Entourage:2039 Chapter 16: Sunset at One Pico

Inevitably, there’s a lot of symbolism involved in leading an army into battle on the back of a magnificent white charger. Even more so, some might say, when you’re using a genuine old Germanic two-handed broadsword to decapitate a cyborg replica of the man who was once not only your personal friend but the most prized client of your industry-bestriding talent agency.

Ari Gold would understand this symbolism, of course. He’s been many things in his life, but he’s never been a stupid man. What he would not do, however, is care. Caring is for people who aren’t leading the most deadly army known to 21st century Los Angeles on the back of a beautifully groomed white horse straight out of a magazine ad for a Boys’ School in Connecticut.

Ari has the horse and the sword, sure, out front, but behind him it’s all business:

Fifteen hundred men in full body armor, carrying a melange of state-of-the-art assault rifles, grenade launchers, shoulder-mount missiles, and all manner of description of sticks with pointy things on the end.

Thirty armored vehicles- everything from genuine former-Army troop carriers, to 1980s-vintage unkillable pickup trucks, to a late-model BMW 7-Series sedan with armor plating and black-tinted, bulletproof windows.

Air support: Six black helicopters, flying in perfect formation. So many guns, missiles, and rockets lining their wings that Ari can’t help but smile every time he looks at them, like a proud father.

They’re all after one thing: The Murphy Group. Except Ari doesn’t know where The Murphy Group is. He and Eric haven’t exactly traded cards over sushi lately. Ari doesn’t know where the underground hideout is- but someone around here must. Which brings us back to where we started: Ari, on the back of his magnificent white steed, with the decapitated head of a Vince-bot in his hand, riding west down Santa Monica Boulevard. Ari has a map in his head and it looks something like this:

West down Santa Monica, through West Hollywood and Century City, burning and pillaging as they go- destroying anything and anyone that gets in their way- but especially Vince-bots. These people, or things- they hardly even seem like people anymore- but these troglodytes still skulking through this blasted ruin of a city- they seem to think of Murphy as some sort of folk hero. They don’t even know if he’s still alive, or if he ever existed. Ari doesn’t know if he’s alive either, but he sure hopes so- where’s the fun in taking a dead man’s head. But anyway, Ari is going to show them exactly what their hero has done for them.

Loudspeakers on the troop carriers broadcast the message over and over, asking for information. They’re even offering a reward- a case of gold bars from Ari’s personal stash, and a lifetime lease on a condo inside the Green Zone. (The announcement, a careful listener might note, contains no small print about exactly how long that lifetime might be, once Ari has what he wants.)

But anyway, none of the pathetic little fuckers has anything to say. Ari draws his pistol, the big one with the sniper scope, and looks over at what’s left of the country club fairway on his right. His stomach turned- they’ve actually set up one of their disgusting hovels on the 16th fairway. Ari wants to exterminate them, to purify the sacred turf of so many fond memories, but there’s no time. He drops one with a single shot from three hundred yards, and then he rides on.

Ari has a busy day planned. He’s going to slash and burn a path to the ocean. And when he gets there, he’s going to have drinks and a light dinner on the deck at Shutters. He directs his men to start a few extra fires, and watches the ash rise with the greatest satisfaction, watches at it hangs there, diffusing and softening the light in a way the old directors would have paid tens of millions for. Ari smiles: It’s going to be a beautiful sunset.

Entourage:2039 Chapter 15: Roadtrip!

In the trunk of the girl Mary’s car was: two large bricks of marijuana, an ornately embroidered leather satchel full of dried peyote, six jugs of some kind of clear homemade liquor, and a metal roadie case full of pills: Speed, downers, sleep aids, all the big brand-name anti-depressants, and a few for male sexual dysfunction. Also, there was a disassembled and deactivated cyborg replica of the actor Vincent Chase, aged approximately 26.

The girl Mary, in the driver’s seat of the big red convertible, says: “We should be somewhere near Barstow when the drugs start to take hold.” The real Vince just stares at her, his face a complete blank.


Mary takes a deep breath: it’s going to be a long trip. “Nevermind.” She floors it. The huge V8 roars to life with 390 horses, and the GTO leaves a trail of burnt rubber out of the underground carpark. Vince doesn’t even have time to shit himself and anyway, it’s been done. The wall comes up fast but then they’re through, into the tunnel, so fast that now that the blue lights into the ceiling blur into each other, and now there’s no sense of time, or danger, or anything- it’s like a video game.

