MSND_Fuseli_Detail

Some echelons of humans are at war with the Psi potentials of the human species – because those echelons have motivations they would prefer never to be disclosed via Psi penetration.[i]

Court Transcript

LORD SCALES. If the accused still has any doubts, I should make it clear that our diamonic realm operates beyond time and space. We view the Time Stream from above, as an eagle surveys a river. And like the eagle, we dive in and out, catching men as we please, altering both past and future, according to our whim.

JACQUES. I know that! I’ve always known that! Do you take me for a fool?

LORD SCALES. If you are so wise, then perhaps you can reveal to the court what happened on Wolf Fell? Silence. The accused is lost for words. A terrible idea now trembles on his lips: that his entire reality is open to manipulation by beings far greater than himself. Despite his outward composure, he remains in a state of great mental confusion, unsure of his place in eternity. I ask you Jacques Vallin, has not your soul already been weighed in the balance? Think quietly and no one will hear you… So many sins; so many broken hearts; so many weeping faces.

JACQUES. Am I dead?

LORD SCALES. You recall naught of the pyre?

JACQUES. No, nothing.

LORD SCALES. Let it be known that a man’s fate can be repeated ad infinitum. Perhaps we plucked you from the flames, to suffer your earthly pains all over again? How shall you escape this endless cycle of Death and Rebirth? The Infernal Counsel remains unsatisfied by your obstinate refusal to answer. Is our essence all pervading or atomic? Only things which have parts can enter into conjunction with themselves. But we have no parts. We are shadows of soul. You cannot escape us. For how shall you abolish the perception of yourself? How shall you escape our diamonic realm?

JACQUES. Pray, let me choose another destiny!

LORD SCALES. There are but ten grades of migration, each of a thousand years. And you have lived them all. We must renew your penance ten times over, until your incorporeal soul is fit to dwell with God. Then you may contemplate His excellence in the realm of Ideas.

JACQUES. Your metempsychosis is just a trick to enslave me!

LORD SCALES. Jacques Vallin, you are a wicked philosopher, a murderer and a witch. You shall not escape until you choose again your first mode of life.

JACQUES. Yet I cannot recall what that was!

LORD SCALES. We judged you in the nether world after your first incarnation, and there you did penance for your crimes in various quarters. The Infernal Counsel was hopeful for your salvation, for you were blessed with supernal powers. But you used them all for darkness. Now that your earthly life is spent, there is naught left for you but Future Jack. Alas, methinks incontinent Future Jack is an incurable lunatic, who must be thrust down forever into Tartarus. And what of your own wild utterings, gestures and excited looks? I fear your convulsive shiverings and shakings are due to some canker of the brain, and not, as you would have us believe, the work of an evil Jinn who has possessed your body. Indeed, the more I ponder the matter, the more I am inclined to believe that you and Future Jack are conspiring together. You plot against us, en rapport, across an impossible gulf of Time. Do you honestly believe you can flout our spiritual laws? Be warned: whatever mad scheme you have hatched, The Infernal Counsel will not allow it.

JACQUES. Plot? I don’t know what you’re talking about! As for Future Jack, spin the Wheel once more. He’s a useless good for nothing – an incurable transsexual, who’s better off dead. Why punish me for his magic? If you would grant another life, pray find a body meet for my soul. A woman’s body. But let me dwell far from the temptations of this curséd world. Hide me in a convent, where none can see, and I shall live a life for God.

LORD SCALES. Your desire for solitude arises not from love of God, but cowardice. When you dwelt in the treasure of Light, the Lord gave you authority over devils. And you commanded a whole legion of His angelic host. But when you fell into the purgations of matter, the Devil threw you into great confusion. From that hour, you lost the brilliancy of the Light, and your mortal span was shortened, so that you were no longer fit to receive the mysteries of the Light. And now your must pay for your sins.

JACQUES. Shall I return an ox, to plough the furrows under a cruel goad?

LORD SCALES. The humble ox is too noble a beast for the likes of you. Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat primus.[ii] [Whom Jupiter would destroy he first drives mad]. You once wielded great power; but in the next life, your power shall be as dust. You once possessed a body of angelic glory; but in the next life, you shall return a hoary man, humiliated in your sex, your capacity of mind, drained by incontinent desire. And if, by some mad endeavour, you regain your former heights, let the darkness seize you! The wheel has turned. And the needle points to Future Jack.

JACQUES. Then do your worst! If I have sinned, I sinned with good intent! I shall not beg again. Miris modis di ludos faciunt hominibus.[iii] [In wondrous ways do the gods make sport with men]. Be done with this charade! Pass sentence, and condemn me to the pyre!

LORD SCALES. Again? How oft’ have you been drawn on the rack and purged by fire? How oft’ have you stood there, blaspheming the world, begging for a second chance? Remember this: you called upon the depths of hell for your salvation. But how oft’ did you summon us? Perhaps you have entered a labyrinth of the Jinn. Perhaps Future Jack is not mad at all. Perhaps Future Jill is me, and I am you, and you are everything you perceive others to be. Perhaps the whole Universe is a great big hall of mirrors. Worlds within worlds. Lives within lives. Souls within souls. What do you think, Jacques Vallin?

JACQUES. I would rather hear the crackling faggots, than your mocking tongue. My crimes were for the greater good.

LORD SCALES. The greater good? These are the facts of the case: you were a child of enchantment, who made consort with the faeries. Steeped in the black arts of your mother, you provided a service to the good women of Paris. Let us not forget your abominable confession: you made a magic plaster, that when applied to the womb at night, induced a violent abortion at dawn. Your familiar took this foetal flesh, and cooked it his apparatus. But for what purpose, the court has yet to determine. Jacques Vallin, you are no ordinary witch, but a devil of infanticide. Would you have us believe that within the moral universe, all sin is for the greater good? That your crimes and passions, which are undoubtedly evil to mankind, are likewise ordained by some higher power? You have seen a future, far beyond your mortal span – of another life beyond the grave. Think. Did you perish at the stake? Was your flesh consumed by fire? If so, where is your soul? And where is Future Jack? In Limbo, Purgatory or Hell? Speak.

JACQUES. I refuse to answer! God damn you!

LORD SCALES. Answer you must. This is all your own fault. You meddled in forbidden things. The Time Stream. Not content with Faery Magic, you dabbled in Mullard Magic. The dissociation of atoms. Mind over Matter. Under the guidance of Future Jack, you built an infernal machine, that broke the elementary laws by which all mortals live. What was the purpose of this machine? Failure to answer shall incur instant extermination. Speak.

JACQUES. Its purpose was to undo my wrongs. To restore the lives that I had taken. Future Jack assured me that every person he knew in the New World was known to me in the Old World. And that if I wanted to save the Earth, I must do exactly as he said. So I followed his instructions to the letter.

LORD SCALES. You built the machine yourself?

JACQUES. No, it was a spiritual apport that appeared in my chamber on All Hallow’s Eve.

LORD SCALES. Your chamber? At what age did this apport manifest?

