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-THREE             tahw ro woh gniwonk
 to think. You are in                01/29/97              ni era uoY .kniht ot
 a state of unbeing....                                  ....gniebnu fo etats a



EDiTORiAL by Kilgore Trout



by Kilgore Trout

Whoops. Look at me, I'm a liar. The layout ain't changing. Bwahahaha.

So, I was looking at other zines to see how I could possibly change up our layout, and ya know what I discovered? Our layout rocks. It's a damn fine way of presenting a zine, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna kill a good thing again. So if you were hoping for a change, tough luck. For those of you who were dreading the change, there is nothing to fear.

See, I do learn from past mistakes.


So, I'm back at school, so I'll be responding to email regularly once again. If you sent me something and I never got back to you, send it again. If you still don't hear from me, come on down and stalk me until you get a response. In the meantime, make sure you pass the zine around to all your friends and get em to join the distribution list.


Anyway, this is a pretty big issue, so I'll let you get right down to it. We've got a lot of new writers this issue, which I am extremely pleased with. I think you'll want to know that this is Noni Moon's last piece for SoB for a while. We think she's done a great job interviewing the writers this past year, and we hope she drops in from time to time. Any correspondence for her can be sent care of me.

So, hunker down with this hefty issue, grab a nice cup of java, and start reading. If you can make it through this whole issue in one sitting, give yourself a pat on the back, and then write something for us, cause you are obviously some type of superhuman. See you in February.



From: BOB
Subject: OK 

wow ,what a trip,are you sure your not from the 70's dude?

[i am sorta from the seventies, in that i was born in '75. other than that, i disdain most connections to that decade besides an occasional splurge of zeppelin music and early punk. i'm a product of the 90's. the key word is synthesis. that's what i do.]

From: Mario Winterstein

hey "kids," love the friggin' zine.
only read issue 27, but fuck it, i can draw conclusions about the ocean from
a drop of water. best of luck, and (self-promo) we [i] started a zine at
home (sidney ohio) which i know you'll want to wish us the best of luck on

[doesn't do your self-promo a lot of good if you don't tell us the name of your zine, but best of luck to you anyway. send us a free copy of your zine and we'll, like, keep emailing you ours or something.]


From: d@rthV@deR
To: kilgore@SAGE.NET

Hay.. whats up??? I think we have met but I amnot shure if you remember me 
or you are the same person.... any way I am linking to you page via my site 
I mean.. I will write a little for you.. When do you need them??? I mean I 
am presently {only because we were forgotten} the head of the w@W and fuck 
if I ain't lost on this damn PC, you would think Hackers of the early 
eighties would at least have a 286 no they used a damn 8086 with 11 snap out 
and in hard drives! I had a 286 back then... any way I write mostly about 
anarchy and shit like that.. trying to spawn interest in the hackers of the 
world use there skills in... well check out my page at... Let me just say 
that I am against the NWO!! AN I am a journalist student at WWCC!

Kinda slow because of all the graphics but I ahve been BUSY!!

@@@@@:o) The

[i don't think we've met... you'll have to give me more information about where. submissions can come in anytime you want to send them. the more we get the happier i am, too. we're against the NWO, too, although i'm taking a guess that w@W means world at war and that you are NOT some delusional psycho who thinks you are the king of the world wide web.]

From: trishk
Subject: Please add me to the mailing list


        I have been exploring the Net in search of brain food and by chance as
I was trolling. I found this odd little summary. Hmm, looks like a zine
of some kind.  The unBeing caught my eye and sucked my hand toward it. 
I fell into an issue and stayed for the duration.  Please add me to your
list.  My brain and antisocial element need the nourishment your zine
can give me.

Trish Kelly

[eat some fish while you read our zine, and you'll get double the brain food.]

From: Leviathan
Subject: About AIDS and de-populaztion.

If your article was correct and the government did engineer AIDS to wipe
out third-world populations I think it could only benefit us. We have
spent to much time protecting and sheltering those who are not able to
meet the demands and expectations of society, this is one of the reasons
that our society has become such a Hell. We need to stop this "everyone
is equal" thought process, it only leads to our destruction. For us to
progress we must eliminate those who are useless to society as a whole,
thus providing more resources for those who will make great strides in
our technological and societal advancement.

[Maybe, maybe not -- highly arguable point. The point of the article was not to debate whether it was beneficial or not, but to reveal to the public the genocidal proceedings of our own government behind our backs, without our knowledge, directly affecting us. A typical human reaction to any kind of problem whatsoever, as you have kindly shown by your above statement, would be to completely destroy and eliminate the problem. A supreme moral issue, I guess. I agree with you to a point... sort of. It seems as though you are one of those people who are against any kind of welfare, are you not? Probably someone who looks at any homeless person on the street and instantly thinks, "get a damn job." I don't wish to be cruel, mean, or anything remotely like that -- just casually reading into your comments. Somewhat of a psychic gift I received a little while back -- several years after I became immortal. Of course you are stressing a point that many people prefer to call natural selection (and you can ask I Wish My Name Was Nathan about that -- he's rather familiar with this argument.) So, you look at the human society and realize with all of our technological advancements, medicine being a large one, it pushes us towards general immortality, thereby eliminating the natural selection process commonly found amongst other creatures. Well, at the simultaneous point when I realized this, I realized we have our own "version" of natural selection -- natural human selection, if you will. With this increase in technology and science and whatnot -- especially in the last century, comes an increase in general danger and even lack of complete understanding. Out of all the people in this country, how many of them do you think know how an automobile works, and how the parts function? I do not. I know how to drive -- whether this is enough prerequisite for letting a human being propel himself in a box across the earth at rates excelling 100mph, who knows. Probably not. And so, with this increase in technology comes an increase in technology related deaths -- car accidents, plane crashes, train derailments, fires, bombs, spontaneous combustion... I'm sure you get the idea. And also, with the increase in technology comes an increase (at least for now) in less care for the earth. More technology, more cars, planes, steel melting furnaces, etc., causes more heat and pollution to be released into the atmosphere. Think about all the automobiles and transportatory vehicles in the United States and put together all the heat they release together in a day and you have a pretty substantial amount. So if you take this heat and pollution throughout the world, stir it around, it causes dramatic weather changes. Just look at the weather patterns in the past ten years alone and see how much more unpredictable and destructive it has been. This too would be another form of natural human selection -- we fuck with Nature and say, "We are the Gods of the earth -- no one and nothing else. Humans dominate." Mother Nature just smirks and whips up another 70 below 0 freeze in the upper part of the country, or perhaps some massive flooding. Daniel Quinn suggests the solution to this problem would be to make mammoth strides in our technological advancement to fix and control the things we have damaged/destroyed to cause our own self-annihilation (even though I may not be able to spell the word at the moment.) Another question to propose to you, if I may... stating we need to eliminate those who are useless to society as a whole. Well -- who in fact do you propose be the Judge and Execution of such a thing? By what standards do you state, "Well, this six year old provides no benefit to our society, therefore we'll toss him into a burning vat of grease." Please do not think I am missing the point of your comment -- humans, in general, have caused so much turmoil and vast evilness to spread on the planet, it is rather sickening. However, if this is truly the case for eternity, and there is no solution for the problem other than elimination, we can just progress on the same track society is on now, and it will occur in no time. Of course, I am against that. I am here to save the planet and everything on it, whether it be human or rock. I am not here to march down the street with my shotgun and perform my own version of genocide on those who I think be unworthy. Happy New Year. clockwork] [editor's additional comment: check out for the Church of Euthanasia's homepage. they don't believe in unwilled deaths, but they have links to certain groups that think that the only way to save the planet is to kill the humans even if they want to stay. personally, i like CoE's "save the planet, kill yourself" maxim, but YMMV.]


From: bircham
Subject: send me state of unbeing

Dear kilgore@sagenet, (i just read what your name was but i forget it 

Please send me on the state of unbeing mailing list because i am 
waiting for a  book to come in the mail so i haven't any reading 
material. i came across your e-zine and  i thought, "boy, this sure 
fills my head with a massive amount of  wonder and helps me 
understand why  i  was brought into this life as a depressed teenage 
girl instead of a brilliant doctor or scientist who discovers a new 
element and  acquires a name in textbooks and encyclopedias
so that he is never forgotten." Okay, maybe not. I find the state of 
unbeing  interesting and the articles are not like anything i have 
read before. 

Cindy Bircham

[heh. the name's kilgore trout, but that's okay. one day my face will be plastered on flyers all across this country. naturally, there will probably be a reward for my apprehension, but at least people will know my name. we're glad that you like the zine and that it's not like "anything [you've] read before." we try our best to be fresh... sometimes, though, we end up as stale donuts with rotting jelly centers. that smells really bad, and it tastes even worse, too. don't try that at home.]



Kilgore Trout

Crux Ansata
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Noni Moon
A Piece of Caine
sweet disease
Water Damage

Cindy Bircham
Mario Winterstein
Trish Kelly

Immediatism, essays by Hakim Bey
Omens of Millennium by Harold Bloom
The Magus by John Fowles
Encyclopedia of Gods by Michael Jordan
Subliminal Seduction by William Bryan Key
The Essential Kaballah by Daniel C. Maat
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Providence by Daniel Quinn
Crack Wars: Literature / Addiction / Mania by Avital Ronell
The Wisdom of Insecurity, The Way of Zen, and
Tao: The Watercourse Way, all by Alan Watts


[=- ARTiCLES -=]


[Editorial | Next]

Crux Ansata

0036 111296

On Friday, I went to the bank. I both wanted to have extra gas money -- which I needed -- for the trip to my French teacher's house, and to have some cash for Christmas shopping. When I pulled into the parking lot, movement in the car I had pulled in next to caught my eye, and I turned to see a kid, a girl, in the car. I remember thinking that I hate how parents will leave their kids in the car when they run in to do errands, and look, that kid has climbed into the front seat. I figured she was putting on the radio or something. And then the kid put her keys in the ignition and drove off, and I thought just how old I am.

I meant to put that in the last time I wrote in my diary, Sunday, but I don't think I did. Last night I didn't write in my diary because I was revising "Greece", which is what I am now calling the story I have now almost finished. Two more scenes, I think: the final scene and the scene by the pool. But tonight I am working on my diary. I can't put it off forever. (I imagine I could put it off indefinitely. I could put it off tonight and die tomorrow. I tell myself, though, that I can't put it off forever to artificially create a motivation to do it.) "Greece" added much I hadn't foreseen, and has dropped a few things I wanted to write about. I imagine I can put those in other stories.

Tomorrow will be three years since A. and I met that night in Mr. Gatti's. Three year anniversary, if one forgives the fact that A. used to count from the next week -- our first preplanned date -- and all the times we have broken up, and the fact that we are not really technically going together right now. Neither her nor I really consider those blocks. What God has joined let no man separate. I called her tonight, and it didn't take much prompting before she figured out why. ("I was going to call Wednesday. Do you know the date?") That was an incredibly stressful experience. It was the same way when Dad was away at Squadron Officers School or Officer Training School or the Persian Gulf or Chicago. Whenever Mom and Dad would talk, it seemed stressful. I suppose part of it is because of the emotion of talking to the person, and part of it is all the things you cannot know and cannot say. You can't talk about how miserable you are too much, because that will bring the person down. You can't make presumptions on their emotions. You can't forget that each second costs. With A. and I there are extra elements. Until I feel her out I can't be sure she hasn't found someone else or come to believe she no longer loves me. Now I can say with relative confidence that she still loves me and that she has not replaced me, but this confidence necessarily decreases in the morning when she gets up and goes about her life, and every day thereafter until I see her again. And yet there is a sense in which I know these are unfounded fears. My mind cannot know her feelings, but to an extent my heart can, no matter how far apart we are. Is that love? Or slavery? Or both? (Is there a distinction?)

But I am bringing myself down. Let us move on.

Yesterday, I did nothing. I spent a lot of time on the boards, and some reading. Nothing unusual. The day I saw G. and them: That was Saturday, right? So I have mentioned it? That is hard, too. Hanging out with people. I seem to have some need for it, for the contact, but it is hard to sit there and do nothing, and talk about nothing, smoking my cigarette and watching them trying to get another drag or two out of their marijuana pipe. I need the acceptance, I guess, but they don't give me what I need. I still look. The acceptance on the boards seems important to me. That provides the network of friends that I perceive myself as needing, that school used to provide. I get the human contact in class, too, hanging out with the French students. I have to say nothing, get people to talk, say things I already know. I hate the maintenance that goes in to friendships, for the dubious gain of an acceptance fix.

And yet, there is more I need. When was the last time I could hold someone in my arms?

Damn, this is getting too pathetic. I am moving on.

On the bookmark in The Last Magician -- the receipt from Waldenbooks when I bought Using Your Mind for a Change -- I have some scribbled notes. I suppose I'll be losing this bookmark soon, so I'll copy some of them down into here. Some of these notes are pointless, such as the notes I made about a dream for an earlier entry or a line I want to include in "Greece", in the pool scene. (The line is, by the way: "She sits beside me, so thoughtless, so shameless, I expect she must be a little soft in the head. That's what I need sometimes, though. Soft." It is a cruel twist from the innocence of childhood to the idiocy of naivete. It expresses my dislike for the innocent and the childlike. I might substitute "simple" for "soft", and I will, of course, expand on the thought. I just want to make sure I remember the theme.) I have a quote here, from The Last Magician: "Behind every lie, she said, there is a wound. One should be gentle with the bloody gashes in other people's lives." There is another great line I haven't bothered to write down: "Lust is a frightened manchild in the dark." I, of course, would drop the "man", but this author is female. Next, there is a failed thought: "Some modern writing is dissociative. It tries to say something in a mixture of ways. Like the gospels, or Gustafsson, or Hospital." That last, of course, is the author of The Last Magician. I was attempting -- unsuccessfully, in my opinion -- to express a difference between the modern authors. There is one group, like Vonnegut, that seem to write fragmentarily, never really touching on anything, in a minimalist manner. I don't care for that. On the other hand, people like Hospital or Gustafsson seem, as I try to in such stories as "Greece", say something that cannot be said by saying it in a number of different ways and painting up a picture that way. I never really cared for Impressionist painting, but I do like the literary style. This leave only one note. (Quite a full receipt, no?) This, I suspect, dates from when I was reading Diana: The Making of a Terrorist, and runs:

Terrorism does not gain support by recruitment. Terrorism can only mobilize people two ways: Attacking them, and forcing them to take sides, or attacking the government hard and quick, forcing the government to attack the people indiscriminately.
This was an attempt to make sense of the actions of the Weathermen, to learn from their mistakes. This exercise has been left to the student.

The Last Magician is an incredible book. It is the kind of book that makes one contemplate giving up writing, never being able to match it. It is the kind of book that is painful to read. But I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. I discuss some of this in journal notes I haven't transcribed, yet. So I turn to a yellow notepad.

(Heh. I just found a note in the margin of my notebook: "In 'Greece': Comment that he dresses, dumbass. That will eliminate the whining about her nudity." I thought it was kind of foolish to write, and I supposed I might have remembered in a revision, but when I saw this note I dug out my current working copy and, sure enough, I had forgotten that revision. Guess the note did its job. Anyway, on with something of more substance.)

Here is a utilitarian statement. I suppose I wrote it, but I don't know if I believed it at the time. In any case, this is what it says: "Violence is not right, but violence works. To succeed at what is right is right, and in that struggle violence is a tool like any other." Of course, I am an anarchist and a Catholic. I don't buy that "the ends justify the means" mentality. I guess I wrote it, though. This next, though, I know I didn't write. Bill Ayers of the Weathermen did.

We can't get involved anymore in the kinds of actions that merely say to people that this is wrong, or that is wrong, because that doesn't tell people what to do, that doesn't project the kind of confidence, and the crucial nature and importance of what we're trying to do in this country now. We have to fight and show the people through struggle our commitment, our willingness to die in the struggle to defeat U.S. imperialism. We have to convey these things, and October 8-11 is a concrete way that we can do that. I think people should push out this slogan "Bring the war home." We're not just saying bring the troops home and deploy them some other place, we're saying bring the war home. We're saying you're going to pay a price because increasingly guys in the army are going to shoot you in the back, increasingly the guys in the army are going to shoot over the heads of the Vietnamese, shoot over the heads of the blacks, increasingly this country is going to be torn down, and we're not going to be bringing the troops home to be deployed someplace else, we're going to bring the war home, we're going to create class war in the streets and institutions of this country, and we're going to make them pay a price, and the price ultimately is going to be total defeat for them. That's the kind of thing that we have to convey, and that's the kind of thing that we have to build.
Poetry it's not, but it tries to express what the Weathermen were trying to do, and I can empathize with that. The Weathermen made some mistakes, but they also had some good ideas. Any revolutionary group today would benefit greatly from studying the Weathermen, and adopting rather more than they discard I would expect.

Then we have an actual page of notes from class. Always a surprise in one of my notebooks. Then we find, in the margin of a "Greece" fragment:

I feel a little uncomfortable on campus in Thursdays, when the ROTC are in uniform. I used to be uncomfortable in the business buildings, since everyone there almost seemed in uniform, and my long-haired scraggly self didn't belong. When I cut my hair for ROTC and dressed in uniform from time to time, I started hanging out in the business buildings. (After all, they have coffee machines.) When the other uniforms are there, though, it is a problem. I even see cadets I know, occasionally. We never speak. They, in the nation's uniform, and I, in GI boots, BDU jacket -- with patches, military beret, in an obscene parody of a soldier.

I fight, but I'm not sure what.

I wrote that last Thursday, between classes. Following that I have three pages of a letter to A., which I haven't typed up yet, much less sent. I suppose I will sometime over the next couple of days. Then, out of the blue, we have:

Did you ever stop to think about the saying, "The die is cast"? Probably not. The thing is rife with ambiguity. The meaning, of course, is that the course is set. The future is set. But why? One meaning is that die is singular for dice, and the cast is a toss. The future is sealed by fate. The other is that a die is for making metal molds, and cast is made. Design, not fate. Which die gets cast?
That is the kind of moronic thing that goes through my mind. It is followed by two more pages of story notes.

I have been at this for a long time, but fortunately this notebook only has four more used pages so far, two pages of French notes and two of diary notes. This last excerpt is long, though. Pack a lunch.


The Last Magician is an incredible book. At times, painful. I wonder how odd it is that I identify with Charlie. I could see echoes in Lucy, but not the same identification. But it is not too odd to identify with a main character aside from the narrator.

Charlie was teased as a child. The book resonates this. It might have made him different, or it might have been because. He was an ethnic Chinese and didn't fit. He was pushed to study. He was on the outside looking in.

I am trying to remember my childhood. I don't know if I want to. Read the conversation on the top of the car in "Greece". Before my first breakdown in seventh grade, I only have photos, a couple of minutes of video perhaps. No sound. Nothing really. Perhaps snatches of sound, but I can't recall it.

This kind of memory. Sometimes, I thought it was normal. Sometimes, I didn't. I went through all the things kids do -- I was an alien, I was in a mental institution, I had been given to my family by the CIA after having implants put in. Clockwork seems to have this phenomenon. He was the child of an alcoholic, and abused. I was not. This loss of childhood memory accompanied by the ability to fragment the psyche -- a Bobbi, a Nemo, the voice of God perhaps -- are symptoms of DID. Dissociative Identity Disorder. This is triggered by childhood trauma, though. Usually childhood sexual abuse.

I realized a couple of days ago I cannot remember being teased. I know it happened. I don't know how I know, but I think I know. (I'm getting something. This is unbelievable. Take it with a grain of salt. There was a girl in second grade. Her name was Penny. She was an outsider. No one seemed to like her. I'm thinking I was peripheral. I remember a friend or two, and hanging out on the edges in the playground. More later. I remember she gave me a book, once. I think she had a crush on me. I didn't figure this out until she intruded back into my mind recently. I was a stupid child. I was an outsider because I was too stupid to fit in. The startling thing it -- the grain of salt thing -- is her archetype. Second grade is on the young side, but I was sexually awakened, physically. The outsider. And I was always struck by her short, dark hair. Fast forward a couple of years, give her a smoking habit, put a little less roundedness in the hair....)

Why can't I remember being teased?

Maybe I never was, and it is so sensitive because I feel guilty?

God, this is a mindfuck.

I think I'll go back to my book.


The next girl I remember with this hair was Dawn. Dawn in England Dawn. I never wanted her; she was a friend. Heather's was different. Next, was C.

That really has been brooding choice for the day: Why don't I remember being teased. I thought about it all day, and I really can't remember it. I remember being on the edges, and voluntarily separating myself. I had tended to attribute this voluntary separation in later years to a "I didn't want to be your friend anyway" mentality. I remember as a kid being a leader and having friends. So was there a point where I stopped having them? It might almost have been fourth, when I forced away any leadership tendencies. Or the teasing might have affected me so much I have completely suppressed the memory. I don't know.

