JURASSIC HORDE WHISPERER

 OF MADNESS COUNTY

 

 

Copyright 1998, ISBN 0-9644835-2-1

 by Titus “RocketSlinger” Stauffer

(Above is the ISBN of the original hardcopy edition; this soft copy has no ISBN)
ARTWORK

            Drawings (cover and all interior illustrations) by Ken Michaelsen, McCloud, CA  96057.  Title of cover artwork is “The Four Hordesmen of Rampant Inappropriateness.”

 

DISCLAIMER

            All the individuals, organisms, organizations, and other entities in this work are fictitious.  Although the world that I desire to live in is also still fictitious, I would like to convey that in this better world, all lawyers would find themselves something honest and productive to do.  They wouldn’t bother and parasitize those who harm no one.  They wouldn’t, for example... oh, let’s just say, for a totally randomly selected example, they wouldn’t bother to harass innocent writers who exercise their First Amendment free-speech rights, but in so doing, happen to hurt the baby feelings of sensitive individuals, organisms, organizations, and other entities.

            What I’m trying to say is, all you lawyers go away, and leave me alone.  In the Name of the First Amendment, Censorship Demons, I command you, be gone!  You are not welcome here.  Not that I would ever mean to imply that any lawyer is evil, or a demon¾that might be slander, and God knows I mean to slander no one!  So please notice, all you libel lawyers out there, I DO NOT pick on, or slander, any specific non-fictitious organisms or entities.  I don’t, for example, say that specific Scientologist-lawyers like Steven L. Hayes and Earle Cooley are sleazy, no-account scum buckets, for example.  If by any chance any of my fictitious names belong to real organisms and entities, then I apologize; I wrote this book while unaware of any such pure coincidences.  If there’s a real Church of Omnology, a real Aileron Hubba-Hubba, or a real Ale Run Hubba-Bubba out there, or a Hillary-Bob or a Billary-Bob, etc., I say to you, I wasn’t talking about you, I was talking about a fictitious organism or entity that just happened to have the same name as you.

            I say again, this work of fiction is... fiction.  In those places where I cite references, such as in footnotes and in chapter-introductory quotes, for example, I do deal in facts.  Let me just go one step further, though, in expressing my apologies to anyone who might misunderstand: If it does exist, then I don’t even mean to slander the sincere believers in this (to me as of now, at least) hypothetical Church of Omnology.  If you’re befestered by clusters of scamgrams descending from the Evil Galactic Emperor Zebu of 75 million years ago, and you’d like to have these befestering scamgrams fleeced away from you, and you have a lot of spare time and money, then by all means, the fellowship of the sincere worshippers of the Church of Omnology just might be your best bet.  I’m all for religious freedom, and against libel, slander, and all other forms of chaos and badness.  If Omnology sets you free from your scamgrams, then I certainly don’t mean to tinkle in your Wheaties.


 

 

DEDICATION

            This book is dedicated to the hope that more of us will come to realize that it’s far better to laugh at the Horde Whisperer than it is to listen to him.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

            Special thanks to Mary Stauffer, Carolyn Weatherly, and Alan Mills for proof-reading this book, and to Capt. Gary L. Percival and the office of Dr. Phillip Zimbardo at Stanford, in chasing down information about Zimbardo’s prison psychology experiment (see Chapter 17 endnotes).  Special thanks also to Ken Michaelsen for the awesome illustrations!


 

 

1) The Horde is Bored

            “We are not amused.”  Queen Victoria  (1819-1901)

 

            In the waning, whining, weenie days of the late twentieth century, it came to pass that the Horde became bored.  So they went down to Panderwood, which was the source, in those days, of copious quantities of thrilling amusements.  The Horde had high hopes that Panderwood might snap them out of their latest funk.  Something new, that’s all that they were looking for.  Something shocking, but not too much so.  Something that wouldn’t insult their intelligence, either, although there wasn’t much danger of that.

            Steve Spudburger came out to meet the Horde, saying, “Well, how about a show in which you can learn all about the deep scientific implications of The Chaos Theory, at the same time as you can watch dinosaurs eating lawyers.  Not your lawyers; we all know they’re the good guys.  I mean, the other guys’ lawyers.”

            The Horde paused for just a moment, and then grumbled, “Nah.  Been there, done that.”

            Rupert Rotifer gave it a shot.  “Hey, whaddaya say we do a show about this dude, man, he’s got, like, mystical powers.  Special, mystical powers, over, like, high-strung, bodacious corporate executive babes, and high-strung horses, like, ya know?”

            The Horde shouted, “We’re Bored!”

            Frank Lee Deceasedwood got up and said, “I’ve got it!  I have just the thing for what ails you.  A little romance.  Not with your wives, now, for heaven’s sake!  A little fling, with the other guy’s wife.  Just the thing to chase the blues away.  All you guys out there, couldn’t you relate to a guy, he looks like an old geezer, but he’s not.  He’s something very special.  He’s a Lone Wolf Stud muffin, and he makes love like a panther.  And all you gals- aren’t you waiting to be swept off of your feet, and carried away to nights of wild passion?”

            The Horde was pissed.  “We want something NEW!!!,” they protested.  There was silence in Panderwood, but outside the gates, there were ominous mutterings.

 

            Finally, Titus Maximus Stupidness got up to save the day.  “Hear me out,” he pleaded.  “How about a tale of dinosaurs, lawyers, chaos¾lots of chaos¾a man with mystical powers over Hordes like yourselves¾now, strictly just to amuse you, of course¾AND nights of wild romance?”

The Horde paused.  “Well, maybe,” they mumbled.  “Just this once.  But it had better be good!”

 

 

 Illustration goes here above…  Crowd scene at Panderwood

 

 

2) The Jurassic Horde Whisperer

            “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”  Voltaire  (1694–1778)

 

            The Triassic Period, from 230 to 195 million years ago, was a time of rampant insensitivity.  Many, many creatures ran amuck, chasing one another, not only sexually harassing one another, but even trying (steel yourself, now!) to eat one another!  Some of them even succeeded, on occasion.  Most of them didn’t even realize that they were being quite disgusting and barbaric.  None of them, not a one, restricted herself or himself to macrobiotic diets.

            Very few paleontologists have been able to overcome their anthropocentrism sufficiently to admit this, but humanity is by no means the first species to strive for sensitivity towards all life-forms.  Most of them are too embarrassed, on behalf of morally and ethically stunted human beings like themselves, to speak the truth freely.  Towards the tail end of the Triassic, and especially at the beginning of the Jurassic (195 to 140 million years ago), dinosaurs reached outwards and upwards, lifting themselves to higher and higher planes of self-awareness, self-actualization, and sensitivity.  In these endeavors, though it took them many millions of years, they eventually exceeded the accomplishments of human beings.  We can only hope that someday, we might be walking in their footsteps.

            So their tales must be told.  The truth, in all its glory, must be set free.  The tale of the dinosaurs is largely the tale of its struggle with the Horde Whisperer.  You know, the Horde Whisperer, the one that whispers to the horde.  A disembodied spirit, flitting, twisting, and slithering hither and yon, across the space-time continuum, putting thoughts into the minds of the multitudes, be they humans, dinosaurs, or dinoflagellates.

            Now there are those who say that the Horde Whisperer isn’t very nice.  That he isn’t self-actualized, that he has low self-esteem, and worse.  Well, OK, we may speak freely.  They say, sometimes, even, that he is the Insensitive One.  The Inappropriate One.  You know, inappropriateness phantasmagoric¾the Supreme Ruler of Heck and Gol Darnedness, the Prince of Sub-Standard Lighting.  That he rode a tank in the general’s rank when the Blitzkrieg raged.

            But one must be sensitive, even towards alleged insensitivity.  One must have sympathy for the Horde Whisperer, and understand his perspective.  There are two sides to every story.  Paying heed to the one, and not to the other, must most certainly rank among the grossest of injustices.

            It seems that the Horde Whisperer simply likes to say to all of us, that which we want to hear.  He likes to say unto others as they would like to be said unto.  And as the Horde Whisperer says, this isn’t so very far removed from doing unto others, as we would like for them to do unto us.  Ethical is ethical, so don’t let the sophists muddy the waters.

            So he says to us, it’s not our fault, it’s their fault.  The oil companies, the tobacco companies, beer advertisers, and all those other drug pushers.  Not our fault.  No Sir!  Not those who drive cars or smoke cigarettes, or light up a joint now and then.  Nor even those of us who support the witch-hunt hysteria that prompts school administrators to expel little girls for smuggling Advil into classrooms.  If he told us we were to blame, whenever reality is less than perfect, that would make us feel bad.

            Bad feelings are bad.  Negative feelings, low self-esteem and such-like things, they’re all very negative.  And negatives can only generate negatives.  Nothing big ever came from being small, nothing good ever came from bad.  Especially bad, is, like, thinking of oneself as being bad.  Chaos is badness, reality is whatever we define it to be, and all we have to do is to think positive thoughts.  Everything is just a highly subjective social convention, so we need to work harder on adjusting our definitions of reality, and reaching for those positive thoughts, especially about ourselves.  How can we work towards the good if we don’t define ourselves as good?  Self-doubt is negative, and negatives are bad.  So never doubt yourself.  You are pure and innocent.  If something is bad, it’s not your fault, it’s their fault.

