Four Electric Ladies ... Contents

Four Electric Ladies,
Four Beautiful Delirious Death Puppies,
and an Eyeball Dancer

A Novel by Ben Goertzel

Copyright Ben Goertzel 1996 -- All Rights Reserved

Chapter 4

I got breakfast at the Golden Nugget, right down on Fremont Street, downtown. The only really classy place among all the old cheesy casinos. Most of the good places were along the Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, not downtown. It was an excellent $10 buffet, full of real gourmet food -- and spent the morning milling around the casino, playing slots and dollar blackjack. I had no idea where to find drugs in Las Vegas. But then, walking down Fremont street away from the Golden Nugget, I happened to see a group of three hippy-type girls. Long hair, Indian print dresses, sandals and moccasins. Something shifted inside me. I felt they were meant to be there. Someone had placed them there, just for me.

I asked them if they had any ecstasy. They said no, but they did have some acid.

"So you wanna ride the A-train, eh?"


Slow nodding. "You from Vegas?"

"Mmm. New York."

"We just got in from San Francisco. This is a crazy town, isn't it?"


"We're going to trip tonight. You want to trip with us?"

I smiled, reluctantly. "Sure.... I'd love to trip with you. It's my first time, I could probably use some expert guidance."

They snickered, good-naturedly; gave each other knowing looks.

"But, I don't want to trip tonight. I want to trip now."

"What's your hurry."

"It's a long story."

They muttered something to each other.

"Really. You don't want to hear it."

They looked at each other, whimsically. Finally one of them smiled. "All right, what the hell. What's your name, anyway?"

So that was that. They gave me the acid and we sat there in the Coin Castle, playing the nickel slots, feeling the stuff dissolve under our tongues. Their names were Jesse, Maria and Susan. Maria was kind of cute; small breasts, narrow waist and hair down to her hips. I kept glancing out the door of the casino, waiting for Sophia to walk by. I wanted her to be jealous. But I knew she wouldn't be anyway. She wouldn't give a shit who I I fucked. She'd just be pleased to know I was taking drugs. Because that would mean I'd have to stop picking on her junk habit.

Eventually the spinning wheels in the slot machines started to look kind of weird. I became unable to concentrate. The little cherries in the machine looked three or four dimensional: real, vivid, alive, swooning out at me pornographically. "Let's get out of here," I said.

"Where do you want to go?" asked Jesse.

"I know," said Maria. "There's a place out of town. About a half hour drive. Red Rock. We've got to trip outdoors. You can't trip in casinos."

"Can you still drive?" I asked.

"Of course," said Maria, insulted. "I've driven on acid hundreds of times. Well, not hundreds. Dozens."

I was already totally out of it. Her words expanded in all directions, multicolored pictures. Hundredsssss.... Dozenssss.... Dozens of brightly buzzing bees, spreading splendiculous sprightly splendor all over the Lilliputian landscape.... Cowabunga, dudes!

I followed them to their car and we took off to Red Rock. I spent the whole drive looking at the reflections in the window. It was wonderful. I followed them down the trail. Suddenly I was in a mind made of rocks. Curving, trailing, oozing everywhere. Tiny lizards stared out at me. Flies wiggled through my brain. The girls had taken off their clothes. They were undressing me. We were dancing in the sand in some kind of little grotto. There was nothing sexual about it. Their fingers touched my skin and bounced off me as if I were a trampoline. The sky overhead reached down and blended in with my eyeballs. I averted my gaze from the sun instinctively: it wasn't a light anymore, it was just a hole, a kind of yellow-black emptiness with the power to suck me in.

I lay down in the sand on my back. "Julie," I said. "Julie."

"Who is Julie?"

"She died," I said. It was torture to spit out the words.

"I'm sorry." It was Maria talking, I think. She seemed to talk the most. I really liked her.

"She saw a purple breast."

Maria took her breast in her hand. It was small but firm, wiht a large brown nipple and a wide areola. "Here it is," she said. As I watched, the breast turned purple.

"There it is," I said. The words came naturally now. The nipple was red; her chest was red. The vision was perfect. Everything was flowing in and out. The world was inside Maria. Maria had Julie's face. She was trying to speak to me, but I couldn't understand the words.

"Diane," I said. "Diane."

"She died too."


Diane refused to appear. There was only Julie. I became angry. I got up and threw a large rock. "Stop it," said Maria. Or was it Jessie. They began to dance a pantomime. Stop it, stop it, stop it. They were oozing all over the rocks, leaping over one anothers' heads, performing wild feats of gymnastics.

"Diane. Diane."

I threw another rock. "Fuck you," said Jesse. "Just cut it out." She slapped my face, hard. I reached out and slapped her back. She said, "I'm getting out of here."

All of a sudden I was alone in the rocks. The girls were gone. Julie was gone. Diane had never appeared. It was just me and the red-brown sandstone, bubbling weird forms in every direction. It was like a ten-dimensional art gallery. The rocks reached out at me and then disappeared. They just stood there solid, while I was moving in and out, through them. Such a diversity of forms, more than anyone could catalogue. It was truly incredible. Like an art museum plastered on your eyes.

The tree beside me reached down to touch me; I kicked it away, but it kept on returning. It told me something in a language made of leaves, a language I couldn't understand. All I can remember were moments, but the time went on forever. Every part of the rock spoke to me in its own tongue. It would take me the rest of my life to remember everything the rocks said. But none of it matters now, outside them, outside the experience. That universe is gone.

I didn't know what to do. I managed to put my clothes on. I started walking back the way I'd come. I think the girls were following me, yelling something. I didn't pay attention. I found the road and put my thumb up. Someone picked me up quickly. I don't remember what if anything I said to them. They took me back to Vegas. I tried to find the hotel. It was surprisingly easy, given that I had no idea where I was going, and kept getting distracted by the reflection of the sun off windows. Everything was mirroring everything else. The people walking by were nothing; everything was light. Sophia was back in the hotel room. She looked very strung out. She didn't notice anything was the matter with me.

"Diane," I said. "Diane."

"What's the matter with you?"


"What about her?"

"You're on junk again."

"So what?"

I didn't reply, just stood there looking. I couldn't find the words.

She took a close look at me. I just stared. She looked, and looked again. Understanding crept across her face. "Hey -- Vic. You're tripping, aren't you?"

I nodded my head. Or else just meant to, I don't remember well.

"Let me play for you."

