Sorry, Sold Out
Free Sample Chapter:
1 FEVER She looked at him with her bulbous violet eyes, immobile, standing on her right tiptoes, her left leg tugged up so that the kneecap brushed her right nipple. She held a flaming sword in her right hand, and tongues of fire erupted from beneath her long, onyx black left hand fingernails. Her oval, greenish face was surmounted by a pagoda-like hairdo that nearly doubled her height. The hair was as black as hair can be. Glowing rings in upwardly diminishing size seemed to float at regular intervals around the spike formed by the towering capillary monument, heedless to the force of gravity. From underneath her raised left shank, he could see her juices running on her inner right thigh. The flow was bubbling and popping like freshly spewed lava. She raised her right leg _ on which she'd seemed so far to be standing _ so that her right toenails reached to the tip of her outstretched arm plus sword. But she didn't fall. She floated there as unaware of the force of gravity as her towering spike of hair. To beckon to her, he stretched out his hand. It, too, had this greenish hue to it. She pivoted in a slow counterclockwise motion so that she still faced him, but with her legs where her head had been, one of which was folded down to her breast and the other stretched out, slightly sideways. The resulting change in perspective allowed him to better peek into her gaping vulva and lock his gaze on her pulsing clit. There was fire within. Hot blue raging fire. Soon, he knew, he would have to smother this fire. He spun around, dove onto her face first, grabbed her buttocks, and gulped at the hot blue pyrexia while she shoved his huge member deep into her ravenous, ebullient throat. At that point, she managed to produce a clattering thunder. He almost didn't hear the strident beeping in his head. ... "Jesus Fuck!" Abelard screamed as he had heard himself scream during so many of those out of time-line experiences. He angrily pulled up the helmet from his head, tearing off from his bare, ovoid cranium the delicate tendrils that had, for the last few minutes, connected his own nervous system to some random catalyst's in the Global Un-Manifested. "I'm gonna bust that fucking alarm, and for good this time. I can't bear it anymore. You hear that, Kahani? I promise I'll do it for good this time!" "You know you can't do that," Kahani breathed shyly from behind their Global Un-Manifested _ or GUM _ station. "The alarm is there for your own safety, not to bother you. The last time you tried that, they found you because you hadn't punched any new Provisionally Probable Pathname for a whole day. Remember? They were up your ass in a minute with a spare card and you were in for a fine plus a night emergency installation fee. Don't be stupid. Next time, you'll try to pick up where you left off today." "Don't be stupid yourself. You know I don't stand a chance in a billion to succeed!" Abelard howled, jerking himself out of the station reclining chair and throwing his arms this way and that in the most improbable choreography. "It's not called a Provisionally Probable Pathname for nothing. You can't attribute precise coordinates to something within chaos, or, for that matter, to any definite sequence of events within their indefinite wave of existential probabilities! Can you do that, jerk?" "I don't know. You probably already explained it to me, but there must be something I'm still missing here," Kahani said in the exact words Abelard would have had her use had she been the opportunistically reader-friendly, dumbhead character of a science-fiction novel of which he would have been writing the introductory dialogue. "But don't trash me. You know I'm not very technical." He spun and tore away like a squad car in Miami Vice: "We're not talking technical here. We're talking conceptual. But as always, you're confusing the two. Can't one ponder successfully, say, the nature of electricity, and not be asked to fix the vacuum cleaner? Give me a break. Okay, I'll explain to you again: the overall, uncertain nature of the universe prevents any precise targeting of the viewpoint within the global probability of the viewer's manifestation. In other words, the catalyst through whose senses you are going to witness a trans-GUM, alternate sequence of events is as unforeseeable as the point in time a pendulum will start to move backwards, or something like that. Not to mention that if I ever stumbled, by the slightest chance, on the very same catalyst, the guy could be now filling out his tax forms or watching L.A. Law. All alternate strains of events are provisionally probable all right, but some appear to be less so than others." "Why?" Kahani risked at this point to give him a chance, eventually, to coast by lack of fuel. "Why? But simply because people like you just don't go to these incomprehensible worlds!" he wheezed at the top of his voice. "The average GUM station potato shies away from them. It's like they'd rather go surfing the GUM wave only to retrieve stupid GUM station-equipped alternate realities! Result, all readily improbable path names are still totally random. No signposts whatsoever. And I am adventurous, don't you know that already? I don't go anywhere where you all tread like