Pyrexia by Michel MéryPyrexia graphic


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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
     "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
     "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
     "...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
     "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
     "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
     "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
     "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
     "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
     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!