They called the zap “Siren Candy” because for so many, it indeed proved to be an actual Siren’s call. This grim fact, however, was seldom dwelt upon, since the zap seemed to bring such a balm to so many an agonized existence that any and all side effects, up to and including death by suicide, seemed worth merely glossing over. Anything was viewed as better than renouncing this addiction, given that the alternative amounted to retreating back to reality, which for so many had grown to be a realm irredeemably awful, worse than death.

Zap distribution had proliferated, mostly via black market channels, though with the tacit approval of the Global Coalition government, as well as all of its local constabularies and dominions, to meet a growing need in the wake of the Overlords’ assault on much of the human population, resulting in widespread misery and despair…but more on the baleful permutations of this scandalous present presently; first, I must begin telling my story, and by so doing, make clear my determined resolution, given my paradoxical circumstances as a man who has gained the world but lost everything…


In my case, zap brought not death but life, not oblivion but illumination…but I have no idea, really, why I of all people found myself rescued from death and shielded from harm, instead of meeting the all-too-familiar fate of the all too typical zaphead junkie; that is, perishing by my own head, prompted by seductive hallucinations of a counterfeit carnal paradise. Perhaps I was a specialty case, plucked out for dubious blessings, quite in spite of myself.

Regardless, I was eventually visited, not by a Siren, but rather a Muse…the song my Muse sang led me to greater clarity and the fulfillment of my destiny, not to the hard, jagged rocks of pettifoggery, self-deceit, and self-destruction, as would a Siren’s deceitful tones. All glory to my Muse, whom I dare to invoke by her God-given name, even though I feel entirely unfit to do so, since it somehow seems that using her true name will cause my insides surely to melt like hot wax, leaving me a hollowed-out void of a man, entirely unfit to meet his Maker, as soon I must do…

Nevertheless, O Muse, I shall call you by your very name: “Brittany.”

Brittany! You, dear one, are my newfound Homeland; to you do I flee; you provide me shelter and sustenance in a time of famine and decay; finally, you, my Brittany, inspire in me the courage to take up arms and properly strike against those who rudely invaded my consciousness and that of our world.


Well do I recall when first we met! How long ago? It could have been a decade and it could have been yesterday. Time has ceased to hold meaning for me lately. Everything happens at once, if regarded from at from the ever-presence of Eternity…where there is no past nor future, only a supreme, never-ending Now.

You stood on my door that day (whatever day it was), wearing a resplendent smile that caught me up short. Despite my unprepossessing appearance and slovenly disposition, I somehow felt bold enough to invite you to come inside, though not without lowering my eyes with a certain mortification, painfully aware that my hovel-like apartment was not a fit resting place for such a creature as you, not even for the span of a moment…I also became conscious of the zap-scent on my breath, showcasing my condition so blatantly. I knew my telltale signs could not be ignored nor wished away, and I was embarrassed enough to begin weeping openly; such was my shame…I had by then become widely recognized as a zap-brain, yet I dared not mention this fact, dwelling in shame as I did over my chosen and fully-willed addiction.


You sat on my filthy sofa (or did you instead angelically hover there, in a merely seemingly seated position?); you crossed your long legs and radiated an aura of being resolutely, manifestly impervious to your surroundings. At that very moment, overcome as I was with both reverence over your presence and shame at my wretchedness, I registered with horror that my nose had begun to bleed—a side effect, along with the medicine-scented breath—of zap usage. Quite mortified, I excused myself from your proximity for a moment, gathering up a washcloth before reentering the living room. I apologized with great fervor, but you wouldn’t hear of it. You declined my offer to fetch you a drink (I had nothing in my fridge, anyhow), and instead declared you couldn’t stay for long. You gave me your card, which bore your name and a phone number, but curiously did not include any business designation or address; it was only then that I thought to wonder why you had come to visit “a wretch like me” in the first place; in response, you flashed a coy little smile that managed to beguile my imagination as much as it charmed my heart.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” you said.

I begged you to tell me anyway, and you relented, if with seeming reluctance.

“I have dreams sometimes,” you explained, a little shyly. “I see certain people, and I get directed to where they are…I was shown you in my mind’s eye, if you will.”

You went on to say that you had no idea who I was, but only that you felt compelled—in fact, commanded—to visit me. You insisted that, in spite of the sense of urgency that had been engendered by her vision, you nevertheless came of your own accord, and not without certain misgivings, but not due to any pressure brought to bear by any outside source. (I would later discover the meaning behind this curious parsing of language.) You went on to say that you “wished to share certain secrets” with me regarding recent events, “things of a confidential nature” that it was nevertheless “crucial to impart to those who could handle the knowledge…”

And…you added, it was equally crucial that I be willing to “imbibe” this information, not (again) out of compulsion or even due to an abundance of curiosity, but simply because I was one of those who was “willing to hear it, and upon hearing, to act in the precise manner that was incumbent upon the hearer.” You uttered these stipulations in a tone that savored of humility, in a manner that, while passively worded, carried great weight and heavy import.

