A thin thread of vibration that wraps around you and fills your soul with resonance and purpose you've never felt before. Rich warm sound filled the echo-chamber of my despair; a vibration that comforted the frightened beast that was all that remained of me.

Sound. Glorious sound. The sound of Laura Silvan.

I swear to God that sound was the only thing that saved me from going stark raving mad. . . .

She dances like
A butterfly
She makes me laugh
She makes me cry
Will I live
Or will I die?
You have to ask the butterfly

And oh,
The butterfly knows
Just how
Heartbreak can grow
If love
Isn't meant to be
The butterfly
Will just fly free!

She dances like
A butterfly
She makes me wonder
Who am I
Will she love me
Or make me cry?
You have to ask
The butterfly

It was late at night that the sound helped most, pushing away tides of despair that daylight masked, but the setting sun amplified. Deelon Cliff, the coal black Jamaican night orderly complete with dreadlocks, would come in to listen to Laura Silvan with me.

"I'll turn up the volume, Mon," he would say in his Jamaican lilt. "The rogue beside you is dead to the world and could not listen if he wanted to!: It was my fourth roommate, Cowboy Bill, who they'd morphined into oblivion after shoulder surgery.

So Deelon and I would switch between listening to his old school de la sol reggae MP3s and my West Coast Blue and Laura Silvan rips, talking late into the night about where our lives were headed.

"I need to get you some good MEDICINAL hemp, Mon," Deelon promised me with a grin. "This government ganja isn't worth crap! Then you could understand the reggae!"

Deelon was right, the government marijuana monopoly produced crap, but drugs were never my concern. "But I like Laura Silvan," I'd say to him, returning to my true interest. "More my yuppie style."

"I think she is not your style, I think she is your addiction," Deelon told me again and again. "We all need an escape, we just need to know what we are escaping to!"

Deelon brought an infectious Jamaican laugh to my room. He laughed uproariously detailing his mad lovemaking with the woman in the next ward, who had two broken legs and now was a sex starved nymphomaniac embedded in plaster. Deelon was a friend in a way someone who has never been imprisoned in a hospital could ever know.

Deelon hid the embarrassment of the vegetable I'd become from my friends. He even hid it from me.

A progression of roommates and I watched Youtube channels endlessly, monotonously - my view coming through prism glasses from my flat bed position to the one communal screen allowed by the hospital budget. You haven't lived until you've seen retro National Romper Room run by the GIFT Project through prism glasses. Mini-skirted Miss Nancy bent over to shepherd her multi-culturally challenged children on morning early riser was a dark pleasure.

In stark contrast to Romper Room, the nightly news was filled with scenes of the Presidential Praetorian Guard headed for the brushfire race war that simmered in East Los Angeles - El Monte. Factions from the Nuevo La Raza movement, demanding Hispanic quotas and the creation of the free state of Aztlan (racists called it Mexifornia), battled on streetcorners with Sovereign Aryan skinheads advocating a return to the Constitution.

The national Brady ban on gun ownership had done little to slow the carnage, the confiscation campaign by the Center for Disease Control had turned up only a fraction of the citizen weaponry. Confiscation had gotten National Civilian Security Force cadre killed, as my friend Shelley could attest.

Gunwalkers from the Mexican narco-Fentanyl cartels made sure there was a continuous supply of guns and heavy narcotics to fill the voids the government had created in guns and non-FDA approved drugs like Fentanyl and Ivermectin. The only ones without weapons seemed to be the law abiding woke traditionalists who'd done the law abiding thing and given up clinging to their guns after the Brady National Gun Prohibition.

But it was all to be expected in our newly deconstructed society, so I viewed the riotous news as entertainment, better than an old John Wayne movie with gunslingers. President Williams' Race Entitlement Executive Order 8374, declaring ethnic homelands within U.S. borders, had set off a tidal wave of recrimination. Fanned by the ACLU lawyer lobby and civil rights leaders who thrived on the moral imperative of preferential treatment, the fear of eminent ethnic civil war and genocide in the United States was widespread. Heck, it was more than paranoia, it was an ill disguised reality. Nightly news had become lethal entertainment without a script, the glossy propaganda arm of the government that reassigned blame for the carnage to non-entitled ethnic groups - a vast invisible danger to the Fatherland posed by elusive White Supremacist Domestic Terrorists.

