"My god," groans Jake, "I just had the weirdest dream."
"Ouch," Maria mutters. "What was it? Not very comfortable sitting here with you conked out on my lap."
"It was that voice again, the loving woman's one. It ... we had a pretty long conversation; I don't know what it was about, exactly ... I can't remember ..."
"Try hard now; if you let it go you'll never remember it later."
" ... she kept talking about this something called the Field ... how she was just as unusual among hers as I am among mine, and that's how we can make contact. I think they're a race of telepaths."
"Where? Some other star system? I don't get it."
"God, I hope this fucking lounge isn't bugged! Oh, if it is it's too late. I'm sure it must be...."
"What, you think they'll think you're crazy from having a dream?"
"Maybe they've even got cameras in here."
"I mean, it was only a dream.... Was it, um, more intense than an ordinary dream?"
"It was so fully textured.... Yeah...."
He paused for a moment. "What?"
"I keep thinking about Josie."
"What about her?"
"What she'll do. Will she be all right?"
"I think so. She was always quite stable before. What happened now was just a lot of things coming together at once."
"Yeah. I hope so. I guess you'd know better than me.... I guess you're still in love with her."
"I don't know what the hell that means."
"No, neither do I. Never mind ... don't worry about it."
"Why have I given up the ghost? Why I, the hangman -- of all swift Eternal fate, of all decisions finally made ... -- Of all incisions through the underside of life into the arteries through which we all as liquids flow. Of fortunes lost - yet never lost (why? Because never truly had -- Beyond possession ... Fortunes made -- no, fortunes earned: -- Fortune as location; promised land within which all who scream must play ... that is, both must and are permitted. All those who scream with the pangs of joy! of lust! Or flaming fangs of thin-whipped Eden lost within you! All those who scream with freedom -- free, and in this sense of the word: anyone who truly wants X, with all his heart and soul and all his other imaginary and nonexistent (well, what else is there?)organs ... but there is wanting to be free (say), and then wanting to want to be free ... craving to have the courage to permit oneself to desire freedom: to relax, experience one's desires ... but this wanting to want X, if wholehearted, should be the same as wanting X and hence the same as having X -- But there is wanting to want to want, and wanting this, and this, and that, and so on: to want to want to want to want to want to want to want ... to want to want X (where X is to be free or to get laid or to instantaneously transmute one's grandma into a shit-stinking bed of petunias and nails and a ninety-ton wombat-shaped ham ... it doesn't matter what because whatever it is we all know that if Y=to want to want ... to want to want X, where the thing goes on infinitely many times, then Y=to want Y, which is all that happens anyway; what we want is what we get, because we're all instinctively egotists in the first place and we only want our minds to be what they are (or what they think they are? or what's the difference? (And spiraling trains of contradiction swallow me up (actually wave, but not the ocean kind, more like the stark, disturbingly regular (uh, locally) undissipations of the braining slave (everything as a slave to ours, identifiable by its function ( -- as a slave to the concept "ours": -- as soon as there is possession there is slavery --
"Thus is the jarbled grambled blargon that unrests my mind as splowly sit here I prepare idioskosmometer. What is reality? Oh, really -- I don't know, you fool: Why do you ask such silly questions? Oh, why indeed! Oh, why?! why?! why?! Well, now -- what else is there to say, what else but Why? but how in hell did I get here on this earth or perhaps how on earth did I fall into this hell -- no really it must be an accident because I really am not evil how can I be when I don't even know for sure what evil means -- Not within my universe can an evil have any meaning, not in my universe, unless it be work and flies and not to forget mosquitoes and occasionally rats ... particularly in dark alleys late at night when their eyes and sensibilities cascade as piles through mine and crush me under their sheer weight into proverbial human pancake flesh -- I've killed the ghost! I said; left it behind me I can't take it anymore, or rather I can't give it anymore -- for the ghost is giving ... Where is the ghost? I need it! The ghost is one thing I can't find by looking that's for sure -- precisely when you look for nothing, when you look into yourself, you find it: -- Is the ghost?! the very act of looking ... But to talk about it is one thing! But, you fool, every thing is one thing, and also two things, and also three things, and also all things by the way so kindly don't give me your cigarette smoke in any case and try to tell me it's just mother goose in meaningless disguise because it is of course but I don't have to say that 'cause I've given up the ghost and I don't live that way no more (so she says).
"Who is she?
"A different sense -- . In this sense, is there any nonsense? In some sense, isn't everything sensible relative to itself? Yes, of course it is! The point is that nonsense is a relative concept. Once this is accepted, the next step is toidentify the nature of this relativity. This is similar to the analysis of beauty: Too many have said "Beauty is subjective", and thought the matter halted there. Well, it does -- uh, if you want it to. But it is possible to elucidate the dependence of such things upon the subject. That this is subjective too -- shouldn't stop anyone --
"So, what is nonsense? It is the opposite of pattern, regularity, of order: -- more precisely, it is the absence of pattern in an entity X which one expects or desires to possess pattern. This is relative to "one", of course; furthermore "which one expects or desires" means simply "such that it is a pattern in some entity Y containing X, that... oh, goddamn, fuck this fucking shit. (yawn) (as shadows) ... -- Oh, in the shadow of our yawn we're lost: -- And glad! ... -- Into the vast and last abysses of our stawny spiritual mouths we thrust and splutter, pouring oranges of our soul (Hieronymoranges) and sprangs of lust into the canyons of that wheel beneath our minds, that anguished turning which will howl into eternity as it turns the world around, and whose dull creak has been mistaken for the music of the spheres again and again, and will be -- ... Oh, we yawned!