But the light is coming up fast now, and then they’re out into the daylight, Vince cowering back from it like a newborn, and they’re ejected onto the broken concrete of what used to be Soto Street, and the sky is full of things that look like huge bats, except they’re metal, and they’re launching rockets at targets on the ground, or maybe just at nothing. But the first explosion is too close, and Vince’s lungs fill with black smoke and Mary yells something at him but he can’t hear it because his hearing is gone and then there’s a woman in the road in a black robe firing a machine gun in the air, and Mary jerks the wheel to the right – hard – and Vince passes out cold.

When he comes around they’re speeding north through the concrete bed of the L.A. River, spraying the half an inch of water out behind them. Over their heads, the sky is on fire, but down here it’s quiet, relatively speaking. Mary drives on, with the lights off, one hand on the wheel as she lights herself a cigarette. And the sun sinks in west, dying the ravaged city a deeper shade of red.

Enoturage:2039 Chapter 14: Billy.

Billy Walsh has always been independent. He made his first movie for twenty thousand dollars- money he made selling lottery tickets and porno mags on the night shift at a liquor store. And when that wasn’t enough, he sponged off his friends, and when that still wasn’t enough, he started stealing out of the till.

Six months later he had four shoeboxes full of cash stashed under his bed, and 20 months after that he had won Sundance for the first time. He wrote, directed, edited, produced, and executive produced. No investors, no film school, no connections: fuck that rich kid shit. He never could relate to the ones who got everything on a silver platter- the ones who got profiled in the glossy magazines with their goddamn pull quotes about “hustling up” four hundred grand. Billy knew right where they hustled it from: rich daddy and his rich friends.

None of that for Billy. He was real indie then, and he was real indie now, here in the Griffith Park Badlands, hunkered down three miles or so outside the big north wall of Ari Gold’s domains. They had a lot of guns, but they knew better than to come in the woods. In their hearts they were all still rich kids, pussies. Even when it had been surrounded by a functioning metropolis, there had been a lot of places in the park to lose a body. Now it didn’t take more then twelve hours for one of Ari’s guys, or anyone who wandered in uninvited, to rejoin the food chain at the lower end.

But the land is beautiful in a lot of ways. Little brooks gurgle in the background, just off the path. Outside there’s a war going on, but it’s green and peaceful in here, and the sunlight cuts through the overhead branches just right, landing on your shoulders in soft diffused rays, and sometimes you even see deer. Things grow here. But this ain’t no Disney flick, Billy’s seen to that.

He sits on his throne of wood, carved into the side of an enormous old growth oak. The tree is still alive, somehow, and Billy is inside it. He has his women, clad all in brown and green like the land, and he has his drugs to keep away the loneliness and the fears that sometimes come in the night.

Billy takes a long drink from a bottle of hooch they make right here in the woods, and runs his hand down the long black hair of the girl on his left, until his fingers find the back of her lithe and chestnut-tan neck. Someone is telling him something about what’s going on outside- something about drones in the air and an army led by a man on a white horse, for real, even though it sounds like something out of a bullshit movie, but Billy isn’t really listening. He knows all about the war already. After all, it’s his.

Entourage:2039 Chapter 13: Three things happen at once (part three).

When we last left Vincent Chase he was underground. Way underground, in the chamber of horrors presided over by the girl Mary, watching a no-holds-barred sex show given by two spitting images of his youthful self. “Could they come?” Somehow that was the only thought circling through real Vince’s dazed head. It seemed like they were some kind of robots., or cyborgs. Whoever made them had obviously gone into a lot of detail but… would something come out? And if so- what?

Whatever the answer was, he was going to find out soon. The Vince-bots pleasuring of each other was nearing its climax. And so, Vince found as he glanced over, was the girl Mary. Both hands were deep inside her panties now, her head pitched way back, mouth open, watching her own movie on the back of her closed eyelids – waiting for the big explosion.

It came. Literally: It knocked Vince out of his seat. Shook tiles and big clods of dirt from the ceiling, knocked the two Vince-bots to the floor. Something up there had blown up, and it was big. The next few stunned seconds were punctuated with follow-up blasts, further away than the first, but jarring all the same same.

When the fog cleared from Vince’s head, Mary was already on her feet, buttoning her fatigues and frantically throwing items into a duffel bag. “We have to go,” she snapped at him.

