In Quiddity, the sixth sense is sympathy
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Part VII Lessons
Chapters 1 to 3
Part VII chapter 1
Joy, freedom and power are very difficult for most of us find and even more difficult to accept!
Quiddity has its own purposes and is open to only its invited guests
Quiddity appears to be the stuff of your own imagination. It cannot be experienced objectively
In Quiddity, the sixth sense is sympathy
In Quiddity, the sixth sense is sympathy
The sea does not change you if you trust it and share your joy with it
Quiddity reveals the pettiness of whiners
Part VII chapter 2
Telling a preposterous truth to the boss will sound to him like a resignation letter
It is worth while to contact the mess maker and ask his help in undoing his catastrophe
It takes a misfit to be a good shaman
Sometimes a screenwriter or researcher makes a good shaman
If your locale and home are identical, you won't leave it even if there is mortal danger
A person may flee a place where he fears he is losing his mind
The quiet flight of those in retreat, silently of a single mind, is not a mob nor a riot
Part VII chapter 3
The home of quality is where bridges are built like buttresses and gossamer buildings soar
Even the most magnificent tranquility can grow sour
Acquiring a glimpse of the great and secret show is worth dying for
Horror at the sudden disfigurement of a loved one must be disguised
There is a horrible listlessness that will not listen to a human warning of danger
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Part VII chapter 1
Presidents, messiahs, shamans, popes, saints and lunatics had attempted – over the passage of a millennium – to buy, murder, drug and flagellate themselves into Quiddity. Almost to a one, they'd failed. The dream-sea had been more or less preserved, its existence an exquisite rumor, never proved, and all the more potent for that. The dominant species of the Cosm had kept what little sanity it possessed by visiting the sea in sleep, three times in a life span, and leaving it, always wanting more. That hunger had fuelled it. Made it ache, made it rage. Made it do good in the hope, often unconscious, of being granted more regular access. Made it do evil out of the idiot suspicion that it was conspired against by its enemies, who knew the secret but weren't telling. Made it create gods. Made it destroy gods.
The few who'd taken the journey that Howie, Jo-Beth, Tommy-Ray and twenty-two guests from Buddy Vance's house were taking now had not been accidental travelers. They'd been chosen, for Quiddity's purposes, and gone (for the most part) prepared.
Howie, on the other hand, was no more prepared for this than any stick of furniture hauled into the throat of the schism. He thought he was going through a loop and then through a lightning storm in the middle of a thunderhead. He conjured Jo-Beth's face. He composed words of love to her. The only thing he envied Tommy-Ray for consisted of the time Tommy had spent in the womb with Jo-Beth and the twins had been safe together as one.
Then he was transported to childhood memories of Chicago. He was running along a pier. But he wondered if this was a pier of pure thought. Tens of thousands of incandescent lights moved in the waters ahead. Howie found that he was glowing himself, like a faint echo of Fletcher's light.
Approaching the end of the pier and its barrier, he realized that this was no lake but Quiddity itself, which would close over his head in a moment.. He wasn't afraid. The barrier flew apart when he touched it, proving it wasn't real. And he fell into the dream-sea. He looked back at the pier, and it was flying apart, too. He had left the Cosm and floating in Quiddity.
Jo-Beth and Tommy-Ray were sucked out of the Cosm together, but their mind pictured the journey in different ways.
Jo-Beth was horrified by leaving the Cosm, but the thunderhead calmed her. It was Momma who gripped her arm as they walked in a soothing twilight with grass underfoot. Momma was singing a hymn. Jo-Beth was telling Momma school lessons to show that she was a good girl. Momma disappeared, the grass turned to sand, she saw lighted boats upon the sea, and then the ground vanished as she fell into the sea.
Tommy-Ray's journey was different. He found himself at Topanga. He was getting a sun tan while girls were laughing. He started walking to the surf, knowing the girls were watching him as they always did. He saw phosphorescence in their skin, which frightened him, but he didn't want the girls to see he was afraid. But he was terrified.. Surfers had fallen from their board from radiation poisoning. He could see their silvery skin in places. Their girls were with them, dead as the surfers in tainted foam.
Tommy knew he had to join them. The shame of turning away and returning to the beach was too much. The poison was already in his system and making his body brighter. Then something brushed his side. It was Jo-Beth. He wanted to hide his fear, but his teeth were chattering. He begged for help.
“You're the only one who can help me,” he said. I'm dying.
“You're the only one who can help me,” he said. I'm dying.
Jo Beth said if he's dying, she is too.
Tommy wanted to know how he got there and what Jo-Beth, who didn't like the beach, was doing there.
“This isn't the beach. This is Quiddity, Tommy-Ray. Remember? We're on the other side of the hole. You pulled us through.” She asked him to remember.
He began to sob. Then he held on to her. “Hush,” she said. “Hush. There's nothing we can do.”
Howie, however was enjoying the sea. He floated and looked up at the featureless sky. There were waves of color moving through the air, though like an enormous Aurora Borealis. Seeing things in the sky was as much a matter of feeling as of retina. The sixth sense was sympathy.
Contented, he practiced the basic swimming strokes. The lights around him were too indefinite to be used as markers. He wondered if they were dreaming souls, perhaps infants, lovers and the dying. He put his face in the water and saw lights below him. Some were in groups, rising and falling shoals of lights. He thought of Jo-Beth and warned himself not to be stupefied by it so as to forget her.
He raised his face from the sea and avoided, by moments, a collision with a fragment of garishly colored wreckage from the Vance house. Close by was a large blob that stood four feet out of the water. He climbed aboard it and realized that it was alive. It was two furious beings, Sam Sagansky and Doug Frankl. The structure of comedian and pianist was still sprouting further nodules. He saw other things floating. Planks, the head of a carousel horse, apparently horrified by its predicament, but these things didn't sprout any nodules or grow and coral about themselves, only the living achieved that accomplishment. Howie wondered if Quiddity could grow from the horse's head some island named for the horse's maker? Anything was possible.
Jo-Beth herself realized that she wasn't alone. She was finding it hard to pay attention to Tommy-Ray and his whining. Tommy talked about meeting his father, about going to the Mission. She'd never heard him so articulate as when he talked about being the Death-Boy. He babbled about Andy, a surfer with a tattoo who said he'd go out on the crests at Topanga and die. “He was a coward. He made a lot of noise but he was a coward. I'm not, am I? I”m no momma's boy...”
He starting crying harder, babbling about the Death Boy and killing people. He looked straight at her, “It wasn't me. It was the dead people. I went looking for you, and they followed me. I couldn't shake them off. I tried, Jo-Beth, I really tried.”
Her action wasn't that violent, but it churned Quiddity's element out of all proportion to the size of her emotion. She was vaguely aware that her repugnance was the cause of this; that Quiddity was matching her mental agitation with its own.
“It wouldn't have happened if you'd stayed with me” he protested. “You should have stayed, Jo-Beth.”
She kicked away from him, her feelings making Quiddity boil. “”Bastard!” she yelled at him. “You killed her! You killed her!”
He grappled for her. “Don't leave me!” he started to shout. “I won't let you leave me!”
Enough was enough, Jo-Beth thought. This man might be her brother, her twin, but he was guilty of matricide. Momma had survived the Jaff, Pastor John and Palomo Grove, only to be killed in her own house, by her own son. His crime was beyond forgiveness.
He reached for her again, but this time she was ready. She hit hm across the face once, then once again, as hard as she could muster. His shock caused him to loosen his grip on her, and she kicked and churned the sea in his face. She realized her body was not as sleek as it had once been, but was too busy to look and see why. She never wanted him to touch her again. Once clear of him and danger, she raised her hands an see that her fingers were encrusted, as though she'd dipped her hands in oil and oatmeal; her arms were misshapen with some similar filth. She knew that Quiddity was making her fury solid. Forms were springing from her flesh as ugly as the rage which inspired them.
Days, nights, names, towns or dead mothers meant nothing here. All that made sense to her was Howie. He was all she had left.
It took a while for her to conjure up his image, but then she did,. She sobbed and begged for help. Save me,” she sobbed, hoping against hope that Quiddity's strange waters carried her despair to him. “Save me, or it's over.”
Part VII, chapter 2
Grillo called his editor at six in the morning. His boss was cranky and suspicious about being bothered at such an hour, especially since Grillo hadn't called for days.
Grillo told him he was going to give him the exact correct story of what happened and the the edits fall where they may. His boss found the idea that life is a movie and that reality can be torn open into another dimension to be preposterous. “Is this a resignation letter?” he asked Grillo.
Grillo asked if he were calling to report a resurrection and a stone rolled away, would his editor report that?
The boss said of course, it actually happened.
“So did this, “Grillo replied, offering proof to come soon enough. He told the editor that there was a memorial party the previous night attended by the royalty of Hollywood. A void to another dimension was opened and a lot of them were sucked into the void, including Buddy Vance's widow, Rochelle.
The editor called him nuts.
“You watch the news through the day. You'll see... there's a lot of famous people missing this morning. Studio executives, movie stars, agents...”
The editor wanted Grillo's location and number so he could check some things and call back in five minutes. Then he hung up.
“I did it,” Grillo said to Tesla. But Tesla thought it was unwise to broadcast this news. “It's been a secret for so long.”
“Yeah, for people like your friend Kissoon.”
“He's not my friend.”
“For Christ's sake, Grillo, you heard what he did --”
“So why do you talk about him with this sneaking envy in your voice, huh?”