"What was the point of all this yawning? Oh, by the way, this cry is dedicated to Henry Miller and Arthur Rimbaud, to Friedrich Nietszche -- whoever can make the pendance ovaries and sweet callings-back to womblands
"Let me begin at the beginning. No, there isn't any beginning, only a vast circular continuum -- so I can't do that. I first came into contact with the Absurdities (this is the closest to a literal translation of their own name for themselves that our language can provide) on November 9, 1989. I was having sex with my lover-at-the-time, Josefo Royce, and as I reached my fourteenth orgasm of the night I suddenly ceased to be occupying any space upon the earth. I soared, instead, into a world not fully understood by me still; into what Henry Miller and Zeb Zoertzel have described not too inaccurately as the Land of Fuck. Why exactly I among the billions of others on this earth was "chosen" by the absurdities (inasmuch as they can choose (which is even less than we can (which is, of course, not at all -- ))) for the mission which I am about to describe -- I don't know. A certain part of it was most certaiosmic -- or in other words, the elixir of life: Impure Ambrosia -- :necessarily impure, for pure ambrosia is but nothingness: -- And, in any case, to all those who desire and strive so heartily to make this dream come true -- to flow! To flow forth fusions, and fissions of the soul -- the world-soul -- that cannot come true, but only soar beyond all good and evil, truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Particularly, to Michelle! Oh, may this wail inspire just one to let his or her vapors flow forth -- so that I may breathe, vicariously through them, their strength! -- Enough, I said! Enough!
"How can I transcribe thoughts? Not mine, nor those which tumble from the idioskosmometer -- fit upon the page. What fits upon the page but ink-stains? The point of this diversion (as if I have to give justification for this small fling off throughinfinity even in the light of the fact that this whole dank groan is truly nothing but digressions from itself.
"Look at it however you want. Do a factor analysis over the space of tensors of uncountable rank. Explain it in terms of karma flow." He waves his arms; then, realizing how absurd he looks, decides to venture even further into absurdity -- he flaps his arms and begins squawking. " Comparisons are odious, said Cervantes -- who was odious, as well. Explanations are odious!! Categorical proclamations about odiousness are just about the most odious thing of all! Why not forget it all and just be free!?!!" (squawk squawk) " 'Be on your guard against too much cleverness', said the Buddha to Siddhartha. Let us dance! Let us sing! instead of reason, from now onwards."
"Let us dance! Let us sing!" Jake echoes, mockingly but without hostility.
"Join in!" Josie, dancing, shouts. "Join in, trees, sand!"
FAREWELL, EARTH'S BLISS
An Admiral of French extraction gives them an induction speech, and contracts to sign. As soon as they sign they're led into another room. Only three people back out at the last minute. One of these, a somewhat undersized Lebanese, walks over to Jake and furtively whispers in his ear the following incantation:
"Sea I see
You I me
Free I be
Sea I plea
Sea I glee
He mutters so quietly that Jake can't be sure it wasn't a hallucination -- certainly he said something, but it wasn't very clear.... Jake repeats his utterance to Maria, who visibly shimmers with delight: "Just a few hours ago, coming into this room, I suddenly felt I was in the sea...."
"Overflow. I am Overflow. Do you suppose ... I always thought the idea of Overflow was a metaphor when the voice thought it to
me -- it seemed to consider it the same way we consider 'Universe', or 'God' ... but on second consideration maybe it was literal -- do you see what I'm thinking!"
"Yes ... well, no. Maybe. You mean that it's some substance overflowing, some definite entity. Oh God, yes, well-- noises I was hearing this morning -- I feel like they had something to do with it! ... Sorry for shouting."
"It's quite already. I mean quite all righty. Quite all right. I mean, quite understandable under the circumstances."
The Admiral who is leading the orientation clears his throat, starts speaking again. "For certain political reasons which need not concern you, it is highly desirable that the Fracton depart inone month instead of six. Therefore your training will be considerably intensified...."
Fourteen hours a day of study, equally divided between group lessons and individual work with cybernetic tutors. Since three hours of the group lessons will be physical -- primarily martial arts and general fitness and endurance training -- eight hours of sleep per night is recommended. Strongly.
"They're not outlawing sex, but they're sure not encouraging it," observes Maria. "Look at these rooms they put us in! What are they, a meter and a half across and no taller, maybe two and a half meters long!"
"I'd call it cozy," grins Jake. "You're not proposing separate bedrooms, are you?"
"No, of course not."
"As stated previously," drones -- is it the Admiral now? No, someone else -- drones, drones, drones, drones that droning voice, "there will be absolutely no contact with the outside world. This is important because if you need contact now, think how badly you'll need it on Procyon 4! There will be delayed holo contact once you've landed there."
"There's something strange here," whispers Jake ... "I don't know what it is."
"I think it's you!" giggles Maria.
"No ... something you said before. Something I said to you. Something about that holo ... Paradoxen ... never mind, I just can't grasp onto it...."