I told Mom tonight I can't remember being teased. She didn't know about my patchy memory. I expected her to tell me that she remembered my being teased as a child. Instead, she asked, kind of surprised, "You were never teased as a child?" Like me, she assumes that all kids are teased, but she didn't have anything to add.

I told A. tonight I can't remember being teased. She didn't know about my patchy memory. That surprised me. I expected I would have told her. In conversation she said things that triggered memories of being teased in sixth grade or seventh grade, but this doesn't help much for what I am trying to figure out.

Did I invent my own persecution as an artificial way of justifying my voluntary -- for whatever reason -- exclusion from society?

It sounds incredible, but not impossible. Until I can piece together some more memory, I won't be able to answer for sure.

But I have gone on longer than I expected. I think I'm going to have another smoke and get to bed. I have an exam tomorrow. And so, I sign off.

0213 111296

[Another page]


"Breathes there a man with hide so tough
Who says two sexes aren't enough?"

--Samuel Hoffenstein


[Prev | Next]

by sweet disease

Morning. Fuck it. I've never been much of a morning person, but today really takes the cake, or some such stuff like that. With my hands carelessly sprawled across my desk, and my head non-chalantly flopped between them, I dream of a better life. A life away from my science class, at the moment. The borrowed television is playing a worn-out movie about protozoan. Yay. My life is finally complete, because I've learned that diatoms are the most abundant plant life on Earth. Thank God for television.


Oh shit, I think to myself. The girl I'm infatuated with just sat down next to me and is trying to strike up a conversation. I casually peel one eye open and look her in the face. "Uhm... hi." Damn! I blew it! Why do I always have to choke when this happens! I mentally kick myself in the ass.

"You tired?"

Argh. "Uhm... hi -- I mean... yeah." <moan>

"Yeah, me too." She suppresses a giggle.

Wow. She thinks I'm some rambling vagrant. 'Do you wanna goto a movie or something?' 'With you? You pathetic little bastard.' 'Oh. Ok.' I play a conversation between us over in my mind. It hasn't happened though.. yet. I mumble something about getting 2 hours of sleep last night.

"Well.. I gotta go. The bell rang.."

What?! Am I that enticed? I hastefully grab my books and jog out of the room. "Great video," I remark to the science teacher, sarcasm literally dripping from my voice. Hey -- you wanna know our school motto? "At West, respect builds quality." Well, we've got neither.

3:04am. My eyes pop open. "Life," I whisper to myself. Man, I gotta piss so bad I can taste it. Yuck. I slowly raise my frail body out of bed, thousands of joints I didn't even know I had popping. Crack... 'yow, that one hurt.'

I stare dumbly down at the porcelain bowl, the rancid fluid pouring down into the murky depths of the toilet water as I relieve myself. I think of two things as this is happening: how would one define religion, and why the hell am I peeing on my foot? Yes, there's a fine trail of amber liquid that took it upon itself to separate from the main stream and dampen my foot. "Fuck you," I exclaim, possibly a bit too loud. A loud snort emits from my parents room. I quickly flush and rush back to bed.

I just can't sleep. I lay here, staring at my white-washed ceiling, thinking deep, philosophical things, like "why are there no chartreuse M&M's?" and "what would Oprah Winfrey and Gordon Elliot's children look like?" Eww... that last one disgusted me thoroughly. I reluctantly gaze over at the clock. Arrgh, 4:15am. How long have I been sitting here, pondering talk-show hosts' children and the ratio of salt to bile at any given time in the human body?

6:15am. My alarm clock blares out the signal of "Wake up, or I'm gonna...." You get the picture. My right arm extends, and arcs in at a perfect 90 degree angle, devastating the little brown box. "Eat that, you bastard," I think to myself. I chuckle softly and flop out onto the floor.

8:00am. English class. In my dazed and confused state, I have forgotten who the teacher is, and I find myself wondering "Who is this fat, annoying bitch at the front of the room?" Oh, well. We're watching a video, since the lazy, chauvinistic pigs who we call "educators" feel that we learn more this way. Once again, I return to my all-to-well known position with my arms sprawled across the desk and my head added to the top of the pile.

3:00pm. Ahh, another day is through. I'm heading for home. I stare out at the looming world beyond the crappy-yellow-colored paint of the bus and trace my finger along the frosted glass which currently reads every profane symbol I've used in this file, and then some... all backwards, of course, so supposedly passersby can read them, even though everyone knows they're not paying attention to some stupid school bus. Who the hell would drive around reading crap freshmen write on their bus window?

3:35pm. The garage door slowly cranks open, much to my surprise. I head into the house, sit down, and watch TV for a few hours. Time for homework. Fuck it. I work for half an hour, and then I flop down in front of the trusted old friend, the computer. Rat-tat-tatting can be heard for the remainder of the night as I logon to the internet and chat with other zine freaks on IRC, and dial up Erebus and Alcholiday. Eventually, I tap out "TIME" and, like magic, 11:00pm appears on the display screen. We call it a monitor. Arrgh. I'm fucking tired. I head up to my room, and pass out in a heap of my own self-pity, ready for another day of the grind we call life.

Se la vi. Live it as full as they'll let you.


"The vilest abortionist is he who attempts to mould a child's character."

--George Bernard Shaw


[Prev | Next]

by StormChaser

Sometimes alcoholism isn't a disease. Sometimes it's a weapon. Guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and a lifetime of bottled-up emotions is all I knew of my father. He had such a capacity to love everyone but himself. He tried to kill himself the conventional way so many times but we stopped him. This is a story of how he disguised it.

Even when everything was happy, my parents were together and happy, and I was a normal kid. I think he began there. One day he went to a doctor. From that point on the doctors at work incessantly told my mom to stop him from drinking. He was a stubborn ass, though, and she didn't think anything of it. Besides, he never got drunk, but he was never without an alcoholic beverage.

Suddenly, he left us. Next thing I knew, I had a stepmother and half-sister. I loathed him with more anger than knew I had. But some underlying knowledge that he loved me kept me loving him and I loved my sister. So I was there when he got sick. He turned yellow. His feet and legs blew up like balloons. To this day I don't know what was wrong with him.

The bastard would not go to a doctor because he knew back then what was wrong. He would not go for me or for my sister. Not even for himself. He thought we'd be better off without him. He had ruined my life; I'd lost all trust in people. I couldn't keep a friend because I'd destroy it before they could leave me like he did. But I wasn't better off without him. And my poor baby sister doesn't deserve to grow up without a father.

But he killed himself anyway. His suicide note was his disease -- cirrhosis of the liver. He died before I could get close to him. I don't know my father and I can never comprehend his pain. But the scariest part is that as each day goes by I become more and more like him. Stubborn and alone. And I can lie and hide feelings even from myself, just like he could.

My point is to love your parents whether or not they seem to love you. Help them before they're gone. Because once they are gone you can't ever go back, no matter how much it hurts. Bits and pieces from relatives or photographs is all I have left of my father. Don't let it happen to you. Somehow, if I can't right my life, I want to right someone else's. And finally, no matter what you do, don't ever be like them.


"I would like to remind
the management
that the drinks are watered
and the hat-check girl
has syphilis
and the band is composed
of former SS monsters
However since it is
New Year's Eve
and I have lip cancer
I will place my
paper hat on my
concussion and dance"

--Leonard Cohen, "The Music Crept by Us"


[Prev | Next]

or Some SoB Writers Hang Out With Some Small People and Get Crazy

by Noni Moon

(for you people too stupid to figure out the abbreviations)
CA -- Crux Ansata
CM -- Captain Moonlight
CW -- Clockwork
CA -- Crux Ansata
DO -- Doorway
HA -- Hagbard
IW -- I Wish My Name Were Nathan
JU -- Jujube
KT -- Kilgore Trout
NM -- Noni Moon
RO -- Ronnie
ST -- Styxx
T# -- nameless teen
WA -- Walrus

When you sign up for these gigs, you never know what the people are going to be like. Sure, I'd hung around most of the SoB writers to get my interviews, but I'd never been around them as a group. Individually, they could be pretty strange, and there were definitely some weird undercurrents going on. But put them all together, especially on a party night, and all hell breaks loose.

This article attempts to recapture the night of December 31, 1996, in all of its extreme detail. Thanks to my trusty tape recorder, most of the conversations herein are verbatim. Some conversations have been reconstructed to the best of my ability and with the help of those writers who were conscious at the time of the conversation.

I doubt I'll be going to another SoB party for awhile. It's just too... well, you'll see.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 6:02p

Someone was knocking on my front door. I opened it and found Kilgore Trout standing there, smelling of cheap vodka. He didn't appear drunk at all.

KT: Ready to go?

NM: No. You're an hour early. I've still got to get dressed.

[Kilgore walked past me and headed towards the kitchen.]

KT: Oh, that's okay. I've always been anal about being punctual. I don't mind waiting. Got anything to eat?

NM: I thought we were gonna eat later.

KT: [opening cabinets] Never can tell, Noni. Sometimes the food at these parties really suck. I remember last year we went to this one party in Westlake and -- ooh, Pop Tarts. Brown Cinnamon Sugar even. Noni, you truly are the ultimate woman. All you need now is the penultimate man.

NM: And that would be?

KT: Why, me, of course. Who else could you possibly be thinking of? You can be Luke Skywalker to my Darth Vader, except you're not a boy, although you do act kinda boyish, and you do have both hands, which I admire in a woman. Of course, I'm not dressed in a black jumpsuit with a cape, and I'm not the ultimate source of evil in the galaxy. So maybe that wasn't such a good analogy. Still, whaddya say?

NM: I say no thanks. You're definitely too strange for me.

KT: But you're strange, too. You've got blue hair. I've always wanted to date a woman with blue hair. Tried to date a woman with purple hair once.

NM: What happened to her?

KT: Nothing happened to her. She just didn't like me hanging out in her bushes.

NM: So you stalked her. That's not exactly "trying to date."

KT: I prefer the word "observing" myself.

NM: Well, that's all I'm doing tonight. Observing.

KT: Speaking of observing, you really shouldn't answer the door totally naked. Lots of nasty people in the world out there.

NM: [covering myself and walking to the bedroom] It's not something I, uh, normally, uh, do. Er, excuse me.

KT: [pulling a flask out of his black jacket] Nice ass, by the way.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 7:15p

We pulled up to Crux Ansata's house in Kilgore's Tercel. There was a stuffed Santa Claus outfitted in army fatigues hanging from a noose of Christmas lights under a giant oak tree in the front yard. Ansat and Captain Moonlight were taking turns throwing knives into him.

KT: Hey guys! I see you're using Santa for target practice again.

CA: Gotta try out the new throwing knives we got for Christmas. Besides, since Santa brought these for us, we figured we'd like to give something back to him.

Captain Moonlight threw a knife into Santa's chest.

NM: I'm glad I didn't buy you anything sharp for Christmas.

CM: You didn't get us anything, period. Hey, Ansat. Should we try out the new battleaxe?

CA: [hurling a knife that lands in Santa's face] Damn, I'm smooth. Yeah, get the battleaxe.

KT: Uh, guys, I hate to ruin your Santa slaying, but we've got a party to go to.

CM: Can we--

KT: No. You can't bring the battleaxe to the party. Alcohol and medieval weapons don't mix, not like Jack Daniels and RC Cola, anyway.

CA: Let's get going, then. Say, where is this party anyway?

KT: Shhh. [glances over at me] Don't worry about it.

There are some things people do that unnerve me. Kilgore's avoidance of a simple question was one of them.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 7:42pm

Somehow we ended up at Clockwork's house. I lost my sense of direction several times due to Kilgore's fascination with back roads that "will get us there faster those big highway thingamajigs." It also didn't help that Ansat and Captain Moonlight were having a loud argument with Kilgore about the band Black 47 and who was actually the biggest "Irish loving bastard" of the three.

Kilgore honked the horn, and Clockwork and I Wish My Name Were Nathan ran outside.

CL: Hey, guys. Hi, Noni.

IW: Like your cocktail dress, Noni. Didn't realize we were going anywhere fancy.

NM: Kilgore said I should dress nicely.

Everyone broke out laughing except Kilgore, who was smiling wryly.

NM: What?

KT: Nothing, Noni. You look great. [to Clockwork and Nathan] Boys, hop in. We've got a party to get to.

IW: Can we all fit in there?

CA: Sure. Nothing like a crowded car to get to know each other real fast.

Hagbard came out of Clockwork's house.

HA: Dammit, don't leave without me. I'm not finished practicing my pratfalls down the staircase for my next improv show.

CL: All of us cannot fit in that car. Besides, it'll be more comfortable in two cars. Where's the party?

NM: Doesn't anybody know where this bash is being held besides Kilgore?

CL: Nope.

IW: Dunno.

CM: No.

HA: [practicing falling down on the grass] Oof. No.

CA: It's, like, top-secret or something.

KT: Trust me. We'll have a good time.

Kilgore pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled down an address, making sure that I couldn't see it. He then gave it to Clockwork.

KT: Meet us there. Uh, pick up some people on the way, too, since we've got more space. The more the merrier.

CL: Will do.

Hagbard crawled into the back of the Tercel while Clock and Nathan headed off towards Clockwork's Ford Probe. The night was still young, and I was already getting worried.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 8:04pm

We pulled up to a house in a nice part of town that had about fifteen cars in front of it. Loud hip-hop music was coming from inside, and a bunch of people were standing around on the porch. Kilgore parked in the front lawn, and we all got out.

NM: Whose house is this?

KT: Uh, when I picked my sister up from high school a couple of weeks ago, I overheard some people planning a party. I figured it would be fun to crash.

NM: You mean this is a high school party?

KT: Yup.

CA: Cool. Underage chicks.

NM: No, it's not cool. It's a high school party. How much fun can that be?

CM: Hey, I've only been out of high school for a semester, and I'm a cool guy. These people can't possibly be as cool as I am, but, uh, they might come close.

KT: Relax, Noni. The kid's parents are away for the holidays. We've got nothing to worry about.

NM: I don't know about this, guys. This seems so... juvenile.

CA: Exactly. That's what makes it so much fun.

We headed towards the front door. The kids on the porch stopped talking and looked at us uneasily.

T1: Who are you guys?

T2: Yeah, you don't go to our school.

CA: We're writers.

CM: And artists.

HA: And comedians with astronomy backgrounds.

KT: We're also damn smooth. Step aside.

T3: Ronnie! There are some people out here.

A large teenager ambled out of the front door. He looked like he played football and was six inches taller than Kilgore.

RO: I don't remember inviting you guys.

KT: Of course not. We're crashing the party.

RO: I don't think so.

KT: Oh, I do think so. See, it's New Year's Eve. It's a time of celebration, when all of humanity comes together to resolve to solve the world's problems and to help out his fellow man. Of course, usually people just get plastered, but sometimes that's the best we can do.

RO: Are you trying to tell me that you've got beer?

KT: A keg. Can we come in?

RO: Hell, yes. [turning around and yelling] Beer's here!

A loud rumble of applause and yelling burst from inside the house.

KT: I figured you'd like that. Ansat, help me roll the sucker in.

Kilgore and Ansat went back to the car to get the keg from the trunk. Now, besides crashing a high school party, we were also supplying alcohol to minors. Where the hell were guys like this when I was in high school?

T2: Wow, you've got blue hair.

NM: You're very observant.

T2: Don't they like have a dress code at your school? Our principal would freak out if someone came to school like that.

It was gonna be a long night.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 8:26pm

Clock and Nathan arrived with an entourage including Doorway, Styx, Walrus, and Jujube. I hadn't met any of them previously since they hadn't written anything for the zine. Ansat and Kilgore had tapped the keg about fifteen minutes ago, and the living room of the house was full of about forty teenagers holding plastic cups of bad beer.

CL: Uh, Noni, what is this?

NM: A high school party.

DO: Is there anything beside beer?

NM: We brought the beer. I doubt there's anything else here.

DO: Oh. Hmm. Oh well. [tapping his pocket] Guess I'll just have to munch on these shrooms. Anybody want some?

Clock and Nathan nodded in agreement.

NM: You do that.

ST: You don't seem like you're having too much fun, Noni.

NM: Good guess.

ST: Well, it's already better than the New Year's Eve we spent sitting at a Whataburger. Although we did get free biscuits at 2:30 in the morning.

NM: We could be at a real party, or a club, or something. Anything but this. Even Whataburger.

JU: You'd still have high school kids there.

NM: At least they'd be serving me.

ST: Maybe there's a liquor cabinet here that the kids are afraid to touch. Not my house, not my problem. Jujube, let's go find some wine.

JU: Okay. Can we smoke in here?

Kilgore walked over with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

NM: I would take that as a yes.

KT: Anybody seen my flask? I gave it to some kid and it disappeared.

WA: Might check the kitchen. I think I saw some kids pouring it into the orange juice.

KT: Thanks, man.

Sandy, Styx and Walrus went off looking for the liquor cabinet.

NM: Kilgore, can you remind me why I'm here again?

KT: Uh, because you're our friend, and we're having fun?

NM: Not yet we aren't.

KT: Look, if you wanna leave, we can leave and go somewhere else.

Crux Ansata walked by talking to a young girl.

T4: Oh, so that's what they're calling it these days.

CA: No, no, no. It's a real knife. Do you wanna see it?

Ansat pulled the knife out of his boot.

T4: You really did mean a knife.

The girl walked off.

KT: Having fun with the girls, Ansat?

CA: Uh, like, when I ask someone if they wanna see my knife, it's NOT a come-on. After all, my girlfriend would be really pissed. Anyway, I need to go find my brother. Last I heard, he and Walrus were singing old King Missile songs. I need to hear a duet of "Jesus was Way Cool."

Ansat wandered off, putting his knife back in his boot.

NM: Hey, what happened to Hagbard?

A loud crash came from the back of the house. Hagbard came into the living room and brushed past a few people before seeing us.

HA: You get kids drinking, and the next thing you know they start trying to act funny. One kid was gonna show me how he could fall, and he kinda fell on top of a vase. Looked damn expensive, too. Usually alcohol doesn't make people funny. Alcohol and valuable antiques, though.... Hee hee.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31st, 9:58pm

After a while, someone had popped in a copy of Star Wars, and Kilgore was trying to lead everyone in some sort of drinking game. When it got old watching Star Wars thru a din of noisy kids, I wandered into the backyard, where Clockwork, Doorway, and Nathan were sitting on lawn chairs discussing something.

CL: No, look. You can't go about this in a hard way. You've got to look at this softly.

DO: Right. We've been over this before. I know that.

IW: I don't think you understand, though. It's not just a matter of knowing.

NM: Hey, guys. What are you talking about? Somebody got a light?

Clock leaned forward and lit my cigarette.

DO: Discussing the purpose of communication and how we can improve it.

IW: But it's kinda hard to improve something with only itself. We're thinking about doing away with it and using telepathy.

NM: Telepathy? What am I thinking about right now?

CL: Not mind reading, Noni. Telepathy. Although I can probably guess you think we're a bunch of looney quacks.

NM: Yeah, but I've gotten used to it. Kinda. So, I guess I have to ask. How's the telepathy proceeding?

Clockwork looked at Doorway. Doorway looked at Nathan. Nathan looked at Clockwork. They all looked at me and shrugged.

IW: Hold on! Did anyone happen to send the word "maverick?"

The other two guys shook their heads.

IW: Damn.

NM: Heh. Keep trying, boys. One day you'll hit it.

CL: We need some DMT. It worked for the Mckenna brothers.

DO: And where are we gonna get that?

IW: South America?

ALL THREE: [yelling] ROAD TRIP!!

What's a girl to do? Sometimes I just want to be around normal people, of age, who aren't high-fallutin' philosopher types all of the goddamned time.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 10:27pm

I made my way to the front of the house, where Styx and Jujube were drinking wine. I figured I could start writing some of this stuff down in case my tape recording was bad, but it was too much fun to watch a tipsy Styx do Fenster impersonations from The Usual Suspects.

ST: Give me the keys, you fuckin' cocksucker!

JU: No, no, it's too comprehensible. Benecio del Toro is even harder to understand than the guys in Trainspotting. Try again.

ST: Give me the goddamn keys, you fuckin' cocksucker! How's that?

JU: Better. Be a little bit more gutteral.

ST: Blah blah keys, blah blah fucking cocksucker!

JU: Perfect. Gimme some more wine.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 10:50pm

I spent some time talking with Styx and Jujube about various people here, from Kilgore's strange obsessions to Ansat's strange obsessions with knives. Walrus and Captain Moonlight came out and sat down. Somehow, perhaps as if by magic, Walrus produced two Mad Dog 20/20 bottles from inside his jacket.

NM: How the fuck did you do that?

WA: It's a secret. Besides, what's a party without me drinking Mad Dog? Say, did you know my mom's starting to collect Ron Popeil products? Ya know, the informercial guy who makes the RonCo dehydrator that all the potheads want to get so they can dry their weed in it?

ST: Old material. Heard it.

NM: Huh?