“What? Where,” Vince managed to stammer.

“No time for that.” With a strength that scarcely seemed possible in her petite body, she reached out with one arm and hauled Vince’s corpulent bulk upright.

“But… what about… them?” Sure, they were perverts, but they were after all, him.

Mary stopped loading documents from a recessed wall safe into her bag and looked sideways at Vince. “What, the bots? Are you kidding me?”

“I don’t know I just… we can’t just leave them here, can we?”

Mary considered for a few beats. “It’s going to be a long trip. And God knows you’re not going to do me any good. Four- come on. The young Vince-doppelganger she addressed stood at attention, ready to follow his master wherever she might lead. “The rest of you…”

She made a gesture, and the other Vince-bots knelt, without complaint, their faces to the wall. She pulled her pistol from her belt and chambered a round. To the real Vince: “You might want to look away.”

A few minutes later, Mary was dashing down a tunnel, Vince-bot #4 by her side, real Vince wheezing fifty feet behind her, doing his best to catch up. Mary, rounding the bend first, came into a dimly lit chamber that stretched a hundred feet overhead, and longer than a football field in either direction. There were cars here, all makes and models, and tanks, and military transport trucks. Vince caught up to her just as she pulled off the cover.

The car was a ’69. Pontiac GTO convertible, Fire Engine red, perfect mint, with the Ram Air V you couldn’t get from the dealer.

Vince finally caught up to her. The top was already down as she threw her bag in the backseat. Vince doubled over, gasping for breath. Mary smiled a little as she held the passenger door open for him; a real smile this time, not the cynical flash of teeth she had showed him back in the apartment. Now she raised an eyebrow.


Entourage:2039 Chapter 12: Three things happen at once (part two).

Ari Gold is not at peace. Never has been, and apparently never will be- not if bullshit like this keeps happening. You can’t get good help: That’s the one thing that’s never changed since the old days.

And they still get out of his way when he walks down the hall- that hasn’t changed either. You would too, if you saw the Ari Gold of 2039 coming at you. The big pistol on his belt, the bulging arm muscles, obvious even under his suit. And then there’s those legs- cosmetic surgery has come a long way in thirty years. It’s hard to even call it cosmetic anymore, when the recipient’s leg looks more like a horse’s, and he can (and has) knocked people stone cold unconscious with one kick to the head.

It’s obvious to Ari what happened. They came up through the tunnels, under the wall. The places his men are supposed to be charting, and mining, if they weren’t so scared, and lazy, and worthless. They’re still scrubbing the blood off the walls and taking the bodies away when Ari gets there. He feels nothing for these men, nothing at all. They were weak, and lazy, and careless. All the evidence he needs to make this judgment is right there in front of him, stiffening by the minute.

In a few minutes Ari finds the storeroom he was looking for, the place where they came in. A quick inspection, and he knows exactly who he’s dealing with. The calling card is handed to him a second later by an underling who literally turns and flees in terror before Ari can say a word to him. The black card, blacker now with dried blood, only confirms what Mr. Gold already knows.

He reads the label anyway: “The Murphy Group.” A little smile curls on the end of his lip. They realize, of course, that this means war.

Meanwhile: Turtle’s slow breathing is the only movement in his cell. There is no light, no sound, no nothing. Right now there is not even Turtle. He throws his entire self into the meditative void with an almost Trappist zeal.

Ari Gold is meditating too. His practice area is a little different: For starters, there’s the gigantic gold-plated Buddha that almost envelops Mr. Gold as he sits cross-legged in front of it on the giant, Opium-den-red pillow. There are Buddhas everywhere, and maybe a few of the more well-known Hindu deities for good measure. As he sits, Ari’s mind is not what a Zen teacher would consider “clear” by any stretch. When he closes his eyes, his anger does not dissipate. No, quite the opposite. With his concern temporarily withdrawn from the waking world, Mr. Gold’s rages are free to careen though the black gulf of his semi-consciousness , like pulsars transmitting through deep space.

But maybe that is a kind of meditation. Beggars can’t be choosers. And maybe, just maybe, on some astral plane, the minds of Ari and Turtle meet. They’ve had thirty years after all, to get to know each other, to get inside each other’s thoughts. Thirty years since that fateful day when Turtle barged into the offices of the Miller/Gold agency and demanded Ari helped him go into business. He’d said “no,” of course, given the kid some big, half-made-up lecture about what it had been like for him starting out, and then sent him on his way with no help whatsoever- just as a matter of principle. That had been the beginning. And now, the beginning of the end.