THE DIARY OF A SPACE TRAVELLER, PART i
The madman speaks. "I have to remember that I live not in the mere physical universe, but in the far greater universe of pattern, the wild domain where anything is possible including impossibility and the virility of doormats, where even earwig sensibility can outmode the smartest human -- and where although no laws apply, certain laws do, and I'm still finding them although no one else gives a shit but me because they're too goddamn obtuse to understand that pattern space is where they live (well, okay, some of them are skeptical, and that makes sense, for it's nonsensical). I live in pattern space; I travel there, and I don't have to move, not physically, though if I do it certainly qualifies as pattern motion: When I think, I'm really spinning, I'm really letting off great wads of raw rotational energy across pattern-space. Rotation has meaning because it's not relative; -- It can't be, given the law of finite information transmission. And this we assume, in order to retain our point of view. This is little understood and I won't explain it, but to accept various points of view is wildly contradictory, so we try to take only one point of view (ours); this, however, necessitates that we do something with the contradiction; -- We can't just make it go away; we can ignore it, however, by seeing it plainly but just giving it a different name. This name is relativity: the Principle of Relativity, given byEinstein, states that the world is the same from all points of view (in the context of his theories, "context" means "coordinate system". But, hey -- I'm just inducing); the second axiom of special relativity states that information moves at speed less than c (the speed of light, but all that matters is that c is some finite magnitude (from the point of view of relativity theory; quantization is of course an intruder.) Both of these, I claim, are false; the first one -- Oh, hell, why am I telling you all this? The point is just that pattern space is all around us, and it contains everybody's contradictory point of view, and we hide this fact from ourselves through various deep and shallow psychological ruses. I try to concentrate on this fact throughout my day, try to avoid falling back into the "obvious" way of thinking, that the base of it all is the physical universe. The base of it all is pattern space, and that really is no base --.... Okay, the cookies are in the oven, and I'm ready, now, to spill -- ... Wait, did someone ask me why I find it necessary to introduce fictional characters into this, my own diary? the rant of my own soul? No, I guess not ... She is my shadow-lover; so I called her in a particularly sentimental poem. I despise most sentimental poetry, as regards love for human beings; however, I am mercilessly sentimental in my treatment of mystic love -- I wonder why? It's just another example of X implies not-X, I suppose. Wander through the distant range. A cartoonish half-head from which emanate the following words, and a flowering of bright face, eye and abstract shape imagery: SANITY IS THE DUNG OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ORGANISM. I PREFER TO PISS GRAPEFRUITS AND THEN TO BALLYHOO THE BURPLE DONGS OF SPACETIME (BUT THAT'S JUST A PERSONAL PREFERENCE." The madman finally shuts up.
The madman speaks again. "That is: my shadow-lover, and why I need to believe that reality is pattern space. It has to do with my yet-unconquered reliance upon reason, my logical bent which has revealed to me everything, for it left no stone unquestioned -- and yet which alone's obstructing me from sheer oblivion (that is: ecstasy, and all pure life beyond life -- ). What it comes down to is this: I have felt like I was receiving telepathic messages from Beyond; -- from beyond me, anyway ... from another mind, another person; more specifically, a woman, or a girl. I know the look in her eyes, and the smile on her face, and the shape of her body ... -- I can't quite get her facial structure down solidly, though. I feel like I'm receiving them -- but I don't believe it, intellectually; -- Rationalist that I am, I find it easier to believe that I am going crazy, that my subconscious is playing tricks on me. By the way, I think there is a very specific logical reason that we have no sensation in the brain. Oh no, not that again -- Stay on the subject! Of course, if I am going crazy, then there is reason to doubt my reasoning abilities in any case. And at the bottom of it all, I am a skeptic (that which does not exist), and the existence of my shadow-lover is just as definite as anything else ... that is: Not at all. But I suspect that I amgoing crazy in one particular way, one which does not affect my reasoning abilities (so the above "in any case" is wrong) but only my sense of what is real. I don't think it touches logic. Once again, this may be a symptom of cracked logic -- but what the hell! Yeah, at the bottom of it all, it's -- What the hell! But the bottom does not exist. Oh, yes it does! Oh no, not this again! Okay, where was I? No, no, just kidding, I remember -- you don't have to tell me. Ho ha ha ha. I think it's simply wishful thinking ... at least, sometimes I do think so. Sometimes I believe in it, particularly just after receiving a message. The messages aren't usually verbal; they're mostly emotions, which makes sense to me for some reason (like: that's how it happens. No, it's more than that -- ); very recently, however, I was thinking about something entirely different when all of a sudden (as they say) a voice popped into my mind and spoke -- in a soft tone I'll never forget (it smelled of brown ivory): "We're so close". This was the most convincing communication we've ever had, as far as I can recall, because I wasn't trying to receive anything; in fact, I wasn't trying hard to concentrate on something else, either; I was just riding the flow of ideas, when BOOM! We proceeded to have a bit of a conversation, of which I remember not a word. I do remember, however, a single thought persistent through it: I would "say" something to her, and then I would feel my mind framing a reply, and then an alternate reply, and so on -- trying to pick the best one to fabricate and therefore fool the part of my mind that was trying to receive messages ... and then, after this instantaneous process had started to cease (as soon as it started?), the true answer would come: -- Far, far more forceful than the rest, and with a richly alien tone to me; -- without the tenor of a thought, a grown conception ... it just didn't sound like me! ... -- It felt beyond my grasp, past my control ... -- And so on; we each said four or five things; nothing of substance. Exchange of vows of love, perhaps; ... it seems that I remember that from then or from some other bout of communication. Exclamations as to what a relief it is to hear the others' voice so clearly -- at long last. I know no details about her life, and yet I feel I know her. I feel that we are known, known to eachother from the start; from the beginning of all things, from long before such things as language can exist. She is my perfect mate. What an absurd idea! What a blithering pipe dream! And yet -- it happens.... How can my logic believe in this? So, so, so slowly, that's how: -- Through the shimmering realization that the universe is pattern space. Is She out there in reality? Well now, She lives in pattern space