JACQUES. I was fifty years old and living in Paris. I had a workshop in the steeple of Saint Jeane en Grève. A secret room, hidden away from prying eyes.

LORD SCALES. And you understood this Mullard Magic?

JACQUES. No. The machine was a great mystery, with many phials of glowing light. It was powered by a long umbilicus connected to The New World. Future Jack warned me never to pull this cord, lest our rapport be lost forever. I didn’t comprehend the mechanism, but I understood the principle. The Demiurge created the material world from Spirit. Quod superius est sicut quod inferius. [What is above is alike unto that which is below]. All matter has its spiritual counterpart. A correspondence. Yet Hermes said the converse was also true. Quod inferius est sicut quod superius. [What is below is alike unto that which is above]. Just as a plucked string stirs others into harmony, so the machine stirred higher realms to resonate with my earthly mind. I soon learnt the meaning of that old adage “My mind to me a kingdom is”, for I learnt how to use the machine to summon spirits: the Lemures of the air, elementals of the dead, and rapping wraiths who brought messages from beyond. And so I opened doors to many forbidden realms. The fiery lakes of the Salamanders; the crystalline seas of the Undines; and the vaporous spheres of the Sylphs. Then one night, whilst fiddling with the dials, I chanced upon a portal of brilliant Light. Before me was a golden vortex, guarded by two flaming Cherubim. They were dressed in armour of dazzling quicksilver, and wielded swords of blazing steel. Beyond was a thorny bower, with streams of living waters flowing from a radiant Tree. At once a great fear came over me, and I fell face down in tears. For I knew that I was dead and riddled with corruption. Here were the Gates of Eden. Upon that very spot, Adam and Eve were cast out into the wilderness. And so I determined to find my back way through that thorny bower, back to the Tree of Life, and my immortal body of Light.

LORD SCALES. A selfish evil act – to defy the Holy Cherubim. What of the world and its fate? What of the lives you had taken in your abortuary?

JACQUES. Satan assured me, that if I could but reach the Tree of Life, all would be restored. My transgressions would be forgiven as if they had never been, and Mankind would be freed from all corruption. But no matter how many times I fiddled with the dials, the Gates of Eden eluded me.

LORD SCALES. And your instructions from Future Jack?

JACQUES. He gave me a parchment inscribed with a magic square. The square had sixteen numbers. Any column or row added up to thirty-three. At first I thought it was an amulet to protect me from plague. But the numbers were settings for the machine. I was to dial them in on Christmas Eve, 1350. And that’s how I met Sims on Wolf Fell, in 1959.

LORD SCALES. Tell the court what happened on Wolf Fell.

JACQUES. I defer to my familiar.

KREW. I will not yet reveal what happened on Wolf Fell, nor how it relates to the lives now entwined in my karmic bubble. Suffice to say that both Future Jack and Jill are locked in Sunhill Asylum, awaiting the arrival of Blyth and Sims, whose relation to Jacques will soon be made apparent. Alas, Future Jack and Jill have been tortured for witchcraft and undergone several sessions of ECT. I should explain to the Infernal Counsel that ECT (Empirical Church Therapy), is the modern equivalent of the Malleus Maleficarum – or Hammer of the Witches. But the new method is altogether cleaner, and without any outward sign that the witch has been tortured at all. The rack is replaced by two copper paddles strapped across the temples. A lightning bolt is then passed across the frontal lobes, frying the grey matter, and erasing the mind of heretical thoughts. Like most interrogation methods, ECT is a stress technique, not dissimilar to religious cult conversion: a process of disorientation, where tension, fear and conflict are stimulated by amnesic torture. This barbaric assault on the brain continues until the mind becomes like a soft putty, willing to accept whatever it is told. Whereupon old heresies are forgot, and orthodox beliefs attain fresh impetus and significance. The witch then ceases to fight the inquisitor, for she is granted new insights into her mental disturbance. But in reality, she can no longer differentiate between her own ideas and those of the inquisitor.

After treatment, interrogation begins anew. The witch is forced to reveal all the personal details of her life. A straight narration of past events is never enough. For every action, she must give her motives in detail. And the more sordid, the better. She must know why she drinks and smokes; why she seeks social connections with undesirables; and why she enjoys certain sexual perversions. But most important of all, she must refute any claim of our spiritual reality. The convert’s newly awakened insight must be apparent in every answer. The legislative faith of The New World is Atheism, and the whole purpose of Freudian psychology is to relegate God to the past. The Freudian school believes in an exclusively sexual theory of the unconscious, and teaches that all spiritual experience is naught but the manifestation of forbidden sexual desires, which have been repressed by civilized society. It is expedient that such desires are sublimated by religious morals. But the Demiurge in esse is heresy. The Holy Ghost is for church, and church alone. Belief in God must be something vague, confused and indefinite; a childish sentiment, clouded by fears and superstition. Further, the Divinity of Nature must never be proven by intelligent reasoning or the organs of sense. The very idea of God is an anathema to modern Man. Real spirits do not exist; they can neither be seen nor heard; and those who persist in communing with us must undergo repeated treatment, until their psychic power has been neutralised. Yet still there are some clairvoyant eyes who perceive our world, even through these atheist walls of despair. They are the powerful mediums of spiritual manifestation. Jill Vallis is one such witch, now fettered and bound in Jack, the oubliette of her transsexual dungeon.

Le monde tourne comme un moulin, mais plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. [The world turns like a windmill, but the more it changes, the more it stays the same]. The Freudian Inquisition is a Humean confessional, without the spiritual insights of a loving holy Father. And unlike the Catholic confessional, it is never confidential, but a matter of state property. How great is the salvation of Freud! How godlike are the psycho-surgeons, who spare none in their Pyrrhonic pursuit! And what beggarly throngs they have at their disposal! Behold the lunatics of Sunhill Asylum – the wretched victims of Freudian vivisection! All protestations are in vain. A doctor cannot be questioned without detriment to the state; for only Freud makes Truth plain to the sinner’s mind. The best conversions are violent conversions. No wonder the born again Christian is a born again atheist…

With this in mind, allow to me to tell of Blyth and Sims, how they came to meet Future Jack, and what happened that fateful Christmastide…

I

Sunhill Asylum, December 25, 1959. 9:30 a.m.

Krew is telling it…

Christmas Day dawned silently on Sunhill and the precinct lay deep in snow. The only sign of life was a crow perched on the clock tower, his feathers ruffled with cold. The ramparts were hung in mist and the windows looked dark and derelict. But in the kitchens the cooks were already hard at work, basting turkeys, steaming puddings, and preparing sauces. The ball room was decorated with paper chains, (which the inmates had dutifully made throughout Advent), and in the centre stood a magnificent tree, draped with fairy lights. Oh! Not real fairy lights, you silly Imp – but artificial lamps that glow when struck by lightning. Why use artificial lamps? Because modern man has destroyed the faeries, that’s why! All their sacred groves have been uprooted! Where once were sylvan hills of cooing birds, there are now concrete cities of such abject ugliness ’twould break your heart to behold! There’s hardly a league of green not paved by roads with filthy engines roaring day and night. What utter Madness!

