Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TG&SS Part VI Chapters 7-8 Synopsis 54

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.”

Tesla cursed.
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.

Not me?”


I used to think I found the Art...but maybe the Art found me.”

“That's good.”

Is it?” he said. “I don't know what it's going to do--”

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.”

You should.”

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.”

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