Archives for posts with tag: Dodge City Pizza Basement

I FIND MYSELF AT THE END OF A TRAILER FOR A MOVIE WHOSE NAME I DON’T CATCH but which seems to depict the formation of 100 soldiers into a Victory Parade in Sacrifice Square. According to the trailer’s narrator, “our troops so thoroughly defeated the enemy that all memory of the war has been erased. No one, today or ever after, will be able to say what the war was about, whom it was against, nor even where it took place.”

 

The question I’m left with (other than whether to see the movie — I know I’ll end up seeing it eventually) is how we can be sure these soldiers are actually the same as the ones who departed Dodge City to fight the forgotten war. They look completely standard-issue, like a random sampling of 100 action figures from a ValuPak of 1000 … so who’s to say these are the same Dodge City boys that supposedly set out all those months or years ago? At the same time, I think, treating myself for once as a rational debate partner, let’s not be too insensitive: who’s to say that the war itself didn’t burn their personalities so thoroughly away that these faceless brutes are all that’s left?

 

I chide myself for either my gullibility or my heartlessness (though not both). Then the next trailer begins. This one’s called Coal Country, and promises to tell the story of how “Pussygrab sent all the unemployed coal miners back underground until the next election.”

 

*****

THEN THE TRAILERS END and the main feature starts up.

 

It’s a sequel to The Dodge City Basement Boys, a special I remember watching a few months ago, back when the Pussygrab Regime still seemed young, before he’d called a snap-referendum and run a second, unopposed campaign in order to be voted “Double Mayor,” a position he then declared “at least twice as powerful as any Mayor in history, maybe three times.”

 

This time around, the narrator tells us that The Dodge City Basement Boys voted for Pussygrab on the promise that he would completely destroy the outside world and thus free them from the bad faith of dwelling inside the Game while knowing that an outside world continued to exist, a world in which they’d made no progress and had no prospects for success or approval.

 

At the same time, the Normcore Voters — most, if not all, of Dodge City’s adults — voted for Pussygrab for a diametrically opposed reason: that he would add entertainment value to their TV viewing because now reality TV would actually be real. “We wanted to feel like what we were seeing on the TV, even when it went beyond belief, was really happening. Like it was news, you know? Otherwise, we feared that watching TV would someday get old, and then where would we be, in terms of our lives and stuff?” says a man identified as Roland Epps, dentist, 43.

 

“So,” the narrator says, “Pussygrab and his Swamp Creatures have a dilemma on their hands. A dilemma that, if they’re not careful, could fracture into an outright Schism: on the one hand, their mandate is to destroy the entirety of Dodge City’s External Reality, leaving nothing but the Game. On the other hand, their mandate is to make Dodge City realer than ever, such that those watching at home might feel their TV diet growing fresher rather than increasingly stale. Ball’s in your court, Pussygrab. What’s your move?”

 

*****

Now the Netflix Movie begins in earnest. In one half of a split-screen, a team of Regime-loyalist hackers is hard at work creating a prototype of “the destroyed Dodge City,” which they plan to import into the Game hoping that the Basement Boys will accept this in lieu of actual destruction of the outside world. (“I mean, if they live full-time in the Game anyway,” one of the hackers says, “how will they even know the difference? They’ll look up from their in-Game lairs and see the ravaged post-Dodge-City wasteland we’ve designed, and believe the Colonel has made good on his campaign promise.”)

 

In the other half of the split-screen, another delegation of Swamp Creatures, led by Paul Sweetie, is hard at work torturing various Dodge City citizens, trying to put them on Permanent Swamp Mode so as to tether them forever to the belief that what they’re watching on TV constitutes the hyperreal world they all believe they voted for, while, presumably, the Regime carries out its real work in secret.

 

“What could go wrong?” Pussygrab is caught asking on a hot mic, his tone seemingly non-rhetorical.

 

*****

THE HACKER TEAM GETS RIGHT DOWN TO WORK, lifting the lid off the Game (which they apparently managed to commandeer right after the election, perhaps taking the reins from the previous administration — no two Dodge City citizens agree as to the Game’s origins, if they even agree about its existence) and beginning to sow destruction.

 

I watch on Netflix as they turn Sacrifice Square into a pile of smoking debris, boil Dead Sir into greenish vapor, reduce the Bar to digital boards and nails sweltering by the side of the road, and even reduce the Hotel (the same one I’m sitting in, the one that doubles as Pussygrab Palace) to a pile of rubble that reminds me of Berlin circa 1947.

