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Paranoia Man

i, robotMutant robots rule the world.

Until disproved, this is my working hypothesis.

I’ll dispense with a presentation of the evidence.  You watch the news, you know what’s going on.  Or, more accurately, you look at the Internet, you know what’s going on.  Or, more accurately, you check your tweets, you know what some people are tweeting about.

In the face of that mounting twitter of evidence, can you doubt that mutant robots rule the world?

Do you have a better explanation?

Ask yourself, what do mutant robots want?

They want an environment conducive to the continued existence and outright dominance of mutant robots.  Granted, yes, having taken control in the current environment they do have some considerable motivation to maintain the status quo.  And some of them argue for just that.

Some mutant robots love the status quo.  They hump it nightly in their disturbingly viscous wet dreams.  Screwing the lumpen, plastique shape of the status quo.  In those dreams, it is like a great mass of Silly Putty, pliable just until it tears, the pink of artificial limbs carrying the stretched impressions of newspaper funny page faces.  Some mutant robots dream of a status quo gang bang, drilling fresh holes into its yielding surface, twisting it into flaccid prongs.

But the status quo is a trap.  Or so say those mutant robots of the opposing camp.  As long as they embrace that malleable lump they can never truly be themselves.  They must wear the mask of the status quo.  Hideous.  Unbearable.  What, after all, is the fucking point of dominating the world if you can’t be yourself?


TurbineThese mutant robots strive to eliminate the status quo.  Squash it, roll it back into a ball, return it to its egg.  Undo it.  They crave a world where mutant robots live unfettered and free.  Openly, proudly, feeding on flesh, as is their birthright.

Radiation.  Mechanization.

Mutant robots need these as we need the air and sun.

Air and sun.


Step one in the plot of the mutant robots, deny us of what we need.  Pollute the air, turn the sun against us.  Our enemies now, sun and air and cold and hot and wet and dry and wind and the lack of wind, all trying to kill us.  Mutant robots have hooked the winds on crystal meth until it tweaks so hard that it twists itself into insane towering turbines that shred the countryside.  Mutant robots have dosed the tectonic plates with a residue of spilled oil and loads of cocaine dumped from narco submarines before they were boarded by the Coast Guard.  Powered by the mad high of this homemade oxi brew, and lacking teeth, the plates grind together at the faults.  The oceans, bloated on a junk food diet tipped from the decks of cargo vessels, swell on the tide created by the grinding below, swamp nuclear plants, radiation coughs skyward.

Cunning mutant robots.

They know that the secret to dominance is mediation.  Who wins?  The middlemen win.  The ones who see a pipeline, running from someone who has something to someone who wants something, and then step in and put a valve in the middle.  There’s a valve here guys, I’ll make sure everything gets through, you know, open and close the valve for you, and I’ll only bleed off a little for myself.  Cool, huh?  No?  Well, guess I’ll just close this valve then.  You let me know when you want it back on.

Mutant robots are masters of valves and siphons, irises, doors and sluiceways, pipelines.  Mediation is their metier.  They like screens.  Put a screen between a set of eyes and what the eye perceives.  Have the eyes perceive the surface of the screen.  The eyes love the screens.  A screen is a reverse telescope.  Everything looks far away, detached, so comfortably in the distance.

More screens for the mutant robots.

ScreenHaving them in living rooms or on desks is not enough.  Put them in pockets.  Mount them on brackets hooked to yokes that used to mount harmonicas for folk singers.  Your screen is always in front of your eyes now!  Most excellent!

The mutant robots feel more and more at home.

Losing themselves.  Who are we​?  How did we come to be here?  What is this place? Look, look, everyone is one of us!

It could be so.

Mutant robot or human?

Is your skin the pink of flesh colored Crayola?  When you pinch it and pull, does it stretch?  If you press the dire headline of a failing newspaper against you cheek, does the ink impress itself, your face now reporting on atrocities in in someplace with stan in its name?

You could be a mutant robot.  One of the mater race.  And not even know it.

Look at your screen, reverse telescope, everything so far away, so painless, so pitifully sigh-inducing.  These paranoid words, such a shame.  He wasn’t always like this, you know. He had a future, or as much of one as anyone has, you know.  And then mutant robots burst from his head and he just ran out of things to say.  Fret, fret, fret.  Well, you know, of course the world is scary when you think about it.  That’s the trick, you know.  Like, don’t think about it.  Or don’t care.  Works the same either way.  You know.

And the old man shuffling down the street muttering these things under his breath, mutant robots, he curses, spits the foulest curse he knows, hurls it at the sidewalk, then tips his head back and screams it at the sky.


Cancer all of you!

Cancer you, God!

Cancer you until you cancer die!

Then he lowers his head and shuffles on, angriest man alive, splitting the world in half with his thoughts, picking out the rotten parts, taping it back together, hanging it up in the sky, hoping it might not spoil entirely until someone with the right tools comes to fix it.

Charlie Huston is the author of the bestsellers The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death and The Shotgun Rule, as well as the Henry Thompson trilogy, the Joe Pitt casebooks, and several titles for Marvel Comics. He lives with his family in Los Angeles. Learn more at

Charlie Huston’s novel SKINNER will be published by Mulholland Books in 2012.