Where was I? Ah yes! Sunhill Asylum! The staff were well prepared for the Eucharistic feast, and not a single patient was overlooked. Throughout the night, all violent agitations had been quelled with sedatives, cold baths, and nocturnal bouts of electroshock. Wrong thoughts had been excised, perversions sublimated, satyriasis and nymphomania expunged, and all orgiastic proclivities absolved by Freudian scape-goats and imbalances in the glandular secretions.

The wards were now a hubbub of festive excitement. Patients were already waltzing up and down the aisles; they danced with glee; they danced with rage; they danced with despair and pain; and they danced in forgetfulness of the world, as children do when enacting a fairytale which has some semblance of reality.

Those deemed sane enough for public duty were sent to Chapel, where father Doughty gave Mass. His lesson began with The Second Coming of Christ, when Faith would falter, and nation would rise against nation. The End was nigh. He told of the Last Judgement, and the Lord’s great wrath, when only the faithful would be spared the Great Tribulation. He loomed from the pulpit, waving his arms, preaching damnation and hellfire with all his Irish charisma:

‘A star was the herald of His birth! And heavenly omens shall herald His return! The faithful keep watch for His coming! For the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon to blood, before that great and the terrible day of the Lord! The stars of heaven shall fall upon the earth, as the fig tree casts its green fruit when shaken by a great wind! And then shall come the final catastrophe, when the seventh trumpet sounds, and the seventh vial is poured forth, and the mystery of God is finished, and the temple is rent, and there are lightnings, voices, thunders, and earthquakes!’

His apocalyptic sermon was hardly suitable for a congregation of lunatics. Some were bewitched by these dire warnings, yet others on the verge of hysteria. But the priest quelled their troubled hearts with offers of salvation. He told of glad tidings and the wise men of the East; he told of the Nativity and the Virgin Birth, attended by the ass and ox. And he told of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross for all mankind. It was with great pomp and ceremony that he consecrated the bread and wine and delivered communion to fervent lips. And so the ancient pagan rites continued unabated; rites of sex and death, rites of sun and moon; miracles, sacrifice, resurrection of the Dead, apocalypse and renewal, down through the ages, ’til the end of Time. Amen.

The service dragged on for over an hour. ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ was chanted in earnest and the Pater Noster muttered in hope. All the while, Dr. Hardy yawned and twiddled his thumbs. He preferred the oracle of Freud to the prophets, as his instinct for the Absolute lay in slices of grey matter and textbooks on neurology. He knew without a doubt that all human behaviours were dependent on Darwinian neural patterns, and that the personality was a malleable entity, which reacted predictably to environmental stresses. And when those stresses were severe, even the most stable personalities would suffer psychotic breaks, display symptoms of anxiety, depression and hysteria. When Moses heard the voice in the burning bush, it was a simple matter of schizophrenic delusion, brought on by feelings of guilt and unworthiness.

How Hardy detested this opium of the people! This poisonous Christianity with its supplications, exaltations and invocations! All these useless psalms, lights and rituals! How he scoffed at the Passion of The Christ and his mystical journey to transcendent self-perfection! What folly was the Virgin birth – this magical baby lying in a manger with a star above his head! Hardy knelt in the stalls, his heart thumping with dissent, and when the priest began the litany, an audible groan of despair passed from his lips.

But mass was compulsory for all staff; it strengthened communal bonds and promoted trust between patient and doctor. Besides, the idea that an omnipotent god was overseeing such brutal treatment was a comfort to the sick, and made their suffering a more heroic pursuit.

Sitting beside the door, ready for a quick getaway, was Dr. Pontius. He too knew better ways to improve the human condition. Rather than use rhythmic chanting and candlelit processions, he preferred ECT to induce states of hysterical suggestibility. He knew that manic depressives who underwent electro-convulsive therapy instantly felt themselves raised from the lowest depths of despair to the highest states of exalted bliss. Hysterics triumphantly claimed that their bonds were broken, their sins forgiven, and that they were instantly translated from hell into the chosen elect of heaven.

Sitting beside Pontius that morning was Selena Fulbright, stunning in her pillbox hat and net veil. She smiled as she passed him a note, sliding it seductively in his hymn book. Curious, he raised an eyebrow and read the following text:

RULES FOR BABYTIME [iv]
1. You are not allowed to adjust your diaper in any way or remove it.
2. You must eat/drink everything that is given to you, without complaining.
3. You must say out loud when you need to use your diaper. Regular checks will be made, any unannounced wetting will be punished.
4. You are not allowed to ask to be changed or to complain about the state of your diaper, or you’ll be left in it for longer. Mummy decides when you need a diaper change.
5. While in Mummy’s care, you are not permitted to wear anything that covers your diaper, unless instructed otherwise. You must change out of your “grown-up costume” as soon as you enter the nursery.
6. When a pacifier is put in your mouth, or you are told to suck your thumb, you are not allowed to talk or remove it.
7. Mummy will dress you at all times. When instructed to wear an outfit, you must not adjust it in any way without permission.
8. If you are given ANYTHING (items), you are to curtsey and thank Mummy for WHATEVER it is.

She giggled and whispered in his ear:

‘Baby’s new rules. Do you like them?’

‘Who are they for?’ he asked with a blush.

‘Jack Vallis. Who else? Why? Would you like to be my baby?’

‘No thank you.’

The priest uttered the final words of petition:

Give to me, O God, and to all men, Thy grace in this world and Thy glory in the next. Amen.’

Then a doleful harmony piped from the organ as the congregation filed out the stalls.

‘Such a shame,’ she added, rising from her seat. ‘I think you’d make a lovely baby… Unconscious fixation of infantile incestuous thoughts goes hand in hand with hypnotic capacity. All transference at the root of hypnosis depends on the feminine component of the sexual instinct: it is the source of a child’s docility and compliance towards his mother. The mother’s will becomes the child’s will; that’s how the child becomes endowed with the powers of the mother. And in my experience, a subject only accepts implanted verbal suggestions if the personality of the surrogate matches their own; a certain emotional fusion must exist between the two. Is that not so Dr. Pontius?’

‘That is so,’ he replied curtly.

And he marched out the door.

When Mass was over, Christmas Lunch was served in the refectory, each ward arriving at their allotted time. Crackers were pulled, jokes told, and brussel sprouts rolled down the tables. Trifle was guzzled, custard slurped, and second helpings of bread sauce passed round in Bakelite jugs. Not a scrap was left on the plates and the inmates left sated, eager for the afternoon pantomime.

And so it was, at 2:00 p.m. that the vast majority of Sunhill was in the ballroom, booing the ugly sisters, whilst Cinderella scrubbed floors, chopped wood and peeled potatoes.

Into this Christmas madhouse came Blyth and Sims, winding up the long drive in a chariot that belched volcanic plumes of smoke. As fate would have it, (or rather as I would have it), they entered the foyer without being challenged, for I had despatched the superintendent to relieve his bladder. The registry office was deserted, and after checking the log, Blyth determined the exact location of Jack’s cell…

II

Blyth puts his eye to the peep hole and peers inside. Jack is standing by the window, talking to Soot Wings, his pet crow:

‘You brought me nothing today? What about some lipstick? Or mascara?’