and that's for certain. And She is beautiful. You see, if she exists within "reality" -- physical reality -- and I don't know her, ... well then, she does not exist to me, now does she? This is impossible. She will materialize when I know her. So what real difference does it make whether she appears from the void which is yet-unexperienced "reality", or from the void of unactualized- to-me pattern? All voids are one, the difference none -- And she is mine yet, somewhere! I want her; yes, I need her ... -- But what can I do to bring her to me. It isa disillusioning fact that in the street and at school I always look for her; observing faces is a hollow game that I play with myself -- and yet how full! And yet how far from being a game! And occasionally my hopes are lifted -- but not at my very core; I always know it isn't right. Is this the same core that I call the Laughing Shadows -- the same mocking voice which invites me to believe in nothing all the time ... These voiceless voices! So often I've told myself so hopefully that today is the day I will see her. And what will I say? Will we desire to make love immediately? Will we embrace upon identifying eachother, without requiring words? -- or will we embrace eachother tentatively, figuratively at first? ... -- approaching eachother as acquaintances, slowly solidifying the suspicion that we are what we are to eachother, then finally coming up with the courage to say it. How can I know? I only speculate, to no end. I take Nietszche's 'God is dead; and it is we who have killed him' seriously (sometimes; or -- as seriously as I take anything, which is not at all. Why am I always contradicting my statements, reminding myself that I don't believe in anything: Both in my dialogue with myself -- in my existence -- and my writing. Both worlds are constantly sinking to the bottom (although, once again -- there is no bottom; -- They are constantly sinking toward the bottom which is the realization that there is no bottom -- precisely -- . This is yet another aspect of the world as seen by me which I desire to expel out onto the paper: -- Why? What is the reason for it? I don't know, but there's a strong urge for it. For one thing, as I've said before, it lets me get rid of my ideas: This was Nietszche's claim as well. Or as Pursewarden wrote: The point of writing is to transform oneself into a mind which does not need art ... or something like that. Yeah, maybe. But I think there's more to it than that (Who the hell is Pursewarden anyway?). I think it's a way of making love to the world -- to the "real" world, to the universe of humanity. I admit my head is in the clouds -- that's not my only head, though; a part of me believes in all this nonsense like tables, chairs and pain and books. To write is to devote myself to distributing myself throughout the world, to engaging the world in intense interplay with my mind, via the page. Why I would want to do this, I don't know ... -- If I want to abandon the world, it can't be by righteously renouncing it. It could be Zen-like, maybe, a sudden realization -- but I never quite believed in that (You're not supposed to). Perhaps I have to let it go slowly, through an intricate intervitalization -- simply, through love.... Good bye." The madman finally shuts up.
THE SOFT MACHINE
"Where's your loved one?" he asks Maria.
"Out somewhere talking with that Indian girl about differential equations."
"Now why would he worry about that when he has a delicious young candy like you to come home to?!"
"Your metaphors are kind of screwed up... you're lucky I'm too drunk to notice ... obviously not, I guess.... Too drunk to care."
"Are you too drunk to make love to me?"
"I don't want to..."
"Okay. I'll tell you what though..." He puts his big hand on the inside of her thigh. "You must have your legs spread wide for some reason, eh bonita Senorita? Why don't you let me give you a big kiss?"
"Go right ahead."
Jake, meanwhile, listens closely to Jimila the physicist: "Bell's Inequality says that two particles can be correlated in terms of position and momentum even if they're too far apart for information to pass between them physically. If you apply this to a complex self-organizing system.... "
Maria climbs on top of the vigorous Mexican, knocking his head on the wall of the cubicle, grabbing his penis and ripping his pants open and sticking it in herself, plugging it wildly in and out, palpitating so rapidly that sweat flies against the far wall, screaming loud...
"Yeah?" asks Jake.
"What I'm wondering is if actually this can happen even with larger entities too."
"You mean the brain is quantum-sensitive, right? The brain cell can be pushed into firing by a random fluctuation; in fact, Hideki demonstrated that will happen rather often. So the brain should be analyzed according to quantum mechanics."
"Yes! That's it exactly! You see, then perhaps it will be revealed that various thoughts are nonlocally correlated according to quantum theory, independently of the interchange of information ... potentially, this could explain certain types of what have been called extrasensory perception."
"Potentially, yeah. But we first have to solve the equations."
"Not really solve them. Just figure out, say, what global variables they depend on. And make them depend on it continuously."
"Yes. Then we can frame differential equations."
"Well we already have those. But the thing is to get them not for variables like spike frequencies of individual neurons, but
for something cognitively meaningful...."
"Well, I'm tired; I'm going to bed now. This schedule is too much for me."
"Yeah, me too, but I'm glad we're doing it this way. The anticipation is killing me."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Good night."
"Good night, Jimila."
Jake slowly wanders toward his cubicle, lost in abstract mathematical spaces. His reverie is interrupted, however, by the sound of Maria screaming. His first thought is that it's a scream of lust, but there's a pained component to it... he follows it instinctively, to a door with "Eulalio Montez" on the label outside. The sight of her writhing on another man fills him withanger and lust -- which is stronger he can't tell. Without pausing to wonder why he hunted her down, what he wants now -- he climbs in. He pulls his penis out wordlessly, and as she splays atop confused Eulalio he sprawls atop her, forcefully penetrating her anus.
Jake and Eulalio thrust in unison, shaking Maria into a kind of delirious primal scream to which the shuddering pangs of pain are merely a bizarre accentuation... no one is there anymore, there is only a moving, a thrusting, a grind.... Suddenly the three of them hear a voice: "You are the Ocean!" At this moment the orgy of hatred and bliss reaches its climax and end; all are fused in one moment, one terminal thrust of knowing each other completely, and also knowing nothing lasts but not at all caring, a pure surrender to the moment of their lust.... Jake and Maria naked slink off to her cubicle, to sink into each others' arms.
"I'm sorry," says Maria in the morning. "He got me drunk. I hardly noticed what was happening.... I was just going to let him lick me! And then I didn't know what I was doing ... I don't know...."
"Don't worry about it, honey. Tomorrow we lift off. We don't need to talk about this. Right now we don't need to know anything except that we love eachother, and that we're leaving tomorrow."