            The Horde Whisperer never bothered to visit the Earth until the dinosaurs had started to make small gains towards crawling out of the slime, towards sensitivity.  Only Sensitive Ones can hear the Whisperings of the Horde Whisperer, after all.  Especially that Whisper about us being far more Sensitive than the Average Guy, who is a stupid and miserly lout.  So it was early in the Jurassic era, then, that the tale of the Jurassic Horde Whisperer began.

            Tom Edisonosaurus was working on his latest invention.  In keeping with dinosaur society’s latest push towards getting all dinosaurs, carnosaurs included, to eat only vegetable matter, Tom was working on methods of getting farm produce and processed goods to market faster.  After all, how can one expect the likes of Allosaurus to refrain from dining on his fellowsaurs, if one can’t get sufficient quantities of bean sprouts, celery, and tofu to him, before it all spoils?  So developing reliable bulk transportation was of the utmost importance, and Tom was devoted to uplifting dinosaur society.

            Tom’s last cart had worked just fine, but it hadn’t lasted long.  The edges of those new-fangled wooden “wheelybobs” he’d invented¾he was considering shortening their name to just “wheels”¾had splintered and disintegrated after the cart had carried a heavy load of brussel sprouts for just a few miles.  So there was Tom, pounding durable stones into the edges of his wheelybobs, forming custom-shaped indentations, then lifting the stones back out, and finally, gluing them back in, using tree resins.  It was all very painstaking work, especially since he had to avoid wasting any of his precious resins.  He’d been very careful in gathering those resins, so as not to hurt any trees.  He planned on fending off any environmentalist protest concerning his carts with bumper stickers saying “No living trees were damaged in the manufacture of this cart.”  And Tom was an honest dinosaur; he never even thought about lying, or cutting corners.

            Just as he was applying the resin to the last stone of the last wheelybob, Tom heard some rustling behind him.  Now the carnosaurs of the day had indeed been cutting way back in their bad habits¾their blood cholesterol was even averaging below 200 in those days¾but old habits died hard.  Tom turned around and breathed a sigh of relief.  They were small, spindly dinosaurs of such slight build as to provide no hazards to a medium-sized dinosaur such as himself.  But wait¾what was that?  Weren’t those suits and ties that they were wearing?  And weren’t they hefting large briefcases?  The fear crept back into Tom’s two-chambered reptilian heart, his cold blood flowing even colder, as recognition sunk into his reptilian neurons¾that was a small roving band of Lawyersaurus!

            Oh, calm down, Tom told himself.  He’d done no wrong; surely he had nothing to fear.  In fact, his cause was a noble one:  He was uplifting dinosaur society by enabling them all to move towards a sustainable vegetarian diet.  He straightened out his hunched back as he lifted himself up from his work and greeted the pack of Lawyersaurus with good cheer,  “Good morning, Comrades!  And how are you this fine morning?!”

            The five Lawyersaurs just daintily tip-toed through Tom’s outdoor work area, carefully, even suspiciously, eyeing all his tools and supplies.  They approached Tom.  Finally, the first one spoke up.  “Fine, just fine.  Thank you.  And just what, exactly, is the meaning of all this?”

            “I’m trying to devise methods of reliable bulk transportation,” Tom replied. “So as to uplift dinosaur society, to get vegetable foods to market better and faster.  To enable our formerly carnivorous brethren to stick to their new diets more reliably.”

            The first Lawyersaur eyed him through narrowing slits.  “Are you implying that some groups of dinosaurs are inherently less likely to obey the law?  Do you follow equal employment opportunity guidelines here, or not?”

            “Oh, I do, I do,”  Tom hastened to assure him.  “It’s just that I’m only employing myself, so far.  This is a very small outfit, and will remain so, until I can demonstrate the reliability and usefulness of my products.  If and when I can start to hire, I’ll be sure to document that all my employees are legal residents, and diverse, and have proper wages, benefits, and working conditions, and don’t harass each other or take illegal drugs or endanger the environment, or neglect to pay babyosaurus support, or say insensitive things, or...”

            “Okay, Okay,” another Lawyersaur interrupted him.  “We hear you.  Now about these ‘carts’ we’ve been hearing about.  Will they meet emissions standards?  Will they come equipped with anti-lock brakes, brake lights, turn signals, seat belts, airbags, and mud flaps?  Will you certify the percentage of domestic content?  Will you ensure that all your customers are licensed and insured cart drivers?  Will you report the names and addresses of all customers who pay you more than one hundred dinodollars in cash?”

            “Oh, yes, yes, of course,” Tom assured him.  “But can’t we be a bit civil?  Let me introduce myself.  I’m Tom Edisonosaurus, inventor.  At least, I’d sure like to invent things for the benefit of dinosaur society.  And you?  Might I have the benefit of knowing who has come to inspect, and possibly assist, my noble enterprises here?”

            Yet another Lawyersaur spoke up.  “You say you’re doing this for the benefit of dinosaur society.  Are you sure you aren’t just another money-grubbing capitalist, out to exploit the workers?  Are you going to pay it all back to the community that has paid you, or are you going to spend it all on fancy digs for yourself?”

            The first Lawyersaur “shushed” him and announced, “Enough of that.  Mr. Edisonosaurus is right.  Introductions are in order.  Overdue, even.”  He reached out a front foot to Tom, who shook it.  “Hi.  I’m Jack B. Swindle, and these are my partners, Charles I. Robb and Robert B. Steele.  We represent the law firm of Swindle, Robb, & Steele.  With us, we have two of our assistants, Susy Sue Suezallott and Knuckles Writ Armstrong.”

            Front feet were shaken all around.  “So then, how may I serve you?”  Tom inquired solicitously.

            “No, we’re here to serve you,” Jack replied to the smiling Edisonosaurus.  Tom’s smile didn’t last long, though.  “With a Writ of Hideous Dorkishness,” Jack continued, brandishing a sheaf of papers.  He began to read.

            “Know all ye Dinosaurs by these here presentations and obfuscations that the law firm of Swindle, Robb, & Steele, having hereby been duly appointed counsel of the aggrieved party, a Ms. Willow W. Whinasaurus, hereinafter to be known as the party of the pure and innocent party, has been charged with the responsibility of securing suitable reparations from the negligent party, a Mr. Thomas Edisonosaurus, hereinafter, hitherinafter, thitherinafter, and foreverandeverinafter to be known as the guilty party.  The a priori swine qua nonsense of the guilty party’s malice and negligence having been the proximate cause of the grievous bodily harm wreaked upon the pedal extremities of the pure and innocent party, we do hereby and alwaysby implore, beseech and entreat that megagigadinodollars be awarded to the pure and innocent party, and to her counsel.

            “Just to send a message,” Jack threw in as an aside, looking up from his papers.  “It’s not the money, you know.  It’s the principle.  We can’t allow greedy capitalists to run rough-shod over the rest of us.  Society has to defend itself from irresponsible robber barons.”

            “Massive remuneration being the only conceivable ointment that could serve as a squid pro quotient to the massive bodily damage and physical and mental anguish inflicted upon the pure and innocent party, we thereby declare that in order to assuage the sufferings of the pure and innocent party, the guilty party shall be obligated to recompense the pure and innocent party with his current net worth, plus all future earnings, minus his oral hygiene appliance¾that’s a ‘tooth brush’ to ignoramuses like you¾and one can of Who Hash.

            “Hereinafter and foreverafter, let all Dinosaurs be...”

            “Hey, wait a minute!”  Tom protested.  “Would you care to translate all that garbage to ordinary Dinospeak?!”

            “It means we’re taking you to the cleaners,” Jack assured him.  “For the good of dinosaur society.  You can’t enrich yourself at the expense of others, and be allowed to get away with it.”

            “I haven’t made a dinodime yet!”  Tom squalled.  “So what did I do wrong?!”

            “You ran over Ol’ Lady Whinasaurus’s toe with your newfangled contraption, that’s what you did,”  Susy chimed in.  “You should be thankful she’s not charging you with sexual assault, too.  You were all alone out there, no witnesses.  You know all about...”

            “That’s ridiculous!” Tom howled.  “She just ran right up and stuck her toe under my wheel.  What was I supposed to do?”

            “Let bygones be bygones,” Jack said soothingly.  “There’s nothing you can do about it now any more, except to try and right your wrongs.  Help repair the wounds to Ms. Whinasaurus.  Here, sign these papers.”

            “Yeah, right, Buddy!  All you leeches are hereby invited to vacate my premises!  Out!  Scram!  Git!  Vamoose!”  Tom picked up a wheelybob-whacker, brandishing it somewhat less than politely.  He’d tried to be nice about the whole thing, but sometimes a dinosaur’s got to do what a dinosaur’s got to do.

