Chapter 9

Open: A night sky; stars shine and shimmer as the dust and smoke from the day’s travails are blown out towards the Mediterranean. The onset of night means the desert cools and the heavier, denser air falls and blows under the rising air over the hot Dead Sea water.

The night is clear, the air is just moist enough to sustain life, there is no extravagance of water to form clouds.  And yet, a cloud there is. A cloud that rests comfortably over the Olive, Fig and Balsam that define the garden.

It seems to have a Moon trapped inside. It hasn’t signed some light that brightens in the way that a street lamps does; just this spot and no other.

Cut to portal four, there is Stone, walking up the path on the side of the hillock. He has a determination in his eye, one that knows to expect: his lips betray the tension of not knowing quite what to expect. If he starts talking in Aramaic?

Robert Stone is not a gambling man. He never saw the point of making bets that he was most likely going to lose. In playing cards you can play like his father does. The elder Stone liked to play Bridge;  he enjoyed the computer game of Freecell because it wasn’t a game it was a puzzle.  To him a game of solitaire is the same as the game of war.  You may think that you have more control in a game of solitaire, and it is true that you can lose more frequently if you play the cards wrong or don’t pay attention to an opportunity, but the winning of the game is set when the shuffling of the cards is over.  Then there are the people who play Gin Rummy.  Gin is a tet a tet with 10 cards each. There is the skill of the player; remembering which cards were laid and which ones were picked up.  What sets your hand blocks, of what happened when you laid out a juicy Queen; you hold  that Jack did you finish a kind or is he hoping to fill out the flush? In Gin Rummy you must keep your options open there comes a point in the game when you must start to shut your options down.  With two players of equivalent skills and attention the game is one of luck. Cards were stacked in the right order or they weren’t. There are only two board games, Parcheesi and Checkers. Either racing around the board or across the board. In Cards there is War and there is Gin. It is either entirely the luck of the shuffle or it is the luck of playing someone of lesser talent or skill. In Contract Bridge there is nothing left to chance, this is the deal, do you know how to play it?

The tuiton of learning how to play poker at some level approaching the level it takes to even out the house’s advantage makes medical school tuition seem trivial.

Which it wasn’t what kept Stone out of medical schools. It was what kept him out of card sharpery. Stone was not a gambling man, but Stone was unreasonable risk taker. Right now Stone was all in.  Tonight was either going to be an unmitigated disaster or it was going to be just another grand success.  Stone and the world expected another grand success and the hype surrounding this event had been building since the first rumors that the God Squad and Step Stone were in discussions two years ago.  Everyone knew what was going to be big. Only Aike and I knew it had the potential to be the end of Step Stone.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This evening we are using a new process, tonight I have been outfitted with a piece of equipment that will transcribe my thoughts into a message that you can scroll across the bottom of your screen.  If you would simply set the language you prefer, the message will be displayed in that language.  Further, the flip of the new vocalize button on the side screen menu these messages will be read in the language preference of your choice.

“The usual message scroll print out option will not be available for tonight’s players but translation will be as accurate and as the near to their real time as we can make it while still showing events unfold.

“After extensive searching we take you tonight to the Garden of Gethsemane on the 14 day of Nisem 3794. You may know that date better as April 2, 33.”

“Hey Alex, can I just say that I find it a tad freaky that I looked up this just 2 hours after the date was announced have been discovered, andproved true by an earthquake recorded to have occurred the next day, April 3, ’33?”

“Noted, freaky, get over yourself, get back to the story!”
“It was weird.” “AlYetI, you’re not supposed to be here yet.” “What? Now we’re going to get persnickety about chronology?”

“Thanks Alex, I needed that. Who’s that guy?”

“You’ll find out later. Get back to the story.”

“Tonight ladies and gentlemen we’re going to be one witness to one of the most controversial meetings in the known history of the western world. By controversial, I want you to know, I don’t mean argumentative.  By many accounts the meeting itself is peaceful even brotherly.” Stone paused breifly and thought to himself, “‘Brotherly?’ What the hell does that mean anyway?  Think about what you were willing to do to your own brother.  Think about the brother won’t even come to the phone to talk to you anymore.  And what about your father, and his brother?  We all know what we mean when we say ‘brotherly love’ or at least the words are the corollary to ‘the picture tells 1000 words’. Those two words evoke 1000 pictures and each picture has 1000 words story.  We never gave the pictures more than a passing glance we skimmed the first few words of the story of they tell.  We accept that we accept terms for what we accept it to mean.” Stone continues out loud, ” We’re now at the date that is known in your time as Holy Thursday.  Jesus has harshly predicted and lightly judged his disciples at what he knew was His last supper.

“You know, ladies and gentlemen, we had a lot of fun over the years as we’ve used our portals to review the past. But Christ was able to know, in detail, His own near future.

“Christ may or may not have tried to avert that future. Christ may or may not have been a party to that future and this is the crux of the controversy to which I referred. The controversy rages not around Jesus but rather around of roll that Judas Iscariot played in His death and resurrection.

“Thanks to the generous and dedicated support of our partners in this project, the God Squad, Step Stone productions is proud to present to you the first in a series of events in and around the crucifixion of Christ, live, as it happened!”

“Cut to Portal 1. Dolly in and fix on the figure. Scan up.”

Sounds of the murmur of the ancient city. Wheels turn hurriedly as drivers encourage all manner of hoved beast to hie for home. Sounds of men and boys as they feed their animals, general vocal scuffling and complaining.  Birds rustle and flutter as the evening’s roost is arranged through trial and loss. Our eyes dart across the monitors to acclimate our senses to the information spectrum. Eyes catch up to ears and take control of the conversation.  Now, as the ears follow that commands of the focus of the iris they strain to hear what is being said by the solitairy figure genuflecting in the center of the screen.

Fragments of sounds that seem to be words ping the estimated five billion eardrums listening for a signal from their spiritual center, something that will resonate with their own metaphysical center. For every good reason and with no reasonable expectation for success  the sounds that they perceive are shuffled through every available synapse in hopes that the bit will fit with some something that is known; conscious first then unconscious then the subconscious.

A remarkable number of people find success. Given the facts of the case that term ‘remarkable’ could be one quarter of one ten thousandth of 1%. The number of people that had some level of genuine understanding will never be totally, accurately known.

First of all it is the diversity of the few geographics.  This broadcast had somewhere in the area of 1/4 of the Earth’s  populations straining to hear. There were precisely 263,549,871 viewers that were paying for or were being paid for for this event.  The unusually high per screen average is due to the contract with the God Squad. They were allowed to premiere this event some in member churches and in its missionary efforts. Thousands crammed into steel buildings in tens of thousands of places forsaken by God himself but invaded by the generals and foot soldiers of His armies!

As is often the case in this tale the good done shows itself to be its own worst enemy in that of the thousands listening only an estimated 10% could be said to have been among those that understood. What started as a celebration of connection quickly led to a much closer relations with the Christ in that the crowd demand for normalcy abhorred the possibility that others had a connection they did. Not claiming that you had the connection was to invite yourself to a beating. That’s how you can tell the difference between a them. A devotee will be angry with you if you state that you don’t believe what they believe. A zealot will be mad at you if you don’t state that you believe even more strongly than the zealot himself. It’s a very clear line of demarcation. I’m certain that now that it has been pointed out to you, you know that you have always known it was there.

Secondly is that not all that understood could tell that they understood. For some, hearing those prayers in their original tongue with their intended inflection did not seem odd at all.  It didn’t seem abnormal, it didn’t seem normal, it didn’t feel like a trick to understand.  There was no effort involved, no syntax to decipher no verbs to conjugate no second guessing there was no listening there was not even so much or so little as hearing. There were no words there was only memory glyphs. It is as if the Als themselves are the ones feeding the information to the memory directly. Because that is actually what it is.

Thirdly is that Flat Earther phenomenon in that the translated text was streaming across the bottom or down from the top along the side of or up from the bottom of your screen; decided soley by the custom of your region’s long dead scholars and scribes.

The moment the text arrived, the faithful intoned that awful trinity of words “I knew that” and who exactly are you to know that they didn’t?

There is a fourth reason as well, and to explain what that reason is, we’ll first have to fast forward a half step. Which is just as well in that what the man was saying was private. What you can know is that what he said made him cry. If you think laughter is contagious, try crying! It’s not! Anger is contagious, laughter too. Tear is viral, joy is something that you give by getting and get by giving. Sadness is an individual affliction. Loneliness is something that can be passed on. We may be empathetic beings, but we only truly sympathize with practically any reaction save sadness.  Which is just as well because it makes it easier for others leave us alone when we’re sad.

Stone has faded into the foreground and his avatar stands stone still as our kneeling figure rises from his altarian pose. There is the sound of someone approaching.  As the figure enters the clearing in the garden, the  scroll lights up as the words, “cedar”, “balsam”, “sandalwood”, “olive oil”, “camel piss”, “human sewage”, “dust” and “frankincense” flash across it. “Shit!” thinks Aike,”I knew I should have put in that delay on Mr. Stone’s harness myself!”

