Living in such a state          taTestaTesTaTe          etats a hcus ni gniviL
 of mind in which time         sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA         emit hcihw ni dnim of
 does not pass, space         STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE         ecaps ,ssap ton seod
 does not exist, and         sTATeSt        oFOfOfo         dna ,tsixe ton seod
 idea is not there.         STatEst          ofoFOFo         .ereht ton si aedi
 Stuck in a place          staTEsT            OfOFofo          ecalp a ni kcutS
 where movements           TATeSTa            foFofoF           stnemevom erehw
 are impossible                              fOFoFOf             elbissopmi era
 in all forms,                             UsOFofO                ,smrof lla ni
 physical and                            nbEifof                   dna lacisyhp
 or mental -                           uNBeInO                      - latnem ro
 your mind is                         UNbeinG                      si dnim rouy
 focusing on a                       unBEING                      a no gnisucof
 lone thing, or                      NBeINgu                     ro ,gniht enol
 a lone nothing.                     bEinGUn                    .gnihton enol a
 You are numb and                    EiNguNB                   dna bmun era ouY
 unaware to events                                            stneve ot erawanu
 taking place - not                  -iSSuE-                 ton - ecalp gnikat
 knowing how or what                  THiRTY                tahw ro woh gniwonk
 to think. You are in                10/23/96              ni era uoY .kniht ot
 a state of unbeing....                                  ....gniebnu fo etats a



EDiTORiAL by Kilgore Trout



by Kilgore Trout

Wow. Bet you weren't expecting an issue in your mailbox this early in the month, were you? Hah. When we get off our asses, we can actually do some pretty damn cool things. We felt it was important to get the stuff about the elections out, well, before the elections.

I'd also like to mention that aside from the choices listed in Nathan's article, there is also the campaign to write in the Unabomer for president. No, not ole Theo... the Unabomer. Theo hasn't been proven guilty yet, so he's still innocent. Anyway, if elected, the Unabomer won't run, and it's a nice way for a protest vote to go. Besides, they sent me a little flyer and a cool bumper sticker with a monkey wrench going into some cogs with the slogan "Just undo it: all you have to lose is your political illusions."

I like it. For more info on them, go to and there should be a link from that page.

Anyway, we want you to vote, but before you do, read the issue. It'll help you out in your, uh "choices." Plus you'll get to read some stuff from some new people, some old people who haven't written in a while, and then some of the regular folk as well. We're especially glad that Noni finally found Clockwork, and somehow she made him write something too.

Thanks, Noni, for doing what everyone else thought was impossible. I guess if I had blue hair I could do anything too. Where's the hair dye?

[as an aside note, my birthday is on november 3rd, the same day as charles bronson. if anyone can explain why we were born on the same day, or why i even know stupid facts like that, please email me. large presents and wild animals can be sent to my home address, which is available on request. and please, please remember to declaw the damn animals. it's not cool when you call your sister "slash."]



From: ToeTorture
Subject: Angst in my pants

   Dear Kilgore,

     I did a search on the word "angst" and State of unBeing #25
   appeared. The article about Dada & Nietzsche piqued my interest,
   and I will definitely peruse more issues when I have time. I dig
   you, man! (Vonnegut was my teen idol and I still love him. I'm
   also fond of Robert Anton Wilson if anyone fnord cares.)

     If you would like to respond, I am using my roommate's com-
   puter, but receive e-mail here quite often. All the best!

[it's always nice to know that other people have strange emotions running around in their pants. i'm not sure if i've mentioned this before, but once i had greed in my pants. i think my parents wanted to turn me into a capitalist and bought me a pair of boxers with green dollar signs on them. i'm sure vonnegut and raw would have something to say about that...]

Subject: hi

     I would like to be on your mailing list.  Why do I deserve to be on your
mailing list? Because I'm a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, and I assume you do from
your name.  It's kind of ironic that when reading some of Vonnegut's books, I
always wished there was a real Kilgore Trout, and now, in a sense, there is.

[well, maybe i'm real, maybe i'm not. i am only 20, so i don't think i fit the physical description. still, my writing career is progressing just as nicely as his is... hah.]

     Here's a little something I thought you might enjoy:

"A Rational Anthem"

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of felony,
     Of thee I sing----
Land where my fathers fried
Young witches and applied
Whips to the Quaker's hide
     And made him spring.

My knavish country, thee,
Land where the thief is free,
     Thy laws I love;
I love they thieving bills
That tap the people's tills;
I love thy mob who's will's 
     All laws above.

Let Federal employees
And rings rob all they please,
     The whole year long.
Let office-holders make
Their piles and judges rake
Our coin. For Jesus' sake,
     Let's all go wrong!

                    ----- Ambrose Bierce



Kilgore Trout

I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Nemo est Sanctus
Noni Moon

Anonymouse Letter Writer Who Likes Kilgore Trout and Ambrose Bierce

Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works, Volume II
Bjork, Debut
fIREHOSE, Mr. Machinery Operator
Moby, Everything is Wrong
New Order, The Best of
Pop Will Eat Itself, This is the Day... This is the Hour... This is This!
Vernon Reid, Mistaken Identity
The Shamen, Boss Drum (with special appearance by TMcK)
Tom Waits, Bone Machine
Tom Waits, The Heart of Saturday Night


[=- ARTiCLES -=]


[Editorial | Next]

MiND PROBE #6: Clockwork, Gut Feelings and Immigrant Savior
[Noni interviews Hagbard]

by Noni Moon

I was telephoned a week before I physically met with Clockwork. Actually, before I even thought about meeting with him. I was briskly walking down Guadalupe, passing one of the numerous public telephones that adorn the street, and it started to ring. I didn't think anything of it and continued walking. Fifty yards later, another public telephone rang as I strolled by. Believing it was just a freak occurrence, I once again kept walking.

Another hundred yards later, as I came to the corner of the street, a short-haired woman with black-rimmed glasses dashed out of a store nearby labeled as the Bagel Manufactory. She mumbled my name, and a few incomprehensible words followed by "phone call." I followed her into the sop, shot down by stares of the apparent manager standing at the doorway, and took the phone cradle laying on the counter.

NM: Hello?

CL: You know, since your too damn trapped in your own little world, I had to get someone else to answer the phone for you.

NM: Uhmm, who is this?

CL: Clock. Clock, clock, clk. Merry Christmas.

NM: Oh., nevermind. Some things are better left unknown.

CL: Aha! Too scared to hear the truth. Well, that's all right, just adds to the apathetic American ambiance. Reality tunnel #3.

There was a bit of silence for a moment, and Clock continued to speak.

CL: Alrighty, let's do this.

NM: Do what?

CL: Oh, you know. I know you wanted to speak to me concerning the possibilities of conducting an interview with me, and I say yes. So, let's do this.

NM: Now?

CL: Yep.

NM: I'm on a phone in a bagel shop. I don't know if this is exactly the time or the place for that. It is not really appropriate.

CL: Time, place -- it's all relative. You carry your pad and pen and Duracell powered mini-recorder with you everywhere, so why not?

NM: I don't feel comfortable doing this here.

The black-rimmed bagel woman glanced at me, mumbled my name and a few incomprehensible words followed by "phone sex."

Not even thinking about how he knew what I carried my equipment with me all the time, I reluctantly pulled my mini- recorder from my backpack and it records. I then realized I was on a phone and brought it towards my head, in hopes of picking up some remnants of conversation.

CL: Bluish-purple.

NM: What?

CL: Bluish-purple is the answer to the first question.

NM: No. I don't think so.

CL: Well, it was worth a shot.

NM: I guess so. The question I was going to ask, which I am sure everyone wants answered, is about where you have been for the past two years. I noticed that last article you wrote for SoB before issue #28 was "Kill `Em All: The Truth About AIDS" in issue #14 (2/95), and the update in issue #15 (3/95).

CL: Actually, that is incorrect. The original AIDS article was written a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away for "Where There's a Will There's an A," and perhaps -- although I am not exactly sure -- was written before that. Kilgore and his people sent a telegram to me in Guam asking if it would be all right if they print the article, since I hadn't contributed in quite a while, at the same time hinting they would like some type of documentation of my sources, as though I sounded like some extremist conspiracy nut. Well, OK, maybe I am. Anyway, I faxed him a quick bibliography and an excerpt from a speech I had recently discovered which struck me as interesting.

NM: Then the article before that, in issue #13, was your last?

CL: Yes, I would say so. Although, in Patworld, I consider my articles way back in issue #3 (3/94) to be my last true contribution. The George Bush thing in #13 was just a spurt, not an entire revitalization, and for a real contribution, I had to be entirely revitalized.

NM: You mentioned "Patworld." What exactly is that?

CL: It's...well... ask me again in the near future after I have had time to make something up.

NM: Fair answer. Back to your disappearance from SoB, what happened?

CL: Like I said, I was in Guam. Doing hands-on research in guerrilla warfare. Rather enlightening. Somewhat of an elitist camp, in fact -- left-wing AND right-wing crusaders from all over the world, including Guevara and some of his people. I ate some type of roast bird with him one evening, and discussed film. The man is a pretty big David Lynch fan.

NM: Really?

CL: Maybe. If you would like me to explain it in a real-life situation, then I was trapped. Emotionally and psychology trapped. In a relationship, of all things. And you might wish to sit down for this, because this is going to be a classic life saga.

NM: <Pulling chair out from beneath the counter> All right. I am seated.

CL: In the spring of 1994, which just happens to be the same time I stopped writing for SoB, I met a female, who shall remain nameless. It was really a wonderful thing. Absolutely glorious thing. I always believed in love at first sight, but had not experienced it until I saw this person. And this is going to sound like a lot of emotional bullshit and tickled-pink crap to show I am one of those hard-to-find sensitive guys, but in all honesty, this was very real and very true.

NM: I believe you.

CL: Of course you do. You have no choice. Anyway, I fell in love. Wow, what a clicheé that is. It's true though. An amazing creature she was. Intelligent, beautiful, caring -- intoxicating. So she was my woman, I was her man, and I was convinced that she was "the one." Game over, no more search- for-someone-to-fill-a-void-in-my-soul. And because of this, I dropped pretty much everyone else in my life, including Kilgore and SoB, for this one person. Pretty unhealthy, actually.

NM: Are you still involved with this person?

CL: No. Nope, nope. Not even remotely. That takes us into part two of the epic tale.

NM: You sound kind of hesitant, am I getting too personal now?

CL: Oh, no, not at all. I am willing to tell absolutely anything about my life, to pretty much anyone, if they ask. I am not one of those people who spurt so-called tragedies of their lives to people, looking for pity or free donuts. And I don't want people to think I am, so I tend not to volunteer that kind of information to others. But if they ask, and want to know, I will tell them.

NM: Just making sure.

CL: Of course. Politeness is always good. Where was I? Ah. Joy. We were an item for quite a long time, and were very happy together. Even got engaged. After about eight months or so, things began to quickly tumble downhill. Beginning with her coming home one morning from a party that her parents wouldn't allow me to go to, and telling me she had messed around with a guy.

NM: Her parents wouldn't allow you to go to?

CL: Yeah, well, that is an interesting story. I had been kicked out of my house a several months earlier and was pretty much homeless. So, I kind of discretely lived at her house -- sneaking in and out during the evening. Until her father, a police officer, mind you, discovered me in her room. Had a gun and everything. To my surprise, instead of shooting me, he actually let me live there. So I was living with her and her family.

NM: Interesting.

CL: Told ya. Anyway, there was that incident. Combined with her disappearing all the time and not telling me where she was or what she'd done. And me walking into her room one evening, finding her and another guy -- a friend of mine -- naked in bed, watching television. I kind of freaked out over that one. But even with that, I still forgave her and convinced myself it was just a fluke that would not occur again. And to comment further on the disappearing all the time thing, I really don't blame her for that. I was extremely possessive, and overbearing. Pretty damn bad. A lot of it was my fault, and I will admit it. I suddenly feel like I should by lying down. Anyway, it quickly escalated into her constantly avoiding me, even though we lived together, and absolutely no physical contact with her whatsoever. My turn to sit down.


CL: And, to try to make this short, without putting you through the details of my pitiful moments of life, I eventually caught her blatantly lying to me, found out she had been sleeping with several people while going out with me -- a total of 8 or 9 -- and had been doing it for a while. Obviously, that wasn't fun to find out. Eventually I just told myself to stop all of this, it is very unhealthy. So one evening, our one year anniversary, I called her and said good-bye. And that was that.

NM: That is depressing.

CL: Yeah, pretty sad, but oh well. What can you do? I still haven't quite gotten over that yet.

NM: Was that your only experience with relationships?

CL: <chuckle> No. Unfortunately not. My entire experience with relationships consists of a girlfriend who perpetually ignored my existence, cheated on me, and left me for a woman. And another female who also cheated on my with several people, yet constantly said she cared only for me. Neato stuff. All stemmed from my childhood, too.

NM: How is that?

CL: Well, I can't tell you exactly, because I have blocked out a very large chunk of my memory concerning my life. But I can tell you my mother had a long affair with some guy, and I knew all about it with details, because of various letters she wrote to her friends using my computer, which I decided to read one day. That and my parents abusive relationship.

NM: Rough childhood.

CL: Eh, maybe, maybe not. I can go into many other peoples' lives which were rougher. Like I said, what can you do? Except to try to heal yourself without putting others through misery.

NM: Hold on.

I put the recorder and phone down for a moment to light a cigarette. The black-rimmed bagel woman threw a cinnamon-raisin bagel at me, hitting me firmly in the left shoulder.

BW: Hey. There's no smoking in here.

I met her evil glare with an evil glare of my own and shoved my cigarettes and lighter back into my backpack.

CL: Yeah, I can't smoke here either.

NM: Where are you?

CL: Tell you later. Put away all of your things. When the lights go out, go into the large baking oven behind the counter.

Then he hung up.

I looked around behind the counter at the large baking oven next to towering racks of bagels, and slowly put my materials back into my backpack. I stood there for a few seconds, then thousands of bagels exploded off their racks, smothering the black-rimmed bagel woman and the apparent manager. I didn't move until the phone rang.

