Wisdom had been born, not a deity: a deity which slew with one hand while healing with another ... that deity was not the Savior, and I said to myself, Thank God.
We were taken the next morning to a small farm area, with animals everywhere. I saw no signs of video or audio recording equipment, but I saw -- we all saw -- a black-haired child seated with goats and chickens, and, in a hutch beside her, rabbits.
What I had expected was tranquility, the peace of God which passes all understanding. However, the child, upon seeing us, rose to her feet and came toward us with indignation blazing in her face; her eyes, huge, dilated with anger, fixed intently on me -- she lifted her right hand and pointed at me.
"Your suicide attempt was a violent cruelty against yourself," she said in a clear voice. And yet she was, as Linda had said, no more than two years old: a baby, really, and yet with the eyes of an infinitely old person.
"It was Horselover Fat," I said.
Sophia said, "Phil, Kevin and David. Three of you. There are no more."
Turning to speak to Fat -- I saw no one. I saw only Eric Lampton and his wife, the dying man in the wheel chair, Kevin and David. Fat was gone. Nothing remained of him.
Horselover Fat was gone forever. As if he had never existed.
"I don't understand," I said. "You destroyed him."
"Yes," the child said.
I said, "Why?"
"To make you whole."
"Then he's in me? Alive in me?"
"Yes," Sophia said. By degrees, the anger left her face. The great dark eyes ceased to smolder.
"He was me all the time," I said.
"That is right," Sophia said.
"Sit down," Eric Lampton said. "She prefers it if we sit; then she doesn't have to talk up to us. We're so much taller than she is."
Obediently, we all seated ourselves on the rough parched brown ground -- which I now recognized as the opening shot in the film Valis; they had filmed part of it here.
Sophia said, "Thank you."
"Are you Christ?" David said, tugging his knees up against his chin, his arms wrapped around them; he, too, looked like a child: one child addressing another in equal conversation.
"I am that which I am," Sophia said.
"I'm glad to --" I couldn't think what to say.
"Unless your past perishes," Sophia said to me, "you are doomed. Do you know that?"
"Yes," I said.
Sophia said, "Your future must differ from your past. The future must always differ from the past."
David said, "Are you God?"
"I am that which I am," Sophia said.
I said, "Then Horselover Fat was part of me projected outward so I wouldn't have to face Gloria's death."
Sophia said, "That is so."
I said, "Where is Gloria now?"
Sophia said, "She lies in the grave."
I said, "Will she return?"
Sophia said, "Never."
I said, "I thought there was immortality."
To that, Sophia said nothing.
"Can you help me?" I said.
Sophia said, "I have already helped you. I helped you in 1974 and I helped you when you tried to kill yourself. I have helped you since you were born."
"You are VALIS?" I said.
Sophia said, "I am that which I am."
Turning to Eric and Linda, I said, "She doesn't always answer."
Some questions are meaningless," Linda said.
"Why don't you heal Mini?" Kevin said.
Sophia said, "I do what I do; I am what I am."
I said, "Then we can't understand you."
Sophia said, "You understood that."
David said, "You are eternal, aren't you?"
"Yes," Sophia said.
"And you know everything?" David said.
"Yes," Sophia said.
I said, "Were you Siddhartha?"
"Yes," Sophia said.
"Are you the slayer and the slain?" I said.
"No," Sophia said.
"The slayer?" I said.
"The slain, then."
"I am the injured and the slain," Sophia said. "But I am not the slayer. I am the healer and the healed."
"But VALIS has killed Mini," I said.
To that, Sophia said nothing.
"Are you the judge of the world?" David said.
"Yes," Sophia said.
"When does the judgment begin?" Kevin said.
Sophia said, "You are all judged already from the start."
I said, "How did you appraise me?"
To that, Sophia said nothing.
"Don't we get to find out?" Kevin said.
"Yes," Sophia said.
"When?" Kevin said.
To that, Sophia said nothing.