sheep! I like roughing it." Ignoring for the time being Abelard's snide comments, Kahani looked down to the monitor screen of the GUM station and, mechanically, tried to mentally make sense of the Provisionally Probable Pathname it still displayed. She frowned, looking totally confused. "But where the heck did you go this time?" she asked, looking back at Abelard. "I can't even locate it within the local GUM hyper-bubble. Is it beyond the safe zone?" "Of course it is!" Abelard snapped, waving her away from over the GUM monitor, hurrying to click off the still displayed PPP. "So what? There at least, chances are you're not going to tread on the like of a Big Whopper's styrofoam container, if you see what I mean. Just look at what they always end up doing anyway on the remotest trails of the last wilderness patches on those alternate Earths you and the likes of you seem to like so much. "...Yeah," he went on pounding on her after a short pause during which Kahani started to blur away into demeaned undistinguishedness, "If there were just people like you, we'd still be reduced to fishing for catalysts in the same old GUM neighborhood, over and over again, fearful of not getting enough of our own selves in hardly different, slightly better or worse scenarios of our own existence! And that, when all enticing probabilities of the universe exist within the GUM wave, waiting to be explored! Come on, you know I'll never travel through the Global Un-Manifested like they go to the Club Med and eat their baked ziti in air-conditioned lounges, securely away from the stench and squalor of the nearby native villages." "But where did you go this time?" Kahani insisted timidly, looking askance at him, and pretending she just hadn't noticed his hurry to shut off the monitor screen display. "How the hell should I know?" he asked in turn, inserting once again an expletive he had used or heard in the GUM. "I wish you'd at least understand that and not ask me. All probabilities of the particle exist within the particle's wave function; didn't you learn that in Kinderquantum physics? But measure its momentum, and you'll never know where it's hiding. And vice-versa. The same goes within the GUM wave. I was too carried away by observing the momentum of the action to bother about the environment. And my catalyst wasn't in a position to give too much thought as to his whereabouts either. All I can say is that he didn't look like he was quite human. Quite a freak when I think of it." Abelard turned slowly around to avoid Kahani's quizzical gaze, and, rubbing nervously his skull with both his hands, went to the giant bay window. Leaning a little too nonchalantly on the pane, he pretended he was suddenly absorbed by this part of the nocturnal marscape, the titanic canyon of Valles Marineris. Sure, the sight was something. From here, right behind the translucent wall of their suspended cliff city, Abelard-Kahani had a ringside seat. The whole horizon appeared almost entirely as a gigantic breach into which the stars seemed to fall slowly as the planet rotated, until, one by one, or cluster after cluster, they became obliterated by the crisp contour of the pitch dark tellurium. "You know," he said to Kahani on a much softer tone to make a diversion, "I've always wondered if this colony will ever wind up crushed between the jaws of this huge mineral vise." "It has already been crushed a zillion times," Kahani said, from right behind him, putting gently her latent hand on his shoulder, "In some other probable time-lines where the tectonic history of Mars is slightly different. You should know that, too. But since we're right here and right now to ponder where and when, who can tell?" "Yeah... Except if we tried to experience the big crush through the senses of some doomed, but present GUM catalyst." "Good idea! Why don't you try that since you're so adventurous? But maybe that's much too close a zone of the GUM to explore for your taste. Too much right around the corner, huh?" Kahani ironized. "Don't be stupid again. I could spend my whole life in that chair and never have a chance to zero in on any one of my own alternate selves who will happen to be there _ and looking _ right at the moment it happens." "Why should it be one of your own selves?" she asked, again as the opportunistically reader- friendly fictional character. "Because you can't catalyze anybody other than yourself as long as an alternate you exists in a given time-line. Matter of simple causality. Reason why you could never kill your own grandgenie before you were born. Because, conversely, you can't visit as you a time line before you exist in it. So much for the grandfather paradox. And you know I hate having to go through that kind of self- catalyzing shit anyway. I'm not interested in living parallel sequences of my own existence. Especially if I end up dying during the opus." "Come on, Abelard. There must still be plenty of alternate time-lines where a quite similar human world exists without us," she reasoned, quite opportunistically. "What about one where our own genitor, quite simply, has never been able to come about to become a parent? Look at us," she risked, sighing sadly, thinking bitterly at that moment about Abelard's refusal to have an offie. "Then, you