ST: Sometimes Walrus forgets he has told us something funny, so we define all of his little bits into two groups: old material and new material. If it's new material, then we haven't heard it before. If it's old material, then we have heard it before, sometimes way too many times.

WA: Heh. Did I ever tell you about the time I dreamt I could fly in Wal*Mart?

ST: A thousand times, Walrus. Drink your Mad Dog.

NM: Hmmm. Interesting. So, did you want to become a stand up comic or something?

WA: Nah. But I am a radio disc jockey. Take that as you will.

NM: I had a friend who wanted to become a standup comic, but he wasn't funny. No one wanted to tell him that cuz he was a nice guy. He just thought we didn't "get his humor." Apparently the folks on amateur night didn't get it either.

ST: I could be a stand-up comic and do impersonations. I've got tons of stuff from Dune, Blade Runner, The Usual Suspects, Full Metal Jacket, and much, more. I even do an impersonation of an ape picking up a psychedelic mushroom, eating it, and discovering language. Of course, I think that also requires Kilgore because it takes two to have a conversation.

NM: Touring with Kilgore. That would be an experience.

CM: You seem to have some weird aversion to Kilgore.

NM: It's like we know each other too will. Like, I get the feeling that everytime I'm about to say something, he already knows what I'm going to say. It's kinda unnerving.

JU: Have you ever talked to him about it?

NM: No. I don't know why, either. Usually I'm pretty upfront with this type of stuff. But with Kilgore, it's like there's something holding me back.

I lit a cigarette with Jujube's lighter. The lighter was shaped like a pair of female legs sticking out of a red miniskirt.

NM: Nice lighter. I bet all the guys grope this.

JU: You better believe it.

NM: I should get me one of these. Too chic.

Walrus took a chug from one of his bottles.

WA: Yeah, that's one of the coolest lighters I've seen. Of course, my dad found one in our garage that has a Confederate flag on it and plays Dixie when you light it. I dunno where it came from, but it rocks. [takes another swig from the MD 20/20] Dawg in da house!

NM: What exactly is Mad Dog 20/20?

WA: It's wino hooch, man. Fortified wino hooch. This shit is 18%, man... and cheap! You can get fucked up for the price of a Big Mac Value Meal! MD 20/20 is in the zone, and that's all you need to know. When I've got two bottles, I like to call 'em my "wine goggles."

Walrus puts the bottles up to his eyes like binoculars.

CM: That's goofy.

WA: Living in Missouri does that to ya. C'mon, let's go in and sing some bad gangsta rap songs. We can do "Time to Make the Donuts" by Class A Felony.

CM: Time to make the donuts?

WA: Yup, time to make the donuts.

Captain Moonlight and Walrus give each other a high five and storm back inside the house.

JU: The scary thing is that Moonlight hasn't had a drop to drink tonight.

Even the sober people were acting really messed up. I went inside to check on how things were going.

* * * * *

Monday, December 31, 11:40pm

Inside, the place was loud and raucous. Someone else had taken over Kilgore's spot at leading the Star Wars drinking game, tipsily fumbling thru a bunch of pages of rules. Most people were just watching and drinking whenever they wanted to. Kilgore came out of the bathroom in the hall, saw me, and walked over.

KT: Having fun yet, Noni?

NM: A little more. Your non-SoB writer friends are pretty cool. They're a little bit more normal. Except for Walrus and his wine goggles.

KT: Wine goggles?

NM: Never mind.

KT: Heh. So, only about eighteen minutes until the new year. Ya know, I put in the Star Wars tape so at the stroke of midnight, the Death Star would blow up. Is that cool or what?

NM: Innovative, even if it does sound a little bit dorky. Whatever gave you that inspiration?

KT: Oh, I dunno. I figured watching the Death Star blow up instead of Dick Clark blabbing would be more enjoyable.

NM: You've got a point.

T5: Hey, how many drinks are we supposed to take if someone says, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

KT: Chug the whole cup.

T5: Oh. I've got a bad feeling about this.

KT: It won't hurt you. The worst that will happen is you'll puke, and everybody's got to learn their limits somehow.

The teenager lifted the cup to his lips and drank the contents. He then got an awkward look on his face and ran out the back door. The vomiting sounds I heard don't need to be described.

DO: [from outside] Shit! Man, you're fucking up our concentration! We're trying to unlearn language out here!

KT: Heh, heh. Funny guys they are.

NM: Look, we need to talk.

KT: About what?

NM: About me and you.

KT: What about us? Does this mean you're reconsidering going out with me?

NM: No. Look, I think I'm gonna be taking a break from the zine for a while.

KT: Why? Everyone loves your interviews. You're a good writer, and you add that real-life quality to the zine.

NM: It's just, I dunno. It's hard to explain.

KT: You don't have to explain it if you don't want to. I may get on my knees and wrap myself around your legs begging you to keep writing, but if you wanna stop, that's fine with me. Well, that's a lie, but you can do whatever you want.

NM: Well, I think I need to explain it, but I just don't have the words. It's like for the past year, most of my creative output has been for the zine, and that's it. I wanna try different things, in different mediums.

KT: No one said you only had to write for us and that's it.

NM: But it's like there's some strange attraction between me and the zine, like it's part of me. You've given me an audience, and people know who I am. A few people, anyway.

KT: Do what you want, Noni. Whatever you need, I'll see what I can't help you out with.

NM: Thanks. I appreciate that.

Everyone in the room cheered, and we turned and saw the Death Star being blown to bits. 1997 had officially started.

KT: Hey, it's the New Year. How about a kiss to start things off?

NM: Not a chance.

KT: Denied.

* * * * *

Tuesday, January 1, 1:00am

After the Death Star blew, our crew took off. I drove Kilgore's car cuz he had found his flask and finished it off. We said goodbye to everybody, and I drove Hagbard, Captain Moonlight and Ansat home.

We got to my apartment around 1:45am. I parked, got out, and went over to the passenger side of the car.

NM: C'mon, get out.

KT: Huh?

NM: You're sleeping on my couch. I don't want you driving home like that.

KT: Oh.

NM: C'mon, lemme help you up. Sorry bout have a second-story apartment.

KT: No problem. I've crossed cattle guards while drunk. Steps are a piece of cake.

We made it to the door, and I unlocked the door and plopped Kilgore down on the couch. He reached for the pack of filterless Gauloises on the coffeetable and lit one.

KT: Right now I'm really drunk and feel like white trash, but I'm also smoking French cigarettes. These feelings are quite confusing.

NM: Don't worry about it. You just need some sleep in preparation for the nasty hangover you're gonna have tomorrow morning.

KT: [exhaling] I don't get hangovers, Noni.

NM: Hmm. Well, do you want anything to eat?

KT: No, thanks, although I must say you have a very motherly quality about you right now.

NM: Fuck off. I'm just trying to be polite.

KT: Sorry, it's the alcohol. [stubbing out the cigarette] I think I'll sleep before I make a bigger fool out of myself.

NM: Good idea. Sleep well.

* * * * *

Tuesday, January 1, 11:32a

I woke up and Kilgore was gone. He left a note thanking me for being so nice last night and also left me his phone number in case I wanted to go out sometime. He also drew a little picture on there of a stick figure with blue hair. I know why he's a writer and not a painter.

A few things oughta be cleared up about the story that might seem a bit unclear from the transcription. The teenagers were, for the most part, in a world of their own, and they talked a lot more than what I recorded. I can only be in one place at a time, and I decided to stick close to the SoB folks. I heard from down the grapevine that the party had gotten busted shortly after we left, and the cops didn't believe the kids' stories about a bunch of college kids bringing free beer to the house.

Doorway, Clockwork, and Nathan never did achieve telepathy that night, but they came pretty close. They said their closest matchups included "breast, best, vest" and two "Lucille Balls" and one "old dead lady from a popular '50s sitcom."

Walrus didn't puke from drinking the two Mad Dog 20/20s. Amazing.

Styx's Fenster impersonation got better and better. When he sobered up, though, it really sucked.

Jujube smoked even more cigarettes than I did. Amazing.

Captain Moonlight and Ansat were last seen walking into their house together, singing "Time to Make the Bombing Devices."

Hagbard's pratfall practices have steadily improved his performances for the Monk's Night Out improv troupe.

As for me, well, this is my last piece for SoB for awhile. It's been a blast, but I've gotta try my hand at a few different things for awhile. I'll probably be popping up from time to time, but until then...

[Stalking Noni Moon]


[=- 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


[Prev | Next]

by DeMoN

Once again, my eyes open;
Scattered rays of light spill in,
and singe dark eyes

Rise and do their senseless bidding
Stay within their imagined boundaries
Toil alone, always alone
Search for some purpose, some meaning
and find nothing

So i fight,
i am the epitome of rage and hatred
I fight blindly, striking down all in my path,
and see the monster i have become,
the demon they made me

I continue battling
They will not break me today, i whisper
You will not win, i roar,
but slowly, clenched fists open to reveal
empty hands

Victory, defeat, no difference;
i cannot change things by myself
Alone, in the dark, i cry
and the teardrops burn

This gift of life given to me by my creator
is quickly torn from me by my brother
I can fight no longer, been crushed too many times
So i just wait, surviving on meager hopes, until she appears

A black flame with soft white wings,
only her touch can set me free
Her deep eyes intoxicate
Together we revel in our pain and misery,
and somehow, find a twisted brand of happiness, until
a warm kiss, a last caress, and she is gone

Alone again,
time passes, memories fade,
and i cry and wait for this hell to end

Once again they have won
And somewhere a tear drops,
and a flower burns,
and an angel falls

Such is life


[=- FiCTiON -=]


[Prev | Next]

by A Piece of Caine


The coffin shook with rage as it quaked in the ground, trying to spew forth its contents like a bad piece of meat. It was sickening for those who were out for some late night Goth fun in the graveyard to hear the pitiful cries that came from the grave. A constant demonic howl that pierced the soul on the most base level in the same way a broken relationship did, the crying of a puppy half run over by some fat man in a Buick. The ground shuddered and heaved, trying to aid the expulsion of the moaning thing, and in one final attempt the ground sprayed in all directions over the curiously afraid teens who never fit in anywhere but with each other late at night in a graveyard, and the coffin bubbled forth out of the crater and flew open


The letter arrived by regular mail which was unsurprising to him as he opened it with a steak knife. Thin was always bad, he knew, and he barely had to look at it to see the standard litany of the rejected. He dropped it on the floor and like so much forgotten it lay there quietly. The theme of unholy angelic choirs sang through his head, mocking him and his uselessness. He walked upstairs calmly as his mind whirled and his head throbbed in such pulsing chorus that it became indistinguishable from the voices that called him a loser-waste of flesh-pathetic nobody-destined to be forever on the bottom, and of course the ultimate in the litany of taunts, -nothing-


and revealed the very enraged face of the dead, the corpse that regained life and was pissed off about it all. The assembled teens screamed in sheer horror, for while they were forever reading and playing at the living dead, they never intended to encounter one, especially not this one, this bloated dark laughing fat man who snarled like a hellhound and stared with inhuman intensity. It hopped from the coffin and fell to its knees, crying in agony as the teens made a break for it to escape what they so coolly professed to care not for previously. It would have none of that and despite the demon chanting in its head it plodded onward and grabbed one of the teens by the scruff and put a fist through the boy's chest, the warm feeling of blood on his forearm as the teen screamed for as long as he could and saw his own guts in its hand coming out of his chest before he died, and oh how it laughed, laughed, giggled like


and that was the worst of it, for he would not be nothing, he abhorred the thought of it. They rejected him because they knew he was destined to be something. They persecuted the Son of God when they realized he was going to change everything, they persecuted Galileo, they always persecute the ones who will bring change. He knew he was the selected, one of those who would flux the world with his acts and make it reconsider it all, the champion of change. He sat on the edge of his bed with the hilarious green quilt and masturbated furiously and when he exploded he let his seed take root on the carpet for his was


a little girl, feeling the teen's body impaled on its arm and hearing the teen's dying gasp. It leaned in close and took a delicious bite and chewed on a chunk of the teen's left ear, like a piece of small leather in its mouth, its tastebuds long since dead. The voices whispered of its power and might and its rage deepened as it wanted the whole world to know of its triumph over death itself and of its newfound powers. It stalked onto the street and went to a house, one of the faceless many in the suburbs and could have been mine or yours, and it pushed the locked door aside with the ease of slicing bread. The mundane man of the house stood in his stained shorts and asked a question that was drowned out by the voices hissing for violence and it shoved forward and dug into the man's fleshy chest and tore, in a great juicy ripping sound, a long flap of skin from him. The man's pitch went immediately to high soprano as he screamed the cry of the damned, the one yell that people make when death visits, and oh was he death, he was death unlike


the seed of the future, the beginning of the new way. He shed the rest of his clothes as unnecessary and the voices quietly whispered sweet death and mutilation in his ear, and walked downstairs to where THE ITEM was stored. He fetched it from the desk with ease and loaded it patiently and took the few spare clips in his other hand and the voices went up a pitch in anticipation as the sound of someone entering the house floated in from upstairs and he went and it was his sister, his sweet sister, who was a whore and a drunk, who had been caught kissing his friend with an open beer between them and he smiled and shot her five times and she looked surprised as she died and his erection returned as he turned and faced his mother who stood in pure shock and shot her four times in the face and the voices whispered their approval in the darkness of his mind where


any death before, the new incarnation of the reaper, here to decide who was worthy of life, and the voices told it no one was. It grabbed the man's head and twisted it off like a jar and it was frozen in a look of sheer agony and it liked it and took it with it as it stalked through the filthy living room and ran into his ugly wife in the kitchen who was doing dishes and was on her way into the living room when it shot a fist into her stomach and pulled it out in front of her and it grinned its skeletal grin and the voices sung his praises as she fell back and flopped around on the floor screaming and it spoke for the first time and it said that she was destined to die and to have a nice trip and behind it a small sleepy child came down the stairs and it spun around and kicked the kid, and kicked the kid hard, very hard, hard enough for his head to pop away with the groan of snapping muscles and bone as it landed with a dull plop some distance away. Death was here and death was pissed and death had voices in its head to tell it who to take with it back to


rage, rage seethed and bubbled and his anger against the world grew by leaps and bounds as he ran outside feeling the caress of the wind against him as neighbours and others came out or glanced out windows to see a naked boy in the street shooting a gun at those who were near him and laughing with tears streaming down his cheeks and they didn't really know what to do out of shock but someone must have called the police after some time because they turned up and saw carnage, body count all over, shot people, wounded people crawling away pitifully and the boy in the center of the storm with a gun and police react in a pretty specific way to this kind of thing and when the boy turned with gun to face them and they shot him a number of times, they called the ambulance but it was obviously too late and the boy had no ammunition left after all so they felt foolish indeed and the funeral was


NOTHING, oh dear lord no, he was an agent of the NOTHING and the voices cackled as he stared at the blood on his hands and his bloated form and he was aware he would never be the catalyst of the earth or the one who changed it all but would return to NOTHING when his something here was done but why had it happened this way he had it all worked out and the voices laughed, oh they laughed like a demonic chorus of chipmunks and taunted his stupidity and reminded him he was NOTHING in the beginning and NOTHING in the end and NOTHING was his destiny and he railed and cried at being NOTHING but no tears came because he had none left to give and he went out to the garage and poured gas over the car the dead family had and he got in it and lit it up and the flames raged around him and the voices laughed still as he lost anyway and NOTHING was increased in power with the boy who thought he was something. Silly boy, only in the end did he understand that NOTHING will come of NOTHING and that to be something you have to live and take what moments come your way and seize those precious moments and onwards and upwards, semper fi and all of it, the clichths are all clichths because they are accurate, the secret to it all is that you can't be something without being a NOTHING somewhere the same way we go through agony and hurt to remind us how precious the happy times are, and you have to walk through the darkness to see how bright the light is. The flames were bright and higher and higher and he slowly cooked and his nonflesh melted away while


small, very small since no one truly spoken wished to admit a knowledge of the boy. The coffin was lowered into the ground without ceremony and the men threw dirt over it and puzzled over why.. why it would happen... why it wasn't prevented... why... why.. WHY



the answer came to him at his dying moments as he closed his eyes again and a bright light came to him and he reached out for her hands and it laughed and told him to fuck off, that knowing WHY at the end was useless, that knowing WHY during was more important and not to waste what you have, and do you know what


The letter arrived by regular mail which was unsurprising to him as he opened with with a steak knife. Thin was always bad, he knew, and he barely had to look at it to see the standard litany of the rejected. He stopped and thought for a moment and walked upstairs calmly and sat down at his computer and began to type again and this time he knew WHY and


his work is done.


"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist"

--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance


[Prev | Next]

by Aspiraphale

My friend Glen and I had stepped out between classes and gone for a smoke. It was a daily ritual- we were both seventeen, and while we couldn't smoke inside the school building, no one really cared if we went outside to do it. I always bummed my smokes off Glen, but he didn't mind.

We both attended Sir Walter Raleigh, a private high school in the middle of Minneapolis. It was for rich kids, but I got financial aid and was accepted despite my family's lack of funds. Glen had rich parents. He had his own car, and was always dressed in name-brand clothes. For some reason, we hit it off. We had been friends since our freshman year. We were an unlikely pair. He was big and athletic, while I was a scrawny hundred pounds. He always wore expensive clothes; I always wore jeans and a T-shirt. He was inherently popular, while I was popular because I was his friend.

We leaned against a waist-high brick wall in front of the parking lot and smoked our cigarettes. He was talking to me about his new car. His parents had gotten him a VW, a year old, because he was on the honor roll. He liked it more than his previous car, which had a little rust on it. He was explaining the merits of a four-cylinder engine and blowing smoke rings when a car drove past.

I wouldn't have taken notice, but it slowed down when it came closer to us. It was a nice looking red convertible. There was a really big Hispanic guy inside. He jerked his head once, nodding. Glen raised a hand. The guy drove away. A couple minutes later, he drove past again. This time he stopped at the curb.

"Hey." He looked at Glen. "What did you call me?"

Glen shrugged. "I didn't call you anything. I just waved."

"I heard you call me a dick."

Glen tensed. "No, I didn't."

He was probably hopped up on something. Crank is really big in the Midwest, and the guy's eyes were bulging out of his head. He looked really paranoid. He got out of the car, and he was twitching.

"I thought I heard you call me a dick."

"I didn't call you anything. I just waved."

"Oh. I guess that's all right then." The guy relaxed, then hit Glen in the face. Hard.

It was the first punch I'd ever seen that actually looked like it did in the movies. Before throwing the punch, the guy let his arm go limp, to make Glen think he wasn't going to hit him. Then he threw all his weight into Glen's face, snapping his head back with his fist, landing on the jaw with the sound of a book snapping shut. Glen stumbled back, his arms flailing.

Then he righted himself. The guy was still in fighting stance. Glen looked at him coolly, and did nothing. He reached up tentatively with his hand. He touched his chin; blood was running down his mouth, and when he removed his hand his fingertips were bright red. He studied his fingertips for a moment, and then looked down.

When he'd brought his head back to normal position, he'd gotten a bright splotch of red on his green Polo shirt. When he looked down, he saw the bloodstain. His eyes widened, and he snarled.

"I PAID SIXTY-THREE DOLLARS FOR THIS SHIRT!" He screamed at the guy. He stood up, looked at him, and ran at the guy, head down. Even though the man was larger than we were, he wasn't ready for this ferocity from Glen; he thought Glen was just another little preppy.

I'd never seen Glen so angry. He ran at the guy and grabbed him by the collar. Glen turned quickly, and the pull yanked the guy off his feet. Glen kept turning, and he literally threw the guy over his car. The guy landed on his back on the tarmac with a grunt, and Glen leaped over the car at him.

Glen kneeled on the other guy's chest and leaned into his face. The older man was dazed, and he couldn't really make sense of what was going on. Glen grabbed his head and smashed it into the pavement, then hit him in the face a couple more times for good measure.

The guy just lay there. Glen got back up -- he had blood all over his shirt -- and walked over to me. I'd never seen him as angry as he was, but now he was completely calm. He reached into his jacket pocket, reached in slowly, withdrew a cigarette, and lit it.

Neither of us said a word. We sat on the wall, smoking, as the guy lay out in front of us, face bloodied. When Glen finished his cigarette, he tossed it on the pavement, hopped off the wall and ground it out with his foot. He walked out to his car, changed his shirt, and walked back. He kicked the guy in the ribs before heading back to the school.

I was impressed with Glen. We parted ways to our different classes, and when school was out he gave me a ride home. I didn't see him again until he was in a holding cell. The guy had suffered from a concussion, fractured skull, and a broken jaw. He wanted to press charges.

I was involved in the trial, for the defense. I didn't actually have to take the stand for two days after the trial started. Before me, the paramedics testified that they had found the man, whose name was Peter Vasquez, unconscious in the parking lot. Apparently, the fact that Glen had just left the guy there, without calling an ambulance, hurt him.

