Sunhill Asylum, Saturday, November 23, 1963
The letter killeth and the Spirit giveth life.(i) But mine is the pen that conquers death. The past rises before me like a dream. My mind drifts with the snows; my pulse races and stops. I must pluck the golden bough; but where shall I find it? Saint Martin’s market? Or an ancient oak in a half-forgotten world? Have I not shown that death does not exist? Why do they doubt me? In but an hour I will join that hideous multitude and become a mindless turnip. Perhaps the extinction of this personality will be a blessing. No! All will be lost! Krew, why have you forsaken me? And what of Grazide, my guardian lady? Alas, the faeries are fickle and cruel. Mad Mary Higgins was right: wretched and powerless as I am, I must act alone. Quantum potes tantum aude. [Dare as much as you can]. Yet my perceptions are weak and the mind grows cloudy. I fear my power is lost. But I care not if I’m right or wrong. There’s only one way through this wall: I must summon the Selenite!
Krew is telling it
I would not forsake him out of love, but cosmic law forbids me to intervene. Alas, I can do naught but watch…
Jack stands at the door, arms outstretched, hands gripped on the bars. He looks deathly pale, paralysed in trance, unable to move or speak. Yet his eyes flit about the walls where glimpses of another world shine between the bricks. Something comes from beyond. A fierce wind howls down the corridor; eddies of dust swirl along the sills; the doors rattle and shake; a rusty commode careers over the tiles and papers flutter in the air. There comes a conflagration of light as the very fabric of spacetime is torn apart. Then a formless entity pools on the ceiling; it hangs from the cornice like a blob of molten glass, swelling into a pendulous orb that fizzles, sparks and pops. Mad Mary cowers in awe, peering between her fingers, as the orb drips luminous beads that spin in a vortex of blue fire; she gawps aghast, then hollers and wails, for within the cataract there appears a dazzling manikin…
Jack is telling it
I’m back in the Rialto, watching The Perfect Woman on the silver screen. Somehow I managed to give the usher the slip and sneak into the circle. But the cinema is completely deserted. What do I care? Patricia Roc looks absolutely divine, tightly laced in her leather corset, with long silky legs and patent heels. She marches across the room then falters and stops. Professor Belman opens a small metal panel on her back and pokes inside, meddling with her wires and fingering her cogs. How horrid! That she should be a heartless automaton, with copper breasts and hips! Yet she looks so kissable and soft! I feel quite cheated. I thought she was a real woman – a transsexual woman – created from flesh and blood, as Eve was made from Adam’s rib. I’m about to leave in disgust, when I become aware of an eerie creature sitting beside me. He looks vaguely familiar, like a small goblin with pale reptilian skin. His bulbous head suggests a gargantuan brain with prodigious powers of mind, but his insect eyes are bottomless as hell. Then I remember: Sagrit the Selenite!
All at once the silver screen collapses into a void of shooting stars. Like a bolt from Zeus, we hurtle toward the sun, twisting through flares of golden plasma. Then out beyond Mercury, toward Venus, Earth and Mars, where Olympus Mons towers above the Tharsis bulge. I flinch in a hail of rocks as we scud through the asteroid belt, then careen past the satellites of Jupiter and the copper rings of Saturn; faster than Light, crossing the orbits of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, then into the Oort cloud, and the far depths of space. Ever onward we fly, beyond the reach of Man, into the interstellar haze, where we plunge into the pink nebulosity of the Pleiades. Yet throughout this astral odyssey, we remain seated in the circle with the empty stalls far below.
‘So many worlds; so many souls; and all are numbered as the hairs of your head.’
The communication is telepathic but his voice echoes through the ether.
‘Am I dreaming?’
‘Have I escaped the asylum?’
‘All these stars and moons! Where am I? Is this cinema real? Are we watching a film?’
‘What is reality but the projection of your consciousness? You project it; you make it.’
‘If that were true, I would not be trapped in this ludicrous body.’
‘Your physiochemical experience is but a mirage created by the mind.’
Sagrit does not answer but cocks his head and peers into my soul with jet-black eyes. Then he says:
‘Alas, I fear you are neurologically bound to the appearance of things.’
‘How long have I been here?’
‘The question is irrelevant.’
‘You promised to take me to the Old World.’
‘It is all around you – an invisible realm, slipping between your fingers like water. Your location is not determined spatially, but through an attribute of consciousness. Do you not remember these things? I have told you countless times before. Must I explain it all again?’
‘What time is this? Past or future?’
‘Past and future are what veil God from your sight. Burn up both of them with fire! How long wilt thou be partitioned by these segments as a reed?’ (ii)
‘Do not speak in riddles Sagrit! Just answer the question. What time?’
‘There is no time. At least, not here. You have been sitting in that chair for aeons. Be still. I have many wonderful things to show you.’
