Time Vice Inferno is a graphic novel I’ve been working on in collaboration with the artist Nic Vik. The official release date is TBA, but I’m happy to bring you this sneak preview right now! Admire these stunning works of genius and read the excerpt below.
In the future, the earth will be scorched by solar radiation and disfigured by seismic disasters. The ice caps will melt, and the resulting flood will leave most of the planet uninhabitable. The remaining humans will live in one of two colonies, each ignorant of the other but both controlled by Crystal Palace Development and its director, Dr. Snow. Surrounding each of these colonies will be electromagnetic force fields called Magnodomes, which when combined with genetic therapy halt the degradation of organic cells and their host organisms. Immortality.
One colony is Neo Rio, a hedonistic center of resort living for the shareholders of Crystal Palace Dev. The other is Surf Zone, a virtual penal colony raised from the wreckage of Portland, Oregon.
For 99 years life drags on as people become less and less curious about the world outside the Magnodome, until a twist of fate delivers evidence into the hands of private investigator, Luke Massive, if only he can sober up long enough to read…
This is Time Vice Inferno.
Spring, Surf Zone: 99 Years Later
I stand on the bluffs overlooking the river and across to the West Side where the factories chug steam and fart product, thanks to Crystal Palace’s half-assed renovations. When the tide’s low you can see forever, over Turtle Island and the old loading docks now covered in sea-slime and out into the illusion of space that is Magnodome. But now the water’s coming up and the sky is murky with kinetic violence. A crackling doom that peels across the sky like thunder. The sense of violence is always there. Static, but wanting.
The wind blows like hell up here, demanding genius to light up a smoke. But my facility is incomparable. See me rolling a joint with one hand while popping Springsteen into the tape-deck of my ancient convertible, throwing the top back with a bottle lifted bottoms up, hurtling along the harsh and cratered road at breakneck speeds while cursing everything and everyone I know at the top of my immortal lungs. See me popping stolen champagne while jerking off in the shower, my fists raw and angry. My eager, bloodshot eyes pointing off at some indefinite future.
See what wreckage has been made of life, and what nightmares have been sculpted from that wreckage.
I’m standing on the bluffs, leaning into my car, chain-smoking in the wind, my hat low over my eyes. I’m a hulking lunatic with the face of a high order angel gone twisted and raw. The burden of violence, of one who deals in violence, should not be underestimated.
My convertible. It used to be red, maybe, or blue, in places. I’m too big for it, my knees crushed under the steering wheel. With the top down, my head higher than the windshield, airborne shit forming a crust on my mirrored shades, I have full vantage of the ruined city as I blaze through its shelled out streets. The crumbling architecture, the fetid waters, the psychotic freaks that lurk around every dark corner, waiting for the chance to kill or be killed. Sometimes the smog clears, revealing the glimmering eye-fuck of a dome that throbs magnetically overhead, threatening to descend and crush me with its avuncular density.
I’m driving south on MLK, rolling a madre, finger-fucking the stereo trying to get my Born To Run tape to play. All I can hear is a garbled saxophone wailing from a dead world as my tape is chewed to pieces. It’s my only tape.
By the time I notice the ancient on the electroscooter it’s too late. Collision. Scooter and ancient soar up into the weird blue and I’m skidding now, a screeching agent of kinetic violence, smashing into one of those kiosks that sell broken watches. Everybody has one. My world explodes in a holocaust of crushed metal, broken glass, the last of my Springsteen.
Now I’m soaring into the weird blue, becoming one with the void. For a second I forget about my incredible velocity and likely rate of descent. Maybe it should all end here, as suddenly and gruesomely as it began. Some people have that kind of good luck, but not me. All I’ve got is another failed case, a nose that whistles when I breathe, and a mentally defective whale of a cousin. You’ll meet him later, I’ll make sure of it. His burden must be shared.
And here comes the ground, a blur of green and brown.
I wake up in a gutter behind a row of shrubs or some such shit. Lying on my back looking up at the stars that drift in my eyes, I reach inside my jacket for a bottle, uncap it, and take a long drink before I realize there’s nothing in my hand. I pat myself down and find nothing in the way of hard alcohol. I fire a few rounds of .45 into the heavens, feeling utterly damned.
Eventually I’m back on my feet, walking in the direction of a shower and a bottle of Black Label, the sickness churning in my blood, echoing in the sodden marrow of my bones, flooding my brain with bad medicine.
It’s a fine way to end another shit case. Didn’t find the kid, can’t remember anything about the ancient that hired me—except for this crazy purple hat she wore—no way to contact her even if I wanted to, which I don’t.
If Old Bones hasn’t already been killed she’ll probably come looking for me. I’ll deal with her then. Probably kill her. Anything but return the cash she fronted me for the job.
The sky fades from weird blue to weird orange. I glance at my broken watch. High tide’s coming. I start to pick up my step as best I can with whatever internal injuries I must be suffering after my accident.
Times like these I start to rethink my career, again. Not that there are really any options these days, but when you’re a private investigator everyone’s always after you to find shit, or people, or whatever. And I’m just not into it, anymore. The adventure of intelligence work is long behind me in the Pre-World, that sharp edge of secrecy worn into something round and boring.
Most of the time I pocket my advances and lay around at the beach club. Sometimes when they come around to check on my progress I just pretend that I don’t know who they are or what they’re talking about. That can be hilarious. But sometimes, when they’re being especially sticky about wanting results, I have to kill them. Someone has to die, even in Surf Zone. Especially in Surf Zone, the last refuge of humanity, of life and death.
High tide’s coming. The roads’ll flood, taking everything away, including my horrible little car that’s now lying upside down and abandoned like a turtle on a desert road.
The bridge, once called Burnside back when Surf Zone was called Portland, stands before me, separating East from West. Of course in high tide there’s no such thing as east or west, only water and the crumbling veneer of what was once a city, but these illusions of normalcy are necessary. Illusions make the world go round.
Once the water comes up you can tube from the bridge to Surf Club. That’s where I’m headed now, as soon as I stop off at my place for a pre-drink and a change of rags. Ever since the world fell apart the beach club’s been the only place where the days blend together into not unpleasant cohesion.
When I’m pretty sure I’m not being watched I reach down and fish an inflated tractor tire out of my little hidey-hole. Tubing’s the shit, but the good ones aren’t easy to find. Of course high tide makes for some pretty epic surf conditions, but tubing’s the right jelly for anyone too lazy or drunk for surfing. And I’m both. Then of course there are the Surf-Nazis to think about. Totally weird psychos that deal with wave-snakers by chopping off their ears. For some reason these guys are heavy into ear-chopping.
I wait for my moment and drop off the bridge, landing on my tube right into the cradle of a nice little wake. Now I can grab siesta while the current drifts me towards home and eventually Surf Club. Booyah.
By the way, my name is Luke Massive, P.I. and I basically fuck dudes up for a living, so don’t mess with any of my shit and don’t wake me up for no fucking reason.