The doctors came and testified about the guy's injuries, which were severe. He was wearing a big bandage on his head and spoke with a voice muffled by his jaw, wired shut. Glen had a split lip. He hadn't even put a Band-Aid on it.

When I was called to testify, I told the jury that Glen had acted in self-defense, after Mr. Vasquez had punched him in the face. I told them I didn't think there was any reason for Mr. Vasquez to have done what he did. I told them I thought that he had been on drugs. I thought that I had been convincing, and I had told the truth, but the jury didn't seem to buy it.

The trial lasted three days. The jury ruled in favor of one Mr. Peter Vasquez. Glen was only seventeen, so he was only put on probation for six months. If he had been tried as an adult, he would have gotten two to five years in prison. He still wasn't very happy with his situation.

In addition to being on probation, his parents grounded him indefinitely. They put his car in a storage space and hid the keys. He was allowed to take the bus to school, go home, and go to see his probation officer. That was it. On top of all that, the kids at school were spreading nasty rumors about him. His first day back at school, he showed up with dark rings under his eyes.

He sat alone at the lunch table, something unusual for him. No one would go near him. I tried to sit down next to him, but he shooed me away. He looked down at his food, trying to ignore the kids that whispered, giggled, and pointed at him. Word was spreading that he was a druggie. He would get "accidentally" tripped in the hallway, or elbowed in the face; he couldn't fight back against that.

We didn't have many classes together, so we had our lunch hour to get together and talk. Instead of eating, he grabbed my arm and pulled me outside. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one before handing the pack and lighter to me.

"I can't believe this shit," he grumbled around his cigarette. "I might as well be in prison for all the freedom I got. I get to come to school. Woo Hoo."

He took a deep drag on his cigarette, and exhaled. We sat in silence and smoked. The sun was out, and it shone on his face, casting the shadows deeper under his eyes. "I'm not getting any goddam sleep. I'm smoking more than I ever have before. All I do these days," he said, punctuating his sentence by gesturing with his cigarette, "is smoke."

"No," he abruptly spat out. "I smoke, and I fuckin' jerk off. And I watch stupid MTV game shows. Nothing. I'm going out of my mind." He took another drag.

After several minutes of silence, he threw his butt on the ground and stepped on it. "I've got to do something about this crap. It's driving me crazy." He walked back toward the school, and though I ran up and walked next to him, he didn't say anything. He walked back inside, got his lunch tray, and ate by himself.

I didn't see much of him for several days. He just sat by himself. After three days or so, I walked over to his table and set my tray down by his. He still had dark rings under his eyes.

"What's up, dude? You haven't said anything to me for days."

He grunted.

"What's that happy crap?" I snapped at him. "You're pissing me off, and that's not good. Why are you being such a cretin?"

He looked up from his food. He swallowed, and then he looked up at me. "Screw you, man. You don't know what's going on. You don't know what I'm going through. My life sucks right now. And the last thing I need is you being a dick." He stood up, carried his tray over to the garbage can, and dumped the whole thing in: food, tray, silverware and all. Then he walked off. I didn't follow.

I tried to leave him alone after that. All day I tried not to think about him, didn't try to talk to him in class. He seemed not to care.

The next day at lunch, he set his tray down next to mine. He started to eat. "What's up, man?" I asked. "I thought you were all pissed off at me."

"Eh." He shrugged his shoulders. "I was having a bad day. Sorry if I was an asshole to you. In fact, I've been having a bad week. This whole probation-grounding thing is driving me crazy. I'm trying to figure out a way to get out."

"Get out? What do you mean?"

He gestured with a tater tot. "Just that; get out. Leave this damn town, get away from my parents and the damned probation officer. Start fresh somewhere else."

I was doubtful. "Good luck, but I don't think it's that great an idea. Where can you go?"

"I dunno. Out of the country. Mexico. It's warm year-round." He grinned. "I'm passing Spanish."

I shook my head and laughed. "Yeah, right. Mexico."

He shrugged and stood up. "Laugh if you want. I gotta get out of here."

We dumped our garbage in the trash and walked outside. He handed me a cigarette, put one in his mouth, and gave me a light before lighting his own. The wind blew the hair away from his forehead. I think that's how I'll always remember him. Cigarette dangling from his lips, squinting into the horizon, tie flapping, hands in his pockets. The wind blew the hair from his forehead.

"It wouldn't be too hard," he said. "Hitchhike down, head west. Baja." He smiled.

"Yeah, right. Baja."

He sighed, and we both sat on the wall, smoking our cigarettes. The wind smoked more of them than we did. We ground them out and headed back to the school, parting ways in the hall.

That night, a Thursday, I think, I woke up at three in the morning. Rapping on my window. I groaned, rolled over. The window opened, and I sat up. Glen was coming through the window.

"Jesus fucking Christ, man, what the hell are you doing?" I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked up at him. He had on a backpack, jeans and a T-shirt. "Your parents are gonna kill you!"

He brought his fingers to his lips. "Shut up!" he hissed in the darkness. "I'm headed for Baja."

I sputtered. "What? Are you crazy?"

"I'll keep in touch!"

"Why did you come here first? If my mom hears you up here, she'll..."

He cut me off. "Well, then, be quiet!"

I calmed down.

"Now, I'm here for a very logical reason. I've got three hundred bucks to my name. I figure that'll get me, maybe, to Texas. Do you think you could help me out?"

"Oh, man..." I covered my eyes.

"Dude." He was begging. I grunted.

"Dude. Think about all the damn cigarettes I gave you. I gave you my old bike. We've been tight."

"Damn." I got out of bed, the wind from the window chilly on my bare legs. I walked over to my desk, yanked open the drawer. "All I got's a hundred fifty. This is from my damn job, man; you owe me." I shoved the cash into his hand.

He grinned at me. "I owe you. I'll send you a postcard."

"Yeah, right. From Baja, right?" I laughed.

His smile widened. "Damn right."

He sneaked back out the window, and I rolled over and went back to sleep. I thought it was all a dream, when I woke up, but my desk drawer was open and all the cash was gone. I went to school, not knowing what to expect. He wasn't there.

When I got back home from school, my mom was waiting for me. "Have you seen Glen recently?"

"Not really. He was in the lunchroom yesterday; I didn't see him today."

"His mom says he ran away. Do you know anything about this?"

I shook my head. "No idea."

"Jack Michael Irving, are you lying to me?"

"No, mom. Geez." I waited a second. "Where'd he go?"

"They're looking for him. The probation officer's upset. Nora's sick with worry."

"Wow." I went to my room, and sat down.

Eventually I stopped wondering what had happened to Glen. I became more popular in my own right at school, and made new friends. Glen faded from my thoughts. About a month and a half after he snuck through my bedroom window, I got a postcard. It was postmarked Mexico. In scribbled handwriting: "Not too far from Baja. Just got to make a short sail across the Bay Of California. I'm almost there, man." No signature.

I haven't heard from him since. I hope he made it to Baja. Some nights I wake up, my wife warm at my side, and I almost hear him rapping at my window. I look up, and see only the tree moving about in the wind and the moonlight, gently scratching the glass. He's never there. I think he made it.

I can see him, in my mind's eye, laying on a towel on a beach somewhere in Baja, salt water at his feet, grinning up at the sky. He's drinking an ice-cold beer, peering through sunglasses at the waves out on the Pacific. And the wind's blowing the hair away from his forehead.


"...a friendship that prides itself on the sharpness and vigour of its dealings. I like love that bites and scratches till the blood comes. It is not vigourous and free enough if it is not quarrelsome..."

--Montaigne, Essays


[Prev | Next]

by Water Damage

Court descended the steps into the Indigo. His dark eyes were hard and cold, in stark contrast to his youthful face and mussed black hair. It was apparent in his face -- he had a mission.

The predominant color here was red, a dim red that seemed to radiate from the furniture and the walls. The coffee shop was filled with a few dozen high school students, a couple of staff members working the coffee bar, and one particularly obnoxious punk band. Tonight, it fit Court's mood, and he felt at ease here. Knowing that it would be easy to accomplish what he had to do here comforted him, and he relaxed.

He let his eyes scan the place, looking for...

There. Over by the stage, past that group of mohawked junior-high pseudo-anarchists, he recognized her hair. Her hair had obviously been cut since the last time he had seen her. Short and straight, Anastasia's red locks seemed to add even more grace to her already gorgeous figure. She was perfect, in Court's eyes.

Perfect in his eyes, too, Court observed, noticing that Anastasia was speaking to some big guy, who looked as enraptured with her as Court felt. One of the little punks moved out of the way, and Court saw the guy taking Ana's arm. Court regarded the situation with skeptical interest and a lot of curiosity, then remembered to look hard and tough again. Guy and girl turned to look at the band.

Court had absolutely no idea who was playing tonight, which didn't bother him at all because they were so bad it made his head hurt. His facade did its job well, because the few who turned to see him when he entered knew there was something different about this Court, that he was not the same Court of earlier this evening. He maintained his stern expression, until a particularly loud power chord erupted from an amp. This didn't bother Court, but the subsequent shower of sparks and the explosion that came after that did. He raised an eyebrow and looked in the direction of the stage.

However, he didn't see the amp, he saw Anastasia. She was looking directly at him. Her pale skin and green eyes had a curious look to them, a look that shook him out of his bravado. All at once his nervousness overwhelmed him, playing a terrifyingly rapid melody in his head, and set to the backdrop of the loud noise of malfunctioning equipment that was coming from the stage. His false confidence thus evaporated, Court quickly turned and ran out of the coffee shop.

All of Court's attention was turned now to the pinball game. His little steel ball had scored him many points, and as long as he kept focus, he was sure he could rack up free game after free game. Being his only refuge after his failed attempt to make conversation with Ana, the game room offered a solitude that no other place in the Student Union could, especially this pinball game. Court allowed his mind a respite from thinking of her, and instead he thought of scoring 40 million points and being first on the high scores list. And so far, with a score of well over 39 million, he was about to do just that. However, Court had some really bad luck that he couldn't seem to shake.

His ball rushes to the top of the playing field and comes to it's apex. Motionless for a moment. It begins it's slow, inexorable descent to Court's waiting flippers, but a touch on his arm and a voice in his ear annihilates his concentration.

Court stares as the ball accelerates, and he stares when the ball lands on one of his impotent flippers. Hands trembling with anxiety, Court looks down at the table but does not see the impending doom of his little pinball. Instead, as the little sphere rolls down the incline, he sees a reflection in the table.

A sweet voice accompanies that reflection, and it's the only thing Court is hearing right about now.

"Court? Are you listening?" Her hand was still on his arm.

Court's mind was busy racing.

HiAnaDoyoulikebeingcalledAnaorisitAnastasiathat'ssuchaprettynamedoyouwant togetcof...

She exhaled, her breath a lot closer than before, and that blasted away any trace of rational thought.

"Yeah, yeah, the band was great and all that," Court says, now comprehending the situation.

"I didn't like them," Anastasia says. Then, "What do you like?" And after a moment, "Do you want to go somewhere?"

All Court can think of to say right now is, "the big guy?" However, he doesn't say that, because he's being lead out of the game room by the object of his desire.

Court thinks this is great and everything, in spite of his earlier failed attempts to execute his foolproof plan of winning her affection, but he is having a hard time picturing what is going to happen next. Floral perfume fills his nose, her thin skirt is flapping against his jeans as they walk. Anastasia walks purposefully and quickly, like she knows exactly what is going on.

Poor Court, though is utterly confused. She asks him what he is thinking about, but he doesn't answer.

He's thinking, "Where in the world is that big guy?"

Court never found out where that big guy was. As it turned out, it didn't matter much. Ana made Court drive, told him to go to her house, but Court never made it because he ran out of gas. Court remembers in perfect detail what happened during the rest of that night, but he's too shy to tell anyone about it. He asks me to keep it a secret, too.

"We'll let them use their imagination," he says with a smile.


"Uh, does anyone want to see my unit?"

--Butthead, Beavis and Butthead do America


[Prev | Next]

by Crux Ansata

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. There is a Monty Python film on the screen. I've seen it before. Everyone's seen it before. Every man, woman, and child capable of speech can recite the film from beginning to end. In a bizarre vindication of Lamark, infants are being born capable of speech, but only for reciting this film.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. I am suddenly aware of a sharp pain in one leg. I look around, and see a fellow in the row ahead of me. Wrapped up in the movie, he has dropped his cigarette in his lap. I snap at him: "Do you mind! You're hurting your leg."

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. There is a hand on my leg. It is not an unpleasant feeling, though it is an unfamiliar one. I look over at her. I am returning her caress. We slip out, forgetful of the friends we each came in with. We are driving, fast, down back roads, but I am not paying too much attention to where I am driving. I have other things on my mind. We park. We kiss. She whispers in my ear to put my hands around her throat. I am scared; I remember unpleasant happenings in my childhood. Thinking back, I fail to think of the present. I crush too hard. Panicked, I push the body out of the car and slip back into the theater.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. I am alone.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. I relax, and let time go by around me. As I relax, time speeds up. People come in, grow old, die around me. Some leave, but very few seem even to realize there is a world outside this room. I try to forget that there is.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. On the screen, a small, inoffensive man is being beaten. The people around me are laughing. I am crying.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. I am cradling a small Arab boy on my lap. His white burnoose drapes around both our laps. He understands nothing going on up on the screen, but that is alright. I can hardly follow it myself. There is little call to use Italian in Algeria. I can follow the action, and so could he if he were watching the screen, but he isn't. He is playing with a large cockroach he captured outside his house. The cockroach runs up one hand to the other, and the boy shifts his hands, to perpetuate the process. I imagine the cockroach must imagine he's going somewhere.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. It isn't dark enough.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. A girl sits beside me. We are in love. I gaze over at her. She is angelic, so young, so pale, so slender. I pull her to me, crush her to me, and we kiss, deeply. She seems extraordinarily alert, like she is superaware of every sensation. Painfully alive. I feel her body convulse slightly. I imagine she is crying, overtaken with emotion, and relax my hold. She coughs. Her child's body is wracked with spasms. Her white dress is streaked with red. After a moment, she turns paler, and is still.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. A girl sits in front of me. In the glow of the screen the fabric of her blouse shimmers and holds close to her skin. It seems to glow in the dark, a pale blue, almost more white than white. As she breathes, the blouse swells and contracts around her, below the ribs, pulsing slowly. I am reminded of the breathing of a toad.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. In front of me, a screen full of actors is staring at me. They laugh.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. I lean back and look up at the ceiling. It is odd, yet soothing. Herring-gull gray, lightly domed, and quilted into small squares, each swollen out, pendant, with a little cloth covered button in the center. The walls are quilted gray like the ceiling. Only the floor has been spared, carpeted with a dull flesh-pink. The forest of hanging pads hangs in upside down rows, like miniature molehills, or ant heaps, or rows of even schoolgirl's breasts, a canopy of nippled buds.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. No girl puts her hand on my leg. I cry.

I am sitting in a darkened movie theater. I look up at the screen. On it, a man is sitting in a darkened movie theater. He looks up at the screen. On it, a man is sitting in a darkened movie theater. ...


Stuckness shouldn't be avoided. It's the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors.

-- Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"


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by I Wish My Name Were Nathan, Wannabe Sage

"Everything is true, everything is permitted." -- Hassan i Sabbah
"Nothing is true, everything is permitted." -- Chaos Magick
"Everything is true, nothing is permitted." -- Dada
"Nothing is true, nothing is permitted, and shut up." -- Government

"This is my Lamp of Truth. It says so right on the base: 'Flip the switch to be Enlightened.' I think the lamp looks nice in the middle of the room, don't you? Someone might trip over the cord so I don't have it plugged in. See the design on that lampshade? I slave to keep it dusted. I think I'll paint the lamp some day. What a pretty lamp nonetheless! I wish I knew how it worked. I have an idea, let's take it apart. Of course there's no instructions. I'm telling you, I need to take it apart to understand it. Aaah, if I break it, I'll just blame you." -- Man

* * * * *

Tobiah was sitting on a metal bench outside in the cold waiting for his bus to pick him up. Shivering there uncomfortably in a too-light jacket grasping his arms around himself reminded him of high school, when he used to do the exact same thing. He hated the cold. He hated to shiver. But he also hated the annoyance of carrying around a heavy jacket all day as he shuttled from class to class. Tobiah's nose dripped resentfully, watery mucous covering his lip and running down over his lips, where he wiped them on the sleeve of his polyester jacket and grimaced at the sound it made. The last thing he needed now was for a girl to hit on him.

"Move over," said a girl who appeared out of nowhere and who proceeded to rap her fist on Tobiah's shoulder. "I wanna sit next to you."

Tobiah scooted over a foot and proceeded to ignore her, caring more at the moment to preserve his warmth the old-fashioned way -- by squandering it. He continued to breathe hot air into his hands, which he'd had to rip out of his pockets in order to keep his runny nose under control, and muttered over and over again in his mind how much he wanted the bus to arrive.

The bus was in fact late, having slid over some ice into oncoming traffic. The driver was okay. The bus was not. Tobiah would be waiting a while.

"Here, kid, mop yourself dry," the girl said, waving a tissue in front of Tobiah's face. "You're gonna get a rash."

He was glad to accept the offer. He snatched the tissue away and held it bunched up over his nose. "Thanks," he said. "What do you want in return?"

The girl smiled. "That's an odd question. Ordinarily, nothing, but since you asked.... What's your name?"

"Tobiah," he said.

"That's an odd name."

"It's just a complicated way of saying 'Toby.'"

"Well, I like it anyway. I'm Leonania."

"Shit, talk about complicated names," Toby said derisively, sniffing up a wad of mucous in surprise.

"I'm just kidding. My real name is Kathryn."

"Oh, okay."

Toby sat back against the brick wall the bench was attached to and sighed deeply. He had come down with a pounding headache, which could only mean that he'd inadvertently stirred up enough heat while talking to sensitize his brain again, reminding him that he wasn't wearing a hat.

"What's wrong?" Kathryn asked.


"You've got no hat."

"Ssssh, leave me alone. I want my head to freeze again so I don't feel it."

"Well, okay."

Kathryn was quite warm, thank you very much, with a leather jacket equipped with a furry collar, a thick green hat, heavy gloves, and jeans.

"Don't your legs get cold?" she asked, looking at Toby's bluing calves.

"I can't feel them anymore. Doesn't matter."

"C'mon, Toby," she said, clapping her hands together, "Put your legs up here where I can hold them. You're much too cute to go to waste."

"Good grief, every day it's the same thing. No, Leonania, or Kathryn, or whatever. I'm perfectly fine. You don't have to save my life. Sheesh! Let a guy freeze, wontcha?"

Kathryn leaned back, bemused. Toby seemed like a tough case. "I'll tickle you," she threatened.

"Go ahead, I can't feel a thing."

She took the bait and immediately reached for Toby's knee and squeezed it between her thumb and forefinger. It elicited no response. "Hmmmm," she said.

"Told ya so," he taunted against his will, wanting ever so much to stay quiet so his headache would go away. He realized with dread that upon thinking of his knee, it started to regain feeling again. "Damn!" he cursed. It started to ache and throb. "Did you break it or what?" He found himself rubbing his knee for warmth, cursing his luck. "Where the hell is the bus?"

"Probably it's stranded, or it got in a wreck while sliding into oncoming traffic or something. That's what they said on the radio, at least."

Toby looked up, appalled. "You knew that all this time? I coulda gone home!"

"I was trying to keep you warm," Kathryn said.

"Dammit, dammit, dammit!" he cursed, standing up uneasily, his confidence weakened both by his numb legs and the tenuous grip his shoes had on the icy sidewalk. "I'm going home now!" he announced, waddling forth down the sidewalk, bracing his face against the breeze he encountered once out of the bench's enclave. "Thanks for the kleenex!" he said, and went off.

Kathryn watched him leave, awed. It was a tense first meeting, she knew, but it only made her more determined to make her his.

* * * * *

The next morning it was even colder than before, but the bus didn't have a wreck and Toby didn't have to wait outside in the cold but for ten minutes. He

clambered up the steps into the bus and took the first seat behind the driver. The driver shut the door and proceeded to release the brake.

"Uh, you might want to wait for Kathryn," Toby said.

"Kathryn who? New rider?"

"Uh... I guess. She was here yesterday."

"Well, too bad for her if she doesn't show up on time, that's what I say. I got a schedule to keep. You tell her to show up earlier tomorrow."

The bus took off, and Toby let forth a resigned sigh. Remembering how she treated him the day before, though, he was indifferent if she had to walk today. He sat back and glanced over his notes.

* * * * *

That day he looked around offhandedly for Kathryn. He wanted to return her tissue. Although it annoyed him for girls to try to save his life, he was very polite about turning them down.

What caught Toby by surprise was the sudden onslaught of female intervention in his life. This was nothing like in high school, when he distinctly remembered girls' mothers warning them to stay away from him. Maybe it was the lack of parental supervision that now allowed these girls to brashly attempt to rescue him from death.