Ari, lost in memory, is maybe the only thing in his entire fiefdom not moving right now: In the cyborg workshops under the Silver Lake reservoir, in the hangars and barracks of what was once the Paramount lot, from the tops of skyscrapers and half a mile under the Hollywood Hills, Mr Gold’s people are preparing to make war.

But first, dinner. Ari halted his practice mid-breath and stood to the meditation cabana. If he’s going to unleash hell, why not a little taste of heaven first? He walks to the table, where a lavish meal is waiting: The finest veal still gettable anywhere west of the Great Divide, and an eight year old Bordeaux brought up from the deep cellar for the occasion. His face bathed in red-tinted candlelight, Mr. Gold eats.

Entourage:2039 Chapter 11: Three things happen at once (part one).

There are a few things missing from Turtle’s room these days. No 60-inch flatscreen. No X-Box, no Playstation, not even a Sega in sight. No papers, no pipe, no bong, no vaporizer. All of that was a long time ago.

The base has supply closets bigger than the place Turtle lives in. He sleeps on the floor of his cubicle, surrounded only by his books, hand-built computers, and the mind-scrubbing anti-sound of the white noise machine. Which is not to say that Turtle has made a complete break with his past. There are mementos, if you know where to look.

Like on the extreme bottom right of one of the big bookshelves, for example. Here are Turtle’s screenplays, bound and bradded between plain black covers. Turtle had never used an agent, or a manager. Why give away 25% of his money to some guy in a fancy suit. Turtle had learned a lot getting the MBA, but that was just the beginning. Next came the philosophy degree, the semester at Trinity College, reading the classics, then across the continent, down through the Mediterranean and Greece. Taking it all in with his own eyes, Turtle could literally feel his mind broadening, as sure as he could see his skin growing darker under that ancient sun.

Then he moves on east, through India, knowing the high society of Mumbai, making effortless business deals and earning a bigger chest of rubies than even Gatsby could have dreamed of – and then, dog-earred copy of “Siddhartha” stuffed into his pack, he hitched his way north and into the intimate life of a tiny village in far northern Uttar Pradesh, celebrating the harvest with the villagers, piling sandbags against the monsoon, learning Urdu and even a local dialect called Bhojpuri. He told the villagers he was called Turtle, and they agreed it was a most auspicious name.

Later, he passed through Southeast Asia and, conscious to avoid the cliché of Thailand, settled for a while on a Malaysian island found on only the most detailed satellite maps. Finally, he came back, because there was nothing else to do, arriving in the Tom Bradley International terminal at 3am with no possessions in the world that weren’t in the battered black duffel bag slung over his shoulder.

Everyone agreed the scripts he wrote for Vince were genius. The combination of a long-ago McKee seminar and Turtle’s education, classical and worldly, was lethal. Not only were they great movies, they were great movies for Vince- Turtle plucked incidents from their Queens childhood with surgical precision, knowing the depth of feeling they would provoke, begetting performances more honest than any Vince had given before, and from there a wagon-load of Oscars for both of them.

None of the films were ever made. The industry was of course hostile to this strange interloper who used words they couldn’t understand, wouldn’t come to their parties, wouldn’t be bribed with possessions or drugs or women or anything else. They just couldn’t figure out what his motivation was, and that made them nervous. But none of that should have mattered much. Vince could have pushed any of them into production, with one word.

But he never did. He kept making the blockbusters, and then when those dried up, he made the four “Benji” movies, and then he went to television, and finally the internet. Turtle never said a word. Each man’s decisions were his to make.

Now, in his cubicle, Turtle’s fingers flew across the keyboard, effortlessly navigating a maze of hardware and software firewalls, worming his way into the most classified depths of the Murphy Group’s central data storage repository. Even Turtle himself didn’t know where the hard disks he was accessing existed, physically. But it didn’t matter.

His screen filled with line after line of code, glowing green in the dark of his underground cubicle. After he tired of Hollywood, Turtle had studied computer science and artificial intelligence, believing it to be the wave of the future for both Hollywood and the world at large. At the time, he hadn’t even realized how right he was.