            The pack of Lawyersaurus scrambled about, gathering up their papers, zipping up their briefcases, straightening out their ties, and trying to stay well out of the reach of Tom’s wheelybob-whacker, all while also trying to look dignified.  Tom danced around like a boxer, swinging the former wheelybob-whacker, now a would-be Lawyersaurus-basher.  Briefly, it began to look like he might bag himself a Lawyersaur or two.  In all the ruckus, one of the Lawyersaurs stepped into Tom’s bucket of resin.  He hobbled away, slopping resins all over papers, briefcases, suits, and Lawyersaurs.  Despite his anger, Tom couldn’t help himself.  He roared with joyous laughter.

            Soon, all the Lawyersaurs had gathered up their belongings, and had scurried off into the middle distance.  “You can’t escape your liability quite that easily,” Jack taunted.  “Guess who we’re gonna go see next?  Your insurance company!  So there!”  Then the pack of Lawyersaurs disappeared into the brush, briefcases briefly flashing.

            Dejected, Tom sat down to think.  His Insurance Agentasaurus would doubtlessly come by soon to tell him to cease and desist from cart-building activities, since the insurance would become prohibitive.  Maybe Tom could do without insurance.  Wait, no, strike that¾no insurance, no license.  No inventor’s license, no inventing, or go to jail.  Maybe he could at least finish this one cart, and sell it before he was told to stop.

            He dipped that last stone in the dirty dregs of resin now oozing into the porous prehistoric soil, and glued it into the wheelybob.  Now if only it would cure fast enough so that he could sell it before the Insurance Agentasaurus came by...  Let’s see, heat should speed-cure this.  Too bad that that other Lawyersaurus pack a while back came and sued me into suppressing that other nifty invention of mine, which I called fierybob.  Fierybob, applied just right, could speed-cure the resin, without burning the wood.  But he’d had to just say no to fierybob¾it was just plain too hazardous.  Whinasaurs would burn their toes and smoke would irritate the delicate noses of Allergiasaurs.  So Tom settled for dragging the cart gently out into the hot noon Jurassic sun.  Then he settled down under a large tree, and ate some bean sprouts and tofu.

 

 

 

Illustration goes here above…    Lawyersaur in Glue Pot, etc.

 

 

            Tom searched desperately for a buyer, but alas, the Insurance Agentasaurus came by the very next day, and told him they’d agreed to settle out of court.  “And now, I want to watch while you destroy this ‘cart’ of yours, and listen while you solemnly promise never to invent such a thing again,”  Insurance Agentasaurus concluded.  Helplessly, Tom did just that.  He eyed the heap of scrap wood ruefully as Insurance Agentasaurus disappeared into the brush.  Someday, he’d come up with something he could build out of that wood.  Something very useful¾and no one would stop him from using it.

            The next day he sat around, thinking.  He still wanted to Do Good for dinosaur society.  If he couldn’t get the foods to market fast enough, maybe he could invent a way of preserving them out in the field.  If he could preserve them long enough, the consumers could wander at their leisure out into the fields for their meals, even in the off season!  They’d even have to get a bit of exercise, other than by chasing fellowsaurs to eat, to boot!  Healthy dinosaurs are happy dinosaurs, and happy dinosaurs make for a happy dinosaur society.  What a deal!  Enthused, Tom set out to invent what he was going to call the refrigeratorywhatsit.  And this time, he was going to keep it all secret, hidden from the eyes of Lawyersaurs and Whinasaurs, until he’d proven what a great benefit these refrigeratorywhatsits would be to all dinokind!

            Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and dinosaurs come to naught.  Just as Tom was putting the finishing touches on his refrigeratorywhatsit, another pack of a dozen Lawyersaurs came by.  Cease and desist, they told him yet once again.  The working fluids in your invention are hurting the ozone layer.  Tom the Inventorasaurus once again turned into a Demolishasaurus, and his scrap heap grew some more.  He started to worry about them soon finding his scrap heap to be hazardous waste site.

            Okay, one last time, he resolved.  And this time, I’ve got to do it right!  Get the word out in advance to the public, about how much good my inventions will do for dinosaur society.  Enlist the help of some of my good buddies, too, as an ace in the hole.  Then he got to work.

            He discovered some glowing rocks, and some careful methods of handling them without getting hurt.  Then he discovered that these rocks killed micro-organisms.  At the same time as thousands of dinosaurs were dying nationwide from food poisoning, from organisms such as Cyclospora, Salmonella, Vibrio cholerae, and E. Coli, he’d discovered a way to kill such organisms, safely.  He called his invention the food irradiatorgigalopholus.  He sampled his irradiated foods, and found them to be safe and delicious.  But he kept it all to himself.  He pondered how he could thoroughly prove this method to be safe, without using any dinosaur other than himself as a test case, and without letting the Catosaurus out of the Bagosaurus.

            So he ended up having to invent the computerdingus, too, so as to be able to run simulations, with dinosaur digestive systems and ionizing-radiation-processed foods thoroughly and accurately simulated, so as to scientifically prove that food irradiation was harmless.  This took him a few years, but he did manage to pull it off.  The computerdingus, too, he kept secret, because he knew all about carpal tunnel syndrome, and how this would cause keyboard-pounding dinosaurs to sue and bankrupt him.

            Finally, he was ready.  He unleashed an anonymous media campaign, through friends, to make all dinosaurs aware of how Lawyersaurs were keeping many modern conveniences out of the front feet of the public.  Then he published the results of his simulations, showing how food irradiation could harmlessly save lives.  The media gave him lots of free coverage.  That night, after the news conference, he sat at home, eating his irradiated bean sprouts and tofu, savoring what he thought was his victory.  Tomorrow he’d start selling food irradiatorgigalopholi, the public was informed and with him, and lives would be saved!

            Or so he thought.  That night a pack of two dozen Lawyersaurs showed up at his door, explaining that he was the target of a class-action lawsuit, and demanding, under full-disclosure laws, to see all his records.  “How can you do this to me?” Tom demanded.  “No one other than me has even eaten any of my irradiated foods yet!  How can you sue me so soon?!”

            “Just watch, and you’ll see,” replied one of the Lawyersaurs.  With a start, Tom recognized him as Jack.  My, my, but how the law firm of Swindle, Robb, & Steele had grown!  “We’ll sue you because we can,” Jack continued.  “Because we can anticipate that since you plan on selling hundreds of food irradiatorgigalopholi, tens of millions of dinosaurs will eat irradiated foods, and several thousand will get stomach cancer.  We’re striking pre-emptively, before other law firms get to you first, and before you ruin thousands of lives.”

            “But that’s Hogosaurus wash!”  Tom protested.  “Sure, several thousand will get stomach cancer!  They would, anyway, even without irradiated foods!  And at least we can cut way back on deaths due to food poisoning!”

            “That may or may not be true,” Jack slyly admitted.  “But do you want to explain that to a jury?  Or maybe several thousand juries, depending on whether or not we get class action status?  You know, here’s megagigadinobucks Tom Edisonosaurus Incorporated, and little old ladyasaurus with stomach cancer.  Who’s the jury going to sympathize with?  Especially after we weed out all the potential jurors who might understand epidemiology and the simulations you’ve run.”

            “Take a hike,” Tom replied stubbornly.  “I’ll get them to see how you bunch of leeches are keeping good technology out of the public’s front feet.  And I’ll overwhelm them with my expert testimony.”

            “Oh yeah?” Jack retorted.  “You don’t know what you’re up against.  You remember Jimmy Junkscienceosaurus?  And Juree Consultasaurus?  The guys who convinced juries that those hi-tech, newfangled ‘hat’ doo-wongussess were causing brain cancer?  Well, guess what¾we’ve got them both on retainer!” he bragged triumphantly.

            Tom glowered.  It was time to call up his ace in the hole, his reserves.  He bolted out the door and issued a shrill whistle.  In a matter of minutes, out of the moonlit brush came charging three large adult Allosaurs!  Behind them, looking very strange and quite awkward, came three Shishkebobasaurs.

            Now, many modern human paleontologists claim that the ceratopsian dinosaurs, the likes of Triceratops and Styracosaurus, were all descendants of Protoceratops, and that they all lived in the late Cretaceous.  But they’re wrong. Shishkebobasaurus predated them all, way back to the early Jurassic. Shishkebobasaurus had a body like that of a large wiener dog, so you wouldn’t have thought of him as very fierce, judging just from the size of his body.  Nor would the upward-pointing horn coming out of his nose have scared you very much, for it was in rough proportion to his size.  But the two horns pointing forward out of his neck shield¾now they were a very different matter!  In adult male Shishkebobasaurs, these measured 25 to 30 feet long!