"I hope not, 'cause every time I hear one of those weird seductive dolphin voices I get more and more convinced that we don't know a goddamned thing about the world around us."
"I love you so much."
"I love you too."
As Adelaide's eyes drift awake her mind cringes at
the darkness. She reaches for her teddy bear Snuggles but he isn't there -- instead there's ice. That's right, you idiot -- cryosleep! she thinks embarrassedly. You're there now -- Procyon 4 ... Aren't you supposed to be happier?
How can I be happy when I feel like airplane food tastes? No, yecch, ucch, worse than that -- I feel like a wad of old toilet paper, soggy, spiraling through the sewers of New York.... Every inch of my oh goddamn body drumbling crumbling edge flaking off, never a dull moment, never a sharp one, never a crystallized, fully-formed anguish, not even a fear... just a waiting, waiting waiting. A waitig for -- What? I think I feel it. Me again??!
Maria smiles. Ah, the warmth of feeling cold again. Ah, the hate of feeling love. She sets her mind to the task of ignoring that she cannot feel -- she sits and waits in a nook of her consciousness immune to the anguish.
Meanwhile, Jake dreams. "You aren't supposed to dream during cryosleep," he tries to murmur to himself -- but his lips won't move. Maybe, he attempts to assuage himself, it wasn't a dream but merely a recollection of what was on your mind immediately before you went under. No, probably not. He concentrates on his skin pores, the hairs on his skin. He imagines himself on a smoldering beach. His skin cells dance (or so he imagines them); they laugh and prance to an undead music composed in the stiff tones appropriate to skin stored for centuries a few degrees above absolute null. He gets up. No one else is yet out of their chamber. At first he thinks it a mistake -- was he revived too soon? but he sees an eyelid blinking now and then, a genital twitch.... "We're here!" he shouts -- "We fucking made it!!!"
No one hears.
So, uh, what next? he wonders. We have our orders... but what the hell? what if we don't follow them? An unenforceable law is a joke. We're on our own....
The interior of the ship is a long corridor; their individual chambers are honeycombed into the nose. The main doors are near the middle ...
I suppose it's stupid to go out there alone, Jake reflects as he walks toward the doors, and then through. But what the hell, the briefings contained more than I could possibly need to know about the planet.
The ship has landed as planned. In the midst of a pasture of day-glo purple grass, on the plateau peak of a low mountain overlooking a sea. On the south side of a lush orange tropical island, about ten kilometers from the largest continent. What an incredibly green sea! Amazingly, about five feet from the ship Sam trips over a piece of metal of obviously human design. It has Russian lettering on it -- he can't read it but he can recognize it. Obviously a fragment of one of the unmanned probes... Still, what are the chances of finding it right here? Landings aren't nearly that accurate.... He hears what sounds like thunder; his eyes shoot skyward. Above him -- and descending fast -- is a huge black cloudlike entity rumbling like a stomach far too full. He watches hypnotized in awe as it plucks a bird from a tree and consumes it like an amoeba. The briefings said nothing about clouds like this....
Maria rises and finds no one else up and about. She grins perversely at the prospect of watching Jake rouse from helium sleep, considers fucking his frozen-stiff prick ... but when she
goes over to his chamber she finds him gone. When he hears her
shout "Jake??!" he nearly faints from shock. "Come here!" he
shouts back. "Look at this!"
But her joints are weak and by the time she gets there "It's gone! My God, you should have seen it! That cloud up there, that black one, it came down and engulfed a bird, or something like it, right out of that tree...."
"Just like the Blob!" she squeals delightedly. "Only, I don't remember reading about that on the computer...."
"What do you mean about the blob? I don't get it."
"Oh, nothing ... just an old sci-fi 2-D ... well, obviously it's old if it's 2-D ... Oyh... This amoebalike mass of jelly terrorizes innocent townspeople, or some such...."
"Truth is stranger than fiction."
"You want to do it? Here? Right now?!! We can be the first to fuck on Procyon 4!"
"The first humans, anyway...."
"Remember, though, you're not protected. We all took neutralizers before we left."
"Yes, I remember silly! You think all that marinating in liquid helium rots the brain?"
"That is a possibility, you know...."
"Stop babbling, honey, and kiss me!"
"I don't know, sweets, what if we get some kind of alien insect bite rolling around in this iridescent grass!? You think Immunosecurity works for alien bacteria and viruses too?"
"Just shut up and fuck me, will you?!!"
A few minutes after they finish some others start coming out of the ship. They gather in a cluster by the door.
"Look -- !" yells Sam, thrusting his hand into the air -- "there's another one!" Another small black cloudlike being, this one actually chasing a bird through the sky. It extends two tendrils from its frontmost end, stretches them on either side of the bird and then rejoins them in front of it. The bird ducks groundward and into the trunk of a tree. And then the black cloud begins to shudder. "Looks like it's having a nervous breakdown," giggles Adelaide.
"No," says Maria, "I think it's planning something. I don't know why, but...."
The cloud starts spinning, slowly, slowly, faster -- round and round until it has the shape of a disc. It hovers above the
tree and folds itself down until it forms a tipi-like dome.
And when it rises the tree is gone. The cloud rockets out of
sight, behind the ship.... "My God," gasps Adelaide. "Why didn't they tell us about these things???! Do you suppose they have an appetite for humans??!!"