I lay back on the bed. She picked her guitar up. It was beautiful. I closed my eyes and remembered. Finally I saw Diane. I had thought the trip was wearing off. But now I saw I'd been wrong. Or else this was its last gasp, its final burst of enthusiasm. There Diane was, beautiful and alive, just like the day I first made love to her. There she was, my wife, my lovely. Not a vision, not a hologram: reality. Everything was perfect and right.

Here is what I am thinking to myself: What kind of divine force has brought Diane to me?

I was hit by the vision at the peak of my last trip. Jimi Hendrix, Axis, Bold as Love. The giant cunt at the center of the universe. Red, wild and pulsing; giving birth to and fucking us all. And I saw that this vision had been a cop-out. It had been too easy. Seeing woman at the center of the world, without really coming to grips with the essence of woman. This limitation on the part of my previous vision was as obvious to me now as 1+1=2. I had had a real woman right there -- Diane -- and I had totally ignored her, leaving her to search fruitlessly for God and feel hollow and frustrated. I had retreated into a daydream-like vision, a cosmic sexual fantasy.

This time, I had a real woman right here, a wild woman. Realer than anything. And she was weaving me a fantasy, distilled from her essence. Which was Diane's essence too. I was going to the center of woman, whether I liked it or not. I would return to the cosmic vagina a much wiser, wilder man.

And then the conscious thought is gone. There are nothing but pigeons. I feel pigeons scraping on my mind -- fluttering -- trying to escape the small cage of my skull.

The pigeons fly away. They send back words I don't understand; words of protest. I have carried out illegal alchemical experiments. They protest in secret languages.

My name, I tell them quietly, my name is Fuck Frankenstein. I can no longer think to myself. The visions are much too strong.

I feel a creative force surging in mind and body. Not a God, something different. Something different than before. But it has been there all along.

I am chewing belladonna, wearing an erotic nightgown of spiderwebs. I am a Puritan witch.

Realizing how well the feeling of Goddess, wonderful Goddess, sinks right softly in.

I see a figure I recognize as the Hindu goddess Kali. Brilliant fire, yearning flesh rolls, cunt full of satan worms. Making and destroying, murdering men, birthing intricate cosmos, walking on bitchflesh coals.

The goddess Isis -- splendid, radiant, sexual; exploding over me like a vaginal sun; moving around me in the night like a liquid emporium of fabrics.

Impossible topologies clothing nymphomaniac nuns. I am alive!

The Goddess is fucking me. I am back in my Satan dream. I am eating out Sophia. I am the devil-woman. I have a giant vagina. The Goddess is fucking me like mad.

Feeling the Goddess move inside me, I have for the first time in my life a sense for God as well: rational, ordering, elegant, violent, directed not centerless in his rage.

I feel a newborn intuition: breasts tracing across me, writing words of light in vivid temporary languages. Inscribing messages on vacancies and thigh-scented fantasies. Closing lace drapes around my mind. Such wonderful nipples. Nipple madness! Delirious girl-nipple sun!

All this in Sophia's trembling music. And then, as we sit together in my father's house, just Diane and me, my dad having gone out for a walk, she says "hey, let's do it doggie style." And all of a sudden it's six months earlier. I blindfold her, drip ice on her body. I dance across a laughing landscape of unknown primal fluids. The chocolate smell of her flesh! I surround her with kisses, lick her cunt, insert a carrot in her vagina, return her to the world of plants. The Goddess rapes God, and renders him vegetable; the universe touches her delirious buttocks and I, the human airplane, laugh a delirious cannonball laugh.

Everything is gone now. The universe is wiped clean. I construct my world from scratch. I begin at the beginning.

I do not believe in reincarnation; the logic is too absurd, remote. Idiot Hindus gibber on the pavement, desperate for coins. The laws of physics strangle me. My love, Diane, your naked treeflesh body swallows up my being like a huge hungry mouth -- your cunt consumes my legs; your mouth swallows my arms; your knees suck down my head.

There she is now, right in front of me. My lovely, my beautiful wife. How clearly I see in her acne-scarred forehead the plains and deserts of Babylon, flogged by the vile sun. Oceans of fear and blood. Luminous triple shadows; breasts heaving to the music of somnolent drums. Her past incarnations pulse out of her forehead like a new kind of dilated eye.

Medicine woman -- furious tribe -- thick brown demigod vision. Prehistoric Africa; young warriors chewing mysterious mushrooms; drinking the blood of birds and lions; feasting on enemies' pungent flesh.

Tragic maid to an Egyptian bureaucrat, sweeping a dirt floor; firefleas glowing; ocean waves thundering; featherlight tremors; soft pink tickles; wonderclit, thunderclit; burrowing animals rejoicing deep underground. Festivals of knowledge, hatred, pestilence sweeping forty thousand times till sunset, emptying her mind of all but dirt. Petticoats chattering like lovebirds, dreamsongs -- resounding through the wet wet kiss of the civilized jungle. Brilliant music coursing slowly like sexual thunder through enchanted veins.

She discovered the secret minds of numbers at age 7; died of consumption at 11, leaving behind only her family's iridescent wails.

Her past is a multicolored junk jag. Her past lives flood through as if they were my memories. My history, my previous incarnations, contain no humans whatsoever. There is only an extraordinary worm. A worm so valiant, intelligent, superordinary -- a transcendent carrier of worm consciousness -- a worm that persuades the Goddess to break the laws of karma and elevate him directly from worm to man. Weaving long passages beneath the earth in wild brown tangles and hallucinatory spirals -- sculptures for taste, sex, magic worm skin. Newlywed fingers caressing my genitals. I float in heart-shaped swimming pools, beckoning nubile young virgins; feel infinite expanses of moist fevered flesh. And the moist brown earth becomes a vast expanse of bed; I am burrowing under the blankets on the young queen's infinite four-poster. On this bed, as vast as a morning springtime meadow, I am sucking her vagina, lost in the emptiness of her throbbing cunt -- weaving passages through the blankets, afraid to be discovered by the servants. Only women are permitted in this universe. I am the queen's glowing secret -- punch laced with opium -- fluorescent 15 year old slut. This worm is eaten by a hawk while sculpting its most glorious creation, and is reborn as a human male American Jew. Exalted brain, defective dream, impossible movements her body weaves through mine -- octopus tango seagull orchestra -- she bends over the bed and her buttocks shine up at me she smiles and giggles "Come on in" I rub the massage oil in deeper and deeper until her whole body hums and vibrates -- music of black holes, yellow dwarves, red giants, supernovas, itinerant suns. Her hips move in circles something is happening to her sweat and blood

A part of me reels back and thinks. What the hell is going on here. I am communicating with the Goddess. I am seeing through Diane. My wife who is dead is now opening up to me. I am seeing layers of her deeper than she has ever seen herself. I feel a kind of female energy oozing out from the Goddess -- her nipples and her cunt and the pores in her skin -- a kind of accumulated buoyance from billions of vanished women and girls. There is a creative electricity, a shapeless shaping force, a music that is a woman's unique jazz. A web of flesh and mind and movement -- laughing planets, sobbing suns. And if I let my ego die, I feel my skin, my thoughts, my lusts become a part of it.