            Now it’s true that a small handful of modern paleontologists have stumbled onto the skeletons of Shishkebobasaurs, and that they’ve puzzled long and hard over the remains of these utterly bizarre creatures.  They’ve kept this all secret, fearing that something so completely unexplained would undermine the very foundations of belief in evolution.  They have also puzzled over just exactly why it was that carnosaurs the likes of Allosaur and T. Rex had such relatively small, stunted front legs.  If only these paleontologists would research the truly academic literature like Jurassic Horde Whisperer of Madness County, they would know the answers to these questions and many others!  And just exactly why were they called Shishkebobasaurs, you ask?  Well, be patient.  We’re getting back to the story just now.  All will be revealed!

            Mayhem broke loose.  Blood flowed in rivers and torrents.  It was so bad, they’ll probably have to excise this part of the plot out of Jurassic Horde Whisperer of Madness County, the movie, if they expect to get anything less than an NC-17.  The Allosaurs (pay attention now!) picked up the Shishkebobasaurs and clutched them to their chests, with arms just large enough to hold their relatively smallish wiener-dog-like bodies.  But now, out of the Allosaurs’ chests, there protruded twin razor-sharp 25-foot daggers!  Then the Allosaurs pranced around fiercely, impaling Lawyersaurs right and left!

            The slow and clumsy Lawyersaurs were no match at all for the nimble, quick Allosaurs.  Despite the fact that the Lawyersaurs dashed around like manic Madrosaurs, the Allosaurs made short work of every last one of them.  The Lawyersaurs kept on trying to fend those long horns off with writs and briefcases, all in vain.  They only succeeded in adding “filler” to the shish kebobs¾stacks of paper and briefcases got impaled along with the Lawyersaurs.  Finally, three Allosaurs paraded about, each sporting eight impaled Lawyersaurs.

            At first, the sight freaked Tom out pretty badly.  But then he kept on reminding himself that these were, after all, Lawyersaurs.  So he got used to it fairly fast.  He didn’t even mind watching, as the Allosaurs, tired of tofu, bean sprouts, and celery, tried to munch out. They served each other by waving their Shishkebobasaurs about, taking turns nibbling on the fare offered up by their partner.  Or at least, they tried.  They complained about how the Lawyersaurs’ suits got in the way, and how the Lawyersaurs themselves tasted rather harsh and unpalatable.  Tom felt pretty bad for the Allosaurs.

            So Tom sat there and thought, and lo and behold, a brilliant idea came to him!  He remembered how years ago he’d invented fierybob, and how heating his bean soup had made it taste better, and how he’d been able to burn the chaff out of his wheat germ, leaving a tasty, toasted result.  And right now there were no Lawyersaurs in any sort of condition suitable for keeping him from lighting up a fierybob again!  So he ran off, fetched his implements, and set fire to his scrap heap.  All that old wood fired right up, and he explained to the Allosaurs.  They then promptly proceeded to burn the papers, the briefcases, and the suits right off of all the Lawyersaurs, toasted them up nice and well done, and had a feast!  A good time was had by all, excepting the Lawyersaurs of course, even though nobody had thought to invent marshmallows yet.

            So now you understand why they were called Shishkebobasaurs.  They served a similar function for all the other, later bipedal carnosaurs, down through the ages, except that the carnosaurs were no longer carnosaurs, except for very, very rare crimes.  Shishkebobasaurs remained the hunting partners and became the roasting implements of the bipedal carnosaurs, except now, the carnosaurs only used them to hunt and cook cabbages, carrots, and beans.

            In other words, after the episode here described, peace reined for ages.  The remaining Lawyersaurs learned their lesson, and most dinosaurs learned to resist, whenever the Horde Whisperer would come by again, whispering that the road to prosperity consists of every dinosaur suing every other dinosaur.  Nor did they believe the whispers about technology, free markets, and greedy money-grubbing capitalists being the source of all evil.  Amazingly enough, they didn’t even believe the ensuing whispered quasi-truth, so much closer to the real truth but still so far removed, that all bad things were the fault, then, not of techno geeks and capitalists, but of Lawyersaurs instead.  Feeling defeated, neglected, and dejected, the Horde Whisperer fled the Earth for a hundred million years and more.  Technology, capitalism, and legal justice worked in harmony, and a peaceful dinosaur civilization prospered for the rest of the Jurassic era.

 

 

Illustration goes here above…  We-Bad Carnosaurs

 

 

3) The Cretaceous Horde Whisperer

            “The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.”  Edmund Burke  (1729–1797)

 

            The ages slipped by.  Continents shifted, oceans drained and mountain ranges were thrust up into the heavens.  Still the dinosaurs lived in peaceful prosperity.  Their technology didn’t explode.  It just sort of simmered.  Yes, they had fire, the wheel, houses, microwaves, food irradiation, nose rings, and double-entry bookkeeping.  But they didn’t have fossil fuels, intensive agriculture, field artillery, nuclear power, pop tarts, or Roller-Blade Barbie dolls.

            They were intent on being ecologically and spiritually advanced, more so than materially advanced.  So they shunned all unsustainable technologies, and those which might hurt the Earth, or any of its species larger or more conscious than an ammonite.  This meant that one of their much underdeveloped sciences was pharmacology, because there were no species close to them that they could ethically experiment on.  They managed to live happily at a medium technological level, and they had the wisdom to refrain from unsustainable technologies.  They were able to live in peace for uncounted millions of years.

            Then the Earth beckoned to the Horde Whisperer once again.  After all these eons, surely they’d forgotten the lessons of the past!  Hopefully, they’d listen to new Whispers about it all being the fault of the Other Dinosaur.  The Horde Whisperer tuned his ears to the cosmic vibes, hovering down towards the lush and fertile Earth.  His Mission: To go where no Horde Whisperer had gone before.  To find Sensitive Ones, Receptive Ones, those who would be willing and able to hear and obey his Whispers.

            Titusaurus Rex, of the much-ballyhooed species Tyrannosaurus Rex, got up that morning feeling more than just a little depressed.  He winced at the smell of rotting bean sprouts and tofu on his breath, then brushed his teeth, feeling only marginally better.  He checked his look in the mirror, noticing how the lines on his face kept getting clearer.  He moved ‘round and ‘round his dumpy apartment, thinking, dinosaur, life’s slipping me by, and I’m not even so much as dancing in the dark.  A glance at the calendar¾here it is, the very, very late Cretaceous, and I’ve never even so much as thrown a truly memorable party, attended by anyone who’s somebody.  I’ve got to get into the game, and get a piece of the action, he told himself.  I’ve got to come out with a new attitude.  Like, dinosaur, this Shishkebobasaur’s for hire!  Stay outta my way!

            But he couldn’t just snap his claws and make himself feel better.  He still felt depressed.  He wondered whether all those vegetarian foods simply didn’t quite suit his metabolism.  Maybe those starchy roots were making him manioc-depressive.  So he sat and thought long, brooding thoughts about how maybe in the old days, when carnosaurs were carnosaurs and herbosaurs were afraid, life had been better for his kind.  The thrill of the chase, victory, and a satisfying, high-protein meal!

            The memory of that small snippet came back now to haunt him.  He knew all those many years ago when he stumbled onto the very freshly but naturally deceased body of a juvenile Corythosaurus, that he should’ve just brought out the body and notified the relatives.  Or at the very least, just left it there, and notified the authorities.  But there he was, all by himself, out in the brush.  He’d not even bothered to bring Sherman, his faithful sidekick and favorite Shishkebobasaur.  This was, after all, just a nature walk, not a vegetable-hunting expedition.  So no one would ever know.  The temptation was just too great.

            He’d wolfed down the remains of that young Corythosaurus.  The raw meat tasted rich and smooth as it slid, lubricated by slightly congealed blood, down his gullet.  The crunch of bones somehow added to those plaintive, primordially satisfying sensations.  Thoughts of a grieving Corythosaurus family, never knowing what had happened to their lost beloved, subtracted from his pleasure only marginally.  Far more so, it was fear of getting caught that kept Titusaurus Rex from seeking out more of the same.

            So in the meantime, he had to satisfy his urges to hunt by rounding up Sherman and going out for fat, ripe, juicy fruits and vegetables.  He’d wave Sherman’s horns way up into the air and into the trees, spearing coconuts, bananas, and, when he was feeling particularly skilled, apricots and persimmons.  But the whole thing left a sour taste in his mouth.  So then he’d swing Sherman’s horns low, using his awesome brute strength and his seven-ton mass to plow Sherman’s horns through the damp and fertile soil.  Then he’d impale the carrots, potatoes, and woolly peanuts that spilled forth into the light of day.  Prehistoric woolly peanuts, in those days, were much bigger than the modern ones, so those didn’t take such a remarkable degree of skill to harvest as did smaller fruits and vegetables.

            Titusaurus made a fairly decent living gathering fruits and vegetables, and he was never in any danger of starving, but something was still quite clearly missing.  Surely there had to be more to life than this!  When his lust for flesh grew particularly strong, he’d lick the insects off of the fruits he’d gather, and the worms out of the clumps of soil that clung to those roots and tubers.  Sherman’s sight was poor, and on those rare occasions when Sherman inquired as to what Titusaurus was up to, he’d simply explain that he was doing a pre-wash rinse of their produce, getting rid of the debris before washing it in the river and then taking it to market.  Lighten the load, Titusaurus explained.  Sherman would look slightly disgusted, but there’d be no more questions.