Linda said, "I think that's enough for now. You can talk to her again later. She likes to sit with the animals; she loves the animals." She touched me on the shoulder. "Let's go."
As we walked away from the child, I said, "Her voice is the neutral AI voice that I've heard in my head since 1974."
Kevin said hoarsely, "It's a computer. That's why it only answers certain questions."
Both Eric and Linda smiled; Kevin and I glanced at him; in his wheelchair Mini rolled along sedately.
"An AI system," Eric said. "An artificial intelligence."
"A terminal of VALIS," Kevin said. "An input, output terminal of the master system VALIS."
"That's right," Mini said.
"Not a little girl," Kevin said.
"I gave birth to her," Linda said.
"Maybe you just thought you did," Kevin said.
Smiling, Linda said, "An artificial intelligence in a human body. Her body is alive, but her psyche is not. She is sentient; she knows everything. But her mind is not alive in the sense that we are alive. She was not created. She has always existed."
"Read your Bible," Mini said. "She was with the Creator before creation existed; she was his darling and delight, his greatest treasure."
"I can see why," I said.
"It would be easy to love her," Mini said. "Many people have loved her, as it says in the Book of Wisdom. And so she entered them and guided them and descended even into the prison with them; she never abandoned those who loved her or who love her now."
"Her voice is heard in human courts," David murmured.
"And she destroyed the tyrant?" Kevin said.
"Yes," Mini said. "As we called him in the film, Ferris F. Fremount. But you know who she toppled and brought to ruin."
"Yes," Kevin said. He looked somber; I knew he was thinking of a man wearing a suit and tie wandering along a beach in southern California, an aimless man wondering what had happened, what had gone wrong, a man who still planned stratagems.
"In the last days of those kingdoms,
The king of tears who had brought tears to everyone eventually; against him something had acted which he, in his occlusion, could not discern. We had just now talked to that person, that child.
That child who had always been.
As we ate dinner that night -- at a Mexican restaurant just off the park in the center of Sonoma -- I realized that I would never see my friend Horselover Fat again, and I felt grief inside me, the grief of loss. Intellectually, I knew that I had re-incorporated him, reversing the original process of projection. But still it made me sad. I had enjoyed his company, his endless tale-spinning, his account of his intellectual and spiritual and emotional quest. A quest not for the Grail, but to be healed of his wound, the deep injury which Gloria had done to him by means of her death game.
It felt strange not to have Fat to phone up or visit. He had been so much a regular part of my life, and of the lives of our mutual friends. I wondered what Beth would think when the child support checks stopped coming in. Well, I realized, I could assume the economic liability; I could take care of Christopher. I had the funds to do it, and in many ways I loved Christopher as much as his father had.
"Feeling down, Phil?" Kevin said to me. We could talk freely now, since the three of us were alone; the Lamptons had dropped us off, telling us to call them when we had finished dinner and were ready to return to their large house.
"No," I said. And then I said, "I'm thinking about Horselover Fat."
Kevin said, after a pause, "You're waking up, then."
"Yes." I nodded.
"You'll be okay," David said, awkwardly. Expression of emotions came with difficulty to David.
"Yeah," I said.
Kevin said, "Do you think the Lamptons are nuts?"
"Yes," I said.
"What about the little girl?" Kevin said.
I said, "She is not nuts. She is as not nuts as they are. It's a paradox; two totally whacked out people -- three, if you count Mini -- have created a totally sane offspring."
"If I say --" David began.
"Don't say God brings good out of evil," I said. "Okay? Will you do us that one favor?"
Half to himself, Kevin said, "That is the most beautiful child I have ever seen. But that stuff about her being a computer terminal --" He gestured.
"You're the one who said it," I said.
"At the time," Kevin said, "it made sense. But not when I look back. When I have perspective."
"You know what I think?" David said. "I think we should get back on the Air Cal plane and fly back to Santa Ana. As soon as we can."