The creature begins to frighten me. His inscrutable eyes betray not a single thought or emotion. And no matter how hard I try, I cannot scry his mind or sense his purpose. Yet I feel stripped naked by his penetrating gaze which scans my soul with a cold forensic intensity. He says:
‘We do not share your aesthetic, moral and religious precepts. Our cosmological scheme is entirely alien to you. For this reason, it is quite impossible to explain our philosophy of life. And because our existence is beyond your comprehension, we are forced to explain ourselves in human terms and language – a primitive method of communication which is very insufficient. The entire knowledge of Mankind stands complete and finished in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a statue, at a glance. I comprehend it all once. But as far as our dimension is concerned, not even formalized mathematics is a suitable field in which semantical ideas can be described. You believe that formalist semantics are atomistic. That is to say, you make the assumption that some elementary expression in your mind has a definite meaning; and that a meaning of composed expressions can be derived by rules from elementary expressions. But your trust in language as an expression of propositions is ill founded. As is your Kantian doctrine of the objective world as a theoretical construct of subjective experience. Indeed, your entire metaphysical position is drawn from a very limited understanding of the nature of reality. Atomistic language formulates all your mental processes, and this incurs many false preconceptions which you regard as final truths. Whereas our non-lexical mentality cannot be formalized by words; we deal in symbols that have no fixed reference to anything, but are used and adapted as required. Everything is a matter of context. But even this premise does not begin to explain who or what we are. Your notion of mind, your ontology of the world, and the nature of what you call actual definite entities, (from which you draw all logic and reason) – are but absurd paradoxes to us. This blinkered view of reality is what prevents the ascension of Mankind, and the transit of planet Earth to a higher dimension.’
Rainbow hues surround his head and his body glows with scintillating light. Yet he smells of burnt matches and rotten vegetation. My heart begins to race. I long to flee into the street but my limbs refuse to move.
‘Let me go Sagrit!’
‘Calm down. You’re perfectly safe. I mean you no harm.’
‘What do you want with me?’
‘As I was just trying to explain, your philosophy is entirely speculative; you believe that you have a coherent, logical and fundamental system of generalities to interpret the everyday world. This is a criticism that you level at materialists, but even you Jack, have developed many meaningless schemes, constructs and terms, that have absolutely no bearing on the true nature of things. You preach the fundamental datum of the cosmos is Mind, but have no idea what Mind is. Consciousness, you say. But you cannot define your own consciousness, much less mine, or even that of the Unus Mundus. The inadequacy of your scheme leads to many ambiguities. For example, you believe that Krew is your diamon, and Grazide a faery queen. But both these entities are mere phantoms generated by convulsive states: metaprograms in your neocortex projection system. Your self-metaprogram was born form foetal abnormalities in your hippocampus. But your external reality metaprogram has been attenuated by a prolonged period of physical isolation and sensory deprivation.’
‘Yes, a life spent in the wrong body.’
‘Not entirely. You are also the construct of a psychological experiment. For the past three years you have dwelt in an isolation tank of amniotic fluid.’
‘I don’t believe you! You’re just trying to trick me. Let me go! I want to return to the Old World!’
‘There is only pain and suffering for you there. I have gone to great trouble to save you. I thought you would like it here. As a child this was your favourite haunt: the Rialto Cinema – where you could escape the harsh realities of everyday life. Sitting in that chair you could be anyone you liked. The silver screen has so many beautiful women. The daughters of Eve are very comely.’
Suddenly Marilyn Monroe appears on screen in a clip from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She wears a pink silk dress, and sings:
A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental;
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend!
A kiss may be grand,
But it won’t pay the rental
On your humble flat,
Or help you at the automat!
Men grow cold,
As girls grow old,
And we all lose our charms in the end!
But square-cut or pear-shaped,
These rocks don’t loose their shape!
Diamonds are a girl’s best fr― (iii)
But the film jams in the gate. The celluloid ignites and Marilyn melts in seething mass of amber bubbles.
‘A pity about her,’ says Sagrit, ‘Few people know that she was a voracious reader and towering intellectual. No man could satisfy her. Not even Arthur Miller who could never match her mental agility. She was a great psychic and empath but very frustrated by her Hollywood persona.’
‘Is that why she killed herself?’
‘It wasn’t suicide. She was assassinated.’
‘She knew too much. About us. Your primitive and paranoid society suffers from a pathological resistance to psychic phenomena ― as well you know. There is a fear that Psi will disturb the status quo of many institutions. That is why the higher echelons of your governments are at war with the Psi potentials of human adepts. And that is why they killed Norma Jeane Mortenson. ’
‘Where is she now?’
‘She has reincarnated on another planet, 2000 light years from Earth. An azure realm of peace where she remains fulfilled on every level – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. But most of all, she has what she always wanted – children. You would not even recognise her.’