 

As a finishing touch, they create an in-Game version of Pussygrab himself, incarnated here as a tribal warlord with sharpened teeth and a necklace of skulls, on the assumption that the more they can do to convince the Basement Boys that all of Dodge City now exists solely within the ravaged landscape of the Game, the less they’ll have to worry about the Boys’ interference aboveground.

 

The Basement Boys initially rejoice at this upgrade, burrowing that much deeper into their basements secure in the knowledge that there’s nothing outside to miss out on. “At last,” one of them says to the camera, “we can breathe free knowing that the basement’s the only place to be. Sex, money, prestige … finally, not having these things makes us stronger, not weaker. Thanks, Pussygrab, for fucking up all the shit you said you were gonna.” He addresses this comment to the in-Game Pussygrab, clearly acknowledging him as the real thing.

 

Then, finishing his ice cream and shouting for his mom to take the bowl, he picks his controller back up, unpauses the Game, and drives his avatar into the smoking remnants.

 

*****

“BUT WHAT OF THE NORMCORE VOTERS, AT HOME WATCHING TV?” the Netflix narrator asks. Indeed, I think. What about them?

 

It turns out that, at first, they’re satisfied too: Dodge City, outside the Game, looks the same as ever, so the entertainment value of watching Pussygrab poison its drinking water, imprison its journalists, and shutter its hospitals has lost none of its pizzazz. They sit at home eating takeout (“Does this Chinese food taste worse?” they wonder. “What happened to all the Chinese people that used to live here?”), laughing and cheering along with the Regime, secure in the knowledge that, just as they always wanted, the reality TV they’re watching is now truly real, and thus no longer a diversion from the lives they might otherwise have to wish they were living.

 

*****

ALL MIGHT HAVE REACHED A DETENTE AT THIS POINT HAD THE HACKERS NOT LEFT THE SEAM TO THE GAME OPEN. But, in their haste to escape the Basement Boys’ notice, they did. They fled the Game after destroying the virtual Dodge City and forgot to patch things up on their way out.

 

So, as is only natural, the air of apocalyptic decay from within the Game begins to ooze out into the real (so-to-speak) Dodge City. Pretty soon (unless Netflix has cut a lot out of this section) one-eyed humanoid hulks are wandering out of the Game and onto the streets of Dodge City, brandishing sharpened sticks and rocks in slings, led by the digital warlord version of Pussygrab himself, who’s now bellowing about burning the corporate overlords alive and eating the hearts of the faithless for lunch.

 

The split-screens merge here. The left-hand side looks slightly more digital, the right-hand side slightly more analog, but it’s clear they’re now both on the same level of reality, one whose consequences will surely apply to everyone watching, myself included.

 

The digital Pussygrab rips a cobblestone from the ground of Sacrifice Square and smashes it over his head, shrieking, “From now on, no Apocalypse is pretend!!”

 

The Basement Boys, I think, must be loving this.

 

The Netflix special stops here for a BREAKING NEWS interlude, featuring Paul Sweetie in his white wedding dress, shouting into a mic:

 

“A contingent of highly undesirable aliens has just poured across our border,” he tells the cameras, as screens behind him show those same faceless soldiers from the Victory Parade shoving the Game characters into armored vans. “This wouldn’t have happened had adequate border security measures been taken by the previous administration, but let’s let bygones be bygones. What matters now is how we respond. And let me tell you, we’re going to respond with extreme violence. The dawn of a new Dodge City Genocide is upon us, folks!”

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I FINALLY MAKE IT BACK TO MY ROOM, or what looks like my Room but may in fact be a replica set up in the cramped closet off the hallway I’ve been in all this time, somewhere in the bowels of what used to be the Hotel and is now Pussygrab Palace.

 

My attention, as ever, is quickly absorbed by what’s up next on my laptop: a Netflix News special entitled “The Dodge City Basement Boys: a Key Component of Pussygrab’s Electorate,” billed as “an exclusive look into the depths of The Dodge City Pizza Basement, which is, depending on whom you ask, either Hell, Purgatory, or The Ark.”

 

As the opening titles fade, the screen makes a diving motion, like the camera’s being shoved down a hole, slowly coming into focus in a dim grotto thick with dust motes, Akira posters, and several generations of Playstation controllers balanced on a stack of waterlogged copies of Steppenwolf and Notes from Underground.

 

A skinny, nervous-looking boy in sweatpants and a Tool T-shirt sits scowling at his computer screen while an off-camera reporter clears her throat and says, “Ahem, so … can you tell us what’s been going on with you boys since Pussygrab became Mayor?”