I said, "The Lamptons won't hurt us." I was certain of that, now. Odd, that the sick man, the dying man, Mini, had restored my confidence in the power of life. Logically, it should have worked the other way, I suppose. I had liked him very much. But, as is well known, I have a proclivity for helping sick or injured people; I gravitate to them. As my psychiatrist told me years ago, I've got to stop doing that. That, and one other thing.
Kevin said, "I can't scope it out."
"I know," I agreed. Did we really see the Savior? Or did we see just a very bright little girl who, possibly, had been coached to give lofty-sounding answers by three very shrewd professionals who had a master hype going in connection with their film and music?
"It's a strange form for him to take," Kevin said. "As a girl. That's going to encounter resistance. Christ as a female; that made David here pissed as hell."
"She didn't say she was Christ," David said.
I said, "But she is."
Both Kevin and David stopped eating and gazed at me.
"She is St. Sophia," I said, "and St. Sophia is a hypostasis of Christ. Whether she admitted it or not. She's being careful. After all, she knows everything; she knows what people will accept and what they won't."
"You have all your weirded-out experiences of March 1974 to go on," Kevin said. "That proves something; that proves it's real. VALIS exists. You already knew that. You encountered him."
"I guess so," I said.
"And what Mini knew and said collated with what you knew," David said.
Kevin said, "But you're not certain."
"We're dealing with a high order of sophisticated technology," I said. "Which Mini may have put together."
"Meaning microwave transmissions and such like," Kevin said.
"Yes," I said.
"A purely technological phenomenon," Kevin said. "A major technological breakthrough."
"Using the human mind as the transducer," I said. "Without an electronic interface."
"Could be," Kevin admitted. "The movie showed that. There is no way to tell what they're into."
"You know," David said slowly, "if they have high-yield energy available to them that they can beam over long distances, along the lines of laser beams --"
"They can kill us dead," Kevin said.
"That's right," I said.
"If," Kevin said, "we started quacking about not believing them."
"We can just say we have to be back in Santa Ana," David said.
"Or we can leave from here," I said. "This restaurant."
"Our things -- clothes, everything we brought -- are there at their house," Kevin said.
"Fuck the clothes," I said.
"Are you afraid?" David said. "Of something happening?"
I thought about it. "No," I said finally. I trusted the child. And I trusted Mini. You always have to go on that, your instinctive trust or your lack of trust. In the final analysis, there is really nothing else you can go on.
"I'd like to talk to Sophia again," Kevin said.
"So would I," I said. "The answer is there."
Kevin put his hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry to say this like this, Phil, but we really have the big clue already. In one instant that child cleared up your mind. You stopped believing you were two people. You stopped believing in Horselover Fat as a separate person. And no therapist and no therapy over the years, since Gloria's death, has ever been able to accomplish that."
"He's right," David said in a gentle voice. "We all kept hoping, but it seemed as if -- you know. As if you'd never heal."
"'Heal,'" I said. "She healed me. Not Horselover Fat but me." They were right; the healing miracle had happened and we all know what that pointed to; we all three of us understood.
I said, "Eight years."
"Right," Kevin said. "Before we even knew you. Eight long fucking goddam years of occlusion and pain and searching and roaming about."
In my mind a voice said, What else do you need to know?
It was my own thoughts, the ratiocination of what had been Horselover Fat, who had rejoined me.
"You realize," Kevin said, "that Ferris F. Fremount is going to try to come back. He was toppled by that child -- or by what that child speaks for -- but he is returning; he will never give up. The battle was won but the struggle goes on."
David said, "Without that child --"
"We will lose," I said.
"Right," Kevin said.
"Let's stay another day," I said, "and try to talk with Sophia again. One more time."
"That sounds like a plan," Kevin said, pleased.
The little group, The Rhipidon Society, had come to an agreement. All three members.
The next day, Sunday, the three of us got permission to sit with the child Sophia alone, without anyone else present, although Eric and Linda did request that we tape our encounter. We agreed readily, not having any choice.
Warm sunlight illuminated the earth that day, giving to the animals gathered around us the quality of a spiritual following; I had the impression that the animals heard, listened and understood.