The bird caws thrice.

‘Oh! I couldn’t possibly do that!’ exclaims Jack. ‘Their ways are not my ways. If I told them our secret, they’d fry my brains! Why? Because they dismiss the supernatural as a figment of the imagination – that’s why. Doctor Hardy is a dullard. His mind is frozen in aspic.’

The bird caws again.

‘Like I said,’ continues Jack. ‘A dullard, lacking all mental elasticity. He refuses to believe in The Old World. He cannot accept anything beyond the dogmas of materialist philosophy. He’s ossified, petrified, fossilized. What else can I say? Oh yes! He thinks I’m a man!

Blyth pulls away from the door.

‘What’s he doing?’ asks Sims.

‘Talking to a crow.’

‘A crow?’ hisses Sims. ‘He’s a fruitcake!’

‘Keep your voice down,’ chides Blyth. ‘You’ll wake the guard!’

Sims glances down the corridor where Bob lies slumped over his desk, snoring like a trooper. He wears a paper hat with tinsel tied about his neck. Beside him is a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, but he looks more drugged than drunk, with limpid eyes that stare blankly from a half-eaten bowl of Christmas pudding.

‘You shouldn’t have injected him with that stuff!’ exclaims Sims, stamping his foot.

‘It’s perfectly harmless. Don’t worry, he won’t remember a thing. He’ll just have a sore head for a couple of hours – no worse than a hangover.’

‘This is madness!’ hisses Sims. ‘What if we get caught? We’ll get arrested! I can’t go around like this!’

Sims, who wears a ill-fitting lab coat stolen from the foyer, looks like an escaped lunatic with a haunted aspect. Still without trousers, his hairy shanks sprout like stalks of hemlock from two surgical boots.

‘They pinch in the toe!’ he winces.

‘They’re all I could find. Now hurry up and open the door!’

Anxious, Sims puts his eye to the peephole.

…Exactly!’ continues Jack. ‘Clearly, you are bird of eloquence and learning. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Oh Soot Wings! How I have missed you! You have a twinkle in your eye, which, combined with your lustrous feathers, always atones for your coarse speech. But where have you been all these months? The Old World? Come now, I think you’re pulling my leg. How did you get to The Old World and back? Spiritual laws? Don’t talk to me about spiritual laws! Just how am I supposed to explain that to the doctors? You’re a clever bird, but you understand nothing of the atheists. Atheists get beside themselves with rage when attempting to excogitate spiritual laws!’

Sims turns to Blyth and says:

‘I don’t know. He seems quite insane. Are you sure this is a good idea?’

‘We just have to humour him a little.’

‘In a donkey costume?’

‘Just let me do the talking.’

‘But he might recognise your voice – from his interrogation.’

‘After all this time? Highly improbable.’

‘Even so, I’m better qualified to discuss matters of electronic engineering. Don’t you think?’

‘No Sims. You don’t know Vallis like I do. Besides, I can’t take the rear end. My back is killing me after last night. I’ve got sciatica, you know!’

‘I still think I should do the talking. ’

Blyth stamps his foot:

‘Sims! I refuse to play the rear end of pantomime donkey!’

‘Do you want to know about TERGA or not?’

‘Oh! Very well!’ flusters Blyth. ‘Have it your way…’

There is much fuss and ado as they struggle into the donkey costume. Sims steps into the front legs and dons the head whilst Blyth zips the belly shut from inside. The costume looks worse for wear, with balding flanks and moth-eaten fur; the papier-mâché head is badly dented with flaking paint and crooked teeth.

‘Oh! This is such a stupid idea!’ curses Blyth, ducking down and taking up the rear.

Sims fumbles with the keys, hands trembling as he tries to locate the right one.

‘What’s taking so long?’ asks Blyth. ‘Hurry up for god’s sake!’

Just then the lock clunks open…

III

Jacks gawps in wonder as the door yawns wide and a pantomime donkey trots into his cell.

‘Hello donkey!’ exclaims Jack. ‘Are you lost?’

‘Oh no master Jack. I’ve come to speak with you.’

‘With me? But shouldn’t you be at the pantomime?’

‘Shouldn’t you?’

‘Forgive me for not attending, but I got banned for bad behaviour.’

‘Never mind!’ neighs Donkey. ‘We shall make our own pantomime.’

‘Won’t you sit down?’ asks Jack.

‘Why, thank you master Jack.’

Master? Can’t you see that I’m a girl?’

‘Indeed.’

‘My name is Jill. That’s Mistress Jill to you. I don’t belong here, except they like to exploit my talents.’

‘Talents?’

‘I’m a girl of supernatural illumination. But I spend most of my days in the thraldom of Death. They keep me in a floatation tank. Did you know that?’

‘No, I didn’t. How terrible.’

‘Everything seen by the eye and palpable to touch are illusions. We are but transparent shadows in the Darkness. The Darkness envelops the Universe. A boundless black veil which covers everything. A darkness which penetrates all matter – animal, vegetable and mineral. This whole world is sliding into oblivion. Like cliffs crumbling into the sea. A continuos erosion of Time and Space. You might think that’s solid concrete beneath your feet, but it’s no more substantial than the sands of the desert. We are but pitiful remnants, half devoured by Death. It pains me to tell you these things, but we are perilously near the End. Only the Light Stream can save us.’

‘The Light Stream?’

‘I’m not sure if I should be speaking with a donkey.’

‘But you speak to crows don’t you?’

‘Yes. But I’m not allowed visitors. What if Mummy Selena finds out? She’ll be very angry.’

‘Mummy Selena?’

‘She trained me to wet the bed. That’s why I wear diapers.’ He looks blank, like a mere automaton, and adds in a whisper: ‘I wear diapers because I wet the bed. And I wet the bed because I wear diapers. I am a bed wetter. I am a diaper wetter. I am a natural wetter. I am a permanent wetter…’

Donkey nods and lapses into silence for a moment. Then he clears his throat and says:

‘I see. Well, it can be our secret. My lips are sealed. I won’t tell a soul. But who is Mummy Selena? Does she work here?’

‘She promised me a new frock. A polka dot dress, just like hers, with stockings and ruffle-butt panties. Extra-large panties, to cover my diaper. But only if I’m good. Only if I help the Dragon Ladies.’

‘Who?’

‘High altitude surveillance. They sample the upper atmosphere – for evidence of nuclear tests. The boreal taiga. I must find the silos.’

‘Missiles?’ asks Sims.

‘Visitors are not allowed. Visitors are forbidden.’

‘Ah! But I’m no ordinary visitor.’

‘I know that Donkey!’ exclaims Jack brightly, his demeanour suddenly changed. ‘But where are you from?’

‘London.’

