No malfunction! Number five is alive!
— Number Five
I am not a number! I am a free man!
— Number Six
A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone.
— Hannibal Lecter, MD
First Predicament of Perspective
Get the crow-bar, Gloria.
Rock’n’Roll Wrestling Women Versus the Aztec Ape
Although Dubliners claim that a Cork man is only a Kerry man in human form,* there is reason to believe that Cork men are the most Irish, and therefore the most subtle, persons on the planet.
* Dubliners also believe, or claim to believe, that the wheelbarrow was invented to teach Kerry men to walk on their hind legs. On the other hand, Kerry people claim that to house the insane of Ireland one would have to build a mental hospital in Belfast, another in Limerick and then put a roof over Dublin.
It was a Cork jury which once voted a defendant, “not guilty, if he promises not to do it in this town again.”
The town hall of Cork City has four clocks facing the four quarters. They are all consistently inconsistent, to introduce an appropriately Irish bull. That is, no two of them ever tell the same minute and they usually don’t even agree as to the hour. Locals call them the Four Liars.
A visitor from some heathen and exotic place possibly England — once commented, “How typically Irish even the clocks don’t agree!”
A Cork man, overhearing this, quickly explained, “Well sure now, if all four of them agreed, three of them would be superflous.”
Cork people all believe that time was invented by the English as a treacherous way of making a man work more than is altogether good for him.
And the only Irish philosophers to have world class status, Erigena and Berkeley, both denied that time exists at all, at all.
All Irish bulls are pregnant.
Second Predicament of Perspective
Tao fa tsu-jan.
Lao-Tse. Tao Te Ching
It was the most reverend televangelist Jowly Fallow* who inspired Simon The Walking Glitch to devise the Anti-Millennialist Organisation (AMO). Neither of them knew anything about the vast insectoid intelligences and the mad Arab who would intervene in both their designs and, incidentally, send millions of humans flying into the wild blue yonder.
*The Revd Fallow daily informed his fourteen-million TV audience of such arcane secrets as the control of the Rock industry by the Illuminati, the fact that all UFOs were demons in disguise, and all Feminists were witches, lesbians and practitioners of cannibalism in their secret Satanic rituals.
Simon founded Anti-Millennialism on 3 Absolu 124 EP* when Fallow’s followers and all sorts of Christians and New Alters were starting to prepare for a millennium which they claimed would happen in only two years, three months and nineteen days. Simon The Walking Glitch insisted that their damned millennium would not occur for three years, three months and nineteen days, which proves they couldn’t count, and besides the real millennium, the first, wouldn’t occur for over eight hundred years.
*Era Pataphysique. Simon had been converted to ‘pataphysics when he discovered that Alfred Jarry, the founder, was born on the date called 8 September (1873) in the pagan system. Since 8 September is also the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Vatican mythos and Molly Bloom in the Joycean mythos, Simon recognised synchronicity and was immediately attracted. But it was Professor Timothy F.X. Finnegan’s extension of Jarry’s ‘pataphsycis into‘patapsychology that really hooked Simon, as we shall see. (8 September in the old system is I Absolu in the‘pataphysical system, of course.)
Simon believed that, since ‘pataphysics is the science, the ‘pataphysical calendar is the calendar. Just as all other sciences deal with the general and ‘pataphysics with the exceptional, the ‘pataphysical calendar is the only one deliberately designed so that every month would have a Friday the 13th, just to keep people careful.
Simon The Walking Glitch was not the son of Mr and Mrs Walking Glitch, you must understand. His parents were Tim and Molly Moon, who would have spelled their last name Muadhen if they had remained in County Cork, but in the United States people tended to pronounce that noble old Celtic name as if it were mud-hen, so Tim’s parents approximated a phonetic spelling. Simon, an obsessive-compulsive in all things, knew enough Gaelic etymology to realise that Mo’on would be more accurate, but Americans are not very good at pronouncing aspirates, so he let the Moon shine as it would.
It didn’t really matter because all his friends called him The Walking Glitch anyway.
