THE ILLUMINATUS! TRILOGY
THE SEVENTH TRIP, OR NETZACH
(THE SNAFU PRINCIPLE)
The Midget, whose name was Markoff Chaney, was no relative of the famous Chaneys of Hollywood, but people did keep making jokes about that. It was bad enough to be, by the standards of the gigantic and stupid majority, a freak; how much worse to be so named as to remind these big oversized clods of the cinema's two most famous portrayers of monstro-freaks; by the time the Midget was fifteen, he had built up a detestation for ordinary mankind that dwarfed (he hated that word) the relative misanthropies of Paul of Tarsus, Clement of Alexandria, Swift of Dublin and even Robert Putney Drake. Revenge, for sure, he would have. He would have revenge.
It was in college (Antioch, Yellow Springs, 1962) that Markoff Chaney discovered another hidden joke in his name, and the circumstances were— considering that he was to become the worst headache the Illuminati ever encountered— appropriately synchronistic. It was in a math class, and, since this was Antioch, the two students directly behind the Midget were ignoring the professor and discussing their own intellectual interests; since this was Antioch, they were a good six years ahead of intellectual fads elsewhere. They were discussing ethology.
"So we keep the same instincts as our primate ancestors," one student (he was from Chicago, his name was Moon, and he was crazy even for Antioch) was saying. "But we superimpose culture and law on top of this. So we get split in two, dig? You might say," Moon's voice betrayed pride in the aphorism he was about to unleash, "mankind is a statutory ape."
". . . and," the professor, old Fred "Fidgets" Digits, said at just that moment, "when such a related series appears in a random process, we have what is known as a Markoff Chain. I hope Mr. Chaney won't be tormented by jokes about this for the rest of the term, even if the related series of his appearances in class do seem part of a notably random process." The class roared; another ton of bile was entered in the Midget's shit ledger, the list of people who were going to eat turd before he died.
In fact, his cuts were numerous, both in math and in other classes. There were tunes when he could not bear to be with the giants, but hid in his room, Playboy gatefold open, masturbating and dreaming of millions and millions of nubile young women built like Playmates. Today, however, Playboy would avail him not; he needed something raunchier. Ignoring his next class, Physical Anthropology (always good for a few humiliating moments), he hurried across David Street, passed by Atlanta Hope without noticing her, and slammed into his room, chain-bolting the door behind him.
Damn old Fidgets Digits, and damn the science of mathematics itself, the line, the square, the average, the whole measurable world that pronounced him a bizarre random factor. Once and for all, beyond fantasy, in the depth of his soul he declared war on the statutory ape, on law and order, on predictability, on negative entropy. He would be a random factor in every equation; from this day forward, unto death, it would be civil war: the Midget versus the Digits.
He took out the pornographic Tarot deck, which he used when he wanted a really far-out fantasy for his orgasm, and shuffled it thoroughly. Let's have a Mark-off Chain masturbation to start with, he thought with an evil grin.
And, thus, without ever contacting the Legion of Dynamic Discord, the Erisian Liberation Front or even the Justified Ancients of Mummu, Markoff Chaney began his own crusade against the Illuminati, not even knowing that they existed.
His first overt act— his Fort Sumter, as it were— began in Dayton the following Saturday. He was in Norton's Emporium, a glorified 5 & 100 store, when he saw the sign:
NO SALESPERSON MAY LEAVE THE FLOOR WITHOUT
What!, he thought, are the poor girls supposed to pee in their panties if they can't find a superior? Years of school came back to him ("Please, may I leave the room, sir?") and rituals which had appeared nonsensical suddenly made sense in a sinister way. Mathematics, of course. They were trying to reduce us all to predictable units, robots. Hah! not for nothing had he spent a semester in Professor "Sheets" Kelly's intensive course on textual analysis of modern poetry. The following Wednesday, the Midget was back at Norton's and hiding in a coffee urn when the staff left and locked up. A few moments later, the sign was down and a subtly different one was in its place:
NO SALESPERSON MAY LEAVE THE FLOOR OR GO TO THE
He came back several times in the next few weeks, and the sign remained. It was as he suspected: in a rigid hierarchy, nobody questions orders that seem to come from above, and those at the very top are so isolated from the actual work situation that they never see what is going on below. It was the chains of communication, not the means of production, that determined a social process; Marx had been wrong, lacking cybernetics to enlighten him. Marx was like the engineers of his time, who thought of electricity in terms of work done, before Marconi thought of it in terms of information transmitted. Nothing signed "THE MGT." would ever be challenged; the Midget could always pass himself off as the Management.
At the same tune, he noticed that the workers were more irritable; the shoppers picked this up and became grouchier themselves; sales, he guessed correctly, were falling off. Poetry was the answer: poetry in reverse. His interpolated phrase, with its awkward internal rhyme and its pointlessness, bothered everybody, but in a subliminal, preconscious fashion. Let the market researchers and statisticians try to figure this one out with their computers and averages.
His father had been a stockholder in Blue Sky Inc., generally regarded as the worst turkey on the Big Board (it produced devices to be used in making landings on low-gravity planets); profits had soared when John Fitzgerald Kennedy had announced that the U.S. would put a man on the moon before 1970; the Midget now had a guaranteed annuity amounting to thirty-six hundred dollars per year, three hundred dollars per month. It was enough for his purposes. Revenge, in good measure, he would have. He would have revenge.