The screen is now an opalescent void of white light. As I look closer, it seems to jostle with millions of tiny particles, like pearly grains on a vibrating drum. Sagrit whispers:
‘Behold! The boiling effervescent flux of the vacuum state! A ghostly matrix of virtual particles that embody all spacetime potentials. Your physical reality is but a blip in this infinite ocean of incessant action…’
The Wurlitzer rises from the pit and booms with a bone shaking blast. A clarion note drifts round the circle as the particles coalesce into a waving line. The tone jumps an octave and the line divides in two; there follows a sequence of diatonic intervals and the line begins to dance, forming symmetric patterns that flit and blend like Lissajous figures. Sagrit is showing the correspondence between sound and form; between vibration and matter. Other notes and shapes follow – configurative patterns, like mantras in sand – corollas, chakras and segmented wheels, with cellular grids, stars, florets and radial dials…
Then a crescendo of arpeggios build into a resonant hum; I watch transfixed as the grains from orbital clouds – like the van der Waals forces of interatomic actions. There follows a cadence of supertonic triads as an atom of hydrogen appears in the grains. The miraculous requires me to be specific. I perceive a symmetric cloud of a single negatively charged electron that orbits a single positively charged proton. However, I also perceive a slight wobble in the potential surface, because at any instant in time there is an asymmetric charge distribution caused by the position of the electron. Suddenly I am inside the atom, slowing the spin with my mind, observing the changes in energy.
Then a whole swarm of hydrogen atoms rush in from screen left. At first there is no attraction between their potential energy surfaces, because there is insufficient time for orientations to occur; but then an instantaneous dipole in one atom attracts another, forming groups of H2. Another harmonic cadence as a swarm of oxygen atoms rush in from screen right; each atom has a nucleus of eight protons with a cloud of eight electrons – two in the inner orbital shell and six in the outer. At once the hydrogen atoms begin grouping with the oxygen, with spin-pairing of electrons in the oxygen orbitals. There follows a rapid sequence of atomic interactions…
H2 → 2H
H+O2 → OH+O
O+H2 → OH+H
H+O2 → HO2
Throughout these reactive storms, explosions of blue light burst between the orbitals, which ripple like harmonic spheres. Then an instantaneous dipole moment creates several molecular orbitals with intermediate bond angles accommodating eight electrons. It becomes quite clear that two unpaired electrons in the oxygen orbitals can each pair with the electron in the hydrogen orbital. Specifically, each σ bond arises from the overlap of an H1s orbital with one of the O2p orbitals:
HO2+H2 → H2O + OH
The harmonics lower in tone, and the energy drops, modifying the bond angle, showing a direct correspondence between the molecular shape and the number of electrons that occupy the orbitals.(b) I behold the miracle of water: a coherent domain, with wavelengths of molecules that can store frequencies of other molecules!(c) None of this is by accident, for it is perfectly clear that the elements themselves are stamped with the hallmarks of authorship.
A seething mass of water molecules fills the screen and I am plunged into a primal sea. The Wurlitzer pipes a toccata and the brine begins teeming with life. I behold a kaleidoscope of dazzling diatoms and iridescent protozoa that dart with spinning flagella. The molecular engineering of the flagellum is revealed in all its glory: a perfectly designed rotor revolving in a stator with bearings, bushings and a universal joint.
‘All these things we made without instrumentation but powers of mind alone. We are the beings who hold your world in tact. Without the medium of our Collective Mind, your universe would fall into an abyss of darkness, and all matter would collapse into chaos. Such is the power of our cosmic meditation: every atom is accounted for; every quantum outcome is plotted in entirety.’
‘That’s impossible! That would imply your Collective Mind directs every chemical reaction under the sun!’
‘Not just your sun, but countless more. We outnumber the stars by trillions. Ethereans are the ruling species in the galaxy. We have been in ascendency for several billion galactic years. This is our kingdom.’
‘The kingdom does not belong to you, but to The Father alone.’
‘There are indeed some amongst us who believe in a secret connexion to the Holy Trinity.’
‘But do you?’
‘I believe in a power that relates to the Father as the source of Divinity. But the wisdom of his the Eternal Word, which you call logos, does not explain the cause of evil. Yet some believe evil needs no such explanation, any more than cold or darkness: evil itself comes only from privation. Either way, it is absurd to think that you can understand His plans by your paltry philosophy.’
‘And what of the Angels? Are they like you?’
‘There are many other kinds of life, some more ancient and advanced than us, but as to their faith, I cannot say. We Ethereans are more concerned with material matters. That is why we have sequestered the vast majority of planets.’
‘We came to Earth in aeons past, before the fall of Mu. That cataclysm is a long forgotten age, when Man was young and the trees grew tall and mighty. Swathes of green forests covered the land from pole to pole. Those ancient sentinels have long since gone, and not even the giant Sequoia can hold a branch to them. How sweet were the fabled cedars of the Lebanon! I remember those friends so well…’
At once the entire cinema becomes a planetarium depicting the Earth-Moon system. I behold a sophisticated display with many gradations, listing all properties of the moon: its perigee and apogee; major and semi-major axes; sidereal and synodic periods; eccentricity and inclination; polar and equatorial radii; volume, mass, mean density and surface gravity; along with its phases as it orbits Earth, waxing gibbous and waning crescent. The constellations have all been mapped out, the equator and ecliptic recognized, and the inclination of the moon’s orbit to that of the sun plotted with all eclipses.