 

The boy, who looks to be around thirty, shrugs and says, “No, but I’ll show you.” He presses Play on a video window on his computer, and the scene zooms in, into a similar basement, where a similar boy sits, grinning and ready to talk like he’s just been tapped-in on a wrestling tag team.

 

“So there was this breeding experiment about thirty years ago,” he begins, fondling a Playstation controller,”set in motion by Mayor Paul Broth, right before he hung himself on the Edge of Town instead of serving the life sentence for war crimes that all previous and subsequent Dodge City Mayors have served immediately after leaving office. In this experiment, a group of neuroscientists set out to discover if it was possible to breed people to have a sort of hyperawareness that would enable them to see beyond the fundamental idiocy, jingoism, and cowardice of the human race. It was, without doubt, Dodge City’s most significant post-humanist attempt to transcend its ancient animosities and superstitions, and thus finally approach Genuine Rational Thought, regardless of any loss in empathy and compassion that might go along with it.

 

“The answer to this experiment was yes, it is possible. The only problem?”

 

He grins and presses the X button on his controller, which sends us deeper into The Dodge City Pizza Basement, which seems to have many nested chambers.

 

Another boy snaps into alertness and says, clearing his throat, “The only problem was they only experimented on boys. Not a single girl among the initial control group. Make of that what you will. What did we make of it? Well, we tried to make the best of it. We got on 4chan and connected up.”

 

He presses Play on his computer screen and turns to face it, motioning for the camera to watch over his shoulder. Onscreen, a hulking samurai paces the ground with an angry erection protruding from his tunic. The boy on the near side of the screen blushes a little as he eases his pajama pants down and fits a joystick-sheath over his groin.

 

“Okay, here goes,” he says, as he starts manipulating the joystick while the samurai onscreen begins fucking a curvaceous anime princess in a nest of thorns. Tentacles, pincers, and other wild appendages grope the screen from all sides. It’s unclear whom they belong to, but they waste no time getting in on the action. Soon the scene looks like an orgy, although it still has only two main participants, as far as I can tell.

 

Each time the boy thrusts in his seat, the samurai thrusts onscreen, and the anime princess moans out a cloud of digital oohs and aahs.

 

Then the boy shudders and hunches over his desk. As he comes inside the joystick, the samurai comes onscreen, pumping the anime princess full before pulling out to reveal gouts of digital semen leaking onto the pixilated ground.

 

“I did it quick since you all were watching,” he says. “Normally I last a lot longer.”

 

Wiping himself off with a sock and pulling his pajama pants back up, he says, “In nine hours, my son will be born. He’ll be half-human and half-Game. Though of course that’s an over-simplification, since I myself am half-human and half-Game, my father being a 4chan Boy like me and my mother being a, well …” He nods upward at a poster for Ghost in the Shell, “you know.”

 

*****

The phrase “NINE HOURS LATER” flashes across my screen, but I can’t tell whether nine hours have actually passed, or only in screen-time. The two are hard to distinguish at this point.

 

Now I’m watching the anime princess give birth to a screaming bundle of pixilated flesh, which then stands, cries, wanders for a while and, after a cross-dissolve, ends up in a basement of its own, bleary-eyed, surrounded by half-eaten chicken nuggets and Chinese takeout, staring at a web browser with at least thirty tabs open.

 

After checking 4chan and posting some garden-variety Hate on a few of its message boards, he cries out, “Mom! Ice cream!”

 

A few moments later, the anime princess from the previous scene — middle-aged now — trudges into the Pizza Basement with an Ikea bowl full of Cherry Garcia, and leaves it near her son’s typing hand, wary of interrupting him. The boy seamlessly incorporates it, spooning ice cream into his open mouth with one hand and Tweeting slurs with the other.

 

*****

“EVERYTHING JUST STARTED TO SEEM FUTILE,” one of the boys says, many generations later. “Like it was all fake, a sham within a sham within a sham, you know?” He adjusts his crotch joystick, which appears to be in foreplay mode, not yet impacting his ability to speak. “Like we were a bunch of mules … an evolutionary dead end. An experiment that was called a success but wasn’t.”

 

“So us Basement Boys started to circle the notion that it was all a Game. You know, like Nietzsche said: the outside world was nothing but neo-liberal hand-wringing and rich bitches crying themselves to sleep in multimillion dollar penthouses. A bunch of smirking bleeding heart coastal dickweeds who insisted on taking everything way too seriously. I mean, how dumb do you have to be to believe that — and please quote me here — Good and Evil still exist? Even with so much obvious evidence to the contrary.”