She looked at him like he'd just slapped her.
“Call me a liar?” he said.
They quarreled furiously. Tesla was worried and thought Grillo irresponsible. Grillo was jealous of Tesla's spiritual power but thought keeping it secret was more dangerous than letting the news out. Tesla countered that letting the news out would create a traffic jam and tourist mecca right into the maw of the wound in time open to Quiddity. “Didn't think of that, did you?” Tesla shrieked. “And while we're talking turkey, you --”
And the phone rang. It was the editor calling back. All kinds of important people were missing. He wanted a draft story from Grillo in an hour.
Tesla was given the gift of a draft that left out the details and the opening in time. She wanted the time to try to find the Jaff. Maybe he could be talked into undoing the opening. Grillo asked her if she thought the hole can be closed.
“I told you, I don't know. Maybe. I don't have any other answers, Grillo.”
“And what happens to the people inside? The McGuire twins. Katz. The rest.”
“They're probably dead already,” she signed. “We can't help them.”
Grillo admitted he wasn't a big hero. He was thankful Tesla saved his life. But he was still the same man, the man who wanted the story to get out.
“It will,” Tesla said quickly. “It will.”
“But you.. you've changed,” he added.
Tesla agreed. She felt resurrected and not freaked out by it. She felt cool. Fine. Able to walk around in a time loop, and “It's like I was born for this, Grillo. Like I could be... you know what a shaman is? He's a mind-healer. Gets inside the collective psyche and explains it. Stirs it around. I think all the major performers in this –Kissoon, the Jaff, Fletcher, they're shamans. And Quiddity... is America's dream-space. The world's, maybe. I've seen these men,” she added, make a mess of it, because they were all on their own trips, even Fletcher.
“So maybe what's needed is a change of shaman,” Grillo said.
“Yeah. Why not?” Tesla replied. “I can't do any worse than they have.”
“That's why you want to keep it to yourself.”
“That's one of the reasons, sure. I can do this, Grillo. I'm weird enough, and most of these shamans, you know, were a little off in some way. Cross-dressers; gender tricksters. All things to all men. Animal, vegetable and mineral. I want to be that. I've always wanted... you know what I've always wanted.”
“Not till now.”
“Well now you do.”
And she told Grillo she wanted to prowl around and try to find the Jaff. Grillo thought the Jaff might have left after the ghastly party.
“I don't think he's capable,” said Tesla. “The circle's closing. Getting tighter and tighter. Coney Eye's suddenly the center of the known universe.” Grillo added that it was also the center of the unknown. Tesla didn't know that for sure. “I think Quiddity's maybe more like home than we think.”
As they left the hotel parking lot as dawn approached, a grimy man stepped out of the murk and spoke to Grillo. “My name's Witt. I used to have offices in the Mall. And friends here at the hotel. They told me about you.” He said that he was at the mansion when hell broke loose. Now there is no Grove left, people have fled the town in terror.
Tesla told him to get out of town. Things were dangerous and likely to get worse.
Witt refused to leave.
“I've got nowhere to go. Besides, this is my town. If it's going to get swallowed up somehow, then I want to be here when it goes. Even if the Jaff --”
“Wait!” said Tesla. “What do you know about the Jaff?”
“I met him. Tommy-Ray McGuire's his son, you know that?” Tesla nodded. “Well, McGuire introduced me to the Jaff.”
Tesla wanted to know where. “In Cherry Tree Glade,” at a house Witt was inspecting.
Grillo asked if Witt thought the Jaff would go back there? Witt said he felt the Jaff would want to retreat to some place familiar, someplace safe.
Dawn showed Grillo and Tesla a nearly deserted town. There was a pack of domestic dogs roving the streets, having turned into a small scavenging band. Witt recognized the dogs, including Mrs. Duffin's poodles. There were two dachshunds belonging to Blaze Hubbard, the pups of the pups of the pups of dogs owned by a Grover who'd died when Witt was a boy, one Edgar Lott, who died and left his money to be used to put of a memorial to the League of Virgins.
There were other signs of hurried exits. Garage doors left open; toys dropped on the front path or in the driveway. “Everybody knew,” Witt said as they drove. “They knew all along but nobody said anything. That's why most of them just slipped away in the middle of the night. They thought they were the only ones who were losing their minds. They all thought they were the only ones."
Grillo and Tesla debated with Witt over whether the Grove had been chosen as the location for this disaster or whether it was all an accident. Then the house loomed nearby. They checked it but no one was there. At the house across the street, someone had left water running, and it ran down the driveway into the street.
Grillo stared at it. “I think I know where he's gone....The place he knows best in the Grove isn't above ground, it's below.”
Tesla realized Grillo was talking about the cave below the crevasse. It made perfect sense to her. Witt suggested Hotchkiss could help clamber down into the caves. The three of them went to the woods and looked at the crevasse. A terata was near the entrance. Tesla felt they should avoid the terata and not touch it or speak to it. They left to find Hotchkiss. “Do you know where he lives? Asked Grillo.
“I know where everybody lives,” Witt replied.
Grillo instructed Witt to take Tesla to Hotchkiss and wait for him there. He was going to make sure that Ellen had left the Grove,. He left them at the car and started off in the direction of the Nguyen house. Witt stayed with Tesla but was hypnotized by the trees around the crevasse, as if they were calling him back into some shared past.
Part VII chapter 3
Howie didn't come to help Jo-Beth. But the tide did the work, carrying her toward the isle of Ephemeris. There was the beginning of a disturbance in the element that bore her up, but she was ignorant of it. Others were not. There was a subtle but undeniable agitation passing among the souls swimming in Quiddity's ether. Their motion was no longer steady. Some stopped advancing and hung in the darkness. Others took themselves deeper, hoping to avoid the cataclysm that was being whispered. Still others, these very few as yet, went out altogether, waking in their beds in the Cosm grateful to be out of danger. The pleasure of Quiddity outweighed the anxiety.
Howie was thinking of Ephemeris also. His father said it was the location of The Great and Secret Show, which raised more questions than it answered. Then he saw it himself, and it was beyond his expectations. It was not a single land-mass but many, perhaps hundreds of masses, joined by arches of rock, the whole archipelago resembling a vast, floating cathedral, the bridges like buttresses, the islands towers which mounted in scale as they approached the central island, from which solid pillars of smoke rose to meet the sky. This image was surely the subconscious inspiration of architects the world over. It was a dream place somewhere in the back of the human mind that was paid homage to by masterworks that were only approximations, compromises with gravity and the limitations of the medium used. The Ephemeris was many miles across, and there was no portion that had not been touched by genius. It was a frenzy of invention. There was towers as fine as reeds with globes the size of houses balanced upon them; there were sheer cliff faces fluted like shells and canyon walls that seemed to billow like curtains at a window; there were spiral hills; boulders like breasts... A fragment where he'd seen a face was part of another likeness upon a second glance, each interpretation subject to change at a moment's notice. The smoke that rose from so many towers created a haze that prevented Howie from seeing the pinnacles of the towers. But using his own strokes and help from the tide, he was able to reach the shore about 15 minutes after first seeing the island. The shoreline was dark, though not as dark as the sea, and instead of a sand beach there were encrustations like coral. Howie wondered if it was possible that the island was made of many years of encrusted voyagers washed here.
He walked along, always choosing a left intersection as was his habit, staying close to the beach in hopes of finding Jo-Beth. Howie was worried about Tommy-Ray and his phantoms, as well. A greater concern, though, was his sense that something was changing in Quiddity. The wave action was changing, the light of the sky was fluctuating. Something was souring the magnificent tranquility of the place.
Howie's hope to find Jo-Beth was encouraged when he saw flotsam from the Vance mansion, and especially encouraged when he found another survivor. She was standing and looking out to sea. “Excuse me,” he said, “are you the only one here?”
She looked around at him and he got a second surprise. He'd seen this face dozens of times on TV, extolling the virtues of shampoo. He didn't know her name. She was simply the Silksheen Woman. She frowned at him, so he repeated his question.
“Yes.” She told him to keep on walking to find them. Then she seemed confused, unable to understand what happened. “Oh,” she added “Do you have any coke? Or pills? Anything?”
“Sorry,” Howie replied.
Howie continued along the beach, noticing the increased wave action and changes in the sky. He climbed over some boulders to continue his walk, and in doing so noticed some additional survivors. None seemed able to climb more than a few yards from the sea. The same languor that kept the Silksheen Woman staring out of Quiddity had affected these survivors as well, though some were inert for a different reason. Quiddity had changed them. Their bodies were encrusted and misshapen, as though the same process that had turned the warring guests into an island was underway in them, too. Why were they encrusted and some others, including himself, had stepped out of Quiddity unchanged?
There was one man who wasn't mesmerized by the sea. Howie asked him about other survivors, describing Jo-Beth. But this man didn't know, hadn't seen anyone else, but was fascinated by the towers of smoke. He wanted to climb up and see what he could from as high as he could climb. Howie wasn't interested in joining the climb until the man offered having him come part of the way and getting a better view. “Maybe you'll spot your lady-friend.”
Howie agreed, especially with the unrest he felt in the air. The climber turned out to be Garrett Byrne, an entertainment lawyer whose swim in Quiddity had encrusted his left hand badly. But he still wanted to climb. Howie was willing to go part of the way.