Living in Spartan fashion, dining often on a tin of sardines and a pint of milk from a machine, traveling always by Greyhound bus, the Midget crisscrossed the country constantly, placing his improved surrealist signs whenever the opportunity presented itself. A slowly mounting wave of anarchy followed in his wake. The Illuminati never got a fix on him: he had little ego to discover, burning all his energies into Drive, like a dictator or a great painter— but, unlike a dictator or a great painter, he had no desire for recognition. For years, the Illuminati attributed his efforts to the Discordians, the JAMs or the esoteric ELF. Watts went up, and Detroit; Birmingham, Buffalo, Newark, a flaming picnic blanket spread across urban America as the Midget's signs burned in the stores that had flaunted them; one hundred thousand marched to the Pentagon and some of them tried to expel the Demon (the Illuminati foiled that at the last minute, forbidding them to form a circle); a Democratic convention was held behind barbed wire; in 1970 a Senate committee announced that there had been three thousand bombings in the year, or an average of ten per day; by 1973 Morituri groups were forming in every college, every suburb; the SLA came and came back again; Atlanta Hope was soon unable to control God's Lightning, which was going in for its own variety of terrorism years before Illuminati planning had intended.
"There's a random factor somewhere," technicians said at Illuminati International; "There's a random factor somewhere," Hagbard Celine said, reading the data that came out of FUCKUP; "There's a random factor somewhere," the Dealy Lama, leader of ELF, said dreamily in his underground hideout beneath Dealy Plaza.
Drivers on treacherous mountain roads swore in confusion at signs that said:
SLIPPERY WHEN WET
Men paid high initiation fees to revel in the elegance of all-WASP clubs whose waiters were carefully trained to be almost as snobbish as the members, then felt vaguely let down by signs warning them:
WATCH YOUR HAT AND COAT
The Midget became an electronic wizard in his spare tune. All over the country, pedestrians stood undecided on curbs as electric signs said WALK while the light was red and then switched to DON'T WALK when the light Went green. He branched out and expanded his activities; office workers received memos early in the morning (after he had spent a night with a Xerox machine) and puzzled over:
On April 26 of the year when the Illuminati tried to immanentize the Eschaton, the Midget experienced aches, pains, nausea, spots before his eyes, numbness in his legs and dizziness. He went to the hotel doctor, and a short while after describing his symptoms he was rushed in a closed car to a building that had a Hopi Indian Kachina Doll Shop in front and the Las Vegas CIA office in the back. He was fairly delirious by then, but he heard somebody say, "Ha, we're ahead of the FBI and the Cesspool Cleaners on this one." Then he got an injection and began to feel better, until a friendly silver-haired man sat down by his cot and asked who "the girl" was.
"What girl?" the Midget asked irritably.
"Look, son, we know you've been with a girl. She gave you this."
"Was it the clap?" the Midget asked, dumbfounded. Except for his pornographic Tarot cards, he was still a virgin (the giant women were all so damned patronizing, but his own female equivalents bored him; the giantesses were the Holy Grail to him, but he had never had the courage to approach one). "I never knew the clap could be this bad," he added, blushing. His greatest fear was that somebody would discover his virginity.
"No, it wasn't the clap," said the kindly man (who didn't deceive the Midget one bit; if this guy couldn't pump him, he knew, they would send in the mean, tough one; the nice cop and the nasty cop; oldest con in the business). "This girl had a certain, uh, rare disease, and we're with the U.S. Public Health Service." The gentle man produced forged credentials to "prove" this last allegation. Horseshit, the Midget thought. "Now," the sweet old codger went on, "we've got to track her down, and see that she gets the antidote, or a lot of people will get this disease. You understand?"
The Midget understood. This guy was Army Intelligence or CIA and they wanted to crack this before the FBI and get the credit. The disease was started by the government, obviously. Some fuckup in one of their biological war laboratories, and they had to cover it up before the whole country got wise. He hesitated; none of his projects had ever been consciously intended to lead to death, just to make things a little unpredictable and spooky for the giants.
"The U.S. Public Health Service will be eternally grateful to you." the grandfatherly man said, eyes crinkling with sly affection. "It isn't often that a little man gets a chance to do such a big job for his country." That did it.
"Well," the Midget said, "she was blonde, in her mid-twenties I guess, and she told me her name was Sarah. She had a scar on her neck— I suppose somebody tried to cut her throat once. She was, let's see, about five-five and maybe 110-115 pounds. And she was superb at giving head," he concluded, thinking that was a very plausible Las Vegas whore he had just created. His mind was racing rapidly; they wouldn't want people running around loose knowing about this. The antidote had been to keep him alive while they pumped him. He needed insurance. "Oh, and here's a real lead for you," he said "I just remembered. First, I want to explain something about, uh, people who are below average in stature. We're very sexy. You see, our sex gland or whatever it's called works extra, because our growth gland doesn't work. So we never get enough." He was making this up off the top of his head and enjoying it. He hoped it would spread; he had a beautiful vision of bored rich women seeking midgets as they now seek blacks. "So you see," he went on, "I kept her a long time, having encores and encores and encores. Finally, she told me she'd have to raise her price, because she had another customer waiting. I couldn't afford it so I let her go." Now the clincher. "But she mentioned his name. She said, 'Joe Blotz will be pissed if I disappoint him,' only the name wasn't Joe Blotz."
"Well, what was it?"
"That's the problem," the Midget said sadly. "I can't remember. But if you leave me alone awhile," he added brightly, "maybe it'll come back to me." He was already planning his escape.