Whoever wrote this had been good, but he would crack it. It was only a few hundred thousand lines- obfuscated and intentionally obscure, but so what? In his second life, there had only been one problem he’d been unable to solve. And now the answer was here, right in front of him, in plain ASCII, ready to be cracked. Sleep and food were for the weak – he would not want or need either until the job was done. He was perfectly still, except his eyes, which scanned the screen until- there! – they laser-locked onto the first weak point, the way in. Now his fingers sprang into action, flying across the keyboard with a manic speed that exceeded the machine’s ability to render the characters on the screen by a full second.

But even as his hands slaved, tunneling further and further down the rabbit hole of the mindblowingly obscure source code, Turtle’s conscious mind was free to soar – out of his cave, high above this devastated, smoke-shrouded husk of a city, to a tiny straw hut by a flood-swollen river somewhere in the far north of India, where he was at peace.

Entourage:2039 Chapter 10: “In the Garden of Allah”

It’s hard to worry, from way here up on the roof. Which is a good thing, because Mr. Gold doesn’t like to worry. He could have replaced his personal staff years ago, brought in the cyborgs, but that’s just not Mr Gold’s style. What good is yelling at something that lacks the capacity for humiliation? What good is directing hate at something that lacks the good sense to hate itself afterwards? No, Mr. Gold prefers to employ flesh and blood. Mr. Gold is a humanitarian.

He calls this place The Garden of Allah. Ari likes the connotation of Old Hollywood glamor. And the “Allah” thing makes him laugh, too. Mr. Gold doesn’t have any problem with Muslims, in principle- as long as they stay outside the wall. Ari’s kingdom is bordered by the 2 freeway to the east, Western avenue and the remains of the 101 on the western side, and Griffith Park on the North. Standing on the twenty-foot high, twelve foot thick battlement, a guard can look over the sight of his assault rifle (Israeli-made) and see smoke rising from the hillsides and reclaimed fairways of the huge park. It’s best not to ask too many questions about what goes on in the park.

But inside Ari’s Green Zone, all is peaceful and efficient. A frontal assault by any enemy is unthinkable. Uniformed, smiling Vincent Chases serve as security guards, valets, street entertainers, and for the right discreetly-arranged price, private concubine to the needy of either sex. It would be a stretch to call it Paradise, but you can get whatever you need in Ari’s little kingdom, if you want it bad enough.

“This kid doesn’t look happy,” thought Ari to himself, as he looked at one of his sub-commanders standing in front of him like he had a particularly pointy stick up his butt.

“Here’s your drink, Mr. Gold, sir.”

Ari took the frozen concoction off the tray. It was good for the kids: He had started in the mailroom and he had clawed his way up, because he wanted it. So just because this kid had killed a few people for him and gotten a few medals pinned on him, that didn’t mean he was too good to serve drinks all of a sudden.

Ari looked through the sparkles of light forming on the rim of the glass, refracting off the big grains of Dead Sea salt. The kid was still here.


“Well, sir… Mr. Gold…” The kid looked like he was going to piss himself.

“Spit it out!”

Ari hurled the glass over the kid’s head, and it shattered somewhere off in one of the grottoes. Jesus, was the kid crying? The glass hadn’t even come close- he’d purposely sailed it at least two feet over his head.

“Yes sir, Mr. Gold. There was another attack. They came up through the pipes.”

Ari was awake now. He sat up straight, and took off his sunglasses. “What did they get?”

“A couple of hard drives. We think it was some of the Source.”

Ari was actually starting to like this kid. He had straightened up there at the end, and answered like a man. Someone handed him a rag and he oiled his pistol, lovingly. The spent cartridge was still smoking on the ground next to his wicker Chaise lounge, liberated from poolside at the Peninsula.

In the background, two servants were carrying away the kid’s body, and three more were bleaching the bloodstain back into nothing. But all that was out of focus. Who could possibly know where to find that code, or understand its full significance? This wasn’t just some random Griffith Park tribal Mad Max bullshit. They were Beyond Thunderdome here. Ari was going to find out exactly who was fucking with him, and then he was going to deal with it, just like back in the mailroom, just like he always had. Two men enter, one man leaves.

Ari dug for his phone, which had worked its way down into the cushions of the chair when he’d gone for his gun. He was going to need another drink.

Entourage:2039 Chapter Nine: Remembrances of Vincent Chase’s Penis Past (Part two)

Vincent Chase’s blood ran cold. This fear was beyond the “crapping his pants” fear he had felt back in the street- it seemed like a hundred years ago now- when he’d come face to face with the first doppelganger. This was different, a thousand times worse. He wished he could crap his pants, but he wasn’t wearing pants, and his bowels felt frozen now, as if they would never move again.