"It doesn't matter," says Jake confidently. "We've got all we need in the ship. We've got more weapons than half the armies on earth." As he says this the cloud veers around the ship. The door is open, and the bird which it's pursuing flutters in. The cloud positions itself above the ship, starts spinning.... Adelaide stands fixed in fear, but Sam is motion: "Wake the others!" he yells to Maria, "I've got to get some stuff!" He tries to remember the scheme according to which things were stored in the rear of the ship ... by the time he gets back there, however, he just grabs whatever he can get his hands, or mouth, or feet, on. He makes two trips; by the time he gets the second load out the cloud is almost as big as the ship. There are perhaps forty people outside. "Find a weapon!" he shouts needlessly. Five or ten bodies dash into the ship ... two or three roll out just as the black cloud engulfs it. All the while a large dark woman, Li Hegira, blasts at it with aflamethrower and a high-powered laser gun.
"Thirty people," whispers Adelaide, hollowly. "A genetic dead end. The colony is doomed."
"No it isn't," replies Sam, just as cheerlessly. "I got the genetic scrambler out. Along with some food and a few weapons and maps and a radio for calling Earth, and some other stuff I didn't recognize."
"Great. Radio home for help."
"I don't understand why we weren't warned of this."
"Maybe it won't digest the ship. Maybe it'll spit it out."
"Barf it somewhere."
"Probably not though."
"I thought all this was supposed to be planned for," mulls Maria morosely.
"It's all my fault," says Jake. "I had to open the door and leave before everyone was out of the sleep."
"We all just assumed, you know, there wouldn't be any animals capable of eating an entire shuttleship," assuages Maria.
"A reasonable assumption...."
"Our reason being a set of rules inductively determined from life on earth...."
"Look, do we still have maps of mineral deposits? That's the most important thing."
"I've got all the maps.... So does anyone have any brilliant idea how to hide from these goddamned sky amoebas?"
"If they can eat metal, what can't they eat?"
"Yeah, but what do they want to eat -- that's the question. They only seem to want these certain birds, right? So if we keep these birds away, hopefully we keep the ... sky amoebas away too."
"A reasonable assumption. Hence probably wrong ... but what the hell, what else do we have to go on?"
"We have a full biochem lab right here in this suitcase! Let's zap one of these birds and see what's in it."
"As if it'll mean anything to us. Look, we've got to get organized. We've got to set up camp. We've got to elect a new leader ... seeing as Joseph is in the belly of an animate nimbus somewhere...."
"Don't panic.... If I recall correctly there are small caves on the side of the mountain. I guess that would be a good place to set up camp."
The chatter of voices continues: planning, wondering, organizing. Then Adelaide blows up. Soft shards of dripping intestine and liver, heart, spleen, bone, rain on everyone.
"I have a feeling," says Maria steadily, "we should get the fuck away from this hill right now. Don't ask me why ... but I, at least, am getting the fuck away from here!"
"I think she's right," grunts Jake. "Come on, everyone, grab the stuff ... let's head for the sea!"
"Goddamnit!" bellows Adelaide, with an ear-wrenchingsuperposition of screeches and groans -- "This was all carefully planned, right? This was all supposed to be according to program! The unmanned probe sent out -- what? twenty years ago? Could things have changed that much since then???!!!"
"Adelaide -- " ventures Maria -- "did you notice that you were, uh, absent for a couple seconds about thirty seconds ago. Because to us you, uh, disappeared...."
"What are you talking about!!??" Her arms wave wildly. "This poor oversexed woman is losing her minds! She's ... she's cracking under pressure, if you will. And you're going to listen to her???!!!"
"Not if I can come up with a better idea," snarls Jacob -- "But I can't! Come on, guys, let's go! before whatever it is gets the rest of us too."
"I'm not going anywhere! I'm staying right here until I can catch one of these birds and see what's inside it tooooooooo!!!"
"Fine," says Jake evenly, "but no way we're leaving you the biochem gear. You'll have to tear apart its guts with your hands." As they rush down the hill they hear Adelaide screams loud and clear. "Come up here! Come up here! You've got to come up here! Oh my God, this is wonderful! Beautiful!!! Freeeeeeeeee! Teee heee heeeeeee!"
"She's flipping out."
"I feel like ... I feel so loose! I feel like everything's loosened up; I feel like suddenly ... who cares about this, about that, about me, about life, about anything ... who cares? when it's all so beautiful! Free hee hee heeeee!"
Startling the rest, Jake breaks into a sprint up the rocky
slope. He stumbles a couple times but on the whole proceeds more like a mountain goat than a theoretical fluid dynamicist. He grabs Adelaide and shoves her down the hill ahead of him, pushing her crudely with his feet. "Keep going! Let's get out of here!"
PRETENTIOUS ACADEMIC CANT
"The problem with thought, as I see it," ponders Abdullah, "is that if we induce, still we are inducing on the basis of some fixed set of rules for induction. And if we induce as to this set of rules, we're still doing this on the basis of some fixed set of rules. And so on. Now a total skeptic would say that there is no fixed set of rules..."
"There is no fixed set of rules," Jake chimes in obediently.
"...and therefore that any inductive reasoning is at base tantamount to dogmatism. But it seems to me that here there is a fixed set of rules ... we are in physical reality for example, on another planet ... The problem is that we can't perceive the reality, the fixed set, except through our our preconceived notions, our inductions."
"Right," says Jake -- "and therefore there is no fixed set. The simplest argument for skepticism -- the unreliability of perception. Anything you think is true, why is it? How do youknow an evil scientist didn't enter your brain and program you to believe it? How do you know your eyes don't blend things together that are different, like the eyes of the color-blind, or for that matter differentiate things that are the same?"
"Look over there!" squeals Maria. "You can see them all, orbiting it!! All the black clouds!" Yes, the situation was shockingly clear, from a distance. The black clouds -- sky amoebas -- were surrounding the mountain, spiraling around each other in a frenzied yet somehow mechanical dance, consuming trees which, it seemed, were growing at a visible rate -- maybe a foot a minute? Why didn't we notice that while we were up there? And one of the clouds dipped over the side of the plateau in pursuit of a stray bird -- it exploded immediately. "So that's it? We're safe??!" sputtered Maria.