“Here comes Simon The Walking Glitch,” they would say. Or:
“Who’s that lurking there like the kiss of death? Isn’t it Simon The Walking Glitch?” Or:
“Protect your hard disks, boys — Simon The Walking Glitch is in the building.”
Simon had earned this reputation by his labours in ‘pataspace, which he virtually invented after exploring all the possibilities of cyberspace and cryptospace.
Cyberspace was available to anyone with a computer, but cryptospace, where the real fun happened, was only accessible to those with the proper PGP-variants for that week: the true subterraneans and troglodytes of the night side of cyberpunk.*
*According to The Encyclopedia of Social Inventions, Institute of Social Inventions, London 1990, the first non-interest-bearing electronic currency began in a section of cryptospace between Vancouver, Canada, and San Diego, US around 1982. Such currency does not require usury paid to bankers and remains invisible also to tax investigators. As T.C. May writes, “Strong cryptography, exemplified by RSA (a public key algorithm) and PGP (pretty good privacy) provides encryption that essentially cannot be broken with all the computing power in the universe …” — tc may @ netcom.com
‘Pataspace, like ordinary cyberspace, was open to all — but comprehensible only to those with Fully Illuminated Minds, i.e. Simon and the eleven other members of the Invisible Hand Society.*
*The Invisible Hand Society was based on Adam Smith’s doctrine that an Invisible Hand guides all free markets and on Prof. Timothy F.X. Finnegan’s addendum that even in unfree markets (those with Government Interference, monopoly, conspiracy, corruption etc.) the Invisible Hand still governs. “What you can depart from is not the Tao; what you can violate is not Natural Law; what you can subvert is not the Invisible Hand.” Finnegan, Nightmare and Awakening. Royal ‘patapsychological Institute.
Actually, although Simon had a strong resemblence to Bigfoot, except that he didn’t have big feet, he was a gentle soul. If he ever broke his early-sixties imprint and got a haircut he might look like any middle-aged middle-rank executive in Silicon Gulch. His ‘pataphysical glitches never harmed anyone (he was scrupulous about that): they just left behind an aura of inpenetrable mystery and a faint suggestion that inhuman, maybe extraterrestrial, minds had penetrated the Net.
Those advanced hackers who knew about Simon and his labours spent many hours among themselves debating which Websites were Simon’s work, which came from imitators of his style, which from genuine certifiable nuts, and which might be actual extraterrestrial come-ons.
If you’ve ever had a seeming-virus that did no real damage but kept coming up at odd moments to incite you to send lasagna to the starving aliens in Area 51 you might — just might — have intersected one of Simon’s ‘pataphysical invasions of ordinary mindspace. Or then again, maybe it was just another joker — or maybe it was real starving aliens down there under the hot south-western sand. You never know what the CIA is up to.
Third Predicament of Perspective
Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.
Popular Mechanics, 1949
In its tragically brief career (it only lasted twelve billion years, and by then its best minds had migrated to Zeta Reticuli), planet Earth produced approximately 845,000 species of animals, an about average figure for a planet that tiny and transient.
Among the less numerous species, this included only around 2,100 (twenty-one hundred) different kinds of amphibians, including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, caecilians and other croaking or creeping critters of that ilk.
Earth did better with mammals, producing over 4,500 (forty-five hundred) species, such as the much-loved dog, the loathed but indestructible rat, the bumbling human, the imperialistic lion, the vivacious voles, the bland bovines, the sagacious equines, the grizzly ursines, the suave suidea (including pigs, hogs, wild boars, several families of distin-guished swine and various LA peace officers), along with foxes, dingoes, hippopotomi, and a variety of aquatic cousins such as the dolphin, the orca, the sperm whale, the allegorical white whale and the stupefyingly great blue whale.
In one of its more creative moods Earth also gave birth to more than 7,000 (seven thousand) species of reptiles, among them the brachiosaurus, the stegosaurus, the tyranosaurus, the crocodile, the alligator, the boa constrictor, the asp, the rattlesnake, the king cobra, the black snake, the mamba snake, the asp, the viper and the Revd Jowly Fallow.