Without thinking or taking my eyes off the mound of bagels and flesh, I answered.

CL: Sorry about that. But, uh, I'd go now.

So, I hung up the phone, grabbed my backpack, hopped the counter and entered the large oven with the words "BAGELS ONLY" imprinted on it.

Fifteen minutes later, after many whirs, clicks, and whooshes, the door was opened for me.

Stepping out, I realized I was in the middle of some obscure subway system, with hordes of people standing in packs holding suitcases, boxes, clothes, farm animals, and their children. Cheers of joy, in a multitude of different languages, were being hooted about from a crowd across the area, as a small pack surrounding an unfaced figure came towards me.

Some guy with a shaved head, goatee, and Rage Against the Machine t-shirt sprouted out from the people and smiled.

CL: Welcome to our bowels.

NM: Gee, thanks.

CL: You know Clinton has been parading around in his el customo shiny silver train, and everybody is always talking about the train, and that He is on The Train, and HE is going around on THE TRAIN. Well, we have a train, too. And it's not funded by million-billion dollar corporate entities.

NM: This is yours?

CL: Mine, his, hers, his, his, hers, theirs. Sure.

NM: I --

CL: Sure. Now you will ask something like, 'why the hell?' or 'what the hell' and get a puzzled look on your face.

I just look at him with a puzzled look on my face.

CL: Yeah, well, it all revolves around that classic welfare bill. Clinton wants to kill the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of illegal immigrants. And I am going to save them. This, Noni, is the Neo-Underground Railroad. NUR. We call it Reno -- Nothing is Under Reno. Humanitarian of the Universe awards should go to us. We go out, grab the people, bring them down here, and send them to their new home. All for free.

NM: Where are they going?

CL: Utopia. The land of real dreams and classless society, where much is provided and little is wasted. We take care of them, they take care of us, and in turn they take care of themselves and vice versa. I sound like I'm opening a new retirement community. An anarcho-communistic Sun City. Sorta, but not really.

NM: Patworld?

CL: In a sense. Patworld is more like a 24 hour acid trip, where all is true and possible, but nothing and everything is absolute. For those who are not happy, come to Patworld and relax, attain, create, or sleep. Do what thou will.

NM: Are you also a Crowley fan?

CL: No. Actually, not at all. I like to steal Kilgore's Crowley books and stand on his altar, screaming about the heathenistic things he is doing, it being the devil's work, and he shall be damned in hell.

NM: Do you believe that?

CL: No. I just like to see his reaction. I broke the binding of his book once. He beat me with a ping pong paddle.

NM: Oh.

CL: Come with me.

Down a ramp we went, past immigrants and men in coats, ending up at a brick wall. Clockwork smirked at me and walked through the wall. And I, of course, followed.

Clock sat down behind large circular desk and smirked again.

NM: Why are there dozens of long-haired wigs on the wall behind you?

CL: Those we glue to Ansat's head every evening while he is asleep. We figure he misses his long hair.

NM: Interesting.

CL: No, just an un-creative cheap shot. Hey, close your eyes.

I closed my eyes and heard a snap.

CL: Alrighty, open your eyes.

For some reason we were in the middle of the bagel shop again. No office or desk or Ansat hair mountings. Just bagels and no employees.

CL: Magick. With a 'C.'

NM: You are confusing me.

CL: Appy-polly-logies.

NM: That is OK. So, what are you're influences in writing?

CL: That is a tough one actually. I don't believe there are a great list of authors that I admire over the others, at least not consciously. Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, Edward Abbey, Peter Carroll, are the ones that have had the most influence in the past few years. Obviously, every author I have read in the past has had some influence in my life. I used to love Stephen King a long, long time ago, and was an avid reader of The Three Investigators.

NM: So there is no particular author that is your outright favorite?

CL: I don't believe so. It is the same way with me picking clothes. There is no particular style I like, just whatever strikes me at the moment. Some people say they only like solid colored shirts. Well, you can asking them why they like solid-colored shirts, and then ask them why to the reason they give you for that. Eventually, you will get down to an answer like "because of the feeling I get from them." This feeling is very difficult to put into words and explain why, but you know it is good, so you follow that feeling. A gut-feeling, so-to-speak. That is the feeling I use to pick clothes, books, many things. I try not to limit myself with things I have been comfortable with in the past. A friend of mine explained it well with an analogy about food. One may go to the restaurant every week and chose the same thing because they know it is good, and be satisfied with that. But, those that go to the restaurant every week and pick something different each time, because they know there is a possibility of getting something better. Hopefully that makes sense.

NM: I think it does to me -- I don't know about anyone else reading this.

CL: That is all right. Eventually it will.

NM: What is your favorite color?

CL: What was the first answer I gave you?

NM: Wow.

CL: Neat, huh?

NM: What do you do for a living?

CL: Live. Well, for income, you mean? I am employed by one of the top personal computer manufacturers in the world as a systems analyst, solving the problems that our corporate, medical, government, and educational customers have with their systems.

NM: Technical support?

CL: Exactly. But it is much more than that. Difficult to put into words. You have to come to an understanding of the customer, and at the same time hope the customer comes to an understanding of you, to solve a problem effectively. And it is an amazing feeling you get after assisting someone in solving there problem.

NM: The same feeling you get picking out clothes?

CL: Yes. I saw a bumper sticker printed in a catalog once stating "God is coming. Stick out your tongue." That is very true.

NM: I don't understand.

CL: I know. Those who have taken acid or any psychedelic substance more than a few times do. They may mot know they do, but they do. It is very difficult to explain, but that is the whole point. Hard and soft.

NM: OK...

CL: I apologize, I am being too hard. Look for an article by myself or perhaps even someone else sometime in the near future related to the item. Hopefully it will explain things much fuller. Or, go read Leary's interpretation/application of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and take some acid. Not that I am saying everyone needs to do this -- for each his own; do what thou wilt.

NM: So you are generally pro-drug?

CL: Generally, yes. I believe there can be profound things both taught and learned from drugs, specifically psychedelics. Timothy Leary showed us that. Terence McKenna showed us that. Native Americans, aborigine cultures from across the earth, Peter Carroll showed us that. Unfortunately, humanity is generally afraid of what they do not understand. Such as technology. Technology is the psychedelic substance of the 90s, and of the 21st century, unfortunately, many do not understand it, and do not fear it. Obviously there are both good and bad points to such a thing, depending on how you look at it, but overall it is very beneficial. You can apply the same thing to religion. To someone who has been a true Christian all there lives, it is the most glorious thing in the universe, and they wish to share that with people. However, there are those who don't understand that feeling, don't understand where they are coming from, and take it completely the wrong way. In turn, they lash back at the Christian in a nasty way, just because of misunderstanding. On the other hand, there are those who claim to be Christian, and miss the point of it. They have a feeling -- gut-feeling -- and are drawn to it, but they don't completely understand. And if these people who don't completely understand try to get someone else to understand, well, you can see what happens -- even further confusion and negative feelings towards it. That is what has happened to Christianity today.

NM: Are you religious?

CL: Yes and no. Do I apply to a classic system of religion such as Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, etc.? No. But I completely respect those religions. I know, although I do not fully understand. I apply to myself. The religion of Patworld. Something no one in the universe can know, but everyone in the universe already knows.

With that, there was an overpowering flash of white light, and when all returned to normal, he was gone. I just sighed and smiled, not trying to understand, yet. As I gathered up my things and prepared to leave the bagel shop, I noticed five small squares of paper in the seat where Clockwork was. Perhaps I shall see for myself.

[Noni interviews a Dark Crystal Sphere]


"Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced."

-- Albert Einstein, "Ideas and Opinions", 1954


[Prev | Next]

WHY NOT TO VOTE (for the two-party system)
by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

Election day is NOVEMBER 5. I hope you've registered. If not, there may still be time. If you have registered, then remember that many states have early voting in case you're excited. In Texas early voting started October 16.

If you're under the age of twenty-five, chances are you're still a student, and chances are you still have some self-respect, even if you voted in 1992. This year's election is very important for young people with ideals. This is your chance to change the system.

So, in the presidential election, don't vote. For Clinton or Dole.

Promoting dead-in-the-water third parties? What kind of an American am I?

Unfortunately, after years of disappointment in government, I'm still an optimist. I suppose it will take something pretty harsh to take that away (and I'm not going to tell you about my fear of rats and my even bigger fear of someone putting a cage around my head with the rats in it which will make it that much more fearful). (Not to mention being forced to listen to "I'm Proud to be an American.")

This is why I urge you to throw away your vote. I'm not optimistic enough to hope that any third party will win this year. Although Perot helped out a lot last year to excite the voters, this year the FEC has done a swell job of suppressing that excitement. Currently, considering the polls, I'm pretty sure Clinton will win again. But that's okay; he's the lesser of two evils, although not as much as in 1992.

Some will ask -- and do -- why I wouldn't recommend simply not voting. After all, Dole and Clinton are the two "choices" in the election. Hell, the media knows that! They don't even print Perot articles anymore, except when he's been left out of a debate.

Obviously, this is a defeatist (and sarcastic) answer, and more often than not represents a basic lack of knowledge of the third party candidates. What I want you young people (and even you queer types out there who get a kick out of reading a kiddie zine) to show the nine-to-fiving, alcohol-chugging, briefcase- lugging, job-hating, tax-evading adult alpha males out there that this "lost" or "variable" or whatever-the-fuck-"X"-means generation is NOT a throwaway generation, by showing them we have the courage to make throwaway votes instead of abstaining entirely. What sort of a "protest" is it not to vote, not to support someone who represents your ideals? Hoping that staying home will send a message to the government -- "I'm fed up and I demand change!" -- and "cause" change as effectively as a prayer will "cause" you to pass a class or get laid. With just a little effort, you can research all the candidates, make an informed vote, and cause change, although probably not immediately. (Do you ever sit back and wonder just how many people do vote, but don't know the candidates' stands? Even these people are more important than the apathetic homebody.)

Each vote cast for a third party, when taken in total, will ensure big, what-the-fuck reactions from the self-loathing rat-race adults who have allowed the two-party system to take financial control of the country. These adults are bemused at third parties and their flailing attempts to get into the race. These adults still wonder what it means on TV when a representative's name is followed by "(I)". These adults have bought into the Republocratic scheme: "Let me take your tax money, for with me in office, I'll pass laws to propagate the two-party system, and I'll make sure you'll never hear of another."

Think about this: Ross Perot rose out of an abyss in 1992 to run for president and earned nineteen percent of the popular vote. (And even with that, he wasn't allowed in the debates this year -- not even as a consolation prize! Well, I only have to guess the debate commission felt sorry for him. All his ideas, such as opposing NAFTA, reducing the size of government, and making politicians accountable, were utterly trashed from 1992 to 1996; the prospect of change is getting more and more ludicrous.)

But I'm not here to lament Perot; he's doing a damned good job of inciting interest in voting. There are other candidates, however. My purpose here is to point you toward information about at least three other candidates and their running mates, each of whom has a unique and compelling vision for America. Each of these I mention, I've seen speak. I cranked up my bullshit meters to the highest, and they all pass easily. Even if none of them wins, their message will still be heard.

Please note: please do your own research on these candidates. All my sources are straight off the Internet, addresses at the end of the article. I can only present summary information here. (See below for a Reform Party case study. I got bored really fast and didn't do the others in detail.)

* * * * *

The Reform Party, whose candidate is Ross Perot running with Pat Choate, is considered the most popular third party in this year's election. Riding the wave of a nineteen percent popular vote in 1992, Perot officially set up the party to promote governmental reform. Having scored zero electoral votes in 1992 only underscores their purpose, which is to reform government away from the two-party lobby system. Big idea: see below.

The Natural Law Party, whose candidate is John Hagelin running with Mike Tompkins, is on the ballot in 44 states. (Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Wisconsin are still seeking petition signatures.) The Natural Law Party emphasizes prevention-oriented government, as opposed to today's practice of passing laws to fix leaks. Big idea: apply a health-centered philosophy to reform, namely in areas of education and criminal rehabilitation. Transcendental meditation is one avenue to this.

The Libertarian Party, whose candidate is Harry Browne running with Jo Jorgensen, is on the ballot in all 50 states, adding 23 states since 1994. The party represents the ideal of individual human freedom, as expressed in the absolute minimization of government. Through the elimination of taxes and citizens' dependence on government programs, bureaucracies will crumble, allowing localized institutions to take over the badly-handled social programs. To demonstrate this ideal in action, he is not accepting federal matching funds. The Libertarians also will erase laws for most consensual crimes, namely drug use. Big idea: (Browne) "Would you give up all your favorite federal programs if it meant the elimination of the income tax?"

Ralph Nader is an independent candidate endorsed by the Green Party. He represents the party only on a state-by-state basis, those in which petitions have put him on the ballot. Understanding his chances are slim ("It's not a numerical jackpot campaign"), he is hoping to educate and rally support from progressives and independents for the long haul. Nader's positions are not identical to the Green Party's; his personal mission is to elucidate the problems of corporate welfare, corruption, and lobbyist power running rampant in the country. He is not accepting any campaign contributions whatsoever. Big idea: require a "none of the above" entry on ballots.

* * * * *

Be aware of this essential fact: all these parties/people have many ideas in common. Reread that sentence! Unlike Clinton and Dole, who pride themselves on their differences, these parties (should) pride themselves on their similarities. Further, most of these ideas are far removed from the Republocratic platform.

Does this imply that there are really two groups -- Republocrats and independents? In the weakest sense, yes -- conservatives and liberals, as it were. All the parties I describe are liberal parties, meaning they seek progress, human freedom, environmental protection, and democracy. The big connection is the opposition of corporate control of the nation, which serves no citizens besides a few wealthy CEOs.

What differs between these parties? The answer is simple -- their philosophies. These parties are inherently non-political. These parties are the youth parties, in every sense of the word. This doesn't mean, as some cigar-chomping wife-beating fatman CEO will tell you, that the parties are therefore meaningless, "immature," or impractical. They each have substantive ideas, and most have plans to back them up. These candidates have no political future at stake; therefore, they are unafraid to make real change unlike some lifetime politicians we know.