Tommy-Ray felt the dream-sea working on him, but he didn't look at the changes, he just let the fury that was fuelling those changes come. Then he thought of the phantoms. Then the wind shifted and he could smell them coming for him. Then he could see wisps of cloud circling around him as the sea worked on him to make him heavier. His face itched furiously. He couldn't deny responsibility in Quiddity. There were no lies or pretenses here. As he swallowed water and sank into the sea, knowledge flooded him. There was an evil coming worse than anything he had ever imagined. It was called the Iad, and it was darker and more murderous than anything in the universe.
He was returned to the surface. The cloud of ghosts was gone because they had become part of him. He took a breath and laughed. He then brought his remade, heavy hands to his face. He had taken on the shape of his own soul.
Howie and Byrne climbed for several minutes, Byrne getting more and more enthusiastic about the towers. Having only one hand available, Byrne repeatedly slipped, but he didn't complain. Howie had no trouble keeping up, because he paused frequently to look down to the beach for signs of Jo-Beth. The journey was increasingly perilous, as the bridges they crossed got narrower and the formations steeper. As they climbed, there were fewer and fewer spirits in the air.. Howie saw a formation of them in a single sinuous line, like a bright snake. Genesis couldn't have been more misguided, or misguiding, he thought, to picture the serpent crushed beneath a human heel. The soul was that serpent, and it could fly. That sight brought him to a halt and to a decision. “I'm not going any further,” he said.
The figures on the shore were barely recognizable at this height, anyway. Byrne asked if Howie wanted to see what's up there, and Howie said he did, but it could wait for another time. Howie knew there would be no other time this side of the death-bed.
“I'll leave you, then,” Byrne said, and without a good-bye continued his climb.
Howie scanned the beach. There was the Silksheen Woman. There were the survivors he'd talked to. And there was a new person stumbling ashore. Her hair shone, even at this distance. It could only be Jo-Beth. It looked as though every step she took was an agony.
He immediately started down the way they'd come, the rock marked in several places by splashes of Byrne's blood. After ten minutes of descent, he looked back to see if he could spot the man, but the heights were dark and, as far as he could see empty.
When he turned back downward, there was something to see. The man was standing two or three yards lower down the slope. The multitude of wounds he'd collected on is way up were nothing beside his newest. It ran from the side of his head to his hip, and it had opened him up to his innards. “I fell,” he said simply. He said he'd come down of his own accord. “I'm larvae now,” meaning ghost. Spirit.
“It was a long drop, but it ended well. I don't think anybody ever died on the Ephemeris before. That makes me one of one. I can make up my own rules. Play it any way I like,. And I thought I should come help Howie.” He was speaking with calm authority. “You have to be quick. I understand a lot of things suddenly, and the news isn't good.”
“Something's happening, isn't it?”
“The Iad,” Byrne said. “They're starting across Quiddity.
“What are Iad?” Howie asked.
“Evil beyond words,” Byrne said, “so I won't even try.”
“Going to the Cosm?”
“Yes. Maybe you can get there ahead of them.”
“Trust to the sea. It wants what you want.”
“You, out.” Byrne said. “So go. And quickly.”
Byrne stood aside to let Howie pass. As he did so he took hold of Howie's arm with his good hand. “You should know... what's on the mountain. It's wonderful.”
“Worth dying for?”
“A hundred times.” He let go of Howie.
“If Quiddity survives,” Byrne said, “If you survive this, look for me. I'm going to be wanting words with you.”
“I will,” Howie replied , and began down the slope as fast as he was able, his descent veering between the ungainly and the suicidal. He ran down to the beach and along the beach. When he thought he was in hailing distance, he called her name. But there was no answer. Running closer, he called her name again. “Jo-Beth! It's me! Jo-Beth!”
This time she did hear, and she looked up. Even with several yards between them he could see clearly the reason for her stumbling. Horrified, he slowed his pace, barely aware he was doing so. Quiddity had been at work on her. The face he'd fallen in love with at Butrick's Steak House, the face from the sight of which he dated his life, was a mass of spiky growths that spread down her neck and disfigured her arms. There was a moment, one he'd never quite forgive himself for, in which he wished she wouldn't know him, and he'd be able to walk on past her. But she did; and the voice that came from behind the mask was the same that had told him she loved him.
Now it said, “Howie... help me...”
He opened his arms and let her come into them. Her body was feverish, racked with shudders.
“I thought I'd never see you again,” she said, her hands over her face.
“I wouldn't have left you.”
“At least we can die together now.”
“He's gone,” she said.
“We've got to do the same,” Howie said. “Get off the island as quickly as possible. Something terrible's coming.”
She dared to look up at him, her eyes clear and blue as ever. He held her tighter, as if to prove to her and to himself that he'd mastered the horror. He hadn't. It was her beauty that had first taken his breath away. Now that was gone. He had to look beyond its absence to the Jo-Beth he'd later come to love. That was going to be hard. He looked away from her toward the sea. The waves were thunderous.
“We have to go back into Quiddity,” he said.
“We can't!” she said. “I can't!”
She didn't want to go back into the water that disfigured her. He insisted, telling her they would die if they stayed. “Maybe that's for the best,” she said. But Howie argued about that.
”The sea'll kill us anyway. It'll twist us all up,” she said.
“Not if we trust it. Give ourselves over to it,” he answered.
Howie knew that the sea was no longer tranquil. But there was no choice.
Jo-Beth wanted to stay. She wanted to die on Ephemeris together with Howie. “ – even if we got back I couldn't live like this.”
“Stop crying,” he told her. “And stop talking about dying. We're going to get back to the Grove. Both of us. If not for our sakes, then to warn people... There's something coming across Quiddity. An invasion. Heading home. That's why the sea's going wild.”
The commotion in the sky was also violent. There were no spirit-lights. Every last dreamer had forsaken the journey and woken. He envied them the ease of that passage. Just to be able to snap out of his horror and find yourself back in your own bed. Sweaty, maybe; scared, certainly. But home. Sweet and easy. Not so for the trespassers like themselves, flesh and blood in a place of spirit. Nor, how he thought of it, for the others here. He owed them a warning, though he suspected his words would be ignored. “Come with me,” he said to Jo-Beth.
Howie warned them but none were roused from their languor. None wanted to risk the angry sea. “It's now or never,” he said to Jo-Beth. There was resistance in her body and her expression. “Trust me,” he said.
She didn't answer him, but she didn't fight to stay on the beach. A distressing docility had come over her. Howie hoped that Quiddity would leave her alone this time,. He was worried about his own trip into Quiddity, since he wasn't as calm and unworried as the previous swim. There was an urgency to this, and he could feel it and sense it in his own past, though the specifics eluded him. It didn't matter.
Whatever the Iad were, they brought pain; relentless, unendurable. A holocaust which every property of death would be explored and celebrated but the virtue of cessation, which would be postponed until the Cosm was a single human sob for release. Somewhere he'd known a hint of this before, in a little corner of Chicago. Perhaps his mind was doing him service, refusing to remember where.
The waves were a yard ahead, rising in slow arcs and booming as they broke.
“This is it,” he said to Jo-Beth.
Her only response – one he was mightily grateful for – was to tighten her hold on his hand, and together they stepped back into the transforming sea.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Part VI Lessons
Chapters 9 to 11
Part VI chapter 9
It's possible to go to war for the purpose of killing off the ghosts that haunt you
Going to war should mean that within your own mind you should be ready to die
One who loves you will tell you “Do what you feel is right” rather than “Do as I want”
Part VI chapter 10
Listless, stupified people are utterly useless in a crisis
Young persons are often kind and helpful but very often unable to understand a crisis
Unless bored or discouraged, a mob gets more unruly as time goes on
Fanatics and crazy persons should never see or hear you praying, it eggs them on
Part VI chapter 11
Some individuals are born to be witnesses regardless of the fear or danger
Abject devotion and worship strips a woman of her beauty
Under extreme pressure and danger, a shudder of contemplaing death is appropriate
Some situations are so extreme that there is no safe distance from them
The strongest call may be of a thing to its opposite, its natural enemy
Melancholy and civil spirits may nonetheless fight like animals when required
Sometimes we don't realize how much we hate someone until he destroys himself
When help retreats from grave danger, it may be just to get necessary supplies
Love can move us to take any risk of life or limb
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Part VI Chapter 9
Howie and Jo-Beth slept in the Grove after making love. The sun went down and they remained asleep. Jo-Beth awoke to a balmy night but there was motion in the leaves. There was a strange glow in the trees. There were odd glowing lights all around them.
She awoke Howie and fumbled around to find his glasses for him. He thought they were ghosts. He got dressed and noticed that the two of them were surrounded by lights. A small figure appeared before them. It was Benny Patterson. Howie last saw him in the street outside Lois Knapp's house, calling him. Benny's face was blurred, his features fuzzy and jittery. Benny greeted Howie.
Howie wanted the hallucinogenic creatures to show themselves. They walked out of the woods towards him. They were all getting fuzzy an indistinct.
“I know what you ant from me,” Howie said. “But I can't supply it. This isn't my war.”
One of the creatures, a woman, stepped forward. “Your father's spirit's in all of us. If you turn your back on us you turn your back on him.”
Howie told her it wasn't that simple. He had others to consider, especially Jo-Beth, daughter of the Jaff but the love of his life. He told them he put her above Fletcher and the spirit war.
The cowboy stepped forward and apologized for what he'd said. No one argued with the apology. “So you'll lead us?” the cowboy asked.
“The Jaff's on the hill. About to use the Art,” said the woman.
“How do you know?” Howie asked.