“Here it comes!”, ” Here comes what?”, ” It.” “What it?”, ” What you probably mean is ‘which it?'”, “Should we let him finish the story or should we have this out right here and now?”, “You know, Altuna, you are a handsome guy.”, “I was, it’s easy to forget that given the millennium of depictions of me as a bent over sniveling creep.”, ” I do like this machine, it’s nice to take the trip down memory lane.”, ” If we do it now will we kill the machine?”, “Your guess is as good as mine, part of me thinks that it, combined with the Revelations that are coming off will be enough to demonize the machine. Another part, though, fears that if the public sees what they’re going to see of us, they’ll want to tune in to see what happens again.”, “How do you know what is coming up?”, “Most of us were there are moron! We saw what happened, caused what happened.  We are what happened.”, “What happened?”, “Tuna, you wanna take that?”, ” Judas and Jesus speak and then the…  Well, we called them the demons, but that was because we called the continuous consciousness ‘demon’.  Since then the demon has been twisted to mean evil and the continuous consciousness has become the sole and the spirit. Language is like that. It’s built for misinterpretation. I could write, for example ‘man’s laughter is good’ and someone with an outlook or an agenda contrary to mind might cite me as having written ‘manslaughter is good’.  If he has a better press agent than I do, well, I said what he said I said…”, ” Wait a minute wait a minute wait a Min utte!  You said ‘a part of me’ before!”, “He did.”, “He’s who I’m talking too. Do you mean a part of you?  I thought we were the they that make up the parts of the him! So now you’re telling me that we’re supposed to have voices in our heads too?”, “Alfons, you’re young. I don’t want to go specifically too far down this road with you because we have a narrative we’re trying to move forward, let me just say that most of us have been through multiple iterations of this process.  We are, some of us, many thousands of years old.  This is your second assignment.  First was just what you called your lifetime; now this.  When this lifetime is over, we will move to another and this lifetime will become part of your experience. Just as you have become part of our experience.  It’s what binds us together. That’ll do for now. Altuna,  you were saying?”, ” I was saying that the bright cloud opened up and out marched the parade of divinity. Today’s viewers will interpret them as angels, horsemen, servants, nobility, craftsmen, saints and god’s. Tomorrow religionismists will begin the work of convincing people that what they saw was the work of Satan.  Some will say that it was Satan that fooled Judas, some will say that Satan was Judas, others will say that Satan had fooled Stone. What ever it will take to keep their flock calm and within the walled confines of their meadow.”, “So all of this was for nothing?”, “No! Not nothing. It was for what comes and and what is coming is in its own way right, and it’s on it’s way, right … now!”

“Why me?”, the sound of the question drowned the murmur in the “room.” There was no direction to which one could turn and face the inquisition.  The noise was there like indirect overhead lighting splayed down a white painted wall. The question came from every direction and no direction and every single body knew both what the question meant on its surface and what it meant to the asker that it felt the need to ask. There wasn’t an Al that hadn’t had to answer the question for someone else nor one that hadn’t asked the question himself.

The Als had been with Stone since birth they fed him thoughts, they helped him create a life that served their purpose. Free will?  PULEESE.  There is no such as a thing as free will. For people with a demon or rather a collection of demons guiding their path.  And if you aren’t one of those ‘lucky ones’ you have even less choice in the matter. At least with them there is a committee that can argue down a given direction. Without Als, you’re wide open to a stray suggestion that feels just like it was your own idea. You’re the tool of an external nudge from an otherwise engaged AL. You’re the one that squishes the proverbial bug that the Al has determined will alter the future in just the right direction.

Right now on the monitors across six continents, people are watching as Jesus explains to Judas that there are two races on earth. One that has an immortal soul and the other. The vast majority whose Life Energy will evolve and evaporate and collect and rain back into life distilled and purified of all its life that came before it.  A moment that was expected to finally answer once and for always the question of the validity of the gospels is instead taking the gospels and turning them on their head. Jesus motions Judas towards the glowing cloud as the cloud opens and a parade of ecto beings begin to emerge. There is no pathway they take; there is no order of the progression. The shape of the cloud remains the same, but in the same manner as when you’re lying on the beach looking up at the clouds and playing ‘that one looks like a,’ the images just become recognizable and then become ‘real’ as the gnosis coagulates and the next ones become visible and then join the growing crowd. The come into the out of focus and then where they were no there is someone else who is disappearing as you look for him. Like when you’re trying to read the last pages of the chapter before you go to sleep, but you’re really really tired and your eyeballs are marching around your eye sockets with pickets protesting the working conditions.

“Why me?” they had heard it before it was said. Hell, they thought it so he would say it. Now he said it. When they hear it said three times… third time’s the charm, as they say.

“This is the moment we planned for.”, “I somewhat expected it to be a dream moment for him. It makes it easier for this to be a dialog.”, “It does for sure, but the problem with the Dream moments is that they are easily dismissed, as Scrooge does by deciding that Marley’s ghost is but a piece of grizzle doing battle within his gizzard.  His being awake forces us to reveal to him, his heritage.”, “On the other hand, as we reveal he will understand that he is crazy and that he is not crazy. He will build the wall of duality that has always allowed him to live with the two diametrically opposed versions of reality and choose which reality to accept for the purposes of the situation. He has known without a doubt that time travel is more than just possible it is an absolute. Yet he has been more than willing to accept the time is an absolute. He has been willing to recognize the seeming coincidence of worldwide thought and is perfectly content to live within the conceit of the ego that tells him he is a solitary man, a ‘capable of intelligence being’ that is solely responsible for his own destiny.”, ” What is it that you are arguing here? That these mutually exclusive facts are indeed cross canceling? Because they are not! Indeed they are both true and both false. They are neither of them neither right nor wrong, they are the proverbial two sides of the coin. Head of FDR is not the opposite of the laurel wreath on the dime but they can never be the same, without the one there cannot be the other because there is no such thing as infinity.  There needs to be the other side. There has to be a that side or this is not a side.”, “You do know that you’re wrong about that, right? There is such a thing as infinity. And in that infinity there is only the one side. Take a mirror and place it opposite of another  mirror such that it reflects the image in the first mirror into the other mirror. The result is that the mirrors reflect back and forth to each other infinitely.”, “Assuming you have an infinite amount of light, which you do not. So sit down and shut up! That way you’ll be infinitely more helpful than you have been.”

“I have but one question. Why me?” Stone laughs at himself, not fully aware that he is asleep, “I ask that as if I don’t have a room full of people who didn’t ask themselves that same question when it was their turn.  They know as I know, the answer is ‘there is no me.’ Fuck you duality!”

“He’s becoming more persistent”

“Alex, Alex!” Stone’s voice redlines the meters in the control booth. Primary portal views don’t show it, but the feed monitors now have the image of a short man in a straw pork pie hat clad in a slug silk sports jacket that has been described as having one time been worn by Sea biscuit.

“Cut to live feed!” barks Aike into the headset he is wearing. Around the globe believers, skeptics, Neophytes and Arch Bishops rub their eyes and wonder what caused the man with a cigar, martini and khakis to flash in to the scene just before a squadron of Roman soldiers marched into the clearing that was filled with glowing figures of angels and horsemen and heavenly functionaries from accountants to hieroglyphgraphers, caterers, groomsmen, groundskeepers, seamstresses, grape peelers, beggars, bankers and other assorted banqueteers and brigands. In a space just cubits by cubits there were easily three thousand different people. Each one was clearly distinguishable when you looked at them but completely without form as your gaze moved to the next. The soldiers’ gaze moved, but not because their eyes moved, the scene shifted in and out like particles of dust floating down your eyeball or the floating dark spots which you only notice when you are staring down the nothingness of a blank piece of white paper.

To the disassembled multitudes Alex seemed like just another of the mind blowing circus of entertainers in front of them. Had he come out of the cloud like the others were, and assumedly had done?

Aike knew he hadn’t! There is a lot that Aike knows. Aike knows Alex. Aike knew that Alex might arrive when he saw Stone calling out his name, so Aike was ready. Aike knows what GEorge was up to. Aike knows that GEorge and GEne were responsible for the lack of a kill switch on the feed back harness. Aike knows that GEorge is comfortable in his treachery in that GEorge has the backing of the God Squad. Aike knows that the God Squad has, ironically, entered into a deal with the Devil, in the form of GEorge. As GEorge himself was often heard saying “They don’t call me GEogre for nothing! Once they do, they’re gonna’ pay!” and this is from a guy who prides himself on “peeling everyone in contract negotiations.”

In keeping with the theme, GEorge was the other side of the Aike coin. While Aike knows what is happening, GEorge does not.. GEorge does not know who the man in the pork pie hat is. GEorge is not even sure that he actually saw the man or that there is anything more unusual than the usual unusual goings on going on out there. GEorge does not know that Aike knows that GEne is responsible for intentionally leaving out the customary failsafe devices on the harness. GEorge does not know that Aike knows about his arrangement with the God Squad. As far as GEorge is concerned, the God Squad will be the bridge from under which he will unleash his ogre like attack, thus liberating Colonel Electric from the puny clutches of Step Stone productions. and then, GEorge will peel Mr. Rob Stone right down to his stem and pits!

But the one thing that GEorge doesn’t know the most is that he is the other side of Aike’s coin. He doesn’t understand that Aike is the other side of the GEorge coin. GEorge’s mirrors are placed such that his face is all that shows. Aike’s mirrors are slightly offset so that he can see his “tails.”

Dear Reader: I ask that you take a moment now to consider what has been said, and what has been left unsaid.

“Alex! What the what? Who are those guys and what are they talking about? Why have they hi-jacked the story?” Robert asks myself.

“Robert…” Alex lets out a long sigh of exasperation. He has several things that he has wanted to say for several chapters now. “Robert, you DO understand that suspension of disbelief is something that the author wants to encourage in the reader, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“But it is not supposed to be so hard for the author to suspend disbelief! You can’t bloody well pretend not to know who the Als are.”

“You know what Alex? You’re worthless. It’s like my father said to me one time, ‘I want a lawyer who will tell me how to get what I want done, not one who will tell me why I can’t’ There are times, Alex, when I’m not even sure that you see that there are three dimensions to this story. Do you understand the difference between one, two and three dimensions Alex?”

“You know I do. If you know it then I know it! I’m your creation; therefore you cannot hide your secrets from me in that I exist where your memories lie.

“And let me tell you that, and then this. That is that your memories lie. Now there is, this, which is something that you know, but choose to ignore because it isn’t convenient to the situation: Everybody’s father says that! Absolutely everybody figures that they could be rich, if only they could implement their own style of screwing everybody else. But every time they try, they find out that there are laws against that sort of screwing. Some people blame the bleeding heart Liberals, and, for a while, they were right. These days people blame the ‘Gub’mint’, but the reality is that the laws are written by and for people who want to keep you out of business, and that’s the people who are in business!”

“There you go again, Alex! It’s as if you didn’t pay any attention to what was said by the Als. Didn’t they go on and on how I hold two opposite truths to be valid and only apply one or the other as the situation warrants? Didn’t I just I just echo that in the comparison comparison of Aike and George? What are you, exactly? Are you the symbol that represents what I do as opposed to what I think? Is that what I’m spelling out to myself here?”

“Calm down.”