And, twenty-five hours earlier, George Dorn, quoting Pilate, asked, "What is Truth?" (Barney Muldoon just then, was lounging in the lobby of the Hotel Tudor, waiting for Saul to finish what he had called "a very important, very private conversation" with Rebecca; Nkrumah Fubar was experimentally placing a voodoo doll of the president of American Express inside a tetrahedron— their computer was still annoying him about a bill he'd paid over two months ago, on the very daynight that Soapy Mocenigo dreamed of Anthrax Leprosy Pi; R. Buckminster Fuller, unaware of this new development in his geodesic revolution, was lecturing the Royal Institute of Architects in London and explaining why there were no nouns in the real world; August Personage was breathing into a telephone in New York; Pearson Mohammed Kent was exuberantly balling a female who was not only white but from Texas; the Midget himself was saying "Rude bastard, isn't he?" to Dr. Naismith; and our other characters were variously pursuing their own hobbies, predilections, obsessions and holy missions). But Hagbard, with uncharacteristic gravity, said, "Truth is the opposite of lies. The opposite of most of what you've heard all your life. The opposite of most of what you've heard from me."
They were in Hagbard's funky stateroom and George, after his experience at the demolished Drake mansion, found the octopi and other sea monsters on the wall murals distinctly unappetizing. Hagbard, as usual, was wearing a turtleneck and casual slacks; this time the turtleneck was lavender— an odd, faggoty item for him. George remembered, suddenly, that Hagbard had once told him, about homosexuality, "I've tried it, of course," but added something about liking women better. (Goodness, was that only two mornings ago?) George wondered what it would be like to "try it" and if he would ever have the nerve. "What particular lies," he asked cautiously, "are you about to confess?"
Hagbard lit a pipe and passed it over. "Alamout Black hash," he said croakingly, holding the smoke down. "Hassan i Sabbah's own private formula. Does wonders when heavy metaphysics is coming at you."
George inhaled and felt an immediate hit like cocaine or some other forebrain stimulant. "Christ, what's this shit cut with?" he gasped, as somebody somewhere seemed to turn colored lights on in the gold-and-nautical-green room and on that outasight lavender sweater.
"Oh," Hagbard said casually, "a hint of belladonna and stramonium. That was old Hassan's secret, you know. All that crap in most books about how he had turned his followers on with hash, and they'd never i had it before so they thought it was magic, is unhistorical. Hashish was known in the Mideast since the neolithic age; archeologists have dug it up in tombs. Seems our ancestors buried their priests with a load of hash to help them negotiate with their gods when they got to Big Rock Candy Mountain or wherever they thought they were going. Hassan's originality was blending hashish with just the right chemical cousins to produce a new synergetic effect."
"What's synergetic?" George asked slowly, feeling seasick for the first time aboard the Leif Erikson.
"Nonadditive. When you put two and two together and get five instead of four. Buckminster Fuller uses synergetic gimmicks all the time in his geodesic domes. That's why they're stronger than they look." Hagbard took another toke and passed the pipe again.
What the hell? George thought. Sometimes increasing the dose got you past the nausea. He toked, deeply. Hadn't they started out to discuss Truth, though?
George giggled. "Just as I suspected. Instead of using your goddam prajna or whatever it is to spy on the Illuminati, you're just another dirty old man. You use it to play Peeping Tom in other people's heads."
"Heads?" Hagbard protested, laughing. "I never scan the heads. Who the hell wants to watch people eliminating their wastes?"
"I thought you were going to be Socrates," George howled between lunatic peals of tin giggles, "and I was prepared to be Plato, or at least Glaucon or one of the minor characters. But you're as stoned as I am. You can't tell me anything important. All you can do is make bad puns."
"The pun," Hagbard replied with dignity (ruined somewhat by an unexpected chortle), "is mightier than the sword. As James Joyce once said."
"Don't get pedantic."
"Can I get semantic?"
"Yes. You can get semantic. Or antic. But not pedantic."
"Where were we?"
"Yes. Well, Truth is like marijuana, my boy. A drug on the market."
"I'm getting a hard-on."
"You too? That's the way the balling bounces. At least, with Alamout Black. Nausea, then microamnesia, then the laughing jag, then sex. Be patient. The clear light comes next. Then we can discuss Truth. As if we haven't been discussing it all along."
"You're a hell of a guru, Hagbard. Sometimes you sound even dumber than me."
"If the Elder Malaclypse were here, he'd tell you a few about some other gurus. And geniuses. Do you think Jesus never whacked off? Shakespeare never got on a crying jag at the Mermaid Tavern? Buddha never picked his nose? Gandhi never had the crabs?"
"I've still got a hard-on. Can't we postpone the philosophy while I go look for Stella— I mean, Mavis?"
"What is Truth?"
"Up in the cortex it makes a difference to you whether it's Stella or Mavis. Down in the glands, no difference. My grandmother would do as well."
"That's not Truth. That's just cheap half-assed Freudian cynicism."
"Oh, yes. You saw the mandala with Mavis."
"And you were inside my head somehow. Dirty voyeur."
"This will never take its place beside the Platonic Dialogues, not in a million years. We're both stoned out of our gourds."
"I love you, George."
"I guess I love you, too. You're so damned overwhelming. Everybody loves you. Are we gonna fuck?"
(Mavis had said, "Wipe the come off your trousers." Fantasizing Sophia Loren while he masturbated. Or fantasizing that he masturbated while actually...)
"No. You don't need it. You're starting to remember what really happened in Mad Dog jail."