could very well tap a stranger and see the apocalyptic show without the risk of a traumatic post trip experience." "Still ... Even in very close time-lines, the odds are almost nil you'll ever hit the jackpot," he argued, somewhat disconcerted by Kahani's demonstration. "Not to mention your missing more exotic experiences all the while. I'm not game for it. You know me. Why don't you try it, huh? Have a ball!" They both remained silent for a while, looking pensively at the view. The cliffs of the giant canyon, punctuated by the luminescent halos of the domes of the suspended neighboring cities, reminded them of the dark façades along those streets with their globular lamp posts they had seen time and again in the GUM. But this was a planet-size street, and each of the "bulbs" they saw was a swarming nest of humans overlooking, from an altitude of several miles, the bottom of the Valles. "Now, why don't you want to tell me more about what you experienced tonight?" Kahani asked again, really interested for her own sake this time. "Yesterday, you were so leery afterwards, describing in minute details your hours as a more or less evolved dinosaur, even though you had just spent those hours in contemplation of the movement of the sun rays on the surface of a tar swamp... without even turning your head sideways just once!" "Kahani," Abelard said softly this time, "why are you prying on me like that since you know? Don't you know as much as I do?" "My part of the conversing game is to forget I don't. And I actually don't since I play it fair. Don't screw up." Abelard closed his eyes, his face still turned toward the window. He felt the sudden chill in his spine, just like each time he had to be reminded of what Kahani was, be it through his own Kahani-pitched voice. When he turned around to look back at her, she was no longer with him in the room. He sure had screwed up. Scared of staying alone, he went back, shuddering, to the GUM station. ... She yawned and stretched one more time, and, jerking both her feet to toss the two worn-out blankets away, she sprang out of bed. The air in the room was stale with cold cigarette smoke, damp and cold. Shivering, she went to the cold water sink, right at the foot of the bed, and briskly splashed her face at the faucet, then dried it quickly with a portion of one of the blankets. It seemed to her that she had not slept the whole night, but she must have somehow, she thought, otherwise she wouldn't be feeling so numb. She grabbed her jeans off the back of the chair, jumped into them, then she put on her two sweaters, then her high-heel boots. Paying no heed to her disheveled hair, she tugged her woolen cap over her head, put on her scarf and leather jacket, grabbed the backpack, and, without one more glance at the room, she walked out. She went down two flights of creaky wooden stairs and exited the dingy hôtel Renaissance onto the sidewalk of the rue Riquet. It was drizzling. They talked about it at the café. She gulped down three croissants, sipping at her coffee, wishing she hadn't heard them. The tall fat one at the bar was the most adamant. "I would hang them by the balls," he said. "No two ways about it." She shrugged and laughed nervously. She remembered. Two days before, on Sunday, at two o'clock in the afternoon, they had managed to blow up the TV broadcasting antenna along with the whole top floor of the Eiffel Tower. Right when the big weekly soccer game was about to begin. Lyon vs. Rennes. She wished she'd been there. She tossed the money for her check on the table and got out of the café. From there, she didn't know where to go. What to do either. She had two days to kill before flying back to New York, and she didn't feel like calling any of her old Parisian friends to tell them that she was in town and drop by just to realize too soon that she didn't have much to say to them. Too many years had passed, and Paris had become too bleak. Or maybe that was her, she thought. Or maybe simply the weather, something in the seeming indecisiveness of the day. It was nearly eleven o'clock and all the stores she walked by were still lit. Wait. Of course they must be lit. Stores always have their lights on. They all do, even in New York. Thing is, you just don't notice it from outside. Not so blatant. By the way, no, really, do stores usually keep their lights on all day? Funny. Such a simple detail to have observed in nearly forty years of walking by hundreds of stores everyday, and not be able right now to decide, or remember. Puzzling. Of course, when she thought about it, she could give herself all the logical, assumptive answers. Stores keep their lights on because the majority of them don't have windows, because you wouldn't see anything in the back, because it would make pilfering so easy... But what would people's reaction be if she asked? Except for storekeepers, would they know? I bet most of them would first ask me why I ask this question to gain time to think about it, she mused. Well, she was going to check on that from now on. And she would at least be able to give a straight answer to anybody who'd ask her. If ever. Because they all probably know already. Otherwise, how could they be able to write novels? It scared her. She must have cringed when