Just a week before, when it hadn't been half as cold, a different girl named Jackie tried to save his life while he sat half-naked on the bench waiting for the bus. She made a big fuss about hypothermia and vasoconstriction and the warm-blooded nature of mammals that necessitated their search for heat energy to prevent dying. He brushed her off politely but still saw her stealing worried glances at him from across the commons sometimes.

He looked sideways and saw Jackie peering at him. He walked on.

Toby had a class in the Fine Arts building on the third floor. Having arrived early, he waited in the stairwell and sat in a window overlooking the parking lot. He saw the heavily-clothed people rushing around below like oversized steaming ants who were eager to get bachelor's degrees. He wondered if he should go sit outside in the cold to attract some more feminine attention. Before he could do it, people started shuffling up the stairs. Class was starting. He'd have to wait until lunch.

* * * * *

At lunch, Toby went outside and sat in a tree and munched on a sandwich. He let his bare legs swing playfully below him as he scanned the crowds for a trace of Kathryn. He couldn't spot her and assumed that like most people she was probably eating at a fast-food place, if she had showed up at all. He let her slip his mind.

Instead, he started thinking about the prophet that was supposed to arrive sometime that week. It was big news at Howard College, which tended toward religious dogmatism in lieu of a nearby video store. A minor prophet was supposed to materialize in a crowd of people in a shower of light. No one knew what a "shower of light" was supposed to look like, but they all agreed that if it were to happen, it'd be pretty much proof that the prophet was really from the beyond.

Toby had thought it would be cool for a prophet to arrive and bring good news from God, so he had written the anonymous letters to the town and school newspapers predicting the prophet's arrival. He fully expected the prophet to show up. It had been a slow winter.

It was recorded fact that no prophets had ever arrived on the campus of Howard College. If Toby had attended the freshman inculcation instead of dropping acid and visiting the bell tower on campus which was his only reason for going there, he would have found out that Artemis Howard, the founder of the college, had indeed intended the students of Howard to be raised in a God- fearing manner that would prepare them for direct words from the Lord. The provost of Howard had been reminded of this every year since, although the statement eventually lost its meaning once Time declared that God was dead. Toby's prediction came at an excellent time to jumpstart the murmuring premillenial fever that would soon overtake the college.

He finished eating his sandwich and jumped down from the tree. His legs were numb and he was sent sprawling to the ground. He got up, face and arms reddening from the impact, smiled proudly, and entered the crowd, trying to judge its enthusiasm for the prophet.

"You're gonna go inside?" he heard a smoker boy say to another. "I know it's cold, but dontcha wanna wait for the prophet?" he jeered.

"Hey, watch it, bucky. It's gonna show up. You fuckin' heretic."

Another small group of people, a few boys, a few girls, were eagerly discussing the letters they'd read in the paper.

"I am, like, so in tune with God right now," one girl gushed. "I think something awesome is gonna transpire."

"I am totally in agreement. Listen, listen. I've been following Timewave Zero for a few months now, and that thing says novelty is supposed to be decreasing this week. Now, if a prophet shows up, that'll totally invalidate McKenna, and it'll prove there's a God."

"Unless it's a test of our faith. Think about that one," one boy added cautiously.

"Just act happy, alright, then God'll be cool with it."

"Do you think the 700 Club reporter will really show up?"

"If he wants to escape Hell, he will."

Toby walked on, cheered by the excitement. He wondered what the prophet would say. Obviously, if it showed up in a shower of light, it would have to be good news, right? Hmmm, he hadn't specified the color of the light. It could be anything -- red, green, black. He started to worry. He rifled through the pages of the paper to reread the letter he'd sent to see what possibilities he'd left open. He hadn't counted on this.

Just within hearing distance, he heard a sobering voice: "What if it's the Prophet of Doom?"

Toby rushed to the bus stop.

* * * * *

Back in his apartment, Toby found his roommate Brad asleep in front of the television. He walked into the kitchen with the remote and pressed his thumb on the volume button until the television's speakers shuddered and the windows rattled. Seconds before Brad woke up screaming, he pressed the mute button, then walked into the living room and said hi.

"I just had this horrible nightmare," Brad groaned, "and I can't remember what it was about."

"Gosh, again?" Toby asked. "How often does that happen?"

"Every time I fall asleep in front of the television. Must be some bad shows on, working their way into my mind."

"Hmmm, maybe it was the news. Have you heard about that prophet that's supposed to appear?"

"Yeah!" Brad said, suddenly sounding interested. "Omigod, I think that's what I dreamed about!"

"You dreamed about the prophet and it was an omen so horrible that you woke up screaming?" Toby asked, frightened.

"Good Lord, it's true! It can't be! We're all going to die!" Brad cried.

"We're all going to die!" Toby screamed. "And you're going to have to answer for raping Clarissa."

Clarissa had been, and still was, Brad's girlfriend. A few weeks before, they had gone on a date and had sex. Brad became morbidly sure that she had cried "no!" during orgasm, meaning their moment of passion had consumated in rape. He was avoiding her now, not answering the phone, staying out of her sight at school. Her increasingly adamant and worried messages on the answering message attested to Brad that she was about to haul him in to the police. Toby did nothing to comfort the sinner.

"The prophet's coming to single you out, Brad. He's gonna damn you to hell."

"Oh, please, God, NO! It can't end this way! I was supposed to go to seminary school! I tried to do everything right! Oh, sweet Jesus, forgive me, oh, forgive me!" Brad moaned.

"Yeah, Brad, you're going to hell. 'A man's got needs?' What kind of an excuse is that?" Toby jeered.

"I never said that!"

"Tsk, tsk. But you thought it. In your heart of hearts, you thought that ravaging that poor girl was the necessary thing to do, didn't you? Otherwise, why did you go through with it?"

"She wanted me to, she --" he protested.

"Brad! How dare you! You're a gusher of lies this afternoon, aren't you? Blaming it on her! Have you heard Clarissa's wailing cries on the answering machine? You've killed a part of her! She's dying, all because of you, Brad!"

"Aaaaaaauuugh!" Brad wailed, falling to his knees.

"What is all this?! You've got some ego, haven't you?" Toby shrieked. "A prophet of God is arriving this week and you think it's all for you! What hubris! What pride! You'll fall, Brad, you'll fall, and that prophet will smite you!"

Brad was crouched in a fetal position on the floor, whimpering.

"Get out of here, you sack of shit! You sicken me! Get out of my sight! I want to concentrate on the glory of God, not the agents of Satan!"

Brad crawled out of the living room and Toby shut the door behind him. He smiled. He had the room to himself. He was glad that Brad left. But, he worried about the possibility that a prophet would arrive only to smite Brad. That sounded a bit extreme. That sounded extremely ominous for Brad. Toby started to worry about him and his soul. Could anyone be so wicked to be singled out by a miracle of punishment? His better judgment told him no. He rationalized that Brad was simply overdramatizing his plight.

- 2 -

With Brad out of the room, Toby was free to explore the solipsistic fantasy that was his life. He had learned the secrets of existence while skipping freshman inculcation at Howard College. He had randomly picked Howard out of a collection of college flyers he'd received, namely for the boast that their "tallest bell tower in the Northwest" got you "closest to God." When he arrived, though, he learned to his chagrin that there were a large number of fundies around him. But, he figured a sizeable portion of the populace was just there for an education like himself, so he would skip the inculcation and a good deal of proselytizing. He was in fact the only professed non-Christian on campus, a discovery that would later amuse him greatly.

In the dorm he stayed in his freshman year, Toby dropped acid. This was a ritual that he'd learned from high school: when you expect the next several hours to be boring, show up tripping -- it might just save you from a life of crime. Then he trekked to the chapel and found the entrance to the stairwell. He climbed for minutes and minutes up the twisting stairs past twenty small windows in the brick until he reached the top.

He looked up over the edge of the short wall surrounding the bell and the brightness of the day, amplified by the acid, overwhelmed his eyes, making him clench them shut. Then his head hit the rim of the bell and an infinitely serene tone rang out and completely filled his mind. As he would later think, he forgot everything he ever believed. An odd sense of importance dissipated his worry about his eyes, and he looked up again. He could manage. He abruptly positioned himself on the ledge surrounding the bell and looked down over the scenery, overwhelmed with wonder at being able to see for miles and miles over forests and plains and nearby cities. The sky was completely empty, a solid hemisphere of blue. A light breeze was blowing. And as he watched, a graceful bird dropped dead in flight and spiraled to the ground. It was the sort of thing that stopped you from getting too philosophical.

This incident nearly panicked him. He hadn't expected anything like that to happen. He wouldn't lose it up here, would he? The sun suddenly seemed much too bright to prevent it. But the possibility seemed silly. He had some sort of control, didn't he? He gazed over the treetops and witnessed another bird die in flight. This one seemed to explode as if it had eaten Alka- Seltzer, leaving behind only a sudden pop.

"Did I do that?" Toby wondered.

At the thought, his mind seemed to suddenly take off, like he was peering into a long tunnel through which he was also flying. Startled, he watched the effect suddenly reverse itself; he flew backwards through the tunnel, right back to where he started. The whole incident seemed like a quick nod.

Quivering, Toby looked back up only to witness two more birds defy logic by falling into the sky after retracting their wings. He followed their path up into the brightness of the sun, where he lost them in a forceful squint.

"Am I imagining this?" he wondered. As if in confirmation, a whole forest of trees below started shaking happily as if blown by a strong wind that didn't exist. His eyes widened in wonder and pain. "Am I imagining all of this?" Every bird in every tree around him suddenly flew up with a fluttering of wings and exploded in a flurry of feathers like a congratulatory fireworks show.

Toby figured that meant "yes." His eyes rolled back in their sockets, and he rolled back over the ledge, fell, and hit his head and fainted.

* * * * *

During his faint, Toby experienced a sudden bout of total recall, docmumenting the fact that he had discovered solipsism before, when he had just started experimenting with dangerous illegal drugs. He had no idea why he'd forgotten; perhaps the idea wasn't interesting enough for him. The details came out as if he were reciting them from short-term memory.

Toby had given up the quest for social acceptance in seventh grade after a rash of measles outbreaks descended upon students sitting close to him in most of his classes. And he had given up the quest for objective truth when his eighth-grade baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano for the science fair had mysteriously erupted into red flames. Free from social obligations and the rationality of science, Toby started rebelling against his parents.

His first act was to get a tattoo. A nice longhaired boy hanging around behind the video game arcade had given him a lick-'n'-stick tattoo with a blue star on it, and about forty-five minutes after applying it, Toby found himself completely changed. Swimming in an electrostatically charged sea of thought, Toby walked around his neighborhood, noticing how his new-found sense of rebellious purposefulness had given all his senses a new clarity and importance. He had a new spring in his step; in fact, when he thought about it, the bottom of his shoes turned into Flubber and a saucy springy sound broadcast from his footfalls. He laughed a loud, raucous, Dionysian laugh, which he could have sworn filled the entire neighborhood and made everyone sitting in their homes look up and grin. Everyone he passed by seemed to understand his new-found rebellious nature. When they saw Toby approach, they wisely looked down and stepped aside, so as not to incur the wrath of a naughty teenager. Toby felt he could peer into these passersby's minds and understand their abeyance. He almost lost his cool at how everyone -- kids, adults, animals? -- reacted in the same robotlike manner by looking down and stepping aside; some of them even fled.

His desire to walk having been abated, Toby returned home and shut himself in his room. He was amazed at the power a simple tattoo had given him. His overriding emotion, however, was the joy of discovering his ability to influence people just by imagining that he was powerful, for that's all he was doing, wasn't it? Looking down at the large blurry decal on the back of his hand, he even allowed himself to fear his power. He didn't deserve this sort of influence, did he? Of course not. But he did have it, right?

The doubts and the counterdoubts spun into an intricately complex tapestry of confusion in Toby's mind, which he resolved by forgetting all of it and starting over. The simplest explanation had to be the correct one: he'd always had this ability, but it had been latent until he decided to exercise it by rebelling against his parents and getting a tattoo. Allowing for some humility, he understood it all at once. These people had acted afraid simply because he wanted them to. Easy enough. But he hadn't copped a mean enough expression to fool everybody, had he? Of course not. The amended answer: if these people obeyed him without his telling them to, there must be some intimate link between him and everyone else; namely, that he had invented them for his own pleasure. Only he had free will. The obvious answer that every two-year-old seems to understand. Why had he forgotten it?

Toby looked back at various annoying or painful events in his life and chided himself for letting his inventions fool him so. The whole time, he could have simply spoken up -- or what? imagined himself powerful like he did today? -- and gotten them under control. But he wasn't an egomaniac. He understood clearly that if he hadn't been able to handle them before, he might not be able to control them later. And also, a lot of the things that happened seemed more enjoyable just because he didn't consciously cause them. So, he went to sleep, awed and overjoyed by his discoveries, and woke up dazed, but with the firm conviction that he should try to find out how he'd let all this happen.

The new attitude he adopted toward other people didn't earn him many friends over the next four years.

* * * * *

When he came to in the bell tower, Toby felt no more hallucinogenic effects of the acid besides having an intensely focused insight into the philosophy he'd once forgotten and was now rediscovering.

Looking down at his new campus again, a realization leapt into his heart. It somehow seemed imperative that at least one other person would have joined him in the bell tower, but every tiny figure he saw scurrying about below headed straight for the auditorium, according to schedule. As he had remembered, people tended to obey him when he was tripping. Was it really just the tattoo? He had harnessed the ability to control his people on several occasions. A sickeningly demoralizing thought shocked him: maybe he wouldn't be able to regain that power. Perhaps it would be impossible, even, for him to control over people he'd never met. But he had some power over those in his neighborhood, who he'd only casually known. Maybe it was more intricate than person-to-person contact. Maybe he'd have to immerse himself in their culture for decades to be able to understand them.

His isolation in the bell tower suddenly reminded him of Quasimodo. Was he indeed going to find himself isolated from all these people forever, from the humanity which he invented? The possibility seemed silly. What kind of inventor would be utterly out of touch with what he had made? An Einstein?

Einstein. Hmmm. The classic example of invention gone awry, wasn't it? His discovery of the relation between matter and energy led to the unleashing of the power of the atom. Then that innocuous discovery got into the hands of Oppenheimer, who warped it into a way to brutally dispose of thousands of Japs, and then the Bomb came to enslave the most "advanced" countries in the world in a neverending game of King of the Mountain. Einstein didn't want to claim responsibility for all that, but since he had indeed discovered the means by which it would all happen, didn't he have to be blamed?

It sounded ludicrous to Toby, although the thoughts emanated from his own mind, which had supposedly created Oppenheimer as well. He reeled under the stress of comprehending the sheer complexity of what he had supposedly created. Could he really be responsible for all this? Was he really born eighteen years earlier, only to conjure up the infinite complexity of the human race before he became fully conscious at a few years of age? Or had he been alive for the whole duration, but only "human" at this late stage in the game? Because if not, he would have had to have been the only human on earth before he invented the others: so where had he come from in the first place? Had he just created this planet called earth for the purpose of watching his inventions play and kill and create? He didn't want to credit himself with having been that powerful. Moreover, he didn't want to take responsibility for all that he saw around him.

These doubts, more shocking and grounding than any he had let himself experience before, startled Toby into seriously rethinking his solipsistic reality. He knew he couldn't take credit for everything people had ever done, but that would imply giving them credit for it, which implied they were all like him. But he knew they weren't, since they didn't have power over him.

He reconsidered Einstein. What that man had discovered took on a life of its own, literally exploded into its own existence, which certainly continued after he had died. If that were true, then Toby wouldn't have control over human beings when he died, would he?

Unable to comprehend how humanity could have become so complex in his own mind before he was conscious to realize he had created it, and unable to understand how it could exist after he died, Toby made a compromise. He decided that if he ever had spawned another human being, that it had instantly broken away from him to take on a life of its own. And if he and that other human had spawned another human being, then it too had instantly broken away to take on a life of its own. And everything each of them did instantly broke away to exist by itself. It was a scary, weakening thought. Maybe Toby hadn't created any of the people around him. But if he hadn't, then how was he able to maintain any power over them when he wore his tattoo? He couldn't decide.

His mind overwhelmed, he walked down the spiraling staircase of the bell tower and silently joined his colleagues at dinner. He eyed them with a curious suspicion the whole time.

* * * * *

In an attempt to verify his solipsistic theory, Toby decided he'd create a prophet. It seemed like an excellent way to test his powers, if he had any. Maybe he hadn't directly created anything but his own thoughts. But once his thoughts became public, they would take on a life of their own. Toby fully expected the prophet to appear because so many people were talking about and expecting it to happen. He had an idea about group miracles, such as the mass sighting of the Virgin Mary at Fatima. The children had witnessed the prophet announcing Mary's forthcoming arrival -- at a specific time, date, and place. Enough people had heard what the children had learned that they expected it to happen and therefore made it come true. Much the same, Toby expected the prophet to appear. He regretted his lack of specificity. The steadfast religious beliefs of the people on campus and the millenial fever were sure to trigger a miracle or two. All they needed was an official prediction. An anonymous letter to the local papers? Only someone with extremely close ties to God, or some lunatic, would write such a letter. But the people on campus didn't want to believe it was a lunatic.

What he only realized later was that he had no idea what the prophet would say. He had been sufficiently vague in his letters to allow for any possibility. If he could not predict what the prophet would say, then how could he really know if he created it? Perhaps his inner self would know, and his outer, ordinary self didn't. Toby felt sure that somehow, he'd know that whatever the prophet said was obvious, thereby validating his solipsistic reality. Nonetheless, the loophole upset him.

* * * * *

And what was only more annoying was the fact that all these girls were trying to save his life. Sitting in Brad's chair in front of the turned-off television set, Toby suddenly got the uncomfortable feeling that Kathryn was nearby. He jerked his eyes toward the window, and saw nothing. He stood up and peered through the blinds and saw no one either retreating or ducking under the window. Confused, he looked back toward the television and realized a letter was on it. He walked toward the letter and saw it inscribed with his name. There was no return address but he somehow knew it was from Kathryn.

He opened the envelope and pulled out a piece of paper which had nothing on it except a sentence written in a female hand:

"Please stay warm, Toby."

"Dammit!" he cursed, balling up the letter and tossing it near the trash can. "She's gonna make me sick just reminding me about this!" Each such warning drove him closer to considering going naked just to show these girls that he could take it. After all, he rationalized, wasn't he just imagining he was cold?

He marched into his room and took off all his clothes. A few minutes later, lounging on the living room in front of the television he was afraid to turn on both for issues of its former volume and for the static electricity it would generate, Toby realized he didn't really want to go out naked. He wasn't prepared to bring up the issue of winter nudity on a Baptist campus, not to mention that the reactions of the females and some of the males might cause mutual upset. He returned to his room and put on a conservatively-cut speedo and returned outside. It was about minus ten degrees celcius today.

Toby walked down to the bus stop in order to make an appearance on campus for afternoon classes. The few other students huddling around in their heavy coats took on a noticeably less self-pitying posture about seeing Toby. He heard all their whispers, or at least knew where to look, when he saw puffs of condensation float emanating excitedly from two nearby people. He didn't want to sit down, noting the metallic, heat-sucking nature of the benches and their backrests. His feet had instantly stopped providing painful messages to his brain and retreated into a numb selfishness once he had stopped walking, for which he was grateful.

No sign of the bus. No one was trying to save his life, either, he figured because there was a critical mass of people at the bus stop to embarrass any humanitarians into silence. He was happy for this, except that he figured a little conversation would be nice so that he would remember to stay awake. To pass the time, he peeked into the front of his speedo and said, "Wow."

In a screaming mass of steamy exhaust, the bus arrived, and the others let Toby get on first, whispering to each other the whole time. He sat back in a seat and brushed the ice out of his hair and prepared for the pain of thawing.

* * * * *

Back on campus, Toby looked around eagerly for Kathryn so he could yell at her to leave him alone. He knew this was a lost cause, since he hadn't even seen her face the morning before, her being the type to seek the comfort of winter clothing. Not to mention, he'd never seen her before yesterday either. He spat an ice pellet at the sidewalk and hurried inside.

He had about an hour before his next class, so he sat in the library reading room with a copy of "Advocate" to avoid small talk. He forgot that the size of the library suggested that most people did not read and wouldn't catch the reference.

"Um, excuse me, hi?" a voice said.

Toby put down the magazine and remained looking in the same general direction. "What?" he snapped. For a solipsist, he couldn't understand why he couldn't control his imagination enough to be left alone.

"Aren't you cold?" the girl asked.

"Not inside."

"I know, yeah, of course, I meant, like, outside," she corrected herself, grinning uneasily, trying to look in his eyes.

"Outside the cold eventually numbs my nerves so it doesn't matter."

"Wow, that's brave."

Toby looked up in surprise.

"I've never known someone so willing to lay their life on the line for Christ."

It was Toby's turn to grin uneasily. He nodded and hid behind the magazine until she went away.