"Oh, no." Coin's enormous, snaky cock . . . the pain. . . the pleasure . . .
"I'm afraid so."
"Damn it, now I'll never know. Did you put that in my head, or did it really happen? Did I fantasize the interruption then or did I fantasize the rape just now?"
"Did you say that twice or did I just hear it twice?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't know. I don't know, right now. I just don't know. Is this some devious homosexual seduction?"
"Maybe. Maybe it's a murder plot. Maybe I'm leading up to cutting your throat."
"I wouldn't mind. I've always had a big self-destructive urge. Like all cowards. Cowardice is a defense against suicide."
Hagbard laughed. "I never knew a young man who had so much pussy and risked death so often. And there you sit, still worrying about being whatever it was they called you when you first started letting your hair grow long in your early teens."
"Sissy. That was the word in good old Nutley, New Jersey. It meant both faggot and coward. So I've never cut my hair since then, to prove they couldn't intimidate me."
"Yeah. I'm tracking a black guy now, a musician, who's balling a white lady, a fair flower from Texas. Partly, because she really turns him on. But partly because she could have a brother who might come after him with a gun. He's proving they can't intimidate him."
"That's the Truth? We spend all our time proving we can't be intimidated? But all the time we are intimidated on another level?" The colors were coming back strong again; it was that kind of trip. Every time you thought you were the pilot, it would go off in an unexpected direction to remind you that you were just a passenger.
"That's part of the Truth, George. Another part is that every time you think you're intimidated you're really rebelling on another level. Oh, what idiots the IIluminati really are, George. I once collected statistics on industrial accidents in a sample city— Birmingham, England, actually. Fed all the relevant facts into FUCKUP and got just what I expected. Sabotage. Unconscious sabotage. Every case was a blind insurrection. Every man and woman is in rebellion, but only a few have the guts to admit it. The others jam the system by accident, har har har, or by stupidity, har har har again. Let me tell you about the Indians, George."
"Did you ever wonder why nothing works right? Why the whole world seems completely fucked up all the time?"
"Yeah. Doesn't everybody?"
"I suppose so. Pardon me, I've got to get more stoned. In a little while, I go into FUCKUP and we put our heads together— literally, I attach electrodes to my temples— and I'll try to track down the problem in Las Vegas. I don't spend all my time on random voyeurism," Hagbard pronounced with dignity. He refilled the pipe, asking pettishly, "Where was I?"
"The Indians in Birmingham. How did they get there?"
"There weren't any fucking Indians in Birmingham. You're getting me confused." Hagbard toked deeply.
"You're getting yourself confused. You're bombed out of your skull."
"Look who's talking."
Hagbard toked again. "The Indians. The Indians weren't in Birmingham. Birmingham was where I did the study that convinced me most industrial accidents are unconscious sabotage. So are most misfiled documents among white-collar workers, I'd wager. The Indians are another story. I was a lawyer once, when I first came to your country and before I went in for piracy. I usually don't admit that, George. I usually tell people I played the piano in a whorehouse or something else not quite so disreputable as the truth. If you want to know why nothing makes sense in government forms, remember there are two hundred thousand lawyers working for the bureaucracy these days.
"The Indians were a band of Shoshones. I was defending them against the Great Land Thief, or as it pretentiously titles itself, the Government, in Washington. We were having a conference. You know what an Indian conference is like? Nobody talks for hours sometimes. A good yoga. When somebody does finally speak, you can be sure it comes from the heart. That old movie stereotype, 'White man speak with forked tongue,' has a lot of truth in it. The more you talk, the more your imagination colors things. I'm one of the most long-winded people alive and one of the worst liars." Hagbard toked again and finally held the pipe out inquiringly; George shook his head. "But the story I wanted to tell was about an archeologist. He was hunting for relics of the Devonian culture, the Indians who lived in North America just before the ecological catastrophe of 10,000 B.C. He found what he thought was a burial mound and asked to dig into it. Grok this, George. The Indians looked at him. They looked at me. They looked at each other. Then the oldest man spoke and, very gravely, gave permission. The archeologist hefted his pick and shovel and went at it like John Henry trying to beat that steam drill. In two minutes he disappeared. Right into a cesspool. Then the Indians laughed.
"Grok, George. I knew them as well as any white man ever knows Indians. They had learned to trust me, and I, them. And yet I sat there, while they played their little joke, and I didn't get a hint of what was about to happen. Even though I had begun to discover my telepathic talents and even focus them a little. Think about it, George. Think about all the pokerfaced blacks you've seen. Think about every time a black has done something so fantastically, outrageously stupid that you had a flash of racism— which, being a radical, you were ashamed of, right?—and wondered if maybe they are inferior. And think of ninety-nine percent of the women in the Caucasian world, outside Norway, who do the Dumb Dora or Marilyn Monroe act all the time. Think a minute, George. Think."