He was lying under a blanket on a military-surplus cot in some kind of- basement apartment? Bunker? Torture chamber? – and he was looking at another replica of his younger self. But, the eyes. The eyes were the worst part. Like the blind guy in that Hallmark Hall of Fame movie he’d had to do when times got tough, but a thousand times more disturbing- and Turtle wasn’t here to snicker about it with and get him high back in his trailer. This was wrong; horribly wrong in some way Vince could never have described, but just knew, deep down in what was left of his soul.

The girl, Mary, looked at him. “Something wrong, honey?” Her smile did nothing to reassure Vince. “Don’t worry, it gets good in a second.”

Mary pressed another button on her remote and suddenly the Vince-double was… alive. Instantaneously, the dead eyes transformed into deep pools of sensitivity, sexuality, the seven-figure eyes of Vincent Chase, movie star.

The Vince-double turned to Mary, waiting.

“Get number two.”

He (it, whatever) walked across the room and pressed a button. Another compartment opened, just like the first. And inside was another dead-eyed Vince. The first Vince-double put its hand on the back of the neck of the second, and then they were both alive. Two Vinces. Three, if you counted the shell of a man cowering pantsless on the cot.

Mary’s mouth curled into a different kind of smile. “You ready, guys?” Both Vince-doubles smiled back at her. Cot-Vince knew that smile. They wanted her. Those bastards! Nobody got between him and a chick. He was Vincent Chase! Or at least, he was pretty sure he was.

But it was hard to be sure, with the surreal drama taking place before his eyes. Mary was sitting back in one of those spherical, padded chairs that hung from a chain on the ceiling. Vince-double #1 walked towards the second one, and then… #1 touched #2 on the shoulder, stroking him, and then lifted his tee shirt over his head.

It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be happening. This had to be some kind of nightmare. But it was happening. Both Vinces were topless now, and they were kissing each other. And this was no act either; they were into it.

Mary looks over at the real Vince. “You want to get in on this?” Vince is stricken: He cannot speak, or move, or look away. “I’m just kidding. I know you’re not… up to it.” Mary’s eyes sparkle on these last words- she’s enjoying this. Then, to the doppelgangers: “All right guys, I don’t have all night. Let’s cut to the chase.”

The scene unfolds, with the two Vince-doubles doing everything Mary tells them. Everything. Vince hears a low moan from Mary as she pleasures herself, unashamed, her hand in her unbuttoned fatigues. She never touches the Vinces, she just watches- but that seems to be more than enough for her. She seems to have forgotten the “real” Vince even exists.

And then this happens: The real Vincent Chase sees his own penis. Not his penis of course- not the one he sees every morning taking a piss, when he takes the trouble to shift his now-expansive gut out of the way. No, what he sees is the penis of the duplicate-Vince who has now had his pants removed by the other one. And it is a deeply moving experience. In that moment, Vince finds his own penis beautiful. In that moment, everything floods back to him- his potential, his youth, everything he could have been, was, never became. This was the feeling he had in the street, when he saw the first double, but multiplied by a thousand. Vince feels he is in heaven and hell both at once. Here on what’s left on Earth, he can barely breathe, he feels his heart may explode at any second. He wants to give his last will and testament, to make some final statement to the press, to give some explanation of what he has done and who he has been, before it’s too late.

But he can’t move. All he can do is watch.

Entourage:2039, Chapter Eight: The Arms of the Prophet Joshua

It’s a hundred and thirty miles, give or take, from here to where the city of Los Angeles used to be.

The city is still there, sort of. Something of a skyline remains, blackened and battered but still standing. You could see if from here if the smoke ever cleared. Which it doesn’t. By day, an almost biblical plume half a mile high blocks all vision, and at night the lights of aircraft slicing through the dark red haze, and the occasional missile, give the impression of a nebula viewed from several light-years away.

Here in the desert it’s quieter. You get kind of a country vibe, even. Broken down muscle cars of 1960s vintage litter the ditches, and the restless ghost of Gram Parsons still haunts the little roadside motels, looking for good music and a cheap fix. Very little moves on the road at high noon except the lizards and the snakes.