The word propaganda had been delegitimized - deprecated from the language - by decree of the government Truth Checkers at the Associated Press, Gaggle, Facely and Twister. So now it was called TruthTalk.

The ethnic tensions even seemed exacerbated by the energy and resource shortages mandated by the American acceptance of the Kyoto XII Accords. The opposite had been predicted with claims that solar utopia was just around the corner, but carbon Cap and Trade policies just hadn't created the Green jobs that had been promised.

It's not like California hadn't especially tried hard, bravely mandating a carbon free economy by 2050. But after the brown and black energy collapse of 2031, resistance fueled by White Supremacists threw us back to a grey economy where oil was sold on the underground black market like heroin.

Once Climate Denial had been outlawed by the Department of Justice on racial grounds (unequal impact of Global Weather Events on minorities), prosperity had again seemed inevitable. However, implementation of solar nirvana had been frictional, not that I could say that out loud without a visit from the DHS.

Every man, woman and child now believed survival was a zero sum game won only by the most devious. Knowing they had been saved from global warming as a result of thought repression didn't seem to help. If anything, the president magnified the situation, seemingly on his Neverending political campaign that with each compromise to the needs of an ethnic group, or oppressed transgender safe-haven, or environmental faction, seemed to further balkanize America. So paranoid was President Williams that he'd even elevated the massive Capitol Police into a Praetorian Guard with national reach.

"Thank God President Williams has made a stand against skinhead racism and anti-environmental denialism!" Liddy, exulted on one of her periodic visits as she watched a newscast. "He's the only thing standing between us and the White Supremacist pitchforks! He makes me feel safe!"

"The National Guard could take care of this without presidential photo-ops." I muttered cynically. "The Praetorian Guard should never have been assigned to riot control. In fact I don't understand why the Commander In Chief needs a Presidential Guard in the first place?! Hell, more people are killed every day in L.A. by Latino drug-mule gang-bangers than skinheads, I don't know why the Nuevo La Raza insurgents need protection from our own National Guard!"

"They aren't insurgents," Liddy protested. "They are indigenous freedom fighters! In solidarity with the Venezuelan Freedom Movement!"

I looked at Liddy with crossed eyes. "The President can't solve every problem of every illegal immigrant tribe or eco-religious group," I responded wryly. "Not when the government is insolvent and Social Security and Medicaid broke the bank long ago."

"That's not what the President said," Liddy pouted. "You are such a racist sometimes!"

Newscast pictures followed of President Williams helicoptering into L.A. for photo-ops, a transparent excuse to get away from the scandals that plagued him in Washington. If Bisexual Bimbo Eruptions had been his worst problems, or the money brokering of his son Heath with Chicom billionaires, a morally liberated population would have forgiven the President's sexual dalliances with impressionable interns. After all, it was no one's business who the President was banging in the Oval Office, but William's government was imploding under a heavy weight more pressing than tabloid news reports. It even seemed the National Civilian Security Force might become necessary to control the undercurrent of those who no longer believed a 65% tax rate afforded them social justice. Fortunately, I wasn't one who believed in that kind of civil protest.

These policy problems bothered me little, As a parasite in the tenured academic bureaucracy, which had been tasked with investing in the national educational infrastructure, the common man's grim reality was not my problem. We academics were building the future! We had secure sinecures!

Paradoxically, while the greater economy was still floundering under mountains of unfulfilled social and healthcare promises left from the decades old 'Great Recession', the American underground economy was prospering. The Internet allowed a black market to thrive outside Washington's taxation and control, everything from the ancient EBay to MomsApplePie.com filled the gaps created by a rigormortised control economy. Some of it was even legal, though Internet taxation had pretty much choked that lizard. Underground subnets had grown to fill the illegal grey areas. Some argued the free Internet Economy was a greater gift to mankind than the petabytes of free porn the Internet also dispensed, but to each his own.

By offering an underground tax-free alternative, the DarkNet had become such a threat to the functioning of the country that Presidential Executive Order 41137 was issued "An Order To Preserve Social Investment Through Control Of Digital Commerce", an attempt to outlaw unfettered electronic communication - the ubiquitous misinformation of the underclass. The Order was generally ignored, though only at one's peril. A growing governmental surveillance grid provided by the ablest minds of Information Sciences now attempted to track every taxable income stream or free thought.