“We're Fletcher's spirit,” the cowboy said. “We know the Jaff's purpose.”
“And you know how to stop him?”
“No,” the woman returned. “But we have to try. Quiddity must be preserved.”
Howie demurred. He said he was no tactician.
Benny declared that the spirits were decaying, getting dreamy. They needed someone to keep us to their purpose. “He's right,” said the woman. “We're not here long. Many of us won't make it through to morning. We have to do what we can. Quickly.”
Howie turned to Jo-Beth for advice. “You do what feels right,” she advised.
Howie thought that maybe by facing this confrontation he'd be free of Fletcher. And Jo-Beth had paid for her freedom by losing her family. Maybe it was his turn to pay.
“All right,” he said to the assembly. “We'll go up the Hill” to the mansion.
He put his arms around Jo-Beth and hugged her to him. I suppose I'm ready to die, he thought. Or as ready as I'll ever be.
Part VI chapter 10
Back at the mansion, Eve left the top floor room breathless and terrified. She waited long enough to hear Lamar's death-cough. Then she hurried down the flight to raise the alarm.
Eve ran to Sam Sagansky to tell him of the horror she saw. But Sam was neutral and passive. There were about twenty other listless guests in the area, all of them looking up to the ceiling. She descended another staircase to the main floor, where the piano was still playing amid a party of a half-dozen people. They were all leaving the party and saying good-bye to Rochelle. They didn't have time for Eve. When the guests left, Rochelle herself looked slack and stared upstairs, so Eve knew there was no help there.
Eve tried to convince a young group to help her confront the Jaff on the third floor, but they wanted to leave and thought her drunk. Sam Sagansky was walking toward them, telling the young stars that he would look after Eve. Eve wandered around the main floor, looking in vain for help. She concentrated on the piano player, Doug Frankl. She asked him to play something loud and fast.
He wanted a drink. Eve said the two of them could go to the third floor for a drink. She lifted his hands from the keyboard and began to escort him. But Sagansky caught up with them. Sam ordered him back to the piano so he could dance with Eve. But, magically, Doug had a quarrel with Sagansky over the entertainment business. As the two fought, Eve moved toward the door but fell. Some guests caught her and thought her drunk. The party of young people was recruited to take her out and back to her home. They did so, placing her in their limo and ignoring Eve's babbling about Grillo and needing help and a catastrophe.
= = = = = = = = = =
The remaining limo drivers were circling the area and talking to each other on radios. One reported that a huge dust storm was approaching. He abandoned the job and left the area.
= = = = = = = = = =
In the town below, Tommy-Ray slowed his car to get a look at a wrecked limo. The ghosts in his train had simply picked it up and thrown it over. Now they were dragging the driver from his seat. The ghosts violently reduced his uniform to tatters and the body inside it as well.
Tommy had led the ghosts away from the house so he could plan what to do next.
Tommy wanted to set this up so that his father saw him as the incarnation of the Death-Boy. Tommy wanted to be in charge of the conversation. But hope for that was fading fast. The longer he delayed his return the more unruly the ghosts were becoming. They'd already demolished a church. The part of Tommy that hated the Grove wanted to let them loose, but he knew that if he did that he'd lose control of them completely, and there was one life he wanted to preserve, Jo-Beth's.
Knowing that time was short, he drove to his mother's house to see if Jo-Beth was there.
= = = = = = = = = =
Tommy arrived home and told the ghosts to back off and be patient. They laughed and mocked, but backed off away from the house.
Tommy went to the door and asked for Momma. He promised not to hurt her. He needed to talk.
“What do you want?” a voice said on the other side of the door.
“You shouldn't have come back, Tommy-Ray,” she said after unbolting the door.
Tommy asked for Jo-Beth and refused to believe Joyce when she said the girl was gone. He pushed past her into the house and called her name. But there was no answer. He went upstairs, but she wasn't there, either. Tommy felt his life had fallen apart in a couple of days. He needed someone to comfort him, someone to save him. “Where is she?” he demanded. “Where is she, Momma? I Have to see her.”
“She's not yours,” Momma said.
“Katz!” Tommy yelled. “Katz has got her!”
Momma began praying. “Why did it have to be this way?” she asked.
“I didn't mean it to be,” Tommy answered.
“You were so beautiful, son. I thought sometimes that'd save you.”
“I'm still beautiful.”
She shook her head. Tears ran down her cheeks. Tommy looked back toward the door and said, “Stay out.”
“What's out there? Is it your father?”
“You don't want to know,” Tommy answered.
But the door swung open and dust poured in. Fixtures and lights swayed. The door flew off its hinges. Momma screamed and the ghosts heard and turned themselves in her direction. Tommy, showered with glass shards, stumbled outside and saw the house falling apart. He looked for his car, which was still intact. He got into the car, sobbing and then praying. In the rear-view mirror he saw the house give up entirely, as the vortex in its guts threw it outwards. Bricks, slate, seams and dirt burst in all directions. Tommy drove like a madman, racing through the town on a circuitous route to lose the cloud of ghosts. As he drove frantically, he saw a familiar face. He slowed the car.
It was William Witt. Witt was lost, he was looking for his dreams. They had all left him. His visitors left without a word.
“Sorry,” Tommy-Ray said. “You want a ride?”
Witt accepted. As he got in and slammed the door, Tommy saw a familiar sight in the mirror. The storm was following him. It was gaining. Tommy reluctantly drove the car back uphill toward the mansion.
Part VI Chapter 11
On the mansion's third floor, the Jaff said to Grillo, “The party's over. Time we went down.”
Little had been said between them sine Eve left in a panic. Jaff had sunk back into his thrown and waited while the party thinned. Grillo made no attempt to slip away since Lamar's slumped body blocked the door and the terata dominated the room. Besides, he didn't want to leave. In the room with him was the Jaff, the first cause of all the trouble in the Grove. If he turned his back on the Jaff he committed a crime worse than any he know: he failed to be a witness.
Whatever insane or lethal or monstrous man the Jaff was, he was not a fake, as were so many people Grillo had interviewed. He was in the company of a power with the capacity to change the world. He dared not turn his back on such power. He would go wherever it went, and hope to understand its workings better.
The Jaff stood up and said, “Make no attempt to intervene.”
“I won't,” Grillo said. “But let me come with you.”
The Jaff gave him a piercing gaze in the darkness. Then he said, “Move the body.” Grillo did so. The body was hot, sticky, and wet with blood.
Grillo was then commanded to open the door and did so.
Grillo walked down the staircase first. The house was quiet and only a few remained from the party. He was afraid these worshipers would tear him apart, but they were looking up and let him pass. At the ground floor, he looked up and saw the first of the terata leave the upper room. They had changed into less frightening creatures but darker than ever because of added, transforming power. After a few more terata came the Jaff, looking worn and skeletal. Further terata followed in train as the upper room was emptied. Coming down to the main floor, Rochelle could be seen, her absolute devotion to the Jaff taking away and stripping her beauty and leaving emptiness. The Jaff's face, which at first had shown tremors of apprehension, had become an immobile mask. All the Jaff's forces were concentrated in his left hand. Beads of bright corruption were dripping from that hand and breaking up into dark blooms on the stairs. The hand was hypnotic to Grillo. Grillo tried to watch the Jaff's face but kept being drawn back to the hand.
The terata remained on the stairs as the Jaff moved through the lounge.
“Turn on the lights,” the Jaff told Grillo. His voice was as expressionless as his face had become. “Turn them full on. No mystery now. I want to see clearly.”
Grillo located the switches and flied them all on. The bright light made some of the slumberers stir, but they didn't move sensing their jeopardy. Grillo's gaze returned to the Jaff's hand. It wasn't dripping power now. It had ripened. It was ready.
= = = = = = = = = =
At the entrance gates, the guard saw the lights go on, signaling an end to the party. He put out a call to the circling drivers to return and pick up their emerging passengers.
= = = = = = = = = = =
Coming off the freeway at the Palomo Grove exit, with four miles to cover to the outskirts of the town, a shudder ran through Tesla. The kind her mother had said meant someone was walking over your grave. Tonight, she knew better. The news was worse than that.
She realized that she was missing the main event. It was as if the flat-earthers were right and the earth had shifted a few degrees. Everything was sliding towards one end. She felt sure that people were waking in a cold sweat, around the world, or thinking of their loved ones and fearing for them. Children crying without knowing why. Old people believing their last moment was upon them.
She heart the din of a collision on the freeway she'd just left, followed by another and another, as cars – their drivers distracted by a moment of terror-- piled up. Horns began to blare in the night.
The world's round, she told herself, like the wheel I'm holding. I can't fall off. I can't fall off. Gripping that thought and the wheel with equal desperation, she drove on towards the town.
= = = = = = = = = =
The guard at the Vance mansion was watching for returning cars. He also saw lights coming up the hill. These lights were advancing too slowly to be headlamps from automobiles. Curious, he left his post and started down the incline a little way. He got maybe twenty yards before the bend in the road revealed the source of light. It was human. A mob of fifty, maybe morel climbing towards the summit, their bodies and faces blurred, but all glowing in the dark like Hallowe'en masks. The group was headed by two kids who looked normal enough. The guard moved back up the hill to put some distance between this mob and himself.
Another guard ran away, jumping the fence on the far side of the house and sliding down a steep include. He'd been hired to guard, not to confront walking torches or to stop whirlwinds.