Finally, consider this: November 5 is not only a presidential election. There are also congressional elections and state elections taking place. Third parties are much more viable at the more local levels, and from there they can promote change much more effectively.

* * * * *

starring Ross Perot and Pat Choate
formed in 1995

Here I will describe the platform of the Reform Party, which will probably get the largest third-party vote. But instead of voting for them as a protest, you may choose to vote for their ideals. If this party does not appeal to you, see the sources at the bottom of the article for other third-party information.

* * * * *

[While I will try to be objective factually, I will interject my own opinions where I want, in brackets. Be sure to distinguish.]

The Reform Party's goal is described in its name -- reform the federal government. The voters demanded reform and did not get it from the Republocrats. "Two-thirds of all voters wanted a new party -- half of all Democrats, half of all Republicans." Ross Perot started the party officially in 1995, taking in members from 1992's United We Stand organization.

The goals of the Reformers are realistic: fix the financial problems the United States suffers from, and replace their causes with sensible, up-to-date solutions. [A warning -- the Natural Law Party supports many of these proposals too, and it was formed in 1992. So don't think Perot came up with all these himself.]

Congress is the first target of the Reformers. Perot will strive to set the "highest ethical standards" for Congress, by eliminating gifts, junkets, and free meals. Congresspeople will no longer receive government health care or retirement benefits. Terms will be limited to a total of six years for representatives and twelve years for senators. [Admirable. The emphasis on congressional reform reminds voters that the Constitution defines congresspeople as temporary participants in government, not long-time plutocrats. Although this may make Congress an undesirable place to work, it should get rid of those who enter for personal gain.]

Lobbying and campaign reform go hand-in-hand, both financial barriers to reform. Lobbying will be restored to its original, beneficial purpose -- the presentation of ideas to Congress, not money. The exchange of money and gifts will be illegal. Furthermore, former members of Congress will not be allowed to become lobbyists. For campaign financing, all congresspeople will be required to raise money in their own state or district. Foreign money will be absolutely out of the question. [Still-idealistic students wonder why common- sense laws don't get passed, or even presented to Congress. Money is why.]

Next, the government will be subjected to financial accountability. Perot will press for a balanced budget amendment (which, of course, is the citizens' job to ratify). Then, with each budget year, the government will publish annual financial reports so people know what their tax money goes for. Perot emphasizes that the government should be run efficiently, like a business; if it were a real business, it would be bankrupt and out of operation. [Makes sense, but the government as a business? The government is supposed to maintain the Constitution, not make money. But, anyway....]

Obviously, now knowing what tax money goes for, voters will want to have income tax reform. Perot suggests a comprehensive computer modeling of several new tax ideas (flat tax, consumption tax, etc.) to verify any new tax code. Then, taxes will be filed electronically, eliminating the huge amounts of paper wasted every year. Finally, tax increases will be approved by the voters. [What about voting to decrease taxes? What if a zealous president cuts spending to zero just for kicks?]

Election reform is one of the most promising tenets of the Reformers. Elections will be moved to the weekends for maximum attendance. The electoral college will be banned. Exit polls will be forbidden to prevent undue influence on people in other time zones deciding whether to vote. [No qualms with any of this. Too many current election practices are holdbacks from the Reconstruction.]

Perot believes abortion is "between a woman and her God [sic]," which is a good step to admitting that this simply isn't a government issue. Women will have abortions whether or not it is forbidden by the government.

As for the issues on which Clinton and Dole are perseverating: Perot is all for a strong military, to defend our country against all threats, namely terrorism and drugs. He will keep a contract with the people not to commit to military involvement unless the people are committed. [Just watch as the people consistently vote down proposals to kill foreigners! "Now, listen people," Perot will plead, "you gotta agree to this. You see, we've got to fight in Thailand. The prostitutes in Bosnia are sucky."]

An interesting fact he notes is that much of our defense spending goes to protect Germany and Japan, countries forbidden to gain military power due to World War II treaties. These countries are now strong and reliable enough to pay for their own defense.

Perot has interesting ideas for crime policy. He wants to put money into rehabilitating youths who get arrested for drugs or violent crimes. All right. He wants criminals to put in "a long, hard day's work" in prison to expunge the "pampered criminal" phenomenon. He wants life sentences without parole for those convicted of three violent crimes. And he wants to make good conduct, literary, and marketable skills to be prerequisites for violent offenders' release. [[ Double brackets! This is completely ludicrous! All these goals are mutually exclusive! All together, he wants violent criminals to be rehabilitated in labor camps while learning to read to prepare for an utterly different job, and for them to have good manners about this bullshit!]]

Education is an important issue, which Perot reminds us has dropped from the "best in the world" to the lowest as a result of the federal government's taking over of education in 1960, resulting in widespread "functional illiteracy." He hints at starting education in very early childhood, when the brain is developing. [No specifics, but he's on the right track. And I still want to know what "63 percent [of high-school graduates] can't meet the reading and writing standards" means. That doesn't imply illiteracy. Of the American population, 97% are "literate," and that includes a great deal of people who never finished school!]

Reformers will take action concerning the future of Medicare and Social Security and other welfare-like programs, preventing future collapse with nonpartisan committee reviews and reforms. If further-reaching health care solutions are sought, Perot wishes to emphasize that the final decision should be that of the doctor and patient, not of the government. In any case, changes will be explained to the people and pilot tested in local areas to prevent catastrophe. [Good idea, for those of us with economics PhDs.]

Perot hates drugs too. His policy statement actually focuses on cocaine, which is actually a dangerous drug that gets kids killed. Good move. He points out that Coast Guard policing of the borders has decreased significantly since 1991, implying more imports of cocaine. [He quotes the statistic that 52% more high school students use drugs from last year. You mean, 100 out of 50,000,000 used them last year and 152 did this year? Percent changes are meaningless!]

Perot promotes environmentally-conscious reforms by corporations, who are credited with destroying much of the country's resources and its air. Alternative fuels, solar energy, conservation, preservation, reduction of paper, etc., are all suggestions. "Environmentalism and capitalism can benefit each other." [The actions Perot suggests are only possible, unfortunately, once lobbying reform happens. So there is a distinct hierarchy here.]

* * * * *

My opinion: the platform is admirable. Perot is not tied to major parties, so he has little to lose. However, that applies to all these candidates. In any case, his ideas are palatable and practical for the financial problems shadowing over the country. Perot has good knowledge of finance -- it's why he's rich. Unfortunately, from the perspective of youth, I don't think Perot knows what we want. He doesn't seem to care that corporations, even if out of government, will still harm the people whose money they take through price-fixing. I didn't find any opinions about college loans, censorship, Internet law, gay rights, religion, or legalizing unharmful drugs. Societal reforms are just as important, if not more important, than financial reforms, because even after the banks and the stock market crash, the society will remain. All in all, though, the issues Perot addresses are expedient and important to consider.

As for his character, one can't help but wonder about the delegates' strange voting scheme during the convention. Just what was going on? An electronic voting system was used, which was not entirely foolproof, but not enough information was released about the procedure, the problems, or the outcome. Some wonder if Perot fixed the nomination. (The mass media, of course.) The issue here is, what kind of a person is Perot? Will his supposed egotism get in his way when he proposes these controversial reforms on an unyielding Congress?

Further, do we really need an insanely rich capitalist to be president? When we have lawyers for president, hundreds of new laws are signed. When a businessman becomes president, can we be sure he won't bow down to big business before the people?

Lastly, consider this: does government need to be reformed and fixed, or should it be drastically changed? Most of the government's "duties" and powers are in direct violation of the 9th and 10th Constitutional amendments; is it not idealistic to hope that fixing even these issues will fix the problem of our eroding democracy? Decide for yourself.

* * * * *


General election pages:

(Includes presidential and congressional races. Highly recommended.)

(This page includes parties from many Western countries, such as Canada and Australia, too.)

(Presidential, congressional, governors, state races, etc., etc.!)

Specific party pages:
(the addresses are mostly NO-BRAINERS, sorry to insult you) or

(Socialist Party Cybercenter)

(Libertarian Party) or

(Natural Law Party) or

(Reform Party)

(Green Parties of North America)

(Token conservative party page. Warning: it is real, I think.)


"Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?"

--Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy


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by Clockwork

The past of my own life, as I know it, is scattered with blacked out periods of time. From birth to my first few years in high school, I recollect nothing but scattered still shots of certain occurrences, not knowing what goes where and what happened when. Perhaps that is what lies behind my drive for the truth -- a subconscious desire to uncover my own past, by uncovering that of others.

Being raised in an alcoholic family adds clues to this great personal mystery, allowing me to make educated guesses as to why my memories are shrouded from myself, and why I am so concerned with humanitarian issues, but does not help uncover those memories. Even with my experience in hypnosis and meditation I have run into great black walls keeping me from myself. Eventually, I shall break through and come to a great understanding of my own inner being.

My fondness for animals derives from my mother -- her too being a humanitarian, but more of the one who speaks greatness, rather than showing it through actions. Unfortunately, that trait has followed me to an extent, also -- feeling complete disgust in high school when fellow classmates hurled rocks at a few frisky dogs running about the campus, but being too frightened of my own well-being to do anything about it. It is this downfall in myself I am fully recognizing and attempting desperately to overcome.

Recently, just a few weeks ago in fact, I found myself in a similar predicament. A mile or two down the road I live off of lies a small quarry in which limestone is scraped from the earth to be used in various construction projects around Texas. From my own home, I have been able to look across the hillsides and neighborhoods about me and observe the progression of that distant barren area of land for the past ten years. All that time my feelings towards such mining practices was one of indifference, believing they have to get such materials from somewhere, but I had never actually seen what such a site consisted of.

During one of my many treks observing nature and civilization in central Texas, I stumbled across this quarry in person, and decided to get a first-hand view as to what exactly has been going on in my backyard. Entering the land on which it occupies (ignoring the "No Trespassing" sign), there lied in front of me a dozen monstrous piles of dirt, sand, and various types of rocks, all evenly separated and placed about a cleared area. Behind the miniature mountains sat a collection of grotesquely industrial contraptions, sitting still while being bathed in artificial bulbs. I stood and stared for a while, trying to make some sense of the conveyors, ramps, and large red buttons. My logical reasoning was overwhelmed by the massiveness of the object, though, so I slowly strolled further down the road, towards another great lighted structure.

After walking maybe a hundred yards towards the structure, I found myself directly in front of it, realizing it was more massive than the first. In the middle of reading various signs placed around the bottom of the building, I heard a very load rumbling in the distance. I sprinted to a nearby hill and dove to the ground as a very large dump truck-like vehicle rumbled by, halogen lights and all. Now, being human, my mind and heart were racing, fueled by paranoid thoughts. Nonetheless, I pressed on towards the darkness the dump truck emerged from. Then I stopped walking.

Before me was a mammoth pit cut into earth, indescribably wide and deep, with minuscule bulldozers and dump trucks in the far corner, the grinding and scraping of their diesel fueled body parts echoing across the gorge. You could see the lights mounted on the front of the machinery shimmer across a vast pool of water in the depths of the quarry.

To be honest with you, I felt like I was going to puke.

I just stood there and took in this catastrophe of man, feeling wave after wave of nausea, trying to make sense of the things we are doing on this planet. After the nausea came several tears, and more mumblings from my mouth, concerns I've held dear to me about the destructiveness of man. Everything was plainly painted in front of me, as real as I could ever imagine it. Immeasurable voids in the earth. What will they do? Will they continue raping and plundering the planet, leaving void after void after void until there is noting left? This was not even a large project -- this was a very small outfit. Twenty miles away lies Texas Crushed Stone and their own quarry, which is plainly visible for miles from the interstate. What travesty of Mother Nature had they done here?

Sporadic thoughts began to invade my mind, beginning with instant visualization of the lyrics to "When the Music's Over" written decades ago by Jim Morrison:

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

These things were seen by many thirty years ago. These things were seen over a hundred years ago, and was cause for the founding of the Sierra Club by a few brave souls in 1892. With the clearing of the majority of the original forests covering the east coast by the mid-1850's, this should be evident to everyone.

Suddenly I felt like Edward Abbey, the infamous environmental author of books such as The Monkeywrench Gang and Desert Solitaire, which inspired the environmental activist organizations Earth First!, along with many others. In both the aforementioned books, Abbey fantasizes about "some unknown hero with a rucksack full of dynamite strapped to his back" who would place his explosives strategically along Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, and detonate them on the day of the dam's dedication ceremony for the most glorious effect.

This is what I felt. Pure raw emotion -- disgust, loathing, sickness, frustration, rage. All directed towards the evils put upon the earth. I wanted to tear the guts from the machines in front of me, stop them from destroying that which it was created from. But what could I do? Screaming senseless obscenities at the people who piloted those vehicles would do no good. They are just doing their jobs, most likely supporting husbands, wives, and families. Wreaking havoc upon the equipment was a possibility, but not at that moment -- I certainly did not want to end up in jail.

So I wept.

Now, here I stand in life, containing vast amounts of knowledge, angst, ferociousness, and determination, wanting frantically to save our planet, to save our morals, to save our livelihood. I have come to the point where I am realizing knowledge is worthless unless it is acted upon. My existence is not to passively go through life, counting away the years as my 401(k) plan piles up, but to cause and lead great triumphs for humanity not only in this country, but around the planet. And so many still think I am a fool.


"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

-- George Bernard Shaw


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by I Wish My Name Were Nathan the Demagogue

[Written 8/16/96; excuse the dated references. ;) ]

I spent most of today watching the last day of the Republican National Convention coverage on C-SPAN and CNN. Under some states of mind I would have considered this a waste of time. I probably will tomorrow. But today I have realized something important about the American people and their government: too few people are cynical enough, but more than enough people are deathly afraid of cynics.