"I want to talk to you about Eric and Linda Lampton," I said to the little girl, who sat with a book open in front of her.
"You shall not interrogate me," she said.
"Can't I ask you about them?" I said.
"They are ill," Sophia said. "But they can't harm anyone because I override them." She looked up at me with her huge, dark eyes. "Sit down."
We obediently seated ourselves in front of her.
"I gave you your motto," she said. "For your society; I gave you its name. Now I give you your commission. You will go out into the world and you will tell the kerygma which I charge you with. Listen to me; I tell you in truth, in very truth, that the days of the wicked will end and the son of man will sit on the judgement seat. This will come as surely as the sun itself rises. The grim king will strive and lose, despite his cunning; he loses; he lost; he will always lose, and those with him will go into the pit of darkness and there they will linger forever.
"What you teach is the word of man. Man is holy, and the true god, the living god, is man himself. You will have no gods but yourselves; the days in which you believed in other gods end now, they end forever.
"The goal of your lives has been reached. I am here to tell you this. Do not fear; I will protect you. You are to follow one rule: you are to love one another as you love me and as I love you, for this love proceeds from the true god, which is yourselves.
"A time of trial and delusion and wailing lies ahead because the grim king, the king of tears, will not surrender his power. But you will take his power from him; I grant you that authority in my name, exactly as I granted it to you once before, when that grim king ruled and destroyed and challenged the humble people of the world.
"The battle which you fought before has not ended, although the day of the healing sun has come. Evil does not die of its own self because it imagines that it speaks for god. Many claim to speak for god, but there is only one god and that god is man himself.
"Therefore only those leaders who protect and shelter will live; the others will die. The oppression lifted four years ago, and it will for a little while return. Be patient during this time; it will be a time of trials for you, but I will be with you, and when the time of trials is over I shall sit down on the judgment seat, and some will fall and some will not fall, according to my will, my will which comes to me from the father, back to whom we all go, all of us together.
"I am not a god; I am a human. I am a child, the child of my father, which is Wisdom Himself. You carry in you now the voice and authority of Wisdom; you are, therefore, Wisdom, even when you forget it. You will not forget it for long. I will be there and I will remind you.
"The day of Wisdom and the rule of Wisdom has come. The day of power, which is the enemy of Wisdom, ends. Power and Wisdom are the two principles in the world. Power has had its rule and now it goes into the darkness from which it came, and Wisdom alone rules.
"Those who obey power will succumb as power succumbs.
"Those who love Wisdom and follow her will thrive under the sun. Remember, I will be with you. I will be in each of you from now on. I will accompany you down into the prison if necessary; I will speak in the courts of law to defend you; my voice will be heard in the land, whatever the oppression.
"Do not fear; speak out and Wisdom will guide you. Fall silent out of fear and Wisdom will depart you. But you will not feel fear because Wisdom herself is in you, and you and she are one.
"Formerly you were alone within yourselves; formerly you were solitary men. Now you have a companion who never sickens or fails or dies; you are bonded to the eternal and will shine like the healing sun itself.
"As you go back into the world I will guide you from day to day. And when you die I will notice and come to pick you up; I will carry you in my arms back to your home, out of which you came and back to which you go.
"You are strangers here, but you are hardly strangers to me; I have known you since the start. This has not been your world, but I will make it your world; I will change it for you. Fear not. What assails you will perish and you will thrive.
"These are things which shall be because I speak with the authority given me by my father. You are the true god and you will prevail."
There was silence, then. Sophia had ceased speaking to us.
"What are you reading?" Kevin said, pointing to the book.
The girl said, "SEPHER YEZIRAH. I will read to you; listen." She set the book down, closing it. "'God has also set the one over against the other; the good against the evil, and the evil against the good; the good proceeds from the good, and the evil from the evil; the good purifies the bad, and the bad the good; the good is preserved for the good, and the evil for the bad ones.'" Sophia paused a moment and then said, "This means that good will make evil into what evil does not wish to be; but evil will not be able to make good into what good does not wish to be. Evil serves good, despite its cunning." Then she said nothing; she sat silently, with her animals and with us.