            But worms and bugs never truly satisfied Titusaurus’s carnivorous lusts.  All this simmered in the background as Titusaurus rounded up Sherman for another day’s work. Titusaurus tried to remember his new resolve to be more upbeat that day, as he worked in the fields, spearing yams.  Remember, he told himself, you can’t start a fire without a spark.  This Shishkebobasaur’s for hire!

            But it just didn’t work.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t change himself or his attitude just by wishing it were so.  The sun was still hot, the soil still resisted, and the yams still weren’t anywheres near as satisfying as flesh.  Tasty, slippery, tantalizingly forbidden flesh.  Now stop that, he told himself.  On occasion he’d make “jokes” to Sherman, about how maybe they should go on a real hunt, like their ancestors had done so many eons ago.  Sherman would laugh, and then say, “Oh, just go and eat a bug, why don’t you?!”  Then Titusaurus would laugh, too.  Every once in a while, he wondered if Sherman knew more than he let on to.

            So Titusaurus toiled in the fields that day, thinking, out here in the fields, I fight for my meals.  But life’s a bore.  Nothing ever changes.  Drudgery and monotony.  Remember when I was young?  She was going to be an actress, and I was going to learn to fly.  Those dreams are gone now.  Or are they?  Surely I could be a movie star, if only I could get out of this place!  Then he got to thinking, now, just how many times have I gone through this?  Resolved to get me a new ‘tude, and get me a life.  And it all comes to naught.  Then he got really depressed.

            So that night he decided he couldn’t take it any more.  He had to do something.  He’d heard, lately, about new theories about brain biochemistry and herbal fixes.  How certain substances could make one feel better.  So he set out to visit an old friend who he’d not seen in quite a while, by the name of Yule Pharmacolosaurus.

            Now Yule was an old buddy of his from way back.  They’d gone to school together.  Yule had never amounted to much, ever since he’d gotten kicked out of high school for causing trouble.  So Titusaurus was quite surprised to find Yule living in a large new mansion that night.  But they sat down together and had a long chat.

            It was past midnight when Titusaurus got back home to his apartment that night.  It had been a long journey, but it had all been worth it.  There was a new spring in his step, and he wasn’t anywhere near as tired as he’d have expected to be, after such a long trip.  After he and Yule had talked, Yule had decided that Titusaurus suffered from depression and poor circulation.  So he’d given him a small sample of “what’s good for what ails you”, which in this case was an ancient herb called “Gringo Balboa”.  Titusaurus bolted it right down, and announced that it wasn’t so bad.  So Yule sold him a few baggies.  On credit, Yule assured him.  Just bring me a few bags of those yummy yams, or whatever’s in season.

            As he bounded into his apartment, then calmed down before getting to bed, Titusaurus thought about all this with a fair degree of hope.  The only thing that baffled him was that Yule had asked him to keep it all secret.  This, he didn’t understand at all.  If it made dinosaurs feel better, then why keep it secret?  But Yule had refused to explain, and had sworn him to secrecy.  Oh, well, Titusaurus Rex thought, dismissively, it’s not my problem.  Just do as you promised your friend, and don’t worry your large, fearsome head about it, he told himself, nodding off to sleep.

            For the next week or so, he faithfully ate a small clump of Gringo Balboa every morning.  He felt reinvigorated, energetic, even youthful.  He resolved to visit, pay, and profusely thank Yule sometime real soon.  Then that fateful day dawned.

            He was out picking bananas when he heard those far-off, hideously pitiful moans.  Being a far more compassionate Tyrannosaurus Rex than modern paleontologists have ever suspected was possible, Titusaurus Rex barged through the brush, fellow-feeling coursing through his veins, powering his awesome muscles.  In short order, the source of the sounds appeared right in front of him, there in the clearing.  A herd of Pachycephalosaurs milled about in anxious, loud confusion around one of their kind writhing in obvious great pain on a makeshift bed of leaves.  Writhing carefully and delicately, strangely enough, it seemed, for the tortured creature appeared to flail all parts of its body except for its lower back and its hip joints.

            Titusaurus waded right into the raucous ruckus.  Making his way straight to the loudest debaters, he interrupted, saying, “Gentlesaurs, gentlesaurs.  Now I sympathize with your anxiety, here, but surely this is no way to improve matters!  Unlike your friend, here, you have no real reason for behaving so... irrationally uncontrolled.  Perhaps it would be best to tune your friend out for just a few minutes in order to calmly decide what is best for...”, Titusaurus shot a quick glance at the suffering Pachycephalosaur, paying special heed to the head, “...him,” he finished, after conducting a quick, simple gender inspection.  The herd of Pachycephalosaurs calmed down considerably.

            My, my, what powers I wield! Titusaurus congratulated himself.  Just by my sheer size and calm demeanor, I soothe their frantic distress!  “Now what seems to be the trouble, here?” he gently inquired.

            “Paul’s in terrible pain, can’t you see?!” one of them wailed. “He’s got inoperable, terminal bone cancer.  To top it all off, he tried to walk around, stumbled, fell, and broke his hip!  So now he’s...”  The statement just trailed off into an unintelligible babble of anguished sobs.

            Bedlam murmured louder, threateningly, so Titusaurus nipped it in the bud.  Raising his voice, he asked, “Well, haven’t you asked a Doctorsaur for some of this new, um, hurtfighter?  Now, I’m not much for keeping up with the news, but it seems to me that we’ve been making some really great progress in the way of medicines in just the last few million years.  So why...”

            They drowned him out in an orgy of shouting, almost coming to blows with one another.  Titusaurus barely understood a few sentiments here and there: “...take care, ‘cause Paul might get addicted, and that would be just awful, to have him die that way, after he’s led such a good life...”  “...anyway, we can’t find a Doctorsaur who’ll do it for us, so why...”  “... got to be strong, and just say no, ‘cause...”  “...care what you say, I’m going down to Yule Pharmacolosaurus right now, and...”

            There was some scuffling, and grabbing at the last speaker.  Hold it now, just HOLD IT!!!” Titusaurus thundered.  “Now calm down!  Would y’all please explain...”  A small group pulled aside, to explain to Titusaurus in detail.  The other Pachycephalosaurs, seemingly somewhat embarrassed about their emotional excesses, debated much more calmly.  But Titusaurus saw them keeping a watchful eye on him and the small group that was trying to explain to him.  Somehow, Titusaurus knew that as soon as they’d explained the details to him, they were all looking to him, the large and powerful outsider, to make some sort of wise, impartial decision.

            The pain of a fellowsaur, and peace in a Pachycephalosaur clan, all rested upon him!  Titusaurus found himself wishing he’d spent more time reading the papers, or at least watching the evening news, instead of just eating tofu and watching saursitcoms and saurball.  All these heady issues, all those Pachycephalosaurs over there pretending to try and look after their suffering fellowsaur, but really actually keeping an eye on me, and I barely know what’s going on!

            He forced himself to pay attention, very carefully.  What were they telling him?  It seemed that these new hurtfighters sometimes led to a thing called addiction, whereby dinosaurs would come to depend on them.  That was bad.  We already depend on sleep, air, water, tofu, and Monday night saurball.  We just can’t go adding yet another, was the sentiment of some.  Including an agency called BIGDADA, it seemed.  Titusaurus, embarrassed, had to ask what that stood for.  Bureau of Inexorably Grinding Down on All Drug Advancement, they explained.

            So Titusaurus asked why they didn’t just ask a Doctorsaur to get them the medicine that their fellowsaur needed.  “Surely it’s obvious to all that he’s in great pain, and needs this hurtfighter!” Titusaurus objected.  “Why the big controversy?”

            So they explained to him that BIGDADA opposed all drug advancement.  Whenever they’d hear of anyone scheming to advance pharmacology, they’d bus in supporting demonstrators, and they’d all march around, chanting, “F-D-A!  F-D-A!  F-D-A!”  This, apparently, stood for Forsake Drug Advancement.  And BIGDADA had it in for hurtfighters especially.  No new drugs may reach the market, and those few that exist already, which alerted us to this addiction thing, well, those, we’ve got to keep a special eye on.  Doctorsaurs who prescribe more of these than other Doctorsaurs in the neighborhood must obviously be up to no good, so we’ve got to take their licenses away.  Then there’s always the next remaining Doctorsaur, who’s now the new one who prescribes more hurtfighters than anyone else in the neighborhood.  So after a few million years of this, there were no licensed Doctorsaurs who were willing to help Paul.

            That’s where the big argument came in.  The clan’s young hotheads were are charged up, ready to go and see if a certain Yule Pharmacolosaurus would help them.  But Yule, you see... Titusaurus became even more attentive now.  Maybe the mysteries around Yule would be resolved!  But calm down, he told himself.  Remember your promises to your good buddy Yule, and don’t even let on that you’ve had any dealings with him!  So pay attention, yes, certainly.  But don’t look too eager!