For the rest of the hour, there was no sign of Kathryn. He went to class, took the bus back home, and put on sensible clothing and decided to forget about the whole matter.

* * * * *

Once he had forgotten, Kathryn finally showed up, as Toby soon figured out by looking behind him to see where the running footsteps were coming from on his way back to school the next morning.

"Hi, Toby," she said, catching up to him.


"You look warm today."

"I guess I do. The temperature's up a little," he said, grinning. Also he was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

"You've been looking for me, haven't you?" Kathryn asked, following him.

Toby was a little startled. "Uh, not particularly."

"Oh, you, stop kidding. I heard what you were wearing yesterday. It sounded really cute."

He stopped walking and turned around. Maybe she was a defector from the prudish standards of Howard! He looked at her face for the first time and noticed that her eyes were gleaming, hard to look away from. "Cute, how?"

"Oh, you just want your ego cuddled."

"I guess I do," he replied, thinking that there seemed to be nothing wrong about imagining that he was complimenting himself. There was an uncomfortable silence, since Kathryn wouldn't respond, but only stood smiling at him until he turned around and kept walking.

As they approached the bus stop, Kathryn finally spoke up. "Why were you dressing so skimpily this week?"

"I'll tell you the truth," he lied. "I was just caught by surprise. Didn't know it would be so cold."

"Are you from the south?"

"Yehhhhp," he drawled, smiling.

"You weren't bitching about the weather, though. I like that in a man."

"Awww, 'twarn't nothin'," he jibed. "After all," he said, "the weather's all in my mind anyway."

Kathryn honed in on that. "All in your mind?"

"Well, uh," he stammered, "I meant, when I'm thinking about it."

"I'm not so sure that's what you meant, Toby."

Kathryn stepped ahead and peered into his face for a while, until she nodded and sat down on the bus stop bench.

"So, you think you control things?" she asked grinning, arms crossed.

Toby sat down on the bench, startled. It seemed like his mind was being focused against his will, like the time up in the tower when all the birds exploded. Did Kathryn know she was a figment of his imagination? It would be devastating for her!

"No, my dear, all I control is my own thoughts," he said, in a very suave manner.

"Aaaaaaaaaaah," she said sarcastically, greatly upsetting Toby. "Why don't you just imagine that I won't be devastated by finding out you think you invented me?"

Toby's eyes goggled at that, and he decided he should stay quiet to avoid any more confusion, either for himself or her, since any confusion of hers eventually meant confusion for him. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I don't know how you could be a more obvious liar," she said, still smiling.

"Listen," Toby said, disturbed. "Why are you doing this?"

"I'm not doing this. You're just imagining that I am! It's all your trip, isn't it?" she asked, apparently with great pleasure.

"Damn, where's the bus?"

"It'll never show up, because that would make things too easy for you."

"Because you imagine that I don't want it to show up?" he asked.

"Nope. Because I don't want it to show up."


* * * * *

"Can I make things clear?" Kathryn asked.

"Sure, go ahead," Toby said, confused, but warm.

"I happen to know that you think you're imagining this."

"I figured that out," he said, deflated, but somehow relieved. He hadn't had great success in interpreting the world through a solipsistic lens and wanted to find out how his people saw things.

"All this."

"Yeah, I know."

"But none of this should matter, should it?" Kathryn asked. "It shouldn't matter that I found out that you think all of reality is in your imagination. After all, I think I'm imagining all this."

Toby looked up in interest. "Yes? That's cool! I always wanted to ask one of you what you thought reality was like. I'm intrigued."

"You sound distinctly condescending, Toby. You ought to stop that. More precisely, I ought to stop imagining that you're being condescending. Because you're a figment of my imagination."


"I created all this. All this cold weather, this late bus, you, the idiot who thought a metal bench would be great in the north, I made it all up," Kathryn said, smiling.

"But... I thought I did," Toby said. To preserve internal consistency, he never thought he'd tell anyone about that, but at the moment he was in a serious predicament.

"And just for fun, I gave you the idea that you had come up with it all. You know, for self-esteem and such. Do you like it? Did it empower you?"

"Um, I, uh... Well..."

"Wait a second, hush. Someone else is coming."

Another rider was walking up to Toby and Kathryn. Upon approaching the bench, he looked up in surprise and clumsily continued walking down the sidewalk toward a more distant bus stop.

"Geez, Toby, that was close."

"How do you mean?" he asked.

"He almost realized that we found it out."

"Found what out?"

"He knows that we've cracked his secret," Kathryn said sadly.


"I've been fooling you, Toby. That guy is the one whose reality we exist in. He imagined up all this. Neither of us did. We're his pawns. Lucky he let us continue this little game and didn't smite us."

"Him? Who is that guy?"

"It's always the one you least suspect."

The real inventor of all reality had turned around and passed by the two, murmuring, "And don't you forget it!" He then covered his mouth and burst into laughter and ran off.

Toby's mouth fell open as he watched the guy run away.

Kathryn reached into her pocket and pulled out a small square of paper. "Here," she said, placing it on Toby's lolling tongue. "You'll need this. It's gonna be a long day."

Toby closed his mouth.

"And looky here," Kathryn said. "Once we both realize that we're not in control, the bus finally arrives. C'mon, let's go to my house." Kathryn tugged on Toby's arm and led him away from the confused bus driver and toward her house.

* * * * *

Toby decided that Kathryn probably had something important to say and gave in. He'd mulled over his solipsistic reality for more than a year and a half to no avail. He had drifted through classes, gradually accepting the fact that he couldn't understand everything he had created, and to a large extent, he had given up. The idea to create a prophet on campus was just a way of amusing himself.

"As you can see, I still live with my parents, but they're at work. Aaah, they couldn't even tell if we were tripping. No need to worry. C'mon, sit on the couch and tell me how you think you created all this."

Toby was speechless. He couldn't decide whether to deny everything, to get up and run out, or to fall asleep in self-defense. He still wasn't sure if he was pulling a great joke on himself or not.

"You're not," Kathryn said.

"Okay, okay, now, stop it! You're freaking me out!"

"Are you saying that you're freaking yourself out, because I don't really exist?" Kathryn probed.

"No! Stop it! I give up. I was deluded."

"You were, huh? So you really believed all that?" she asked, taking a more relaxed posture.

"Well, I'm still not entirely sure -- and-please-don't-interrupt-me! -- but I was finding it difficult to explain how I could have come up with all of reality."

"All of reality! Wow, you went pretty far. Most solipsists are content with thinking they're the only sentient beings in existence."

Toby's eyes lit up. "Hey, maybe that can explain this --"

"Stop! No! You're wrong! I won't let you go down that path either. It's even more ego-cuddling than what you were thinking. Plus it makes you sort of cold to your fellow people, being robots as they are."

"Ahh, yeah," he said, thinking that he hadn't exactly been at one with humanity anyway.

"Solipsism has been officially disproven by the government, you know."


"Yes, in 1879, the U.S. government did some philosophical inquiries, all top-secret, you know, collaborating with the top-ranking metaphysical minds of the Western world, and decided that solipsism was not a good mindset for the citizens of a democratic world power. It tends to discourage voting."

"Oh," he said, startled.

"No, seriously, Toby. It's just a silly way to think. It might be comforting to think that you're living in a dreamworld, but it's just not logically consistent. Everyone can imagine she's living in a dreamworld. And so what? What does that prove?"

"Well, I might just be imagining that everyone else is imagining that they're living in a dreamworld."

"So what?!" Kathryn snapped. "It's as equally pointless. Listen, Toby, I'm here to help you. You won't get much further in life with these silly ideas about reality."

"This is all starting to remind me of a speech my fifth-grade teacher gave to me once," Toby said with bitter nostalgia.

"Hmmm. You weren't a solipsist that far back, were you?" she asked with lip-biting concern.

"No, not just yet. Back then it was me cutting in line to the drinking fountain because, as I explained, I was thirstier than the other kids, who were just taking advantage of the opportunity to drink just because they could."

"God forbid you turn into a communist," Kathryn said, grinning.

"Oh no, I love America."

"Yeah," she replied, her grin fading.

A nervous silence ensued, in which Toby refused to laugh and Kathryn refused to press on until she figured out what sort of fool Toby was.

Toby spoke up. "Say, Kathryn, have you heard about that prophet that's supposed to appear on campus?"

"Yes! In fact I have. That's one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you."

"Oh, really?" he asked, nervous. Did she know?

"Yes, yes! What the hell is up with this millennialist fever going around? Why do people fall for this over and over? Christ is supposed to have returned ten thousand times in the past already. Why are people so attracted like moths to the year 2000? Is that really such a sweet and pure number? It's just another big candle people are gonna get burned up in."

"Millennialism? Since when did that come into the picture?" he asked, irritated.

"You know as well as I do that religious revivalism has been increasing recently. I used to attribute this to people's longing for some sort of spiritual filler so long denied in American life, but now I know it's a mad rush to get saved before the Rapture when all their best friends and drinking buddies disappear off the face of the earth."

"You're mighty cynical, Kathryn," he said, unwittingly speaking to her as if she were still in his imagination.

"There you are, speaking to me as if I were still in your imagination!" she scolded him. "I think I know what I'm talking about, alrighty?"

"Sorry," he mumbled, cheeks burning.

"But I'm glad you brought it up, because I wanted to talk to you about this too. Think about this -- I really am in your imagination in some form, right? I mean, all you can do is perceive me. All perception occurs in your mind. So, in reality, I might just be a really complicated hallucination."

"Yeah, that makes some sense. I've considered that before, but --"

"But wait! That's about as far as you can take it, Toby. Everything else in reality, you must experience the same way, through perceptions. Biologists know that sensation is primary, but those senses are filtered through your mind even before you can consciously perceive them. So, necessarily, unless you consider yourself to be perfectly objective, your mind warps everything it senses into perceptions that are appropriate for you at that given moment, right?"

"Yes. I've taken acid. I know that perceptions aren't always accurate."

"And in a few minutes," she said, "they'll really be fucked up. But somehow it makes it easier to understand things. Anyway, the whole point of this is that the prerequisite for solipsism does exist, in that your brain holds an interpretation of reality that only you can have. It's only a faulty step forward to believe that since you created the interpretation, that you created the actual thing. Unless, of course --"

"-- you think you created the actual thing too," Toby said, realizing the fallacy he'd taunted himself with many times before.

"Exactly," Kathryn said, smiling and bouncing happily on the couch.

"Just a second, Kathryn," he said with a hint of sarcasm. "Do you think you're teaching me something new here? I knew this all along."

"Oh yeah, wise guy?" she asked unflinchingly. "Then what's with this immature clutching of solipsism?"

"First of all, I want to know just how you knew about that in the first place. I never told anyone, especially you. This sort of weirdness only makes it easier to believe that you're a product of my faulty brain, which is somehow allowing you to grill me about this."

"Haven't you ever heard of mind-reading, silly?" she asked.

"Yes I have, but that's a little impossible, as any scientist will tell you."

"Not exactly, my friend," she said.

Her words seemed to be strangely sinister and all-knowing, but Toby forgot about that when he saw something moving out of the corner of his eye. He snickered. "Wait, what did you say?" he asked suddenly.

"'Not exactly, my friend,' I said," she said.

"Whoa, that's like infinite regress there and all," he blathered, his thoughts starting to expand into ludicrosity as well as deeper realms.

Kathryn sensed this. "I think you're about ready for the important stuff now."

* * * * *

"You drugged me," Toby said, giggling.

"What, already? Your brain must be congested with the stuff! That notwithstanding, you knew that already."

"I know. I was just pointing it out," he laughed. After thoughtful consideration, he added, "'Notwithstanding.' We're sitting! It's true!" He looked into space again for a few seconds and remarked, "That was really funny."

"Glad to see you're joining me now. May I continue?"

Toby was looking at something visually appealing and only caught the question after several seconds. "Hmm?"

"May I continue? We were talking about mind-reading."

He looked back, comically turning his head with wide-open eyes to meet her gaze. "Miiiind-reading."

"Yes. Please try to concentrate. This will be interesting."


"Let's start at the beginning. You wondered how I could know that you were a solipsist without your actually being one."

"Yes, Kathryn, I wondered that, and I still do," Toby replied in a newscaster's voice, giggling.

"Well, let's say that I myself had that point of view for quite a while myself, until a few years ago. But, I worked myself out of that. When I saw you two days ago -- which really wasn't the first time -- I understood that you might be a solipsist yourself."

"That's really interesting," Toby said, finding his concentration rapidly returning. "You too? What was that like?"

"It was fun for a while, you know, thinking that nothing really mattered because I had just made it all up. It helped me fail some classes I didn'tparticularly like, too. Kind of a radical way to get rid of a problem, you know, by ignoring it until it goes away, because the class did go away, but the grade remained."

"Kinda like a tracer," Toby suggested.

"Yeah! I was gonna say that, but it sounded silly."

"Better to say it's like an afterimage, I guess. It's not the actual class that haunts you anymore, but the residue left behind: the grade. Sorta the same way something you look at for a long time leaves a fuzzy afterimage."

"That's pretty deep, you know."

"Aaah," Toby said, "it's all bullshit. Acid turns me into an armchair philosopher on acid."

"Nothing wrong with that."

"I guess. We were talking about solisp-- solisp-- solipsism. I didn't do what you did, how you ignored problems to make them go away, or how you got apathetic, and all that. I was trying to figure out the way it all worked when you destroyed my mind," he said, giggling. "Destroyed my mind! What the hell! I meant to say something along the lines of -- uh, those lines are destroyed too. Forget it. It was fun anyway."

"Listen. The whole point was, that I had an intuition that you were thinking along those lines yourself, and I wanted to help you out of it."

"Meddling in my mind, are you trying to do there by helping me, aren't you?" Toby asked, grinning.

Kathryn gave an uncomfortable smile. "You could look at it like that, but it's really very important. Is it alright?"

Toby waved his hand through the air, dismissing the problem, and also giggling at the momentary sensation -- er, perception, that his hand had flown off in the process. "Talk me to death, Kathryn. This is fun."

"Okay, thanks. Do you know what I meant when I said that I could sense that you were thinking solipsistically?"

"Not really. I'm trying to ignore that part."

"But don't! Don't! It's the whole point of this, okay? You gotta understand that."

"All I can do right now is pretend I understand."

"Exactly! That's so deep! Listen, think about, oh, a school setting, okay? About education. About how people learn things."


"The purpose of that is to make sure the kids all learn how to function in society, right? But even lower-level than that is to get the kids to understand the teachers. I'll admit, that hardly ever goes mentioned, and so hardly ever works anymore, and that's the whole problem with education now, but I've got to tell you why, first."

"I think I'll sit back and try to absorb this into my tongue. Hee-hee!"

"Good. Now, in the ideal case, let's limit ourselves to that, a teacher is supposed to form a special bond with her student, right...? Oh, wait, you're not going to talk. Okay, a special bond. That bond serves to make it easier for the student to learn, and for the teacher to teach. Also, it includes some sort of friendship, in the ideal case. That make sense?"

"Yes. You can talk reeeeeally well there."

"Practice. -- I suggest that that bond is merely a high degree of similarity of thought. In other words, the two have to think alike, or as closely alike as possible. That's how the bond comes into being."

"It's like learning the teacher's style."

"Yes! Exactly! It's the same in really any close relationship. Two people have enough similarities in one way or another that they feel comfortable with each other. Just like in a romantic relationship, where two people feel the same sort of comfort, but taken to a higher level. You know how they can complete --" she said, pausing. "Complete other people's sentences. (That was a little silly of me.)"


"Forget it. Remember, being comfortable is an important part of it. But to me, comfort is just recognizing that similarity. And, here's the point, I felt that sort of comfort when I met you."

"Yeah?" Toby said, suddenly excited. "I was just going to say that it seems like I've known you for years. -- Have I?"

"Who knows? Probably not. But underneath, we're very similar. I can sense that."

"How? How did you know that? It's so weird! Is this that all where you could tell I was thinking in a solipsistic manner?"

"Yes, it was. But see, it wasn't on any conventional level of understanding, you see. I mean, think about the analogy. I wasn't familiar or comfortable with you on a personal level, since I didn't know you. I wasn't familiar or comfortable with you on, say, a physical level, since we look very different. But, on some level, I knew we were similar. And that was in recognizing that you were solipsistic."

Toby sat back in deep consideration. "This is turning into... some sort of pattern. I mean, I can't really concentrate on what you're saying. I keep on thinking of things being similar, like ice and water and steam, and even couches and benches, and... that's really odd. Couches and benches aren't really similar at all, except that you can sit on them. But, say, we're more similar than a couch and a bench, since we're both people... and students... and young people...."

"Yes! Think about the teacher and the student again. The way our society has it, the teacher is way older than the student. So the teacher has grown up in a different time period -- a different culture, practically. This didn't happen in the past, because culture didn't change so fast, but now it's a big problem! Teachers and students are naturally uncomfortable with each other. I mean, look at what I'm doing to you now. I'm teaching you things. But this is being a lot easier than if, say, Artemis Howard himself tried to teach you all this."

"Wow, holy shit, this is amazing!" he blurted out. "I've never thought about learning this way! You know, Kathryn, I feel really out-of-place on campus, since -- ha-ha -- I'm an atheist! Why the hell did I come here in the first place? I can't be comfortable with either the students or the teachers!"

"But Toby, all is not lost! If you understand that you're different, you can work to see things in their perspective, and thereby become more comfortable with them. It doesn't have to mean you turn into a fundamentalist, but you can at least learn how they think."

"Oh, wow! I just thought of something else. I was thinking -- ha-ha -- I should have just changed them to understand me... but that was really silly! It's really hard to do that! I don't even know how to! The way you're talking at me, I think it would be possible somehow to do it, but it would take so much energy! If I just think like them though, then I can be a little more comfortable." He added, "But I won't turn into them!"

"Think about this, though, Toby. This may sound offensive, but look at civil rights legislation. It sounds good on paper, but the government tried to change everyone's mind all at once through a law. What kind of familiarity was there between the white hick racist and the college-educated liberal lobbyist at the time? None! None at all! Just like with teachers and students who have nothing in common, trying to impose new ways of thought upon a whole segment of people raised in racist times was ludicrous! And it didn't solve the problem, of course, it only increased tension that didn't have to exist. You see, if the people responsible for education had, say, taken all the kids away from their parents' homes and taught them multiculturalism to begin with, then a whole generation would grow up with these ideas already in mind."

"Parents would sure as hell hate that, though. 'You doggone turned my kid into a nigger-lover!'"

"Yeah, that's one of the drawbacks of society. Kids have to be raised in their own families. It really holds back progress, you know. Families and 'it takes a community to raise a child' kind of things are great for traditional societies that don't want anything to change -- hell, it worked great for thousands of years -- but it really hinders widespread social change."

"Okay, you've blown my mind yet another time. Push harder! Maybe I'll go insane," Toby said, giggling madly.

"Oh, if you believe half of what I'm going to say, you'll easily be considered insane."

* * * * *

"You can make this teaching analogy with just about anything, Toby. See that computer over there? Why do you think those things are getting so damned popular now? Just a few years back, one could assume that you didn't have a computer, but now people give you their homepage URLs when you meet. Oh, by the way, mine's <>."

"'Whack whack?' What the hell?" Toby blurted out, laughing hysterically.

"That's the way you pronounce slashes, you know. I heard it in the alternative media."

"'Whack whack!' 'Whack whack!' You're fucked up!"

"It's a fun way to live, you know. Anyway, about computers and such. Technology is just like a really good teacher. Think of that. Once upon a time, women had to spend a good portion of their time knitting or whatever they did. It was a really intricate art with all those stitches and such, took all that time, energy, and patience. But then technology comes along and machines spit out fabrics and other machines cut out shirt shapes and other machines sew them together. And naturally, people love this! Women can do other things with their time, and people can get a wide variety of clothing without having to find the resident knitting guru. Think of it as if the machines 'teach' the thread how to be a shirt. Machines are really efficient teachers. People are not. That's why people love machines. Computers are just another example of that. It's a way to 'teach' your words into becoming nice printed documents, for example --"

"And programming is teaching the computer how to do new things. Ohhh, lordy, that infinite regression is happening to me again."

"Ain't it fun?"

"Oh man, it's like a fractal. Flashlights teach the room how to be visible... that's going a little far, isn't it?" Toby asked sheepishly.

"No, not at all!" Kathryn exclaimed. "Certainly no one refers to a flashlight's function in those terms. I mean, there are a lot of different words for the same basic things. If you think of things my way, a lot of verbs involve teaching of some sort."

"An idea is creeping into my mind. You said that teachers and students have to be familiar with each other to have learning go on, and you related that to two people in a friendship having to be familiar with each other. But I know that perfect familiarity, i.e., a duplicate of myself, would be unbearable. Even thinking of myself as I am is unbearable sometimes. What's going on with that?"

"Hmm, I'm not sure. Talk about it some," Kathryn suggested.

