In the Altered States of America, warped perceptions are king and melodrama runs high. In this original series from Brooklyn-based illustrator Mike Reddy and writer Matthew Newton, a new short story is published each day throughout the month of July.
When the heatwave struck it came down hard in the Borough of Beards. Not since The Great Perspiration of 1898 had temperatures reached such sweltering heights. Men of all shapes and sizes immediately took note of a dramatic physiological shift: Their faces were hot, and worse yet, itchy.
Some found relief by planting their face in an open icebox. Others just cried. Many hid from the sun beneath parasols purchased at Urban Beardfitters, a local retailer that had been exploiting the crisis while at the same time attempting to reignite a 19th century fashion trend. An alarming number took to shaving their beards off and wearing prop facial hair purchased at a local costume shop. Women joined in too, bearding up because they wanted to. No longer was the instant indie credibility of haggard facial hair reserved for boyfriends and hip dads. The cry “Beards for everyone!” was chanted a couple times, then it quickly died out.
As temperatures climbed, desperation set in. The sound of breaking glass could be heard and car alarms screamed in the distance. One young man attempted to uncork a fire hydrant with the bottle opener from his keychain. When it didn’t work he sat down on a curb and sulked, occasionally looking around to see if anyone had noticed. A few entrepreneurial types wrung the sweat from their beards into Dixie cups and sold it to parched tourists. When the tourists got sick, the sweat salesmen were carried away on the shoulders of an angry mob.
Next came the blackouts. Electricity faltered, then disappeared. Citizens panicked. Women and children fled. The Beardos who remained did their best to adjust, but life had become increasingly difficult. Cafes and bars closed. Organic food stores were looted. Mopeds sat neglected. The black market thrived, however, selling ice blocks and air conditioners, generators and gasoline siphoned from the tanks of abandoned Vespa scooters. Resourceful Beardos powered their smartphones with car batteries, but screamed in frustration when no apps would open. Some still tried to blog, staring at blank laptop screens, typing until their fingertips hurt. One young man stood on a newspaper box and proclaimed “Typewriters are the new computers!” but was quickly subdued. The phrase “No Internet, No Fun” was spraypainted on billboards, subway walls, and the homeless.
Tensions boiled over though when one man, a borough elder with a great flowing beard screamed, “Let’s eat the young!” That’s when the rain came, and the heat finally broke.