There was a silence that seemed to stretch into some long hall of near-Buddhist emptiness—George recognized a glimpse, at last!, into the Void all his acidhead friends had tried to describe— and then he remembered this was not the trip Hagbard was pushing him toward. But the silence lingered as a quietness of spirit, a calm in the tornado of those last few days, and George found himself ruminating with total dispassion, without hope or dread or smugness or guilt; if not totally without ego, or in full darshana, at least without the inflamed and voracious ego that usually either leaped forward or shrunk back from naked fact. He contemplated his memories and was unmoved, objective, at peace. He thought of blacks and women and of their subtle revenges against their Masters, acts of sabotage that could not be recognized clearly as such because they took the form of acts of obedience; he thought of the Shoshone Indians and their crude joke, so similar to the jokes of oppressed peoples everywhere; he saw, suddenly, the meaning of Mardi Gras and the Feast of Fools and the Saturnalia and the Christmas Office Party and all the other limited, permissible, structured occasions on which Freud's Return of the Repressed was allowed; he remembered all the times he had gotten his own back against a professor, a high school principal, a bureaucrat, or, further back, his own parents, by waiting for the occasion when, by doing exactly what he was told, he could produce some form of minor catastrophe. He saw a world of robots, marching rigidly in the paths laid down for them from above, and each robot partly alive, partly human, waiting its chance to drop its own monkey wrench into the machinery. He saw, finally! why everything in the world seemed to work wrong and the Situation Normal was All Fucked Up. "Hagbard," he said slowly. "I think I get it. Genesis is exactly backwards. Our troubles started from obedience, not disobedience. And humanity is not yet created."
Hagbard, more hawk-faced than ever, said carefully, "You are approaching Truth. Walk cautiously now, George. Truth is not, as Shakespeare would have it, a dog that can be whipped out to kennel. Truth is a tiger. Walk cautiously, George." He turned in his chair, slid open a drawer in his Danish Modern quasi-Martian desk and took out a revolver. George watched, as cool and alone as a man atop Everest, as Hagbard opened the chamber and showed six bullets inside. Then, with a snap, the gun was closed and placed on the desk blotter. Hagbard did not glance at it again. He watched George; George watched the pistol. It was the scene with Carlo all over again, but Hagbard's challenge was unspoken, gnomic; his level glance did not even admit that a contest had begun. The gun glittered maliciously; it whispered of all the violence and stealth in the world, treacheries undreamed of by Medici or Machiavelli, traps set for victims who were innocent and blameless; it seemed to fill the room with an aura of its presence, and yes, it even had the more subtle menace of a knife, weapon of the sneak, or of a whip in the hands of a man whose smile is too sensual, too intimate, too knowing; into the middle of George's tranquility it had come, inescapable and unexpected as a rattlesnake hi the path on the afternoon of the sweetest spring day in the world's most manicured and artificial garden. George heard the adrenalin begin to course into his bloodstream; saw the "activation syndrome" moisten his palms, accelerate his heart, loosen his sphincter a micrometer; and still, high and cool on his mountain, felt nothing.
"The robot," he said, glancing finally at Hagbard, "is easily upset"
"Don't put your hand in that fire," Hagbard warned, unimpressed. "You'll get burned." He watched; he waited; George could not tear his glance from those eyes and in them, then, he saw the merriment of Howard, the dolphin, the contempt of his grade school principal ("A high IQ, Dorn, does not justify arrogance and insubordination"), the despairing love of his mother, who could never understand him, the emptiness of Nemo, his tomcat of childhood days, the threat of Billy Holtz, the school bully, and the total otherness of an insect or a serpent. More: he saw the child Hagbard, proud like himself of intellectual superiority and frightened like himself of the malice of stupider but brawnier boys, and the very old Hagbard, years hence, wrinkled as a reptile but still showing an endless searching intelligence. The ice melted; the mountain, with a roar of protest and defiance, crumbled; and George was borne down, down in the river racing toward the rapids where the gorilla howled and the mouse trotted quickly, where the saurian head raised above the Triassic foliage, where the sea slept and the spirals of DNA curled backward toward the flash that was this radiance now, this raging eternally against the quite impossible dying of the light, this storm and this centering.
"Hagbard . . ." he said at last.
"I know. I can see it. Just don't fall back into that other thing. It's the Error of the Illuminati."
George smiled weakly, still not quite back into the world of words. " 'Eat and ye shall be as gods'?" he said.
"I call it the no-ego ego trip. It's the biggest ego trip of all, of course. Anybody can learn it. A child of two months, a dog, a cat. But when an adult rediscovers it, after the habit of obedience and submission has crushed it out of him for years or decades, what happens can be a total disaster. That's why the Zen Roshis say, 'One who achieves supreme illumination is like an arrow flying straight to hell.' Keep in mind what I said about caution, George. You can release at any moment. It's great up there, and you need a mantra to keep you away from it until you learn how to use it. Here's your mantra, and if you knew the peril you are in you'd brutally burn it into your backside with a branding iron to make sure you'd never forget it: I Am The Robot. Repeat it."
"I Am The Robot."
Hagbard made a face like a baboon and George laughed again, at last. "When you get tune," Hagbard said, "look into my little book, Never Whistle While You're Pissing—there are copies all over the ship. That's my ego tip. And keep it in mind: you are the robot and you'll never be anything else. Of course, you're also the programmer, and even the meta-programmer; but that's another lesson, for another day. For now, just remember the mammal, the robot."
"I know," George said. "I've read T. S. Eliot, and now I understand him. 'Humility is endless.'"
"And humanity is created. The . . . other ... is not human."
George said then, "So I've arrived. And it's just another starting place. The beginning of another trip. A harder trip."
"That's another meaning in Heracleitus. "The end is the beginning.'" Hagbard rose and shook himself like a dog. "Wow," he said. "I better get to work with FUCKUP. You can stay here or go to your own room, but I suggest that you don't rush off and talk about your experience to somebody else. You can talk it to death that way."