"Well. That technology thing. People aren't going to settle for the technology we have today, are they? I bet that computer there will be upgraded in a year, tops. If technology is so great, why don't people stick with it?"

"It wears out!"

"Wears out... I mean, just like the novelty of having a duplicate of yourself around. That would be fun for a few days -- well, hours -- and then I'd go batty. I wouldn't like it. The fun would wear out. Just like technology. Or... oh, boy, this is fucked up -- just like how a flashlight wears out, in terms of batteries, and can't teach the room how to be visible anymore." He paused. "Oh, that's way out there."

"Not really! You have to change the batteries, and it'll be the same flashlight it ever was, right? Unless you get a new flashlight altogether, which is brighter and doesn't use batteries as much. But that might not happen. Or, with the duplicate-you example. You'd want to change the duplicate in some way to make it more interesting. Say, give him a cocky Cockney accent. But it would still grow stale. Better to just get a new person to be friends with. Or, like how people upgrade computers. They still perform the same function, but maybe in a different or faster way. But we can't really get a totally new tool to replace it yet."


"Think about how it works in your mind. It might be comfortable to hold the same beliefs since childhood and think the same thoughts all day long until the end of time, but that'll wear out pretty quick. You'll have to adapt your thoughts. Kind of like staring at a bright light. It might be fun for a few seconds, since it's pretty novel and stupid, but you'd want to get rid of that pretty quick as well. So, instead, you'd have to think of something completely new."


Kathryn's eyes lit up. "Aah-hah, Toby. Think of this. Life itself is like that. Why don't we have only amoebae inhabiting the earth? I mean, look at 'em -- they can live on a small amount of food, and they reproduce really quickly. Why did they have to evolve into things like jellyfish? That just complicated matters. Or even reproduction itself. Amoebae divide asexually, don't they? So why is there even this deal with two things getting together to make a new thing? That's too much trouble!

"But look at it the way we have been. Somehow, the amoeba got tired of being all alike, eating the same shit, reproducing the same way. So the DNA mutated and something changed. Oooh! The DNA was what got tired of being the same. It had to be! The amoeba, as we well know, couldn't have had those kinds of complex thoughts. Yes, yes! It's like, how sensation and perception differ. DNA is like the sensation, and the amoeba is like the perception. One is primary, one is secondary. Only the primary thing can make any difference. But that doesn't explain why amoeba are alike in the first place. We agreed that perceptions may differ widely from reality... ooh! The way each amoeba lives out its life cycle is completely unique, isn't it? They don't all move to the same beat. They slither about in utterly different ways to eat utterly different ways at different times in different places after the DNA has created a new one. Kind of like how the perception, once separated from the sensation, can take off in any way possible. So, so, back to DNA, when the whole amoeboid way of life became unsuitable for the DNA, it somehow managed to get sexual reproduction into the picture. Sort of like if you had the boring situation of having a clone of yourself around, you'd want to find a totally new person to be friends with. That way, the longest a strand of DNA has to experience the same structure is through the one lifetime of the organism it creates. By necessity, that has to change whenever two organisms reproduce. So there's constant variety! That's how DNA solved boredom!"

Toby stared at Kathryn for what seemed like minutes. "I think I'm about to flip out now. You've blown my mind to pieces. Can we go outside and walk? I want to be sure I still can."

"No, and think of this! Before sexual reproduction even came into the picture, the DNA mutated slightly when the amoebae divided -- sort of like how, with your clone, you'd want to change it around somehow to make things more palatable -- for both of you! But that's just a little set of changes! If you really wanted to have fun, you have to find a different person! Just like how sexual reproduction forced DNA to find different DNA to connect with! Oh, good lord, this does work -- it's like how you can upgrade your object X of technology until it just doesn't do the trick anymore, then dump it, and try a totally different object Y!"

"Aaaaah!" Toby cried. "You're destroying my mind!"

"Destroying! Destruction! Destruction! Holy fuck! Now, if we weren't tripping right now, I wouldn't have been able to convince you of any of this. Maybe I could have adapted your thoughts," she chattered, nudging Toby on the shoulder, "like the amoeba could have adapted to new environments, or you could have adapted your clone, or you could adapt the computer to your current needs. BUT, since we're tripping, we both went past that primitive adaptation process, and I destroyed your thoughts, and replaced them with a totally new framework of reality! Just like the primitive animals destroyed relying on the asexual reproduction process and went on to a new way of reproducing, or how you destroyed the possibility of being friends with your clone since you knew it wouldn't work out and instead found a totally new person, or how the computer as technological giant might be destroyed and replaced with something totally new and inconceivable! Oh, but that's only if the computer wears out. Right now it's okay to adapt it." She leaned back and took some deep breaths.

"Kathryn, you are a goddess. I can even forgive you for stretching out the meaning of the word 'destroy'."

"You're just saying that because we understand each other so well right now. You might as well be complimenting your own understanding."

"That's true. Now, listen here. I see a trend here. When DNA started marching towards constant changes, or constant novelty, that resulted in bigger, more complex animals. And, technology, marching along, is also resulting in more intricate shit. I guess you could say that my choice of friends since childhood has gotten more complex too -- I won't accept just anyone else as a friend. It's looking like everything is heading towardstotal, absolute complexity! Like... oh... why can't I drink out of a river anymore? I don't even live by a river, first of all. And also I'd be afraid of contaminants. And also I'd want to carry the water around with me. So, for all this, we've created Evian. Portable rivers. And we pay for it too!"

"That's so true!" Kathryn exulted. "You're starting to blow my mind too. That computer -- when we upgrade it, don't we just make it more complicated? With bigger programs and bigger disks and more intricate graphics and all? When will that ever end?"

"Well, I, for one, dislike that complexity too. I admire people who can write whole programs in wacked-out stuff like assembly language."

"I guess I do too. Everyone knows that's so hard to do. Heeey --" she started, thinking Toby would complete her sentence. Instead, as she exclaimed, "Like women who still knit!" Toby exclaimed "People who actually do do things the old way!" They were both speaking of the same thing.

"Yeah, look at that!" Toby exclaimed. "I certainly admire people who do things the old-fashioned way. It's hard work, but it's simpler in the long run, isn't it? Like people who live in the forest in huts. They don't have electrical bills, or water bills, and they don't care much about if a flood wipes away their house."

"And when you knit your whole wardrobe, it probably costs less, and you get everything in the right size, and you don't have to complain about the design! Well, look at that for a second. This is mind-boggling. If people actually admire simpler things, then why do we continue to make things more complex?"

"As I just said, it's easier to buy a shirt, pre-made. It's easier to carry bottled water instead of purifying river sludge. We do things that are easier!"

"Like that DNA thing again. Through mutations alone, amoebae could have asexually evolved into people. But that would have really taken a long time, even more than billions of years! DNA sure as hell isn't going to give up sexual reproduction now, since creatures have evolved so much faster with it. I bet those amoebae are still pretty similar to their counterparts from the beginning of their existence -- but we as people are way different from the first human-like primates that existed only millions of years ago! And I'm sure as hell not going to use an abacus to balance my checkbook."

"Although someone might admire that," Toby said.

"I still can't figure why people could admire things done the harder way. It's really not easier to build a house with logs, is it?"

"Well, if it's all logs, you don't have to find special sizes of lumber, or plywood, or bricks, or anything. It's easier in that you have a smaller number of different things to hunt for. But it's harder because it takes more time."

"Yeah! Shit, could all this revolve around time? Maybe time is what motivates Westerners to go for the easier solution, since things done quicker are more efficient, and therefore better."

"Efficient in terms of time, only. The stuff used to make the product is more complex though. Who can manually repair their post-1990 car engines anymore? The cars are probably put together faster, but they're sure complex as hell."

"But it's better, because they were made faster. But if I knitted my whole wardrobe, and it turned out to be warmer and stronger and prettier than something I could easily buy at Walmart, people would still say I wasted my time. Because even with the cruddy clothing I could get at Walmart, even whenit wore out, or wasn't warm enough, I could just buy more clothes to make up the difference. It takes much less time."

"You know, time isn't only a Western thing. Isn't that what you said motivated the DNA to seek sexual reproduction?"

"Hmmm! Westerners... are akin to DNA... since we seek to do things in shorter amounts of time, and in a greater variety. But it makes things more complicated in the long run."

"And Easterners -- or at least the ones that used to exist -- uh, isn't 'Western' just shorthand for modern, and 'Eastern' shorthand for traditional? - - anyway -- do things in longer amounts of time, and in a lesser variety. And things are still simpler to this day."

"Westerners -- or modern people -- can do so many different things, have so much variety, and get it done really quickly, although there's a buildup of complicated garbage left behind. Not to mention can be really hard on the people emotionally to be caught up in the building process. And traditional people do so few things, have so much conformity, and get things done slowly, although there may be a buildup of boredom, and a loss of new ideas, although they're generally more at peace with life."

"Gee whiz, which way is better?"

* * * * *

"It's that trend I was talking about," Toby remembered. "If you look at things in the big picture, modern people are in line with DNA, since we both work to make new things, and in the process create complicated things, but take less time to do so. So, if we wanted to be supremacist, we'd have to agree that modernism is 'nature's way.'"

"No, no! Look, Toby, remember about destruction! Living things always die, don't they? Doesn't this imply that at some time in the future, DNA will have to die, as well? It's got a fixed amount of products to work with, namely, the food on earth. That can't remain forever."

"Oh, but plants thrive off sunlight too."

"Yikes. Well, that's good. Life will probably go on forever, until the sun burns out then."

"But you said destruction. So, I can see how that works in with things in our society. We're trying to destroy economic inequality between the races and the sexes, to make things more efficient -- by making everyone feel like they're getting rewarded equally for the same work. But -- oh, yeah, fall of Rome, all that. Our society may well destroy itself. But it doesn't want to, though!"

"Of course not. Animals don't want to die, either. They succumb to sickness or starvation or massive bleeding and things. It's not like all the processes sustaining its life have to go away at once. One or two little parts is enough to destroy it."

"Same way with society, I guess. Maybe the Western way of valuing the product over its creators, and the dollar over the product, is going to destroy the creative spirit. That's certainly an important part of our society, so it would be sufficient to kill it off."

"Yeah, maybe," Kathryn said. "But it might just cripple society, and it will function in a simpler manner after that."

Toby's eyes widened. "Aaaah! So things could get simpler, couldn't they! More complexity isn't the only way to go!"

"Of course not, Toby. You just figured that out? The only thing is, the overriding push is in the way of more complexity, more life. People might enjoy the idea of taking a vacation for the rest of their lives, but that isn't economically feasible. The economy wants all the people, or as many as possible, to work to promote its own needs. Think about it this way -- the economy, once created by people, took off in its own direction. And now it controls us --"

Toby nodded frantically.

"-- Just like how the sexual reproduction in DNA took off to make mating really difficult, especially with people. Animals look for superficial physical features to pick reproductive partners. And people do too, but we also consider economic success, intelligence, et cetera. We're manipulating DNA, we think, by being so choosy with how we choose to reproduce, but it's still controlling us, because we think we have to reproduce in the first place! And the economy, which we created to simplify trade, has become so gargantuan and intricate that a presidential upchuck in Japan can affect sushi stock for months! We may think we can control the economy, by being conscientious consumers, but it still controls us, because we are participating in it and keeping it alive!"

"Jesus Christ, I thought the mind-blowing was over."

"Hell no! So, see, these are the things that push us along modernity. We may envy simpler people, but our culture -- which we created -- has taken control over how we think about time and health, so we may personally want to live in a cave, but our culture teaches us that's a bad idea, since it's wrought with dangers and difficulties. Although if you were born in a cave, you'd learn what was dangerous first-hand. And, the protestors in the sixties thought they could control their government through free speech and peaceful demonstrations, but the government, which people created, had taken such control over them that their efforts were futile. And, the terrorist anarchists, who have given up on government and try to blow it skywards, are promoting government by acknowledging its existence! It's only our government because we give it power through belief. It's only our money because we believe it represents value. It's only our society because we follow its rules and pretend it all matters!"

"Kathryn, Kathryn...," Toby moaned, slapping his hand upon his knee, "If I wanted to learn, I'd go to school!"

Toby burst out laughing, and Kathryn couldn't help but follow.

* * * * *

"Let's go outside. Please."

Toby and Kathryn walked outside.

"Oh shit, it's COLD!" Toby shrieked, and headed back indoors.

"That's just the acid."

"Yeah. Hell, why should I be concerned with the cold? Isn't that only a problem because I believe it is?"

Kathryn nodded.

"Heh heh. Let's go back."

Toby and Kathryn stood outside, enduring the wind chill.

"Toby, don't be silly, though. You could still get sick."

"Not if I don't think I will, right? Hey, isn't that a cool way to think about things? It's just the opposite of hypochondria. People get sick because they think they should be. I'll just believe I don't have to be sick."

"Don't carry it too far, Toby. Hypochrondriacs don't really get sick all that much. And you won't stay well all that much if you abuse your body."

"Hmmm... you really think so?"

"Look, your mind is not your body."

"Oh, yeah, but.... Like you say, my body created my brain. And my brain created my mind. But if my mind has power over my body, isn't that like the government having power over its citizens?"

"There are still real rebels who don't believe in a government. Just like real athiests who don't believe in any god. So, they won't be affected at all by what the higher authorities believe. So you can still get sick, because I don't think you have enough power to convince all your immune cells to be perfectly efficient and repel all attacks. Besides, the immune cells have very little to do with your mind."

"There's a distancing factor there, then. It's sort of like, if two people fall in love, then, there's that familiarity they have.... Think of this. Think about if by being in love, they created a romantic bond which took off to exist beyond them. That bond will induce both of them to keep it alive -- like how society induces people to preserve it. One of those people could reject the bond, and that would effectively split the bond, although the other person might still think it exists. But it takes a hell of a lot of people to destroy the notion of society, though, although it's easier for one person to reject it, since it seems so beyond him. It's that complexity shit again. The more complex things get, the easier it is for the little parts making it up to rebel, but the more difficult it is to die entirely. Exactly! That's just what we've been saying all along!"

"That's very true. But back to the thinking-yourself-well thing. Your mind isn't even in contact with your immune cells. Your brain isn't really, either. The bone marrow makes the immune cells. But the brain can secrete hormones that control the bone marrow. So, really, it's very very difficult to ward off disease with your mind alone. Although I would concur that a lot of emotional stress going on nowadays is merely a product of the mind, so you could stay healthier than stressful people just by thinking yourself well. But you need medicines that can attack disease on its own level to be healthier than that."

"Sigh. So I can pretend to be Superman and ignore the cold weather, but it will still freeze me dead in the end."

"Yup. Capitalism can pretend to be Superman and ignore the deteriorating mental health of its workers, but it will still destroy itself in the end."

"Aaah, that's a refreshing way to think," Toby said.

"Yup. But if you want to be more efficient, you can kill it off in faster ways."

"Let's go inside."

* * * * *

"This all gets me thinking. What then, is the purpose of life?" Toby asked.

"Oh geez. We're fucked up, we can do this. Well, from the DNA creationist point of view, the purpose of life is to continue, and get morecomplicated. That's what it did until people came along. But, we've decided that technological and intellectual evolution are more important than biological evolution. That's evident in how modern countries are in fact practicing massive reproductive counseling -- contraception -- and abortions -- to prevent or control life, and also in how our technology is tearing apart the stable worlds of the rest of the earth's life, thereby preventing its evolution. The societies we've created care less for the people than for the products.

"But, life itself created these problems, didn't it? The life that exists in technology, the life that exists in the idea of progress, the life of an economic system, all of which have skyrocketed beyond our control. I believe the only way this society could change is not by changing the culture or the government or the economic system, but maybe only by destroying the people who make all these things exist. Or, 'simply' changing all their minds at once to avoid having to teach them why they should give those things up. Who the hell would teach them that? It would take an organized force to -- like the government itself -- and that ain't gonna happen! Anyway, it would involve destroying mindsets and cultures. But people would immediately create new governments and new economies and new cultures to take the places of the ones they destroyed. Shit! Think of this -- whatever force is able to destroy the attachment to society and government, that fucking force would take off into its own existence, and we would have to destroy that! Maybe that would be the new de-facto government! These people would then blindly work themselves up to this level of complexity yet again!

"So, from that point of view, the purpose of life is to destroy itself and start anew. But, that's just the same thing as saying the purpose of life is to continue and get more complicated. If it's me that dies, then I'm destroyed and my biological waste lives a new existence, maybe as food for worms. If I choose to reproduce, life will still continue, but in my child. It's all the same -- but you have to consider who carries it all out.

"Any way you look at it, life involves creation and destruction. And if that's all it involves, then that's how you have to define life. Life is the ongoing process of creation and destruction, on any level you look at it, whether it be people, or DNA, or technology, or society, or even atoms and molecules. It doesn't make sense to ask what the purpose of life is. To say the purpose of life is to create and destroy is to say nothing at all, except that it just exists. FUCK! That's your answer! Life simply is."

* * * * *

"With that kind of mindset," Toby said, "nothing really matters, does it? So I could just go kill myself, and it wouldn't make any difference, would it? 'Everything simply is' -- until it isn't."

"But, no, Toby! That's exactly the wrong thing to do! Do you ever really think nothing matters? Of course not. You want to survive, you want to create things and even destroy things. You hate boredom. That's because everything in you revolves around life! Everything around you revolves around life! And it all has its own purpose, namely, to exist. It's silly to call it a 'purpose,' but that's the reason it does exist, isn't it? The mind's purpose is to create, carry out, and destroy thoughts -- after all, that's all it does, isn't it? That means that's its purpose. That's why it exists. The brain's purpose is to create, carry out, and destroy neural connections. The body's purpose is to destroy food, carry out the nutrients, and create energy out of them. All of these processes have a life force!

"We as humans tend to think nothing but ourselves has 'conscious' desires or purposes, and it is true in that nothing else has the human mind, and nothing else can create or understand the desires and purposes in the way that our mind does. BUT! It is also absolutely false to think nothing else has desires and purposes -- the ultimate purpose of everything is to exist. Molecular bonds may not express their desire to exist in the same way that a fighting tiger does, but don't they both exist nonetheless? -- But I wonder; can't something exist without something wanting it to?

"Wait! The real fallacy is thinking that there are such things as desires and purposes. If the human desire to exist is really a desire, that means there is a need that created the desire, and then a way to fulfill that need. But the need for the mind to exist springs from the mind itself and from the structures that create the mind, namely, the brain -- as a government's need to exist comes from itself and from the people who believe it must exist. And, if you take away the need everywhere, then the object will fail to exist! The government will fail to exist if it doesn't need to exist and the people don't need it to exist. If the people let go of their needs, and the government lets go of its selfish needs, the government is gone -- zap -- instantly. The mind will fail to exist if it doesn't need to and the brain doesn't need it. So, if you take away the 'need' or the 'desire' for X to exist, you take away X itself! Therefore, desires and purposes and needs are simply the life force itself."

Toby was wrenching out his hair. "But WHY??? WHY do we exist???"

"'Why' is the most useless word. But, if you must have an answer: BECAUSE."


"Look, Toby. Your mind has created this level of complexity which cares about the question of its own existence, right? The problem will elude you forever unless the need to answer that question goes away. You can lose your mind, your brain can decompose, the atoms making your brain can go nuclear, and that will get rid of the question. Or, you can understand that the question just exists! You're feeding this question -- your mind wants this level of complexity to go away, so it keeps on throwing thoughts at it, hoping that the question will adapt or destroy itself. Your brain will keep throwing electricity into the neurons that create your mind until IT adapts or destroys itself. Your blood will keep throwing nutrients at your brain until IT adapts itself away from nutrients or destroys itself. It's just like how people solve problems -- they throw resources and energy at it until the problem adapts itself into a not-problem, or until the problem is destroyed! Only, we can understand that. Everything else that's feeding the layers of complexity above them don't understand why they do it -- they just do it!

"If this basic question of existence didn't exist, your mind wouldn't exist. If your mind didn't exist, your brain wouldn't exist. And so on! Look! The question of existence just exists, because if IT didn't exist, YOU WOULDN'T EXIST!"

"Aaaauggghhh! So how can I be sure I won't just pop out of existence any second now?!!"

"Toby, calm down, child. Remember, your mind is still full of tons of questions, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, each of which exists, perhaps trying to understand itself, perhaps feeding or trying to destroy the levels existing on top of them. It'll take some work to get rid of those ideas. Because even as you destroy some ideas, others will take their place, each seeking to understand its existence. It's like people who destroy their government. First of all, if you, a lone person, realizes you don't need the government to exist, then it doesn't matter for you anymore -- but look at the two-hundred and fifty million others who still think it does matter! When you think you personally solve the problem of existence, it's only one train of thought existing on top of the other deeper layers of thought in your subconscious. Those lower forces of thought will instantly regenerate new questions of existence, just as when a people will regenerate a government after they destroy the previous one. That's the process of life.