It's four and a half years ago. There is no birth control. I'm not allowed to ejaculate. I pull out tired after half an hour but she turns and faces me exploding, whimpering plaintively "More more more." Lying naked on her stomach she rolls her hips frantically, my fingers inside her, her buttocks bobbing wildly, my lips on her back. I roll her over and enter her and I am welcomed into her orgasm.

Then it's just the two of us lying there. She's lying perfectly, magically still, and I'm covering her with kisses. Her thighs are vases of dark brown crystal, reflecting light in enchanted mazes, enfolding her cunt which has five thousand colors; it is a psychotropic flower. The taste of her cunt, her lips, her underarms, her knees, her neck, her breasts flows through me like spirit blood. Her moods and confusions -- words, arguments, agreements, lust, anger and gratitude -- burst out of my pupils in multicolored showers, bathing the world all around.

A voice speaks. It is my voice. It is not making a sound. It says, "It is impossible to understand what I am saying; you can only absorb it through the pores of your skin. The gentle curves of her flesh curve the spacetime axes of my alternate world."

She struggles against me endlessly, again and again; it's a kind of classical music. She always falls into my arms in the end, realizing that I accept her flawed but beautiful womanflesh and woman-mind. The brown crystal vases periodically shatter against the hard mind-world of her skull. Her thighs fragment, losing hold of her sex -- tiny pieces whirl aimlessly across every continent and ocean. I track them down tirelessly and glue them together with the rose of my intuition. We pull each others' eyelids over our bodies and settle down to sleep. Goodnight, Vic. Love you. Hello, Sophia. Goodnight, Diane.

I realize that I am lying there listening to music. Diane is not really there. Sophia is playing music, beautiful music, beautiful music for me. Diane is dead, dead, dead.

But I don't open my eyes. Why bother? Diane will roll around again. She'll penetrate the spiderwebs. Just you wait and see.

I open my eyes, look at the ceiling. Sophia says "Good morning." She's been watching me. The ceiling is swirling. Diane looks down at me. She speaks. "Alive! Awake! Touch being!" I don't hear her words any more. Her speaking is inseparable from the movements of her breastlike soul.

Forget all the arguments, she said. Forget the fights, insane collisions. The self-defense assaults of brains. We are a symbiotic comet shooting through the brown flesh stretch of spacetime. We are two antimatter dolphins exploding in the shadows of conscious stars.

She fades away again. "Are you there, Diane?" I ask silently. "Do you hear me? It's just this amniotic fluid -- the same old liquid dream..."

The past looms up again. I am lying there beside her. It is one night, it is the other. Every night is in essence the same. Invisibly she guides me through my journeys -- we remake each other in the image of nothing -- we are the clay and the air in the background, and we are the soft sculpting hand.

She speaks; she says nothing. It is the language of trees and creeks. I understand the shapes inside her words -- she is alive in the curves of my body. She is my lawfully wedded, unlawfully wedded, wedded wife. I am outside time; I see our whole existence together in a single frame. I have loved her for six years. I have had sex with her several thousand times. I have sucked her cunt several hundred times. I have kissed her lips at least ten thousand times. I have kissed and licked every square centimeter of her body; slept touching her on ten thousand different occasions; argued with her several thousand times, hit her half a dozen times, been hit by her half a dozen times, called her every rotten name I know, been called by her every rotten name she knows; shared tens of thousands of thoughts, emotions, whims, ambitions, dizzy dreams.

My wife is an artist. Is she an artist? Was she an artist before? She is producing paintings, wonderful paintings, human bodies splayed all around. She is possessed with the need to spill on canvas the deepest contents of her incandescent woman mind. She paints pictures of womanflesh blending and breaking; body parts violating world-life-laws-reason.

No, I am sure this is an illusion; Diane was never a painter before. She was a sociologist. A mathematical sociologist. A sociology student, rather. But nonetheless, there she is making paintings, such wonderful paintings, producing these lights with her mind. The same woman, different women pouring off the canvas -- breasts bulging, cunts, eyeballs, delirious violet, magic illusion thighs. These paintings are alive. No one can make this kind of painting. They are her body and mind.

She is obsessed with this dream in which the universe is made out of color. Colors binding body parts together, colors wrenching them apart, colors representing nuances of experience, colors making love with colors, colors masturbating shamelessly, colors changing other colors into other colors. Colors capturing dangerous feminine fantasy dreams.

Her paintings are frightening, deeply threatening. This is why I love them; this is why I hate them. This is why they enclose my mind. They illuminate my mind with ambiguous light, arouse and agitate my skin. They are a vivid universe formed from the flesh and love of woman.

Instead of elementary particles: breasts and vaginas. Stomachs, arms, bellies, faces, asses, backs. Configurations of body parts shifting, exploding, forming compounds by feminine natural laws. The sky is the Goddess's trembling flesh. The colored flesh in her paintings is a spiritual X-ray. The Goddess reaches out from her luminous canvases, and traces her lusty tongue of fire across my invisible skin. Every color is a feeling, every form is an experience; every body part accumulating in its shape all that has ever happened to it, all that ever will happen to it, all that relates to it, all that listens to the melody of its delirious feminine dream.

The trip gets scary for a second. I am inside the painting land. The paintings are on the insides of my eyes.

I am frightened by the lack of the masculine principle -- of the raw power, strength and definiteness to which I am accustomed. In this pure female painting universe there is no place for me to think or feel or live. I have to get out of this universe of paintings. It is a metaphysical jail. It is contained in the ceiling of this hotel room. If I could just turn my head to look at Sophia the spell would be entirely broken. This fictitious Diane who has turned into an artist has created strange paintings that capture my mind. I am not a woman; I cannot exist here. Someone must please let me out.

But then I feel something stir inside me -- a hidden movement, a far-off laughter; a warm invisible stroking hand. I shut off my mind and feel the world that I see upon waking, before things grow definite, before the blur of sleep unfolds inside itself and disappears. I feel it emerge, seep through the spaces and cracks: the Empire of Woman.

