Excerpts from Bernie

Excerpts from “Bernie and the Deconstruction,” Mark B. Goldman, published December 2016

(from Chapter 4)

Bernie sat at the console in the closet in the back of Sean’s store, numb, bleary, and wondering. The cursor flashed at him idiotically, an intermittent mocking smirk. Window? Door? Gate? Gate. It’s always a gate, right?

RUN GATE

He typed, feeling like a thick-pimpled geek in a filmschool Tron.

RUN GATE NOT RECOGNIZED

It spat.

OPEN GATE

He tapped.

OPEN GATE NOT RECOGNIZED

It flashed.

EXECUTE

He entered.

EXECUTE NOT RECOGNIZED

It dithered.

He stopped his fist inches short of the screen and instead smashed the wall in frustration. Then a flash of desperate inspiration. Or was it inspired desperation?

GATE

He pressed the keys triumphantly, hoping his confidence helped.

GATE COMMAND OPERAND MISSING

He writhed in discovery. Operand! Operand?

GATE RUN

He typed.

GATE COMMAND OPERAND NOT RECOGNIZED

It replied.

GATE OPEN

He pounded.

GATE COMMAND OPERAND NOT RECOGNIZED

It blinked.

FUCK YOU

He cursed.

FUCK YOU NOT RECOGNIZED

It dumbly answered.

He was seconds from giving up when, on a whim, he typed:

GATERUN

There was a noticeably longer delay, then:

RANDOM OR SET?

“Flaming shitholes!” Bernie yelped and jumped up in elation. He paced, three steps each way in the closet of a room, wondering what next. Then, before he could change his mind again, he sat and entered:

RANDOM

Nothing happened.

He leaned back in frustration, and then noticed something on the steel wall. A color began to form and spread out from the center. A second of panic flew through him, as he envisioned the gate spreading beyond the door, devouring everything in its path until reality was history. He exhaled slowly as the spreading color stopped as it reached the edges of the panel, and a black center formed on the shimmering surface.

(from Chapter 13)

Spinning, silent orbs of Golgothian grandeur rush past him, the grays and the dark-hued demons in them flashing by, melting into each other. Fiery skies and damaged screams ravage his senses, and he prays for waking. But this world is real. He lifts his head, robbed of resonance like the shell-shocked. Eyes red-rivered and flesh pinked by the heat of marching flames, he heaves up, bones and skin creaking like a dried-out catamaran. He launches himself along the wisp of trail he feels, the air aflame like he’s sucking on a welding torch. He lurches, realizing if his goal is too far his mind will go. It is going. The ground shifts under his feet, and suddenly his feet are above his head, but he’s still running. Downhill? Uphill? More orbs rush past him, gothic, gargoyle, fates and woe, doom howling. He falls into an opening in the side of a mountain made of flesh. He sees the veins and sweat on the walls as he enters the living hall, but his mind is numbing. Burned shoes scraping, he stumbles along the vapor trail of her. He trips and his hand encounters the wall with a plop, and the pores open. Bile pushes from them at his touch, and a shrill wail builds. It keens around him, and then dies just as he presses his palms on his ears. He shakes his head in disgust at the slime he just transferred from his hand to his head. As he thrashes, his other hand encounters the other wall, and the process repeats. Moron! He rights himself, relatively, and lurches on. The heat is less, his breath burns less in here. But the floor crawls, the walls ripple; it is alive. He feels Sonja’s trail, a sinewy ribbon on the periphery of his consciousness. He follows, desperate to leave this mad world behind.

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