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Build-A-Burger

By Frank Maddish All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Humor

Blurb

Billy Griffin, an insomniac tortured by nightmares of a strange and unworldly institute, has hit rock bottom. After getting fired from Sunshine Radio for declaring a false nuclear emergency, he's forced to take up his old job at a local burger bar. When Billy inherits a shortwave set stolen from the 'Philadelphia Experiment' he decides to start up his own pirate radio station, and soon enough finds himself lost in the seven circles of hell. In a case of mistaken identity, he's credited as the inventor of the world's first burger and his new fast food chain takes the globe by storm. When Billy expands into mass media and his news show hits number one in the ratings, he quickly attracts the attention of the shadow elite. He's invited to meet with the Alumniati, a secret cabal of the richest and most powerful leaders in the world, and finds them more than willing to join his revolution. But why would the Alumniati seek their own destruction? What fate lies in wait for humanity? Only Billy, the star of his own news show, 'Infogod', can show the way. The reality behind all realities, the mother lode of truth for a fake news world.

1.

“I’ve never really bothered with fiction, I’d rather stick to the facts. I put in the time and I do the research, because the truth’s out there if you know where to look. As far as I’m concerned, life’s unbelievable enough without having to resort to fairytales. This is my last testament, but not my will, oh no, I’ll keep that thank you very much. I’ll need that to fight to the very end, against the forces of evil, the hidden hand of power behind our global domination. For liberty or death I tell you, that’s my motto!”

“Yes, yes Mr. Griffin, it’s a very nice speech, but once is enough wouldn’t you say?”

Billy didn’t respond, he was staring again, with those cold blue eyes and that lunatic gaze. He was proving to be a difficult case, and when Billy was high it was a truly disturbing sight to behold.

Dr. Kaminski shifted uncomfortably in his chair, pretending to take notes as he sketched a tiny hangman in the corner of the page. He sighed at the thought of how much time they’d wasted, and the program’s heavy toll on The Institute’s dwindling resources. They’d thrown the proverbial medicine cabinet at Billy, every psychoactive compound imaginable, but his growing immunity to their experimental pharmacology had left him erratic at best.

The doctor rolled his eyes. Billy’s adenoidal snoring ceased for a moment or two, and Kaminski, expecting the worst, reached for the paddles. It was a false alarm, Billy continued to snore, grunting so deeply the sound almost vibrated the walls of his cell. Still fast asleep in his chair, Billy instinctively groped for his imaginary duvet, tugging at his paper nightgown as he inadvertently, yet repeatedly, exposed his genitals.

Averting his gaze as best as he could, Kaminski clapped and stomped his feet, unintentionally breaking into a Tyrolean jig. No response, not a flicker, it was the same old routine every time. He slapped Billy’s cheeks, just for good measure, but it made no difference. The man had very thick skin, in fact it was the thickest Kaminski had ever seen.

Out of sheer frustration, Kaminski jabbed Billy’s nose with the sharp end of a half-chewed pencil, before poking it up one of his nostrils and leaving it there for some light relief. It soon fell to the ground, covered in mucus and split in two. The doctor tutted as he kicked the pieces into the corner, taking a moment to watch them roll towards a glistening pile, laying siege to an overflowing trash can.

He reluctantly stood up and slowly dragged his chair across the floor, its friction whined and groaned like an animal in pain. He sat down next to his patient, leaned in and whispered, “Wake up Mr. President.” Kaminski knew he shouldn’t screw with Billy’s mind, being as fragile as it is, but for some reason it usually seemed to do the trick.

Billy snorted and coughed, his bloated tongue lolled about, and it wasn’t long before he bit the tip. After an excruciating delay, he shot up in his seat, feverishly waving his hands in the air, slurring obscenities like an angry drunk. Soon enough he calmed down again, blinked once, then twice, his absurd expression remained fixed in comic surprise. Billy wasn’t exactly back in the room, but at least he was still alive.