‘London? You came all that way to see a lunatic? Are you a doctor? I mean, you look like a doctor. Dr. Hardy believes my madness is connected to some miserable disturbance of the gonads. As for my telepathic genius, he quotes that old maxim of Dryden, that “great wits to madness sure are near allied”. Tell me Donkey, what are your views on endocrine dysfunction and involutional melancholia? Perhaps the cause is a complex derangement of the anterior lobe of the pituitary? An organic brain disorder, ætiologic to hypomanic behaviour, suggests itself. I was a depressed and manic child who suffered rapid mood-swings when I couldn’t dress as a girl. My appetite went from poor to voracious. Perhaps my mother is to blame? She was a neglectful dipsomaniac. Or is mine just a simple case of menstrual envy? A kind of transsexual premenstrual neurosis? When I was little, I thought that babies came out through the umbilicus. I always believed that girls only differed from boys in having a larger belly button. My navel was my vagina. But as I grew up, I became convinced that I was hermaphroditic, which I am, of course, psychically. Ever since I can remember, I have experienced a persistent disorientation of the body. Because inside, I know that I’m a girl. And when I dream, I menstruate… What do you think of that, Donkey?’

Donkey didn’t know what to think. But he presses on regardless:

‘Listen Jill, I’ve come to talk about TERGA.’

‘I’m sorry, you’ve lost me. What’s TERGA?

‘Your telergic amplifier.’

‘My what?’

‘Don’t you remember?’

‘Please Donkey, take a seat and rest your legs. You must be exhausted after such a long journey. Would you like some refreshment? I could order my butler to bring us some cucumber sandwiches.’

‘Er, no, you mustn’t. I mean, thank you mistress Jill, but please don’t trouble your butler.’

‘I’m jesting, you silly Donkey. Of course I don’t have a butler. Where do you think we are? Buckingham Palace? Alas, I have little to offer you. Perhaps a small treat would suffice. I have three chocolate bells, wrapped in gold foil. Soot Wings pinched them from the Christmas Tree. He’s a very naughty bird, but he knows I adore chocolate. You must try one. They’re simply divine.’

‘Nay! Nay! I have so many questions to ask you Jill.’

‘But I have so many questions for you Donkey.’

‘You do?’

‘Yes.’

‘Like what?’

‘Well, what were you before you were a donkey?’

‘What was I? Why, whatever do you mean mistress Jill?’

‘Well, were you a mouse? Or a cow? Or a man?’

‘To tell the truth, I can’t remember what I was. Why? What were you?’

‘I was a Parisian Lady. Everyone knows that.’

‘Were you indeed?’

‘Yes. But what were you Donkey?’

‘I can’t remember. That is to say, if I was anything at all.’

‘Don’t you believe in life before birth?’

‘No. I’m an atheist.’

‘Well! I’ve never met an atheist donkey before.’

‘There’s a first time for everything. Now listen—’

‘What’s that cross doing on your back if you’re an atheist?’

‘I didn’t put it there.’

‘No, it was put there by Jesus Christ, when he rode upon your back on Palm Sunday, during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.’

‘A fairytale, methinks.’

‘So you admit a creation but reject a creator?’

‘Yes, mistress Jill. Unless it can be proven otherwise.’

‘You’re a very stupid donkey. Atheism is surely the most primitive of superstitions, and the most credulous of all credulities. I’m not sure if I should be speaking to an atheist. It is forbidden to mix with unbelievers.’

‘Well, I’m more of an agnostic, really.’

‘You don’t remember a previous life?’

‘Not at all. But I sometimes dream that I was a man.’

‘If you were a man, then you must have been very wicked.’

‘Why mistress Jill?’

‘Because your soul ended up in a donkey.’

‘Is that what happens to wicked souls?’

‘Transmigration, Donkey. Metempsychosis. You silly ass. Don’t you know anything?’

‘Ah yes! Now I come to think of it, I was once a lowly worm. Yes, that’s it! A little grub was I, crawling under the sods. Then when I died, I flew into a pregnant Jenny, and hid inside her unborn colt.’

‘But you’re twins!’

‘Twins?’

‘Why yes. There’s another soul hiding in your flesh.’

‘No master Jack, ’tis only I.’

‘You wouldn’t be telling me fibs now, would you Donkey?’

‘Whatever makes you say that?’

‘Well, Patrick says his daddy is up the donkey’s arse!’

At this, Blyth bursts out the rear, astounded and shaken. Penitent, he kneels before Jack and bursts into tears:

‘Oh Jack! Forgive me! Forgive me for putting you here! Please, I beg you! Forgive me! Oh! Tell of my son. Is he there? Let me speak with Patrick! Was that really him? Is he still there?’

IV

Sims removes the donkey mask and stands astonished as Blyth snivels at Jack’s feet. At length, Jack helps him up and sits him on the bed.

‘Jack Vallis!’ gasps Sims. ‘You cheeky git! You knew all along!’

‘I’m not that crazy. I must say, you make for a very poor donkey. And I such a poor lady.’

‘Quite,’ replies Sims, more than a little confused.

‘We’ve come about TERGA,’ stutters Blyth, wiping his tears with a hanky.

TERGA?’ feigns Jack. ‘And what is that exactly?’

‘I told you he wouldn’t remember,’ sighs Sims.

‘Why should I remember?’ glowers Jack. And he points an accusing finger at Blyth: ‘He injected me with poison. A psycho-active agent. My mind is like a sieve. I suffer from amnesia, both retrograde and infantile. And according to the doctors, from paramnesia, false memories, psychological obstruction, not to mention bodily dysmorphia and amnesic aphrasia… Why the hell should I remember anything at all?’

Blyth fumbles in his coat pocket and produces the printer’s proof:

‘Look here, I brought the manual. Does it mean anything?’

‘Clever of you to find it,’ replies Jack, thumbing through the pages. ‘Except that was just an early prototype, and suffered several stability issues.’

‘Such as?’ asks Sims.

‘The amplification stages were connected in cascades, but the final amplifier in the chain did not operate at a high enough signal level because the voltage was too low. Consequently, portal stability could not be maintained long enough due to stray capacitance. Also, the internal frequency selection suffered from poor discrimination. These problems were resolved in TERGA Mark II.’

‘So you do remember!’ beams Blyth.

‘Of course I bloody remember!’ seethes Jack. ‘No thanks to you! Your thugs tried to kill me! They pushed me from a train!’

‘I’m sorry. Believe me, I’m so very sorry. It was nothing personal. But you were deemed too much of a risk.’

‘Nothing personal?’ baulks Jack. ‘Nothing personal? I’d say it was very personal! Very personal indeed! Look at me!’

He stands fuming, trembling from head to toe, ridiculous in his diaper and rubber pants.

‘Come and work with us Jack,’ begs Sims. ‘We need your talents.’

‘Yes, work with us,’ adds Blyth. ‘Your services would be valuable to the country.’

‘I can’t do that. TERGA is too powerful to fall into government hands. Imagine them manipulating Weepons.

‘Weepons?’ puzzles Sims.