"It may not be as simple as that," cautioned Abdullah. "Aw, but what the hell, let's celebrate!"
THE OLD MAN: A whigmaleerious gleerious schleerious phleerious glitzel -- passes over me these days, my friend, my friend. A strange suspicion that the stars are hanging lowly on these nights through which I fit with you into the pattern of resistance to but naught which breeds us, feeds us what we are and what we someday hope to be, which is but nothing -- a strange scent, a scent of hinterling and of bunterbuns, an scent of inkerlings and of underdone meatballs -- and something else, something that trickles at the burple edge of spacetime, and of doom; something that tickles at the barely beds of gracetime, and on which we nearly make love through the stars; O! I through you, just like the eye sees through the telescope; you are my telescope of lust; you are my bumblebee, the skies blue are my flower, and you suck their bloody guts and rain them down on me, rain them on my mouth and eager ears pucked like a baby before water, ebony water known as mother's milk to those of us with empty education; but to the baby who is full it is a counterpart to its life, it is a warmth and yet a swarmth and yet a wonderling; it is a distance and a universe apart -- and yet same as that which bubbles through its vein, its blood-ripped veins which are yet barely more than capillaries and yet infinitely more than we are, and yet infinitely more than we are -- O my friends! What is this feeling? this strange stirring -- that which dances at my heels and makes me feel as though I'm glowing with insouciance that life has never failed me: What has failed my not? My youth! My shimmering youth! My gleasel glowering showering youth -- that is the truth, that it has failed me not: Not the astral plane but the thought of bane and the eigensnot forsooth has failed to bless me and I love him for it and I shove him for it and I glove him for it and I eat just what he eats Wolf down for breakfa=st nineteen glasses full of Hitler brains and a wombat-death of truth, and sometimes with a fourteen-gun ofsilliness and a barrel full of apes I dance the laughing jest at death and say what silly it all is that sometimes truth assumes appearances of truth [He rises to his feet, and points a finger to the sky]. Lies and false truths, all of it! You who can die, though we cannot; you god of all gods, who is all the more more powerful for your stuttering nonexistence -- Can you fly? Can you eat pie? But can you die? Oh, you can ride on the backs of ninety seventeen purple elephants if you will, or if you won't, but will you please me? Will you appease me? And will you eat me with the several smiles of dusk? No, I don't think so, my fine friends, no I don't think so -- To the end! no, I don't think so -- Can you tell me who he is?
THE TREES [in breathy whispers]: No, I can't tell you, my fine
friend; no I can't tell you -- in the end, I think we all know
yes we all know who he is
THE OLD MAN: You mean the devil? O my trees, do not desert me now! Do not desert me to the burple flails of humankind. Oh, so much true to me [Tears from his eyes; his voice is choky- sentimental]. You are so true to me, they so false, so falsely false. Only I love you right; only you love me too; why can't I tell you what I feel, why can't I tell you?
THE TREES [still whispering ... a little sharply]: You pray to
gods who don't exist; is it not fitting that devils who do not
exist should torment you?
THE OLD MAN: [Falling to his knees in rampant tears and broken voice] You are so cruel to me, my trees, you are so cruel to me. Don't you love me anymore? I thought you cradled me in your womb into eternity. I thought you swallowed me: the digesting is over, is that it? and now you're shitting me out into the world again? Or is the digestion about to begin? The acid eats away, it eats away, it eats away; I can feel it, at my very soul it gnaws!
THE TREES: My love, don't hide yourself in metaphor; come right out and maybe then you'll see the meaning of the metaphor and your feelings -- if there is none, if there is none, if there is none.
THE OLD MAN: What, there is none? No, there is none; no, there is nothing but the ease and ears of what once was a man but now a tree a part of mountainside he thought but maybe not perhaps a devil now to come him under over where in clover can he roll for good luck Run amak something has told him but he cannot what to do? It is the trees that have abandoned me; no, no, no, only told the truth -- and what more is there to tell: Something is coming; What is happening? I feel it in the trees, but they can't tell me, they aren't thinking things, they're only echoes, growing flowing things; that which knows but cannot tell you what it is. I see! I don't see! But I see that I don't see, at least -- that's something! I see that I don't see that I see that I see that I see that I don't see; -- that's going too far for me, you see; that's gone too far -- I cannot live with reason and abstraction, for I'm a ghost; not of the city, I'm a tree as well; A tree a tree am me am me A tree a tree a tree a tree am me -- .
[A rabbit runs by; the old man leaps right up and grabs it with amazing rapidity for someone of his physical age. He holds it byits neck and cracks its skull upon a rock outside the circle, then proceeds to rip a branch off from a tree and then to plunge the stick through its mouth -- to skewer it, and to make beneath it a fire. Only once the fire is going does he begin to talk again]
But yes, my trees, you cannot but support me, fort me, anyhow ... -- On your stick I bake up my bread, up my fruit of the earth -- No, my flesh! Yes, my flesh of the earth! and I love it, I drink forth its blood [And he does, from the roasting carcass; as he finishes he nearly catches fire]. Oh yes I do I do I think I do I know I do he says I says I know I do I think I do he says He is a kinkajou without a walking, no a talking, no a rendezvous, a song, a drinking linking blinking thinking drinking panda shoelace dog I don't know what to do! [This last phrase in an outpouring of tears, a sudden contrast to the mildly jolly tone of his immediately previous meanderings]. I don't know what to do! I've got this feeling and I don't know what to do! I just can't think anymore -- I'm not a person but I tree, I'm not an I neither a me, I'm more an average green pea -- And now I'm singing! Oh no I don't know what to do my head is ringing! My god!