One example of this is Governor Richard Lamm, impossible nominee for the Reform Party. This man has long been derided by the media as a "doom 'n' gloom" candidate, a pessimist. This is code for the fact that he is a cynic. This also means he probably doesn't lie to his constituents.

What? Am I actually linking cynicism with a tendency to tell the truth? I feel I have to clarify this -- I am. Watching the convention has heightened my awareness of many people's concepts of reality. (I have nothing specific against the Republicans in this sense; I'm sure the Democrats will just as well mirror my observations.) Herein I define cynicism as the ability to see the existence of and foresee the effects of human fallibility, and to publicly admit it in a large group. I argue that lacking the ability to be cynical leads to mistruths and misunderstanding.

Take the presidential candidate Bob Dole. I listened to his entire speech, occasionally yelling addendums to his words I wish he had included. For example, he spent five minutes bashing the government for taking too much tax money. Then one minute later he bashes Clinton for cutting defense spending and vows to jack it up again. What accounts to 75% of the taxpayer's money is apparently not worth criticizing. I don't think he or his speechwriter meant to make this glaring lie; however, a lack of cynicism shrouded the real meaning.

Had Dole's speechwriter been more cynical, he would have bashed the government for taking too much of the corporations' and wealthy people's money; then he would have vowed to build more weapons to keep McDonnell- Douglas' and Boeing's government contracts secure. That would have contained no contradictions. Of course, that's not what anyone wanted to admit right out.

Later in the speech, side-by-side he defended his belief in the superiority of each person's judgment (disliking the government's tendency to control our lives), and then bashed Clinton's leniency toward youth drug use. I can let this one pass; still too many Americans do not realize that some illegal drugs simply cannot compete with heroin and cocaine since they pose no health hazard. But I must wonder why he ignored Clinton's harsh stance against teen smoking.

A political convention is probably the most flimsy source for examples of false idealism. I apologize for that; the convention hasn't worn off me yet. I can provide reams of examples of times when cynicism would be more truthful. In commercial advertising, marketers could point out the obvious: "Two-day sale! Save up to 25%! (Oh, and save 100% by staying home!)" In the upbringing of children: "Don't play with yourself! Why? Because it reminds me of when I was punished for doing the same thing even though I knew it wasn't wrong." Taking a job: "You realize we're only hiring you since we need more labor and a higher profit margin. A job is our using you as slave labor for our own ends; we only pay you so you won't leave or die of starvation. And if you dare get any original ideas, we'll show you the door."

In interactions with the police: "I stopped you and your friend walking here along the sidewalk because you look suspicious. If I don't find anything illegal on you in what amounts to a random search, I'll get pissed and detain you two for a long time so that passersby won't think I made a mistake." In wedding vows: "For better or worse... but it really only gets worse. You two are stuck together until one of you realizes the other is no longer sexually attractive -- which is why you met in the first place. Until you have children, you're like two wild animals in a cage -- you'll either fight or ignore each other. And when you have children, you're really stuck since you'll have to maintain the sham marriage in order to provide a proper family environment. Oh, and wait until you find out which one's the alcoholic, and which one can't overcome the sexual frustration at his limited choices and has an affair or becomes a chronic masturbator like he was before he met you! I do thee wed."

Is that enough? Can you see that cynicism could be applied usefully prevent future problems? There are popular myths used to cover up all the cynicism in the above situations and countless others: A job is the obligation necessary to maintain the economy. Masturbation interferes with proper sexual development. The police are upholding order. Marriage is a time-honored commitment of love and responsibility. I am willing to bet that most people already see through the myths and already understand the subtexts illustrated above. If so, then why aren't people candid about them?

Obviously, there is a reason for concealing cynicism -- it maintains people's hopes, however false. And I have nothing against optimism and idealism -- when applied in the long term. Ideals can rightly be called the basis for action, and optimism the fuel with which to cause action. Ideals, however, should not be used to ignore problems that exist. Not even politicians should appeal to ideals to get votes. "God, liberty, responsibility, country!" Why does Dole say he's "for" these ideas? That's what this country was founded on (my own qualms about religion aside); no opponent of his is running under the ideals of "Cthulhu, totalitarianism, apathy, and anarchy?", right? This rhetoric has no place in useful politics. What Americans are concerned with is what has happened since 1776. We care about the potholes now, not the highway planner's original dream for efficient personal transportation.

Again, I will backstep. Dole's appeal to "God, liberty, responsibility, country" had some connection with the modern-day issues of religious decline, governmental ball-grabbing, voter apathy, and anti-patriotism. He is trying to remind us of the ideals we should still be following. But why not inject some cynicism into the argument; why not try to explain why these issues exist rather than clouding the voters' minds with beautiful abstractions?

The influence of the church has declined in the American family and community. Divisions between the religious and the nonreligious have widened; atheism is accepted in some groups while fundamentalism is equally accepted in others. The disturbing trend Republicans see here is the move away from religion. Organized religion is in decline because "the" religion, Christianity, is losing younger followers due to intolerance, money lust, hypocrisy, and the more lustrous gleam of the religion of science. Conservatives dare not attack the cause; they rather prefer to act like injured animals and blame liberalism for destroying faith.

Liberty has been faltering for a long while: the Constitution declared us free individuals, and the government has since been saying, "Not quite!" more and more forcefully. That much is true. (I imagine Bob Dole would rather repeal a bunch of economically restrictive laws rather than morally restrictive ones. I doubt he cares that the government had no right to pass the latter laws.) At the heart of the problem here though is the fact that people do not stand up for their liberty any longer. Once adamant and stubborn, American people have turned into cowards regarding their personal freedom. We cheer when anti-terrorism bills fly through Congress after a bombing with no thought to the long-term erosion of liberty or the fact that terrorism is already quite illegal.

American voters no longer appear to want to choose candidates for office. This is obviously a serious problem if we are to maintain a representative government. Solutions have been hurled in this direction -- MTV's Choose or Lose, the motor-voter bill, expanded network coverage for elections. But, who will attack the roots of the problem? Most destructive to the democratic spirit are the unregistered power-voters called political action committees, the anti-populist electoral college, the binary-opposition financially- protected two-party political system, and the widespread and acknowledged corruption in government. Politicians will not give up the system, however. They see their work as tenure, not as a privilege given to them by other people. They would rather take one of two sides than step out and offer to argue important issues. They disrespect their constituencies by passing inane, illegal laws without the request and often against the wishes of the people. Is it any wonder we are refusing to vote for this?

The rise of anti-American sentiment is corroding belief in the country, and independent anti-government militia groups are endangering its stability. Okay, true. Our government thinks it is successfully eradicating these problems by passing laws against them and expanding its right to beak into our houses. I fear I can understand why the government thinks these measures will solve the problems -- the only way to sway "terrorists'" opinions is to punish them; they've obviously forgotten that the proper way to induce change is through the ballot box. Why start a militia when a vote would be better spent? These wackos must have obviously taken a power trip and ignored their voting power just to spite us! What goes unmentioned is that the reckless power-play passing of laws and the utter inapplicability of the vote against the government's police force is at the base of anti-patriotic sentiment. Furthermore, the government is infringing on the Constitution in hopes of preventing terrorism; not realizing that such abdications of justice are the reasons for terroristic anger. Only Article 3, section 3 says anything about native "terrorism" -- the term politicians use nowadays to describe treason:

Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of Two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in an open Court.

This clause is being extended to say that setting off a cheesy bomb at a concert is considered "levying War," and that subscribing to Irish Republican Army literature is "giving [Enemies] Aid and Comfort," even though they are not enemies of America but of England. Furthermore, the two "witnesses" can now be electronic devices, and "confession in an open court" can now happen in a small dark room. I do not believe terrorists are the problem; rather it is the fact that terrorism exists and that justice must be abdicated to prevent it that shows something is seriously wrong with the democratic process.

Will you hear any politician or political pundit talk about this? Of course not. This only comes out of hacks in underground publications, wackos in talk radio, from geezers in retirement homes, and Libertarians, none of whom can be taken seriously because they have no power. People under the myth of idealism can write them off, ignore them; for anyone in power to say such things is a reason for fear. It would say that the problems might actually be real, and people would panic, or actually take action. From the exalted politician's position, however, the last thing he wants is an agitated and fearful populace. That might lead to revolt, or even worse, loss of office. What I still find most amazing is that most people know what's wrong, even the politicians -- but as long as no one high-up admits it, we can continue to ignore the problems. We are a nation of closeted cynics. Who will out us?


[=- POETASTRiE -=]

"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."

--Charles Bukowski


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by DeMoN

shower me with black sunshine and i will grow, for i have been gifted
shower yourself with black sunshine and you will become enlightened (as i am)
and be sucked into the void and you will no longer be a part of this silly
thing we call life;
you will enter the otherrealm.
time and space shall become as meaningless to you as the tastes of colors and
the smell of silence
and as your body shrinks and contorts to enter the abyss, your enlightenment
will drive you mad and for a precious moment you will be all and all will be
infinity shall seem minute in comparison.
your consciousness will travel to other dimensions and leave all the
meaningless nonsense you knew behind for those less enlightened to ponder and
toil over.
your presence shall visit alien domains where true reality will be revealed
to you rather than the utterly useless and pathetic entity your pitifully
inadequate senses perceive reality to be.
you cannot understand but a fraction of these ramblings until you are
baptized with the black sunshine and enter oblivion.
visit the otherrealm and the doors of perception will be cleansed, and things
shall appear to you as they truly are:



[=- FiCTiON -=]


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by Morrigan

i ran here to escape.

i'm not sure what i was fleeing from. i had thought that it was from myself, by that makes very little sense. i'll never be able to evade my own mind, so what would coming to the forest accomplish? But then, logic never was one of my strong points.

i'm reduced to the semblance of an Alzheimer's patient. At times, like now, i'm completely lucid; it's business as usual within my reason. But then there's the times that grow ever more frequent with each passing day, when my sentience slips from my slack grasp and i embody the stereotype of bestiality. i wander around these woods like a spirit, weaving among the aspens like a will'o'the'wisp, leaping over streams like a frightened deer. At those times, all i am aware of is the need to run.

And throughout the cycle i am always filled with a need so overwhelming that i gasp for my breath. In my more rational moments i try to analyze the emotion, try to rationalize it in order to banish it. But it eludes me, like so much else. And so i appeal to you. Of course. i've appealed to you so many ties before. For who are you but me? i am far enough lost by now that the distinction is long since misplaced among the shuffle of old papers that clutter my brain. Maybe your description is among them somewhere, but no mind, all that matters to me is that you, whatever conjuration of my demented psyche you might be, you are here.

Where to begin? Where to end?

i have loved too much in my time, yet love was never enough. i loved you, you who aren't really you, more than anything, which was my fault. Who you were was a peripheral detail. i needed to attach my lifeline to something and you walked though the door at the wrong moment. i still don't know your name. But i worshiped you. Would have done anything for you. i watched your every move. i only had a brief amount of time to share with you, sitting in that waiting room with a ticket in my hand.

My daydreams of you probably missed the mark by more than leagues. Irrelevant. What mattered was that i had found something to dedicate by being to. When i found that we would be leaving on the same bus, i knew deep within me that Fate at last smiled upon me. i sat in the row behind you, so oblivious to my devotion. But then Fate took away her hand. As i stared at the back of your head, i was whisked away to the future. i knew that all would be perfect. And when i came back for your hand to lead you to my heaven, you were gone, and i had no idea where.

Your leaving shattered my already fragile world. So i retreated here. i keep expecting to see you. i run and leap and jump, thinking to come upon you any second now. But you're gone, against all possibility.

Ah, but now you are here. Your coming is perfect. Perhaps he wasn't you after all. Oh, it's all so clear now. You're the one i've been looking for. Come here, my friend. Come play with me amongst the aspens. Look how inviting they are.

Don't leave.

No, alone, you've left me all alone.

But wait! i see you! You're only playing a game, you say? Ah, my love, my loves, i see you! Wait for me! We shall have such great fun among these trees......where are you?


"So long as the dream lasts consciousness is unable to engage in reflection. It is carried along by its own decline and it continues to lay bold of images indefinitely."

--Jean-Paul Sartre, The Psychology of Imagination


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by Nemo est Sanctus

I would admire her from afar. I'd gaze at her -- her golden hair, her well formed body -- when I thought she couldn't see me.

I don't know how long it lasted, and not only in memory, but even as it happened, I would see and remember snatches. Stockinged legs against a short skirt and a brick wall. A deeply colored blouse flapping in a slight breeze, as she sat and studied, a cigarette between her fingers and a textbook clutched hard against her body to keep it from the wind.

Over time, this became a veritable obsession. At times, it seemed she was all I could see. I'd close my eyes, and she would be gazing at me, wistfully, from out of the depths of the deep blue pools of her eyes. I would become aware of myself as from out of a reverie or a deep sleep, as from out of deep thought, and surprise myself enjoying her caresses, feeling her lips against my forehead or on my eyelids, my arm around her youthful waist.

I began to follow her. I would be where she would be, following at a distance, a little more each day, noting carefully her paths. I could be where she was going to be and pick up the trail with less of the risk of following. I would sit outside her apartment and wonder at her callers, suffering a private hell as I internally raged against those I decided were her lovers, wondering at what she and her friends would do in her apartment in the evenings or off, out, where I dared not follow. I waited alone, in cold or rain, for her to return late that night or early the next morning. Over time I assigned names to go with the personalities, a veritable pantheon, all centered around my little angel, building a universe in my own image as if the world were as obsessed with her as was I.

I grew haggard and thin. I took the time to care for myself as needed -- bathing and eating -- but as little as possible, and what time I did take for myself came out of my sleep. My employment was terminated; as my bank account depleted my bills stacked up, but I had ascended. I was in the world, but not of the world. She was the only world real to me.

There came a time, I suppose it was inevitable, when she noticed me. I didn't know how much she knew. I still don't. She said something about having seen me around, or so I thought I recalled as I descended from a transcendent state and found she truly was standing before me. Sitting in a coffee shop, less aware of what if anything was real than I had even been those past few weeks. I told her I had been watching her. I told her I had come to love her from afar. She told me I should not do so. She invited me to ascend.