she heard the strident beeping in her head. ... But no... It was supposed to only happen in his head, Abelard recalled as he came out of the GUM trance. This time, he did not resent the alarm. The hell if he was going to spend more time drifting through the streets of one more Paris in the rain, in the skin of a seemingly screwed up female bum who couldn't even think for one minute of something going on in her life more significant than the shops being lit or not in full daylight. Now, he was feeling the chill of the dank hotel room, and the damp Parisian air in his own bones. He sat up, keeping the helmet on his head this time, and, mechanically, started to click at random another set of provisionally probable coordinates. The trick was to avoid those huge and rather close-by clusters of scenaric knots which, like black holes, were ready to swallow you up on the way, wherever you tried to go, since such a lot of coordinates of the GUM converged to _ and diverged from _ them. "It doesn't matter, people are not very inventive," he grumbled to himself as he clicked a set of coordinates that, he expected, would this time make his day. They must have been flocking in droves to these alternate trendy spots like Paris or New York, and the result was that the easily accessible GUM hyper bubble was cluttered with totally un-exotic junk. You found yourself there in one out of every five GUM trips, and along an extremely wide band of alternate probabilities of their being on the map. A couple of trips ago, he had already found himself in one of those "Parises", in the Weltanschauung of an old concierge at the Kommandantur of the Rue de Rivoli. He remembered he was resenting the fact that he had been sitting there for almost forty years, since not too many years after the end of a certain "World War Two." He had to salute every single damn grey uniform who goose-stepped by. Yuk.. At least, today, if he had zeroed in on the Eiffel Tower bomber himself, he could have learned something interesting about the life of an activist! And he hated being a woman, anyway. He should be glad that this one wasn't at that point sucking her flabby, hairy, rancid-smelling "husband" or other, like in too many other trans-GUM occasions. "Kahani!" he yelled. Kahani showed up, right where he thought she would, by the GUM console, but he shrank immediately back into his GUM reclining chair. His anima had lost her wiry and blue-white smooth- skin appearance. She had lost her dark, deep, slanted eyes and minuscule mouth. She had lost everything he himself had, and, instead, stood there as a hardly six-feet tall, pudgy, hairy woman such as he'd often had to encounter in the course of his GUM exploration trips. "What do you think you yourself are?" she said in a husky voice which reminded him of the voice he herself had used during a recent GUM session to talk to the sort of husband he was thinking of. "You know you don't have the right to despise anyone since they're all finally just so many aspects of you! And don't despise me by the same token! You'd better call it a day and take some sleep," she carried on, more composed, as she resumed her usual shape. "It's also a damned good way of exploring the Global Un-Manifested. And you can set the alarm on snooze for a while." And the shape-re-shifted Kahani popped out of the scene. It was true they could do that to each other, too. Disgusted with himself and all his deprecatory feelings, he decided she was right, at least, in that he should retire into the narcorium. * * * "I'm a coward," said the very old man with a strong German accent. "I was never there when somebody died. I always managed to not be there. Ich fliehe, aber wie ein Löwe. In fact, I never saw anybody die, including my own wife. I'm rather sure that's why I lived to be that old." The others were listening. It seemed that it was all they did when the "professor" was there, as they called him. He always seemed to know what they were going to say if they ever tried to place a word. So, they let him say everything that ever was to be said to his liking. He went on: "Come on, music NOW. Musik oder ich kak' im Saal." For he was so charming in his own ways. He fished for his harmonica in one of his numerous bulging and ink-stained pockets. Then Jerry took out his flute, for he knew they had to play in duo one of the professor's favorite tunes: "Muss-I-denn," "Good Night, Irene," or again "On the Top of Old Smokey." Behind the old man now playing his harmonica, behind the bench on which he was seated with Jerry "The Greek" and the "humper," as he called them, there was a tree, and on the trunk of the tree, there was a likeness of a human face, at least as human-looking as the one that reportedly appears on a Martian desert. Random coincidence of knots and cut branches. Maybe. As random as the rocky terrain relief on Mars, at the least. A young girl strolled by and stopped, probably amused by the trio. She had very black hair, an olive skin, a ring in her left eyebrow and wore violet lipstick. She smiled at them. Her hair, her skin and her eye-ring reflected the orange light of the setting sun. The "humper" and Jerry "the Greek" ogled her while the very old man continued playing, oblivious to the world around him, until he realized