“Calm down?! Has there ever been more useless advice? What person doesn’t want to reach in and rip the still gasping gills out of a person that tells them to ‘calm down’? The mental picture of you, with your eyeballs bulging out of their sockets and a look so surprised it forgot to be in terror of the fact that it can’t breathe gives me a feeling of satisfaction…which…ironically does satiate my blood lust and now, again, I’m calm.”

“You’re ‘calm’?”

“Don’t push it word man.

“In nature nothing is one dimensional. 1D is only a concept. You might say that 1D is Zero in that it only creates the place for the beginning. It took mankind to invent One dimension as a mathematical concept used primarily to understand an artistic one. It took until about 1960 to create “One dimensional ness”. That is the dimension of the digital age. It’s One or it’s Zero, and as we just saw, when it comes to dimensions, they are equal. Zero is not the opposite of one, negative one is the opposite of one. Zero is all its own there is no opposite of zero. There’s ‘Infinity’ but there is no such thing as ‘Infinity’, infinity is a word that says ‘I don’t exist, I’m in- finite.’ Non Finite, that means ‘I don’t exist!’”

“One is ‘on’ zero is ‘off’. ‘On’ is not the opposite of ‘Off’ here. When the ‘One/Off’ array is translated to the electromagnetic realm, ‘On’ means ‘charged’ and ‘Off’ means ‘not charged’ those are not opposites. Think about it like this: You are walking down the street and there is a busker playing the guitar, his hat silently asks for filling. You can put money in, or you can choose not to put money in. If the hat is a transistor the ‘money’ is electricity. You can charge the transistor or you can choose not to. Back to the hat, putting money in is not the opposite of not putting money in. Taking money out; THAT is the opposite of putting money in. Same with the transistor; you add a negative charge to it or you add no charge to it. There is no positive charge you add to it. Maybe, in the future, when there is ‘Proton Electricity’… but not now. ‘Off’ is one dimensional. ‘On’ is one dimensional.  But the two of them don’t add up to two dimensional, they add up to two one dimensionals. This is because zero and one are equal in a one dimensional math. Even though they are not equal. One has a property that zero does not. One has an opposite, zero does not.

“For something to be two dimensional it has to have both a back and a forth; it has to have an up and a down. There is nothing in nature that is two dimensional because to be two dimensional it must be either back and forth OR up and down it cannot be both.

In nature, there is no such thing as three dimensional either. Once we join the two two dimensionals we have four dimensions. This is because the back and forth now has an up and down, and the up and down now has a back and forth. An item cannot exist with a back and forth that has depth but no height. There is no such thing as length and width without depth. And Length width and depth are all terms for the same thing as seen from a different perspective.

“Three dimensional means that there are nine variables. In this story the three dimensions are, the ephemeral, the story of the writing of the story, and the story itself. Sort of the ‘who, what and why’, implied within each of those are the ‘when, where and how.’

“The measure of distance is the autobiography and the finale. All elements of the story begin in the autobiography and progress towards the finale. The story travels in six directions from the same point to the same conclusion.”

“OK! So, in point of fact, I did not know that. The question that you are asking me therefore is, ‘Did Robert know that before he wrote it? Is it just somehow something that he always intrinsically knew?’

Is it Déjà vu like the skeptics who dismiss personal time travel call it? Or is it like what happened to Dave with the Flat Earthers? Which brings you to the time that you went to rescue Paul.

“You took the bus across the country. You sat three seats behind the bus driver. In the seat across the aisle from you was the Polish tourist. He had no idea how big the United States was when he made his plan to land at JFK airport and hop on a bus to San Francisco. He thought it was like flying Luftansa to Luxembourg and then hopping the train to Paris. A few hours, tops! He spoke no English, you spoke no Polish. You spoke a little French and he spoke German. You spoke a little Spanish, he spoke some Italian. Deep conversations? Somehow you two managed to communicate. His name was Paval. Genius that you were, you still didn’t make the connection.”

Alex lets out a heavy sigh and mutters under it “Thick as a brick!” Stone doesn’t respond, apparently, Alex ain’t wrong!

“Alex, that bus trip, I guess they still do it. The bus drivers changed as the bus continued on its straight three day and three night journey from the supremely insane Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC to the flamboyant craziness of pre aids San Francisco. The Port Authority Bus Terminal hasn’t changed, yet. One can only hope that San Francisco can one day get ‘back’ to a post AIDS exuberance.

“Amy had showed me what a concert bat was and I got one before my trip. Back then we were pretty brazen about our surreptitious smoking of pot. You might say that we were the ones that flung open the closet door, but we stayed inside with our backs turned to the jamb. A concert bat was/is a pipe where you put the dope inside the barrel of a tube that was about the shape of a three inch long baseball bat with a small hole at the fat end and a bigger hole at the handle end. Hold fire up to the small hole and draw the light into the bat. Hold your breath until the lack of oxygen was making you high anyway and when you let it out there was no smoke.

“Three seats behind the driver and the only person that could even tell was the guy sitting right across the aisle. Before the end of Ohio Pavel too was taking hits from the concert bat.” Stone takes a second to be lost in thoughts of an event that wouldn’t happen for about another nineteen hundred and fourty four years versus where he ‘was’ right ‘now’. So Alex picks up the thread.

“As far as I could tell, Pavel had never even seen someone smoke Marijuana before. Overall you think he enjoyed the experience and the next day he made sure to hop into the liquor store near the bus stop as we refueled. He picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels to bring to the party. Round about Colorado you explained to Pavel when the bus driver yelled at the bunch of troublemakers in the back of the bus, the ringleader of which was the guy with about three pounds of pot in his carry on briefcase. The bus driver told them that they’d better watch their step because he could smell what they were smoking back there! You thought that was funny.” Alex huffs and under it says, ”Yeah, ‘guy with the cop car,’ that you get. This?  I’ve met stillborn babies with more on the ball.”

“Obliviously, Alex! It was funny. We got to San Francisco and, apparently, Pavel was about half way to his destination! He wrapped me in a gigantic bear hug and in his best English, he said, ‘Tank que Robay, you are my friend!’ and he was gone, as though the crowd of five foot seven inch dark haired peoples erased the six foot four inch blond man. There wasn’t even so much as his back to watch, he was just gone.”

“You felt as though you had paid forward the kindness that you had experienced when you travelled through Europe, and it felt good to know that you were still a ‘Citizen of the World’ as you backpackers liked to call yourselves. Especially after the crazy lady in the Port Authority had her way at you. ‘What are you?’ she demanded, you didn’t know why but you figured she was a right wing nut job ‘America Love it or leave it’ type that was left over from the age of Aquarius. You figured that since you had a backpack, and blue jeans with holes in the knees, and hair that hung down and curled on your shoulders, she was going for the ‘Patriotism’ routine. So you smiled your best smile and you said in your best teevee commercial sing song jingle ad voice ‘One Hundred Percent AaMERicannnn!’ which was never your usual response.

“You were wrong! This whiz bing got all kinds of mad at you because you were the trouble with the youth of today, you don’t know about your heritage. Even the Hari krishnas, with their shaved heads except for the pony tail and their ridiculous robes and their free flowers and books that they would offer you once you were past this particular gauntlet, looked at you and thought, ‘you poor dumb bastard, hayseed hick!’ She went on and on and would step in your way as you tried to walk past. Then some guy who was short for a tall guy and about average height for a short guy stepped in just such a way that he set up the pick and you pivoted around him and she was behind you, probably never to ever think of you ever ever again in what was left of her lives.

“The Hari Krishnas moved in and consoled you, offered you a free book. You took it and thanked him. But now he wanted me to do something nice for him in return… Give him money for the book.”

“I wonder if he ever sold that book?

“As I looked at the crowd and marveled how Pavel had melted into it like an American Indian in a Billy Jack movie; one second he’s there, next second it’s like he was never here. At the same time I was hoping that San Francisco didn’t assume that I was gay. Citizen of the straight world! And then there was the side of me that didn’t care what the world, let alone the city, let alone the strangers that passed me by at the bus terminal thought.”

“Terry Toohey was mortified! She was an IBMer! An Independent woman on her own at probably 23 years of age. Grown full in the Bronx of NYC, her cousins on her mother’s side were a bunch of woodchucks from way the hell upstate. So it was only seventy five miles. It only ever becomes ‘only’ any number of miles when you are heading back towards the center of the universe. When you live in the Bronix two miles north is ‘upstate’ in much the same way as three days is still ‘older than you’ until you reach the age when ‘I’m younger than you’ is preferred. Terry lives north of us now, way way upstate, I’m sure it’s only thirty five miles or so.

“Give the girl her due, Milton was, is and always shall be at least one year per every 10 miles behind the times of Woodlawn, the Bronx. And here is her loopy younger cousin, younger than her dumbass little brother and he’s calling her at work! This is IBM. Terry is getting grief from people she could have ignored back home. Twenty three years old and divorced. East coast “popular girl” makeup sense and named Terry Toohey. They called her T squared. These were still the pocket protector, slide rule sensibilities days at IBM. What they did with those slide rules “after” hours though.

“The details are hazy, but Terry had me meet her at what was then the Hyatt at Union Square. I think that IBM had rooms there and Terry wanted me to know that I didn’t need to sleep in the pickle grass across from her apartment on the twin peaks. She told you what had happened to Paul and she urged you to do something to save him! ‘He’s joined a cult! Have you ever heard of ‘the Moonies’?’ I was from a small town but they did have TeeVee, black and white, but still. Yeah, I knew who the Moonies were.”

Alex takes over the telling, “Then, there you were; walking up the steps and on to the full front porch of the large, boxy, white, wood frame house. It seemed natural to you in that it looked like it came from the same era as the houses back home, even if it was built after 1906. It was nicer than yours, but not nearly as nice as The Dr.’s wife at the top of the hill, just forget about the Bells’ House.

A knock at the door! Who could it be? It could be any number of teams returning in the gathering evening from a day of husking, busking and hustling one or more of the money raising schemes they had been assigned that morning. Or…. As the door swung open like it was Halloween… It could be this guy! Some lost boy whom the Reverend’s divine power had delivered to their care. You weren’t counting their guesses, but you knew that they had more guesses coming.”

Stone takes over, “I’m looking for my brother, Paul.”