Since the turn of the millenia, Facely, Twister, and Gaggle and the other social media engines had learned an immense amount from their Chinese partners about how to discourage Internet dissent. The BigTech E-conglomerates had long been co-opted by governments and now provided surveillance server farms. Kaseware and ShadowDragon were the shadowy software firms that the Internal Information Service consortium of BigTech used to exploit what they called “open source intelligence,” or OSINT: the trails of information that people leave on the internet. Clients included intelligence agencies, government, police, corporations, and even schools. Kaseware, which is partnered to ShadowDragon and MicroByte, provides the platform that supports OSINT and other elements of digital policing, like data storage, management, and analysis. Its capabilities range from storing evidence to predictive policing. You can be convicted before you even think of committing a crime.

Yet the DarkNet was still a vast ocean nearly impossible to police. The spread of 8G wireless technologies, Fractal encryption and virtual private network backbones evaded the antiquated attempt by the state to tax and regulate at the Central Phone offices. Information now resided on the ether and the CIA and NSA were merely feeble tax collectors - appendages of the IRS.

That was the problem with Executive Orders. Rule by dictat requires an ever expanding sphere of controls and ever newer orders as humans seek their freedom. But I wasn't seeking freedom, just a return to the SuperGrid as an academic, happy to live in a well compensated ivory tower.

Suzanne Constable, the perky blonde cookie-cutter newsanchorperson, laced the Vid 39 headline news with perky gloom and doom human interest stories. The stories were the kind of half-truths modern pseudo-journalists delight in: homeless single mother stories, complete with obligatory accusations of abuse, drugs, and absentee fathers not paying child support. Not news at all, the stories were the telltale signs of a civilization eating itself from the inside. Usually I didn't listen, but Liddy thought of Suzanne Constable as a role model.

"If only I could fill out a business suit like that!" Liddy glowed, jealous of Constables perky implants. But Liddy became serious as the digital stage behind Suzanne turned to hospital scenes of dying Corona-Virus 38 patients.

"A research article published in Nature Medicine titled A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronavirus shows potential for human emergence shows a new mutation has surfaced. Dr. Li-Zhengli Shi, at the Key Laboratory of Special Pathogens and Biosafety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology has assured us the public has no need to worry. The virus has also been partially categorized by scientists from California University Medical Hospital," Suzanne smiled from the TV screen. She threw her blonde mane back teasingly, looking good despite the face of human misery. "The good news is researchers from Ultima Pharmaceuticals, a Palo Alto biotech firm, say they believe they have already characterized this strain and have a silver bullet cure just around the corner!" Suzanne winked just to reassure all the waitress moms.

"The same old baloney from Ultima Pharmaceuticals!" I laughed out loud. "The media spread the same bull the last time there was an Covid outbreak".

"You're such a cynic," Liddy tried to put a damper on my negativity. "Just because Ultima is the haunting grounds of Qin Huang, you don't have to be so transparently jealous! I don't know why you hate him so much!"

"I don't hate Huang, we are still buddies. But when are people going to realize that where Huang and Ultima are involved, there are no silver bullets for a disease unless thirty pieces of silver bullion changes hands!" I replied dryly.

But even I realized there was no real response to the Ultima PR campaign, not only were they slick, but they were government funded. Besides his academic duties at the California Institutes’s SuperGrid Computing Center, Huang had been part of the lucrative spinoff of Ultima Pharmaceuticals from the university. Anymore, the scam of taking university patents and grad students off into private ventures had become commonplace and no one blinked an eye. Besides American government funding, Huang had also benefited from an influx of mainland Chinese backing. Heck, I didn't blame Huang, I had thought of doing the same.

Qin Huang had actually made his mark studying what many thought was a virus that had already been cured -HIV or often called AIDS. Dr. Huang was responsible for four U.S patents for a key glycoprotein found in HIV-1. Ironically, this glycoprotein, identified as Glycoprotein 120, or simply as GP120, is a key component of the original COVID-19, the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic decades ago in 2020. COVID-19 was a disease that appeared to combine a HIV-1 attack on the human immune system, with SARS CoV-1, the pathogen from the original SARS. Of course, the virus has mutated and evolved since then.