Earthlife also had its psychedelic and neo-surrealist, or “exuberant” varieties. It galloped along producing well over 9,000 (nine thousand) species of birds, varying from the unbelievable peacock and the splendid robin to the nondescript sparrow, the finch, the jay, the scrubjay, the hawk, the falcon, the seagull, the mudhen (never to be confused with the muadhen, native to Cork and, although an odd bird, more human than avian), and the egregious pelican whose beak holds more than his belly can as all students of classic poetry know …
On the side it added 21,000 (twenty-one thousand) species of fish, from the shark and salmon to the guppy, the squid and lobster.
Mostly, however, in a kind of creative delirium, it gibbered a plethora of insects — its favourite invention, evidently — over 800,000 (eight hundred thousand) different kinds of them, most of which were various kinds of beetles. That is of the 845,000 (eight hundred and forty-five thousand) species of animals, more than 800,000 (eight hundred thousand) were bugs.
Earth also produced the kingdom of plants, including bird of paradise flowers and cacti, along with giant redwoods, the holy-healing-hilarious hemp, roses, violets, mums, fuchsia, buttercups and broccoli. Then it added the kindgom of fungi.
Mostly, however, it went on adding more and more beetles, and more and more different species or kinds of beetles. Earth just never seemed to think it had enough beetles.
You might say the whole planet suffered from acute incurable beetlemania.*
*Some scholars regard the last twelve paragraphs as an invasion from ‘pataspace by Simon Moon and or his cohorts in the Invisible Hand Society. This theory is probably a romantic fiction, like the Bacon-Shakespeare schlemozzle.
One very clever mammal named Dr J.B.S. Haldane — a primate and a Marxist biologist who, oddly, did yoga every day — was once asked, “If you would accept the idea of a Mind behind life’s evolution, what outstanding trait would you attribute to that mind?”
Dr Haldane answered without hesitation, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” The ants, who didn’t give a damn what mammals like Haldane thought about anything and had even less regard for beetles, had taken over Earth midway through its history.
At least, they had taken over in the only timeline they knew about.
Vtttrl had spent most of her modest life as a worker ant in the Institute for Historical Correction in Bqfszn, but a strange, unworkerlike yearning to know more had haunted her all her life. Since omnipresent radiation and the mutations it caused were constant factors in her world, Vtttrl knew that she probably had a few freaky genes. She had been born defective.
Of course, some mutations were improvements. But it was immodest and anti-social to think that way. She accepted herself as a pervert.
The Institute for Historical Correction, where she worked, was popularly called the It-Never-Happened-Department. The workers there spent all their time fine-tuning the Big Bang. They did not need wormholes and time-travel to do this. They simply exploited Qgwwkwe’s application of Adkk’s Theorem, which showed that, since all nuclear systems are non-locally correlated, any nuclear adjustment here-and-now has effects there-and-then non-locality meaning in this case, that here-and-then is anywhere-and-anywhen. By use of Fukgiikwt’s tensors, anywhere-and-anywhen became, at the experimenter’s choice, a specific there-and-then, i.e., the Big Bang.
“Everything started with the Big Bang,” went the antennae-vision bromide whenever the work of the Institute was discussed on a pop science show, “so if there’s anything wrong anywhere, the place to fix it is to start right there, at the beginning.”
Almost all her life, Vtttrl had accepted this as a kind of Article of Faith, although she called it Scientific Fact.
Vtttrl and the other giant ped-ants were inclined, like some earlier species, to confuse their Articles of Faith with their Scientific Facts. Some of them were clever enough to notice this, so they founded a Committee to Separate the Articles of Faith from the Scientific Facts. Under ideal conditions, this much-needed work of analysis could have clarified every ped-ant’s thinking and working.
Unfortunately, the members of the Committee firmly believed that their own Articles of Faith were actually the only real Scientific Facts, and they only added a great deal of acrimony to the existing general confusion.
Vtttrl had been part of that Committee once, before she saw through their errors. She had spent her life seeing through the errors of one group of ped-ants after another. The only error she had not seen through, yet, was the error shared by all black ants.