The Empire of Woman -- breathing out from a million brightly colored female bodies.

The Empire of Woman, singing its experiences: the joyful pain of giving birth, the multiple pangs of sexuality, the infinity of orgasm, the triumph of ideas, the hatred of oppression, the delight of discovery, the struggle for freedom and creation, the perfection of love, the imperfection of humanity, the frustration of weakness and stupidity, the beauty of friendship, the beauty of sharing, the wonder of being in the world. The list goes on and on. It is written on scrolls, draping out infinite windows, trailing biliously away in the wind.

The Empire of Woman, subtly revealing itself from a million different angles -- a million perspectives, a million experiences, a million colors, a million shapes, a million minds.

A purely feminine geometry; a purely feminine fear-rage-lust- form-experience. Cunt made world, or world made cunt.

Color, emotion, color-experience.

Formless emotion forming endless variety. Endless repetition but never experienced exactly the same. Endless mystery sprawling, open thigh, clitoral clear.

The Goddess speaks to me through her paintings -- through the images of her paintings in my mind. The Goddess rises in front of me in multicolored splendor. A delirious melange of incongruous bodies.

Diane, Diane, Diane! I never knew all this! How could you hold all this inside you? Through years of insight, trial and error, my wife has choked up this system of vision, somehow forced it through the narrow serpentine passage of her human brain. She has painted an illustrated spiritual guidebook to the Empire of Woman. She has painted on the insides of my eyeballs. Now wherever I go, the colors of her soul will always be here with me. Decorating the corridors of my mental mazes. She is the wind in my mind. She is drawing on the walls of my New York apartment in red magic marker. She is the world's greatest artist. She is creating my dreams.

And then I flow back, and see the Goddess again. The circle of time twists around precariously. The unity of Kali and Isis is apparent. The Goddess does not have a single body; she has all bodies at once. The Goddess does not want explicit worship -- no prayers or sacrifices. She does not want you to kneel; except perhaps occasionally. She wants you to worship her embodiment in living mind-soul-flesh. My wife is her paintings. She never made any paintings. Not in this or any previous life. Perhaps this is her next life. Her body at different times, different moods, different situations, different stages of life. Different colorations, different shapes and geometries -- different perfections, feelings, flaws.

When I make love to her -- am I now making love to her? -- I feel her body as it used to feel five years ago. I feel Diane begin to move on top of me. I lie here with my eyes closed, looking at the ceiling, and Diane and I are making love. I make love with the thousands of different bodies that used to be my wife. The different legs, arms, breasts, bellies, asses, necks, cunts, backs, blending together, grasping each other. Hues, textures, vibrations, tastes, hums, twinges, smells. Time folds into itself. She is no longer a woman, she is a transcendent creative force, bringing elementary particles into existence out of the flow of my human skin.

Suddenly she disappears altogether. In a moment she'll be back again. I am a conduit for intergalactic energies -- a disembodied spiritual eye. I am a laser beam, emanating creativity and awakening love. Here in the center of the moment -- where I understand I am -- past, present and future vanish in a whirlpool. Self and other are just drifting, dissolving. I am an energy realer than itself. I lick her and taste a million bodies; I fuck a feminine collage of colors. My wife is back again. She is multiplied. I grip a universe of asses. I have ten thousand wives and none. Her small breasts sag down like overripe fruits; they emanate tropical death, lust and passion. Her pubic triangle juts out, the dark lips of her vagina dangling down, as she stands there watching me knowing I want her -- waiting for me to throw myself at her skin. We are bodies; we are trajectories; she orbiting me as I orbit her. We are a chaotic orbit orbiting chaotically.

I try to pull back, back into the solid, but the Empire of Woman grabs me. Diane, from beyond the grave, has finally consumed my mind. Her thoughts and feelings fill in the spaces between my own. Her light brown skin is a million different colors -- my flesh is warm and white and cushiony. We reconstruct each others' blood and muscles, each others' bone and skin. I am painted in her pictures -- it is my mind which is unfolded in the continuum of colors, the ocean of bodies that she pornographically spills out with her paintbrush mind. The eternal-feminine leads me up higher, up into the ceiling, up into the deep brown ground. This is the Empire of Woman. This is Diane's sweet mind and body. This is the painting we are living in.

I open my eyes and I see that Sophia is making love to me. Slowly and rhythmically, just like the last time. As opposed to her usual wild style.

"I hope you don't mind," she said, noticing my attention. "You had a monster erection. I put in one of my tapes so the music wouldn't stop."

Indeed, she was no longer playing the guitar. The guitar sounds were creating themselves. She was moving on top of me. It felt pretty good. The music was beautiful. It had been Diane up on top of me just a moment ago. But in fact, it had not been. It had just been Sophia. I had believed it was Diane. Diane had been in my head.

This little scene was reality, I reminded myself. The other scenes, the crazy bodies and paintings, the inner core of Diane, were illusion. It was an acid trip. It would go away soon.

But really, what did it all mean? Why was this scene supposed to be real, and the others illusory? What difference did it really make? The other scenes were just as good. In point of fact they were better. I said to Sophia, "I don't mind."

She stroked me and laughed. "You're really out there."

I stared.

"I wish I was there with you."

I didn't answer. I was gone. My eyes were open this time, focused on her breasts, on her wonderful nipples. Nipple madness, nipple madness, nipple madness. I didn't care if it was her or Diane. I remembered Julie's purple tit. I hadn't found it yet. Sophia's music zoomed through my mind. The tape was a rough one, a terrible recording, but it didn't matter at all. It was just her and a drum machine, instrumental meanderings. With this kind of sound around me there was certainly no need for words.

Words transform feelings into thoughts, I said silently, into the paintings on my eyeballs. Music turns thoughts into feelings. And touch, your silky touch, Sophia, goes beneath the realm of what is, to the dimensionless beyond. I said to Sophia, "You are the queen of the Empire of Woman."

"Gee, thanks."

She hadn't understood. She thought it was a silly thing to say. I tried to express myself again. "You underly the structure of atoms and molecules."

Another smile.

"Too seductive to be trapped with semantic mesh."

"You're really freaky, man."

She wraps her legs around me in a confused way -- vibrant and shaky, like the deeply-felt scales of an amateur horn player. Their halting notes are consumed by the beauty of an interstellar melody emanating from the lips of her cunt. Her touch destroys me and brings a new me into life. I try to explain again. "Everything important," I say, "is in the gap between the one me and the other."

"Is that right? ... You're a real trip."

"The only remedy is epidermis. The cool caress of the evening air -- the loving touch of your pulsing enervating womanflesh."