‘Weepons are the fundamental particles of the Universe. But they haven’t been discovered yet. At least, not in your Time Stream. The universities are polluted with systemic ignorance. Little wonder when they’re stuffed with atheists. They hate my stellar intellect, so they accuse me of religiosity. It makes them feel more comfortable to label me psychotic. Weepons shall fill their cup with tears and they shall sup sorrow to the dregs. Weepons. Get it?’

‘What do these particles do?’ asks Sims.

‘I say particles, but in actual fact Weepons have no substance at all. At least, not as science currently understands the nature of matter. This world is no more solid than a snowstorm.’

‘A metaphysical illusion?’ suggests Blyth.

‘Oh no, it’s real, very real. But could you trace the foundations of matter back to its metaphysical lair, you would find nothing but consciousness itself. The essence of the universe is Mind. And TERGA could tear it apart. The consequences are unthinkable. Think of Weepons as neurons. Quanta of information in the cosmic mind of God. That’s the best way I can describe it.’

Blyth grabs Jack’s arm in earnest:

‘Please Jack! I must see my son! I must see Patrick!’

‘And so you will. At the appointed time of your death. He will come and meet you. Do you not know this? Anyway, I’ve told you already: I gave TERGA to the Freemasons. No doubt they have opened the gate already…’

‘What kind of gate?’ inquires Sims. ‘Electromagnetic?’

‘It’s a little hard to explain such a thing to the uninitiated. Electromagnetic, certainly. But that’s an over-simplification to say the least. Just think of it as a biblical gate.’

‘Biblical?’

‘Like the gate of Eden, it is guarded by Cherubim. But what’s the point of telling an atheist that?’

‘I’m curious,’ replies Sims. ‘As a scientist, that is.’

‘Then as a scientist you should understand the cardinal rule. Man is composed of two parts, body and soul, of which one is corporeal, and the other severed from all combination with matter. Homo constat ex duābus partībus, corpore et animâ, quorum una est corporea, altera ab omni materiæ concretiōne sejuncta. Cicero.’

‘Yes, you’re a spiritualist, I know. And I’ve listened with great interest to your interrogation tapes.’

‘Oh? And now you want TERGA for yourself? Is that it.’

‘I’m intrigued by the theory. But I remain sceptical. How can a physical machine open metaphysical doors? My guess is that TERGA is some sort of quantum device.’

‘Not exactly. It’s an amplifier for another quantum device – the human brain.’

‘But how can a human brain in one reality, entangle two alternate realities, when knowledge of events in one reality precludes knowledge of events in the other?’

‘Because everything is connected via the Unus Mundus. You see, it’s all a matter of perception. The materialist and theist both live in entirely different and mutually exclusive worlds. Not only of thought but of perception also. Their beliefs determine their reality. The Christian fundamentalist invariably returns from the afterlife with infernal versions, where sinners endure eternal tortures in lakes of fire. Homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals and suicides are always the favourite victims. Very unchristian, don’t you think? But that’s the reality of the Christian fundamentalist. Yet the Light of Christ is pure Love. Pure, unjudgemental Love. The truth is, when immersed in the Light Stream, all human imperfections are erased. It is not Christ who judges us: we judge ourselves. As for the particular heaven or hell that we inhabit, the spirit world consists of many interlocking spheres, but to travel from one to the other, you have to shift your consciousness. Change your perception. Open your mind. TERGA allows you to do that. The habitation of angels or the abode of devils, it’s your choice. But be forewarned. The plains of heaven and the Tartarus of hell are separated by whisker. Or in the case of TERGA, by a turn of the dial.’

‘I’d like to build TERGA,’ enthuses Sims. ‘But only under your strict instruction of course. On the tape, you said that apart from the magnetron and its crystal oscillator, the entire device can be made from standard components found in most television receivers.’

‘That’s correct. But the magnetron itself is a highly specialized valve of my own design. It’s completely unique and not the kind of component you can scavenge. Without it, TERGA won’t work.’

Sims reaches inside his pocket and produces a long valve with the word “Mullards” printed on the glass:

‘Do you mean this?’

‘Mullard Magic!’ exclaims Jack. ‘Where did you get that?’

‘We found it in your cellar,’ interjects Blyth. ‘Amongst all the other stolen valves your were passing onto Turing. Except this one we couldn’t identify.’

‘Ah yes, my cellar,’ ponders Jack . ‘I’d forgotten about that.’ Anxious, he goes to the door and checks the corridor. ‘Were you followed?’ he asks.

‘No,’ replies Blyth. ‘We came alone. Nobody knows we’re here. We can get you out.’

‘But what about Mummy Selena?’

‘Forget about Mummy Selena,’ bids Sims. ‘What she has done to you is barbaric. Isolation tanks. Brainwashing. Regressive deconstruction. And god only knows what else. The sooner you leave this place better.’

‘Oh I couldn’t possibly leave. Not without Mummy Selena.’

‘Mummy Selena isn’t real Jack.’

‘Yes she is. She works for the C.I.A.’

‘All the more reason to leave,’ tuts Blyth, shaking his head in remorse.

‘You don’t understand. I need my milk. Mummy Selena feeds me milk. My serum.

‘Heroin?’ suggests Sims.

‘I don’t know what it is. They call it Cyclops. It bestows powers on the human mind you can’t possibly imagine. I have seen the future of Mankind. The world will perish if I leave Sunhill.’

‘You’ve been hypnotised Jack. Surely you must know that? How can the world perish if you leave Sunhill?’

‘But it will.’

‘You’re confused Jack,’

‘Not as confused as you. Do you know where you’ve been lately? How did you get that sunburn on your face?’

Terrified, Sims steps back against the wall, as if an icy lake of terror just lapped against his feet:

‘We should go, sir. It was a mistake to come here.’

‘Nothing is a mistake,’ retorts Jack. ‘You were brought here for a reason.’

‘Yes, replies Blyth. ‘To contact my dead son.’

‘Your son isn’t here today,’ replies Jack. ‘But Yelena is.’

‘Yelena?’ gasps Blyth, half dumbstruck.’

‘The Polish girl you murdered in Lublin.’

Blyth bites on a knuckle, his eyes smarting in anguish:

‘Yelena! No! I can’t face her!’

‘But you must,’ insists Jack.

‘I can’t!’

‘You will have to face her eventually. If not in this world, then the next.’

‘But she’s a devil!’

‘Yelena? A devil? No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. Yelena is a good soul. She loved you. But that didn’t stop you from slitting her throat.’

‘I had to kill her! For queen and country! Christ forgive me! It was my duty.’

‘Duty?’ sneers Jack. ‘You didn’t kill her out of duty. You killed her out of vanity – vanity for your own derogate philosophy. If you had any compassion, you would have made her passing easy. But it was a violent bloody end. And now her spirit cannot rest.’

Distraught, Blyth breaks down and wails:

Oh! She haunts me day and night! She won’t let me sleep! Her death plays over in my mind like a stuck record… Don’t look at me like that! I had no choice! She was a communist spy, intent on destroying us all!’

‘A poor Christian Socialist?’ balks Jack. ‘Intent on destroying the West? I don’t think so.’