This error held that the world would be perfect once all the red ants were exterminated. All the work on the Big Bang — the endless fine-tuned adjustments in the fabric of space-time — had the single purpose of impossiblising potentia. This meant limiting the number of possible universes, and limiting again, and again, and again … until eventually one perfect universe would remain, without a single red ant in it anywhere.
Vtttrl’s Heresy and her Forbidden Experiments all began when she calculated, one day, how many universes had to be impossibilised before that one perfect universe appeared. The number seemed to be higher than Xzbrie’s first kind of infinity, and her second kind of infinity … and, as Vtttrl calculated further, it gradually emerged as higher than any kind of infinity known to (or invented by?) all the clever account-ants who had ever lived.
No finite number of adjustments in the Big Bang, however many were made, would ever produce a whole universe without red ants. Vtttri inscribed her proof in proper notation, just to check her calculations. The result was just what she had reasoned. Only an infinite number of adjustments, requiring infinite time, could abolish those damned Reds.
Vtttrl had learned something about the confusion of Articles of Faith and Scientific Facts when she was still attending meetings of those who thought they could make that distinction easily. She did not tell any of her hivesibs or co-workers about her discovery. She destroyed her inscribed proof. But she went on thinking her private thoughts, privately.
Eventually, she realised that the Big Bang was too far back to begin the process of Historical Correction. She started researching the period just before the dawn of history, i.e., before the Rupture.
Both of Earth’s intelligent species had appeared after the Rupture — i.e., the wise and kindly black ants, who were devoted to peace, high art, and pure reason, and only wanted the territory that belonged to them by Natural Law; and their bitter enemies, the wicked red ants led by a mad queen (with a “dictatorial lust for power”) who wallowed in war, vulgar art, vile superstitions, and wanted territory that did not belong to them by Natural Law. And the Rupture came of the White Dawn, which came of the silly conflicts of the absurd two-sexed mammal species that once dominated this planet.
Vtttrl studied archaeological history more avidly than any ped-ant before her. Eventually, she was sure she could place the blame for the White Dawn on one group among one obscenely two-sexed species. That group had been called the Christians. Not knowing that everything is produced by thought and does not exist apart from thought, they did a lot of thinking about the End of the World. Worse yet, they talked about it, which made other people think about it. They had almost produced a real End of the World out of their Apocalyptic fantasies, and the Rupture was the result.
Now she simply had to find a way to travel backwards in time and eat those Christian bastards one by one.
She started studying the literature of wormholes. They were theoretically possible, but all learned opinion held that it would cost a quintillion (a billion billion billion billion) megaztuykkpz to build one and the project would take at least four hundred and seventy millenniums.
She despaired — but only for a little while. Having weird genes, she always cheered up fairly soon, no matter what happened.
Vtttrl advanced to her wildest Heresy yet. Having found that many alleged Scientific Facts were only Articles of Faith, she decided to investigate whether some Articles of Faith might actually be Scientific Facts. She began studying the “superstitions” of the stupid, brutal soldier ants — huge louts despised by all workers. Everybody knew the soldiers were only good for killing millions and millions of the damned red ants every year. Vtttrl began studying the soldier ant Faith, which posits the Great Szn which maintains all things in balance by renewing the universe every nanosecond.
She wasted years with divinations that were only correct about 50 per cent of the time, longevity oukka that only made her irritable and insomniac, and other balderdash. But more and more the Yspist meditations and visualisations opened her mind to vistas of worlds that seemed as real as the Institute for Historical Correction — worlds of mammalian horror and beauty and boredom. And she came to understand the great mystic teaching at the heart of the Szn cult. Vtttrl soon realised this formula — the opening cweaw of the ancient Szn Sd Bghmh — would lead her to her own secret wormhole: “THE SZN THAT CAN BE THOUGHT IS NOT THE TRUE SZN.”
She walked through everywhere/everywhere and began searching for the proper here-now.
In this distance, dimly, she heard a voice complain about dirty socks and denture breath …
Fifth Predicament of Perspective
This carrot, as you call it, has constructed an aircraft capable of flying millions of miles through space, propelled by a force unknown to us.
