Authors: Robert Shea,Robert Anton Wilson
Tags: #Science fiction; American, #General, #Science fiction, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Visionary & Metaphysical
“The longest shaggy dog joke in literary history…. A hundred pages in I couldn’t figure out why I was wasting my time with this nonsense … after three hundred I was having too much fun to quit, and by the end I was eager to believe every word — I loved it.
“More important than
— Timothy Leary
“Funny, savagely sarcastic, definitely anarchistic … wild and irreverent … Shea and Wilson blend a marvelous amount of fact and inspired fiction together to weave one of the most dizzying tales I’ve come across in years…. Laugh or rage at it or with it … you won’t be able to put it down.” —
“All the ingredients: kinky sex, raunchy language, and a fantasy plot that oscillates between a schizoid nightmare and a psychedelic dream.” —
Also available from Dell
MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI
SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT TRILOGY
The history of the world is the history of the warfare between secret societies.
To Gregory Hill and
The Purple Sage opened his mouth and moved his tongue and so spake to them and he said:
The Earth quakes and the Heavens rattle; the beasts of nature flock together and the nations of men flock apart; volcanoes usher up heat while elsewhere water becomes ice and melts; and then on other days it just rains.
Indeed do many things come to pass.
—Lord Omar Khayaam Ravenhurst, K.S.C.,
“The Book of Predications.”
The Honest Book of Truth
It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton. On April 1, the world’s great powers came closer to nuclear war than ever before, all because of an obscure island named Fernando Poo. By the time international affairs returned to their normal cold-war level, some wits were calling it the most tasteless April Fool’s joke in history. I happen to know all the details about what happened, but I have no idea how to recount them in a manner that will make sense to most readers. For instance, I am not even sure who I am, and my embarrassment on that matter makes me wonder if you will believe anything I reveal. Worse yet, I am at the moment very conscious of a squirrel—in Central Park, just off Sixty-eighth Street, in New York City—that is leaping from one tree to another, and I think that happens on the night of April 23 (or is it the morning of April 24?), but fitting the squirrel together with Fernando Poo is, for the present, beyond my powers. I beg your tolerance. There is nothing I can do to make things any easier for any of us, and you will have to accept being addressed by a disembodied voice just as I accept the compulsion to speak out even though I am painfully aware that I am talking to an invisible, perhaps nonexistent, audience. Wise men have regarded the earth
as a tragedy, a farce, even an illusionist’s trick; but all, if they are truly wise and not merely intellectual rapists, recognize that it is certainly some kind of stage in which we all play roles, most of us being very poorly coached and totally unrehearsed before the curtain rises. Is it too much if I ask, tentatively, that we agree to look upon it as a circus, a touring carnival wandering about the sun for a record season of four billion years and producing new monsters and miracles, hoaxes and bloody mishaps, wonders and blunders, but never quite entertaining the customers well enough to prevent them from leaving, one by one, and returning to their homes for a long and bored winter’s sleep under the dust? Then, say, for a while at least, that I have found an identity as ringmaster; but that crown sits uneasily on my head (if I have a head) and I must warn you that the troupe is small for a universe this size and many of us have to double or triple our stints, so you can expect me back in many other guises. Indeed do many things come to pass.
For instance, right now, I am not at all whimsical or humorous. I am angry. I am in Nairobi, Kenya, and my name is, if you will pardon me, Nkrumah Fubar. My skin is black (does that disturb you? it doesn’t me), and I am, like most of you, midway between tribalism and technology; to be more blunt, as a Kikuyu shaman moderately adjusted to city life, I still believe in witchcraft—I haven’t, yet, the folly to deny the evidence of my own senses. It is April 3 and Fernando Poo has ruined my sleep for several nights running, so I hope you will forgive me when I admit that my business at the moment is far from edifying and is nothing less than constructing dolls of the rulers of America, Russia, and China. You guessed it: I am going to stick pins in their heads every day for a month; if they won’t let me sleep, I won’t let them sleep. That is Justice, in a sense.