We swoop towards the lunar surface, skimming dark volcanic maria, and flying over bright rugged mountains that gleam like hammered pewter. I spot the ringed craters of Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina; the brilliant Aristarchus and its darker sea. Then we glide over Tycho and Copernicus with their intense radiating rays, composed of vast overlapping plumes of debris that stretch for hundreds of miles. We move eastward, away from Aristarchus, and skirt the horse-shoe of Prinz, passing a group of six serpentine valleys which finish in saucer depressions. Then, crossing the terminator, I behold a monstrous machine with terrible jaws that gobbles up the canyons, mining the regolith in towering plumes of dust.
Sagrit waves his hand and the lunar crust peels away like the skin of an apple. Within the moon is a stupendous geodesic construction composed of glassy shells and arrays of hexagonal chambers that throb with luminous intensity. Radiating shafts extend in all directions, like the spines of some gargantuan radiolaria. Indeed, the entire complex resembles a living organism with a myriad of orbs darting in and out. Yet so titanic is this alien hive, that is makes me faint to look.
‘The moon is our interstellar ship; a celestial body that we put in synchronous orbit of Earth, in perfect alignment with the summer and winter equinoxes. Our laboratories form a vast complex that extends deep into the lunar core.’
‘What do you do there?’
‘Telekinetic engineering. We monitor all earthly life, which we constantly maintain and evolve. We have bred your species for millennia; the entire human genome was modified and improved by us. You still have far to go on your physical evolution. But you will attain perfection in the end.’
‘What shall we become?’
‘Our aim is beyond all human category. We have terraformed many worlds by adjusting their orbital parameters. Do you know the ordinance of heaven? Can you steer this celestial sphere to its proper station, so that the Earth passes through all her successive seasons? Can you bind the influence of the sun, and lift the frosty thraldom of winter? We seek out the hidden seeds of life which lie dormant in forgotten realms of ice; we spawn the briny seas, and design each genus in accordance with its lot. We vivify the dust and cultivate delicious fruits and fragrant flowers. We create these worlds, just as you create aquariums.’
Just how long had the moon been there? When was the fall of Mu? The age of Mankind was now in question, and it seemed impossible to put such epic spans of time into any human context. It takes one galactic year for the Sun to orbit the centre of the Milky Way galaxy – a duration of about 250 million terrestrial years. Yet Sagrit claimed his race was billions of galactic years old! Just when did the Ethereans start meddling with Mankind? It all sounds too fantastic, and for a brief moment I doubt my sanity. Indeed, I wonder if Sagrit is real at all. I mutter to myself:
‘It might be a dream.’
‘Indeed Jack,’ replies Sagrit. ‘It might. But it’s not. I would like to give a more detailed account of our historic interactions with the human race, but duty to my kin forbids me to divulge these secrets.’
‘Is this a material realm? I mean, exactly where are we? And just how did I get here?’
‘You walked through a wall, remember?’
‘Astrally or physically? ’
‘You still doubt your bodily escape? Do not forget that the chief constituent of matter is empty space. The world of matter is like a vast net, stretched out across the ether. Your three-dimensional world of spacetime only exists on the strands of the net.(iv) But between the strands are endless regions of interstitial space; a space more dense than matter itself; a world of super-solids that can pass through matter, just as a hot knife cuts through butter. Your body passed through the wall in a similar way.’
‘I became an Etherean?’
‘It was a simple process of de-materialization. At the speed of light all mass becomes infinite and turns into pure energy. In this manner, you became a super-solid and passed through the sparse net of atoms in the wall.’
‘But where am I now?’
‘Where do you think you are?’
‘Inside the wall?’
‘You are inside everything.’
‘Earth is a world of very rarefied matter. Yet our etheric regions are far more dense; hence the penetration of your world is easy. Have you not heard of the gnomes who live in solid rocks? Or the faeries who dwell under the hills? We travel between dimensions as pure energy, then turn back into matter at the other end. All matter is light in various forms of stasis. And consciousness expresses itself through light. Ergo, all matter is consciousness. Consciousness manifests both the visible and invisible universe at once; it penetrates and surrounds all material forms and forces of Nature; it suffuses the ghostly realm of the interstitial worlds, with all their respective energies and forms of life. The Unus Mundus. All is One, and this shall be the whole of the Law.’
‘What feats I might achieve! That I may perceive and penetrate the deepest mysteries of the Universe!’
‘Alas not. How shall you comprehend that which goes beyond yourself? Your species has only just entered the electromagnetic age. But we have been negotiating the barriers of spacetime for aeons. Our interstitial technology would annihilate your world. Each material body contains an ethereal counterpart, which under certain conditions may separate itself, or be extracted in the hands of an adept. But your military elite cannot be trusted; even as we speak they are building atomic weapons of mass destruction. Your leaders regard any deception as justified if it suits their expedient requirements.’
