breakfast. Online influencers saw their stock value skyrocket before lunchtime. Instead of police on their beat, people artlessly began to handle their own affairs, sometimes at the end of a writ, sometimes at the end of a cudgel, sometimes from the barrel of a gun.

Cathedrals the world across began to spontaneously combust. Acts of Satanic rites abounded. Symbolism was extrapolated upon, dates and times and moon cycles jumbled up in formulae, pan handled through the deceptive simplicity of Gematria.

Rosaries were outlawed due to their inability to convince the influencers they had any empirical merit. Cancer wards were prayed for en-masse and clipboard carrying psychopaths, automaton middle-managers still of eye and dead of spirit, totted up them that perished and them that didn’t and how much they’d been prayed for and how much they hadn’t.

Graphs would be published and pie charts sliced accordingly, these same clipboard carriers now bathed in LED light, their souls extracted many semesters ago with the adornment of mortarboard and robe. Blink and you’ll miss it, that sleight of hand, the millstone of their heavy debt only then starting to weigh on them, a tug becoming ever familiar, bringing with it chills and thoughts of murder-suicide. Another added, another taken away.

Then it stopped. And then we stopped. And then the neighbours and the commerce and the influx and the FTSE and the handouts and the hand out and the begging and the sneering and the hating and the love all…disappeared? Collided all at once together and cancelled each other out?

The beer halls emptied. The churches and the town squares and the cafes emptied. And they all gathered themselves alone behind their screens expectantly, wondering, who’s going to blink first in this fuck fest we’ve all found ourselves subject to now?

The laws will become vaguer tomorrow than they were yesterday, at least that is what they’re promising us.

Soliloquys are pumped into our transhumanist central mainframe mind cortex on the regular. Dead, good people, like Jimmy Stewart, Gandhi and Princess Diana deliver these soliloquys to our imaginations and we believe them to be alive, these dead, amongst us again. Even the technicians have forgotten they’re nowt but deepfakes anyway, these dead, good people, their soliloquys but a balm for the citizenry at home, now confused, now calmed, now frightened, now emboldened. A bait & switch constantly, the ever deepening and labyrinthine cognitive dissonance a garrotte being twisted.

The brainstem greys, atrophies. An effluent amasses in the blood-brain barrier, the vision begins to superimpose these dead among us walking. Some of the spirit seeps in, the veil lifts, and the ancestors can be heard calling out our names.

Is it The Singularity?

Is it Revelations?

Is it the inevitable decline, the collective suicidal inclination, the biological kill switch shared by us, one and all?

There are rumours there were many that went before us. There are revisions in our Origins Story being made on the hour, every hour. The headlines are constantly changing.

People keel over in the streets, their eyes, their ears, bleeding, screaming for their incubation pod. Boffins diagnose a new phenomenon – literal information overload, producing psychosis and death. From the mouths of the sufferers, a noise like TV static is produced, like their minds, like their expressions, are akin to a dial stuck between stations.

Witches run the airwaves now. Witches preside over all the propaganda, and the state run feel-good, too. Everything is inverted. The cross is cast downward. Nightly black masses are beamed into the television sets of the world, Earth. The children of the world, Earth, bathed in the oscillations of that televisual black mass, are force fed reprocessed soy. Diabolical, infernal things made beautiful and resplendent.

Systematically, state actors descend on citizenry dwellings. They sodomise these children and their parents watch on remotely via hovering mini-drones with pinhole cameras mounted like insectoid eyes. The parents watch on, engaging in slow, mutual masturbation. The animals, their pets, that are the latest robotic AI and not living and breathing things anyway, curiously sniff round the jissom and the gradually hardening discharge that is smeared across the headboard and the floor. Sometimes they consume these substances and malfunction. Sometimes it kills them and the state actors acquire the children as way of recompense. The AI pets are only on loan from the state and never belonged to them in the first place. Their children are broken down and used for parts. They are considered delicacies at the banquets of the technicians.

The gods return, like sunbeams through the clouds. They are feted wherever they roam, but sometimes are given short shrift by insurance companies, knowing all about their occasional bad luck. Risky cover is not a thing afforded even them.

Thoughts and feelings and actions and transgressions of the citizenry are logged in perpetuity. Goodness Scores are tabulated and their worth, or lack of, is determined by their goodness. Everybody finds such a nebulous thing hard to define, leading to various markets being set up, variations on a particular sect’s vision of what the good in goodness actually is and means.

Forever, the darkest desires, most secret memories and strangest kinks have been buried down deep in the psyche of everyone as they saw fit, kept like treasured jewellery, hidden and safe. Now these, the most hidden of hidden, are separated out, like oil and water. Now they are paraded and evaluated, held up to the light and examined.

Focus groups are formed, psychoanalysts and technicians are assigned.

The world goes dark, but a murmur emerges. A murmur, becoming a loud and malignant cacophony. Then it is a racket, so profound in its ugliness and power, that the world, Earth, is thrown minutely from its axis, tilting it significantly enough though to send it hurtling, loudly, confusedly, dementedly, through the otherwise silent and splendid space, our cosmic train wreck, this attention starved ball of rock and sea and mess.



Richard Barr has had several stories published in the last few years, including in Lancaster University’s The Luminary and The Big Issue. More recently he’s been published in The Honest Ulsterman, Litro Magazine, New Critique, Misery Tourism, Sonder Magazine, Headstuff and Bristol Noir. Stories this year have featured in Terror House Magazine and Punk Noir.

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