"You're a poet, Vic. You should write me some lyrics."

"It's your poem skin."

I decide to stop speaking. I know I am not a poet. I have never written a poem. Artistic configurations of words hold no allure for me. I am far more interested in the touch of her skin. Patterns of skin magic build up reality, after all: they are the only truth. I am a physicist gone awry, obsessed by the geometry of thoughts and the algebra of emotions. I read unsolvable riddles in the taut expanses of her inner thighs and the warm bulge of her stomach. Diane's and Sophia's breasts, so different yet identical! The Empire never ended, and never began. The Empress sparks forth her melodious commands and I leap up to obey them. Oh yes, my Goddess, Diane, Sophia, Julie, I am a particle of your undulating woman dreams.

The thoughts race through my brain. Everything is suddenly organized. I feel stoned as anything; like I've just smoked fifty joints at once. I expand; I enclose everything. In your case, my love, I say silently, obedience means freedom. I speechify and take notes so as to recall what I say. Only by submitting to her desire, to the shifting vectors of her skin, can I transcend this bag of blood and organs, muscles, bones. I am a process of knowing and not knowing. I am a single flake of snow. The flow of life throughout the universe is the movement of fluid from woman to man and man to woman. I try to arrange words in the shapes of thoughts, senses and feelings, and I always fail miserably. That is why I have decided not to speak. Can't you see I'm not speaking because I love you? Of course you can see that I am not here to speak. Don't you look at me with those wanting eyes, Sophia. Why can't you see inside me? Those aren't eyes, they are nipples. Brush them soft against my chest. I'll suck them hard like a baby. You can see inside me better with your nipples than you can with my words.

I am a sculptor of invisible skin and live madness. I feel the secret sexual bodies of ideas. Everything meaningful to me is skin, skin, skin. I am a being, a living organism, a pattern of electricity -- an animal, a plant, a rock. I extend through everything and I extend through words as well. I am a moron and a genius. I understand more than has ever been said or dreamt or felt or thought and of course I understand nothing. We are algebraic equations, ecstatically nonlinear and endlessly solving each other simultaneously. We are a Theory of Everything. The Goddess does not wear a crown or jewels -- the enchanted forest of her hair is a crown -- the pores of her chocolate skin are jewels -- as she stands there proudly naked, as I gaze up at her quietly waiting for nothing to begin.

I am the universe inside the flesh of the wandering electron that weaves forward and backward through time and space. I decide to open my mouth again. It has been a minute or two since I have spoken. Or perhaps it has been a thousand years. Ordinary time does not apply. I am in butt-fuck Egypt. I say, "Did you know that according to modern physics there is only one electron? It weaves forwards and backward through time. Forwards it's an electron, backwards it's a positron. One particle, everywhere."




I don't know if she believes me. She has not studied the equations of Dirac, Wheeler, Tomonaga, Feynman, Dyson, Schwinger. But her vaginal lips are warm and welcoming. I exude her oneness with the African deep forest, and the warmth of her puffy lips, with which she traps me in a telepath kiss. I open my mouth again: "What is the scent of freshmade orange marmalade intermingled with absolute truth?"

I'm with Diane again. My eyes have drifted shut. She has stepped out for a walk; her skin is stroking the warm wet summer air. When she comes back with exhausted eyes my fingers will trace poetry on her skin; they will trace poetry between her legs as they clench around her clitoris. She will not know who I am. I will tell her my name is Victor. Vic Tymanski. My name is Vic Tymanski; my body is a nameless, perfectly ordinary, hypersexual expansion. It contains numerous quasars and galaxies and animals and plants of every known and unknown species; it expands to encompass even you.

I open my eyes and look at Sophia. I sit up straight. She wraps her legs around my waist. "Nice," she says. "Ooh. Mmmmm."

"Your name is Electron Woman," I tell her. "I decided that the first time I saw you."

"Electron Woman. As in, Electric Ladyland. I like it."

"Electric Ladyland was about electric guitars. Electron Woman is about the one electron weaving through everything, forwards and backwards through time."

"Isn't that what electric guitars do?"


She hums some words from the Hendrix tune. "I'm gonna show you...."

I close my eyes. My hands are under her buttocks. I swivel her around and round. I am with Diane again. Diane has disappeared. I am lying on the bed in our New York apartment, waiting for Diane to come back, lost in sexual fantasy. I don't feel embarrassed in the least to be caressing my own penis. I try to give my fingers their own life, to touch my body with the element of surprise, but I find this is not completely possible. I need her independent will, her delicate, mildly threatening power. My own touch is arousing but not erotic. Her skin disappears the very moment I touch it. We are both made of the same electron. The same electron weaves her body, weaves my body, weaves the thought-fields in our brains, weaves the electric-chair death that haunts our words, weaves all the nothing that is everything. She is not in the province of the central nervous system; she is distributed throughout the body; she is distributed throughout the world. She flows through the veins of every electron in the universe; and there is only one electron. My wife and I do not exist; we are pulsations in the nonexistent fabric of the hallucinatory world; I am an electron and she is a positron; we shift and transform into each other, backwards, forwards, teasing time, producing patterns, illusory objects. I explode from this crazy train of images as much as from anything. She is an electron and I am a positron. The Goddess is a quark full of strangeness, charm and color. She composes us in triples. These concepts are pure raving nonsense. The roots of our language are found in the leaves and the branches of our genital trees. Her name is Diane; perhaps her name is Sophia; perhaps her name is even Julie, or Kalamazoo. The word is empty; everything is full of her electron woman flesh-mind-dream.

The trip is beginning to fade. I am now emerging to conscious reality. I must return from her to me. It is now time. I must replenish myself with invisible water. Where is the invisible water? The Empire of Woman glowing warm and soft; alive inside.

I must leave this dream-land. I must go back to my Theory of Everything. I must write papers, books, computer programs. I must remember that it is the flow that has all the power. And the power is imperial and feminine: it is an invisible woman.

I cannot create her delirious paintings: visual images of cosmos and Goddess. I cannot draw upon my eyelids. I build castles of words: logical, intuitive images. I sculpt multidimensional ideas that orbit heavenly bodies. I make mathematical forms sing. I make songs breathe mathematical forms. I understand the secret undergirdings of the cosmic mind. And all this is not entirely worthless. But yet as I taste the world, the wonderful world, her deliate presence makes it all so much more exciting. She is a tidal wave crashing down the tidy huts of my complacency. She tickles my taste buds, my intuitive logic, like an intelligent alien spice.