I remember we talked. I forget what of. I know we laughed, but not what about. Probably nothing I would laugh at in my normal state. It was probably the laughter of infatuation, of two young people not particularly aware of where or who they were, simply of who was before them. We went back to the apartment I knew so well, and she retired to the bedroom.

When she came back out she was even less clad, and the vague pink cloth that floated around her like a sunrise cloud, above naked feet and naked legs, clung to her body like a pink mist and enhanced her cherubic form. I begged her to stand still, to let me look at her, to devour her chastely.

She laughed -- she misunderstood completely. With a touch, before I could cry out in protest, the cloth buried her feet, and she was exposed.

Seen thus, without the cloth, without the mystery, without the wonder, my own illusions shattered like a porcelain figure knocked from off a mantlepiece, or off the top of a Christmas tree. My angel ceased to be, and she left only the animal stripped of the anima, just like any other animal I had seen, on four legs or two.

In anger I stormed out the door, my last thoughts only of thanks that she had never so much as asked my surname.


"Ah Love! Could you and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits -- and then
Remold it nearer to the Heart's Desire?"

--The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam


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by Morrigan

Just do what comes naturally. Seethe and fume and throw a tantrum, for all the good it'll do you. Margery glared at her unintelligibly screeching mother from underneath clenched brows. I don't care what you tell me. None of your groundless arguments will ever convince me that you're right. I can easily disprove whatever you throw at me, be it money, time, or anything else your lost little mind can throw at me. The only reason you want me to give this up is that I've finally found something that makes me happy and helps me to escape this hell hole we've named home and you're nice and bitter because you've realized that it's too late for you, you're already up to your nosehair in the sludge and you're thrashing yourself deeper with every passing breath.... She noticed that unconsciously she had been clenching her teeth and forming fists with her hands.

In the depths of her being, Margery heaved a great sigh, trying to force her fingers and jaw to loosen. Let's see... about now, she should be getting really worked up... she should throw something right Right on cue, a book came hurtling at her head. With reflex born of long practice she smoothly ducked and straightened. It never fails to amaze me how well she can fling stuff when she's upset, the girl thought with something distantly related to admiration. Meanwhile, the book had crashed into the couch, eliciting a startled curse from the bleary eyed man lying there.

"Why can't you stupid women keep your fights to yourselves? Why do you always bring me into it?" he grumbled. Margery coughed to conceal her barely suppressed indignation. "Christ... can't a man have a little bit of peace around here to sleep off a hangover?"

"If you have a problem, then why don't you go somewhere else?" Margery asked, exercising what scant patience she could muster to prevent herself from screaming at him. You always complain, but you never do anything about it, do you?

"That's not fair, dear!" her mother interjected. "Be nice to the poor man. He probably feels terrible... don't you, sweetie? You're always so mean to him, Margery, disturbing him all the time."

"Yeah, that's it, feel terrible. Give me some quiet, will ya?"

Rolling her dark blue eyes, Margery dropped the subject without mentioning that it had been her mother who had started the fight, that it had been her mother doing all the yelling, and that it had been her mother who had thrown the book that woke him. She didn't feel like engaging in a second fruitless argument.


With difficulty, she quenched her strong urges to stomp or sprint away from them, refusing to show her anger and frustration. Instead she began to walk calmly, albeit stiffly, out of the room.

"Where do you think you're going?" her mother's voice called to her retreating back.

After common sense overrode the notion of ignoring the question, she answered simply, "To the stables." The one place where I can find some relief from my drunken father and stupid mother. Not trusting herself to be able to control her temper much longer, she succumbed to the need to hurry out of the room.

* * * * *

The tears flowed freely, further dampening the neck already sweaty from the steep climb up to the clearing. The owner of the neck didn't mind, being quite used to this treatment. With true concern in her eyes, she looked back at her unhappy companion. She silently asked if there was anything she could so, knowing that there wasn't, but also knowing that the question itself would help. The concern brought a brief half-smile to the tear-streaked face. "Thanks." The single word was all that was needed. They moved back down the mountain in relative contentment.

* * * * *

"Margery's dreaming of horses." The taunting voice broke through her reverie. She looked up to see the sardonic face of her classmate staring through her. "I don't suppose you'd care to join us in class, could you? I'm sure the pretty little horsies will wait for you for a few minutes, won't they? Don't they love you enough to that they won't run off if you take away your concentration for a moment or two?"

The cruel sarcasm made her wince. She bit down on her tongue in order to refrain from replying in kind. Instead she choked out an apology and did her best to ignore the snickers of the rest of the room. Goddammit. Why do I let myself get so upset over their badgering? I've heard it enough by now, you'd think I'd be at least somewhat desensitized. But no, I have to go and be hurt by it despite the fact that the only reason they harass me so much is because I react to it so satisfyingly. She managed to escape attention for the rest of class and rushed out at the first possible second.

Margery had almost reached the safety of her locker when she was accosted by Darien, the latest jock to make a bet with his friends that he'd be able to sweep one of the unpopular girls off her feet. Thinks that I'm so desperate that I'll have no option but to snatch at the first potential guy that shows some some interest in my. Thinks that he's so spectacular that I'm already in love with him from afar. I'm so fucking sick of these little boys who can't tell one girl from another. All I mean to him is a chance to show off his sexual prowess and at the same time humiliate some helpless freak, satisfying all his physical and emotional needs, giving him another opportunity to savor control. The fact that I don't belong to any of his cliques and therefore he'll never have to see or remember he ever again is a nice added bonus. Masking most of her overpowering disgust, she tried to step around him, wearing an admittedly tight smile. With a grin meant to charm, he stopped her by the arm and slowly winked at her. His face held an overall expression that she supposed was meant to be sexy and irresistible.

"Hey, baby."

She stifled a groan. He wasn't even creative. He had to use the most overused, cliched pick-up line ever invented. She made a last attempt to escape, trying to look shy and embarrassed by the attention of her obvious god. She even managed to blush, though it was more from shame brought on by thinking of was she was doing than from love. Not that he'd be able to tell the difference.

Lady Luck was with her. He decided to allow her to go swoon over his perfection and sauntered off with one last lingering look. She accomplished a smile without throwing up and hastily strode away, filled with relief.

* * * * *

"Sometimes it seems like the whole world is a cigarette and I'm the only ashtray." The horse's ears turned to catch her words and a liquid brown eye looked back quizzically.

* * * * *

Margery cautiously opened the door. She peered into the living room with trepidation, but her worry was in vain. Her parents were nowhere in sight. Maybe, just maybe, my luck will hold, and they'll be asleep or something. She crossed her fingers superstitiously, proceeding to the the stairs and up to her room on the second floor. Sure now of her safety, she reached out for the door handle. Her hand froze in mid-air. What the hell? Margery strained her ears to make out the words.

"You know, since she's been taking her pills, she's seemed much better. The medicine really seems to be helping. She doesn't get in those annoying black moods anymore," her mother's voice said.

"It's almost worth it. But the damn things are so expensive."

"Well, she's our daughter, after all. I agree that there's much better things that we could be spending that buck fifty a pill on, but she is our responsibility, and we love her enough that it's not a problem." There seemed to be a bit of strain in the words. There was a long discomfort laden pause.

"Whatever." A man's voice broke the silence. "But don't try to tell me that you believe that drivel you just spouted. Isn't the big thing nowadays getting rid of denial? Aren't we supposed to admit our true feelings and deal with them?" He paused expectantly, waiting for a reply that never came. "You need me to refresh your memory?" Another pause. "Remember, we had only been married for about two years. You thought that you might be pregnant, but you kept telling yourself that you weren't because you didn't want to be. And you didn't show, so it was easy to convince yourself. Then, about five months after you had begun to have your suspicions, your stomach started to grow. And then you told yourself that you were just gaining weight. I noticed and asked you if you thought you might be pregnant. You said you couldn't be and promised to go on a diet. But even though you should have lost weight since you exercised constantly and ate enough to starve a sparrow, your stomach just got bigger. And so you eventually went to the doctor, who said you were pregnant. You begged him to let you have an abortion. They were just becoming available then, remember? But it was too late. So two and a half months later, you had a kid. And now she's seventeen. And all three of us know that we don't particularly want her around. But none of us say anything. And so it just gets worse and we fight more and more often. But still none of us say anything."

Encouraged at last by her husband's honesty, the woman spoke. "Fine. I'll admit it. I didn't want her then, and I don't really want her now. But we've got her, so there's nothing we can fucking do about it." She paused to think. "You know, it wouldn't be so bad if we had something in common. But this stupid obsession of hers. I've always hated horses. They're big, stupid, dirty creatures that cost a fortune to feed and maintain and have no potential for being even the teentsiest bit useful in this day and age. Why couldn't she have loved to clean, or cook, or sew, or something helpful? But no, she has to go and be disagreeable and choose an expensive hobby that contributes nothing to the family except waste." She paused for breath. "I mean, look at this place. She's got pictures of horses everywhere." Margery heard the sounds of her pictures being lifted and set down roughly. Then her mother spoke again, slowly.

"And notice that she doesn't have a single picture of us anywhere. You know, she's never loved us or appreciated us." She hesitated as she remembered. "She was a very quiet child. She'd just sit there and stare at you, unsmiling. If she'd shown any love to me, I would have loved her right back." She paused to give her mind a chance to get back to the present. "We're so good to her now. We pay for her stupid hobby and we pay for that medicine so she's happy. And she doesn't show any gratitude. She hates us." That voice was starting to sound strained and was beginning to crack with emotion. "Ok, so I hate her back. There. Happy? I confess it! Hear that world? I HATE HER!"

Only then did she hear the floor board creak outside the door. Her eyes wide with surprise and shock, she turned to stare blankly at her husband.

* * * * *

Numb, Margery let her hand fall to her side and turned. In a daze, she walked back down the stairs and out the door. Her feet automatically turned down the path she'd worn across the field to the stables where she boarded her horse. Throughout the two mile walk, her mind was a blur, thinking everything and nothing at the same time. While she brushed her horse, she murmured to it.

"I always suspected. But I never knew. I always wanted to know. And now I do. And now I wish I didn't. But I guess it's for the better. At least now I won't be living an unbelievable lie."

She got on bareback, not bothering to put on the superfluous bridle. She directed her friend to the sea cliffs that were a couple of miles past the far side of town.

"People are so unkind. People are so unkind," she whispered in time with her beast's hooves.

Margery realized she'd forgotten to take her Prozac that morning.

* * * * *

After two days had passed with no sign of their daughter, the couple decided to put out a missing person's report.

The two bloated bodies were found three weeks later, washed up on a beach down the coast.

* * * * *

"Look at the poor things. Numb with shock, they are. What a pity," the woman whispered to her friend.

"Just look at those faces. They look like someone scrubbed their emotions away. Such a tragedy. Well, I suppose we should leave them to their grief," the other woman replied as they left the funeral.

"That look just kills me. So forlorn."

* * * * *

"At least we don't have to pay for the horse and the medicine anymore," the dry-eyed woman said to her husband over the grave.

Their eyes met and the blank surfaces of their faces were broken by smiles.


"I could not say I believe. I know! I have had the experience of being gripped by something that is stronger than myself, something that people call God."

-- Carl Jung


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by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

- 1 -

I haven't dreamt in a long time. I don't usually notice when I do dream, but lately I've noticed a distinct lack of mind imagery and it's affecting my sleep. A friend suggested I drive around, to fill my mind with images and ideas that could later fuel some dreaming. After a few minutes of explaining his theory, however, he started to get worried about my driving around. "Not having dreams sounds sorta serious to me," he said. "I don't know if it's safe for you to drive."

I assured him I wouldn't drive, and the next day I got into my car and set out for the open road.

The weather that day was annoyingly humid and clouds were threatening rain. I had nothing else to do, though, so that was the day I drove around.

I could see where some of my friend's worry seemed useful as I steered my car out of the driveway. The air inside was stuffy and hot; I had no air conditioning. It threatened to exhaust me. I rolled down my windows and sensed that the constant rush of wind by my ears would lull me to sleep. But I had to drive. So I drove slow. I took in the scenery.

September in Texas witnesses an unpredictable smorgasbord of weather. All summer there had been a drought and only a small number of short rainfalls. So far this month it had rained hard at least twice a week. Hurricane remnants. Jesus' suffering tears. Who knew.

At any rate, I had ignored the clouds when I set out that day and ten minutes into my pleasure trip the clouds burst. Fat droplets crashed on my windshield and streaked down the fine coat of dust on it. I was torn between leaving my windows open, to avoid baking in the humidity, and closing them, to avoid drowning in the electric rain. I begrudgingly rolled up the windows and kept driving.

Two minutes later visibility was down to zero. My windshield wipers were not all that great, either. Not that it mattered much. I could see enough. I had driven into the countryside where I could distinguish the road from the grass. Not many other cars were on the road, either. In fact, the very few I expected to see never came into view. Judging by the ferocity of the downpour, I didn't blame everyone else for staying home.

The top of my car hummed with raindrops. The sound pleased me greatly. I've always had a romantic association with rain, reminding me of long-past dark nights I spent huddling in bed, loving the fact that I was safe inside under the covers. Unfortunately, this memory tended to make me drowsy. I shook myself awake.

Bright lightning tore through the sky, sheathed by the thick clouds and their distance. Most targets seemed to be in the city. Tall antennas. Radio towers. The few trees in the farms and wild fields I passed in my car were puny compared to those. Peals of thunder momentarily overwhelmed the audiosphere. Fearfully, gratefully, the raindrops would return to dance above my head.

I had nothing to do that day, so I kept driving on through the storm. It was a refreshing experience; humorous, almost. Free car wash. Traveling to exotic lands. Really, I had no destination in mind, and enamored by the chaos of the storm, I freed myself from charting a path. I'd probably long since left Juncture. I hadn't even turned in a while. Seeing the promise of a bland city in the distance, I turned onto another road.