 

He gestures at his basement bedroom here, as if to imply that this is the evidence he means.

 

“So all of us, through 4chan and through our characters in all the individual games we were playing, began to formulate the theory of The Game.”

 

“The Game?” the reporter asks.

 

The boy nods. “Yeah, the idea that it was all networked together at the very top. That the Apocalypse had already happened, and we were now living in its aftermath. We’ve come to believe that The Game — a fully unified field, the ultimate convergence of all human endeavor — is the only refuge of whatever survivors there are. The Pizza Basement’s an Ark that contains the entire world. The entire universe, even. Underlying all of Dodge City, it opens onto the infinite.”

 

“And Pussygrab?” the reporter asks, looking at her watch. “What does all this have to do with him?”

 

The boy yawns and presses his controller, taking us to a yet-deeper echelon. The air in the room I’ve been watching Netflix in gets tighter and ranker, the smell of old pizza boxes and Big Mac wrappers close to overwhelming.

 

*****

A NEW BOY LOOKS UP from his screen and says, “Well, Pussygrab was a test case. A Swamp Creature we all knew from The Game, a Boss if you like, a natural outgrowth of the Hate we’d been fomenting for years, but the fact that he was somehow also on the ballot in the so-called real world, in Dodge City itself … it was too much to resist. We had to see if, by electing him, Dodge City would prove incapable of accommodating his victory and collapse into chaos, thereby proving that The Game is not ubiquitous, or, as we suspected, whether he would be seamlessly integrated into his new role as Mayor, thus proving that The Game is indeed everything, and that there is no world outside of it. No rules but its rules.”

 

He takes a long slurp from a Big Gulp he’s apparently been cradling in his lap all this time. “And so far, I have to say, all signs point toward the latter. He’s been Mayor for two months now, and Dodge City’s still standing — from what I gather, since I admittedly haven’t been outside yet this year — so what does that tell you? I’d argue that it tells you there’s no getting beyond The Game. The fact that Pussygrab’s both a leering ghoul from the digital depths of Dead Sir whom we elected with our Playstation controllers, and also the actual, real-life Mayor? Doesn’t that pretty much prove that Dodge City can’t be a real place?

 

“At the very least,” he adds, taking another Big Gulp, “isn’t it the funniest thing ever?”

 

“Is it though?” I hear myself ask, shocked to discover I’m now Skyping with him. “I mean, people are going to die.”

 

He nods, unsurprised to be Skyping with me. “True, but think about it: somehow, we made him cross over. The human embodiment of the festering heart of 4chan is now Mayor! And not just our Mayor, but yours too. How could that not be funny? The Line’s been crossed and no one even gets it. You libtards still think the old rules apply.”

 

I stifle a cough and ask, “So what does that mean about the Pizza Basement?”

 

He waves his arm at the dank walls and taped-over windows surrounding him, eyeing a bowl of melted ice cream like he’s weighing the pros and cons of polishing it off. “It means, if you’re watching this, that you’ve survived the collapse of humanity and have, whether you like it or not, succeeded in uploading yourself to The Game. It’s all pretend, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

 

He blushes and stirs the melted ice cream, tasting it carefully. “On the other hand, we’re aware that if it’s all pretend that means we’re pretend too, so in a sense it’s also real. If we and The Game are made of the same code, then we’re not impervious to what goes on here. Which is why we’re kinda hoping Pussygrab doesn’t do that much damage in the end. In The Game, if you die, you have to restart the level. No biggie, in theory, but I’ll admit that we haven’t figured out a way to save our progress yet. And so, yeah, no one wants to go all the way back to the beginning if they can avoid it.”

 

He falls silent here, a bit shamefaced as he stares at me through the Skype window, which is somehow embedded in Netflix.

 

A while later, he says, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, it looks like my wife’s in labor.”

 

The broadcast cuts to the screen he’s watching, where the now-familiar sight of an anime princess giving birth is well underway.

 

*****

THE NETFLIX NEWS SPECIAL ENDS with the termination of the Skype call, and I end up back in the room I started in, though the smell of old pizza boxes and Big Macs and bowls of curdled ice cream and discarded Big Gulps and cum-rags surrounds me, and I have to say I’m not as surprised as I wish I were.

 

Sighing, I log onto Twitter to see what Pussygrab’s been up to since last I checked, thinking, I’ll just clear my mind a little before watching Paul Sweetie Vs. The Dodge City Dead, which is already starting up on Netflix in one of my thirty open tabs.