Blyth pauses to wipe his eyes, then gathers himself and explains:

‘You don’t understand. GCHQ had cracked the Lublin cypher. Yelena was passing information between Moscow and Berlin. And there was a package. We didn’t know what. Something manufactured behind the iron curtain. Something so secret and terrible, that blueprints could never be sent. Only the device itself. We suspected a nuclear trigger.’

‘Oh, it was much more than that,’ replies Jack.

‘What?’ gasps Blyth ‘Do you know? Tell me! Tell me what it was!

‘I am forbidden to say. Besides, if I revealed the true nature of the package, and where it was from, you wouldn’t believe me… But I have a message for you: Niech snu anioł modremi skrzydły cię otoczy. [v] That’s Polish isn’t it? What does it mean?’

Blyth blubbers like a child, snot bubbling from his nose:

‘Let the sleep angel enfold you in his blue-winged nest! Oh! Yelena! Yelena! Forgive me!’

He weeps into his hands, hunched on the edge of the bed, his whole body heaving with grief. He feels ashamed, exposed and ridiculous. He was a man who always had his emotions under control; but all his sentiments and beliefs have been thrown into the air. It takes some time for his passion to subside. When he looks up, his face is haggard with remorse, yet somehow softened and radiant with redemption. And for a brief moment, he sees Yelena standing before him, smiling in the sunbeams. Yelena, whose name means “Shining Light”. He reaches out for her but she vanishes like a vapour. A faint whimper passes from his lips and he snorts into his hankey.

At length, Sims clasps Blyth’s shoulder and bids in soft low voice:

‘Sir, I think we should go.’

‘Go?’ scoffs Jack. ‘You can’t go. Entry into Sunhill is a one way ticket. There’s nothing to go back to. The world you left behind has completely ceased to exist. The road by which you came has gone, swallowed by the Darkness. England has fallen into the Abyss, smothered by a boundless black veil. You’re stuck in limbo with me.’

Sims begins to fume and makes no secret of it:

‘Haven’t you done enough harm? Look at him! He’s in pieces! The very idea,’ he says, moving toward the door, ‘The idea that we are laid up in some limbo conjured by a lunatic — why, it’s preposterous! I cannot, in all honesty, entertain such a thought.’

Poor Donkey,’ simpers Jack. ‘You don’t understand what this place is. You’ve entered a karmic bubble. A bubble of spacetime, completely cut off from your former existence. There are debts to pay, before you can leave Sunhill.’

‘Debts?’ scoffs Sims. The only debt I owe is to my common sense, for agreeing to come here in the first place! You might be able to pull the wool over Blyth’s eyes, but you can’t fool me. You’re talented engineer, of that I have no doubt. But all this commune with the dead – all this talk of Cherubim and spacetime. It’s madness!’

‘You should know,’ leers Jack.

‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’ rebuffs Sims.

‘You were committed as a child.’

‘I’ve had just about enough of you!’ bawls Sims, shaking his fist. Then to Blyth: ‘Sir, surely you can see he’s playing us. We should leave this instant.’

‘But he spoke to Yelena. How does he know Yelena?’

‘He’s obviously telepathic in some way. But that doesn’t mean he actually spoke to Yelena. The message could be counterfeit.’

‘A pertinent observation,’ remarks Jack. ‘Further down the corridor, there is man who believes he is Joseph Stalin; yet another who believes he is Pontius Pilate; and a woman who believes she is the Immaculate Conception. You would be a fool to heed a word they say. For my own part, I believe that the bulk of spiritual communications are the product of inhuman intelligences; mischievous spirits which aggregate around the medium, drawn from that particular astral plane which resonates with her mental development. But I can assure you, I am no such medium. I brought a genuine message from Yelena. Such psychic gymnastics are trivial for mediums like me. Not so for others; to dabble in the occult can be injurious to both mind and body, and insanity often follows in its wake. Yes, it was Yelena who spoke. But of course, you are free to believe whatever you like.’

‘It was her!’ insists Blyth. ‘I know it was. I feel her presence.’

‘So what?’ asks Sims. ‘That doesn’t mean everything Jack says is true. Forgive me for saying so sir, but I think your judgement is clouded by emotion. Bubbles of spacetime? It’s crazy!’

‘Is it Sims?’ asks Blyth. ‘How else do you explain that beard? You were only gone six hours.’

‘But sir, the idea that England has fallen into an abyss is lunacy, or at best, sensorial hallucination. We can’t believe a word he says!’

‘You don’t believe in karma?’ asks Jack. ‘What goes around comes around. This is Limbo, I tell you.’

‘Enough!’ snaps Sims. ‘Do you really believe that you have been divinely commissioned to purge our sins?’

‘Not I. The Sidhe. You cannot leave here. It is quite impossible. We must allow the intervening order of supernormal intelligences to guide us. Sunhill is surrounded by a higher order of spiritual manifestation. It penetrates these very stones. Three times have I passed through these walls, like a vaporous ghost. Abducto in secretum.’

Jack stands there, pathetic to behold, his diaper bulging between his spindly legs. Blyth studies him for a moment, then sighs with a heavy heart:

‘I fear you’re right Sims. It was a mistake to come here. I’m sorry to have troubled you Jack. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. And thank you for the message.’

‘You’re welcome. But you won’t get far. You’ll be straight back here in five minutes.’

‘Come on Sims, let’s get out of this godforsaken place.’

The two spies make for the door, but just as they reach the threshold, Jack blurts:

‘I know what happened on the moors. And I know where Sims has been.’

‘Shut it!’ seethes Sims, spinning on his heels. ‘You know nothing!’

‘Wait a minute,’ bids Blyth, holding up his hand. ‘I want to hear this. Let him speak. Go on Jack. Tell us. Where did Sims go?’

‘He went under the hills, into the rocks and earth. The abode of the Sidhe. He saw what no mortal should ever see. The dimensional totality of the creative order. It was a gift. A gift of the Sidhe.’

‘Don’t listen to him!’ stutters Sims. ‘He’s lying!’

But Jack just smiles and chides:

‘You’re in denial. It’s only natural. But I can read your mind. Part of you is still lost in that void of shapeless energy – an amorphous mass of conscious force. A phantasm. Something terrifying and eternal, beyond all human category. The childhood concept of God remains foremost in your mind. But this being is more substance than deity. Like an ectoplasmic cloud, it responds to your every thought, constantly shifting shape, attracted and repulsed by all your hopes and fears. And as you behold those monstrous forms, it seems that all human existence is a torture sent by God. But why would a god of love find pleasure tormenting humanity with so much suffering and Death? Only the insane have the answer. Insanity. What is it Sims? An error of judgement? An incorrect view of the world? You played a pretty good trick, didn’t you Sims? Escaping from Balinasloe Asylum all those years ago; hiding your true identity from MI5.’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ scowls Sims, ashamed. ‘You’re talking nonsense.’

‘Nonsense?’ retorts Jack. ‘How can it be nonsense? When all your life you’ve been shadowed by fearful dreams. Dreams of the Sidhe. After all, you’re the boy who met an elf on the road to Kilcolgan.’