George remained in Hagbard's room and reflected on what had happened. He had no urge to scribble in his diary, the usual defense against silence and aloneness since his early teens. Instead, he savored the stillness of the room and of his inner core. He remembered Saint Francis of Assisi called his body "Brother Ass," and Timothy Leary used to say when exhausted, "The robot needs sleep." Those had been their mantras, their defenses against the experience of the mountaintop and the terrible arrogance it triggered. He remembered, too, the old classic underground press ad: "Keep me high and I'll ball you forever." He felt sorry for the woman who had written that: pitiful modern version of the maddened Saint Simon on his pillar in the desert. And Hagbard was right: any dog or cat could do it, could make the jump to the mountaintop and wait without passion until the robot, Brother Ass, survived the ordeal or perished in it. That was what primitive rites of initiation were all about— driving the youth through sheer terror to the point of letting go, the mountaintop point, and then bringing him back down again. George suddenly understood how his generation, in rediscovering the sacred drugs, had failed to rediscover their proper use ... had failed, or had been prevented. The Illuminati, it was clear, didn't want any competition in the godmanship business.
You could talk it to death in your own head as well as in conversation, he realized, but he went back over it again trying to dissect it without mutilating it. The homosexuality bit had been a false front (with its own reality, of course, like all false fronts). Behind that was the conditioned terror against the Robot: the fear, symbolized in Frankenstein and dozens of other archetypes, that if it were let loose, unrestrained, the Robot would run amok, murder, rape, go mad . . . And then Hagbard had waited until the Alamout Black brought him to freedom, showed him the peak, the place where the cortex at last could idle, as a car motor or a dog or cat idles, the last refuge where the catatonic hides. When George was safely in that harbor, Hagbard produced the gun— in a more primitive, or more sophisticated, society, it would have been the emblem of a powerful demon— and George saw that he could, indeed, idle there and not blindly follow the panic signals from the Robot's adrenalin factory. And, because he was a human and not a dog, the experience had been ecstasy to him, and temptation, so Hagbard, with a few words and a glance from those eyes, pushed him off the peak into . . . what?
Reconciliation was the word. Reconciliation with the robot, with the Robot, with himself. The peak was not a victory; it was the war, the eternal war against the Robot, carried to a higher and more dangerous level. The end of the war was his surrender, the only possible end to that war, since the Robot was three billion years old and couldn't be killed.
There were two great errors in the world, he perceived: the error of the submissive hordes, who fought all their lives to control the Robot and please their masters (and who always sabotaged every effort without knowing it, and were in turn sabotaged by the Robot's Revenge: neuroses, psychoses and all the tiresome list of psychosomatic ailments); and the error of those who recaptured the animal art of letting the Robot run itself, and who then tried to maintain this split from their own flesh indefinitely, until they were lost forever in that eternally widening chasm. One sought to batter the Robot to submission, the other to slowly starve it; both were wrong.
And yet, on another plane of his still-zonked mind, George knew that even this was a half truth; that he was, indeed, just beginning his journey, not arriving at his destination. He rose and walked to the bookshelves and, as he expected, found a stack of Hagbard's little pamphlets on the bottom: Never Whistle While You're Pissing, by Hagbard Celine, H.M., S.H. He wondered what the H.M. and S.H. stood for, then flipped open to the first page, where he found only the large question:
George laughed out loud. The Robot, of course. Me. George Dorn. All three billion years' worth of evolution in every gene and chromosome of me. And that, of course, was what the Illuminati (and all the petty would-be Illuminati who made up power structures everywhere) never wanted a man or woman to realize.
George turned to the second page and began reading:
That was all, except for an abstract drawing on page three that seemed to suggest an enemy figure moving out toward the viewer. About to turn to page four, George got a shock: from another angle, the drawing was two figures engaged in attacking each other. I and It. The Mind and the Robot. His memory leaped back twenty-two years and he saw his mother lean over the crib and remove his hand from his penis. Christ, no wonder I grab it when I'm frightened: the Robot's Revenge, the Return of the Repressed.
George started to turn the page again, and saw another trick in Hagbard's abstraction: from a third angle, it might be a couple making love. In a flash, he saw his mother's face above his crib again, in better focus, and recognized the concern in her eyes. The cruel hand of repression was moved by love: she was trying to save him from Sin.
And Carlo, dead three years now, together with the rest of that Morituri group— what had inspired Carlo when he and the four others (all of them less than eighteen, George remembered) blasted their way into a God's Lightning rally and killed three cops and four Secret Service agents in their attempts to gun down the Secretary of State? Love, nothing but mad love ...
The door opened and George tore his eyes from the text. Mavis, back again in her sweater and slacks outfit, walked in. For a proclaimed right-wing anarchist, she sure dresses a lot like a New Leftist, George thought; but then Hagbard wrote like a cross between Reichian Leftist and an egomaniacal Zen Master— there was obviously more to the Discordian philosophy than he could grasp yet, even though he was now convinced it was the system he himself had been groping toward for many years.
"Mmm," she said, "I like that smell. Alamout Black?"
"Yeah," George said, having trouble meeting her eyes. "Hagbard's been illuminating me."
"I can tell. Is that why you suddenly feel uncomfortable with me?"
George met her eyes, then looked away again; there was tenderness there but it was, as he had expected, sisterly at best. He muttered, "It's just that I realize our sex" (why couldn't he say fucking or, at least, balling?) "was less important to you than to me."
Mavis took Hagbard's chair and smiled at him affectionately. "You're lying, George. You mean it was more important to me than to you." She began to refill the pipe; Christ God, George thought, did Hagbard send her in to take me to the next stage, whatever it is?