Of course, there have long been conspiracy theories surroundin Covid-19. In 2020, some medical scientists from India reported four intersections in the spike glycoprotein that are unique to COVID-19 and not present in other coronaviruses. The article suggested COVID-19 was created by inserting the particular glycoprotein120 (GP120)from the HIV-1 disease, making it a bioweapon. The article was taken down after it was suggested that Covid-19 was created in a lab by inserting the glycoprotein from HIV-1 into a sars virus. The laws on Truethink had only started to be applied back then, so misinformation was rampant.

What was even more upsetting and a clear example of Wrongthink was the suggestion that the insertion of these HIV-1 inserts into a SARS virus is not likely to occur in nature. The implication was that COVID-19 was laboratory-created, possibly as a bioweapon, and that the creator of the virus used GP120to do so. It wasn't until Huang's retro investigation of the glycoprotein from the HIV-1 1990s era that the bioweapon hypothesis was debunked.

Fast forward to the present when we are dealing with COVAID-Omega and so many mutations - the COVAIDS pandemic as people call it. After AIDs became treatable by cocktail drug therapy and vaccines in the late 1990s, some predicted the disease would be wiped off the face of the planet by 2020, just as small pox had been eliminated decades before. Under Qin Huang, Ultima Pharmaceuticals made billions at first providing World Government subsidized AIDs vaccine in the years since, and then various Covid vaccines. But what only stock analysts really understood was that Ultima's bottom line was threatened by the prospect of COVAID actually being eradicated.

Fortunately for Ultima, Mother Nature designed the COAIDs virus to mutate at incredibly high rates. For a while it appeared Science would catch up with this elusive agent of death, but an unexpected stray mutations in the virus set it off on an ever more virulent rampage. Rapid mutation was COVAID's Ace card on the evolutionary tree, the virus simply evolved around the drugs and vaccines to ever more deadly forms, all while hidden in the general population.

Ultima now subsisted off the boutique custom COVAIDs vaccine business, fighting each new mutation that seemingly arose like clockwork. Although Ultima was a shadow of its former Wall Street glory, it was by no means forgotten, especially after Huang had become it's director. Academic R&D staff like Huang who triple dip in government, the university and in private industry is the norm anymore, but that dosn't mean the crony conflicts of interest don't smell.

"I hate when you are so grumpy," Liddy protested. "Your jealousy of Qin Huang is a chip on your shoulder and it isn't a chocolate chip! I'll come back when you put on your happy face." Liddy got ready to leave, and I had to wonder if she was right about Huang and I was just a White Racist xenophobe.

"What's the world coming to, Deelon," I asked the orderly who walked in just as the news ended and Liddy took her leave.

"Why, the same thing it always comes to, mon," he smiled, showing a gold capped tooth while ushering Liddy out. "We live, we die. Some of us just do it better than others."

"But COVAIDS is a different story," I mused philosophically after Liddy had left. "How could God have let the world suffer such a terrible plague?"

"Perhaps it isn't God that plagues us." Deelon replied with an eerie look that gave me pause. "Perhaps only man can cause such evil."

"You think COVAIDs is some kind of voodoo curse from the Caribbean?" I ventured naively, wondering whether I was treading in an occult area of Deelon's psyche.

"Voodoo, my royal ass!" Deelon laughed loudly. "You think just because I come from the islands I am a superstitious chicken killer? No Mon, a virus cannot be evil, only man can make so much evil by infecting his brother with this curse."

"I would think curing COVAIDs ought to give scientists a lock on sainthood, shouldn't it? They're curing pure evil." I pushed Deelon, but he gave me a look that made me feel like a stupid child.

"Imagine if you had a cure for what afflicts the human race," Deelon asked philosophically. "The owner of that cure would be so powerful mankind might wish it was only voodoo it faced. Whoever holds the key to salvation also holds the keys to hell"

Was Deelon implying the COVAIDs cures were being manipulated? Decades ago there were rumors that AIDs was a CIA biological warfare experiment gone astray, but that was the hysteria of racial fearmongers who needed a bogeyman to incite the flames of racial disharmony. While AIDs began in Africa, not every calamity is a CIA plot. Is it? Deelon had just shown me a glimpse of paranoia I hadn't expected.

"Well, thank God there's a cure for the new COVAIDs strain" I ventured. "I should have bought stock in the Ultima Pharmaceuticals a long time ago."

I've never seen such a look of fear and disgust all rolled together as the look that passed over Deelon's face at the mention of Ultima Pharmaceuticals.

"As if you could buy stock in the devil," Deelon muttered and then stalked out of the room.