I remember Diane now. I remember her really. She never made a painting in her life. Especially not on my eyeballs. She made some drawings on the walls. I thought they were beautiful at the time, but when the trip was done and I looked at them, they were perfectly ordinary.

She is obtuse, shortsighted, bitchy, afraid of people, wary of difficulty, paranoid, hypochondriac, oversensitive, prone to misinterpret. She is insecure despite her intelligence and her talent. In short she is an highly imperfect manifestation of the divine female. She cries all day because the car has a dead battery. She stalks out of the house enraged and not talking because I have said a sarcastic word. She accuses me of not loving her, of having only work on my mind. She has written a diary of our fights, portraying me as a psychopathic monster.

Her intermittent coldness and craziness alarm me, but the bad taste always fades in the tropical splendor. Everything is reflected in the exploding star of our eyes as they tentatively meet. Waking up, going to sleep, every moment -- the whole day a sequence of waking and sleeping; hypnagogic, hypnopompic states. The Goddess in electrons and in even her stupidest acts. If I could understand this at all moments, I would no longer exist.

I sense as the trip fades that we are passing through stages of existence that we perceive only dimly. Language, love and birth unfold like Sophia's music, step by step it seems. I am speaking, being born and fucking all at the very same time. Time is a squishable thing.

My penis enters her vagina like a new kind of sleep -- a glowing slumber fire. Her cunt is a portal to other dimensions; it is a portable world. Excited, I love her; every word she says is wonderful. I float in my mother's womb, indefinite like an infinite orange star. The purple breast finally appears, but it is off in the distance; I hardly even notice it.

Next I am put off by her; her grinding tires and bores me; my body craves for sleep. Her talk is tired, tedious, unoriginal; her mind not so bright as mine. My mother casts me out out into the cold air -- I'm clenched and grabbed; ignored and beaten. There is no exit from the tedium. This is painful as hell.

Awake! Alive! Awake! Alive! I can feel her soft pulsing and arousal -- I sink into her flesh and feel her desire surround me in hot, broad ellipses. Together we can create fantastic feelings and ideas, or at least stave off the bloodthirsty cosmos. My mother holds me; she gives me her breast; there is a good reason to be.

Finally it hurts so much it is glorious; the pain recedes and it is wholesomely glorious; I am at one with her and alone in a magical and factual state. I am an independent being, a particle weaving all of creation.

The Empire of Woman is my creation -- I am a creation of the Empire of Woman. We teach each other what it is to spiral and what it is to dream.

All of a sudden the illusion-state ends. Everything is shifted down a gear or two. I open my eyes and I am fucking Sophia. I didn't know I had shut them again. She sensed the change immediately. "You're back."

I smiled. "Sort of."

"Am I still Electron Woman?"

"Of course."

I started to fuck her in earnest. We both came a couple minutes later. She had been skating along the edge. I flopped down beside her. She snuggled up against me. We were together as we never had been before.

After a few minutes, though, I started to feel shitty. After all, Diane was gone. It had all been an illusion. A fucking mind game. Julie was dead. Diane was dead. Fuck it. Fuck it.

Three weeks more and I had to go back to work. Or else give up on physics altogether. Two crappy choices. Back to the real world, back from pussy land, painting land, the Empire of Woman. Constraints closing in from every side. My mind was closing off. Possibilities had suggested themselves. The world had been full of wonder. And now same old nagging shit was back. Just back again. I tried to console myself, to tell myself I was having fun. Tripping on acid, fucking a beautiful sex goddess, playing in a rock band. I was living like never before. I couldn't fool myself at all -- never was much good as that. I felt like shit, shit, shit. My body was shaking.

"It's all right," said Sophia. "You're just having trouble coming down. Let me give you something for it."

I nodded my head. She went away for a moment. She was holding a needle by my arm. "Speed," she said. "Makes the landing softer."

I nodded my head. I didn't care. My life was worthless anyway. Diane would kill me if she found out. But Diane was dead. The speed sank in immediately. The needle didn't hurt at all. I wasn't thinking anymore -- I was floating through the upper atmosphere. A residual hallucination invaded me. I was skydiving, sailing through clouds. The ground was infinitely distant. My body was tingling, almost itching, but everything felt really good. I clenched her up to me. Everything was fine, fine, fine. Everything was truly fine.

Sophia perched on the side of the bed. She was shooting up again. She kept missing with the needle, getting blood on the bed. Finally she passed out again. I tried to revive her. What with the acid and the speed, I didn't know what I was doing. It was just like that time in New York, when she'd collapsed in the bathroom. Her heart was stopped again. Seemed like she was dead. But she'd come out of it before. I called 911 again, thinking of the Public Enemy song. "Get up, get get get get down -- 911 is a joke in your town...." Sung by Flavor Flav, not Chuck D. I couldn't rememember the name of the hotel. It was written on the phone, I noticed. I couldn't recall the room number. I got up and looked on the outside of the door. When I got back to the phone I realized the room number was written on the phone as well: it was the same as the telephone extension number. I flopped out on the bed. I had lost all my intelligence. My girlfriend was dying and I felt really good! Shit! This speed was excellent stuff! I had never tried hard drugs before. Apparently they were just the trick! The crazy images from the trip flew through my mind, but it didn't matter at all. It was all just silly stuff. Everything was wonderful, breezy, cool. My body was full of energy: not an energy that impelled me to do things, just an energy moving around inside me, like an electric force on my skin. My skin was almost itchy but not quite. I just felt like I was floating in the air.

The police came. She was dead, they said. They couldn't do anything about it. They looked at me with incredible disgust. Suddenly I realized I might be in some kind of trouble. I was in a hotel room full of drugs with a dead woman. Shit. But they didn't seem concerned with me. They asked me to come back with them and make a statement. They didn't put me under arrest. I told them she was a junky; that this had happened before in New York. I told them she had kicked but apparently she was back on the stuff. I hadn't known she was carrying drugs. We'd made love and I'd fallen asleep; I hadn't seen her shoot up. I was a physicist who worked at Columbia and was just traveling with the band for the summer. I showed them my staff ID. They had no reason not to believe me. They took my address and phone number back in New York. I left the police station still high on speed. I decided to go back to the hospital. Maybe Julie was dead too. Perhaps she was alive and well. At any rate I could tell her parents what had happened. I didn't know what to do. Diane had died, Sophia had died. Julie was comatose. And my head was full of this vision, these paintings on my eyelids. I was obsessed with cunts, nipples, womens' bodies, womens' minds. Sophia's music had made me see inside Diane. I understood everything, all of a sudden, but I couldn't quite put it in words. There was no one left to tell about it. And everything was falling apart. The speed was wearing off. The universe was bitter and mean. I wanted to smash my head against a wall until my brains spilled out. But I just kept on walking. The motion was, if not soothing, at least something besides torture. I kept on moving myself.