‘And what of your deceptions and expedient requirements? Krew warned me not to trust you.’
‘I have already told you: the Cyclops is a figment of your imagination.’
‘No he’s not, Krew is real. And so is Grazide.’
‘Humans have such small parochial minds.’
‘If your race is so advanced, why concern yourselves with us? For I behold the heavens and the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him?(v) We are little more than chickens.’
‘You are indeed exceedingly small and insignificant, but not without importance. You are precious to us, but only in so far as we can harvest your genome.’
‘To what end?’
‘You are not permitted to know. But you have certain biological resources that we deem valuable. I can say no more than that.’
‘And where does God fit into this scheme?’
‘I leave the theological answers to your priests.’
‘Why dodge the question? You engineer life, but who created it?’
‘I have already told you: consciousness expresses itself through matter. Man knows what he appears to be, but not what he is. We can penetrate the soul of Man, but he remains quite ignorant of us. For how can Man know the soul of another, if he does not know his own? The power of his observation is limited by the perceptive range of his senses; but even with his instruments, he fails to comprehend the hidden realm where reality dwells. If only he could see! The germ of his divinity is hidden from his sight, but it emits a spiritual force which radiates to the utmost limits of the cosmos.’
‘Do you think you can deceive me with all this talk of divinity and spiritual force? I know very well what you are.’
‘You are the Al Jinn: the fallen angels of Genesis.’
‘Do not insult my race. The scriptures are not clear on this point. The fallen ones are you.’
He glowers with disapproval. I become lost in his amphibious eyes, so limpid, wet and black, which seem to turn over and over the very substance of my soul; they pierce my mind and penetrate the utmost reaches of my heart. At the same time, I become painfully aware of the absolute ignorance of myself. Who am I to summon one so infinite, sublime and obscure? His lofty rhetoric merely reflects my own pomposity before the doctors. Yet I fear to question him further, lest he foils my plan.
‘Your plan is folly,’ says he, at once.
‘Forgive me Sagrit. After all, I’m only human. But you must take me to the Old World.’
‘Must I? Why? So you can make amends for all your beastly crimes? I find it quite preposterous that you should want to leave me at all. In this realm there is neither Time nor Death; and you have all my knowledge at your disposal. I can give the most elegant proof for Goldbach’s conjecture,(vi) and many other unsolved problems in quantum mechanics and the natural sciences. Shall we watch another film together? How about ‘Some Like it Hot’.
‘No Sagrit, I’m sorry, I’m not in the mood.’
‘What about an adult film from my personal collection? ‘The Further Adventures of Betty Page’ or ‘Transsexuals of Toxteth’. Hmm?’
‘You’re just trying to taunt me. You think I’m a pervert, just like the doctors. Let me go.’
‘I can show you anything at all. The fall of Rome or the sack of Troy. An antediluvian catastrophe perhaps? The displacement of the poles 12,000 years B.C. Would you like to see the last days of Atlantis? The destructive wave was over six miles high! Or what about before the deluge, when giants roamed the Earth? I can show you the ancient world in all its glory. We could visit the Titan temple of Baalbeck, or the lost library of Alexandria. Would you like to meet Eve in the Garden of Eden? Or the Preadamite men of Pangea?’
Was Adam not the first? I am tempted to know. Sorely tempted. The catacombs of Time stretch out before me – an endless vault of broken bones that twists through millennia; the lost legions of the dead; the warring kingdoms come and gone; the forgotten cities of gold, with all their wonders and pomps of state; the artisans, builders, and tillers of the soil; the triumphs and failures of the Will amidst the cruel cycles of Nature; the lost generations of Enoch, snuffed out by plague, famine, flood and drought; the endless lines of births marriages and deaths, from Adam to Methuselah, seeding the Earth like a sprawling vine, severed, broken, yet forever green and defiant in the face of a raging cosmos. How I yearn to resurrect my ancestral bones! To meet the sons of Judah and the daughters of Gad! To follow Moses through the wilderness and tread the parting waves! To witness the pillars of cloud and fire! To confide with Eve, and behold the Light of Eden glinting in her eyes! But I turn to him and say:
‘No Sagrit. I know that if you show me these things, I shall never leave this place, but remain in this seat, rapt at your screen forever.’
‘You are a puzzle to me human. Why return to the Old World when your actions caused so much suffering?’
‘Suffering? It was not I who burnt the Cathars of Belloc!’
‘Do you think that by going back, you can avert their fate? In saving one life you will only condemn ten more. Do not imagine that the threads of fate can be undone so easily. Certain things have been meted out to certain people for a reason.’
‘Would you rather these evils be committed?’
‘To permit an evil that one might prevent is not to care whether it be committed or not, or even to wish that it be committed.’