“Are we ready now Billy? Do you remember why you’re here?”

Billy nodded wildly, apparently oblivious to the cracking sounds of his misaligned spine. His eyes rolled back a little, the meds had definitely kicked in, his reaction times were way off and his diction increasingly garbled.

“Sure Doc, we’re gonna’ skip this break and get straight to the heart of the story.”

“Hmmm, yes, thank you Billy. If we could go back to something you said earlier?” Kaminski took a sip of herbal tea and spat it back in the cup, visibly wincing with the fluoridated aftertaste. He didn’t wait for Billy to answer this time.

“What did you mean by the phrase, I’m not the black sheep of the family, as much as the lame duck?”

Annoyingly, Billy kept nodding, lost in his own little world, bobbing that big fat head of his like his life depended upon it. He appeared to be experiencing another flashback, it’s hard to tell most of the time, Billy’s mentis is rarely ever compos these days. He might be bopping away to a classic rock stomper, sat in the back of his first convertible, all on his lonesome at Lover’s Leap. On the other hand, he could just as easily be reliving his last day at community college, chugging down a whole crate of beer for a dare. Although no one had actually asked him to go through with it, and as soon as he started puking, his small and unenthusiastic following made their excuses and left.

“Killjoys the lot of you! You wait creeps, you’ll all come crawling back when I’m rich and famous.”

“Billy?” Kaminski snapped his fingers, quietly groaning with exasperation. He stood up and rapped his pale knuckles against a reinforced window, set deep within a white, bolted door. The nurse must have given Billy too much, it didn’t take a genius to see the man was doped up to his eyeballs. It was pointless carrying on, yet another day wasted and even more money down the drain.

A greasy complexion filled the small pane of security glass. It instantly fogged up with the heavy breath of a guard suffering from mild influenza. The doctor frantically mouthed something from the other side of the door, pointing wildly and jabbing at his wrist. The guard sneezed against the glass and wiped it with his sleeve. It was his first ever suicide watch, and he wasn’t exactly feeling on form. He quickly donned a nylon hairnet, and his name tag, Hi, my name’s Jerry, then stormed into the cell and tasered the troublemaker in the neck. Billy immediately puked down his gown and fell into an almighty coughing fit.

“I was asking for the time you idiot, my watch has stopped!” The guards had been outsourced, the military had just about washed their hands of Kaminski’s project.

Cutbacks, Kaminski thought to himself, as the bumbling fool bowed apologetically. He coughed in the doctor’s face, he had a stinking cold and a sore throat, and even his nametag was on upside down. Kaminski wiped the spittle from his brow, “You’re an absolute disgrace, pull yourself together man. You attacked my patient without due cause, I should report you for this!”

Jerry pranced about like he needed a piss, and for some reason, perhaps nervousness, he resorted to a makeshift sign language, apologetically rubbing his wrists, to gesture he didn’t wear a watch. He turned out his pockets, to prove he’d left his phone in his locker, as per the strict security guidelines of his temporary employment contract. At the end of his dance he stepped on Kaminski’s toes, the doctor shoved him away, hopping in pain as he blared at the temp, “Are you insane? Don’t worry about the fucking time now! Perhaps I should be interrogating you, what’s your last name?”

Jerry stood there in a daze, hypnotised by Billy’s outlandish performance, and despite his anger, Kaminski couldn’t help but do the same. They stared at the loon, barely able to take in the preposterous sight. The patient had now buckled to his knees, and was busy swaying in silent agony, grasping at his throat like it was on fire.

Billy twitched and convulsed with abandon, coughing up great strings of drool, as his bulging red eyes welled up with self pity. After a while he dragged himself to his feet, his face soaked wet with sputum, glistening in the fluorescent light like freshly wrapped ham. Then he started gulping for air, pointing at an empty plastic cup, desperate for something to drink. The bystanders, the guard and the doctor, remained absolutely transfixed, neither came to his aid.