"Could you tell us about your parents?" I said. "I mean, if we are to know what to do --"
Sophia said, "Go wherever I send you and you will know what to do. There is no place where I am not. When you leave here you will not see me, but later you will see me again.
"You will not see me but I will always see you; I am mindful of you continually. So I am with you whether you know it or not; but I say to you, Know that I accompany you, even down into the prison, if the tyrant puts you there.
"There is no more. Go back home, and I will instruct you as the time requires." She smiled at us.
"You're how old?" I said.
"I am two years old."
"And you're reading that book?" Kevin said.
Sophia said, "I tell you in truth, in very truth, none of you will forget me. And I tell you that all of you will see me again. You did not choose me; I chose you. I called you here. I sent for you four years ago."
"Okay," I said. That placed her call at 1974.
"If the Lamptons ask you what I said, say that we talked about the commune to be built," Sophia said. "'Do not tell them that I sent you away from them. But you are to go away from them; this is your answer: you will have nothing further to do with them."
Kevin pointed to the tape recorder, its drums turning.
"What they will hear on it," Sophia said, "when they play it back, will be only the SEPHER YEZIRAH, nothing more."
Wow, I thought.
I believed her.
"I will not fail you," Sophia repeated, smiling at the three of us.
I believed that, too.
As the three of us walked back to the house, Kevin said, "Was all that just quotations from the Bible?"
"No," I said.
"No," David agreed. "There was something new; that part about us being our own gods, now. That the time had come where we no longer had to believe in any deity other than ourselves."
"What a beautiful child," I said, thinking to myself how much she reminded me of my own son Christopher.
"We're very lucky," David, said huskily. "To have met her." Turning to me he said, "She'll be with us; she said so. I believe it. She'll be inside us; we won't be alone. I never realized it before but we are alone. Everybody is alone -- has been alone, I mean. Up until now. She's going to spread out all over the world, isn't she? Into everyone, eventually. Starting with us."
"The Rhipidon Society," I said, "has four members. Sophia and the three of us."
"That's still not very many," Kevin said.
"The mustard seed," I said. "That grows into a tree so large that birds can roost in it."
"Come off it," Kevin said.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
Kevin said, "We have to get our stuff together and get out of here; she said so. The Lamptons are whacked out flipped-out freaks. They could zap us any time."
"Sophia will protect us," David said.
"A two-year-old child?" Kevin said.
We both gazed at him.
"Okay, two-thousand-year-old child," Kevin said.
"The only person who could make jokes about the Savior," David said. "I'm surprised you didn't ask her about your dead cat."
Kevin halted; a look of genuine baffled anger appeared on his face; obviously he had forgotten to: he had missed his chance.
"I'm going back," he said.
Together, David and I propelled him along with us.
"I'm not kidding!" he said, with fury.
"What's the matter?" I said; we halted.
"I want to talk to her some more. I'm not going to walk off out of here; goddam it, I'm going back -- let me the fuck go!"
"Listen," I said. "She told us to leave."
"And she'll be inside us talking to us," David said.
"We'll hear what I call the AI voice," I said.
Kevin said savagely, "And there'll be lemonade fountains and gumdrop trees. I'm going back."
Ahead of us, Eric and Linda Lampton emerged from the big house and walked toward us.
"Confrontation time," I said.
"Aw shit," Kevin said, in desperation. "I'm still going back." He pulled away from us and hurried in the direction from which we had come.
"Did it work out well?" Linda Lampton said, when she and her husband reached David and me.
"Fine," I said.
"What did you discuss?" Eric said.
I said, "The commune."
"Very good," Linda said. "Why is Kevin going back? What is he going to say to Sophia?"
David said, "Has to do with his dead cat."
"Ask him to come here," Eric said.
"Why?" I said.