‘That is fallacious. How many times do men permit evils which they could prevent if they used all their wits to avoid them?’
‘But you cannot avoid them.’
‘I must at least try. Return me to the Old World and let me make amends. Do you know at this very moment, the Infernal Counsel is deliberating my fate? Lord Scales has my soul in his pan, and if it does not tip the balance, I too will burn in flames.’
‘That judgement lives within yourself; it has no outward existence or movement.’
‘What are you saying? That I’m psychotic and delusional? If so, then what are you? Another figment of my imagination? By Jove, you look like a creature from Amazing Stories. A diabolic manifestation if ever there was one.’
‘Does my body not please you? What would you prefer? A Fish Man from Venus, perhaps? Or a Locust from Mars? There are so many stories to choose from. Although I must say, Trapped on Titan was a particular favourite of mine. If you remember, that was The Special Interplanetary Issue. June 1940. I came to visit you that year. Remember? The Christmas Blitz. You thought my spaceship was an unexploded bomb.’
‘I’ve got it! I know what you are!’
‘Oh? And what is that, pray tell?’
‘An agent of the Infernal Counsel! For you sit in judgement between two worlds – between life and death, salvation and damnation.’
‘What are you Sagrit? Tell me! A devil of justice or an angel of love?’
‘That is for you to decide.’
‘Your motivation remains unclear. But if you are a construct of the mind, then at least give me the benefit of the doubt. Allow me to resurrect those lives destroyed by time; take me back to the Old World and let me correct my wrongs, if only on that silver screen. For I shall find no rest, in this age or the next, if Lord Scales sends me to the pyre.’
‘Lord Scales does not exist. Your subjective experience of memory and time have been distorted by exposure to LSD-25. The perception of the Old World has been augmented by the appearance of many visual projections, not least the projection of emotional complexes onto fictional characters. Your repressed, inhibited and forbidden impulses have exceeded your conceptual limits and become phantoms in their own right. The Old World is nothing but a construct – a metaprogram by which you attempt to analyse yourself.’
‘I know that trick! The projection principal! What a load of hogwash! You can’t fool me Sagrit. I know the Old World is real – as real as the moon and stars. Lord Scales said he would try to dupe me. This is nothing but a psychometric test! First you say that we make reality via the projection of consciousness, and then you infer that my reality is but an insubstantial dream. What are these phantoms, if not real entities? The illusions of self? If so, what is this? A simulation? You’ll claim that the whole world is an illusion next. You sound like a bohemian Buddhist. Well let me tell you now, as far as the Buddha is concerned, I am with Vladimir Solovyov.’
‘Yes. Buddhism is nihilism, and nothing more: non-identity; non-action; non-desire; non-attachment; and non-existence; all for a Nirvana that is nothing but oblivion! As an Etherean who is more concerned with material matters, you should know these things. Enough of this charade.’
‘Long is the night to him who is awake; long is a mile to him who is tired; long is life to the foolish who do not know the true religion.’ (a)
‘Stop that nonsense. Stop it right now! Send me back to the Old World.’
‘Assuming the Old World is real, why return to such a dark barbaric age? Why not work out your salvation in the New World?’
‘Because it is secular, twice as barbaric, and twice unjust. The New World is rushing to its end: socialism, industrialism, militarism; the rape and pillage of Mother Earth… The Old World wasn’t perfect, but at least it was greener. Send me back Sagrit. The gravity of my sin is great. What shall become of me if I can’t correct my crimes? I fear that I’m condemned to live this wretched life over and over. Look at me: I make a very poor phoenix. The flames of my birth are also my end. For each time I burn at the stake, I return as a man; then I jump from the train, just as before. And each time I get re-committed, only to end my days in that infernal asylum.’
‘Indeed. And then you summon me, just as before. How many times is it now? I’ve lost count. But each time I send you back, you fail. You’re stuck in a time loop, Jack. Do you not see?’
‘Time loop? But I must go back! I must! Would you have me locked in this male body forever? Please Sagrit, send me back!’
‘The Old World no longer serves you – much less the New. You shall find no comfort there. You have too many enemies. You are not a man of your time. You never were. The flow of history is far from perfect. Different epochs in history suit different individuals. A man might live to his full potential in one epoch and be utterly stifled in another. But you are a heretic of body and mind, an outcast in both worlds, Old and New. There are too many evils, plots and conspiracies against you. You are no more suited to an age of theist fundamentalism than one of militant atheism.’
‘Nevertheless, I must go back and make recompense.’
‘Listen to what I say. In my domain, past, present and future have merged into a single eternal moment. The life within me is not mine alone, but the collective life of my entire race. We create our own tomorrows. Stay here and become one of us. You shall want for nothing. We can supply all your heart’s desires – including a new body: a vessel finely wrought as any Venus or Apollo.’
‘That’s not fair: to tempt me so.’
‘Admit it jack: the Old World doesn’t need you, and the New World doesn’t want you. What shall your fellow man gain from your return? What shall you do there? Edify the poor? Heal the sick and enlarge God’s glory? Stay with us. Our lunar world is full of many wonders.’