‘Is that true Sims?’ gasps Blyth, astonished. ‘Was that really you?’

But Sims remains mute.

Jack goes to the window and peers vacantly through the bars, his mind lost in the snow which tumbles from the skies like angel confetti:

‘You know them. The Sidhe. I can always tell when someone knows the Sidhe. The extremities of your aura reveal some very distinct colours. And that burn on your face is unmistakable. You’ve been touched by the Light. You can feel it Sims – a tingling in your hands, like iron filings flexing round your fingertips: the magnetic flux of human, terrestrial and cosmic polarity… You saw them as a child: luminous points of light, darting about and settling on the heads of your schoolmates. Last moon I saw a great radiant orb encircle a dying man; a light so bright, it dimmed all other lights in the ward. He was a holy man; a saint you might say. Not that this world ever knew his name. They haunt the precinct from time to time. The Orbs.’

Blyth is no less bewildered than Sims, and the two men step back into the cell. Blyth puzzles for a moment, pinching his lip, his mind wresting with revelation. Then he asks Jack directly:

‘What are they? These Orbs? Aliens?’

‘Not aliens,’ replies Jack, gazing at the sky. ‘The Sidhe are descendents of a lost civilization that was destroyed in the younger Dryas. They have always been here. They dwell inside the Earth, and under the oceans, deep in submarine trenches. The Sidhe are interdimensional. But the Earth is their home. They are not so much extra-terrestrial as ultra-terrestrial. We’ve been sharing this planet with them since The Fall.’

‘The Fall?’ asks Blyth.

‘The Sidhe planned the union between the angels and the daughters of Adam; but this alliance with mankind angered God, who sent the Flood to cleanse the earth of their abominations. Before the avenging waters destroyed that antediluvian race, the earth was full of Cyclopean wonders and Death had no dominion. The Sidhe dwelt openly amongst mankind, imparting their knowledge through supernatural communications. But after the deluge, the seed of Man was poisoned by corruption; and Methuselah himself lived but a short and fleeting life. Yet the Sidhe live on amongst us still, keeping the balance of Nature. Most of the human race is completely unaware of their existence. And those that know would rather deny it. Except lunatics, of course.’

Blyth ponders the matter then asks in earnest:

‘But Jack, how do you know all this?’

‘We go back centuries, the Sidhe and me. This is all their doing: me being trapped in this body, and you coming to Sunhill. We are puppets of the Sidhe. Our characters, determinations, and impulses have all been programmed in advance.’

‘That’s a very dark fatalism,’ broods Sims. ‘And I don’t believe the human will can be obliterated by determinism. I’m a free agent. I can turn around, walk out that door, and never return.’

‘Beyond the gates is only Death,’ replies Jack. ‘The Ether is collapsing all around us. It has been engineered by the Sidhe: an exchange of energy between matter and anti-matter. An exponential negating force. The Weepons, whose vibrations create this world, are being snuffed out, one by one. The Sidhe require a clean slate. The neurons that model our world are being destroyed… How many fingers am I holding up?’

‘Three,’ replies Sims.

‘Correct. But post ECT, I can never tell. The discrepancy between a memory image and its original perception get broken down. A confusional period where verbal responses to concrete pictures become ambiguous, senseless. The Freudian demagogues have united to persecute all witches. ECT profanes the sacred, violates conscience, and blasphemes God. All your life you been abducted by the Sidhe. But you cannot remember what they did. There are whole worlds you have forgotten; people and places you cannot remember. Turn around and walk out that door if you want to. But there will come a time – maybe today, maybe tomorrow, may be next week, when you won’t know if I’m holding up one finger or five. And you will realise that the beginning and end of all things are merged into one. Believe me Sims, the ruins of the world lie strewn around the precinct. A womb of darkness grows in the East. A terrible, unnamable darkness.’

‘Classic delusional psychosis,’ mutters Sims.

‘No,’ retorts Jack. ‘Your model of inflationary cosmology is incorrect. The vacuum state constitutes an underlying energy matrix that exists outside spacetime. And the Sidhe are using it to bring forth The Great Dissolution. After which this world will only exist in a potential state.’

‘But if that’s true, what do they want?’ asks Blyth with a shrug.

‘That’s a very good question,’ sneers Sims. ‘Perhaps the oracle can tell us.’

‘They want to erase The New World,’ replies Jack.

‘But why?’ asks Blyth.

‘Our technology threatens their existence. The New World no longer corresponds to God’s eternal thought or Word. Nor does it express his original idea, his End. This is a heathen world of unbelievers. Our salvation lies in the past. We have things to put right. That’s why we must return to The Old World.’

‘And just how do you propose we do that?’ asks Blyth.

‘We must build TERGA.’

‘You mean, build it here? Now?’ asks Sims.

‘That’s what you came for, isn’t it? Why else did you bring the magnetron? I know you think I’m mad. And your attempts to humour me have been most commendable. But TERGA has powers beyond your wildest dreams. As for the Sidhe, I have told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You might not believe my moonstruck tale, but The Great Dissolution is a demonstrable fact. TERGA will prove it. Either way, make up your mind. The pantomime is almost over. The staff are due back any moment.’

Sims seems to hover on a precipice, unsure which way to turn. There were threads here. Threads and connections, running through his life like a spider’s web. And they all led to Jack Vallis.

‘Will you do it Sims?’ asks Blyth. ‘Will you stay and build TERGA?

Contrite, Sims bows his head and says:

‘I must confess, Jack knows all about my life: the elf on the road to Kilcolgan, and my time in Balinasloe. The truth of the matter, is that I owe him an apology. Although I remember little of that hell-hole, the authorities on mental disorders regarded my claims as a most dangerous symptom: the precursor to schizophrenic insanity. The worst part was, I slowly began to believe them. Madness, you see, runs in the family. I blotted it out for years. Things like that aren’t real, I told myself. But after what happened on Wolf Fell, I know that anything is possible. Anything… And now my curiosity has got the better of me. Yes, I’ll stay. Let’s build TERGA together. Who knows, I might even learn a thing or two…’

‘That’s the spirit, Sims!’ beams Blyth.

The distant mirth of pantomime echoes down the corridor, followed by cries of: “Oh yes she is!” and “Oh no she isn’t!”

‘We haven’t got much time,’ warns Jill. ‘We must go to the basement. Now. We’ve got thirty minutes before the final act. Thirty minutes to open the gate…’

i. ‘Penetration – The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy’, Ingo Swann.

ii. Sophocles. Antogone.

iii. Plautus. Mercator, ii.

iv. ‘RULES FOR BABYTIME’. These rules are not my own but were shamelessly lifted from an obscure ABDL website that I found whilst exploring the rabbit hole. I modified them slightly to suit my purposes.

v. ‘Good Night’ Stanza 2. Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855).

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2022. All rights reserved. First published on WordPress 7 July 2022; republished 12 July 2022; then again on 15 July 2022.

Image credit: ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ By Henry Fuseli RA (Detail). Engraved by J. P. Simon.