"But conceivably, the people might not create a new government -- just the same as your mind might not create new thoughts. And, as we expect, thepeople without government would act like real humans -- without laws, they'd soon butcher each other and die off. Or, they could each realize deeply that the categorical imperative prevents them from harming each other, and they could all survive -- but that's implicitly a government! So, if you can convince yourself in your mind that all the questions have been answered, then thoughts will vanish, and you'll lose your mind! Then your mind will cease to exist. But your brain will still be functioning, firing off neurons. So new thoughts will come along, and you'll have a mind again. May not be sane, but it will be a mind. But consider that your brain can't create a new mind in time -- that it can't fire the neurons anymore. Then, the brain will cease to exist. And there, we know that you can't regenerate your brain, so you will die, and cease to exist, and then all the cells making up your body, if they can't divine oxygen without the heart and the lungs functioning, they will cease to exist as well. Then, you, by definition, will cease to exist as a human."

"I'm really not wanting to accept all this. It makes me afraid."

"That's good! That means your mind is still working. If you're afraid of losing your mind, you'll probably find a way to assuage the fear. And, the way your mind does that, is by relentlessly creating new thoughts whose only purpose is to exist. You can take pride in this, you know, Toby. The mind is a beautiful machine, that works non-stop, usually until the brain cannot support it. So, revel in this! Revel in life! Create thoughts just for the hell of it! It's the only way your mind can exist, you know. But now you ought to see -- you have the choice of what to think about. If you hadn't run into me, and if you hadn't come up with solipsism to amuse yourself, you might have let yourself be sucked in by society's mind-programming, inducing you to think society's thoughts. And that's no fun! Where's your sense of control?! But now, if you choose, you can take the society trip. Ride along, thinking like they want you to, and understand that you've got it under control. If something bothers you, it's only in your mind, isn't it? And, if you find yourself getting bored, then create trouble!

"Maybe that's what human life is all about! We're just trying to STAY INTERESTED! It's when you think you understand it all -- good or bad -- when things get boring! So you seek to change it -- to adapt it -- or destroy it!

"But we're not alone in this! Everything in existence is doing the exact damn same thing! DNA is trying to stay interested, working to optimize itself, creating buttloads of different possible organisms through recombinations and mutations. If it didn't, it would end up generating a never-ending series of damn boring amoebae! And, in doing so, it would also threaten its very existence as well! Just like people who get in a rut and let it tear them apart. Existence desires change, to keep itself interested, so it will want to stick around. The will to live is the will to live! If there were no will to live, there would be no existence! The IS!

"What if humans are the only beings that recognize the will to live? Wouldn't that explain a hell of a lot of our problems? What if only people can get BORED with staying INTERESTED? Look at everything we've created to combat that boredom -- religion, folklore, language, technology, spacecraft, atomic bombs, cookies, lawn darts, beer, Willie Nelson, plant polish, television, the internet, pornography, hairstyles, fashion, literature, spelunking, remote controls, fingernail polish, war, politics, time! All this, to make us forget that we're getting bored with staying interested in living!

"We have to feel sorry for those poor souls who still ask the question, who still perseverate on the eternal question 'why?' 'Why do we exist?' 'What is our purpose on earth?' We've all known it all along! But no one wants to believe it -- to really believe it -- because then the question would no longer exist. It's so final. So all along, people have built up endless structures of complex thought to satiate our interest -- religion, philsophy, science. If someone asks you the meaning of life, chuckle to yourself, and LIE! Say, 'Oh, it's God's will!' (which is really our own will), or say, 'There is a higher purpose,' (which is a BIG lie -- it's a LOWER purpose, thelowest of all, the IS), or just be direct, and say, 'BECAUSE.' In any case, they will seek a second opinion -- something more interesting -- and continue to ask the question. Even you and I will continue to ask the question. I know you'll go home and think, 'Well, gee, I know the answer, so what can I do in the meantime?' (in other words, 'What can I do to avoid the final understanding of this answer?') If a person wants to live, he already knows the meaning of life! If someone wants to die, it's the same thing -- he has figured it out at some level and just wants out! EVERYONE IS ALREADY ENLIGHTENED. But it's too boring to know the answer and then die happy, so we must continue to live! Why do we exist? BECAUSE! So revel in it! Exist! Enjoy it! Then die!"

"This is DNA's pinnacle of achievement, as well as its fatal flaw! Everything people have done is a silly process meant to sustain our interest in existing. You can finally understand that the struggle to finally answer the 'question' of life -- whether through philosophy, religion, masturbation, science, fame, duty, suicide -- is a self-defeating project, an ever-running engine of futility! It's the fuckin' cosmic joke! People try so hard to answer the questions that don't exist, the questions that can't be answered, because all along in every possible way, the answer is IS!"

- 3 -

Kathryn spun around, having turned away from Toby is her soliloquy, and announced, "There! It's answered! All is answered!"

Toby sat dazed on the couch, stiff as a board. Then a huge smile crept onto his face, and he said, "I want to keep on talking about it."

"No! There's nothing more to say! It's answered!"

Toby's smile grew so wide that all his teeth were visible. He choked out a cry of joy. "I can now finally understand that question -- should one speak, or stay silent? It just doesn't matter! We can talk about this forever, and it will get us nowhere, but it will maintain our interest. Or, we can stop talking about it, and we'll simply find other things to do."


"I don't think I'll look at a late bus the same way again."

* * * * *

Toby spoke up again, remembering something. "Um, Kathryn. -- I thought you had something important to tell me," he chuckled.

"Well, really, now, Toby, nothing is important, is it? Wait -- we'll pretend things are important, won't we?"

"Hee hee, hee hee hee. What did you really want to tell me?"

"This was all about solipsism, right?"

"I theenk so, senora."

"Well, there. I've just given you new and fresh ways to revive your solipsism. I guess that's just the way this turned out. Solipsism, monism, dualism, Daoism, Christianity, egotism, community service, yoga, and baseball - - it's all saying the same thing. Just find something that keeps you interested, and do it. Just do it. Even the corporate megalopoly understands the secret of existence.

"As for solipsism, it's perfectly true. Your mind alone has the ideas, beliefs, opinions, and thoughts that create your version of reality. Some saysolipsism is the belief that only you can know the absolute truth. But, as I've pointed out, everyone already knows and deeply understands the absolute truth of IS. So, let's revise that. Only you can understand your own peculiar instantiation of reality. Only you can understand the absolute truth in your own terms, however complex or simple or silly or logical they may be.

"But, Toby, you didn't create reality, only an interpretation. Reality exists below you, reality exists beyond you, and you're stuck in the middle to figure it all out. However, you have final authority over how you control your reality.

"Perhaps you really can influence people with your thoughts. The easiest way is for your brain to tell your leg to kick someone. There, you've influenced that person, and he'll influence you right back. Or, you can think up some words and say them. Then you've influenced a person. Or you can write something down and hand it out to be read. That will influence someone's thoughts. Or you can have sex with somone and control his or her emotions for a little while. You need to be pretty persuasive in any case to actually control another person the way you want, but these are skills you can learn.

"Can you really control someone's thoughts directly? Science hasn't found a way. Psychics and telepaths are sure they can read thoughts -- so how far is it to being able to control them?

"Just look at the structure of the reality science assumes we live in. Say everything is merely the result of adding layers of complexity to the basic nature of existence. That existence through time ineffably spawned the structure of electromagnetic radiation, to keep itself interested. Then, on top of electromagnetism, the structure of atoms and physical matter ensued. Then, on top of that, those atoms combined into molecules, creating more complex structures. Then those molecules formed into galaxies and planets. And, electromagnetism existing on one of those planets formed into atoms and then molecules and then water. Everywhere, it's the basic structure of reality being added upon. You combine two atoms into a molecule -- you've really just combined a lot of electromagnetic radiation into a bigger amount of radiation - - and below that you're really just reshaped existence in a very complex way.

"So, considering that, all manipulations and changes you make to some level of reality, the changes propogate through the lower levels -- in effect, the changes just exist. So, on earth, biological life formed, and then brains formed, and then eventually people formed. The brain of each person, when created, formed a mind to satisfy its need to exist.

"With that in mind, how could you control someone else's thoughts? Just like with learning, you need familiarity. One slow and cumbersome way people now control each others thoughts is through spoken language. Two people are familiar with the same language, and also familiar in that they are people, living on top of a biological reality, existing on top of a material reality, existing on top of an electromagnetic reality. So the sound waves carrying speech can indeed be understood by both as sound waves, and furthermore, both people understand the sound waves represent speech. Unfortunately, once the receiver understands what has been said, the unique structure of his mind will perceive the words as possibly having meanings alien to the speaker's intent. That's the way it goes.

"So, can people actually control the thoughts directly? Can their brains send out waves representing a specific thought, independent of language, and thereby communicate? Well, maybe they already do. But what messages are sent this way? What messages can be sent? The sender brain and the receiver brain aren't the same! Each of them learned everything it knew through essentially random patterns of interneural connections. If the brain itself were to send out a message in its own language, wouldn't that language would necessarily reflect its own neural structure -- which is alien to the receiver's structure?

"It might seem to disprove telepathy -- but consider two radios, one built in 1930 and one built today. They are utterly different in structure, but they do the exact same thing. They can both receive the same signals and interpret them -- i.e., convert them into sound -- the same way. So aren't any two brains effectively the same in comparison?

"But look. The two radios don't receive the same signal if one's antenna is missing, or if one is tuned to a different station. It's really very difficult to have two radios randomly tuned to the same thing.

"Does that matter, though? Two people raised in the same culture are tuned to the same essential thought patterns, but their personalities and personal experiences may differ widely. So, conceivably, they could communicate through their brains, couldn't they?

"Look at the limitations, though. How are any two brains familiar? Two people raised in different parts of the United States may only be familiar in terms of American culture. So what could they say to each other? Possibly relate already-understood facts about the number of states in the Union? Or look at two people raised in the same household. They could mutually agree on who their mother was. But could they relate any new information?

"I wonder. Any train of thought one person is having is dependent on all the thoughts that person has had in the past, which have led him to think what he is now thinking. If he wants his brain to communicate this thought to another brain, the other brain would have had to have been thinking in the same way in order for any hope of communicating directly.

"In effect, a translation is required -- some way for a thought built on top of XYZ in one brain to be communicated to another brain built on top of IJK. And that translation must be in the form of a shared language. A language of thought? Perhaps. If two people could learn to project their thoughts through a shared code, then they could brain-speak to each other. Two people in a close friendship might inadvertently develop such a code by thinking in the same way, by agreeing on so many of the things that make them familiar.

"But could this code be taught to everyone in say, a country? Maybe it could, but then look at the high degree of familiarity all these people would have! Think about how boring that would be! But, look how comfortable, as well. You could be assured that your neighbor agreed with you. But people want to stay interested. And having everyone thinking essentially the same way would quash the creativity required to sustain their interest in being telepathic.

"So, as we have seen over and over again, Toby, an extra level of complexity was devised -- spoken language -- that allowed people to maintain more individuality, and thereby focus their creative energies in more independent ways. People rushed to devise a spoken code, and the code was made beautiful, to maintain people's interest in speaking. Vowels, pauses, enunciations, volume, rhythm, rhyme, meter. All in the interest of communicating in a slower, but more interesting way! And thousands of years later, even speaking became blase! So the elite devised writing. Visually appealing communication, over the sonically appealing communication of speech, which existed after the comforting appeal of telepathy. And recently, even written language has worn thin. Too many stupid, repetitious books out there. So the elite developed electronic communication -- radio, television, computers.

"Isn't it funny, Toby, that our means of communication have resorted to more and more basic processes, but those which take more and more time to interpret? All to maintain interest!

"People's very first form of communication was love -- the most intricate, complicated relationship two people can have. Who can explain it, who can understand it, without experiencing it? But isn't love just a complicated wayof expressing familiarity? And in this complication, isn't misunderstanding so easy? Love is the wellspring of misunderstanding, although when two people understand each other, the messages they manage to send carry so much more importance. But love can be expressed simply, as well: two friends can express love in friendship, and two people in the same society can express love in the sense of brotherhood.

"Telepathy, brain-to-brain communciation, is also very complex -- expressing ideas in recursive structures built on abstractions like fear, attraction, justice, time, causality, and order. Although, brain-to-brain communication can be simpler than that -- like the mob mentality that connects crowds of people, and even simpler, between human and animal, through the animal magnetism that tells us another brain is nearby. But with the essentially random construction of the brain, it is very difficult for a telepathic message to mean the same thing for the sender and the receiver -- all personal detail and connotation is lost.

"So we migrated to spoken language, requiring so much more work to produce and interpret, but expressed in a simpler form. Our ears can only detect ranges of frequencies. So our brains have to take this information from our ears, and concatenate all the little frequencies over time into patterns of sound. Then, those little patterns of sound have to be interpreted as phonemes, and those phonemes together must be interpreted as words. It's slower than telepathy, and much slower than the spark of love. And look all the different ways you can speak the same word -- all the work our brains have to do to get meaning from sound! Still, sonic communication can be very simple and direct -- such as wild animals shrieking into the night.

"Visual communication, though, is much simpler to interpret. The retina can detect colors, brightnesses, and all human brains contain the structures to see lines and detect distance. And, visual communication needn't vary over time. A still sequence of letters can contain a message. All the mind needs to do is match a pattern with something it's seen before. But look how slow reading and writing are! Much easier to speak than write. And look at the loss of meaning that writing entails -- you lose the context of immediate shared experience, the enunciation of speech, the body language. But the element of time allows written language to be crafted into near perfection before it is transmitted -- and the message can be interpreted over and over again, much more intensively than the memory of a whisper. Even here, one can simplify visual communication -- but not much -- by flashing light at a flatworm's visual cortex.

"Look, Toby, look! By settling on more basic means of communication, the messages we can communicate are similarly limited, and the messages transmitted take our brains longer to interpret. The amount of possible novelty decreases with each new form of language -- but the amount of interest increases in decoding it! Look at electronic communication -- ONLY zeroes and ones! How easy to represent, how difficult to understand! People don't even try to decode that, but leave it to computers! What's next, Toby? What's next? Will people finally resort to EXISTENCE as the primary means of communication? Isn't that the simplest message to transmit, but with the most amount of interpretation to understand? Will all this evolution of communication finally end when our desire for novelty leads us finally to receive the only basic message: IS?"

- 4 -

Toby wrenched at his hair with a strained smile. "'Should one speak, or should one remain silent?'"

"Do what you want, that's what I say."

Toby let out a deep breath and sank into the couch. "You know, Kathryn," he repeated slowly, "I could have sworn you had something important to tell me." And then he broke out laughing, convulsing, shaking madly in the couch. "Something important! Something important!"

"I guess not. I guess I was just meant to tell you something interesting."

"You know, after you've told me all this, I think I should tell you something. I have a secret. You know that prophet we're supposed to be waiting for? The one supposed to come and bring us news from beyond? I was the one who predicted it. I just wanted to see what would happen. But, you know, I just don't care if it comes anymore."

Kathryn grinned widely in silence.

Toby waited for an answer, and then looked up, shocked. "Oh my god."

Kathryn shrugged her shoulders.

"Boy, am I dense."

Kathryn nodded and laughed.

"But I don't get it! If you're here, then how does anyone else know?"

"Maybe you'll just go tell them what I told you. They won't know the difference. Look, Toby: you created me. I am your prophet. So, in effect, you were the prophet all along. If you want everyone else to know, you have to go tell them."

"But... I don't really want to anymore. I don't care."

"That's just fine, Toby. You wanted a prophet to appear, and zap! I appeared. If everyone else still wants a prophet, then they'll get one too. Maybe as a group, maybe individually."

"As a group... I have a feeling the people on this campus wouldn't want you as their prophet."

"Yes, most definitely, I am a totally inappropriate person for them. But for you, ...."

"Everyone will find his own prophet," Toby considered. "And that prophet will tell them exactly what they already knew all along. It's all about existence."

"Perhaps not so, Toby. If true Christians learned that it was all about existence, then what would any of their devotion, symbolism, myths, and rituals mean? Nothing! That would destroy their faith! Anyone expecting a prophecy - - or any lesser knowledge -- will only accept what they want to hear."

"So, that's why you basically taught me that solipsism is the way to go."


"So, if the people on campus do see the prophet... it will tell them that they are the chosen ones, and that God is happy with them, and that the heathens outside will have to repent? Or even that they are the heathens?"


He sat back in deep thought. "Just like the alien freaks... their prophet will be in the form of some peaceful emissary from beyond -- or as a murderous invader?"

"Right! They see them all the time."

"And like how the government sees 'prophecies' as the fact that foreign threats have launched dangerous subversive ideologies, or that its own ideology is the most humanitarian?"

"Yes, and they think that now."

"All these groups, all these people, are seeing everything happening according to plan, that everything they do is fulfilling their plan, and that something is always tripping up their plan."

"Exactly!" Kathryn exclaimed. "When any of these people experience intimations of the more basic reality, they can only interpret it in the way they know best. And, unless they are exceptionally receptive, the real truth will continue to evade them. It may not be at all obvious to anyone, but everything that people do is just a way to continually reformulate the question of existence in new terms, to maintain their interest."

"Is the end near?"

"The end of what? The universe, the earth, life, human strife, ignorance, what?"

"The millennial fever is getting to me. If... if so many people concentrate on that year, if so many people think something important is going to happen, then by god, it will happen! Look at the acceleration of technology, knowledge, population, misunderstanding! What's going on here is completely unprecedented!"

"As far as you know, Toby. If the millenium brings the end to something, that something will necessarily reappear. History repeats itself. How do we know a country as technologically advanced as ours hasn't existed in the past? If it reached the kind of End you're fearing right now, then perhaps it did destroy itself so well that we've never been able to detect its traces."

"But, but, couldn't this be the end of everything?"

"Toby, calm down. From a hundred miles above the earth, nothing looks like it's going to end. The solar system hasn't yet become bored. Physical reality seems so predictable to us because it isn't changing yet -- it's satisfied. Perhaps it takes the physical mind much longer to become bored. And consider why it hasn't become bored yet. All the layers of complexity existing on top of the physical world -- the stars, the planets, the galaxies - - still satisfy its need to exist. Just like the mind, which satisfies the brain's need to exist. It will take a hell of a long time before physical reality understands itself and ceases to exist. Just like human technology -- we are working harder to create things that solve problems in less time in more complex ways. So, tracing back, the universe operates so simply -- scientists imagine they have unified all the forces down to two -- and it is hardly working at all to solve its problem of existence; it will take forever for it to do so. But people, we're too fast. We think too much. Our need to exist will be satisfied much sooner.

"So, let me rephrase my answer. Yes, a person could assume that the end of everything is approaching. Everything around us points to that. Technology is evolving too fast, social strife is growing much too complex, economics is spiraling out of control. Maybe those are the things that will end. But what are the attributes of all these? Profound corruption, strife, and misunderstanding -- too much form over function. Maybe the End will be the End of classic human misunderstanding, or the End of the modern scientific age that has accelerated technological innovation while ignoring the human spirit."

Toby held his hand to his head. "Of course! It could be good, whatever it is!"

"I think if you take yourself out of the picture, you'll be able to interpret it more clearly. If you're concerned about the End, that impliesyou're concerned about dying, somehow. For a solipsist, the end would mean that you lose your ego. Big fear for a person like you. Stop being so damned egotistical. Maybe this 'big change' will be worldwide enlightenment," Kathryn scolded him. Then she looked up and smirked. "Remember, I am a prophet here. I don't think I forecasted any catastrophic doom. Be optimistic."

"If I wanted to be the prophet and tell them everything we just discussed, most likely it would just fall flat."

"That's true, but not because you don't think you know what's going on. Any failure to explain this will result from a lack of communication. You must be familiar with all the people you speak to. But how can you do that? You either need to come up with an argument broad enough to apply to everyone, or one specific enough that you can teach a few people. In any case, these people probably won't have the benefit of acid to shave away all the noise in their self-centered, crazed monkey minds. If you must speak, you must pick an audience and pick a way to communicate best for that audience.

"Will you go for the slow, cumbersome spoken word, so personal, but so easy to misinterpret? Will you go for the craftable written word, slowly ingested, lasting beyond your death to be re-read and re-interpreted by millions, but risking the possibility of confusion you cannot predict? Or will you choose love -- to share the secrets of existence with another person in the most intimate possible way? Perhaps you will just spend the rest of your life learning, trying to finally explain it all to yourself.

"Or, maybe you will choose to be silent, and let your very existence be the word."

Toby solemnly nodded.

"Well, Toby, it's been fun. Maybe you'll see the End of something big during your life. But you'll also see the Beginning of something just as big and exciting. Try to keep your head, and, above all, stay interested."

Kathryn walked toward the exit. "By the way, my being your imagination and all, I suggest you get out of this house before the real owners show up." She walked out and closed the door behind her.

Toby rushed after her, swung open the door, and opened his mouth to ask something silly, but by that time his need for Kathryn had evaporated, and so had she.


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