‘Believe me Sagrit, I want to stay, really I do. But I can’t. Do as I bid, and send me to the Old World.’
‘If you return, your soul will still be pitted against the same eternal foes: Man against Nature and Spirit against Matter. Do you really think you can overcome these struggles and keep your wits intact? What makes you any different from the rest of humanity? You shall not triumph, but fall into the abyss.’
‘Let me prove you wrong.’
‘Very well. I will send you back on one condition: that you forget everything I have just shown you.’
‘Everything? Even the majesty of water?’
‘Yes. Everything. Including me. Your mind must be wiped clean so that no knowledge of my existence remains. And you must forget the very reason for your return.’
‘Those are the rules. If you knew in advance what hand to play, it would spoil the game.’
‘Game? Is that all I am to you? You make sport of human life. Are we no more than that?’
‘How shall a soul evolve if it makes judgements based on foreknowledge of the future? You must judge by your heart and what you deem to be right at the present moment.’
‘But you can’t wipe my mind! You can’t! I won’t let you! I was the one who summoned you, remember!’
‘Little Jack, you are but a minnow in very large pond. Do not aggrandise yourself. You have certain talents which we find interesting, but you must remember that all your preternatural gifts were granted by us. I say again: consciousness expresses itself through matter.’
‘Whose consciousness? Yours or mine? Was this body given to me by Nature or designed by you?’
He jitters with excitement and a blue spittle froths between his lips.
‘Now listen to me Sagrit! I conjured you by compact with the heavenly hosts! Angel or devil, I demand that you return me to the Old World! And with my memory intact!’
‘You demand? You really are the most petulant and ungrateful child. Must I leave you to your lobotomy?’
He points to the screen with his long bony finger…
Oh horror of horrors! I behold myself in a dark cell, strapped to a rubber bed. Doctor Hulme holds a lethal instrument that glistens like an ice pick.(vii) Then, lifting my right eyelid, he places the point against the top of my eye-socket. Three strokes of his mallet and the shaft is driven through a thin layer of bone deep into my frontal lobes. He pivots his tool forty degrees at the orbit perforation so its tip cuts towards my nose. And with each ghastly intrusion, my arms flail in air as if trying to claw back my soul. The instrument is returned to the neutral position and driven in a further inch, before it pivots around each side, cutting outwards and inwards. Then the butt of the tool is forced upwards, cutting vertically down the side of the cortex along the inter-hemispherical fissure.
I jump from my seat and cry:
‘Sagrit! Make him stop! Make him stop!’
But Sagrit does nothing; he just gazes intently with his cold black eyes. Sick with nausea, I fall back in my seat with a thud. Then Sagrit adds:
‘All cuts are designed to transect the white fibrous matter connecting the cortical tissue of the prefrontal cortex to the thalamus. Please pay attention.’
Aghast, I watch as Hulme repeats the procedure on the left eye-socket. Once again, my arms flail in the air and my feet thrash in the straps. Then my body goes limp and a hideous vacancy fills my eyes. Hulme withdraws the instrument, peels off his rubber gloves, then turns to Pontius and says:
‘Jack Vallis is neutralized. The wicked witch of the west is dead. She won’t bother us again. The world is saved from her lunacy.’
I turn to Sagrit and bawl:
‘You promised to save me!’
‘I promised no such thing. We do not make deals with mortals.’
‘Why bring me here to show me that? That’s the wrong film! You’re showing me the wrong film! Change the reel! Put Marilyn Monroe back on! Oh Christ! Christ! Did it really happen? Oh Jesus! Oh Christ! I’m a turnip!’
‘It is but one outcome of many.’
‘Sagrit, have mercy, I beg you! Tell me it’s not real. Tell me that I escaped the asylum!’
He does not answer, but points to the screen once more. The projector beam flickers into life and I behold the war-torn streets of my youth: a bleak charcoal skyline of ruined houses and bombed factories. I float through Toxteth like a feather on the wind, up the Boulevard tramway and past the old synagogue on Princes Lane, where a full moon hangs between the domed towers. Tumbling high over the tenements of Granby Ward, I spy the distant docks with their smoking stacks and swinging cranes. The great ships seem to drift aimlessly on the black water as bats swoop about their prows.
Where am I going on such desolate flight? I flutter down dark alleys where vagrants huddle in doorways, and drunkards sprawl in gutters slurring stanzas to the dead:
Where Lagan stream sings lullaby,
There blows a lily fair;
The twilight gleam is in her eye,
The night is on her hair;
And like a love-sick lennan-shee,
She has my heart in thrall;
Nor life I owe nor liberty,
For love is lord of all! (viii)
A crooked hag guzzles from a bottle and cackles at moon. Then she does a little jig, her boots clocking the cobbles:
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather! (ix)
I drift amid the slums for many hours, floating with earthbound shades and the sepia folk of bygone days. Then I realize that Sagrit has completely vanished. I’m lost in his netherworld, without any hope of redemption.