Looking out through the windshield, I realized I'd entered a sort of woodsy area. What used to be a scattering of trees along the road transformed into a wall, a crowd of trees, towering over my head and over the road. It annoyed me a little, since the trees diverted the luscious rain, diminishing the tap-dance on the roof. I was able to see farther, though.

I was quickly reminded of my inexperience with the area. Between two walls of trees, I saw a fast-flowing river of water, leaves, and twigs running across the road. I slowed down to judge its power. It didn't seem at all high to me, so I backed up a few feet and then accelerated forward through the current. All was well, I assumed, until I realized my tires had lost their grip with reality and my car was floating tail-first off the road.

I revved my engine and heard twin fountains of sludge shoot out beneath the wheels, but I couldn't gain control. I looked back and saw the woods and the current gushing between the sparse trees. There was so much water that the whole area was flooded, looking like a lake dotted with scandalous trees. As I surveyed the scene, I felt the back of the car falling off the road. In panic I wondered if I was on a bridge or not. The tilt of the car seemed to encourage the possibility. I listened to the sound of the chassis screeching on the edge of the pavement, to the rush of water bathing the transmission. The tilt grew ever more pronounced. I felt like I was falling. I realized my engine had died. I clenched my steering wheel and wondered if I would.

With a lurch, the car lost its grip on the road and fell into the current, quickly righting itself. The road hadn't been that high, but apparently the current had taken away enough sediment from the banks to fool anyone. I looked back, wondering where I would be taken. The rear end of my car hit a tree, and I figured, nowhere. The current knew better, though. Around in a circle the front of my car lazily spun until I was moving again. I chuckled in surprise, sighed, and leaned back. I'd given up any notion of exiting the car.

All around me by the time my wits were settled was trees. Not as densely packed as a forest, though, as the progress of my car attested, picking up speed. I looked around and saw the trunks of the trees peeking out from the water, like submarine spyglasses. I confess my lack of tree knowledge, and I imagined they were submerged under feet and feet of water. Judging by the lack of typical ground shrubs peeking through, I couldn't doubt it. I could see nothing but brown rushing water, swimming twigs and leaves, and grey trees steadfastly keeping watch over the whole parade.

Again my car struck a guard tree and found itself turned around by the force of the water to again join the river. This was no groundspring current. My feet were soaked by water leaking into the car through the floor. The muffled roar of the water lulled me into the role of grim spectator. I was powerless.

As the speed of the car increased, I became more and more terrified of the inevitable deadly collision with a tree. I watched nervously over my shoulder to gauge the possibility, clenching my eyes tight as the car smashed through thin trees and missed several larger ones only by merit of the efficient current. Eventually, I knew two trees would stand guard against the flow and the car would crumple up against it and drown me. I knew it would happen with as much violence. The car seemed to be going forty or more, but the speedometer didn't offer its opinion. I clenched my eyes shut and tried to withstand the ride.

* * * * *

So involved in my fears of dying, it took a while after minutes of anxious expectation to register the fact that the car's velocity had waned. So had the noise of the river. Furthermore, it had brightened. My immediate superstitious thought was that I was dead. The image coalesced in my mind. My soul had left my body. The sound of the river faded as all external things do; the feel of my body strapped into the front seat would soon leave me as well. When I opened my eyes to assess the odd brightness, I'd see the fiery pits of hell dancing on my retinas.

That was not how it was, though. I could feel that I was alive. My eyes still clenched shut, I felt my car had stopped. Probably the current of the river had shifted suddenly and the inertia of the car was no match and my car left on the path of least resistance. I had come to a stop outside the forest, and the brightness was the sun. I slowly opened my eyes and tested the hypothesis.

I had gotten one part right.

The image before me was much brighter than expected; I had to squint before I could take it all in. What I saw before me was simple: wheat. Yellow wheat, lazily stirring in the breeze. Up above, in stark contrast, was the blue sky, not a cloud in it.

I decided to get out of the car and take a look. I reached for the door handle, which wasn't there, and tumbled out onto the ground, my mouth full of grain. Bewildered, I looked back and saw my car had no door on it. No doors on it. No tires or windows either. The axles of the car rested on granite blocks. The seat I'd been sitting on was sun-weathered, cracked, and faded. I bet my Armor-All was gone, too.

I finally figured I was dreaming -- probably my car smashed into a tree and knocked me out. But I didn't want it to be a dream. That would be a lame pretext for my current situation. I tried all the dreaming tests. Pinched myself, called out my name, tried to fly. Didn't work. Never works in real life. Maybe that's because no one ever tries to when they're awake.

I was only a little sad at the demise of my car. I didn't like to drive. My horse and buggy was a dogsled on rocks.

The vastness of the wheat field again took hold of my attention. Yellow wheat, stirring in the breeze like the tops of the trees, wind-kissed, wind- stroked. I could see a building in the distance, so I started walking toward it, like a fly to dung. Through the wheat I swung my legs and felt my feet crushing stalks beneath. The dry, woody smell of the plant bombarded my nose.

Before I had reached a third of the way to the building, which now appeared to be a house, I noticed two figures running toward me. I stopped and peered at them under the shade of my hand. They seemed to be a boy and a man, probably his father. As they came nearer, I saw they were decked out in authentic hick clothing. The boy lagged behind in the wheat.

"Now, you stop right there, you high-and-mighty son of a cunt!" the man yelled. I had already stopped and now I froze. The man was not happy. "Is this him?" he yelled to the boy, who finally caught up, wheezing.

The boy looked emaciated, his eyes drawn deep into their dark sockets. He peered at me glumly, not making eye contact. "Yeah," he said in a soft voice. I could have sworn I recognized him from somewhere.

The man's hand lashed out and grabbed my neck. "You motherfucking horseshit child molester," he growled. I was lifted off my feet. I struggled to break free to explain myself when I felt a sharp cymbal-crash car-crash bolt of pain flood my entire body, then evaporate into nothingness. I fell limp.

The man, who I now figured was the father, dropped me and I tumbled to the ground in a heap. I couldn't move anything except my eyes and mouth and they weren't making much of an impression. The father swung his leg into my sides, stamped his boot down on my crotch, picked me up and struck me down. I was indifferent, feeling no pain, but scared as hell.

I made appealing gestures at the boy, who simply stared down at me with an empty smile on his lips. He swung his foot into my face and broke my nose. Dirt mixed in with the blood and fell into my eyes. I started to cry.

The beating ended abruptly, leaving me to realize I was having difficulty breathing. Through my misty eyes, I was able to see ribs jutting through my shirt. The father picked me up by the neck and dragged me toward the barn, my eyes squinting in the sun, my feet dragging helplessly in the dirt.

In the barn, the father cradled me in his arms and carried me up a ladder to the loft. I lay in the hay and coughed up blood for a few minutes until he returned with a rope. I scrambled for the ladder in my mind, so agonizingly close, but not with my limbs, so agonizingly still.

The father plunged his thumbs into my eyes and crudely wiped them clean. I blinked a few times and looked up at him pleadingly. He had no reprieve to grant.

"You remind me of a slimy, grungy shit-stain lying there," he remarked, carefully tying the rope into a noose. "You stuck my eleven-year-old boy. You pritnear killed him, hollowed him out inside. I have you some words of advice here, may not help you out in Hell, but if God's green earth ever has the misfortune to see your kind again, you might just remember. God don't take kindly to molesters. God hates molesters. God hates you."

The choice words offended me in their inaccuracy, but I had no chance to reply. The father slipped the noose around my neck, stood me up, and kicked me over the ledge, all the time holding the rope himself. The fall didn't kill me. I dangled at the end of the rope, oscillating lazily about. The boy I'd apparently molested stood a few feet away from me, staring at me with those dead eyes. I watched him watch me fade to black.

* * * * *

I was lounging on a short brick wall surrounding the commons on Friday afternoon waiting for Uri to arrive. We usually hung out together on Fridays seeing as how neither of us had a sex life. I was trying to follow an argument in Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, failing outrageously, my eye distracted by girls walking by. The end of the week tended to bring out the sexy in people.

All of the lights had been turned off in the commons and as I sat on the wall, I felt like I was being drawn into a black hole. It was a weird experience. During any other day of the week, from seven in the morning to eight at night, you could find students or at least teachers congregating in the commons. It was a cheap meeting place. And a cheap eating place. The food wasn't half bad. They only made that at scheduled times during the day, of course, but the snack machines were always on.

The emptiness of the commons lording over me as I waited for Uri often reminded me of the end of a movie, or of the earliest hours at a subway station, when only a few stragglers remain to be swept away in the tide of human life. Sometimes I wished I could be swept away by someone more exciting than Uri.

When Uri arrived that afternoon, he was lugging a heavy backpack on one shoulder and walking with a tilt. He also carried several sheets of posterboard under his arm and his shirt was speckled with eraser droppings. I assumed he'd been doing something creative.

"Hey, Uri," I said.

"Nathan," he replied, swinging his backpack down to the floor and propping up the posterboard behind it.

"You look tired."

"I've been working on these posters."

"I can see that. What do they say?"

"Glad you asked," said Uri. He picked them up from the floor and displayed the first one to me. It read: "The offer has expired."

"Cue cards?" I asked.

Uri flipped to the next one. It read: "Our friendship is up."

"What's this for?" I asked.

Uri reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and pulled a card out of it and handed it to me. The card had about thirty holes punched out of its perimeter. In the middle was written:

                                   Uri S---
                                 Nathan A---.
                               One friendship.
                              9/24/91 - 9/24/96.
                             Allstate Insurance.
"I decided not to get it renewed," Uri said. "You suck as a friend."


"You don't give me birthday cards with money in them. You've never offered to get me liquor or pot. You're really pretty boring. Plus I think you're gay."

"I'm not boring!" I retorted. "Or gay!"

"It doesn't matter, I think you are. Irreconcilable differences."

"What do you want me to do about it?"

"A blowjob would be nice, but you wouldn't be allowed to tell anybody."


"I knew you were boring. Here, keep this," he said, handing me the expired friendship card. "Maybe you'll learn from it." Then he picked up his backpack, slung it over his shoulder, and walked off.

"I can keep the posters?" I asked.

"Sure, put them on your wall or something."

"Thanks a lot!" I replied.

* * * * *

I was eagerly driving my car to pick up Jennifer. I was giddy and fidgeting in the seat at the stoplights. Jennifer was in my government class at high school. She always wore button-down plaid dress shirts and black jeans and Doc Martens. She had a lot of spirit. She liked to contradict the teacher and make him look foolish. I always got a little twinge when she did that. I'd never talked to her in class but I always watched her from two aisles over and she occasionally met my glances with a smile. I called her up and she was happy to go out with me.

I parked in her driveway right next to her car and got out and rang the doorbell. Her mother opened the door and let me in, taking a bemused sideways glance at me. I wasn't dressed formally. I had on a white t-shirt with a black one over it, roomy blue jeans, sneakers, and a smart red cap turned backwards. I was grinning from ear to ear, nervously chattering and gyrating in place with my hands behind my back.

Jennifer came out of a back room wearing a button-down dark-green-and- black checkered dress shirt, Doc Martens, and a black knee-length skirt and leggings. It was almost comic how quickly I became erect. I shoved my hand in my pocket and hugged her with my free arm, to be caught in a snapshot.

I chatted with the parents while stroking myself through my pocket. Jennifer couldn't stop smiling at me and I couldn't stop stroking myself. With an abrupt cry, she managed to wrench me free from her parents' scrutiny and we went out to the car.

"Oh wow, Jennifer, you look awesome," I said, and wrenched my hand from my pocket and hunched over the steering wheel to look at her sideways.

"Thank you, Nathan," she said. "You look really cute, but overdressed."

I grinned. I said, "I know, I know. I'm burning up! Two t-shirts may fly in the winter.... but it was just a cover-up." I pulled off the outer t- shift and turned so she could read the message on the inner one: "Antisocial boy enjoys kisses."

Jennifer laughed, covering her mouth. "That's so cute! Is it true?"

"What part? I mean --"

"Don't worry about it. I'm glad you hid it from my folks. They were all worried about us having sex on the first date."

I smirked uneasily. "Yeah?"

"Boy, I told them off!"

My mouth fell open. "Oh!"

"C'mon, get this car moving. Let's go find somewhere private," she said, squeezing my leg.

Nervously, I drove downtown and parked behind the library. I turned to her and shrugged. It seemed dark enough. I glanced down at my shirt and grinned wanly.

"Let's get out and do it in the garden," Jennifer said, opening the door and dashing around the car to open my side. "C'mon!"

My mouth dropped open. I was amazed and confused and had all but lost my will to perform. I hadn't even considered the possibility of sex. Really, I'd just wanted to talk and have a heart-to-heart.

I wandered clumsily out of the car. Apparently there was a garden next to the library, a densely-packed patch of soft grass with apple-red poppies and bluebonnets growing in it. I walked near it to look it over and Jennifer shoved me to the ground and lay on top of me.

"What's going on?" I finally asked, bewildered at the swift progression of our relationship.

"We're gonna fuck, right here," she said.

"But why?"

"Don't say you didn't want to! I mean, it's all I was planning on."

I shrugged.

"You boys are all the same," she scolded. "Sensitive males of the nineties, looking for a deep emotional bond before deflowering their girls. I don't want to deal with all that shit! It takes too much time, and it always ends up the same way."

"But, it wouldn't," I said, defending myself. "We could --"

"Okay, stop it. I see you're not going to take this lying down. Here's the facts, Nathan. You're a loser. I wouldn't be caught dead in a relationship with you. I just wanted to get fucked, and never talk to you again. So go on, get yourself worked up like you were at my house, and let's get this over with."

Gravely my penis woke up and went to work against all my orders. I lay broken and wilted among the flowers while Jennifer thrust herself onto me. I tuned her out and concentrated on the stars.

She suddenly cried out and gushed all over me. Startled, I looked up into her distant eyes as she kissed me primly upon the cheek. "Crushing boys' souls always makes me come," she drawled. "Sure hope you remembered to." I hadn't. She slid off me and washed herself using a nearby faucet.