his companions' momentary lack of attention and motioned nervously to them to resume their attention to him. That's all he ever wanted: attention. Permanent attention. Maybe that's also why he had lived so long. The old man and his two companions, together with the bench and the tree with the face on it were all facing the lake in Kissena Park, Flushing, New York. The face of the young girl who was facing them, after a while, became un-lit, the sun having slumped behind the hillocks of the park. The old man was still playing, eyes closed, heedless to the chilling dusk. He probably saw the flash from behind his closed eyelids, for he opened his eyes again and saw the face of the young girl at least as lit as he had seen it last if only he had remembered having seen her in the first place. In fact, her face was now as white as an overexposed flash photograph. Blinding with light. As for her smile... It seemed that she was about to laugh, definitely. Then the rumbling noise came. And the old man went on playing. ... He looked at the screen and the last lines he had just written and pouted, pushing the keyboard away. No, he could not blow up the whole Manhattan. Too big. And too murderous. And also too many repercussions to at least hint at afterwards, if not end up writing another speculative saga of a post-blast world. Maybe he could circumscribe the damage, blow up a single building, like the Stock Exchange _ or two, like the World Trade Center. Yeah... in that case, it couldn't be an atomic blast. And should it be not an atomic blast, those guys couldn't be so far out and see the explosion. Unless he placed the bunch much closer, like, say, at the top of Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Kissena Park was way too far. And even so... A plain TNT blast _ or whatever conventional explosive _ wouldn't produce enough light to make that girl's face glow. Let alone have the old man see it through his closed, averted eyes. What about the UN building? In that case, he could place them right there, along the East River, on the Manhattan side. Yeah... but then what about the tree with this human face in the bark? There was no tree around the UN building. And he'd really seen that one tree in Kissena Park. And the old man actually lived near Kissena Park, and part of his character depiction was that this old chap had not come to Manhattan in decades, after his long gone years in a cold water flat in the post-war Greenwich Village. Instead, he let everybody come to him in such a flat and bleak quasi-suburban neighborhood! And there, he dug his fingers into their brains. On the other hand, he could make the explosion happen much closer, like right in Queens. He'd thought of that, too. First of all, he hated Queens, with all its hassled, grotesque denizens, all those ugly amoebas he saw on the train #7 when he went to the old man's house. In fact, he mused, those huddled asses were those who had altogether stopped thinking in the first place! They were the ones to go on shopping sprees for stale groceries and low-fat cardboard-tasting TV dinners at A & P or Genovese, or put up flags on their porch, or wrap their house in an electrical grid around Shitmas time, not to mention the yellow ribbons after the Gulf War. Now, what was significant to blow up in Queens, and west of Kissena Park? No, not a bingo parlor. Not a supermarket either. Too mean. Blow up a bunch of harried housewives and nannies?.. The problem with these hassled asses is that you don't want to harm them any more than any sane soul would like to hurt a dog, or a stupid quadruped ass for that matter. So? Yeah... short of a comet hit, nothing would be as spectacular as an non-discriminatory atomic blast anyway. Nothing else would fit better here. He pressed F12, blocked out the few paragraphs, pressed F10, and stored them under c:/novel/epilogue. ... And Samir heard the beep of the alarm. The vision blurred and was followed by the disappearance, around him, of the room his catalyst had been sitting in for hours at his computer, wracking his brain to come up with something that he could at least consider a passage of a novel and not just a piece of another pessimistic, anti-social pamphlet. At least, a lot of thoughts had crossed the brain of this catalyst during all this time, and Samir had been able to learn a lot about the guy's reality tunnel. The guy was, so to say, in a sort of omniscient position with regard to the world he was "wearing," which was always more gratifying than having to sit there, until the alarm rang, in the skin of a catalyst who watches a game on TV, or balances his bank account, not even bothering to open a newspaper or talk to his wife about the current events. The ideal, of course, was to stumble on a catalyst who was him/herself in a position of global information reception, but that happened so rarely! Lucky Abelard, Samir recalled, who once "was" the president of the United States sitting at a press conference! The same day, he, Samir, had been pushing a supermarket cart packed with filthy rags along Fifth Avenue, in New York again, thinking about nothing other than how cold, famished and miserable he felt. He had not been able to get rid of the idea of the stench in his nostrils for hours after that!