“And all these baby-killing abortionists and the men who lie with other men, as St Paul said, and the UFO hell creatures — and Hillary Clinton, too,” Jowly Fallow ranted into the television camera, “They’ll all get their come-uppance on the great day of the Rupture — I mean, the day of the Rapture …”
Simon Moon, toking deeply on his hash pipe, grinned, and clicked the remote over to the Playboy channel.
The interpenetration of the universes had begun … The Anti-Millennialism meme was infiltrating the Christian reality-tunnel.
Sixth Predicament of Perspective
The deity ain’t no nickle-dime bum show.
When Abdel Rahman Massoud, director of the Institute for Serious Investigation of Claims of the Preposterous, decided to send himself two hundred years backwards in time, from the Sixteenth Century to the Fourteenth, he knew he might be making a huge mistake.
None the less, he sincerely felt his choice was necessary. He was on a mission from God. Besides, he consoled himself by contemplating the great quote from the Unspeakable Infidel, which he kept on his office wall:
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD:
ALLAH IS SMART ENOUGH TO KEEP A BACK-UP DISC
Abdel, had inserted the name of Allah. The infamous infidel, in addition to her other heresies, had said “Goddess”.
Abdel in fact, was not a normal Muslim for his time, or any time. He had studied the forbidden works of Hassan i Sabbah, Abdul Alhazred, Noble Drew Ali and Hakim Bey, and perhaps he had studied them all a bit too assiduously. Even in his sleep he sometimes saw the most shocking sentences of their works dancing before him: “Nothing is true, all is permitted”, “Past, present, future: all are one in Yog Sothoth”, “Let’s smoke this shit,” “The chains of the law have been broken!”
And he also had this infamous (only mildly expurgatged) wall plaque, taken from the infidel philosopher — and a mere woman, too! — the notorious witch-queen, Lola of Capitola. She had lived two hundred years ago, contemporary with the Great Mistake. Lola had lived during what Abdel called the Fourteenth Century* (which the uncircumcised white-skinned Euro-American dogs —floating way out there in the infidel dar al-barb, or space stations — still called the Twentieth Century, even though none of them were Christians any more).
*Lola had been born in fact in 1358 AH and did not leave this world until 1393 AH. She left by starship, bound for Sirius.
Abdel had an obsession about Lola. She seemed to know something that even Sabbah, Alhazred, Noble Drew Ali and Bey didn’t guess. “Allah has a back-up disc”: the more you contemplated it, the less sure you were that you had understood it fully. But you remained sure it was worth understanding.
Besides, when all was said and done, Abdel had lost faith in the mullahs who ruled the dar al-Islam (formerly, planet Earth). Islamic mullahs, Abdel thought, were like the priests of all other (and hence, lesser) religions. They didn’t really know shit from shinola about metaphysics. Why, most of them even thought his Institute for Serious Study of Claims of the Preposterous was some wacko kind of Sufi joke! They even called Abdel “the goofy Sufi”. They hadn’t even begun to notice all the little clues, in dull ordinary places and in the expanses of space itself, showing that the world was far more preposterous than pious minds ever realise, factors which added synergetically made up what Abdel called the Cosmic Giggle Factor.
Abdel had built himself a wormhole a simple way of connecting two black holes, which was an elementary project he had found in the Erector Set of the third son of his second wife. These gizmos were common nowadays, but the mullahs said you should only use them to look back into the past. You should not use a wormhole to change the past.
Worse: the mullahs had their opinion on this matter written into the law. What Abdel planned was a high crime, punishable by the worst penalty allowed in current law — the madness-or-suicide option. Those sentenced to this Extreme Penalty were given a box containing one cyanide capsule and then locked up for life in a small room with a television set that broadcast videos of ancient Jowly Fallow tapes twenty-four hours a day. Almost all of the wretches punished this way swallowed the poison capsule within the first year.
The mullahs wanted people to use wormholes as if they were mere television sets for history majors. Abdel gritted his teeth at the thought. In the whole city of Los Angeles — from the opulent Santa Barbara neighbourhood in the north to the run-down Phoenix section in the east there were more great Islamic scholars than had ever lived in one place in the whole history of dar al-Islam. And none of them dared to disobey the mullahs, dive into a damned wormhole, and actually change the past. The past could not, should not and would not be changed, the mullahs said, because Allah Himself had ordained and written it.