[Right now he hears the sound of footsteps]
Oh! The devil has come! [he cries. He proceeds to bury himself in the sand; quickly, methodically and with feverish passion that befits a revolutionary. The young couple to whom the footsteps belong approach soon after he is buried, arm in arm ... he softly kisses her on the cheek in one quick motion.]
OMAR: This looks like a perfect place
MARIE [Giggling]: We won't get mud all over us
OMAR [Lightheartedly]: You don't find mud sensuous?
MARIE [As she throws her arms around him and presses their bodies close together]: Oh yes, I do, incredibly. Especially when it squishes around in my -- ...
OMAR [Sarcastically]: Your womanly organs
MARIE [With soft laughs, but sarcastically]: Yeah. It gives me the feeling of fucking the earth, you know
OMAR: Of fucking Mother Nature? Are you trying to tell me you're a closet lesbian?
MARIE: That's right; I just fuck you out of pity [She eyes him glowingly, turns sincere] You [She starts undoing his pants] are the most beautiful thing in the universe! [They undress each other at a rather leisurely pace, somewhat solemn in their gestures and without overt caresses]
OMAR: Just the physical universe, or the metaphysical realms as well?
MARIE: Oh, I don't know, I haven't happened by the metaphysical cosmos of late. Perhaps we can go there for our next vacation
OMAR: Yeah. You get a discount if you buy your tickets sixty days in advance. Just call the metaphysical travel agent nearest you. [He looks at her with intensity, then in a babyish lover's googoovoice he says:] What glorious breastbuttons you have!
MARIE: What the hell are you talking about? [By now her chest is bare]
OMAR: [In the same silly voice] [Squeezing her belly:] Belly![Poking her navel:] Button ... Bellybutton! [Squeezing her
booby:] Booby! [Poking her nipple:] Button ... Boobybutton!
MARIE: [In a similar loving and infantile tone:] You're so ridiculous
OMAR: [silly voice] Fuck you
MARIE: Gladly ... [a long pause full of lustful glances]. That's why we came out here, isn't it? [By now they are naked, entirely. She sprawls on the hillside -- right on top of the old man, but she doesn't know it. He stands in front of her, then falls and catches himself just above her. He kisses her mouth and neck and chest and the straightens his frame and enters her immediately. They writhe in love for a little while -- ]
MARIE [amidst loud moans]: I'm coming!
MARIE [wailing]: Oh, god!
THE OLD MAN: Yes, my dear child, yes? I am your fine father! I am the lord! And as I rot away, my grave within my heart, your clean voice wipes my anger clean -- I sing my love for you; yes, my child! [The next two lines occur as the previous line is spoken]
OMAR: What the hell is that?!
MARIE: Who gives a shit, just keep on fucking!
OMAR [Gasp!]: You nympho!
MARIE: Omigod! I'm coming!
THE OLD MAN: No, I am coming, my dear! I am coming down to you! I am converging down upon you from the heavens where I live! I am the earth! the sand! the trees! I am the air which floats around you! I am all, and I am none -- since I am everything, the likes of you cannot contain me -- not unless you become infinite as well!
OMAR: What the hell is that? -- Someone's hiding somewhere; this is some kind of eerie joke.
MARIE [In a hurried, frenzied voice]: Oh, it's so sensuous when you speculate, my love! Will you shut the fuck up and let me finish coming! It's probably one of your friends from school just trying to disturb us, and you're letting them succeed.
OMAR [hastily pants]: I'm not convinced, but just keep twisting like that....
THE OLD MAN: Oh yes, my son, how wise you are! Words cannot but deceive you! Why speak, when you can ballyhoo the burple dongs of spacetime in a parachute? Why eat when you can bleat? Why angulate the paradox of grapefruit?! I love you, yes, my love, but still you stink, and still I think you need insouciance of pink news. And also, I can't breathe. [With this he begins to rise, throwing them aside in thoroughly unintentional harshness. He continues to speak in a louder and louder voice, almost a yell, as they speak and run away. His voice continues as the curtain falls]
MARIE [Screaming with pleasure]: Oh my god! [Omar rises to his feet and drags Marie beside him; when they are clearly clear of the old man he speaks:]
OMAR [Laughing in fear]: It's a Morlock from beneath ... a creature dug its way up from the inside of the hollow earth! Heh heh heh!
THE OLD MAN [Continues]: Ah yes, that's much much better! I can feel the air now, once again: -- I am softly reunited with my soul!Undangle me from the sexually slithering tyrannical tenterhooks of preality! Unstrangle me from your cord, your clangling dischord which impales me with a hole, a whole, a ghoul and clithering coolie of the soul a soiled refrigeration chamber of the mud-ophysioligical conference rooms of hearts without the tenterhooks of un-understanding nonpreality I cannot dig it baby! I cannot see your conscience with its bands, and with its hands and tentacles -- I cannot feel its ears! I cannot eat! I cannot drink! I cannot saunter forth through canyons without onions on my pants -- I cannot pig it baby! I cannot seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee -- and you, my trees, what is happening!? What is happening to meeeeeeeee? What's going on, man? Man, man, man, woman -- Tree! All is the same and all is one it's all a game and I am done, you see? The point is that was this actually the foreboding glance which I had before they came or is it eternally hanging over me still today?! I love you, trees! I love you,-- please -- ... I love you with my heart! The beating of my heart is the beating of the sun around its lover earth -- Hah! Whaddaya think of that?! I'm as tough as the earth and the trees, you muthafucka! Gimme yo' best shot!
Converted by Andrew Scriven