Ah, but I of course I had to take stock of my situation: this unlikely circumstance that had incredibly presented itself, wherein this gorgeously immaculate creature now perched upon (or hovered over?) my disgusting, dust-encrusted sofa, amongst the wreck of my wretchedly unkempt flat…now, it may be stated that I, even in my addled condition, still knew a thing or two about the state in which I found myself. I had dwelt amongst the rather discourteously-titled zaphead demographic for some time now. Most of those who saw me, even those with whom I shared some history, and who thus ought to know better, would see the discolored sclera in my eye and would be quick to assess my testimony as unworthy of being granted credence, given that zapheads not infrequently hallucinated things, and in fact most commonly hallucinated people, quite often beautiful women who drove them, Siren-style, to eventual apparent suicide.

I myself had been on the zap for a while, but had never hallucinated anyone or anything before, at least not to my knowledge…for me, zap merely brought relief of a sort from the harsh blandishments of a world gone mad; it helped me to stand—albeit just barely—as one who was alive, aware, and conscious. The alternative was, well, to become none of those things. That is to say, zap so far had prevented me from self-slaughter, rather than inducing any such notion in me.

I suppose that I could have seen or heard things which weren’t really there, but if I had, it would have amounted to such mundane stuff so as scarcely to qualify as hallucinatory in nature. (Might that cat I’d glimpsed sneaking through the backyard not actually been there? Maybe there was only one pillow on my bed instead of two? Etc.) Still, the singularity of this occasion, remarked above, prompted me boldly to inquire of my visitor, “Are you real?”

You smiled then, not precisely beatifically, but in a spirit of such generosity and ease of temperament that I felt as if I were witnessing an angelic being nonetheless. You asked me to touch you. Reaching out as if across a wide gulf, the sort of chasm that which might have separated the suffering spirits in Hell from blessed Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, I managed to graze your cheek with the back of my palm and felt the tender warmth of your skin. The sensation certainly resembled a real woman’s cheek, but I wondered if the zap’s hallucinatory mechanisms could also be misleading my sense of touch, as well as that of sight. As if registering my doubt, you whispered, “Now, kiss me.”

My heart swelled, and immediately, without hesitation, I joined my lips to yours. At that moment, I sensed powerfully all of my consciousness taking flight. I could feel it pouring forth into the mind of my lip-locked interlocutor. And simultaneously, it manifested to my own awareness, as if I were a dying man seeing—as the saying goes—his life rush before his eyes…


It was revealed to me then, how puny and ineffectual I had proven to be in most respects.

After all these recent years, filled with manifold manufactured public medical crises and contrived civil unrest, there had occurred that one evil event, whose authenticity none, in their hearts, could truly doubt.

Dubbed the “Day of the Sky-Devils” or “Ash Tuesday” (as it happened on a Tuesday and resulted in numerous, horrifically gargantuan piles of ashes being heaped up all over the world), the sudden incineration of 55 major Earth cities, including Atlanta, my home town, undertaken by that race of beings later titled the “Overlords,” brutally fantastic though it seemed, was in fact all too real.

No one had previously witnessed such massively destructive technology before, at least not in real life, though comparisons with the Death Star’s planet-destroying capabilities in Star Wars became inevitable. People reeled, not just from the scale of the attack, but also from the sudden recognition that hostile alien beings, such as had been the stuff of science fiction and conspiratorial speculation, were in the twinkling of an eye assured to be factually existent: even the networks and the newspapers said so!

The death beams emanating from the skies that day resulted in a bitter circumstance that seemed just plain unreal. In the span of mere seconds, these cities, and everyone who dwelt within them, were simply vaporized. Nothing was left but an ocean of dust, dust which had once been buildings, park benches, houses, stadiums, shopping malls, schools, house pets…people.

Four people who perished in Atlanta had been the members of my own immediate family: my father, mother, and two younger sisters. I, however, just happened to have been out of town when the destruction took place, having been serendipitously drawn away on a whim, the origin of which, strangely enough, can no longer recall.

In any event, I had opted to visit a friend of mine in Nashville. He dwelt in a squalid little apartment, worked a series of menial retail jobs, and in his spare time dreamed of making it big in the country music industry…I too had musical aspirations. Together, my friend and I would discuss how we could start a band with an entirely revolutionary aesthetic, which would transcend all previous genres: country, rock, pop, rap, ska, techno, and more. We would craft a type of music that could finally bring people together after years of engineered crises had everyone at one another’s throats. The prospect thrilled us both, as we were still young and largely clueless…

In any case, on April 1st, we were brainstorming together in this vein when, as if the universe were manifesting a contemptuous retort to our plans, there suddenly came a great WHOOSHING noise from outside. At the same time, some inexplicable convulsion jarred the very surface of the Earth and flung us both violently into the air. After it passed, we sat together and gaped with terror and wonderment, not knowing what had occurred…we suspected an earthquake had occurred until we heard the news, that my home city had been suddenly rendered an ash heap due to the application of an unknown “energy weapon,” while at the exact same moment cities across the world had been similarly obliterated in a manner that defied every known explanation.


This is an excerpt from Andy Nowicki’s new novella, The Insurrectionist. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.