The Mormon pilgrims of the 19th century named the cactus-like trees that dot the desert for their prophet: The trees, like Joshua, seemed to be extending their thorny arms heavenward in prayer. And now something else is moving along what was once the four-lane blacktop of the Twentynine Palms highway. A family of four, heads hidden under dark robes, backs bowed under the weight of a lifetime’s possessions. The mother holds an infant to be her breast, trying to shield him from the sun, and the father pulls a two-wheeled handcart lashed, oxen-like, to his shoulders.

Now there’s a noise behind them, the puttering of an ancient and underpowered gasoline engine. In an instant the trap is set: The father and the older son hide themselves in the scrub beside the road, while the mother and infant wait, centered on the cracked double yellow lines. The sidecar-ed motorcycle putters over the horizon, spots the woman and child, and stops. In less then a minute it’s over: the father slits the throat of the driver, while the son dispatches the passenger. The faith of these pilgrims lacks a prohibition against killing, or anything else. The family loads their gear onto the bike and putters away towards the horizon.

Four days of hard travel later, their water is almost gone. There hasn’t been a spring or a supply cache for two hundred miles. The family’s belief in their patriarch has always been unquestioned, but now they glance at him sideways as he uselessly wipes the sweat from his brow and studies the hand-drawn map one more time.

And then, as the sun sinks over the desert, they see it. Something metal reflects back at them. Approaching, they find a natural staircase wedged between two huge boulders. The air cools as they descend into a box canyon. No one would find this place in a thousand years, if they didn’t know where to look. But now a blonde-haired child, dressed in white, appears to them. Her smile shows a level of dental care that presumably no longer existed in this world- certainly there is no reasonable explanation for its existence here. And yet, she is not a hallucination. She speaks:

“You seek the Oracle?”

The man is too full of joy and exhaustion to speak, but he manages a nod. The child beckons for them to follow, and they move deeper into the canyon. Ten minutes later, they emerge from a series of switchbacks into an amphitheater. Ancient sandstone walls rise two hundred feet above, closing together as they do. Only a tiny sliver of sky is admitted into the Oracle’s chamber. There is a pool of cool fresh water here, more drinkable water than the family has seen in ten years. More blonde children frolic around it, each more perfect than the last. They splash each other without a care in the world, as if it were the pool at any middle-American motor inn. The armed guards don’t phase them a bit.

About those guards: They carry compact but deadly submachine guns, and their body armor is completed by their helmets, adorned with full faceshields, liberated from riot police of one of the region’s former cities. The ancient logo has been scrubbed away, and replaced by three crudely stenciled letters: “JDC.” Some who remember the ancient books, and the man for whom the desert trees are named, say it stands for “Joshua’s Dominion under Christ.” But the fact is, no one knows but the Oracle. And on this subject he is emphatically not talking.

But on other matters, to those of sufficient faith, the Oracle does speak. For there he sits, on his pedestal, face hidden under his black robe, his tall gaunt frame hunched over on his simple throne of wood. The father is afraid, but with the eyes of his wife and children on him, he walks eight trembling steps forward onto the wide mat of palm leaves, holding in his arms their humble offering.

He kneels.

Entourage:2039, Chapter Six

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Remembrances of Vincent Chase’s Penis Past (Part One)

Vincent Chase, sixty years old, stood on the cratered asphalt of Franklin Avenue, looking thirty years into the past. It was him.

The guy standing one hundred feet away from Vince was… Vince. “Queens Boulevard” Vince, to be exact. Old Vince would know that look anywhere. Looking back, he had always secretly considered that his peak- he had been young, beautiful, a huge success, every girl wanted him, but there was something else too- he had been doing good work. Billy Walsh had brought out the best in him the way no one else ever had before, or would again.

And this guy had it- the walk, the look in his eye, the unshakable knowledge that he was in exactly the right place, at the right time, doing what he was born to do. There had been a few impersonators on Hollyood Boulevard right after “Aquaman” – but those guys looked like sex offenders, and Drama and Turtle had thrown eggs at them while Vince laughed behind tinted glass in the back of the Bentley.

But this guy was good. Looking at him, it suddenly broke like a rogue wave over Vince- his golden youth, all of it, the enormity of what he had had, and lost. And he knew now that he had lost it a long time ago- long before he locked himself away in his penthouse. He wanted to cry.

He wanted to cry. But instead, Vincent Chase shit his pants in the middle of Franklin Avenue.