Religious conservatives are the same everywhere, Abdel thought bitterly. None of them realises Allah is smart enough to keep more than one back-up disc … and He knows when to send things to the Rewrite Department.
He probably even knows when to send some things to the It Never Happened Department.
Abdel was ready; his mind was resolved. He would hesitate no more. He would open the wormhole, go back in time to the One Wrong Turn in history, kill Jowly Fallow, that Great Shaitan who had ruined everything, and come back to a world which, in logic, must be very different, and much better, than the world he had left.
He flick-clicked the positronic electroframmis, checked the quark compactor on the neurofranz one more time, opened the sub-space Finagle junction and boldly stepped into the wormhole.
The first thing he saw was a huge black ant the size of a full-grown male rhinoceros. The ant saw Abdel, too, and addressed him in precise, almost finicky Arabic:“O contemptibly insignificant molecule of camel turd, what are you doing in my wormhole?”
Seventh Predicament of Perspective
Orson Welles didn’t wear angora sweaters!
“Well, I’m a Thelemite,” Mavis Celine explained. “At midnight, the new year for me will be 97 y. H.”
That’s year of Horus, I assume?” Simon asked politely.
“Hoor-par-Kraat, or Harpocrates,” Mavis said. “I’m a reformed Thelemite.”
The Anti-Millennial bash was in full swing as the clock passed eleven and everybody looked forward to the non-millennium in less than an hour. Simon had even redecorated his pad, adding a reproduction of Dali’s Persistence of Memory to the seawall, melting clocks speaking mutely against grids of all kinds.
“For us,” Juan Tootreegro was telling Marvin Gardens at the other end of the room, “the year changes on 31 October. The year 79 ended last 30 October and the new year, 80 psU, begins at midnight in ten months, when 30 October turns to 31 October again.” He saw Marvin’s confusion and added quickly, “We date things psU. That means post scriptum Ulysses, because Joyce wrote the last sentence of the Good Book on 30 October 1921 and thus ended the Christian era.”
The whale-like bulk of Blake Williams loomed over both of them. “So you have 920 years to go before the first millennium?” he asked, making notes. (He had invented neurosemantic topology and was researching an article.) “The only group that has longer to wait is the ‘pataphysics folk whose calendar started in 1873 e.v.”
Standing by the patio door, a little man named Ginsberg was telling Carol Christmas, “I only came to this party because tonight isn’t my millennium either. I didn’t realise there’d be so many weird types hanging around …”
“And how many years until your next millennium?” Carol asked warmly, trying to put him at ease. Her blonde head leaned forward intimately.
“Uh, well, the next millennium um 6000 that would be for the Orthodox like me is ah oh yes 239 years away,” Ginsberg calculated rapidly somewhat befuddled by the approach of a great deal of persistence of mammary. “Orthodox Jews,” he added, not sure she understood that part.
Simon The Walking Glitch was wandering about distributing blotter acid to anyone who was interested.
“Dates? Faith, I don’t care about dates. Sure the universe has no single Big Clock now, does it? What interests me is what I found on Mars when I employed computer analysis to the Face.”
Simon recognised the voice — Professor Timothy F.X. Finnegan, the man who had converted him to‘patapsychology and then to“ ‘pataphysics.*
* Professor Finnegan, in addition to founding the science of ‘patapyschology (the study of puzzling but uncertain mental events that could not be replicated or even remembered exactly by six o’clock the next morning), also created CSICON, the Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal. It was CSICON’s claim that no person, place or event was ever totally normal in all respects, or even average, and that those who believe in “normal events” are believing in spooks (abstractions). “There is no such thing as a normal European, a normal dog, an average sunset or even an ordinary Beethoven symphony,” Finnegan wrote in his Life After Life.
“The Face on Mars?” Mavis Celine asked dubiously. thought with close analysis the “face” turned out to be just rocks and shadows.”