= = = = = = = = = =
Grillo had seen strange things in his life, but he'd been able to pigeon hole them and accommodate to them. This made his mind reel. He said no and no to himself over and over.
Denial didn't work. The sight refused to pack its bag and leave. It stayed and demanded to be seen.
The Jaff's fingers had entered the solid wall and clutched it. Now he took a step back and a second step, pulling the substance of reality towards him as though it were made of sun-softened candy. The carnival pictures hanging on the wall began to twist out of true; the intersection of wall and ceiling and wall and floor eased in towards the Artist's fist, losing their rigor.
It was as if the whole room were projected on a cinema screen and the Jaff had simply snatched hold of the fabric, dragging it towards him. The projected image, which moments before had seemed so life-like was revealed for the sham it was.
It's a movie, Grillo thought. The whole world's a movie.
And the Art was the calling of that bluff. A snatching away of the sheet, the shroud, the screen.
Grillo wasn't alone in being astounded. Several of the stupefied mourners had opened their eyes to see a sight their worst bad trips had never proffered. Even the Jaff seemed to be shocked.
A tremor ran through his body, which had never been so frail, so vulnerable, so human, as now. This was an art in defiance of the condition of flesh. All the profoundest certainties of being were forfeit in the face of it. From somewhere behind the screen, Grillo heard a rising sound, which filled his skull like the thud of his heart. IT summoned the terata. He glanced around to see them coming through the door to lend their make aid in whatever was imminent. They were uninterested in Grillo; he knew he could leave at any moment and not be challenged. But he could not turn his back on this, however it wrenched his gut. Whatever played behind the screen of the world was about to be seen, and his eyes w3uldn't be coaxed from the sight. If he fled now, what would he do? Run to the gate and watch from a safe distance? There was no safe distance, knowing what he mow knew. He'd spend the rest of his life touching the solid world and knowing that had he the Art at his fingertips, it would melt.
Some of the guests were trying to leave, but the walls and half the floor had become slippery with uncertainty. Grillo himself sought out some solid place, finding a chair which slipped from his grasp. He fell to his knees, the impact re-starting the flow of the blood from his nose. He let it run.
The Jaff had pulled so hard on the far end of the room that it was distorted out of all recognition. The sound grew louder, almost inevitable, as though it had always been there, just out of hearing range.
Pulling again, the Jaff tore the screen in several places, tipping the room. Grillo clung to the heaving floor as bodies rolled past him. He glimpsed the Jaff, who seemed to regret all he'd done, struggling with the raw substance of reality he'd gathered up as if attempting to throw it away. A look of wild terror crossed his face, and he wscr4eamed a su8mmons to his legions. They started towards him, their anatomies finding some purchase in this shifting chaos. Grillo was pressed to the ground as they clambered over him. No sooner had they begun their advance, however, than something brought them to a halt. Grillo hauled himself upright and looked back toward the door. That end of the room was still more or less intact. Only a subtle twisting of the architecture gave any clue to what was happening behind him. He could see through to the hall, and beyond to the front door. It was open. In it stood Fletcher's son.
= = = = = = = = = =
There were calls greater than that of maskers and masters, Howie understood. There was the call of a thing to its opposite, to its natural enemy. That was what fuelled the terata now, as they turned back towards the door, leaving whatever chaos was unleashed inside the house to the Jaff's control.
“They're coming!” he yelled to Fletcher's army, backing off as the tide of terata approached the door. Jo-Beth, who'd stepped inside with him, lingered o the threshold. He took hold of her arm and pulled her away.
“It's too late,” she said. “You see what he's doing? My God You see.”
Lost cause or not, the dream creatures were ready to face the terata, pouncing as soon as the flood emerged from the house. Climbing the hill, Howie had expected the fight ahead to be somehow refined; a battle of wills or wits. But the violence that erupted all around him now was purely physical. The melancholy souls gathered at the woods, the civil folk at the Knapp house, were fierce and ruthless against the terata. It was Fletcher's light against the Jaff's dark. Both sought the destruction of the other.
He had led them up the hill, calling the stragglers when they forgot themselves and began to dissolve. Some he lost. But for the rest, the sight of the terata was stimulus enough – they would fight until torn apart. Neither side bled or showed pain. Only when more than half a spirit was torn did it start to weaken. The air around them buzzed and shook as if the war was continuing on a sub-atomic level. Equally matched, they were simply eradicating each other, countering harm with harm, their numbers dwindling.
The battle raged down to the entrance gate by the time Tesla drove up to the scene. She saw two bodies fight and destroy each other right in front of her, their limbs locked around and apparently through each other. She was appalled. Was this what the Art had released? Is this how they escaped Quiddity?
She looked up. Howie was in sight. His explanation was quick and breathless.
“It's started,” he said. “The Jaff's using the Art.”
“In the house.”
“And these?” she said, referring to the dying spirits.
“The last defense,” he replied. “We were too late.”
Tesla thought. “We should all get the hell out of here,” she told Howie.
She looked up towards the house. Grillo had told her it was a folly, but she hadn't expected architecture as wild as this. The angels all subtly off, no upright that wasn't askew by a few degrees. Then she understood. It wasn't some post-modernist joke. It was something inside the house, pulling it out of shape.
“My God,” she said, “Grillo's still in there.” As she spoke the facade bent a little more. She spoke with Howie and said that he should get a hold o Jo-Beth and she would find a way to get Grillo out of the house. Without waiting for a reply she headed on towards the door.
= = = = = = = = = =
Witt realized that no matter how profound his grief at losing his dreams, he didn't want to die. And he was being driven by a madman, Tommy Ray, which a dust cloud of spirits surrounding them. He looked across the seat to Tommy-Ray. The boy's face had never sung out intelligence, but its slackness now was shocking. He looked almost moronic. Spittle ran from his lower lip, his face was glossy with sweat. But he managed a name as he drove. “Jo-Beth,” he said.
= = = = = = = = = =
Jo-Beth didn't hear the call from her brother. But she heard another, one of terror, coming from the man who had made her. She crossed to the twisted entrance to the house. The scene inside was worse than the fight on the lawn. The whole softening world was moving toward the center. The Jaff was there at the core. In front of him a hole in the very substance of reality was exercising this claim on living and non-living alike. She could not see what was on the other side of the hole, but she could guess: Quiddity, the dream sea, and on it an island both Howie and her father had told her about, where time and space were laughable laws, and spirits walked.
If so, the Jaff had succeeded in his ambition – why was he so afraid? Why was he trying to retreat from the sight, tearing at his own hands with his teeth to make them let go the matter his fingers had penetrated?
All her reason said: go back. Go back while you can. The pull of whatever lay beyond the hold already had a hold of her. She could resist it for a short time, but that window was getting smaller. What she couldn't' resist, however was the hunger that brought her into the house in the first place: she wanted to see her father's pain. This was not a comely, daughterly desire, but he'd cause her pain, and Howie too. He'd corrupted Tommy-Ray out of all recognition. He'd broken Momma's heart and life. Now she wanted to see him suffer, and she couldn't take her eyes off the sight. His self-mutilation was increasingly manic. He spat out pieces of his fingers, shaking his head back and forth in an attempt to deny whatever he saw beyond the hole the Art had made.
She heard a voice behind her ay her name, and looked around to see a woman she'd never met. But Howie had described her. She was beckoning her back to the safety of the threshold. She ignored the summons. She wanted to see the Jaff undo himself completely; or be dragged away and destroyed by his own mischief. She hadn't realized until this moment how much she hated him.
Grillo also heard Tesla's call. He was able to turn, against the call of Quiddity – to look her way. His face felt fat with blood, as the hole pulled his fluids up through his body. His head pounded as if ready to burst. The tears were being sucked from his eyes, his eyelashes plucked out. His nose poured two bloody streams, which ran straight from his face towards the hole.
He'd already seen most of the room snatched away into Quiddity. Rochelle had been one of the first to go relinquishing that little hold her addicted body had on the solid world. Sagansky and the pianist had gone. The party-goers had followed, despite their attempts to get to the door. Grillow would have joined them, had it not been for the fact that the Jaff's shadow offered a tenuous solidity in this chaotic sea. He'd seen through the hole to the sea of Quiddity, to, and it shamed every other image of the world. He'd come too close to its shore to turn away. It would soon take him.
But seeing Tesla he suddenly dared hope he might survive to tell the tale. He'd have to be quick. Seeing Tesla reach for him, he reached back, but the distance was too great. She couldn't stretch any further into the room without losing her hold on the relative solidity beyond the door.
She gave up the attempt, and stepped away from the opening.
Don't desert me now, he thought. Don't give me hope and then desert me.
He should have known better. She'd simply withdrawn in order to pull her belt from the loops of her trousers, then she was back at the door, letting Quiddity's pull unroll the belt and put it within his grasp. He snatched hold.
= = = = = = = = = = =
On the battlefield, Howie was paying his last respects to Benny's remains, which were fading fast. Then he saw Tommy-Ray coming up the walk with a man he didn't know. Behind them was a huge cloud of dust. Howie suddenly wondered where Jo-Beth had gone. He'd neglected her for a few moments. He was sure she was Tommy-Ray's target.
Howie stood up to confront Tommy, formerly tanned and gleaming and now blood-spattered with sunken eyes. Tommy threw back his head and shouted, “Father!”
The dust intervened and swatted Howie aside, prohibiting him from getting close to Tommy-Ray.
Tommy shouted again, “Jo-Beth!” Howie suddenly realized that she was in the house, and he'd better get to her first before this monster took her.