            “Yule,” one said, “has no license.  He’s not paid his dues to BIGDADA, the Doctorsaurs, the pharmacists’ unions, or even the Legislatorsaurs.  So if we deal with him, we take a big risk.  If we got busted, Lawyersaurs, Judgasaurs, Policasaurs, and all other sorts of Goonasaurs, at the behest of BIGDADA, the Doctorsaurs, and such, will all descend wrathfully on both Yule and all of us.  It’s a risk we can’t take.”

            So now, finally, I understand! Titusaurus crowed.  Yule’s furtive, fearful demeanor.  His insistence on secrecy.  Even his new mansion.  Now Titusaurus was no Geniusaurus, but at least he understood a small bit of economics.  If there were demands for goods and services that were dangerous to fulfill, those who filled these needs would be well compensated.  On the down side, he wondered how long Yule could stay out of the dinodungeon, what with BIGDADA and the long claws of the law not taking too kindly to what Yule was doing.  Nor were Yule’s activities quite as big a secret as Yule might have wished, it seemed to Titusaurus.  It all appeared to be common knowledge, here.

            “So let me get this straight,” Titusaurus summarized.  “There’s a fellowsaur suffering, here, with no relief in sight.  And the relief that lies out of sight, not so far away, the only relief that we know of, might not linger much longer.  Then we must conclude that time to act is now!  They say that all that is necessary for the triumph of insensitivity is for good dinosaurs to do nothing!”

            Titusaurus stood up tall and proud.  He announced, “I can stand the sight of a suffering fellowsaur no longer.  All you who are with me, come with me now, and we’ll fetch pain relief for him.  We’ll go and see our good comrade, Yule Pharmacolosaurus, right now!”  He strode forth with determination.

            A small army of protesting Pachycephalosaurs surrounded him, pushing, shoving, and shouting.  Only a small fraction of them seemed to side with him, pushing back, trying to protect him.  But the numbers were against him.  He tried to fight his way out of the herd, but they crowded him back towards Paul.  Trying to play rough, are they?  He glanced outwards, looking for his ever-faithful (OK, well, mostly-faithful) sidekick, Sherman the Shishkebobasaur.  There he was, at the edge of the clearing!  Titusaurus gave him a meaningful glance.  Sherman, seemingly reading his mind, slowly but resolutely shook his head “NO”.  Sherman wouldn’t get himself involved in any sort of violence against any sort of fellowsaurs, no matter what the cause.

            Titusaurus fought.  For ten minutes, he gave it his all.  Doing everything he could, short of deliberately trying to hurt his fellowsaurs, he and the small number of young Pachycephalosaurs who sided with him tried to break free.  But they were surrounded; the opposition kept on pushing them into the middle of the herd, crushing Paul, amplifying his agony.

            Finally, Titusaurus just couldn’t take it any more.  Something snapped inside of him.  “ALL RIGHT, ALL YOU BONEHEADS!!!  I’M WARNING Y’ALL ONE LAST TIME!!!  LET US GO!!!”  He bellowed.  Still the crowd refused to yield. Titusaurus didn’t believe it to be possible, but they crammed him and his buddies in even tighter against Paul, and Paul screamed in even greater agony.  So Titusaurus stooped down, and, with mighty jaws flinging flashing teeth around in great arcs, he sliced Paul’s body into great chunks of bloody flesh.  Paul’s agony was at an end at last.

            Titusaurus couldn’t help it.  The taste of all that flesh and blood was just too much.  He stooped down again, and gulped down bloody chunk after bloody chunk of fresh Pachycephalosaurus flesh.  Blood flowed down his neck and flank.  He felt completely out of control, as if a spirit from another place and time, from a hundred million years and more back in time, had come and inhabited his body.  He heard the primeval roar, not even realizing it was him.  The entire herd of Pachycephalosaurs fled in terror.

            A timeless time later, he found himself wandering, all alone, lost out in the forest.  Why did his stomach feel so totally, blissfully happy?  Why did he have a strong urge to just lie down and sleep?  Why was he all covered with blood?!  It all came back to him.  Horrified, he made himself sit down, calm down, and think.  There’s no way you can run from this thing, he told himself.  The whole world will know.  Every dinosaur everywhere will demand my death, in payment for this most terrible crime, unheard of in all these millions upon millions of years.  I can run, but I can’t hide.  So he gave in.  He just lied down and went to sleep, as his forgotten instincts and his heavily laden stomach demanded.

            When he awoke, his stomach felt distinctly less happy.  Worst of all, though, was why he awoke.  A Policasaur was excitedly yelling, “Over here!  Over here!  I found the murderer!!!”

            Titusaurus Rex slowly joined the waking world, a sick and sinking feeling overwhelming him.  He found himself facing a phalanx of Policasaurs, with their array of long spears menacing him.  Sherman the Shishkebobasaur would come in real handy just now, if he hadn’t abandoned me, he fleetingly thought.  If I had any will to resist, which I don’t.  I’m guilty as sin!  Time to face the music.  They herded him out of the jungle and towards civilization.  He just plodded along in a daze.

            Not too much later, he found himself outside the courthouse.  Dinosaurs of many kinds had gathered from far places to see this most strange of aberrations, a murdering fiend of an insensitive, carnivorous, killer dinosaur.  The courthouse being too small for the gathered horde, the weather being pleasant, and the Lawyersaurs loving to put on a show for as many dinosaurs as possible, the trial would be held outside.

            “Kill him, kill him,” the horde chanted.  “Blood for blood, death for death,” they chanted.  “Kill him, kill him, blood for...”

            One Lawyersaur stood up in front of the shackled form of Titusaurus, bullhorn in hand, shouting out to the crowd, “All right, settle down now, ya hear!  Settle down!  Now we can’t just go off and kill our fellowsaur, just like that!  We have to have a proper trial first!  Then we can kill the killer¾now be patient.  If we could have all of our witnesses...”

            A bigger, apparently more important Lawyersaur barged through the small crowd of Lawyersaurs surrounding Titusaurus, bowling many a Lawyersaur aside, and grabbed the bullhorn.  He glared first at the Lawyersaurs, then at the large and growing crowd surrounding them.  “Now wait just a minute!  We’ll have no Jumpasaurus court here in my court!  What is this!?  We’ll have a fair trial, and then we’ll kill him?!  I’ll remind all my fellowsaurs that in Dinoland, all dinosaurs are innocent until proven guilty!  And that’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, too!

            “SHAME on you, you hooligans!” he thundered.  “Now if any of you are here thirsting for the blood of your fellowsaur, you can leave right now!  This isn’t some big show put on for your amusement.  We’re going to be very slow and methodical here.  Justice hurried is justice denied.  So if you’re impatiently lusting for some titillation rather than impartially seeking illumination as to exactly what our fellowsaur here did, and why, well, you can just leave, right now.  This is my court, and in my court, we seek justice, not amusement.  Illumination, not titillation.  You got that?!”

            The crowd calmed down.  Joe Judgasaurus conducted some ceremonies, then declared the court to be in session.  Prosecution and defense made their opening statements.  According to the latest court procedures in Dinoland, defense got to call their witnesses first.  First to take the stand was Sigmund Psychiasaurus, an expert witness.

            Sigmund said a lot of things that day.  Fancy things, long-winded things.  After a long while, even the Lawyersaurs got pretty impatient.  So Sigmund got the hint and wrapped it up.  “So gentlesaurs, what I’m saying, here, is that Titusaurus is not to blame.  He can’t be.  He’s merely the helpless victim of his own primitive instinctual, primeval carnivorous urges.  We may recoil in disgust from what he may have done, but even if he really did what he’s accused of, well, he’s the victim.  Victimized by his own feelings, to simplify greatly.  And we can’t go blaming the victim.  No dinosaurs could do such a thing, and still claim to be civilized.”

            The crowd muttered and grumbled.  The Judgasaurus banged his gavel, but the crowd paid him no heed.  If anything, they grew even more restless.  A few dinosaurs, up close in front where they could be heard, thundered out, “Well, then, who is to blame?!”... “Paul Pachycephalosaurus is dead and gone.  He’s the real victim!  How about him and his family?!”... “Somebody must be at fault!  Somebody is to blame!  Let’s find him and kill him!” and other assorted outbursts.

            Joe Judgasaurus banged his gavel, good and hard.  “Order!  Order in this court!”  They still ignored him.  His eyes rolled and his shoulders slumped.  There was only so much he could do.  The crowd wanted justice, and they wanted it now!  How does one say “No” to thousands of enraged dinosaurs?  Maybe one doesn’t, Joe thought.  Maybe one goes with the flow.  Let’s see, what are they saying now?