"Well, I guess I mean both," he said cautiously. "You were more emotionally involved than I was then, but now I'm more emotionally involved. And I know that what I want, I can't have. Ever."
"Ever is a long time. Let's just say you can't have it now."
" 'Humility is endless,' " George repeated.
"Don't start feeling sorry for yourself. You've discovered that love is more than a word in poetry, and you want it right away. You just had two other things that used to be just words to you— sunyata and satori. Isn't that enough for one day?"
"I'm not complaining. I know that 'humility is endless' also means surprise is endless. Hagbard promised me a happy truth and that's it."
Mavis finally got the pipe lit and, after toking deeply, passed it over. "You can have Hagbard," she said.
George, sipping very lightly since he was still fairly high, mumbled "Hm?"
"Hagbard will love you as well as ball you. Of course, it's not the same. He loves everybody. I'm not at that stage yet. I can only love my equals." She grinned wickedly. "Of course, I can still get horny about you. But now that you know there's more than that, you want the whole package deal, right? So try Hagbard."
George laughed, feeling suddenly lighthearted. "Okay! I will."
"Bullshit," Mavis said bluntly. "You're putting us both on. You've liberated some of the energies and right away, like everybody else at this stage, you want to prove that there are no blocks anywhere anymore. That laugh was not convincing, George. If you have a block, face it. Don't pretend it isn't there."
Humility is endless, George thought. "You're right," he said, unabashed.
"That's better. At least you didn't fall into feeling guilty about the block. That's an infinite regress. The next stage is to feel guilty about feeling guilty . . . and pretty soon you're back in the trap again, trying to be the governor of the nation of Dorn."
"The Robot," George said.
Mavis toked and said, "Mm?"
"I call it the Robot."
"You picked that up from Leary back in the mid-'60s. I keep forgetting you were a child prodigy. I can just see you, with your eyeglasses and your shoulders all hunched, poring over one of Tim's books when you were eight or nine. You must have been quite a child. They've sure mauled you over since then, haven't they?"
"It happens to most prodigies. And nonprodigies, too, for that matter."
"Yeah. Eight years' grade school, four high school, four college, then postgraduate studies. Nothing left but the Robot at the end. The ever-rebellious nation of Me with poor old I sitting on the throne trying to govern it."
"There's no governor anywhere," George quoted.
"You are coming along nicely."
"That's Chuang Chou, the Taoist philosopher. But I never understood him before."
"So that's where Hagbard stole it! He has little cards that say, 'There is no enemy anywhere.' And ones that say, 'There is no friend anywhere.' He said once he could tell in two minutes which card was right for a particular person. To jolt them awake."
"But words alone can't do it. I've known most of the words for years . . ."
"Words can help. In the right situation. If they're the wrong words. I mean, the right words. No, I do mean the wrong words."
They laughed, and George said, "Are we just goofing, or are you taking up the liberation of the nation of Dorn where Hagbard left off?"
"Just goofing. Hagbard did tell me that you had passed one of the gateless gates and that I might drop in, after you had a while alone."
"A gateless gate. That's another one I've known for years, without understanding it. The gateless gate and the governorless nation. The chief cause of socialism is
capitalism. What the hell does that bloody apple have to do with all this?"
"The apple is the world. Who did Goddess say owns it?"
" 'The prettiest one.' "
"Who is the prettiest one?"
"Don't make a pass right now. Think."
George giggled. "I've been through too much already. I think I'm getting sleepy. I have two answers, one communist and one fascist. Both are wrong, of course. The correct answer has to fit in with your anarcho-capitalism."
"Not necessarily. Anarcho-capitalism is just our trip. We don't mean to impose it on everybody. We have an alliance with an anarcho-communist group called the JAMs. John Dillinger's their leader."
"Come off it. Dillinger died in 1935 or something."
"John Dillinger is alive and well today, in California, Fernando Poo and Texas," Mavis smiled. "As a matter of fact, he shot John F. Kennedy."
"Give me another toke. If I have to listen to this, I might as well be in a state where I won't try to understand it."
Mavis passed the pipe. "The prettiest one has quite a few levels to it, like all good jokes. I'll give you the Freudian one, as beginners. You know the prettiest one, George. You gave it to the apple just yesterday.
"Every man's penis is the prettiest thing in the world to him. From the day he's born until the day he dies. It never loses its endless fascination. And, I kid you not, baby, the same is true of every woman and her pussy. It's the closest thing to a real, blind, helpless love and religious adoration that most people ever achieve. But they'd rather die than admit it. Homosexuality, the urge to kill, petty spites and treacheries, fantasies of sadism, masochism, transvestism, any weird thing you can name, they'll confess all that in a group therapy session. But that deep submerged constant narcissism, that perpetual mental masturbation, is the earliest and most powerful block. They'll never admit it."
"From what I've read of psychiatric literature, I thought most people had rather squeamish and negative feelings about their genitals."
"That, to quote Freud himself, is a reaction formation. The primordial emotional tone, from the day the infant discovers the incredible pleasure centers there, is perpetual astonishment, awe and delight. No matter how much society tries to crush it and repress it. For instance, everybody has some pet name for their genitals. What's yours?"
"Polyphemus," he confessed.
"Because it has one eye, you know? Also, Polyphemus rhymes with penis, I guess. I mean, I can't remember exactly what my mental process was when I invented that in my early teens."
"Polyphemus was a giant, too. Almost a god. You see what I mean about the primary emotional tone? It's the origin of all religion. Adoration of your own genitals and of your lover's genitals. There's Pan Pangeni-tor and the Great Mother."