In fact, the President of the United States had several severe migraines during the following weeks; but the atheistic rulers of Moscow and Peking were less susceptible to magic. They never reported a twinge. But, wait, here is another performer in our circus, and one of the most intelligent and decent in the lot—his name is unpronounceable, but you can call him Howard and he happens to have been born a dolphin. He’s swimming through the ruins of
Atlantis and it’s April 10 already—time is moving; I’m not sure what Howard sees but it bothers him, and he decides to tell Hagbard Celine all about it. Not that I know, at this point, who Hagbard Celine is. Never mind; watch the waves roll and be glad there isn’t much pollution out here yet. Look at the way the golden sun lights each wave with a glint that, curiously, sparkles into a silver sheen; and watch, watch the waves as they roll, so that it is easy to cross five hours of time in one second and find ourselves amid trees and earth, with even a few falling leaves for a touch of poetry before the horror. Where are we? Five hours away, I told you—five hours due west, to be precise, so at the same instant that Howard turns a somersault in Atlantis, Sasparilla Godzilla, a tourist from Simcoe, Ontario (she had the misfortune to be born a human being) turns a neat nosedive right here and lands unconscious on the ground. This is the outdoor extension of the Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park, Mexico, D.F., and the other tourists are rather upset about the poor lady’s collapse. She later said it was the heat. Much less sophisticated in important matters than Nkrumah Fubar, she didn’t care to tell anybody, or even to remind herself, what had really knocked her over. Back in Simcoe, the folks always said Harry Godzilla got a sensible woman when he married Sasparilla, and it is sensible in Canada (or the United States) to hide certain truths. No, at this point I had better not call them truths. Let it stand that she either saw, or imagined she saw, a certain sinister kind of tight grin, or grimace, cross the face of the gigantic statue of Tlaloc, the rain god. Nobody from Simcoe had ever seen anything like that before; indeed do many things come to pass.
And, if you think the poor lady was an unusual case, you should examine the records of psychiatrists, both institutional and private, for the rest of the month. Reports of unusual anxieties and religious manias among schizophrenics in mental hospitals skyrocketed; and ordinary men and women walked in off the street to complain about eyes watching them, hooded beings passing through locked rooms, crowned figures giving unintelligible commands, voices that claimed to be God or the Devil, a real witch’s brew for sure. But the sane verdict was to attribute all this to the aftermath of the Fernando Poo tragedy.
The phone rang at 2:30 a.m. the morning of April 24. Numbly, dumbly, mopingly, gropingly, out of the dark, I find and identify a body, a self, a task. “Goodman,” I say into the receiver, propped up on one arm, still coming a long way back.
“Bombing and homicide,” he electrically eunuchoid voice in the transmitter tells me. I sleep naked (sorry about that), and I’m putting on my drawers and trousers as I copy the address. East Sixty-eighth Street, near the Council on Foreign Relations. “Moving,” I say, hanging up.
“What? Is?” Rebecca mumbles from the bed. She’s naked, too, and that recalls very pleasant memories of a few hours earlier. I suppose some of you will be shocked when I tell you I’m past sixty and she’s only twenty-five. It doesn’t make it any better that we’re married, I know.
This isn’t a bad body, for its age, and seeing Rebecca, most of the sheets thrown aside, reminds me just how good it is. In fact, at this point I don’t even remember having been the ringmaster, or what echo I retain is confused with sleep and dream. I kiss her neck, unselfconsciously, for she is my wife and I am her husband, and even if I am an inspector on the Homicide Squad—Homicide North, to be exact—any notions about being a stranger in this body have vanished with my dreams into air. Into thin air.
“What?” Rebecca repeats, still more asleep than awake.
“Damned fool radicals again,” I say, pulling on my shirt, knowing any answer is as good as another in her half-conscious state.
“Um,” she says, satisfied, and turns over into deep sleep again.
I washed my face somewhat, tired old man watching me from the mirror, and ran a brush through my hair. Just time enough to think that retirement was only a few years away and to remember a certain hypodermic needle and a day in the Catskills with my first wife, Sandra, back when they at least had clean air up there … socks, shoes, tie, fedora … and you never stop mourning, as much as I loved Rebecca I never stopped mourning Sandra. Bombing
homicide. What a
world. Do you remember when you could at least drive in New York at three in the morning without traffic jams? Those
days were gone; the trucks that were banned in the daytime were all making their deliveries now. Everybody was supposed to pretend the pollution went away before dawn. Papa used to say, “Saul, Saul, they did it to the Indians and now they’re doing it to themselves.
He left Russia to escape the pogrom of 1905, but I guess he saw a lot before he got out. He seemed like a cynical old man to me then, and I seem like a cynical old man to others now. Is there any pattern or sense in any of it?