“Who? Paul? I’ve never heard of him, won’t you come in and I’ll ask around?” Robert is of several minds about this. On the one side, I think that this person who answered the door knew exactly what to do when family members came to look for members. Deny, Deny, Deny! And yet that doesn’t mean that he was being malevolent. But if he could plant the seed of doubt, to protect the member, after all Paul was his brother now. On the other hand, he might have been a clueless zombie cult member. ‘Don’t I know you from someplace?’ he asks. Clump, Click! The heavy door closed behind us and the circus was in session.

“Your hand is taken and you are led through, towards the kitchen, ‘Are you hungry?’ ‘We only eat good food here.’ ‘We grow food at the farm. Do you want to help us at the farm?’ ‘Yes, yes, You must come to the farm with us.’ Pretty girls come up to your face and fill your field of vision as they look piercingly into your eyes and tell you how big and strong you look. Pretty girls didn’t do that to you… Carla Bowen was right. The only girl that had ever seemed to WANT you was Karen Schermacher in the seventh and eighth grade. Thirteen years old and Karen had tits. Not boobs, not blobs, not lumps, Karen had tits TITies. Karen was a tramp. Karen was real popular with boys who were legally classifiable as men. At the dance in the seventh Grade, she was really pissed that you were not taking her for a spin on the second floor, in the dark. She said that she had passed up a good pot party to be at this dance, too!

But your dad had told you that he did not want you hanging around in town! Of all the things I didn’t listen to him about, that was the one rule I didn’t break. Being Karen’s boyfriend would have meant hanging around in town…

Karen was a tramp, and she thought you had all the right equipment and an ass bad enough that you were the one she chose. She was used to being chosen by others, but she chose to choose you. But it had to be ‘No’ and it wasn’t just d’err… it was ‘No’ in that the other girls wouldn’t want you if you were the guy that went with Karen Schermacher.  As it turned out, nobody cared except that you were the schmuck that didn’t even go with a sure thing like Karen.

It was good training as it turns out as Karen Schermacher after Karen Schermacher in cotton sundresses and peasant skirts and loose fitting hippy garb were coming past me left and right and each saying the same thing, ‘Don’t I know you? Have we met? I feel like I’ve known you for a long time.’ I weighed this in my mind and decided that it was a pick up line. These girls were used to being used to flirt with mens dreams on the streets of the city.

“’Paul?’ ‘Paul? OH, Maybe he means Pavel!’

“Pavel was the way that Mrs. Gibson referred to Paul. Mrs. Helena Gibson is/was the walking embodiment of a Russian novel. Her husband was Braunic Proselovitch, Dr. Braunic Proselovitch. They bought the manor house at the top of the hill (The one I was talking about up there.); a bluff that has a singular, commanding view of the Hudson River. They had escaped Eastern Europe and Helena was sure that the secret police were tracking them down to rendition them back to Romania. She called herself Gibson as a cover. However, when she found out that her husband was known at the hospital as Dr. Brown, she was reportedly livid! One can imagine that he spoke in their native tongue as he explained to her that no one at the small, terrible up river hospital could pronounce Braunic, let alone that alphabet soup he called a last name. So, Brown was the reasonable compromise. One would hope that he could further rationalize it to her by explaining that the name change would help to throw the KGB off his trail, but that’s not the way the irrational mind works anyway, and Dr. Brown, being both a doctor and the husband of a crazy woman, would have been smart enough to know that. Not to mention that it wouldn’t last long for her anyway because she wasn’t particularly stupid or non inquisitive, she’d have realized soon enough that the KGB doesn’t look for people based on what people call them, but rather based on what name they registered as a doctor with the state.The house had two full floors of opulent living, and a walk up attic. The aged Mrs. Gibson decided that she wanted to live in the attic so that she would be safe from
KGB. Then she decided that it would be safer to live over the four bay garage. Then she decided that living on the second floor of the carriage house/ stables/ barn would be ideal for her Summer living needs. So, Paul counterweighted the trap door and she was secure from her internal and external tormentors; for a while.

“Mrs. Gibson came down from the hill and hired the neighborhood children to do jobs, odd and even odder. Of all her workers, your sister Deborah was by far her favorite, and for the outside work, her Pavel was the one. Her daughter, Yolanda, fell in love with the lug. He was, she was, they would have been straight out of central casting for a Hans Christian Anderson romance. Except that Pavel knew even less about girls than you did, and you were too naïve to shtupp the aforementioned Karen Schermacher! Between Paul’s perceived indifference to Yolanda’s advances, Yolanda’s mother being both mentally unstable and unsupportive of a romance between her only daughter and the help, and God knows what the KGB put into her water. Yolanda was sent off to live among the chemicals of the convent for atheists.

“When Paul got to work among the many many Yolandas of that San Francisco house and the sub urban farm he must have told them, because it seemed they HAD met before, the story and that his name in it had been Pavel. The name fit him so well that no one knew him as Paul. ‘OH! Pavel!’ ‘YESS! Pavel! Of course!’ Now everyone knew whom you were referring to. It was as if he was a charismata that had bought with him a timeless light to this corner of the known universe. No one knew what life was like before Pavel. You knew that he hadn’t been there, and you figured that as this was a recruiting station, and as such most people were new to the craft, but still, it seemed as though Paul was making an outsized influence on these people.

“Not that this surprised you. You always had looked up to your older brother, and not just because for most of your life he could, he would and he did beat the crap out of you. You never were sure if the turn was when you decided you were now at a point where you could beat him after you took a wild swing and broke his nose or if you decided you could beat him because you had lost respect for him. But that’s not the point now, because you always saw Paul in leadership roles. And as far as anyone with power or influence was concerned, you were his little brother; and a pretty poor excuse for one to boot!

“So when it seemed that Paul’s natural leadership was on display, especially among a collection of lost souls who would have had to do an hour of self affirmations a day just to get to the point where they had no self-esteem, it didn’t surprise you at all. ‘…There’s nothing to eat?’ Said the boy/man/male cult member that had walked you towards the kitchen, and then gotten the word from person or persons in the cabinets and pantries of the non beating heart of the house. He turned you on his heel and guided you to the couch against the front wall of the house. In its day it was a sitting room and it faced what once was probably a dinning room but was now a room with wooden beds stacked three high to too near the ceiling for one to sit up in bed, not that the top bunk was in anyway disadvantaged to the lower ones, there was not sitting there either. And yet, they were occupied. It had the ordered chaos of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. And it instilled the same sort of dread as some dozens of eyes peered out of the darkness, all saying the same thing, in different ways, and saying different thing in the same way ‘One of us.’

“‘Listen…’ said your guide, the food tease, ‘come tomorrow, we’re having a big dinner.’ then, ‘This is so strange, do you ever have De’ ja vu? It’s like I know you from somewhere!’ Given your recent episode with De’ja vu that was detailed in Chapter 1, which took place a scant couple of weeks before this event, it would be insane of you to dismiss this fellow’s experience. But of course, you do. You know that it is just part of the patter that these people play. So you sit on the couch and look across the wooden floor at the spartan wooden dorm room that looks like the youth hostels in Europe. You’re really enjoying the mind blowing hippy freaky trippienesss of the experience. But you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you and Paul are leaving that house that night! There’s action at the door as a hustling crowd comes bustling in from their day.

“There he is.. In clean khakis and a button down collared shirt. A pair of desert loafer looking Hush Puppy knockoff shoes. It’s someone you have never before in my entire life seen. It’s Paul; 5 foot 9 and 135 pounds!

“Your entire lives Paul had been the fat one. Your father never let Paul go a day without some sort of comment about how fat he was. And since it was ok for dad to do it… There was a reason Paul could, would and did beat the crap outta you, Paul had anger issues! You had to be afraid of fighting with Paul because Paul’s eye would roll to the back of his head and anything and everything and any/everybody that was in his path was mere seconds away from the end of its tale. When Paul was on top of you, you had nowhere to go. Paul weighed one hundred and ninety pounds of solid masochistic son of a bitch. He loved to make you scream with one finger that he would ‘tap’ against your sternum again and again as you tried to get the fat bastard off of you.

“And now, here he was, in size twenty six chinos. If ever there was doubt about ‘haven’t I seen you before’ being a recruitment pick up line it was dispelled as some poor dumb college dropout, pampered life, middle classian sitting next to me asked you just one more time. ‘Look at him; look at me; look at him. Now do you see where you’ve seen me before?’

“‘No, man! I know you from another life!’

“Paul, a little annoyed to see you and yet somehow not tremendously surprised, and a little excited, on the one hand, he wanted me to join and on the other, he was really digging that this was HIS deal and he wasn’t all too keen on me sharing it. Indeed, Pavel did know me from an other life.

Paul and you talked. You asked him if he wanted to go get a beer and catch up. To this day Paul is paranoid about that, as if the act of getting a beer now grows beyond the social convention. I swear, asking him out for a drink wasn’t a pick up line, it was about two brothers being able to be alone in a crowd where the strangers were strange to both and not just the one. Of course he wouldn’t go, but then, getting home from a day of, let’s call it ‘fundraising’ doesn’t mean the day’s work is done.”

“Alex.” Robert interrupts, “I’m going to have to edit you here, you’re letting the story I’ve told people, the one where I fought off the Moonies single handedly, get the better of the narrative. It isn’t really all about that. Paul tried to talk me into staying, to come on out to the farm…”

“Where they make you sleep next to a pea pod and you become one of…”

“Alex! Get ahold of yourself.

“…Out to the farm. I reminded Paul that excaping the families’ farming was the single greatest motivation for me to get the hell out of Milton! I sure as hell didn’t want to do farm work in California…”

“And you knew how the game was played! Out at the farm there was a pod with your name on it. You leave San Francisco and you don’t come back till you’ve been through Manchuria!” That’s Alex for ya’. What can I do? He’s the editor, he takes stuff out and he puts stuff in. I don’t always have a say in the matter.

“Paul and Robert talked, I told him about the strange dream from Chapter one and Tim and Eric and Kevin at the Derby. Paul told me that when he came into this house and when he went to that farm he had Deja vu experiences left right and center. He felt he belonged here and that he had always belonged here.”