"So," George said owlishly, still not sure whether this was profundity or nonsense, "the earth belongs to our genitalia?"
"To their offspring, and their offspring's offspring, and so on, forever. The world is a verb, not a noun."
"The prettiest one is three billion years old."
"You've got it, baby. We're all tenants here, including the ones who think they're owners. Property is impossible."
"Okay, okay, I think I've got most of it. Property is theft because the Illuminati land titles are arbitrary and unjust. And so are their banking charters and railroad franchises and all the other monopoly games of capitalism—"
"Of state capitalism. Not of true laissez-faire."
"Wait. Property is impossible because the world is a verb, a burning house as Buddha said. All things are fire. My old pal Heracleitus. So property is theft and property is impossible. How do we get to property is liberty?"
"Without private property there can be no private decisions."
"So we're back where we started from?"
"No, we're one flight higher up on the spiral staircase. Look at it that way. Dialectically, as your Marxist Mends say."
"But we care back at private property. After proving it's an impossible fiction."
"The Statist form of private property is an impossible fiction. Just like the Statist form of communal property is an impossible fiction. Think outside the State framework, George. Think of property in freedom."
George shook his head. "It beats the hell out of my ass. All I can see is people ripping each other off. The war of all against all, as what's-his-name said."
"Hobbes, snobs, jobs. Whoever. Or whatever. Isn't he right?"
"Stop the motor on this submarine."
"Force me to love you."
"Wait, I don't . . ."
"Turn the sky green or red, instead of blue."
"I still don't get it."
Mavis took a pen off the desk and held it between two fingers. "What happens when I let go of this?"
"Where do you sit if there are no chairs?"
"On the floor?" If I wasn't so stoned, I would have had it by then. Sometimes drugs are more a hindrance than a help. "On the ground?" I added.
"On your ass, that's for sure." Mavis said. "The point is, if the chairs all go away, you still sit. Or you build new chairs." She was stoned, too; otherwise she'd be explaining it better, I realized. "But you can't stop the motor without learning something about marine engineering first. You don't know what switch to pull. Or switches. And you can't change the sky. And the pen will fall without a gravity-governing demon rushing into the room to make it fall."
"Shit and pink petunias," I said disgustedly. "Is this some form of Thomism? Are you trying to sell me the Natural Law argument? I can't buy that at all."
"Okay, George. Here's the next jolt. Keep your asshole tight." She spoke to the wall, to a hidden microphone, I guessed. "Send him in now."
The Robot is easily upset; my sphincter was already tightening as soon as she warned me there was a jolt coming and she didn't really need to add that bit about my asshole. Carlo and his gun. Hagbard and his gun. Drake's mansion. I took a deep breath and waited to see what the Robot would do.
A panel in the wall opened and Harry Coin was pushed into the room. I had time to think that I should have guessed, in this game where both sides were playing with illusion constantly, Coin's death could have been faked, artificial intestines dangling and all, and of course Mavis and her raiders could have taken him out of Mad Dog jail even before they took me out of course, and I remembered the pain when he slapped my face and when his cock entered me, and the Robot was already moving, and I hardly had time to aim of course, and then his head was banging against the wall, blood spurting from his nose, and I had time to clip him again on the jaw as he went down of course, and then I came all the way back and stopped myself as I was about to kick him in the face as he lay there unconscious. Zen in the art of face-punching. I had knocked a man out with two blows; I who hated Hemingway and Machismo so much that I'd never taken a boxing lesson in my life. I was breathing hard, but it was good and clean, the feeling of after-an-orgasm; the adrenalin was flowing, but a fight reflex instead of a flight reflex had been triggered, and now it over, and I was calm. A glint in the air: Hagbard's pistol was in Mavis's hand, then flying toward me. As I caught it, she said, "Finish the bastard."
But the rage had ended when I held back the kick on seeing him already unconscious.
"No," I said. "It is finished."
"Not until you kill him. You're no good to us until you're ready to kill, George."
I ignored her and rapped on the wall. "Haul the bastard out," I said clearly. The panel opened, and two Slavic-looking seamen, grinning, grabbed Coin's arms and dragged him out. The panel closed again, quietly.
"I don't kill on command," I said, turning back to Mavis. "I'm not a German shepherd or a draftee. My case with him is settled, and if you want him dead, do the dirty work yourself."
But Mavis was smiling placidly. "Is that a Natural Law?" she asked.
And twenty-three hours later Tobias Knight listened to the voice in his earphones: "That's the problem. I can't remember. But if you leave me alone for a while maybe it'll come back to me." Smoothing his mustache nervously, Knight set the button for automatic record, removed the earphones and buzzed Esperando Despond's office.
"Despond," the intercom said.
"The CIA has one. A man who was with the girl after Mocenigo. Send somebody down for the tape— it's got a pretty good description of the girl."
"Wilco," Despond said tersely. "Anything else?"
"He thinks he might remember the name of her next customer. She mentioned it to him. We might get that, too."
"Let's hope so," Despond said and clicked off. He sat back in his chair and addressed the three agents in his office. "The guy we've got— what's his name? Naismith— is probably the next customer. We'll check the two descriptions of the girl against each other and get a much more accurate picture than the CIA has, since they're working from only one description."
But fifteen minutes later, he was staring in puzzlement at the chart which had been chalked on the blackboard:
A tall, bearish agent named Roy Ubu said thoughtfully, "I've never seen two eyewitness descriptions match exactly, but this . . ."