“Hah!” snorted Finnegan, and passed the cocaine. “With holistic computer enhancement,” he pronounced slowly, “I have positively identified the face as Moses Horwitz! The only man to be honoured on two different planets. Jumping blue Jay-sus, won’t that knock the scientific and theological establishments on their arses!”
“Moses who?” asked at least five voices at once; but at the same moment Mamie van Doren said quite distinctly, “Dirty socks and denture breath.”
When the hell did she get in, Simon wondered uneasily, and what the flying fuck was she talking about?*
Although Moses Horwitz has not yet been identified (and the editors would be most happy to receive any information on this matter) Ms van Doren’s remark has been traced to a comment she made after her affair with Henry Kissinger: “All I remember is dirty socks and denture breath.”
But then he was even more confused by the streets of 1904 Sandycove. The mix of horse-drawn carriages and infrequent “automobiles” seemed normal for that time-space predicament, but few of the citizens looked at all Irish. Most of them were Arab boy-prostitutes and they propositioned him twenty-three times before he reached the corner to hop on the tram to Dublin Central.
“—with his brother Jerome, you see, and a friend name Lawrence Finestein—”
“The Subliminal Syndicate as pale as his shirt … dirty socks for our Irish poets—” There were flutes and pan-pipes playing nearby … wormwood, too much in the sun …
The tram was drawn by a giant black centipede. The driver, Madonna in one of her more pointy-type bras and a ballet skirt above army boots, kept a flamethrower at her side and had to use it a few times, sending warning blasts of fire over the centipede’s head when it made obviously hungry lunges at passing Jesuits and Mugwumps.
“I hate pleonasms,” Simon Moon moaned mournfully, “but where the fornication am I?” He knew he had taken acid a while ago but this was unlike any Trip in his experience.
“Let me explain,” said the large red ant — it was about the size of a Greyhound Bus — “We dragged you through a wormhole. You and your Discordian friends are messing up the pivot point of all history and aiding the Evil Black Ants. I will tell you the awful truth in plain English, your own language.” (That was a mistake: Simon still regarded Gaelic as his “own” language and English as the tongue of the Sassenach invaders.)
“Yes?” Simon prompted. The ant was frowning thoughtfully (as far as Simon could judge, not being an expert on insect physiognomy).
“It has been known as swim-two-birds from ancient times,” the ant went on in rudimentary West County Irish Gaelic,“and I a mere lad at the time I learned it — God and Mary and Patrick and Bridget be praised —” (He can read minds, Simon decided.) “— that the ant is neither the first nor the last of Earth’s masters. We know of you, and your odd, faintly silly, two-sexed culture. We have studied you with our vast, cool and unsympathetic intellects. We know you as the nose knows the rose and the rose knows the nose.” (Trouble with Gaelic syntax often produces such effects in non-native speakers, Simon remembered.)
“Because of your Erisian interference with the fan of fan-shaped fate,” the ant said, groping towards his point, “a Totally Wrong universe emerged. It included a most unfortunate species large, and totally vicious, black ants, led by a mad queen with a dictatorial lust for power. They are illogical and superstitious and backward and, a chara, in simple Irish, man, they are a royal pain the arse. I have built a wormhole to eliminate their time-line from the possible predicaments of energy. And you are messing with me by sending ‘pataphysical momes in pursuit of the Christian memes.”
“The mome rath hasn’t been born that can outgrab me,” Simon protested.
A huge black paw crashed through the floor and seized Ingrid Bergman from between Bogart and Henreid. The pongoid head appeared briefly, glared at Simon and cried “Now look what you made me do!” It disappeared down the hole to the centre of fumes.
“But what have I got to do with that?” Simon objected. None of the Mugwumps answered. They were all walking about the Berlin streets naked, their skin the colour of penis-flesh, sipping cuntjuices from laboratory jars, occasionally masturbating, their cat faces impassive.