Howie made it to the door and saw chaos inside as well as the Jaff standing by. Then her heard Tesla yell for his help. She was clinging to the inner door, its geometry gone to hell, her other hand holding on to somebody who was about to be claimed by the maelstrom. He was with her in three strikes, and seized her hand. As he did so he recognized the figure standing a yard beyond Tesla, and closer to the maw the Jaff had opened – Jo-Beth!
He uttered a cry. Jo-Beth turned in his direction, half-blinded by the assault of debris. As their eyes met he saw Tommy-Ray move towards her. The machine of Howie's body had taken a beating of late but it still had power. He pulled on Tesla, dragging her and the man she'd been struggling to save out of the most chaotic zone into the hall It was the moment Tommy-Ray needed to reach Jo-Beth, flinging himself at her with sufficient force to throw her off her feet.
He saw the terror in her eyes and she lost her balance. Saw Tommy-Ray's arms close around her, in the tightest of embraces. Then the Quiddity claimed them both, sweeping them across the room past their father and away, into the mystery.
Behind him Tesla was yelling his name. He ignored the call. His eyes were on the place where Jo-Beth had gone. He took a step towards the door. The power egged him on. He took another step, vaguely aware that Tesla was yelling for him to stop, to turn balk before it was too late.
Didn't she know ti had been too ate the moment after he'd seen Jo-Beth? Everything had been lost, way back then.
A third step, and the whirlwind snatched him up. The room turned over and over. He aw his father's enemy for an instant, gaping, followed by the hole, gaping wide still.
Then he was gone, where his beautiful Jo-Beth had gone, into Quiddity.
= = = = = = = = = =
Tesla helped Grillo get up. The facade of the mansion was like something from the great silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the door sucked in, the windows going the same way, and inside, who knew?
As they stumbled down to the car a figure emerged from the chaos and stumbled out into the moonlight. It was the Jaff. The fact that he'd stood on Quiddity's shore and resisted its waves was testament to his power, but resistance had taken its toll. His hands were reduced to gnawed flesh the remains of the left hanging down from the bones of his wrist in strips. His face was as brutally devoured, not by teeth but by what he'd seen. Blank-eyed and broken, he staggered down to the gate. Wisps of darkness, the last of the terata, followed him.
Tesla badly wanted to ask Grillo what glimpse he'd had of Quiddity, but this wasn't the moment. It was enough to now that he was alive to tell. Flesh in a world where flesh was forfeit every moment. Alive, when life ended with each exhalation and began again with every snatched breath.
In the trough between, there was such jeopardy. And now, as never before. She didn't doubt that the worst had come to pass, and that somewhere on Quiddity's furthest shore the Iad Uroboros were sharpening their envy and starting across the dream-sea.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Part VI Lessons
Chapters 7 and 8
Part VI chapter 7
The best lies are told briefly and seamlessly surrounded by the truth
Someone “in hiding” may be trapped there rather than hiding there
Blood cannot be spilled inside a time loop – the one who spills blood becomes a
prisoner of the loop (this is an exact analogy to the Law of Kinde: Never bring
violence under your own roof)
prisoner of the loop (this is an exact analogy to the Law of Kinde: Never bring
violence under your own roof)
Convincing, commanding persuasion may be used for banal purposes like hiding
Even the most carefully constructed secret society may be entered by a plunderer
No secret society is completely safe from outside corruption of one of its members
Spiritual, especially ascetic, purification changes the nature of the seeking adept person
There's something so bad that if it breaks into our plane, nothing will survive intact
Trust no shaman who seeks to possess your body or to command your will
Trust no shaman who seeks to possess your body or to command your will
A life saving opportunity to help an ally might actually be a distraction from the enemy's
If you know too much about evil, all of evil's devices will be used to destroy you before
others are informed with what you know
others are informed with what you know
Part VI chapter 8
Don't dress differently, especially don't under-dress, when crashing a party as a spy
Psychological control, especially over one's vices, makes one appear younger than
Relentless art collection is a sickness in which the collector comes to prefer the objects
A party with the entrance closed and the feeling of celebration gone is no longer a party
As a guest, leave a party when there is more tension than you are comfortable with
Condescension can be used to trap an egotistical person into doing something
dangerous or foolish
dangerous or foolish
An army can be assembled motivated and energized by fear. But above a certain size,
such a mob cannot be controlled nor directed
such a mob cannot be controlled nor directed
Respect humbling insights about yourself, especially those that come upon you suddenly
The great stories are only metaphors of objects and places standing for states of mind
If you get a prize bigger than you are, it is proper to fear opening it up
Trapped by enemies, getting them into a quarrel with each other may allow an innocent
to escape the scene unnoticed
to escape the scene unnoticed
Surrounded by enemies, if the weakest seeks to leave, it may be advantageous to force
him to remain, as a gift to the more powerful enemy
him to remain, as a gift to the more powerful enemy
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Part VI chapter 7
Tesla was in her apartment, washing the bloodstains from the desert woman's neck. She noticed the cross around her neck, a match of the medallion Kissoon had shown her. It contained the same spreadeagled central figure with four variations on that form at the apex of the crosses. “Shoal,” said Tesla.
The woman opened her eyes, moving instantly from sleep to wakefulness. “Where am I?” she asked.
“My name's Tesla. You're in my apartment.”
“In the Cosm?” she said in a frail voice.
“Yes. We're out of the Loop,” said Tesla, adding, as a guess, “Kissoon can't get us here.” Tesla asked for the desert woman's name.
“Mary Muralles,” she said.
“You're one of the Shoal, Tesla said.
But Mary glanced at Raul, who was at the door.
“Don't worry,” Tesla said. “If you can trust me you can certainly trust him. If you won't trust either of us then we're all lost. So tell me...”
“Yes. I'm one of the Shoal.”
“Kissoon told me he was the last.”
“He and I.”
Mary agreed that the rest were murdered. She then said she found something strange about Raul – was he Iad?
Mary wanted to know how an ape could be so intelligent and human. Tesla asked her if she knew Fletcher? The Jaff?
“So... we've both got things to learn.”
Back at the Loop, Kissoon called for help. Muralles had escaped. He had to reach her, which meant reaching out into real time, as he had done with Tesla. A few others had strayed along the Jorada del muerto such as Randolph Jaffe. But this time he wanted to influence creatures with no mind, things that were not legitimately even alive.
He wanted to reach the Lix in Tesla's apartment. His call was being answered by beetles, ants, scorpions in the desert that were crawling under the door to greet him. As they crawled over him, he remembered that the Lix were created by a mixture of seminal fluid and excrement. He would call the Lix segments in Los Angeles to help me bring a little death to the world.
At Tesla's apartment, Mary asked to be told Tesla's story first. Tesla explained what she knew about Fletcher, the Jaff and the children of both. She explained the Nuncio and Kissoon as well. She spoke for half an hour. It would have taken longer, but she'd had the practice of preparing plot summaries for studios and she'd practiced with Shakespeare until she had the trick of summarization down pat. It was a love story and an origin of species tale. It was about insanity, apathy and a lost ape. When it was tragic, as in Vance's death, it was also farcical. When its settings were most mundane, as at the Mall, its substance was often visionary. But the plot line couldn't be told efficiently and quickly. She said, “It's all connected” over and over. She hoped Mary could finish the rationale for the connections.
Tesla turned the story telling over to Mary.
Mary admitted that she couldn't answer all the problems. There was a lot she didn't know. Mary suspected, after hearing Tesla speak, that t here was a lot either of the two of them know. But I can tell you some facts straight off. First, and simplest:it was Kissoon who murdered the rest of the Shoal.”
Tesla wanted to know with whom was Kissoon conspiring.
“At a guess? The Iad Uroboros. Or their representatives in the Cosm. With the Shoal dead, he might have intended to use the Art, and let the Iad through.”
So what he told me about the Iad, and Quiddity... all of that's true?”
So what he told me about the Iad, and Quiddity... all of that's true?”
“Oh yes. He only tells lies when he needs to. He told you the truth. That's part of his brilliance.”
Tesla interrupted and wondered what is so brilliant about hiding in a hut? Then she asked, “Wait a minute. This doesn't figure. If he's responsible for the deaths of the Shoal, what's he got to fear? Why's he hiding at all?”
“He isn't hiding. He's trapped there. Trinity's his prison. The only way he can get out...”
“Is by finding another body to get out in,” Tesla finished.
“Or Randolph Jaffe before you.”
“But neither of us fell for it.”
“And he doesn't get many visitors,” Mary added. He created the Loop to hide his crime, now it hides him. Jaffe, driven half inside, could be guided in. “Or you, with the Nuncio in your system. But otherwise he's alone.”
“Why's he trapped?”
“I trapped him. He thought I was dead. Had my body brought into the Loop with the others. But I rose. Confronted him. Angered him to the point where he attacked me putting my blood on his hands.... the conditions of the looping suit are explicit. Blood can not be spilled inside the Loop, or the conjuror becomes its prisoner.”
“What do you mean by suit?” asked Tesla,.
“Petition. Maneuver. Trick.”
“Trick? You call making a loop in time a trick?”