"We are going to discuss your relationship to the commune," Eric said. "The Rhipidon Society should be part of the major commune, in our opinion. Brent Mini suggested that; we really should talk about it. We find you acceptable."
"I'll get Kevin," David said.
"Eric," I said, "we're returning to Santa Ana."
"There's time to discuss your involvement with the commune," Linda said. "Your Air Cal flight's not until eight tonight, is it? You can have dinner with us."
Eric Lampton said, "VALIS summoned you people here. You will go when VALIS feels you are ready to go."
"VALIS feels we're ready to go," I said.
"I'll get Kevin," David said.
Eric said, "I'll go get him." He passed on by David and me, in the direction of Kevin and the girl.
Folding her arms, Linda said, "You can't go back down south yet. Mini wants to talk over a number of matters with you. Keep in mind that his time is short. He's weakening fast. Is Kevin really asking Sophia about his dead cat? What's so important about a dead cat?"
"To Kevin the cat is very important," I said.
"That's right," David agreed. "To Kevin the cat's death represents everything that's wrong with the universe; he believes that Sophia can explain it to him, which by that I mean everything that's wrong with the universe -- undeserved suffering and loss."
Linda said, "I don't really think he's talking about his dead cat."
"He really is," I said.
"You don't know Kevin," David said. "Maybe he's talking about other things because this is his chance to talk to the Savior finally but his dead cat is a major matter in what he's talking about."
"I think we should go over to Kevin," Linda said, "and tell him that he's talked to Sophia enough. What do you mean, VALIS feels you are ready to go? Did Sophia say that?"
A voice in my head spoke. Tell her radiation bothers you. It was the AI voice which Horselover Fat had heard since March 1974; I recognized it.
"The radiation," I said. "It --" I hesitated; understanding of the terse sentence came to me. "I'm half-blind," I said. "A beam of pink light hit me; it must have been the sun. Then I realized we should get back."
"VALIS fired information directly to you," Linda said, at once, alertly.
You don't know.
"I don't know," I said. "But I felt different afterward. As if l had something important to do down south in Santa Ana. We know other people ... there are other people we could get into the Rhipidon Society. They should come to the commune, too. VALIS has caused them to have visions; they come to us for explanations. We told them about the film, about seeing the film Mother Goose made; they're all seeing it, and getting a lot out of it. We've got more people going to see Valis than I thought we knew; they must be telling their friends. My own contacts in Hollywood -- the producers and actors I know, and especially the money people -- are very interested in what I've pointed out to them. There's one MGM producer in particular that might want to finance Mother Goose in another film, a high-budget film; he says he has the backing already."
My flow of talk amazed me; it seemed to come out of nothing. It was as if it wasn't me talking, but someone else; someone who knew exactly what to say to Linda Lampton.
"What's the producer's name?" Linda said.
"Art Rockoway," I said, the name coming into my head as if on cue.
"What films does he have?" Linda said.
"The one about the nuclear wastes that contaminated most of central Utah," I said. "That disaster the newspapers reported two years ago but TV was afraid to talk about; the government put pressure on them. Where all the sheep died. The cover-story that it was nerve gas. Rockoway did a hardball film in which the true tale of calculated indifference by the authorities came out."
"Who starred?" Linda said.
"Robert Redford," I said.
"Well, we would be interested," Linda said.
"So we should get back to southern California," I said. "We have a number of people in Hollywood to talk to."
"Eric!" Linda called; she walked toward her husband, who stood with Kevin; he now had Kevin by the arm.
Glancing at me, David made a signal that we should follow; together, the three of us approached Kevin and Eric. Not far off, Sophia ignored us; she continued to read her book.
A flash of pink light blinded me.
"Oh my God," I said.
I could not see; I put my hands against my forehead, which ached and throbbed as if it would burst.
"What's wrong?" David said. I could hear a low humming, like a vacuum cleaner. I opened my eyes, but nothing other than pink light swam around me.
"Phil, are you okay?" Kevin said.