            “Sigmund Psychiasaurus eats dinopoop,” he thought he heard one dinosaur shouting.  I can’t be responding to that sort of thing, Joe thought.  Very unprofessional.  Besides, if we let them start questioning our expert witnesses, who knows who they’ll be questioning next?  Lawyersaurs, maybe, or even Judgasaurs!  Demidinogods forbid!  No Sir, we’ll not pursue such avenues.  Respond to our large and restless crowd, yes.  After all, they’ve apparently lost a fellowsaur to murder, for the first time in many millions of years.  So the crowd must be appeased.  The usual procedures by which the Lawyersaurs and I orchestrate the whole show, well, that might have to drop by the wayside, this time.  But I’ve got to at least carefully pick and choose which inputs from the crowd we go with.  Control the direction of this Jumpasaurus court, if not the precise steps or the speed.

            “I know who’s to blame!” One very loud dinosaur was bellowing.  I know who’s to blame!  Listen to me!  I know...”

            “Pipe down, everybody!” Joe thundered.  “Let our fellowsaur speak!”  There’s danger here, he thought.  I don’t know who he’ll blame.  Well, if he blames Lawyersaurs, Judgasaurs, or Psychiasaurs, we’ll just have to deal with that.  But he sounds as if he’s got new and original material.  Let’s just go with my instincts, and hope that he’ll lead us off on a path that I can use...

            The crowd quieted down.  Joe held his front leg out towards the large Hadrosaur who’d spoken up, saying, “Gentlesaurs, we have a fellowsaur up here who claims to have some information we should all share.  Now if you would, please, let’s give him our undivided attention.  And for the record, Sir, if you will first state your name...”

            Joe had debated swearing him in, first, but the crowd seemed pretty steamed up.  Only so much ceremony they’ll put up with, he’d decided, making another one of those snap judgments.  This, after all, was one of the reasons Joe was a Judgasaurus.

            “Ah, um, yes, Your Honor,” the Hadrosaur stammered.  “Harry.  Harry Hadrosaur, that’s my name.”  Good so far, Joe thought.  Show me some respect, follow procedure and formality at least a little bit.  We’ll soon be right back on track.  Sort of.  As much as one can be on track, with such an unusual and controversial case.

            “Your Honor, I would direct the court’s attention towards Titusaurus Rex’s friends.  Now I’ve heard he’s been hanging out lately with a pretty bad crowd.  I’ve been told he goes out carousing with those impish, impertinent young Deinonychusses down there in Tangee Town.  Not that I’m denigrating their species, mind you!  But they’ve been filling his head with all sorts of improper, even gruesome ideas.  It’s clear to me, Sir, that these ‘friends’ of his must be to blame.  I think...”

            “No Sir!  Out of the question!” Joe shut him off.  “No can do.  Now, I appreciate your input, Sir, but you see, here in Dinoland we have freedom of association, and freedom of assembly.  This is the land of the free and the home of the brave!  Anyone can associate with anyone, without fear.  No guilt by association.  And no hearsay.  None!  That’ll be enough of that!”  Joe grinned inwardly.  I’m getting back into control here.  Let’s see, what next?

 

 

Illustration goes here above…   Dino Court Scene

 

 

            “Anyone else out there have any helpful information they’d care to share?” he inquired.  Many front feet were thrust towards the azure late Cretaceous sky.  Scanning his eyes rapidly across the crowd, Joe called upon his considerable intuition of dinosaur behavior.  Now, pick one who seems properly respectful, he told himself.  Not one whose body attitude tells me they’re only just barely containing themselves, and forcing themselves to gain permission to speak.  Pick an innocent-looking one.  OK, there she is.  A young Ornithomimus.  “You, ma’am.  Please speak up.  And don’t forget, we’ll need to know, for the record, who you are.”

            “Yes, Your Honor.  Pleased to meet you.  I’m Olivia Ornithomimus.  Sir, I’d like to point out that I, personally, have seen Titusaurus Rex going to meetings at Stephen Stegoceras’s pseudo-religious ‘services’.  You know, that crazy cult where they do all sorts of bizarre things that violate the will of the Demidinogods.  I’m quite sure that they’ve been brainwashing him into these crazy ideas that have now taken root in this poor, demented fellowsaur’s brain.  We can’t let them get away with murder!  We can’t, we’ve got to...”

            “No way!” Joe roared.  “I’ll have none of this in my court!  Now thank you very much, young ladysaur, but that’s as far as we’ll go with that sort of thing!  You see, in Dinoland, we have freedom of religion, and I want it kept that way!  Everyone is allowed to have their own religious beliefs, so long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others.  No matter how we might feel about the things they believe, we’ve got to leave them alone!  Can’t fault a fellowsaur just because of the way he or she worships.  Now, who else cares to speak up?”  Joe judiciously picked yet another uplifted front foot.

            “Ah, yes, I’m Sally Saltasaurus Nosenheimer,” an older female Saurapod spoke up.  “He’s been reading some awful books and watching some really terrible shows.  I work at the library, and I, personally, have seen Titusaurus Rex check these books out.  And my friend right over there, he works at the video store.  He can testify, and so can I.  No hearsay here!  Now these books and shows, I tell you, have been really just horrid!  Awful, violent, unspeakable things!  Unimaginable things!

            “So the authors and the scriptwriters are clearly to blame.  Like Jonjon Gristlyspammasaurus, who writes about sleazy, promiscuous and violent dinosaurs, and then blames others for doing the same thing!  Him and these others, they’re just tearing dinosociety down!  Killing, now even!  Killing the likes of poor, innocent Paul Pachycephalosaurus!  These hypocritical, irresponsible writers, we can’t let them get away with it!  We’ve got to stop them, before they kill again!”

            “Enough!” Joe Judgasaurus thundered.  “Just stop this right now!  I’ll remind you that Dinoland is the home of the free, and the land of the brave!  And in Dinoland, we have freedom of speech!  Writers and artists can say whatever they want to say, without fear of being punished.  Even if sometimes some of our fellowsaurs take wrongly, those things that our artists say, we cannot, and will not, squelch the freedoms of Writersaurs and Artisaurs!  Not so long as I’m running this court, we’ll not go blaming innocent artists for what others do!  Do I make myself clear?!”

            Well, that was a bit harsh, now, he said to himself.  So he added, “Not that we don't appreciate your input, of course.  We really do need to find who is to blame for this horrible deed, and all inputs are welcome.  You, over there.”

            “Um, yes, Your Honor.  They call me Andrew Anatotitan Buttinski.  This Titusaurus Rex fella, now, I know him.  I live not too far away from him, and I’ve talked to him often.  I’ll tell you who’s to blame.  I’ll tell you who’s been putting these crazy ideas into his head, that he can just go ahead and act on those bad instincts of his.  It’s his political party!  He’s a rabid member of The Order of Anarchic Dinosaurs!  He’s a TOAD, don’t you see!  They’re like a militia!  They advocate all sorts of destructive and anti-social policies!  It’s them that put these ideas into his head!  It’s them that killed Paul Pachycephalosaurus!  We’ve got to hold them accountable for their evil deeds!  We must!”

            “We must NOT,” Joe replied most firmly.  “Not in Dinoland, the home of the proud and the free.  You see, we have political freedom here in Dinoland.  You can belong to any political party that you like, and vote for anyone you like.  You can even go off all by yourself, and form a new party to your own liking.  So we’ll not go off and blame his political party for this.  Now I’d really, really like to know: Just who, exactly, is to blame for this cold-blooded murder?  You.  Speak up.”

            “Your Honor, if it may please this court, I can tell you who’s to blame.  Oh, yes, my name: They call me Skape Ghoaghterasaurus.”

            Oh, no, Titusaurus thought, panicked.  Ol’ Skape, here, he’s a character!  What will he do to me?!  Like what he did to his Dentisaurus after he dared to give Skape that root canal?  Suppose Skape knows about my false teeth?  I can see it now!  Stir up the crowd.  But for or against whom?  Blame my Dentisaurus?  Or me?  “Dentures don’t kill dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs kill dinosaurs.”  It’s all been going so well!  It’s not my fault at all, so far!  I hope Skape doesn’t go off and ruin it.  If he knows about my dentures, that’s bad news, either way!  They’ll blame me again, or my Dentures.  After all, without my dentures, Paul Pachycephalosaurus might still be with us.  So we’ve got to implement better denture control policies.  And I’m not thinking Polydinodent¾I’m thinking I’ll be stuck gumming my food for the rest of my life!  Not at all a pleasant prospect for me, a member of the proudest of species, a powerful Tyrannosaurus Rex!

            Titusaurus listened fearfully to Skape, shortly realizing that his worries had missed the mark:  “Now, I’ve seen our victimized fellowsaur, Titusaurus Rex, here, going on down to visit Yule Pharmacolosaurus.  I’m quite certain that if we get the right dinosaurs to testify, we can prove that Yule has been selling poisons to Titusaurus Rex.  Poisons such as an ancient herb called ‘Gringo Balboa’.  Herbs that have poisoned the poor fellowsaur’s mind.  This Yule Pharmacolosaurus, he’s clearly to blame!  He never got himself a Doctorsaur’s license, or even so much as registered with BIGDADA or the pharmacists’ unions, and here he is, taking it upon himself to randomly dispense poisons, to anyone who will pay!