“It's an ancient suit,” Mary aid. “A time out of time. You'll find accounts of it everywhere. But there are laws pertaining to all conditions of matter, and I made him break one. He became his own victim.” Mary explained that she wasn't technically trapped in the Loop herself, but she wanted him dead but knew no one in the Cosm who could do it. So she had to stay and hope to kill him. It would have trapped her in the Loop, but that was better than letting Kissoon go on living. “He'd killed fifteen great men and women. Pure, good souls. Just had them slaughtered. Tortured some of the, for the pleasure of it. Not personally of course. He'd had agents. But he'd masterminded the whole thing. Arranged that we be separated from each other, so that he could dispatch us one by one. Then had our bodies taken back in time to Trinity, where he knew no trace would remain.“
Tesla asked where the bodies were left, and Mary said in the town. Tesla remembered the House of the Stench. “I almost got to see them for myself.”
“Kissoon prevented you of course.”
“Not forcibly. It was more a matter of persuasion. He's very convincing.”
“Certainly. He had us all fooled for years. The Shoal is – I mean was – the most difficult society to join in the world. There are means, incredibly elaborate, to test and purify possible members before they even realize the society exists. Somehow Kissoon faked his way through those procedures. Or else the Iad somehow tainted hm once he was a member, which is possible.”
Tesla asked in Kissoon was right in saying little is known about the Iad.
“Scarcely any information emerges from the Metacosm. It's a sealed condition of being. What we know about the Iad can be summed up in a few words. They are many; their definition of life is not that of you humans – indeed may be its antithesis; and they want the Cosm.”
Tesla wondered what Mary meant when she said “you humans,” adding, “You're as human as I am.”
“Yes and no,” Mary replied. “I certainly was once as you are. But the processes of purification changes your nature. If I'd been human I couldn't' have survived in Trinity for twenty odd years, with scorpions to eat and mud to drink. I'd be dead, the way Kissoon intended.”
Tesla asked how Mary was able to survive. “Luck. Instinct. Sheer refusal to let that bastard win. It isn't just Quiddity that's at stake, though that's valuable enough. It's the Cosm. If the Iad break through, nothing on this plane of being will survive intact. I believe --” and then she broke herself off and sat up in bed, hearing something. “I heard something. Next door.”
“Grand opera,” Tesla said. Lucia di Lammermoor still trailed through.
“No,” Mary said. Something else.
Raul was already off in search of the sound's source before Tesla asked him to do so.
“There's still some stuff I haven't got straight,” she said to Mary. “A lot of stuff. Like, why Kissoon went to the trouble of taking the bodies into the Loop. Why didn't he destroy them out here in the normal world? And why did you let him take you?”
“I was wounded, almost dead. Near enough for him and his assassins to think I was dead. It was only when they were tossing me on a pile of bodies I came to my senses.”
Tesla asked what happened to his assassins?
“Knowing Kissoon he probably let them die in the Loop, trying to find their way out. That sort of thing would amuse him.”
Tesla understood that this meant that for twenty years Mary and Kissoon were the only human beings or near-human beings in the Loop. As well as the Lix, whatever those are.
Mary explained that the Lix were his feces and semen. “They're trapped there, the way he is, at zero, if zero can --”
Raul's yell from the next room stopped the conversation. The head of a Lix had attacked him and bitten him on the face. Tesla was unable to break the animal loose from his face, so she let him fight it while she went for a knife. While looking she remembered that there were several other Lix pieces that had disappeared. She continued to scan the kitchen for a knife. Raul took the burden and she raced to get a weapon. She found a knife given to her by her mother as part of a set Tesla got at Christmas. She took it with her back to the fight.
Tesla stabbed the Lix repeatedly as Raul struggled with it. Both of them threw the head across the room, then Tesla stabbed and pinned it.. Raul headed through to the bathroom as Tesla watched the death-throes of the Lix. Raul called her name and she instantly knew what happened to the other pieces of the Lix.
Tesla assisting Raul had been a distraction. Six Lix had surrounded Mary and crushed her about the neck.. he body lay half off the bed, a racked bag of bones. One of the Lix unraveled itself from around her face, which action showed her features crushed beyond recognition. The Lix themselves were running down, their motions becoming sluggish.
Raul tried to clean off his own blood in the sink, but he felt woozy. The Lix had poisoned him. The world seemed hazy to him, and he felt himself being pulled. Weakened by the fight and the poison, he couldn't hold on and thus felt his grasp on the world and the sink slip away as he was pulled by Kissoon into the Loop.
Tesla heard a ruckus and returned to the bathroom. The faucet was running but Raul was gone. She turned off the faucet and went downstairs, asking others if they had seen a large, bloody ape man. No one had. On the street people hadn't seen anything either.
Tesla returned to her apartment and poured herself a Tequila. Raul gone. Kissoon in league with the Iad. Mary Muralles dead in the bedroom. She poured a second Tequila, though not unaware that drunkenness, like sleep, might put her closer to Kissoon than she'd strictly like to be. There was no purpose in staying in the apartment. The real action was back in Palomo Grove. She called Grillo, who was not at the hotel. She asked for the front desk, but they hadn't seen him or known where he had gone. It was four twenty-five in the afternoon. She guessed Grillo had gone to the party on the hill.
She decided to go see Grillo before circumstances took him from her, too.
Part VI chapter 8
Grillo showed up at the mansion for the Buddy Vance memorial badly under-dressed. Everyone was in a tuxedo, even the gate keepers. Nonetheless, he sailed past the gate with his false name, Jon Swift, on the invitation.
Grillo had slipped into social functions as an investigative reporter, but this one simply made him feel nauseous. Numerous major stars were there, of course, but so were the potentates of the industry, the agents, lawyers and studio executives. These were the people Grillo knew about through Tesla, who hated them. Unlike the old studio bosses, these men and women ruled the dream factories with their demographics and calculators.
There were several young actors who could not have known Buddy Vance but were here presumably because this was the Party of the Week. It was the place to be seen and the company in which to be seen.
He caught sight of Rochelle across the room. She was surrounded by flatterers, feeding on her beauty. Grillo himself had the advantage of blandness.. He was everything and nothing. He could pass himself off as any number of characters and not be called on it unless he made a major faux pas, and even then he could usually extricate himself.
Though he knew no one, most people were nodding at him and a few even waved. He nodded and waved back. By the time he had crossed the room he had achieved the credential of being one of the boys. Then one woman in her fifties buttonholed him and looked at him sharply: “So who are you?”
“Swift. Jonathan,” he answered primly.
She nodded, almost as though she knew him. “I'm Evelyn Quayle. Please call me Eve. Everyone does.”
“Eve it is.”
“What do people call you?”
“Fine,” she said. “Would you catch that waiter and get me a fresh glass of champagne? They move so damn fast.”
As she continued to drink, she told him many details about those attending this party. He told her he guessed her age was mid-fifties. She admitted to seventy-one.
“You don't look anything like it.”
“Control, my dear. I have every vice, but none to excess. Would you reach for another of those glasses before they slip by?”
There was scarcely a man or woman in the room she couldn't supply some dirt about. She led Grillo outside to the garden, where she started talking about art, beginning with Buddy Vance's grotesque carnival collection. She'd divorced a husband who collected American abstract impressionists like Pollock and Rothko.
“Because of the painting?” Grillo asked.
“Because of the collecting, the relentless collecting. It's a sickness, Swift. She finally forced him to choose between her and the collection. He preferred the collection; it didn't talk back.
Grillo smiled but denied he was laughing at her. He said he found her enchanting.
She sparkled at the compliment. “You don't know anybody here, do you?” she remarked suddenly.
He was speechless.
You're a gatecrasher. I watched you when you first came in, eyeing the hostess in case she set eyes on you. I thought – at last! --someone who knows nobody and wants to, and me who knows everybody and wishes she didn't. A marriage made in heaven. What's your real name?”
Grillo tried to wriggle out of it, but she pushed him and he gave his real name – Nathan Grillo.
Buddy's old partner Lamar was approaching. “You look wonderful,” he said to Eve. “As ever. He turned to Grillo, “And who's your friend?”
Eve glanced at Grillo with a tiny smile on her face. “My guilty secret,” she said.
Lamar turned his spotlight smile on Grillo. “I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.”
“Secrets shouldn't have names,” Eve said, “It spoils their charm.”
“I'm suitably slapped down” Lamar said. “Allow me to correct the error and give you a tour of the house.”
“I don't think I can manage the stairs, sweetheart,” Eve said.
“But this is Buddy's palace. He was very proud of it.”
“Never proud enough to invite me,” she responded.
But Lamar wheedled her into it and Grillo accompanied them. The crowd was calming down, with some dancing to the music of a small band. Deals were being done and plots laid.
Grillo and Evelyn found the change in atmosphere unnerving. The front door was closed. Two guards from the gate stood with their backs to it, hands fisted in front of their crotches. Despite the drifting melody of show tunes, all celebration had gone out of the place. What remained was paranoia.
Lamar was urging Evelyn up the staircase.
Grillo was right next to her as she ascended the stairs. For the first time her age was showing, There were a few guests at the top of the stairs, holding empty glasses. None were speaking. Grillo felt that something was wrong here. This was confirmed when he looked down the stairs and saw Rochelle standing at the bottom, staring straight at him. He stared back, but she said nothing. He tried to talk Eve into giving up and descending the staircase. But she was not to be deterred. “Darling, I'm halfway up. Don't desert me now.” Grillo glanced up at Lamar, who was glaring at him as Rochelle had done. Grillo figured that they knew who he was and were saying nothing.
Eve recognized some new loiterers and greeted them by name. They acknowledged her distractedly. Their languor reminded Grillo of addicts who'd just found a fix. She recognized one of them, Sagansky.
