ISSN 1989-4163


Doom Chat

Coos Palmboom

I saw my old friend the subterranean traveller the other day, hiding behind a mediana on a daytime terrace. He didn't seem especially excited about the prospect of my company, but I took the empty seat at his table anyway.

So, what's up? I quickly compromised him, you don't look too smart.

With a thin smile the traveller accepted the inevitability of the situation. It's all in the open these days, he sighed, makes me feel pretty superfluous.


There was no need for him to respond to my blunt request but he did so anyway, as I knew he would. I report about society's subterranean stories, what's going on with people who don't make the headlines.

I know.

And I like to speculate about what's making the powerful tick, how they play their tricks on us.

Which you're quite okay at, I almost paid him a compliment. It felt a bit selfconscious, praising the traveller.

Now there's this huge surge in truth telling happening, the traveller lamented, searching for his glass, suddenly all things are clear for everybody to see.

I sensed longer stories coming up and waved the barlady. Another one for you, mate?

Look at America, the subterranean got started once we were refreshed. The whole world can see that Trump is destroying the empire. Every decision he has made over the last two years has been disastrous for USA. It's deliberate, it must be. And there's a reason for it, called China. Because the future is in China. China is the new leader. This is how capitalism works. They are many, they are up and coming, they have the will to succeed. So money is moving overthere. America is done for, there's no spirit anymore, only spite, and Europe may well go down with her if it keeps shunning Russia's outstretched hand. It's in our face every hour of the day and all the controlled opposition are writing about it.

I let him have a sip and a sigh, smiling stupidly so as to not disturb his stream of thoughts.

Take Catalunya. It is clear by now that Barcelona in some form or other will be independent from Madrid, simply because business interests demand it. Madrid tried to be smart by pulling its money out of Barcelona, but what happened is that foreign cash poured into the holes almost immediately. So now it's foreign companies calling the shots and they will definitely demand and get financial independence. There will be much huffing and puffing in the capital and the Catalan people will not get what they have been demonstrating for, but the days of exploitation are over. Even the Union are beginning to see the profound stupidity of Madrid's approach. It's just too Spanish Inquisition.

You still seem to be looking further ahead than most, I offered. The subterranean traveller howled, a sound of deep distress in this usually collected character which he dimmed with a long swig from his beer. Forget about it, he grumbled irritably. Everybody knows, you know. And those who don't know, can feel it by now. I'm no longer on top of things and consequently, I have lost my main source of income.

I looked my old pal in the eyes. They were watery and fearful, his bony face without much of its usual shine, as if something wasn't right underneath. You're not going to give it up on me, are you, I said voiceless, we still have some time left going about these places. I picked three olives from a saucer and dropped them in my mouth. So you are in need of an even creazier story to get your readership back?

That's right, the subterranean smiled with an ever so slight presumption of hope. Would you be able to give me access somewhere?

All I can offer is my own version of reality, but it's certainly weirder than anything your average fakenews analyst can come up with.
So let's hear it.

I felt very much like a cigarette but decided against it. As you correctly state, capitalism is dead. Unfortunately, it has also given Earth a severe case of cancer, with the larger dead zones capable of consuming her. If we want to save our mother, we will need to cut back almost one hundred percent on everything that is hurting her, the mining, the logging, the contamination, the outright poisoning and of course the direct murder of large swaths of animals. This needs to stop immediately. And I tell you it is going to stop. I don't believe for one minute the powerful are idiotic enough to give up on what they have achieved so far. They are in it to win it, that has always been quite visible in their behaviour. So you can forget about new clear war, which many voices who have fallen for the trap are alarming about, unless it's well orchestrated and contained enough for nature to survive.

You're now playing into my worst fear, the subterranean traveller cut in. I have always believed such a scenario to be quite likely, but I can't really talk about that.

It wouldn't sell.

Certainly not. Nevertheless, are you suggesting I save my shallow business with the one story nobody wants to buy? And how should I go about that? Stand on a crate and shout it to the moon?

That would certainly make for a spectacle I might be willing to write about, I smiled. But let me give you a second thought. Considering how far we have gone off the right track, wouldn't the powers have got rid of us a long time ago if they had the means?

Are you saying they don't.

Oh yes, they do, it's just you don't exactly make yourself very popular doing so. Though what's really holding them back goes deeper. My take is they fear retribution from whatever it is they believe in. This is why they are cornering us in, taking away our rights, our jobs, our food, letting us starve but not outright culling us.

This time I found the right rhythm to have him eat those words while I planned my next assault.

Say you were seriously rich and money isn't really a factor in your calculations, what would you prefer, human servants or robots? People get sick and need food and entertainment while robots only cost money and do as you ask them, if they are well-behaved. Once robots are smart enough to reproduce and even improve themselves without human interference, what are you going to do with all those useless eaters? My guess is they'll let us stay hooked on the web until they have safely overcome their guilt feelings and will decide on doing us in after all. Now there's a scary story for you.

The subterranean traveller laughed with relief. As long as it isn't about now, I guess few stories will get me off balance.

I ignored the desire in those words and continued with my exposé. War is unnecessary if the robot revolution comes in time. They can decrease our polluting abilities down to zero and let us have a go at living with nothing. Europe is a parkland dotted with fenced-in bankrupt cities where dwindling populations try to survive on frugal government handouts and various drugs. That was the opening line of a short story I wrote back in 2003, trying to be ahead of the game, and some people liked it. Now that it's coming close I must say I don't feel particularly pleased about having thought it into existence.

I felt like doing something to give my words time to sink in and come up with my next declaration, but I wasn't clear what that would be. Guess all that's left is to plot out the next level, see how bad it is this time.

The subterranean jumped at my hesitation with a broad grin and an outstretched hand. I see what you mean, brother. So why don't you let me do the dirty work for you, hang out with some types and check on their belief systems and whether there's any action left in them, then will report to base so you can write about it.

My turn to feel elated. The pleasure of dealing with the traveller was that he would always take care of himself. All he asked for was space, as he himself had no claims on any kind of territory. Will do, man. Sounds good. Again I felt blocked to fully show my gratitude. I closed my jacket and got up. Talk to you soon, pal, the drinks are on me.


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