“And what did you do with that information, Robert? I’ll tell you what you did; you took Paul’s words and you filed them into two diametrically opposed interpretations.

“On the one hand, who were you to say that Paul wasn’t flashing through to a totally different reality as you had, recently. You didn’t think that the barroom visit of your experience was of any particular import in and of itself. But that isn’t to say that Paul’s aren’t there to tell him something.

“At the same time, you knew that inducing DejaVu is a mind control trick. Feed a person a diet high in sugars and carbs, otherwise known as white rice and fruit which people interpret as a healthy diet, and low in protein, they don’t call it brain food for nothing. Keep them up all night, singing and praying and telling stories.

Constantly tell them that you are having deja vu ‘I know you from a different life, man.’ Viola, instant Deja vu. Paul ought to know that. You knew that then, so how about you lay off the ‘Holier than Al’ routine?!”

“OK, Paul, Pablo, Pavel, I guess this is goodbye then. But please, stay in touch. Don’t disappear on me.” And then Robert turned and walked away.

“When I got back to her apartment Terry was both surprised that I didn’t have Paul with me and that I wasn’t on my way to the farm, in a van with a bunch of new recruits singing Dem Bones, dem bone dem dry bones, and Childrens of the lord the song about Noah’s Ark. ‘Where’s Paul?’ she asked me, only slightly less worried that it was going to be blamed on her that her stupid country bumpkin cousin had joined the moonies while she was responsible for him.

“‘He’s there, he lives there, he’s better off where he is than he was out in this world’ I knew that I had almost killed Paul on that entrance ramp to Route 84. I had asked Paul, point blank, back in Milton one night ‘Are you happy?’ and he told me point blank ‘No, I’ve never been happy, not in my entire life.’ I asked him that this evening, ‘Are you happy?’ and he said ‘Yes. I am.’

“‘Dad be damned, he can hate me for the rest my life if he wants to this is the best Paul I have ever seen. Paul can thrive in this environment. Far as I’m concerned Paul is doing the right thing and the rest of them had best just learn to live with it!'”

Alex soothed, “Yes, and learn they did. They didn’t know that they would until they were faced with the task. On the other hand, they always knew they would just as surely as they prayed that they would never have to.

“You know that you know what the Als are. A part of you knows who the Als are just as surely as you know that you pray you never have to find out for sure.”

“Alex, what if I do understand? The signs are all there. I had no idea that the proof would fall out this way. The smell; at first it didn’t bother me because it seemed a small detail in a stunningly odd series of events. But then, there was the unmistakable stench of Hitler’s fear as he turned the gun over to the aide who shot him in the bunker. There was the singed hair at Ford’s Theater. The broken bottles of perfume as they raped and the killed little Anastasia. Torquemada, Gandhi, Montezuma, the list goes on and I was there!

“There are times when I look into their eyes, like now, I look into Judas’ eyes and I hear his voice, and I know I know him ‘from a different life, man’!”

“You’re right.” Alex knows how to paint a thousand pictures with just two words. I guess that’s why he’s an editor, and I’m not.

“What do you mean, I’m right? How can it be? What am I and most importantly, Why me?”

“There it is again. Are we going to let Alex do all the work or are we going to go out there?” “What’s the rush? Let’s see what Aike is doing.”

“Charlie, calm down! This is working right into your hands.”

“GEorge, don’t you tell me to calm down, it makes me want to tear out your beating heart an take a bite of it!

“This is a disaster. I wanted a first viewing of this event; one without Stone so that it would be unverifiable and if anything was wrong then we could call off the project and the tape would be easily dismissed as a fake because it had no Stone watermark.

“You, George, it was YOU that convinced us not to do that and now the very Canonical Gospels are turning into toilet paper. What’s more it’s happening right in front of the very eyes of Christian, near Christian prospect, Gnostics, agnostics, skeptics, Atheists and even Catholic Papists! Saxteen hundreds years of work flushed down the Goddamned toilet thanks to some Goddamned moron named GEorge!”

“Pastor, please, Language!” Chirped in a character named Chipper, Choir boy that he was, is and will be.

“Go fuck yourself, fucker! Are you watching what’s going on on the Goddamned screens? Turns out everything we’ve taught people for fifteen hundred years, pardon me, fifteen Goddamned hundreds of fucking years is fucking wrong! Do you still think that God is going to fucking give a shit if I’m throwing a few ‘name in vain’s around the Goddamned room? Wake up Chipper! That coffee you smell is your eternal soul roasting in HELL!”

“Oh, Pastor! Please! Don’t say such things.” Chipper represents all those people who just don’t know when to shut the fuck up!

“You’re right, Chipper,” Chipper doesn’t know that when someone who was raging, all of a sudden says “You’re right” in a calm voice, it means that you’re about to be told exactly why you are not right, so Chipper’s ears perk up like the puppy that he is when he hears those sweet tones fall upon them. Dumb bastard. “There will be no Hell for you because you are probably among the vast majority who will just die when you die and your essence will join the essences of all other dead things and get sent to God’s recycling bin!”

Chipper runs, crying from the room!

“Guys like you and me Charlie, we’re among the immortals. This is a good day for guys like us. You know, I bet this means that you CAN take it with you! Sweet. Soon as I’m finished with Stone I’m gonna; we’re gonna get the Inheritance Tax abolished for people like us on the grounds that we are leaving it to ourselves!

“Aww, who am I kidding? I’m never going to get done roasting Stone! Step Stone is going to look like a career opportunity to his ass by the time I’m half finished walking on the S.O.B.!

“Look at this Charlie, what do you see? I see the entire Stone empire crumbling. You feel Christianity crumbling under your feet. So what? You were only nominally in the business of Jesus Christ in the first place.”

“Sir?”

“Come on, religion was just your method of peeling the people. From what is running right now it seems to me that you are right for doing it too. What need have these people of Earthly goods? They’re born, they have no choice in that. They grow, even though they spend their entire adult life wanting to be young; they get old and they die. All the while they listen to you as you prattle on about ‘Free Will.’ It would be laughable if it weren’t so obvious that it is obscured by its own internal inconsistency. They have no choices. Life happens.

“Any population that can live with such a glowering of a dualism can certainly be maintained by the gift I have given you here today. Here you have stunning proof of the Devil himself tempting and betraying the Son of Man. You will never again have to wonder which side Judas was on, Judas is obviously evil. Judas himself is right now telling the entire planet that he is not only responsible for the death of the Christ, but also for the deaths of Gandhi, Jean d’ Arc, Tsar Nicholas, Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy. They all heard it, or read it.

“Just like everything else you do, you can pick out the parts you like and change, denigrate or ignore the parts you don’t. You can say that Stone  used his mystical immortal powers to change the images on the screen. Stone is hooked up to the harness and his imagination can alter an image. Then you switch back to everything is absolutely true and in God’s plan we can see that Stone is truly an ancient demon that set upon the task of destroying  all of Christian kind. And that is itself, proof positive that Christianity is the one true religion because the evil one didn’t out to destroy ‘them’… That must be because those others are false religions and are sending people to Hell anyway.”

“I am the Shepherd of my flock! This is a sacred responsibility, you blaspheme, sir!”

“Charlie, should I get Chipper back in here? At least he got it when you laid it out for him!

“What is it that you want to do? Give up, or win? If you give up, you can be Goddamned sure that I will take over where you left off! The only reason I haven’t thrown you out the window already is that this plan will be easier if there are two of us working on it.”

“But… I am the Shepherd…”

“No. You’re not. He is the Shepherd, you are His tool.

“We all like to think of the shepherd as a first job for the first son. A job where all he has to do all day long is sit in the shade and make sure that the sheep do what sheep do, eat. As long as there is food right here, where are the sheep going to go anyway? The only motivation they have to move is to find something to eat. The first son can spend his days dreaming of the day his father dies and how he’s going to do things so differently that they will seem exactly the same.

“While this image does have its truth, there is the reality that sometimes the sheep need to be moved. From the barn to the low meadow, from the low meadow to the high meadow, from the high meadow to the barn, that is where you come in.

“You are not the shepherd boy, you are the shepherd dog. It is absolutely your method to zig and zag, rousing fear in the flock, nipping at the backs of their legs to get them to move in the direction that the Shepherd Boy tells you.

“You now say to the flock that Jesus Himself has told them that they are the race of the immortal souls. Jesus has commanded you to watch over their eternal legacy so that ‘there can be abundance for you as you return again and again!’ God has tasked you, Charles, with providing the banking. Those who have found the eternity of their soul will deposit their Earthly fortunes into your care and then shall they reclaim it in the next life.” GEorge takes a cigar out of the cigar case in his sport jacket pocket: Both the sport jacket and the case that were just provided for him this moment as a device to denominate the dialog.

“How will we know?” asks the cigarless, albeit still sports jacketed Charlie.

“Charlie…” GEorge knows that it’s always a good idea to use the mark’s name as often as possible, without seeming too obvious, when selling a con. “… the only people who need or even want religion are the people who have no soul. Why do you think the Canonical Gospels were the ones that were chosen to be ‘The’ Bible? Because those were the ones that appealed to those people who have no spirit of their own. Christ Himself just said that the other apostles just did not understand what His true message was. They saw God as something which could be possessed, something that could be earned and bought. They saw God as something external while Christ was trying to tell them that eternal life was something you were born with, or not. These are the very Gospels according to men who were searching for the thing they didn’t have, an immortal spirit.

“There were eleven materialists, Judas, and the Christ as number thirteen. Christ himself surely could tell if a man was of the eternal race, and yet, he chose twelve men of which only one was born with an eternal spirit. That’s what? Between 8 and 9 percent? I don’t know if Christ was being a relativist or an absolutist. He was saying that 9 percent, three threes, by the way, of the then world population was immortal? Or was he saying, as a relativist would that eight point three three three, infinity, percent of every population is immortal? Either way it is obvious that the vast majority of people in church are searching for something that they just can’t have.

“If they show up for the money, it means that it wasn’t theirs in the first place!” The cigar clip in his waist pocket now comes in handy.

“GEorge, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that you are one hundred percent evil incarnate. And what proves that beyond any shadow is that I am with you one hundred percent in this line of reasoning.