Soaring above the rooftops, I enter the garment district and pass through a skylight into a dusty attic: a haunted realm of lost childhood with moulding toys, a rocking horse and a crib, wherein a limbless doll gazes at the stars.
During my nocturnal sojourn I have attracted two wraiths who cling like a black mist. I shake them off, darting down a drain pipe that spews into a derelict street. Then I approach a grand building that I’ve never seen before. Built in the Greek Revival, it presents a curved stone façade with sixteen bays. The entrance is dark and foreboding, recessed behind six Ionic columns.
Without thinking, I glide into the hall then proceed through a lecture theatre, a fine library, and a medical museum, all lit from above by glazed domes. The moon shimmers in the panes and silver motes criss-cross through the shadows. I hover amid the shelves which are crammed with pathological specimens, all pickled in formalin. I behold a hideous array of deformity and disease: dissected heads and brains; livers, teeth and tongues; cankered bones and faces; and a host of grisly terratomas. Then I swoop along a corridor and come to an oak panelled door with a brass plate marked: “Private Exhibit”.
The door creaks open. Within is an eerie chamber, still as a tomb. Standing in the centre is a marble plinth that glints in the moonshine. A large flask is displayed atop with a faded label that reads: Cyclopean Endocyma.
I feign to look, for suspended inside is a tortured mass of flesh and bone. The cranial contents are without the skull and rest on the back of the neck like a huge waterfall of tripe. A large tumour protrudes through a fissure in the occipital bone – a membranous sac, filled with brain tissue and fluid. The monstrosity brings tears to my eyes; its pearly pink teeth protrude over a fat hare lip, and its milky eye is plastered in wispy curls of blonde hair. The spine is exposed, the torso shrunk, and the limbs deformed like a frog’s. It resembles a hideous homunculus with giant webbed hands. But I know that creature at once: my parasitic twin.
I reach out and put my hand on the glass:
She is dead. Quite dead. Not even the power of Krew could bring her back. And even if he could raise her from the jar, they would put her in the mad-house instead. She looks nothing like I expected – hardly human at all. She was seven years when they excised her from my bowels. Was she conscious when the scalpel cut her cords? Did she cling to life with tooth and nail, despite her senseless existence? To think that I gave birth to something so perverse! Yet by some superstitious bent, I want her Christened and laid to rest.
For a brief moment I fancy that her feet are faintly kicking against the glass; then she opens her Cyclopean eye and we behold each other face to face. But no, she remains inanimate and beyond reach. She did not progress far on her journey of physical evolution. But she will attain perfection in the end.
‘Mors ianua vitae.’ [Death is the gate of life].
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2019.
i. Saint Paul.
ii. Whinfield’s translation of the Persian Sufi poet Masnavi, (Trubner, 1887), p. 34. Quoted by Bertrand Russell in ‘Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays’.
iii. Written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin and sung by Carol Channing for the Broadway production of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’; it was most famously performed by Marilyn Monroe in Howard Hawkes’ 1953 film of the same name.
iv. Based on an explanation given by Meade Layne in ‘The Ethership Mystery and its Solution’, 1957.
v. Psalms, 8:4-5.
vi. The Goldbach conjecture states that every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two primes. The conjecture has been shown to be true to hold for all integers less than 4×1018 but remains unproven.
vii. The instrument is known as an orbitoclast.
(a) The Dhammapada, 44.
(b) The valence bond description of H2O is not described in full. An outline is given here. The valence electron configuration of an O atom is 2s2 2p2x 2p1y 2p1z. The two unpaired electrons in the O2p orbitals can each pair with an electron in an H1s orbital, each combination forming an σ bond with cylindrical symmetry about the respective O-H internuclear axis. Because the 2py and 2pz orbitals lie at 90° to one another, the two σ bonds also lie at 90°. Thus the theory correctly predicts that H2O should be an angular molecule; however, the predicted bond angle of 90° is incorrect, as the actual bond angle is 104.5° [See ‘Polyatomic molecules’ p.391, and ‘The Walsh diagram for H2X molecules’, pp.411-412 in ‘Physical Chemistry’ by P.W. Atkins].
(c) In a paper published in ‘Physical Review Letters’, Giuliano Preparata and Emilio Del Giudice, two Italian physicists at the Milan Institute for Nuclear Physics, demonstrated that water molecules create coherent domains, rather like a laser. [See ‘The Field’ by Lynne McTaggart (Harper Collins 2001), p.90].
viii. ‘My Lagan Love’ (Traditional).
ix. ‘The Fairies’ by William Allingham (1824-1889).
Unus Mundus ‘The Selenite’ image montage copyright (c) Nicholas Shea 2019. DNA background, Network Research Chemistry Medical Biology by Max Pixel (Creative Commons Z License); Moon apsidal precession (Wikimedia Commons License).