“Jerome was always the most popular, but Moses didn’t object. You know the ancient Terran motto, ‘If it works, don’t fix it.’ Then Jerome died and the whole synergy seemed on the verge of implosion —”
Professor Ubu reads the last of his reports over TV: “Seventeen per cent of juvenile delinquents and 23 per cent of Senatorial delinquents believe Ingrid Bergman, not Fay Wray, was the bride of Kong. Clinical paranoids shown inkblots in the standard test often say spontaneously that they see Major Strasse rubbing chocolate syrup all over Bergman’s endless curves and labyrinths. In most dreams (80 per cent) it is George Washington, not Robert Armstrong, who sails to Skull Island to confront Black Gorilla rage. We conclude that Kong’s mythically necessary six-foot penis obsesses males over seventy years and accounts for the panic-stricken bombing of Iraq and other insufficiently caucasian nations …” He lapses into incoherent mumbles: “Rats in the lemonade … denture breath … The Merovingian kings round up the usual suspects … strawberry mice … no more constipation worries …”
Blake Williams is more concerned with the telegram that was just delivered by an osteopath in a gorilla suit. He reads it aloud, as Jowly Fallow leaps from the window in terror:
DEAR FORTINBRAS TERRIBLE NEWS STOP
OLD KING NEW KING QUEEN AND PRINCE ALL DEAD STOP
ALSO DEAD PRIME MINISTER AND HIS SON AND DAUGHTER STOP
ALSO DEAD TWO COLLEGE STUDENTS WHOSE NAMES NOBODY CAN REMEMBER STOP
ALSO COURT JESTER PREMATURELY EXHUMED STOP
BRING SHOVELS HORATIO.
“You know,” Mavis said thoughtfully. “I think somebody cut the acid with Saniflush. To me it looks like Jowly isn’t falling but rising …”
“It’s not just him,” said Blake Williams in awe. “Look, I see thousands and thousands rising and flying …”
Eighth Predicament of Perspective
I pick the goddam terror of the gods out of my nose!
J.R. “Bob” Dobbs
By the dawn of 7 Absolu 124 EP Simon had enough data to figure out, more of less, what had happened. He convened a meeting of the Invisible Hand Society to discuss what they might learn.
“Are we ready to discuss identified flying objects?” he asked cheerfully.
“There is no doubt that the levitations occurred,” said Dr Horace Naismith. “Millions and millions of witnesses — not to mention millions of missing humans.”
“Not missing humans, per se. Not random humans,” Simon said. “There was selection involved.”
“You noticed that, too?” asked W. Clement Cotex. “Yeah, it’s like one of old man Fort’s segregating whirlwinds. Only it was even more choosy. It only picked up Christians.”
“Well,” Naismith said, “that fits with a pet theory that a lot of us hold. If enough believe in something hard enough and long enough, their thought waves eventually make a quantum jump in the quantum foam from which matter and energy emerge …”
“That’s just what I think,” Mavis said.“The guns-and-Jesus fringe kept thinking about “being lifted up in the rapture” and talking about it and writing about it and, well, when the right date came on their grid, they did get themselves picked up … but by what?”
“Giant red ants,” Simon said. “I thought it was just the acid at the non-millennial party, but now I believe it. They got picked up in a rupture, not a rapture. I met one of the ants involved. Several reality-tunnels collided. I talked to one of those red ants. They seem to think Christians are especially tasty.”
“That’s awful,” Naismith said. “Being torn up and chewed apart by giant insects … it’s like Lovecraft …”
“Well, they did believe in hell,” Simon said. “And most of them could not live up to that silly taboo system they held, so they expected to go to hell.”
There was a long pause, and then they all looked at their newest member, who had not spoken yet.
“What do you think, Abdel?” Naismith asked.
“I’m new around here,” Abdel Rahman Massoud said softly. “But I have a hunch that a world without Christians will be a quieter and saner place. Already fifteen wars have ended in three days … Maybe we don’t understand all the forces and intelligences that worked together or even worked in opposition — to ‘accidentally’ produce the final resultant that we remember as non-millennium day.”
They exchanged thoughtful glances.
“The Invisible Hand,” said Professor Finnegan raising his glass of Jameson’s, and they all drank piously.
by Robert Anton Wilson (© 1997) appeared in Disco 2000 (1998, edited by Sarah Champion, out of print).