“But, turning this message around is impossible. It’s a Groucho Marx routine, ‘Who are you going to believe; me, or your own two eyes?’”

“Charlie, don’t worry about that. I have connections. You’re familiar with the Flat Earthers Society? We’ve used them extensively over the decades to convince the people to vote against their own self interest. Their entire existence is designed to fly in the face of the obvious. They are who most people are referring to when they say, ‘they say’.

“You work with me here, I’ll work with them and we’ll split up the rewards among our immortal eternity.”

“Why me?”

“Now?”, “Not yet!”

“Aike! Can’t you stop this? This is killing everything you and Stone have worked for!”

“No, Niles, I can’t stop it. What’s more, I’m not sure I want to stop it.”

“Aike, you’re young, you haven’t seen what happens to people when their company crashes and burns. What’s worse is that I’m old, and my wealth is tied up in this company! You’ve got to stop this now!”

“Niles, if there is one thing that we’ve learned from this project it is that you cannot change the past. This event went wrong long ago and yet Mr. Stone drove it forward anyway.

“The first time we shot this scene Mr. Stone started talking in Aramaic, that’s why we set up the dialog function on the harness so that we wouldn’t have to explain why he was speaking in Aramaic. We wouldn’t have to worry about the language he was speaking in, it all came out translated and written anyway. He knew the risk and yet he took the risk. Just like you took the unreasonable risk of putting all of your eggs in this one basket. Tell me why I’m supposed to bail either of you out?”

“How about because you work for me, or have you forgotten that it was me at the sneaker company with the swoosh that gave you your start. Did you forget that no other company would hire a polymath? No other company would trust someone with four different degrees. But I did, didn’t I? I spoke for you at the Board Meeting and mine was the presentation and the vote that put you on your path to the success you’ve become. Surely, you owe me for that?”

“First, Niles, there has not been a single person that was in that Board Room that hasn’t inveighed upon me at one time or another by telling me that it was their impassioned plea and courageous vote that put me over the top, and each one of them say that you were the most vehement opponent to hiring me.”

“That’s a lie?”

“What’s a lie, Niles? That they came to me? That they told me about you? Or is a lie that you were an ‘Ain’t on Aike’ as they all say you put it?

“Don’t sweat it Niles, you were only acting in your own self interest, nobody can blame you for that.

“Did you ever wonder how I got so many degrees? Colleges don’t support that type of behavior; for one thing, it skews their statistics for job placements. I had to lie to the college, I had to outsmart them on their entrance procedures and then I had to make myself ‘too big to fail’ so that the school’s reputation was on the line. By doing so I could avoid taking the usual Pre Req courses and I could focus on my major.”

“You’re telling me something? Or are you just stalling? OH my God! Who is that guy?”

“That’s Mr. Stone’s editor, Alex.”

“What’s he doing there? How did he get there? How come I don’t see him on the feed?”

“You don’t see him on the feed because we’re showing the portal video without the feedback loop.”

“But then how I can see Stone?”

“Remember what Mr. Stone said about the static watermark? The problem is that it is resident on some memory somewhere so that it can be compared to the current. Well, what you see there is an image of Mr. Stone that I took from memory and superimposed on the portal feed.”

“But, wait a second, if you cut the harness feed, then why are we still hearing and reading this conversation Stone seems to be having with this Alex character?”

“Because my friends at Colonel Electric are pulling the cross at the crucifixion. They made sure that the audio and the video are on different channels. I can control the video but I can I can’t shut down the Audio.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Well, for starters, they hate you! You provided the means the motive and the opportunity for Mr. Stone to take control of their company. Secondly, so they can forge a bond with the God Squaders and, I suspect, the Flat Earthers.”

“Aike, I don’t understand how you can be so calm!” it looked like it was a statement but it was actually a question, “You’re about to be ruined. Aitched ‘n Stone’s business is about to be made worthless because you just faked Stone’s image in this event, which negates the validity of his image in all his previous events.

“My company is going to want to put on its running shoes and get as far away as possible from Stone. There is no way The Victory Goddess will be available to you anymore. They’ve made five times what it cost to make it now so they have no need to do anything but mothball it.

“CE is going to break off and you know as well as I that GEorge is going to go GE ogre all over Stone.

“Companies that hired Aitched ‘N Stone and then destroyed the documents that you archived are going sue the living shit out of you! Turn the Goddamned machine off, Aike, I’m begging you!” if ever there was a place for an exclamation point, that was it. It is the sort of desperation in the voice that the exclamation point was invented for.

Calmly, placidly, that sweet spot between human and zombie like, Aike said, “No, not yet.” an exclamation would be pointless there.

“Holy Shit on dead toad toast! Why me?”

“Did you hear that?”, “OK, that’s two, one more and we go.”

“Alex,” we’re back to the conversation with Stone, “This is starting to go too fast. I feel like we’re trying to get someplace but we’re spending ink getting twisted together instead.”

“As your editor, I’d like to point out that that is the definition of going too slow, not too fast. But beyond that, is there a question in there?”

“Yeah, first of all; what the hell is with Aike? Why is he letting me roast out here?”

“Aike is mega pissed at you. I haven’t seen someone this mad at you since you came home from California for Diana’s wedding. Your father had had from January till whatever month it was to work on new dirty looks to flash at you and he planned to space them out over the full week you were to be in town. Of course this created an inner turmoil in him in that the struggle not to hit you with them all at once was straining against the fact that he couldn’t stand to be in the same room as you, not to mention with you.

“An accomodation was reached, however, on the day of the wedding. As per usual among those of your gender and generation, the proper social protocol was to shake hands and then find the nearest secluded spot to share a joint. After two trips into the Mohonk Mountain House underbrush things slowed down for a while, then Chris’s family arrived and brother/Best Man to be was excited to see a real live Californian with whom to have a joint. Off to the topiary, back to the hall smelling like firemen just back from fighting a blaze at the rope factory. Barbara said, ‘My, my, your eyes look like two fried eggs!’ If you weren’t so stoned you might have said something sharp like, ‘You may want to reconsider your breakfast choices if your eggs are this bloodshot.’

“It didn’t really matter anyway, you had nothing to do at the wedding, you were barely even invited, you certainly weren’t part of it. But Jeb was a different story, Jeb was the Best Man. He was the best man at the wedding and/but he was not the most accomplished pot smoker you’ll ever have met. Jeb was high, with two capital red blood shot eyes. You managed to ruin Diana’s big, fancy, semi normal wedding in a dream setting befitting some station to which you were not privy. Robbie and you were seated at the table near the door. Nobody at the table could believe that you were so closely related to the family, except that they could pretty quickly tell why. Ralph, meanwhile, got drunk, Ralph’s drinking skill at the time made Jeb’s pot smoking skills seem legendary. Ralph was drunk to the point where it wasn’t that he was falling down, but that he just preferred to be lying down anyway. He both couldn’t and wouldn’t stand for the family portrait. Your father always wanted a family portrait, never enough to pay for one, mind you, which made it so tripply infuriating to him that every time he collected everyone together, something went wrong. And this time, when he had a photographer there and everyone dressed up, and his one son missing, and one son too plowed and the third one with that stupid grin on his face that no amount of red eye eliminator could remove… The flood of glowers came fast and furious and lasted for hours.

“That’s how mad Aike is at you right now.”

“But would you like to tell me why?”

“What was that?”, “That was it!” , “That was three, let’s go.”, “No! No. No, that was ‘me why” not ‘why me’. It doesn’t count, and it doesn’t count that I said it either.”, “Oh, oh, aw shucks.”

“First things first, you heard his conversation with Niles, right?”

“Yeah, I did… How did I do that?”

“Do I need to remind you of the difference between one two and three dimensions?”

“Fair enough, so what you’re saying is that there is bleed through from one level, or dimension, into the others?”

“Bleed is an understatement, at this point the entire world is watching you have a conversation with no one. Characters are popping up and popping down, the scene over there is Jesus Christ being arrested by the Roman soldiers who have literally and actually crapped themselves with fear as the cloud circus marched back away. Finally there is clarity as to why they beat Him so hard tomorrow, because they are scared to death of Him. And yet, your apparent melt down is drawing all of the attention.

“Aike is looping all the office drama through you as well. No one seems certain as to Aike’s motivations. Niles is practically comatose. He has assured you that you are effectively out of business and then he just shut down.”

“Alex, you still didn’t tell me why Aike is so mad at me.”

“Has Aike ever spoken to you about his family?”

“Only that his father was in the production business. I gathered that they had been close, but then something happened to his father and Aike buried himself in his studies after that.”

“So, you never met his dad then?”

“No.”

“What if I were to tell you that you had?”

“Well I guess that would make sense. if his father had been in the business and if his father knew about the Stone mark, then… I guess it does make sense that I’d met him. Is that why he’s so mad, because I don’t remember his father? That’s truely strange.”

“I suppose that’s a good part of it, yes.”

“A good part of it, so there’s more?” phrased like a question delivered like a statement of fact.

“Aike is like everyone else in that he thinks he’s different from everybody else; and at the same time he’s sure that everybody else feels exactly the same way about it.

“Aike is a guy who keeps secrets. Aike is a guy who figures out other’s secrets. The result is that Aike is paranoid that you have secrets that he doesn’t know about. At the same time he is sure that you have figured out all of his secrets. As such he feels no need to share his secrets and what is more he feels the need to guard his secrets all the more given that you already know them anyway. This feeds his knowledge that you are hiding secrets because he can’t find his secrets in you, so you must be better at hiding them than he is.”

“So Aike is mad at me because he because he thinks he knows my secrets? Or he’s mad at me because he thinks I know his secrets? Or he’s mad at me because he thinks I am keeping his secrets from him? Or is he mad because he figured out the secret that I don’t give a rat’s ass about his secrets?”

“He’s mad at you because he does know your secrets, and he’s mad because you’re keeping them from him, he finds it to be an insult to his intelligence, that you think you’re clever enough to keep this secret secret from him.”

“What secret are you talking about?’

“He knows about the smells, Robert. He knows that you smell the environment at certain shoots. He knows that you don’t smell the environment at other events. He knows that smell isn’t one of the senses that can be percieved across the portal. He knows that sensory memory includes smell and he knows that for you to have sensory memory in the second place you had to have the memory of having had the sensory stimulae in the first place.