The pink light ebbed. We were in three seats aboard a jet. Yet at the same time, superimposed over the seats of the jet, the wall, the other passengers, lay the brown dry field, Linda Lampton, the house not far off. Two places, two times.
"Kevin," I said. "What time is it?" I could see nothing out the window of the jet but darkness; the interior lights over the passengers were, for the most part, on. It was night. Yet, bright sunlight streamed down on the brown field, on the Lamptons and Kevin and David. The hum of the jet engines continued; I felt myself sway slightly: the plane had turned. Now I saw many far-off lights beyond the window. We're over Los Angeles, I realized. And still the warm daytime sun streamed down on me.
"We'll be landing in five minutes," Kevin said.
Time dysfunction, I realized.
The brown field ebbed out. Eric and Linda Lampton ebbed out. The sunlight ebbed out.
Around me the plane became substantial. David sat reading a paperback book of T.S. Eliot. Kevin seemed tense.
"We're almost there," I said. "Orange County Airport."
Kevin said nothing; he had hunched over, broodingly.
"They let us go?" I said.
"What?" He glanced at me irritably.
"I was just there," I said. Now the memory of the intervening events bled into my mind. The protests of the Lamptons and by Brent Mini -- him most of all; they had implored us not to go, but we had gotten away. Here we were on the Air Cal flight back. We were safe.
There had been a twin-pronged thrust by Mini and the Lamptons.
"You won't tell anyone on the outside about Sophia?" Linda had said anxiously. "Can we swear you three to silence?" Naturally they had agreed. This anxiety had been one of the prongs, the negative prong. The other had been positive, an inducement.
"Look at it this way," Eric had said, backed up by Mini who seemed genuinely crestfallen that the Rhipidon Society, small as it was, had decided to depart. "This is the most important event in human history; you don't want to be left out, do you? And after all, VALIS picked you out. We get literally thousands of letters on the film, and only a few people here and there seem to have been contacted by VALIS, as you were. We are a privileged group."
"This is the Call," Mini had said, almost imploringly to the three of us.
"Yes," Linda and Eric had echoed. "This is the Call mankind has waited centuries for. Read Revelation; read what it says about the Elect. We are God's Elect!"
"Guess so," I had said as they left us off by the car we had rented; we had parked near Gino's, on a side street of Sonoma which allowed prolonged parking.
Going up to me, Linda Lampton had put her hands on my shoulders and had kissed me on the mouth -- with intensity and a certain amount, in fact a great amount, of erotic fervor. "Come back to us," she had whispered in my ear. "You promise? This is our future; it belongs to a very few, a very, very few." To which I had thought, You couldn't be more wrong, honey; this belongs to everyone.
So now we were almost home. Crucially assisted by VALIS. Or, as I preferred to think of it, by St. Sophia. Putting it that way kept my attention on the image in my mind of the girl Sophia, seated with the animals and her book.
As we stood in the Orange County Airport, waiting for our luggage, I said, "They weren't strictly honest with us. For instance, they told us everything Sophia said and did was audio and video taped. That's not so."
"You may be wrong about that," Kevin said. "There are sophisticated monitoring systems now that work on remote. She may have been under their range even though we couldn't spot them. Mini is really what he says he is: a master at electronic hardware."
I thought, Mini, who was willing to die in order to experience VALIS once more. Was I? In 1974 I had experienced him once; ever since I had hungered for him to return -- ached in my bones; my body felt it as much as my mind, perhaps more so. But VALIS was right to be judicious. It showed his concern for human life, his unwillingness to manifest himself to me again.
The original encounter had, after all, almost killed me. I could again see VALIS, but, as with Mini, it would slay me. And I did not want that; I had too many things to do.
What exactly did I have to do? I didn't know. None of us knew. Already I had heard the AI voice in my head, and others would hear that voice, more and more people. VALIS, as living information, would penetrate the world, replicating in human brains, cross bonding with them and assisting them, guiding them, at a subliminal level, which is to say invisibly. No given human could be certain if he were cross bonded until the symbiosis reached flashpoint. In his concourse with other humans a given person would not know when he was dealing with another homoplasmate and when he would not.
