The bewitching breezes wafting from the intermediate zone that had vexed our northerly course along the bleak, rocky coast gave way to an absolute calm as we stood off the rank harbor of Virtual Babylon. It was as though the anchorage were under the spell of some vengeful deity that held the stagnant seaport in irons-a fitful sleep of waking dream.
McWhirr called from the wheelhouse:
“All right, Mister Spencer.”
I let go the anchor. The silence was broken by a low rumble as I paid out 3 fathoms of chain into the muddy bottom of Moloch Bay.
After 2 weeks of foul headwinds and devilishly flukey breezes, we were ready to don shore-going rig for a nice row to an ancient, stone pub at the head of a dilapidated wharf to splice, as they say, the proverbial main-brace.
The melancholy treble of a loon-bot echoed over the still anchorage as McWhirr sat in the bows of the skiff brooding upon the lurid, crimson sea. Not wanting to disturb his meditations, I rowed on.
I’d heard Saturnius McWhirr was a pious man of Quaker stock who had fallen into some branch of the Zoroastrian persuasion. Or was it some Sufic offshoot of Shi’ism whose adherents await the 12th Imam’s return and wander the storm-wracked shores of this world seeking some vestige of a golden age–a relic safeguarded from the literalist creed by occult signs that can be decoded only in the secret halls of pure imagination?
Be that as it may, McWhirr gazed into the offing as the violet light of dusk fell over his weathered brow and said:
“I first heard of the Babylonian Theme Park when but a nipper on my grandfather’s knee. He told me of the Neo-Art Exhibition, the wonders of the Pharmaceutical Pavilion and how he touched the robe of the King of Wall-mart. He told me yarns of how it’s foundations had first been laid in the 21st Century by drones captured during the great cyber wars.”
“But,” continued McWhirr with a tone of caution, “he also told a darker tale. He said the streets were paved with sorrow, the walls built with the grief of mothers who toiled over an illusory harvest, it’s ramparts manned by desiccated souls who invested all their goods in the virtual fun-house of Mammon.”
“Yes sir,” I said though, in my green youth, I could scarce fathom the depths of his narration..
We landed the skiff and walked the cobbled street toward the the ancient, stone pub. Soon, my attention was caught by the droning whirr of something hovering overhead.
Could this be one of the fabled harpies that had long plagued unwary mariners who sail these latitudes–these droning machines of evil and ubiquitous surveillance that kill with rockets as well as with the bland, droning sameness that reduces our citizenry to penile servitude to the sexless god of materialism?
McWhirr drew his cutlass and, slashing at the malignant thing, thundered:
“Get thee hence, instrument of Satan!”