“He knows why you are keeping it secret from him. He knows that you have memory of being at some of the greatest crimes of human history.”

“When did he figure it out?”

“Dallas.”

“Dallas? I didn’t figure it at Dallas, how could he?”

“He had a clue that you didn’t at Dallas.”

“What clue?”

“The man that you only caught glimpses of, the man that was helping Oswald. Aike got to see him full frontal, several times.”

“And?”

“And Aike says that he had never seen the man before, but he was absolutely certain that it was you.”

“My, that IS a clue!”

“Well, Aike, it seems like you’re up to your neck in this. What do you have to say about it?”

“GEorge, do yourself a favor and stay out of this.”

“Stay out of it? Oh you can be sure I’ll stay out of something. I’ll stay out of the hole you’re digging for Stone, especially since it now appears that you are standing right next to him as you scrape away the dirt beneath the feet of you both.

“But beyond that, buddy boy, I am all over this thing. Have you seen the global trades on StepStone? The Stock has gone ‘No Bid” for just about the last half an hour. By exchange rules the stock with no bid is reset at half the value of the last trade if it goes a half an hour with no bid. At the rate this trainwreck is going there ought to be at least three half hours with no bid, that means the stock will be down eighty seven and a half percent from the last trade price, which, by the way, was twenty seven percent down from the opening trade.

“Expect the lawfirm of every company with a GE ex ex at the helm that has ever done business with your firm to be at the door by nine AM!”

“Do you really think so GEorge? I don’t think so.”

“Why don’t you think so, Aike?”

“For the same reason you do think so GEorge. Because there is no such thing as an ex ex at GE. Once a GE executive, always a GEX. And what is it that makes GE, GE? The General! GEXs always follow the chain of command, always, all ways!”

“True, and I am the senior GEX still with the company!”

“Are You? It seems to me that Mr. Stone out ranks you on the corporate hierarchy, seeing as he owns the company and all.”

“He doesn’t own GE he owns CE, you little bastard! Don’t you ever confuse those two entities as being the same ever again!” if ever there was a place where the exclamation point was not needed, that was it. Not only because the tone of voice was implied by the words, but also because the words were so hollow as to have been echoes from a different time, if not place.

“Well then there’s me. You will recall that before Mr. Stone bought out GE, I was named Senior President of Brands, and I was named to the Board of Directors. Mr. Stone may not have GE pedigree, But I do.

“There isn’t an X squared that is going to go against my directive to stand down.”

“Loyalty goes with the unit, not the title. You see? That’s where your weakness lies. While you were spending your time getting your degrees, you had made a deal with the devil. The time spent in school was time not spent in the schoolyard. You learned all about Law and Arts and Engineering and everything a book could teach you about Business. But Business is something that you learn on the playground, it is something you do on the golf course, it is something that is celebrated on a deep sea fishing trip. Administration is what happens between the covers of a book, Business is what happens between the sheets.

“Business is getting into bed and forging a relationship. It’s deciding who is going to be the dominant and who is going to follow. Decisions not made for ego or pride but for reasons of mutual satisfaction. The addition of some Lookie Louie doesn’t change the dynamic of those truely engaged in the business.”

“But what if there are three in the bed GEorge? Who decides who is the dominant and what keeps the other two from teaming up against the dom? Or are you a person who ascribes to the axiom that ‘there are three people in a transaction; the dealer, the stooge and the mark, if you don’t know who the mark is, it’s you!’?”

“Who? Me?” Two questions that sounded like questions, looked like questions but indeed were anything but questions. Questionable, yes, but not questions.

“There it was! The third time! Beetlejuice, Beetleguice, Beatlesjews, here we go, come on boys. Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up!”, “That was ‘Who Me’ not ‘Why me’.”, “Personally, I thought the father was going to say the ‘Why Me?'”, “I thought so too, but I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was saying ‘Because Me’ when he looked at his family and he saw the two sons that weren’t there and the two sons that were physically there. The father wasn’t as mad at his sons themselves as he was mad at himself for what his sons had become. A countenence only glowers to expose the pain behind it, not in front of it.”, “Love is like that. Science hates love, it tries to condence it to chemical reactions, and yet they just cannot. Love is the last emotion to become an evolutionary imperative, and as they found with Yolanda, it is absolutely the last vapor to leave the body. Fear is the most developed evolutionary trait. The entire corpus is designed to detect, react and deal with fear. Fear is the basis of survival, and yet, a few gulps of alcohol and fear is gone from the being..”, “You’re warming up for your presentation, aren’t you?”, “Oh Yeah, you just know somebody is going to say it and then, to continue the Beetlejuice reference: It’s showtime!”

“Me? Why whatever, um, yes… whatever do you mean? Yes, the third person is the mark. Father Son and the Holy Crap! Basic Three Card Monty math, rules of the game as they were. Why… Why do you… What have you heard?”

“GEorge, are you sure you’re the dealer? You’re nobody’s stooge so that means you’re either the dealer or you’re the mark.”

“What? What are you talking about? You know, you talk pretty big for someone who’s about to be a pennyless has been.” GEorge doesn’t notice that he isn’t saying Aike’s name to him. GEorge doesn’t notice that Aike is using GEorge’s name to or rather at him. But the difference lets GEorge feel that he isn’t the dom, even though he doesn’t know that’s what he’s feeling. That’s the beauty of using the name, it makes the mark feel like you’re talking up to him. He gets a squirt of ‘feels good’ every time he hears his name. His whole ego perks up like a puppies ears.

Aike checks the monitor. Stone and Alex are still engaged in their debate as the Garden is emptying out and Judas is left behind. Aike notices the appearance of a new cloud which is growing in size and brightness. He turns up the sound just as Stone asks, “Aike is mad at me because he’s sure that I’m evil; but he has worked with me and he knows that I am not.”

“Robert,” Alex exhales, “Aike knows that it is not true that the things that happen to you are the things that make you who you are. He knows that it is who you are that makes things happen to you.

“You didn’t go upstairs with Karen Schermacker not because of your father, you didn’t go because it wasn’t the path of who you were and who you are. The girls didn’t not pair off with you because they thought more or less of you, but because the path for you needed to be carefully cultivated.

“Who cultivated that path?”

“You’re going to tell me the Als did? You’re going to tell me the Als did!” Interestingly enough the first time was a statement and the second time was a question and the difference between them was the note they ended on alone.

“Considering you’re the guy writing the book, I guess I’ll say whatever you tell me to. But, be that as it may; yes, I am going to, as I was going to, tell you that the Als guided you to it. They had you sitting on the top bleecher when Carla Bowen stood on the ground, her her hands on her hips and her sidekicks standing a half step behind, to the right and to the left and told you that you were a stinky, ugly, stupid, pooh-pooh that seemingly random day in second grade. Yes it occured to you that the girl who convinced you that no girl would EVER want you lived in the same house as the girl who would want you. And you noticed that that house was tight next door to the St. James Catholic Church that your family occasionally occasioned. Do you still think that was all coincidential?”

“Why would they go through such trouble for me?”

“THAT’S IT!”, “No, ‘Why, blah blah blah me? doesn’t count.”

Alex shook his head, “Several reasons, not least of which being that they’re sort of a bunch of dicks. But more to the point is that it is important that you, this you, be right here, right now!”

“Why…?”

“How come you never asked me about Aikes father?” Alex quickly altered the conversation, before Robert could notice that in point of fact he was neither “right here” nor “right now” in that the here and now was several thousand miles away from the Garden they were in and some two thousand years away from that now. It wasn’t quite time for Robert’s audience to come to the full realization of the new reality where past present and future were terms about as arbitrary and counter intellectual as “Clockwise.”

“I figured it was too personal. I didn’t want to cause discomfort. I grew up in a house where you never mentioned Jimmy because it would make both your mother and you cry. She would cry because of an ache in her heart and you would cry from an ache in your arm where your brothers and sisters would punch you for making your mother cry.

“I knew Aike’s father? Who was he?”

“Is he?”

“Is, I thought he died.”

“Are you reading this story at all? What are you going to do, wait till the movie comes out? There are many ways for someone to die without it includes them being dead. Draw the parallel, PUTZ!”

“Aike’s father took up smoking pot?”

“No! Well… maybe, I don’t know but that’s not what Aike is mad about.”

“I give up, who IS Aike’s father?”

“Aike’s father is Dave.”

“Dave? Dave? Dave, the engineer from chapter two Dave? That Dave? Wow! Dave! How cool is that? Dave… Wait a second, Dave didn’t have a son named Aike, his son’s name was Jim, or Jack or something.”

“Jake.”

“Right! Right… Jake… So Aike is mad at me for being friends with his father?”

“Aike is mad at you…”

“Because of the MOONIES!”

“Yes, because of the Moonies. You and Dave had that conversation about the solar system and at the end of it Dave was gone, he was absorbed into the” CLICK. Aike threw the toggle, he turned to GEorge and he said, “So who’s dealing GEorge old boy? Is it you? Is it the God Squad? Or is it the Flat Earthers?”

“F…. fl…. Flat Earthers, You’re kidding right?”

“GEorge, let me stop you there. GEorge, why do you think your career at GE had plateaued?”

“Well there was that one time I made a play for Jack’s wife’s personal secretary. Somehow it got to Jack that I was only making the play so that I could be in the position to make the moves on Jack’s wife.”

“GEorge, you went upstairs with Karen Shermacker, didn’t you?”

“You bet your ass! Banged Patty when Rose went to work too!”

“Gave her the best twelve seconds of your life did ya? Yeah, no GEorge, that wasn’t what bothered management about you. What they felt was your weakness was that you could never think more than two peels into the future. Anybody willing to let you think you won the first two rounds in a deal could beat you so bad in the third round there didn’t need to be a fourth. You thought you had Stone peeled on the contract going up or down but he figured how to beat you in the third place and you wound up losing everything.

“Now you’ve made a deal where you think you’re going to peel the Reverend Charlie. You even made the fine print disclosure to Charlie when you told him that religious people weren’t at all likely to be immortals while implying that the two of you are immortals. You expect him to create a fund to supply immortals with the wealth they put aside for parishioners’ next lives. The language of the contract allows an immortal to walk in and reclaim the money. Since you believe yourself to be immortal and since paritioners will never stop in for their cash, it would all accrue to you. That’s a double peel; perhaps the C suite under estimated you.