He wished he hadn’t, but the truth was it had been happening more and more. He wanted to ask the girl to bring him diapers, tell her it was for some kinky sex thing, but no. He couldn’t do it. He was sure she would know the truth.

Then something happened. As Vince stood there, silently enduring the worst moment of his life (so far), as he stood there in the middle of Franklin Avenue with his own excrement dripping slowly down the inside of his robe and into his four-hundred dollar designer sandal, the guy, the thing, the other Vince, whatever it was- it looked at him.

It was just a look, just one second of eye contact. But in that moment, old, pants-shitted Vince achieved enlightenment. Well, maybe not enlightenment exactly, but something like it. This guy, this younger self, saw straight into the gnarled depths of his tortured soul. Vince had spent his adult life trying not to be understood: Always he strove for mystery, to leave ’em wanting more, to get the girl out by morning with nothing but a story to tell her friends and a ride home in the Bentley from Turtle.

While the moment lasted – it was probably less than a second, but Vince found himself high on a hill, looking out at a 360 degree view. There was nothing but a sea of impossibly soft, white clouds anywhere as far as he could see, and he was at peace.

Then the earth shattered. Vince never heard the rocket coming until after it had impacted in the street, sending asphalt into the air like a fountain. The next thing he knew he was laying flat on his back, in a cloud of black smoke and dust, trying to breathe. Something deep down in his brain stem was telling him to move, to get up now, he had to find his double, talk to him, find out what it all meant. He might never get this chance again. Vince tried to will his legs to move, but they were emphatically not taking requests.

It’s perfectly normal,” said a voice in the dark. It was a female voice, so that was something. Vince wondered if he was in Heaven. He flashed back to the scene that had filled his mind just before the rocket strike- that hilltop, those clouds. Maybe he had already been dead. If people were firing rockets, he could have been hit by something else just as easily.

You must have crapped your pants when the rocket hit. It’s completely involuntary- happens to everybody.” Now Vince was fairly certain he was not, in fact, in Heaven, because even if it was possible to shit your pants in Heaven, he remembered a little bit from that church on Atlantic Avenue his mom used to drag him to, and he was pretty sure in Heaven they wouldn’t call attention to stuff like that, if there was a way to avoid it.

Experimentally, he opened an eye. It hurt, but eventually shapes started to form out of the white blurs. His focus pulled until he saw a room, and a girl. She was hot.

Her name was Mary, she told him later, after he felt good enough to sit up on the military-surplus green cot. He hadn’t looked under the blanket, but Vince was pretty sure he wasn’t wearing his crapped pants anymore. She must have helped him out of them. The room had no windows at all- were they underground? It felt like they were underground.

Vince checked Mary out from behind as she stood in the little kitchenette, boiling water. Her hair was black and short, Vince would usually have said too short, but there was something about the white skin of her neck. Moving downwards, he paused to take in her shoulders, feminine but rippling with muscles under her white tank top.

And then- she still had her back to him – making tea or something, so why not – down to her ass. It was toned and frankly spectacular.. She turned with the finished tea and brought him a cup. “Drink up, baby.” So it was “baby” already? Vince was starting to like her, dykey camouflage pants and all. She put her hand on his shoulder, just a touch, but he was shocked by how strong she was.

But then something else came into his mind, eclipsing even the urgings of his ageless libido.

Vince tried to talk, but found himself hoarse. His first attempt came out as a pathetic little croak that hurt him somewhere deep down in his chest. But he had to know. He tried again:

That guy back there in the street…”

Mary smiled an innocent little half-smile. Or maybe not so innocent.

What guy?”

Right before the rocket hit. He looked… it was me. But young.”

And who are you?”

Vince just cocked an eyebrow at her. He wasn’t hurt that bad.

You really want to know, baby?”

Vince caught a different inflection in the word “baby” this time that hadn’t been there before. Or maybe he hadn’t been paying attention. It was a little harsh, a little condescending even. It cut into him. All at once he was acutely aware that he was thirty years older than this girl. At least.

You want to see him again? You sure?”

Vince nodded. He was sure. He thought.

Mary stood up from where she’d been sitting by the cot. She went to a mirror that hung over a bare sink, right there in the open, and fixed her face a bit. When she was satisfied, she produced what looked like a tiny remote control, and pressed a button.

A hidden door in the wall slid open, revealing a cunningly concealed secret chamber. And there he was. For the second time that day, Vincent Chase looked into the eyes of his younger self. But this time, they were as black and lifeless as a dead sun.