He greeted her and said he wasn't having much fun. Buddy's death was sad. But at least Lamar had shown him around the house. It was grand, especially the upper rooms.
Lamar urged Grillo and Eve to go straight up there. This made Grillo even more edgy about what was going on. “I think we've seen enough,” Grillo said to Lamar.
“Oh, I'm sorry,” the comedian replied. “I was forgetting about Eve. Poor Eve. It must be all too much for you.” His condescension, beautifully pitched, created precisely the effect he intended.
“Don't be ridiculous!” she snorted. “I may be getting on, but I'm not senile. Take us up!”
Lamar shrugged, “Are you sure?”
“Sure I'm sure.” Eve was already ascending the next flight, determined she could match Lamar step for step. Grillo tried to discourage her from continuing, but she asked him if he was coming with her.
More than once in his career Grillo had avoided a beating up by taking notice of the very danger signals he'd been getting since they'd started to climb. But he wasn't about to see Eve's ego undo her. In the space of an hour he'd become fond of the lady. Cursing himself and her in equal measure, he followed where she and her seducer had gone.
Outside a minor fracas was occurring at the gate. A wind blew up out of nowhere. Emerging from the gusts was a car containing a filthy young man who casually demanded entry to the house. The guards knew gatecrashers like this and stood firm. “No invitation, son,” they said to him.
The boy didn't listen. He had to see his father. “Is he a guest?” the guard wanted to know. But he wasn't on the list, Tommy-Ray said, because he lived there. The guards said he had the wrong house.
Tommy cursed the guards and said he'd be back. Then he got in the car and drove downhill. Weirdly, the wind seemed to go with him.
The senior guard told his subordinate to go up to the house and briefly check that everything was all right. He asked the junior if he'd ever been under fire.
“Sure,” came the reply.
“Between attacks, it feels just like this.”
The Jaff took a break and looked out the window just as Tommy Ray was driving away. He couldn't reach the boy with his mind this time. Things were changing. There was a fear in the boy he'd never felt before; and a chill, a profound chill.
The boy would come back. He understood that much. Meanwhile he returned to the profitable business of the afternoon, creating terata from his guests. Several of them, thinking they were about to be murdered, produced their wallets and attempted to bribe their way out of the upper room. Two women had bared their silicone breasts and offered their bodies rather than die. Once they started to sweat out their fears, he'd sent them all back to the party, milked and passive. His terata were lining the dark walls of the room, absorbing all this additional energy and becoming unparticularized, composite creatures of greater power.
Jaffe realized he had as large a legion as he could hold sway over; many more and his army would become unruly. Perhaps it had already become so. Yet he continued to put off the moment when he finally let his hands do what they had been created, and re-created to do: use the Art. It was twenty years since that life-shattering day wen he'd found the symbol of the Shoal, lost in transit in the wilds of Nebraska. He'd never returned. Even during his war with Fletcher, the trail of battle had never led him back to Omaha. He doubted they'd be anybody left he knew. The passage of years had no authority over him. Only the Nuncio had that, and there was no way back from such alteration. He had to go forward and realize his ambition. Today, as the strange parade of famous faces had appeared before him in the upper room, they wept, shuddered, bared their breasts and then their souls for him. He could not help but glance back at the man he had been, a man who would never had dared hope to keep such celebrated company. When he looked, he found something in himself he'd hidden, almost successfully, all these years. The very thing he was sweating from his victims: fear.
Though he'd changed out of all recognition, a little part of him was still and would always be Randolph Jaffe, and that part whispered in his ear and said: this is dangerous. You don't know what you're taking on. This could kill you.
After so many years, it came as a hock to hear the old voice in his head, but it was also strangely reassuring. Nor could he entirely ignore it, because what it warned was true: did didn't know what lay beyond the using of the Art,. Nobody really did. He'd heard all the stories; he'd studied all the metaphors. But they were only stories, only metaphors. Quiddity was not literally a sea; the Ephemeris was not literally an island. These were a materialist's way of describing a state of mind. Perhaps the State of Mind. And now he stood minutes from opening the door to that condition, in almost complete ignorance of its true nature.
It might lead to lunacy, hell and death as easily as to heaven and life everlasting. He had no way of sowing, but to use the Art.
Why use it at all? The man he had been thirty years earlier asked him. Why not just enjoy the power you've got? It's more than you ever dreamed of, isn't it? Women coming in here offering their bodies to you. Men falling down on their knees with snot running from their noses begging for mercy. What more do you want? What more could anybody want?
Reasons, was the answer: some glimpse of a larger picture.
There was a light tapping on the door: Lamar's code. “Wait” Jaffe murmured, trying to hold on to the argument he'd been running in his head.
Outside the door, Eve asked Lamar who was inside. She inquired if he was a friend of Buddy's? “Very much so.”
Lamar added that it was someone Eve didn't know. “So why bother meeting him?” asked Grillo, taking Eve's arm. Suspicion had given way to certainty now. There was a rank smell up here, and the sound of more than one presence on the other side of the door.
The invitation to enter came. Lamar turned the door handle and opened up. “Come along, Eve,” he said. She pulled her arm from Grillo's grip and allowed Lamar to escort her up a step into the room. Grillo reached into the room for Eve's arm. As he did, Lamar's fist met the middle of his face, a solid and unexpected blow. He fell to his knees, smelling his own blood in his nose.. Behind him, the comedian slammed the door.
Eve was alert and edgy. The room was dark. There was a man in there surrounded by shapes. “Shall I put on the light?” Lamar asked.
No. No, don't. Not yet,” was the answer.
Eve had seen the shapes in the dark. She asked Lamar what was going on. “Friends of Friends,” Lamar responded.
“Don't hurt her,” Grillo demanded.
“I'm not a murderer,” the voice of Randolph Jaffe said. “Everyone who came in here has walked out alive. I just want a little part of you...”
Grillo noticed that the voice was different, less confident than it had been at the Mall. He'd spent a lifetime listening to people, and there was a subtext to the Jaff's voice no, an ambiguity that had not been there before.
Nobody knows,” mused the Jaff, “just how terrible it is.”
“What is?:” asked Grillo.
“I have the Art. I have the Art. So I have to use it. It'd be a waste not to, after all this waiting, all this change.”
Grillo thought the man was close to the edge and terrified of slipping over. Surely this was an exploitable condition. Very softly, he said, “The Art. What is that?”
“Everybody's lost, you know. I use that. Use the fear in them.”
“Not you?” Grillo said.
“I used to think I found the Art...but maybe the Art found me.”
“Is it?” he said. “I don't know what it's going to do--”
So that's it, Grillo thought. He's got his prize and now he's afraid of unwrapping it.
“It could destroy us all.”
“That's not what you said,” Lamar muttered. “You said we'd have dreams. All the dreams America ever dreamt; that the world ever dreamt.”
“Maybe,” said the Jaff.
Lamar let go of Eve and took a step towards his master.
“But now you're saying we could die?” he said. “I don't want to die. I want Rochelle. I want the house. I've got a future. I'm not giving that up.”
“Don't try and slip the leash,” the Jaff said. Lamar's resistance was winning the old spirit of the Jaff back. Grillo cursed Lamar for his rebellion. It bore only one useful thing: it allowed Eve to step back towards the door. Grillo kept his place on the ground,. Any attempt to join her would only draw attention to them both, and prevent any chance of escape for either. If she could get out she could raise the alarm.
Lamar's complaints, meanwhile, had multiplied. “Why did you lie to me?” he said. “I should have known from the beginning you weren't going to do me any good.” He cursed the Jaff.
Silently, Grillo egged him on. The deepening dusk had kept pace with his eyes' attempt to pierce it, and he could see no more than when he first came in, but he saw the figure stand. The motion caused consternation in the shadows, as the beasts hidden there responded to their creator's discomfiture.
“How dare you?”the Jaff said.
“You told me we were safe,” Lamar said. Grillo heard the door creak behind him. Though he wanted to turn, he resisted the temptation.
“Safe, you said!” Lamar repeated.
“It's not that simple,” the Jaff said.
“I'm out of here!” Lamar replied, and turned to the door. It was too dark for Grillo to see the expression on hi face, but a spill of light from behind him, and the sound of Eve's footsteps as she fled the room, was evidence enough. Grillo stood up as Lamar, cursing, crossed to the door. He was woozy from the blow, and reeled as he stood, but got to the door a pace before Lamar. They collided, their joint weights toppling against the door and slamming it again. There was a moment of confusion, almost farcical, in which they each fought for the handle of the door. Then something intervened, looming behind the comedian. It was pale in the darkness; gray against black. Lamar made a small noise in his throat as the creature took hold of him from behind. He reached out towards Grillo, who slipped from beneath his fingers, back towards the middle of the room. He couldn't work out how the terata was battening upon Lamar, and he was glad of the fact. The man's flailing limbs and guttural sounds were enough. He saw the comedian's bulk slump against the door, then slide down it, his body increasingly eclipsed by the terata. Then both were still..
“Dead? Grillo breathed.
“Yes,” said the Jaff. “He called me a liar.”
“I'll remember that.”
the Jaff made an odd motion in the darkness. Beads of light broke from the man's fingers, illuminating his face, which was wasted; his body, which was clothed as it had been at the Mall, but seemed to spill darkness and the room itself, with terata, no longer the complex beats they'd been but barbed shadows, lining every wall.
“Well, Grillo,” the Jaff said, “it seems I must do it.”