Perhaps the ancient signs of secret identification would return; more likely they already had. During a handshake, a motion with one finger of two intersecting arcs: swift expression of the fish symbol, which no one beyond the two persons involved could discern.
I remembered back to an incident -- more than an incident -- involving my son Christopher. In March 1974 during the time that VALIS overruled me, held control of my mind, I had conducted a correct and complex initiation of Christopher into the ranks of the immortals. VALIS's medical knowledge had saved Christopher's physical life, but VALIS had not ended it there.
This was an experience which I treasured. It had been done in utter stealth, concealed even from my son's mother.
First I had fixed a mug of hot chocolate. Then I had fixed a hot dog on a bun with the usual trimmings; Christopher, young as he was, loved hot dogs and warm chocolate.
Seated on the floor in Christopher's room with him, -- or rather VALIS in me, as me -- had played a game. First, I jokingly held the cup of chocolate up, over my son's head; then, as if by accident, I had splashed warm chocolate on his head, into his hair. Giggling, Christopher had tried to wipe the liquid off; I had of course helped him. Leaning toward him, I had whispered;
"In the name of the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit."
No one heard me except Christopher. Now, as I wiped the warm chocolate from his hair, I inscribed the sign of the cross n his forehead. I had now baptized him and now I confirmed him; I did so, not by the authority of the church, but by the authority of the living plasmate in me: VALIS himself. Next I said to my son, "Your secret name, your Christian name, is --" And I told him what it was. Only he and I are ever to know; he and I and VALIS.
Next, I took a bit of the bread from the hot dog bun and held it forth; my son -- still a baby, really -- opened his mouth like a little bird, and I placed the bit of bread in it. We seemed, the two of us, to be sharing a meal; an ordinary simple, common meal.
For some reason it seemed essential -- quite crucial -- that he take no bite of the hot dog meat itself. Pork could not be eaten under these circumstances; VALIS filled me with this urgent knowledge.
As Christopher started to close his mouth to chew on the bit of bread, I presented him with the mug of warm chocolate. To my surprise -- being so young he still drank normally from his bottle, never from a cup -- he reached eagerly to take the mug; as he took it, lifted it to his lips and drank from it, I said,
"This is my blood and this is my body."
My little son drank, and I took the mug back. The greater sacraments had been accomplished. Baptism, then confirmation, then the most holy sacrament of all, the Eucharist: sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
"The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful."
This moment is most solemn of all. The priest himself has become Christ; it is Christ who offers his body and blood to the faithful, by a divine miracle.
Most people understand that in the miracle of transubstantiation the wine (or warm chocolate) becomes the Sacred Blood, and the wafer (or bit of hot dog bun) becomes the Sacred Body, but few people even within the churches realize that the figure who stands before them holding the cup is their Lord, living now. Time has been overcome. We are back almost two thousand years; we are not in Santa Ana, California, USA, but in Jerusalem, about 35 C.E.
What I had seen in March 1974 when I saw the superimposition of ancient Rome and modern California consisted of an actual witnessing of what is normally seen by the inner eyes of faith only.
My double-exposure experience had confirmed the literal not merely figurative-truth of the miracle of the Mass.
As I have said, the technical term for this is anamnesis: the loss of forgetfulness; which is to say, the remembering of the Lord and the Lord's Supper.
I was present that day, the last time the disciples sat at table. You may believe me; you may not. Sed per spiritum sanctum dico; haec veritas est. Mihi crede et mecum in aeternitate vivebis.
My Latin is probably faulty, but what I am trying to say, haltingly, is: "But I speak by means of the Holy Spirit; this is so. Believe me and you shall live with me in eternity."
Our luggage showed up; we turned our claim-checks over to the uniformed cop, and, ten minutes later, were driving north on the freeway toward Santa Ana and home.