When I got to the hospital, though, things rapidly got brighter. One surprise after another. First, when I got to Julie's room, I noticed her parents were gone, so I went in to sit by her bed. I took her hand and her eyes opened right away. "Vic," she said.

"Shit!" I exclaimed. "Julie! You're awake!"

"I know."

"Do your parents know?"

She grimaced. "Yeah."

"Where are they? What happened?"

"They went back to New Jersey."

"What do you mean? As soon as you came to, they took off?"

"They wanted me to quit the band and come back with them. I said I wouldn't do it. So they disowned me. I'm not their daughter anymore."

"Shit. What a thing to do to someone, right after they come out of a fucking coma."

She shrugged her shoulders, as best she could. "It doesn't matter."


"What's the matter?"

I was about to tell her about Sophia's death. I had forgotten about Sophia for a moment, in my elation at seeing Julie awake. Then the second surprise occurred. In the hall outside the room, I saw someone wheeled by on a hospital bed; someone who looked amazingly like Sophia. I ran out to look at her. It was indeed Sophia. She wasn't dead after all. The police had made a mistake. She had pulled her living death trick again. She was invincible.

I followed her down the hall. She was put three doors down from Julie. Julie got out of her bed and came along behind me. The nurse wheeling her along explained the situation. She was out cold; they couldn't wake her up. They didn't know why she hadn't died, or when if ever she'd come to.

I decided to call up Harry at the hotel and tell him what the situation was. He wasn't in the room so I called the main office to leave a message. But while I was formulating the message in my mind, who walked into the room but Harry? Everything was happening so fast I could hardly understand it. Harry was talking rapid-fire. He saw Julie walking around, acting normal, and Sophia zonked out on the hospital bed with a tube down her throat. "This is too much weird shit for me, man. I'm going back to New York."

Julie was in shock. The band was her only reality. She had just sent away her parents in favor of the band; and now it was melting away. "You're taking the van. But how will we get back?"

"The van is totalled," said Harry. "I ran it off the road last night."

"You're not hurt at all?"

"Naw. I got lucky."

"What about the equipment?"

"It's fucked, man. Forget about it."

"It's still in the van?"

"What's left of it?"

"Where's the van?"

He told me the street it was on. And then, before I could collect my thoughts, he disappeared. He couldn't escape us all fast enough.

"I'll go have a look and see what can be salvaged," I told Julie. Suddenly I felt calm and collected. Everyone around me was on the brink of death, but at least Sophia was all right. She was saved again. Things weren't as bad as they could be. Death wasn't permanent. Sophia wasn't an ordinary woman; she was a goddess, with an unlimited number of lives.

"I'm coming with you," said Julie.

"No way. You're going back to your hospital bed. You've just come out of a coma, don't be a fool. Anyway, you're wearing a paper hospital gown."

"I have clothes in my room."

"Come on, Julie. It's not safe. Don't kill yourself now."

"I feel fine."


"All right, all right."

I walked down the hall and got on the elevator. Julie headed the other way, back to her room. I had the hospital receptionist call me a taxi. When I got in the cab to go, though, I saw Julie getting in the back door, dressed in her street clothes. I didn't say anything. If there was one thing I had learned, it was that I couldn't stop women from killing themselves. She seemed fine anyway.

Apparently Harry had rolled right off the road, into a ditch. The van was almost smushed in half; there was no hope for it whatsoever. Most of the stuff in the van was OK though; even the old Roland worked all right, once we got it back to the hotel. Sophia's guitars were undamaged. Only Harry's drum kit was seriously fucked. "I can't believe Harry just took off," said Julie.

"Doesn't matter. There are always more drummers."


"Sophia's more difficult to replace," I said.

"I'm sure she'll come out of it all right."

"I hope so."

We paused and looked at each other. Conversations with Julie were full of these long pauses.

"You're not going to stay with the band anyway," she said. "You're going to go back to your job."

"This is too crazy for me," I said. "I felt like shit after my wife died. That was only a month and a half ago, but it feels like years, man. So much has happened since then."

"Yeah. This has been a crazy summer."

"I'm not much of a musician anyway."

"You're all right. You're as good as I am."

I shrugged. "Maybe so."

"But you're better at something else. I'm not. This is the only thing I know how to do."

"You don't know that."

"I'm not a brain like you. I was never any good in school."


"You're really good at physics, aren't you? That's what you really like to do."

I thought back to my acid trips. "I don't know anymore. I love physics. I do want to understand the universe. But after what I've been through the last couple weeks, I'm no longer so sure physics is any use at all for understanding the universe. Do you know what I mean?"

"I guess so."

I smiled at her warmly. "That means you don't."

"To tell you the truth, I never understood science at all."

"Physics is really amazing, once you get into it. You get three or four equations, that you could write down on the back of a napkin, that explain everything in the universe. You know -- the way planets move around the sun, the wind, the rain, the electricity in your brain that makes your thoughts, the DNA in your cells, the chemistry they use to make shampoo and potato chips and plastic, liquid helium at four degrees Kelvin -- everything, man! It's like looking at the mind of God."


"But then, I dunno.... You know, all these things happen to you, and you don't understand them at all, and it's hard to see what these theories of everything are worth, really. Where does it get you?"


I put my arm around her. "You're a sweet girl."


We made love silently and automatically. It was the thing to do. And it was surprisingly satisfying. She wasn't as erotic and intense as Sophia, nor as slow and romantic as Diane; but there was something more natural about her. She made love the way you yawn, or stretch your limbs; it was just a reflex action. Also, her cunt was very tight, like Diane's had been in the first couple years. She adapted to my motions automatically; I came so fast I was embarrassed. I got up to take a piss and came back and went in her again. It took about forty-five minutes, but eventually she got into an orgasm. Her rhythm was fairly similar to Diane's; totally different from Sophia, who would come again and again and again without hardly a break inbetween. Afterwards, we lay back on the bed.

She said, "I've had a crush on you since I first met you."

This statement actually surprised me. "It didn't show."

She shrugged. "I would never try to compete with Sophia."

"Well, I was pretty much infatuated with her."

She laughed and poked me. "That's an understatement."

"But this dying and coming back to life is a bit of a turn-off."

"Hey, I did that too."