Out of pure frustration, Billy made a grab for Kaminski, who instinctively flinched and pulled away. Jerry raised his taser, Kaminski slapped the guard’s face, confiscated his weapon and locked it in a desk drawer.

Billy’s spasms subsided, and the unintentional mime artist had at last come to his big finale. With a final lunge, he thrust his arms up high to grasp at thin air, then tumbled down in an embarrassingly amateurish, theatrical swan dive.

“Is he dead?” asked the guard.

“No,” replied Kaminski with a hint of regret.

Eventually, after a great deal of fuss, Billy regained his composure, and with some effort managed to stand up. Unfortunately, he slipped in a pool of his own saliva, and soon enough lost his balance. He fell to the cold linoleum floor with a dull hard thump, managing in the process to knock himself out.

Kaminski’s eyebrows raised reluctantly, betraying his secret hope that Billy might’ve accidentally died. If he had, it would’ve been extremely convenient, considering Jerry would’ve got the blame. Kaminski plucked a small mirror from his wallet, and placed it squarely under Billy’s nose. Out of nowhere, the fat oaf roared at Kaminski, who immediately dropped his mirror with a fright and a crack. His patient was snoring again, and he was louder than ever.

“Well, I’ll think we’ll call it a day there Billy,” the doctor’s dry wit fell on deaf ears. Kaminski’s filthy lab coat flapped as he swooped down, he picked up the tiny shards of glass and placed them in a tissue in his pocket. He rose to go, before accidentally-on-purpose clipping his patient’s left temple with the heel of his shoe. The doctor motioned at the incompetent guard to drag the patient back to his bed. The guard nodded, and awaited Kaminski’s leave.

Once on their own, Jerry poked Billy’s folds of fat with the uncharged cattle prod, guestimating his approximate size and weight, before deciding it wasn’t part of his job description. He left the slob exactly where he laid and slammed the door behind him, taking one last look through the tiny window to check the prisoner was still breathing. He wondered to himself what all the fuss was about. How could this jerk pose a major terrorist threat to the nation? Jerry turned to walk away, made it but a few steps from the cell, then let out a strangled cry as he disappeared into thin air.

Billy loves to dream, even sprawled out on a hospital floor. He used to talk about them all the time as a kid, but they were mostly dull and uninspiring, and invariably nonsensical. Even then he knew he needed to work with far better material, Billy’s a facilitator, not an ideas man. His parents gave up humouring him the day he shared one nightmare in particular, which concluded with the brutal demise of his whole family. And you were dead pops, and you mom, and you, too, Uncle Bo.

He found a much more receptive audience amongst those of his own age. Peers with little taste or experience, not yet blessed with the cynicism of maturity, who were more than prepared to get excited about nothing. Although again, no one wanted to hear about his dreams, unless that is, he called them ghost stories.

As he grew older, his long and meandering tales adopted a more political slant. Billy gradually made a name for himself, regularly getting in trouble with the teachers for riling up the class. Spouting legal mumbo jumbo he’d read in his father’s secret military manuals, throwing political accusations against the system, overexciting all the other children with strange notions of injustice under a school dictatorship.

Everything changed the day Billy found his first true cause. The cafeteria menu prices had gone up again, will the injustices against youth ever desist? He soon gathered a small army of miniature comrades to fight the oppressive autocracy. Things didn’t go well, the system remained the same, and it wasn’t long into that afternoon before Billy was sent home for starting a riot. His father and the authorities agreed it would be best all round, if he was transferred to the local military academy, to learn a little discipline.

The problem with Billy is he’s far too impetuous for his own good. He’s never had a clue what to do with his god given powers of persuasion, except perhaps to cause trouble, and piss off the wrong people. A dubious talent, which honed over decades, would result in him being checked into a secure facility, under the guise of mental instability. But that’s not the half of it, what’s really irking the authorities is Billy’s innate talent for blindly guessing state secrets, and of course, his great big fat blabbermouth.

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