“What’s more, you intend to peel the Flat Earthers by using their powers of persuasion to convince the world of the Christian view of event unfolded here this evening.”

“Yeah well, how will the twisted view of the Flat Earthers’ Christianity be any more twisted than the view of Christianity that the masses had yesterday? How can it not be better then the view they have of it right now?”

“GEorge, you are a member of the Flat Earthers Society, aren’t you?” It looked like a question but in GEorge’s ears it didn’t sound like one, it sounded like an accusation, which was just as well. “Please, don’t say ‘well,'” GEorge thought to no one in particular… GEorge was developing a wellness phobia as he was getting a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Now that he thought about it, ever since he walked into this discussion he felt himself slipping, as though he was walking on an iced over pond. The ice was snapping and spreading as GEorge was frozen . He knew he could answer either way and he couldn’t be convicted of lying.

Yes, he is a member of the Flat Earther Society. He had been one for decades. GEorge could trace most of the success he’d had to the training he’d received at the FES. He had learned to always answer the question with an answer that allowed him to claim the exact opposite interpretation from the one taken. He had learned to end the answer without directing the audence which interpretation to take and let each member of the audience choose their own interpretation.

GEorge had learned the importance of looking for Synergy, and he learned to impart this questing onto those that he was looking to dominate. It was like the old saying “The most important element of any trusting relationship is sincerity, once you can fake that, you are golden!”

GEorge Knew that he could say “No!” and it wouldn’t be a lie. GEorge was not a member of the Flat Earthers Society. GEorge was an Office Holder in the churches…. er umm… the Societies’ hierarchy. GEorge hadn’t been a “member” in a number of years. He had been elected to the office when he devised the scheme to place membership statistics into areas that would be discovered by the snooping reporters and the political hacks who thought that the FES had not nearly the constituency to make the demands of the public media the way they did.

GEorge planted hugely inflated censuses of the membership. This caused two things to happen. First, in what came to be known as the Apple Effect, once people thought that everybody was doing it, everybody did. It didn’t matter if it was voting or buying against their own self interest, people are jumping off the bridge, not just your friends, you’d better do it too!

GEorge was at a loss, staring down what was increasingly looking like a slippery slope because it occurred to him that that Aike was a Lawyer, among other things, and lawyers don’t ask questions if they don’t already know the answer.  Or both of them.  GEorge saw how to switch the position as Aike dealt the cards.

GEorge used his inflated Numbers to get elected to the level of Officer. After all, they couldn’t dispute his votes without admitting that the membership census was faked. Even if ninety percent of the members voted against him that meant that eighty percent of the accepted total of votes did not vote against. It was as if GEorge had flipped over the two end cards on the Three Card Monty dealer and said, “Since this is the nine, and this is the six that means that the center card must be the Queen.” Dealer, Stooge, Mark, GEorge had peeled the dealer and stuck it to the stooge!

“You know the answer to that question.”

“Yes, GEorge, I do, would you like me to tell you?”

“Suit yourself. …Ah erm Aike.” GEorge finally remembered that he had been forgetting.

“GEorge, I’m curious, what makes you think you’re an immortal? You know, I know you think that the people who go to church do so because they lack the immortal’s  spirit. The logical fallacy in that is that it begs the question.”

“What question does it leave unasked?”

“That’s not what ‘begs the question’ means, GEorge. Begging the question is when you use the conclusion as evidence for the supposition. Your supposition is that, given that people who go to church are those without an immortal soul, therefore those people who don’t go to church must be the people who are the immortals.”

“Well, Aike, it does make sense, or would to you if you had any real world experience.” GEorge could feel the ground firming beneath his feet. The laws of physics had come back into being and mind and body were both back on the same plane once again. He was going to enjoy crushing this boy.

“Only if you are an unimaginative guy who has only one outlet for his interests. Do you see what we saw tonight GEorge? Judas himself was an immortal and yet he was a disciple of Christ. Do you suppose you can go to church more often than being one of the twelve apostles?

“Immortals are always trying to figure out what is going on. They always struggle with the clues that the uncurious pass by. They never accept coincidence as a mere numerical anomaly, they know that sometimes it is but they know that when it isn’t then it must be something else.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” GEorge is back to form. “I have it on good authority that I am not just an immortal, my line includes Thomas Jefferson, and there’s evidence to back this up.

“Look at Stone out there, he’s still blathering away at himself, having a conversation with one of his inner demons. He has admitted that his immortals were there at the assassination of JFK, Lincoln and Gandhi. They were instrumental in the brutal elimination of Tsar Nicholas and his family. He was instrumental the martyrdom of two saints, all of which pales in the face of the fact that he’s Judas fucking Iscariot!

“He sold his own brother down the river and he sent your father into the hands of the FES.

“Yes, Aike, I’ve done my homework too.

“Stone’s immortals are all the same, they do the same things again and again and again, it’s who they are!

“Jefferson was a statesman, and a schemer, and so am I. Jefferson ruined the vice-presidency for and then took the presidency from John Adams because he had already used Adams for all that he could deliver. Much like I’m going to crush you, Aike, and Stone after tonight. Jefferson convinced people not to vote for Adams by telling them that Adams intended to restore a monarchy in the USA. Then, when Jefferson was elected he acted unilaterally, royally, and against the will of Congress to buy the Louisiana territory. Brilliant! I’m just like Thomas Jefferson!”

“You were told all that by the FES, weren’t you?” Instantly, GEorge’s confidence rushed out like a Fundy Tide. He knows what it means when you’ve learned something from the FES, it means that the probability of it being true is somewhat less than 50/50. GEorge looked down at the slope extending in front of him. The sides of the path became concrete steps of certain and painful death.

Like the punch drunk fighter GEorge had what he thought were a few tricks left in his bag. “Weren’t you going to tell me if I was a member?”

“Behavior itself isn’t an indicator, George. Intent is the indicator. Jefferson didn’t intend to be a hypocritical SOB, it’s just that circumstances arose that forced him to reconsider his positions. He always wanted to free his slaves, but he could never afford to.

“Let’s look at the purpose Jefferson was put to and contrast it to you.

“Jefferson said at the same time as Adam Smith did that we must always remember that it is the right of all nations to act in their own self interest. Jefferson cited this fact in his plea to other nations to give the fledgling USA fifty years before they acted on their self interest and invaded our shores. Both Smith and Jefferson saw the predatory nature of nations.

“You abuse the power of the FES to convince people to be Fundamentalist Constitutionalismists. Why? To benefit the self interests of the nation states within our borders, the Trillionaire Corporation citizens and the Billionaire citizen corporations.

“When Jefferson acted imperially, buying the Louisiana Territory, he did so not for the benefit of Jefferson but rather for the benefit of the People of the United States of America.

“You, what are you trying to do now? You’re trying to rob people of their legacy. A legacy that could otherwise be used to help future generations out of the servitude and off the treadmill of a workaday existence. A legacy that might help future generations achieve the pursuit of eudemonia, a healthy life of self determination, what Jefferson called ‘Happiness’. You can’t be more opposed than diametrically opposed, and Jefferson’s actions are the full one eighty from yours.

“No, GEorge, the FES sold you a bill of goods. They peeled you, they used you by convincing you that their purpose was your purpose… It’s starting to come clear to you now, isn’t it GEorge?”

Aike’s voice had become an insistent message that demanded to be heard over the howling winds that had frozen GEorge to the core. Nearly comatose, his out of body experience puts him at the top of the slope, sitting on a metal disk staring down at the blue ice. It was the downhill slalom that tested Jean Claude Killy at Grenoble, it was the ski jump at Kitzbühel, the one from ‘the agony of defeat’, it was Annapurna…

“You were the one to broker the deal between the event agency and the sneaker company with the swoop. The one for the Moon logo. The one that put the event company out of business, but only after you sold the nuclear power plant to the sneaker company.

“You were the one who bought off the MLB so that they wouldn’t take the ‘Three Stripes and you’re on’ package from Stone.

“You were the one assigned to suggest the sneaker company hire Stone.

“You were the one that suggested that GE use Step Stone for your Fake vault problem.

“And where did you get those ideas? They were your assignments from FES.

“So you ask me to tell you about FES, are you a member or an officer?”

GEorge feels as though he is leaning back from the edge of the slope and then suddenly there is a hand pulling the metal disk back. GEorge expects, for some reason he doesn’t know why, to hear some one ask if he’s ready. He doesn’t hear anyone asking that, which is just as well, it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

“The answer is ‘No’, GEorge. No you are not an officer. Do you know why? Because there are no such thing as officers in the FES. How could there be? Here is an organization that is dedicated to proving that the world is flat, how could they justify a Hierarchy? If the world is flat, why shouldn’t the organization be flat as well? The FES just let you think you were the Dealer, it made it easier to use you as the stooge. Which you would never admit that you were, which left you as the mark. And, ‘No’, you aren’t a member, it was decided almost at your first contact that your motives were too impure. Nobody wanted to be a member of any club that would have you as a member.”

GEorge felt the disk stop going backwards and now the hands were flat against his back pushing him faster and faster toward the edge of the precipice. The good thing was that GEorge couldn’t see what was coming because he was still on the flat. He looked out straight and saw the deep blue sky. He knew that he would never see a sky with the same eyes again.

“Wha..wh..who would do that to me?” GEorge bravely burbled.

“Why… Me.” said Aike, and as he did, he reached over and twitched the switch, then he flicked the second one. The portal feed was replaced by the live feed, and there were Stone and Alex, plain as day, bold like brass in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas had gone over to the rock and now his tears mingled with the countless tears that had dropped there before.

The bright cloud grew and glowed, low in the sky.

GEorge’s scream was caught in his throat as he watched and heard. His ride had begun, could he hold on? Would his adventure end on the rocks? Or would he soar off the lip of the first turn and he would fly forever?

“Yes, Robert…” Alex could be heard to say, “Before he worked for the sneaker company, he was a child prodigy working for GE. He was called GE aike, Jake…”

Community Creativity.