I trudged back to the car. Jennifer got in. I drove her home, robotic, sticky and drowned. The smile never left her face.

* * * * *

I was at the end of my rope when the air conditioning unit turned off. Frustrated yet again, I opened my eyes with a sigh, catching the clock radio's display flip over to 4:00am. I tugged on the electrical cord around my neck, keeping it taut while I waited for the mask of noise to return. With the air conditioning off, the house was completely silent and any odd noise such as the crack of a neck or flailing helpless gagging would easily arouse my parent's attention. God knows I wouldn't want to be caught in the act, the semen still wet upon my legs.

So I stood on the top of the stepladder, much against the instructions pasted on it, and fiddled with the cord I had tied to a naked pipe running overhead. There was about two feet of slack. I calculated I had a good foot of dangling room.

I was too tall to be standing on the ladder like that and had to bend over and rest my head on the molding above the closet door. I was growing impatient, fearful of falling asleep while I stood there in the dark. The only light in the room was from my clock radio, an eerie green glow bathing even the furthest wall. The eerieness extended to the piece of paper sitting on my desk which was my suicide note. It read simply, "Yes, I committed suicide. Don't rummage through my stuff."

My knees and neck were growing tired so I flexed my legs using my few feet of slack. Acutely aware of the noise I was making, however, I stopped. Even a light tap on the pipe with a fingernail seemed to reverberate through the whole house. So keenly aware I was, I imagined I could hear my clock radio humming, although it didn't do that.

Two loud clicks from the hallway made me realize that I'd been hearing the air conditioner start up. And indeed, it soon whirred and hummed into action. I was ready. Clutching the pipe above my head, I lifted the stepladder with my feet and moved it over so I could fall down unobstructed. Maybe it would have been more courageous to kick the ladder down, but again, that would be too noisy. Standing askew on the ladder, I glanced down to say goodbye to the floor, when I noticed that my mother was huddling in the corner of the closet, watching me.

"Oh, hi mom," I said, standing up straight and bonking my head on the pipe.

"Oh, hi, Nathan," she said sardonically, as if I knew she'd been there all along. "You look distracted. You weren't planning to commit suicide again, were you?"

"Oh, no," I said, confused.

"Don't kid with me, young man. I know what you were planning to do. I want you to know that suicide is a very cowardly act, plus it's dangerous. You've given no thought to those you'll leave behind, have you?"

"Like who?" I asked.

"Tsk! Your father, your brother, me. The cat. Your friends and teachers."

"I don't have any friends. And none of you love me. The cat only likes me when I'm feeding him."

"Nathan, that's not true. I think the cat has genuine affection for you."

"I guess so."

"Take that cord down and go to bed. I don't like to think of suicide. I'm not emotionally stable enough to handle the possibility."

"Oh, so this is about you?" I asked.

"Of course it is. I'm your mother."

"Oh," I said, thinking. I was about to reply when I noticed that she was gone. Her speech had persuaded me not to kill myself. That, and I was getting tired. Quite absent-mindedly, I walked down the stepladder without undoing the cord. At the second step I felt the cord go taut, and it shocked me into falling off the ladder and hanging myself.

- 2 -

One Sunday morning I was tricked into going to the grocery store to pick up some ice cream and cat food. I didn't want to do it, preferring to sleep in, but as the circumstances were, I was the candidate shopper. By the time I'd driven up to the store, a little smile had graced my face. I was going to view the experience from the imaginative viewpoint that I was independent and simply shopping for my own pleasure.

I nearly got off on the wrong foot by heading for the shopping carts. I wasn't buying enough to justify it. I'd walked clear over to them, though, so I reluctantly pulled one free and wheeled it into the store. Here I was granted instant punishment: the wheels were squeaky as hell. One in the back was sticking too, a big piece of dried-up gum impeding its progress. I gave a wan smile to those people around who I was distracting, but none of them seemed to notice. Lesson number one: independent people are used to noisy shopping carts. I grinned and pushed the monster inside.

After that lesson, I started to have fun. Aimlessly searching for the ice cream and cat food, I made my way up and down each and every aisle. I saw so many different kinds of people there that I was risking overwhelming my senses. Obviously, a large number of the people had come from church, families of three or four, the father and sons dressed in dark suits and ties and black shoes, the mother and daughters wearing brightly-colored Sunday dresses and appearing much more comfortable. But many people hadn't come from church, or had dressed poorly for the occasion. Middle-aged men wearing t-shirts and shorts, looking about ready to start up the grill. Young women, probably students at the local university, dressed very casually with slogan t-shirts or halter tops and wind shorts, bike shorts, but never skirts or dresses. Only the older women wore dresses, mired in the tradition of the discredited generation, or simply mired in the tradition of comfort. Many of the women wore slacks too, but only the college-age wore jeans. The children in attendance were predictably Dallas Cowboys fans or participants in sport themselves, wearing soccer shorts, baseball caps, or basketball jerseys. Typical of the town that the kids would have no strictly casual attire. The elderly shoppers wore every combination of loud and ugly clothing, polyester and plaid, courdoroy and dotted. What was special about them was that they didn't give a shit. I admired that.

When I finally found the cat food aisle, I witnessed a shocking display of rudeness. An old lady parked next to the product I wanted to select and stood hunched over her cart, meticulously calculating the sum total of her purchases. I couldn't begrudge her that; I assumed that once I started shopping for myself I'd need to count pennies. I stood behind her for at least a minute, clearing my throat, and rocking my cart back and forth to make the wheels squeak. I was sure she'd notice me, but she kept on counting and counting as if I didn't exist. It occurred to me that she might be hard of hearing, so I said, "Excuse me, please," in an audible voice, which elicited no response. I repeated my request louder, to compensate for any lack of hearing she might have, and she continued to ignore me. I tried to rationalize it: she had seniority; I was a geeky high school boy. She could be as damn stubborn and slow as she wanted. But even as she stood aside her cart, clearly able to see me as I made helpless gestures at the cat food she was blocking, she ignored me, not even looking. Frustrated, I rammed my cart into hers and sent it a few yards down the aisle. She finally looked up, emitted a grunt, and walked over to her cart to continue counting. I was furious, picked out the wrong brand of cat food, and was too proud to exchange it in the woman's presence.

I forced myself to smile and soak in the pleasure of watching all the other people in the store who were not that woman. I headed down the aisle toward the ice cream freezers on the wall, and again found myself the victim of rudeness. Although I was on a main thoroughfare, as it were, no one gave me the right of way. I had to jerk my cart to a stop to avoid crashing into people carelessly wheeling in front of me. I formulated in my mind lesson number two: the guy with the squeaky cart is reduced to subhuman status.

I got the ice cream from the freezer and tossed it in the cart. It and the cat food make a nice couple, sliding around in grandiose angles every time I made a turn. I'd learned my second lesson and took the less populated aisles up to the front of the store.

Naturally, I headed for the ten-items-or-less register, at which there was a long line. I felt silly standing in the line with my big shopping cart, however, so I switched over to a different register. A man's purchases had nearly been tabulated, so I put the cat food and ice cream on the conveyor belt with a green divider behind them.

Predictably, my two purchases melded with the man's larger load and the checker tallied up the ice cream and cat food on his bill. Humorously expecting some small-town friendliness, I imagined the man would say, "I'll handle those, son," but instead, he snapped, "Those aren't mine!" I shrugged and smiled abashedly, wishing I'd moved the green divider in front of my purchases instead. No one was behind me yet. Strangely, though, the checker did look behind me to see if anyone was waiting at an abnormal distance in line instead of realizing the two extraneous items were mine. I pointed to myself, grinning, expecting the relieved laughter to burst at any moment, but it never came. The checker forestalled the man's payment and exit for an uncomfortably long amount of time, twirling the ice cream around and tapping on the cat food bag, trying to explain their mysterious presence. "Those are mine," I finally said in exasperation. No one heard me. Someone else scooted into line and rammed up against my legs. I looked back angrily and saw that a kid had done it and was so embarrassed that she was peering at the wheels as if to look for a cause for the collision.

Finally the checker shrugged and stashed my purchases under the counter, taking the man's money and giving him change and a receipt. I moved forward in line, glaring at the checker, whose name was Sandy, and shoving my shopping cart into the case of cigarette cartons against the wall. I leaned back against the case, utterly infuriated. Ever more creative, I had scoped out rule number three: he with less than ten items at a general register will be shunned. I was pretty sure I'd never get into the habit of enjoying shopping.

Not to be written off so easily, I climbed onto my shopping cart and on top of the cigarette case, stood up proudly, and cried, "I demand satisfaction!"

No one replied. Not even a thumb to the nose.

Sandy did walk under me and remove a huge box of Marlboro Reds, though.

"I demand an explanation for this injustice!" Ever louder, I cried, "I demand a satisfactory explanation! Now!"

After a while, the humor of that wore off, and like the poorly tied balloon I was, I lost all my air and sagged down to the ground truth of the situation. I was simply nonexistent. Either I was invisible or very easily ignored. The sociological implications of this were beyond my understanding. I'd found out some strange facts during my lifetime, but none of them involved being utterly shunned in the supermarket. Even the limits of socially acceptable behavior no longer applied to me. When a man walked close by, I yelled out, "Hey!" and kicked the back of his head; he ignored me and took out revenge upon a nearby bagboy by leveling him with a punch to the back of the skull. I felt bad for that.

I was stunned by the consistency of everyone's ignoring me. Soon I started to feel helpless. I didn't know what I should do to remedy the situation. I wondered what deep-seated laws I had inadvertently violated during this trip. Was it the extravagant use of a shopping cart for two items? My lollygagging at the customers rather than the efficient selection and presentation of my purchases? My socially unacceptable use of a squeaky- wheeled shopping cart? Or something more subtle? Was I supposed to say "hi" to people I passed in the aisles? Or a more appropriate repression of my happiness? More impulse shopping?

Oh, I couldn't figure it out! I leaned back, crushed, while shoppers passed by me in all directions, while checkers occasionally lugged out crates of cigarettes from between my legs, while the world chugged on without me. What had I done?

It took some experimentation to figure it out. I noticed that people were very cautious not to look at me or run into my legs as I swung them about from my loft. So I tried to force people to notice me, predicting how they'd shrug it off. The next time Sandy walked up to get some cigarettes, I held my legs in front of the case so she couldn't open it. She anxiously shook the handle and jiggled the key in the lock and pretended to peer through my legs. She finally returned to the customer and said they were out of that brand. I knew she'd do that. And, countless times, when I held my foot out to catch someone in the face, they'd look up, pretending to be startled, and shake their heads about in pretended wonder, walk on, and look back in confusion. I didn't know whether to be insulted by their predictability, or amazed by their strict adherence to my shunning.

It finally took a creative turning of the tables to understand. On the verge of leaving the store frustrated, I lightly considered the possibility that I was making them ignore me rather than their ignoring me on their own. It was subtle; perhaps my obvious frustration extended my period of punishment, perhaps I had to demonstrate remorse to be set free. It was worth a shot. I jumped off the cigarette case, held my arms out in triumph, and smiled. No response. Some fool did bump into me and put on quite a show of confusion.

I tried the only thing left I could imagine. It was silly, it seemed pointless, it was worth a try. I figured I'd get a cookie for figuring it out. I cried out, "Look at me! I exist!"

Within half a second someone had shoved an Oreo in my mouth.

That was entirely too unsettling for my tastes. My eyes wide open, I cautiously bit down on the cookie, found it to be edible, and deliberately chewed it. I glanced around, wondering who had slipped me the cookie. No one met my glance but I distinctly caught people looking at me through my peripheral vision. Suddenly I was very frightened. I imagined another Oreo appearing in my mouth, and inexplicably, it did. My jaw fell open and I let this one fall to the ground. My heart was racing. The sudden attention was indescribably worse than being ignored. I wondered how many more cookies would come. I imagined a virtual onslaught of cookies, and immediately saw to my alarm every single person in the store raise up an arm, Oreo in hand, and start rushing toward me. I flipped out.

* * * * *

I woke up groggily with uncomfortable shapes pressing into my face. I could smell that they were Oreo cookies. I turned over and for a split second caught the image of five hundred people standing over me, watching intently. "Fuck off!" I screamed and they backed off and resumed their ordinary functions. I was finally alone.

I was always alone.

In my last moments of false consciousness, the illusion had been shattered. Nice guy, quiet guy, careful guy -- all bullshit. Each time I missed the opportunity to lash out, I was lashed tighter within myself.

I couldn't explain the cookies. I couldn't explain how I'd broken out. But for a moment the door stood wide open and I dashed through it, never considering if I could again unlock it.

* * * * *

I looked around myself in the store with a new sense of freedom. All the people, all the vitality under their drab costumes. Was that it? Had I been so deadened by the allure of fashion to forget that all the mannequins had real bodies, real lives, underneath? Had I sculpted -- or molded -- my own pitiful life around that oversight?

I wanted to leave the store, but I wouldn't go without finishing my job. Not that I really cared about the cat food or ice cream. That was a foregone necessity.

Whirling around, I grabbed my shopping cart and started racing through the aisles, taking no mercy, taking no quiet polite turns, waiting for no one to move. Oh, those apes were dodging me left and right! I clipped several carts with my plow and even knocked over one being pushed by this asshole who I just knew was a wife-beater. He cussed after me but didn't have the guts to follow. FUCK HIM! Oh, and those damned pyramids of cans -- doesn't anyone have any new ideas? SMASH! The sea of corn took my cart on a breaker and sent me sprawling on the floor. I was quick to recover, knocking over a prissy-looking woman and dumping out her cart before resuming my race. Damned cart didn't have any squeaky wheels! Who would hear me?! I barreled forth, screaming all the way. The looks on those bumpkins' faces! Haven't they ever seen a real live boy before? 'Course not. All the boys in the store were lifeless faggots, gawking at me as I sped by them, their minds fried on MTV and self-indulgent apathy, not able to take any action against me. Why would they have acted? I was beyond their grasp. I looked back at myself, still sitting heartbroken on the cigarette case. He wasn't doing shit either. He was still moaning and groaning about being invisible. Screw him! Self-absorbed little prick! Wasting his life away imagining the bullshit the parents and the teachers and the policemen had told him was true! True? How true? Is it true for fulfilling their authoritarian purposes, true for destroying humanity, true for limiting the soul? True?! Fuck it! I was finding my own truth and I was damned excited.