"Only once though. And it was an accident. She's going to kill herself one of these times with that junk habit. She's got to kick for good."


This was one of those unbelievable moments. While we were in the middle of talking about Sophia, the phone rang. It was the hospital. Sophia was really dead.

Julie and I hung around in Vegas for a few days, doing nothing. We were depressed but sort of elated at the same time. My mind was mostly numb. We were falling in love, but the air was filled with death. The back of my mind was full of weird, seething passions, awakened by the acid trip, but I kept them pushed back. It wasn't the time for them.

After a couple days I remembered I hadn't called home and checked my answering machine in about a week. To my surprise, there was a bit of good news on it. I had been offered a job in New Zealand, teaching computer science. Canterbury University, in Christchurch. I had applied for the job in March, and had basically forgotten about it. I had applied for an awful lot of jobs. I called up New Zealand and accepted it. They said it would take a few months to get a permanent residence visa, but that was okay, since the school year didn't start till February. I could take up duties on January 1.

It was late July, nearly August. This left five months to putter around. I could go back and work another semester at Columbia. That would be the responsible thing to do. But I had enough money in the bank that this wasn't strictly necessary. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to get to New Zealand. To get as far away from everything as was humanly possible. I could go on a tourist visa and get my resident visa later, after I was already there. I could spend five months touring the country. Why the hell not?

New Zealand! Fucking New Zealand! It might as well have been Mars for all I knew about it. I could have gone to the library and studied up on the country, but I didn't care. The important thing was to get as far away as possible. As a child I'd always had a hankering to move to Australia or New Zealand, to live among the kangaroos and kiwis. Wandering naked through the forest composing poems to the sun, a beautiful woman by my side - - that's how I'd envisioned myself. A far cry from teaching computer science in the university. But the teaching load was low, about four hours a week. Imagine all the time I'd have for physics!

I wondered briefly how Diane would have reacted to the idea of moving to New Zealand. Probably she would have vetoed it automatically. I realized, for a moment, how wide-open the wound of her death still was, in my mind. But I was able to put it aside, instead of being paralyzed. Again, something was happening. Traveling with the band had distracted me for a month and a half, and now as soon as that was over, something else had popped up to take my attention from my grief.

Next, triggered by the image of Diane, I thought of Sophia for a moment, lying there in the hospital. But it wasn't the same as thinking of Diane. I was sad, but it just felt like a friend had died, not like I'd lost a part of myself. I realized that I had never really known Sophia, as a person. I had been turned on like her like crazy -- no one else had ever turned me on that way. God! She could have made me do anything, I mused. I would gladly have killed someone for a night with her. Even after having fucked her dozens of times. Well, all right, maybe not; who can say. But, ooh, those nipples. And the way she moved those hips. The way she would clamber up on your face after the third orgasm. I don't know what it is that's so irresistable about an insatiable woman. And her music had bowled me over every bit as much as her sex. I'd always sort of fantasized about meeting a girl genius. Granted, she wasn't a physics genius -- she had probably forgotten half her multiplication tables -- but hell, the way her mind worked was amazing to watch. So quick, so perfect, so intuitively certain. Everything she thought of fit together like pieces in an impromptu puzzle. And none of it would ever have occurred to anybody else. It was all her own universe. That was the thing of it. Ordinary composers explore other people's universes, but Sophia created her own. She and the Logos had a special relationship. Just like me with my physics -- only she was a little better, perhaps.

But still, there had been a certain coldness about her. Sex plus music and conversation didn't make a relationhip. I'd tried to ignore this while I'd been with her, but now that she was gone it was all too apparent. She'd admired my relative mental stability, and enjoyed my constant flood of weird ideas, but she'd never even come close to empathizing with me. She had genuinely not understood why I'd come on the road with her in the first place. Something in her childhood had made her cold as ice inside -- which is what had led her to use heroin in the first place, I supposed. Maybe, with years of effort, I could have melted her center, and made her really open up to me. But that was a moot point now.

To a remarkable extent, I put Diane and Sophia out of my mind. I knew I hadn't gotten over either of them, but I was full of verve, full of energy directed toward the future. I put off the task of dealing with them into the indefinite future. I spent half my time reading computer science books, trying to get ready to impersonate a computer scientist. Of course, I'd been programming for years, and I had a solid math background, but there was plenty of computer science I was totally ignorant of. It was fun studying something new again, even if the information involved wasn't of fundamental interest to me. And being with Julie absorbed the other half of my attention. Even though, in a sense, there was nothing to it at all. I didn't dwell on my feelings for her, or even allow myself to think about them. We just did things together: talked, played games, went to movies or nightclubs. We were good to each other sexually. It was simple and right.

New Zealand, Julie. Julie, New Zealand. There was only one thing to do. I offered to bring Julie with me. She had nothing better to do for the next five months. She didn't have the energy to join another band just yet. We flew back to New York to pack our things. I sold my cars and checked with the realtor who was selling the apartment. An offer had been received; it was up to me whether to hold out for something better. I accepted it without question. It was thirty thousand more than we'd paid for it a few years earlier. Fifty thousand dollars profit. Wow! The Manhattan real estate market was booming. It was a stupid thought but I couldn't get it out of my head: My luck in money was apparently much better than my luck in love.

I found discount fares to Auckland, 14 day advance purchase. In the meantime, we stayed at my mother's house. My mom was baffled by my imminent departure and my newly placid attitude; but she was pleased, more than anything. She liked Julie all right. Like Diane, Julie was very quiet and polite, and from a working- class background. I wonder what she would have thought of Sophia. I told her nothing of the events of the past few months. As far as she was concerned, I'd been visiting friends in Chicago, had moved on to Vegas to extend my vacation and had met Julie there.

Things were comfortable and easy with Julie. There wasn't the same deep connection there had been with Diane, nor the electric passion there had been with Sophia. We just existed together, and sort of fed off each other. There was a potential for a deep emotional connection there; we both sensed it, but weren't so eager to do anything about it. It was a strange kind of balance. We knew we had nothing whatsoever in common with each other. But even so, we felt awfully relaxed in each other's company. We had saved each other from doom. Sitting there on the airplane, zooming on toward an unknown country we knew almost nothing about, we looked into each others' eyes and felt a new kind of love. We were two totally separate beings who had entered into some kind of orbit together. We understood nothing about each others' backgrounds, each others' ideas, each others' existences. We were just floating together. Too baffled to think about anything, we were bemused to be alive at a time when death seemed to be everywhere. Go to Next Chapter

Ben Goertzel (