* * * * *

Some puny fuck had called the police but they were no match for my plow. One apprehensive ticket-writer reached for his gun but found himself kissing clangy grated metal. Two more rushed from the side and I performed a classic spin of the wheels and broadsided them. Puke! Hurl! Go! go! go!

I wasn't an idiot so I ditched the cart and dashed for the door. Security shits had locked them on me, but I still had time to steal a banana cart and smash it through one of the doors. Bells! Bells! Bells!

Outside a crowd had formed around the seven police cars humping each other in the no-parking zone. Lights were flashing and the flab was lounging, radios close at hand, moustaches growing up their noses.

I grabbed a pole and flung myself to the left, landed on my feet, and set my legs pumping. Oh, and the perfect time for a dyslexic sexless Lexus owner to pull out in front of me! I flew and flew and flew, higher and higher, looking down at the idiot sardine-cans and the idiot blank-eyed stares peeking out. Altitude! Altitude! Past the perenially-burning glaring orange sodium lights, over the street swarming with sardine cans and donutmobiles, up, up, up, over the river and through the trees....

* * * * *

That next week at school was amazing. Never before had I been ordered so many times to the office, never before had I broken so many car windows. Everywhere I left a stench of urine, such as in the desks in the classrooms the teachers wouldn't let me leave. I broke chalk before the bell rang, I leveled bookshelves after. I made so many friends and so many enemies, diametrically opposed, all consistently stupid and horse-blindered. When I was ordered to leave the class, I took hostages and lost them in lockers. When I was ordered to leave the school, I returned through the windows. I was dropped from the rolls, the honor roll, the good student role. Even the j.d.'s envied me. I was a thinker, a doer, a fighter, a lover of life, no broken bones, no broken spirit. The teachers, janitors, and prinicipals made their money that week. On Friday I was escorted from the school by heavily-armed blue bumpkins. The authoritarians snidely praised me for not bringing a gun or a knife with the rest of me. I smashed noses and said thanks.

* * * * *

Alas, I couldn't keep up that kind of pace for any duration of time. It was hard without any food; the forces inside the grub-nest slash sensory- deprivation-tank I called home built a barricade against me very suddenly without an explanation. I was glad to leave; I needed to renew my spirit with more substantial changes in lifestyle.

I had visited the local university for research a few times before in my ultrastudyslug stage, but I returned this time to experience the fabled college life looming so lustrous and lusty beyond the high school diploma.

I found to my infuriation that the campus was full of slugs. Serious fucking adults, no spirit in them to impress a slice of Jesus-toast. I saw little deviation in the behavior beyond idle frisbee tossing and unexpected bursts of nervous laughter. I rushed with piqued interest to interview some figures sloshing soap suds in the fountain to find they were only little junior high school wedgies.

Disgusted and disappointed, I was about to wreak havoc when I spotted a group of students leaving the art building, laughing and joking. Outright public displays of emotion! I was drawn. I followed close behind them, and started crying out carefully constructed phrases:

"Come and get it! An authentic replica!"

"They took my heart but they'll never take my pulse!"

"Never again have I seen such wonderful music!"

I caught their attention. There were two girls and three guys, and the one who must have been single turned around and said, "You're desperate for attention, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am!" I proclaimed, adding slyly, "Lest I become a slug and withdraw into my shell like some people on this campus."

"Tell me about it," one of the girls said to the other. "Where is everyone?"

"They're probably cradled up in their own arms, tripping on guilt and responsibility and gloomy market indicators," I explained, joining the group. "And what are you doing?"

"Well, in about fifteen minutes, we're gonna be tripping," one of the guys said matter-of-factly.

"Sounds fun! Can I watch? I can give suggestions."

* * * * *

After three hours, I had one of the guys and one of the girls quivering in the corner and chugging niacin. Another of the guys, I think his name was "oh, mother of God" judging by the others' reactions to him, was rocking back and forth and chewing his arm. I knew I wouldn't be able to find many worthy friends.

Charles and Amy managed to remain blissed so I engaged them in fascinating conversations.

"So, Charles, know any snails?" I asked him.

He sat down and rested his dilated pupils on me. "Whoa, you looked like a snail just then."

"I'm not a snail. You know any snails?"

"Like, all swirly? Like, the swirls in the shell? Swirl Shell? Isn't that some sort of candy? I think so! It mixed two different kinds of chocolate.... wait, that was Hershey's Hugs.... Hug a snail? Oh, wow!!!"

"Snail shells have chitin in them. That's the same stuff in roaches. That's why they sound the same when you step on them."

"Oh my God, did you just step on a roach? What's that under your foot? Good Christ!" he cried. "I can see it all over the carpet! Get a broom!"

"That's a coffee stain, Charles. Sometimes I like to mix pulverized roaches in my coffee. It adds a tinge of the great outdoors to the flavor."

"I think I'm gonna hurl... oh man, now my stomach's really attracted my attention...." he said, pausing. Then, "oh man, what did I just eat?"

"Some Hershey's Hugs, you said."

"I did -- I did? Did I just eat some? Oh yeah, I can taste it now. Where's the wrapper?" "You ate it."

"I did? I did...? What the hell were you saying about snails?"

"Do you know any snails, Charles?"

"No, I don't.... we don't get along very well," he said, and then cracked up.

"You're going to make me cry," I said.

"Wha? That's some sort of new food, isn't it? Mikrei? Russian?"

"It's snail quiche."

"Oh man, you're fucking me up, man, you're fucking me up."

"Enjoy the thunderstorm," I said, making a cheap impression of thunder with my mouth that made Charles' eyes bug out at the windows.

I turned my attention to Amy. "How's it going, Amy?"

"Languid? Is that a word?"

"Uh-huh," I said.

"That's good. Words. Words. Words.... Sword. Sword. Sword! See that? See that?" she asked, beaming.

"Pretty deep."

"Am I really sitting in a beanbag?" she asked. We were lounging in Michael's dorm, which had several beanbags. Michael was the one chewing his arm. Amy was sitting on the floor but only her hands were on the beanbag.

"Your hands are."

"What? Whoa!!!" she cried, catching her balance. "I just thought I fell off Jack's beanstalk."

"You're still a few feet off the ground."

"I'm a few feet on my legs," she replied with a smile.

"Amy, have fun," I said. She was beyond even me. I walked over to the entrance of the dorm and stood as still as a rod against the corner for five minutes. Neither Charles or Amy had seen me go over there, and even if they had, they didn't remember for long.

I had a little fun with them. I crept out of the corner, walking perhaps half my usual speed, slowly moving my legs. I didn't look at them but I pasted a shocked expression on my face. I bent over slowly and picked up an endtable. I carried the table at face level back into the bathroom, as slowly as sin. I crawled back into sight. I grabbed a cushion from the couch. Carried it at face level into the bathroom, not saying a word, not rushing my act. I crawled back. After I had taken two more items into the bathroom, I looked at Charles and Amy. They were watching me as intently as little children watching a puppet show, their eyes filled with wonder and dilation. Then I looked down and wrapped my fingers around my belt at the hips. I hiked up my jeans several inches and walked slowly into the bathroom. Immediately I heard


"What the FUCK!"

I crawled back into the room and lay down, struggling to restrain my laughter. It was fun. Acid kids are number one.

* * * * *

I found myself entering much happier and mellower stage of life. But I wouldn't let myself wallow in it and become a slug. Even a happy slug is sickening. Not having attended high school in three weeks (and not allowed to return), I crashed some of Charles' classes.

The university had several small classes so I was constantly in danger of being discovered for a fraud. Not like that stopped me.

Biology. About fifty people were in this room, packed like eggs. The professor seemed bored with his job. Maybe because it was Friday morning and he was restraining himself from crying "T.G.I.F.!" through his kazoo until lunch had passed. I was glad to sit in on the lecture since I'd been missing out at the high school.

"In this process, reverse transcriptase travels the length of the T-RNA chain --" the professor droned on.

"Sir! Sir!" I cried out, balancing Charles' hefty textbook on my head.

"What? Yes, what is it?"

"See? See? I can balance this book on my head!"

"Uh," the professor said, confused. "Good for you."

"Does that mean I'm genetically superior?"

"Well," he mused, "would that be an evolutionary advantage, class?"

No one answered. "I guess if it can impress enough fertile chicks," I replied.

"Good job," the professor replied, killing my steam, "you'll remember from last semester that only those genetic traits passed on to the next surviving generation can influence evolution. Now, let's return to the reverse transcriptase."

I was baffled. Hardly anyone in the class had even looked up, much less laughed. They looked bored and sedated. This matched my earlier observations but it saddened me to see their mindfucks persisted through humor. It didn't stop me, though.

Ten minutes later, the professor had sketched a complex figure on the blackboard, rife with abbv's and #s and C 12 H 22 O 11 s. I raised my hand, got out of my seat, and strolled to the board. "I've been summing this all up in my head and I think you made some mistakes," I said.

"Oh?" the professor asked, stepping back.

"Yeah," I said. I grabbed a piece of chalk and poked it under my lip, pretending to think. Then I started randomly changing elements -- "I think this molecule needs more uranium" -- and respelling labels -- "Wouldn't 'mytokondria' be easier to pronounce?" -- and erasing sentences -- "That one's too ticklish."

I smiled broadly. From the class, all I heard was Charles say, "Give up!" My heart sank.

The professor was none too pleased himself. He ran a finger down the roll sheet and said, "Are you Redmond Kaufsirrup?"

"Yes sir," I lied.

"You haven't been to class in three months. You have four tests to make up."

"Oh, all right. Do you have an hour free at noon?" I asked. It was then eleven-thirty.

"Yes, but --"

"I'll be there with tinkerbells on," I said, leaving the room in a daze.

- 3 -

Charles' dorm room was dead quiet and nearly pitch black except for the light escaping from the lamp in his desk. He was huddled over his desk working on an art history essay, he and I almost the only people left in the entire residence hall. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving. Charles' family lived in town and he was dropping by tomorrow. I was still staying away from home, sleeping in the dorm.

In the darkness, I lay back on a pillow propped up against the legs of a chair. I practically had solitude, but for the faint pencil scratches and the slow turning of pages. My body tingled whenever I imagined myself alone, tingled with comfort and wonder. I wondered why I was letting myself slip back into silence, brooding. I couldn't resist the comfort, though; my mind longed for rest, my body longed for safety, but my soul longed for experience. Maybe I couldn't rush into it -- was that my unconscious reason? Didn't I have the energy or the stamina to? I didn't know, I didn't know....

An hour and an hour of silent contemplation and my legs fell asleep, murmuring tingles silenced by time and pressure. My arms resting in my lap, still, still, switching places in space. The weight of my head accepted, balanced, forgotten by my neck, bobbing back and forth with the tides of breath. The faint peepshow of light gleaming on the edges of his desk, burning on the back of my retinas, hovering, floating in space... and there, there my body drifting away from the floor, rising, rising to meet the light, to consider it on its own horizon. Floating, bobbing on the sea of lazy streaming air, carrying me upward, steadily, out the window.

Brisk, raw, biting, the autumn warmth recasted, by the sly and waiting old man of winter, from hunter into hunted for the night. A chill comes over my body, muscles twinge, teeth chatter. I am heat and I rise into the sky. The earth falls gracelessly away; I set my aspirations higher. Downward I see the dying leaves dessicated floating to the ground, soon a soft bed for weary travelers of the cold; towering trees' branches to be laid bare, clutching the dead and frozen air.

I mingled with the topmost leaves of the oaks, somberly understanding their slow progress toward heaven; but how steady, how magnificent! At the same time I lamented my fellow humans' arrogant fumbling on the ground, where they would most likely remain until swept out of the game of life -- bouncing balls, once set in motion, never again to rise higher.

But what was I? Wasn't I human too? I wondered about this for quite some time, eyes clenched tight, cutting off the scenery, trying to think. At that moment, I decided, I didn't know. Maybe I was an accidental meteor boy, slipped down to earth by a creator too clumsy to catch my fall.

I opened my eyes again, serenely absorbing the sights and sounds around. My heart jumped; I saw nothing around me but glaring white light. I realized I was dying, entering the ethereal tunnel. Wasn't that it? Wasn't that how it ended? I knew I should have been scared, anxious, running around in circles for this, but I was transfixed. My eyes were watering but I kept them open. I had to see it. Would I understand?

* * * * *

I concentrated on the light, trying to understand its source. It reminded me of a floodlight on a foggy night. I stared and stared. I thankfully noticed it beaming into focus. I kept watching. The focus got clearer and clearer and I saw darkness peeking out at the edges. Focusing, focusing. At that time I expected to see the light focus into a beam, it shrunk to an infinitesimal size and disappeared.

I blinked.

I realized I was in Charles' dorm room staring at the back of his head. I felt like I was floating. All my senses tingled. Charles seemed to me like a frail old man, hunched over at his desk, toiling away at some eternal problem. I cocked my head and thought, he's still here? Immediately he turned around and said, "Still working on this essay. You bored yet?"

He had a strange easiness in his manner, as if he'd known me for years. I could've sworn he'd been becoming annoyed at my imposition on his life, but now he seemed almost a part of me.

"Oh, not at all," I said. "I think I just died."

He smiled. It was so kind, so reassuring, so loving. "How do you feel about that?"

"How do I feel?" I asked, confused. I closed my eyes briefly and again my whole field of vision was washed away in the bright light. I was still heading towards it but hovering in space as I thought.

I opened my eyes again and smiled. "Sounds good to me."

* * * * *

Later Charles said I'd just closed my eyes, laid back with that smile etched into my face, and everything ceased to function.

I knew better. I laughed and laughed and laughed.


State  of  unBeing  is  copyrighted (c) 1996 by Kilgore  Trout  and
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