            “Now I know many, many dinosaurs have been turning blind eyes towards these nefarious goings-on.  Now one of us has died.  Murdered, by Yule Pharmacolosaurus!  What more will it take?!  I say the time to act is now!  All that is required for the triumph of impropriety is for good dinosaurs to do nothing!  Now let’s go, and punish the killer!”

            “Not so fast,” Joe grumbled.  “We must proceed with all due caution, and all due process.  Turning, he said to Titusaurus, “Is it true?  Did Yule Pharmacolosaurus sell poisons to you?  Have you been under the influence?”

            Startled, Titusaurus replied, “Um, no, Your Honor, no one has poisoned me, and I’ve felt fine, just really fine, lately...”

            Skape broke in, protesting, “Yeah, Your Honor, he’s been feeling way fine.  Way fine, I tell you.  Yule Pharmacolosaurus has been making a lot of dinosaurs feel way fine, lately.  And without a license!  Now get him to tell you the truth.  Put it to him more...”

            “Hush, hush,” Joe commanded.  “I’ll do this.  Now Titusaurus, is this true?  Has Yule Pharmacolosaurus been selling you things that have made you feel better?”

            “Why, yes, Your Honor.  He’s been a real chap!  He...” Titusaurus talked some more, but no one heard him, no one at all.  Not even his chair.  Most of the crowd, including Lawyersaurs and Policasaurs, arose as one, thundering out their anger.  They hoisted their garden implements and torches in anger, and stampeded towards the dwelling of one certain Yule Pharmacolosaurus.  A few of the remaining Policasaurs came over to Titusaurus, telling him to get up out of his chair.  They then promptly removed his shackles.

            “You’re free to go,” one of them announced.

            Titusaurus was by now totally baffled.  “What?  Free to go, completely free?”  He turned towards the Judgasaurus for confirmation.

            “Go, go,” Joe assured him.  “You’re free.  Free as a Quetzalcoatl us.  Now fly free!”

            Not even so much as a “Go, and sin no more?” Titusaurus wondered.  He couldn’t help it.  He pressed his luck.  “I murdered and ate my fellowsaur, and I’m free to go?  What is this?!”

            “No, no, you didn’t murder and eat your fellowsaur,” Joe Judgasaurus assured him.  “You were the helpless victim of a lawless poison pusher¾a conscienceless, spineless wonder, not deserving of being called a fellowsaur, who dared to take it upon himself, to sell you things to make you feel better, without a license.  He was the killer.  He must pay!!  Our agents of justice, in all their thousands, they go now to serve him his just deserts!  And all others like him!  Strongly warned, now, we will no longer turn a blind eye on him and others like him!  You, in playing your part as an innocent victim, have served dinosociety well!  Go, now, and go with pride!”

            Titusaurus just shook his head and shuffled off.  “Feel free to come right on back here for free government-sponsored counseling for crime victims if you need it!” the Judgasaurus called out after him, as he headed for home.

            Titusaurus wasn’t very worried about his need for counseling.  He was worried about what fate might befall his friend, Yule.  That, and, being as self-centered as most of his fellowsaurs, he also worried about himself.  Where, now, would he get his supplies of Gringo Balboa?  Maybe he’d have to learn all about wild herbs.  Maybe even grow some for himself!  He wondered if maybe he should go back and ask the Judgasaurus if he’d need a license for that.  On second thought, he figured he’d pressed his luck often enough already.  By the time he got home, he was quite depressed.

            The Horde Whisperer was quite pleased with himself that day.  But he wasn’t satisfied.  The Horde Whisperer never is.  Dinosaur technology was too simple for his purposes.  Yes, properly goaded on, the dinosaurs could do a few nifty tricks.  But they were too sweet, too nonviolent, too innocent, and certainly far too primitive.  And as usual, the Horde Whisperer was figgering on biggering.  For real fireworks, he’d have to go elsewhere, he decided.  He headed up and out, off of Earth, and into space, to a location not so very far away.


 

 

4) The Zorgonian Horde Whisperer and

The Cretaceous Mass Extinction

            “Of all possible sexual perversions, religion is the only one to have ever been scientifically systematized.”  Louis Aragon  (1897–1982)

 

            The Zorgons were a race of vaguely insect-like beings who’d been hanging around the Milky Way galaxy for a long, long time.  So long, as a matter of fact, that their beginnings had become shrouded in the mists of time.  By the time their emissaries were lounging about near-Earth space, in those halcyon late Cretaceous days, they’d been quite civilized for several billion years.  Some had become so civilized that others accused them of being decadent.

            But they were, without a doubt, both technologically and ethically advanced, taken as an entire species and civilization.  Now there were a few exceptions here and there, where things went astray.  Chaos always finds a way to insinuate itself into even the most well-laid plans of dinosaurs and Zorgons, it seems.  And as we shall see, chaos is badness, quite often.

            The Zorgons spread themselves far and wide across the Milky Way.  Where there was no life, they felt free to establish themselves.  But where there was already life, they very ethically refrained from invading, building shopping malls, erecting intergalactic billboards, or interfering with the local life forms in any manner.  However, where there was intelligent, conscious life, they kept a close eye on it.  They kept on hoping that some planet, somewhere, would sport a species, or multiple species, which would become advanced enough that the Zorgons could openly contact them, and welcome them to the Zorgonian Galactic Federation.  Alas, no such luck had befallen them yet.

            Now the Earthling dinosaurs, though, certainly showed some promise.  They were very, very slow in developing their technology, and so the Zorgons just stayed back, watching.  Being ethically advanced, the Zorgons had pondered these matters at great length.  Premature interference would be cultural imperialism, and stunt the development of the true nature of a budding new civilization.  Interfere too soon, and all they’d get would be an inferior clone of Zorgonian culture.  Wait till the time was ripe, and the new civilization would become an equal partner, bringing new cultural riches to the Zorgons.

            Then there were other, even greater dangers.  Any new civilization carried a threat of bursting forth, and spreading the virulence of military conquest throughout the galaxy.  Now this was judged to be a very improbable danger.  Any civilization (if we can even use such a word in such a context) greedy and hateful enough to act in such a manner would most likely annihilate itself before getting very far off of the home planet.  So said the wisest of the Zorgons, and their computer simulations, at least.

            But the Zorgons, being quite sensitive and ethical, worried about chaos and badness on all levels, even those lower than the triumph of inappropriateness throughout the entire galaxy.  They also worried about the injustice of millions of innocent species being wiped out on a planet where one or two hot-headed, suicidal species might decide to blow the whole shooting match to Queendom Come.

            After a great deal of thoraxial alimentary canal-wrenching ethical analysis, they’d decided that if they were ever faced with such an abominable situation, they’d have to prevent the butchery.  Show themselves and their vastly superior technical powers, and prevent planetary holocaust.  If they ever were called upon to act in such a manner, though, they’d decided that any such suicidal species would thereby forfeit its right to self-determination and self-government.  The Zorgons would have to go in, and use genetic engineering, political control and force, and even involuntary counseling, in reforming such a species.

            But the Earthling reptilian life forms showed absolutely no such tendencies, as far as the Zorgonian social analysts could tell.  And their developmental pace was extremely laggardly.  So the Zorgonian outpost near Earth was clearly on the skimpy side.  If the situation ever started to change, they could always bring in reinforcements.  All in due time.  Tens of thousands of years, at least.  Physical interstellar space travel, after all, was excruciatingly slow.

            Now there were dangers in having isolated, skimpily staffed outposts, such as the one close to Earth.  One was simple genetic drift.  Any time one has a breeding population of less than one hundred or so individuals, the gene pool is too small to provide proper in-depth genetic variation.  So genetic drift sets in, and who knows what might happen?  Chaos is badness, after all.  The Zorgons were well aware of this, though, and so they always had at least one hundred breeding individuals per outpost.  That, and they’d send along an ample supply of preserved gametes (sex cells).  If the outpost’s genetic health started to slip, or they started to evolve away from the Zorgonian norm, they could always dip into the reserve gene pool.

            But then there was another danger, which would occasionally upset the well-laid Zorgonian plans.  That was sociopolitical drift.  Zorgonian outposts, especially the smaller ones, would sometimes run off course.  A charismatic Zorgonian leader would emerge in a small group, and they’d do things that were, well, contrary to conventional Zorgonian notions of propriety.  And due to the immensity of interstellar space, it could be thousands of years before a large Zorgonian force could arrive and set things right.  Mostly with gentle, sensitive counseling, of course.

            Such was the case on Zorgonian Outpost Gorglephutz (ZOG), at that time.  The local Zorgonian leader tried his best to hide what was going on, sending quite persuasive messages to Zorgonian Galactic Headquarters, but they knew.  They knew what was going on near that primitive, bizarre yet beautiful blue planet Earth, and their new commander and chief counselor and her staff were on their way.  But that would take many, many years.  So in the meantime, Aileron Hubba-Hubba was having it His way.

            Now the Zorgons were a quite bizarre species, by Earthling standards.  Their appearance, if it resembled any form of Earth life, was closest to the insects, in that they had heads, thoraxes, and abdomens, and could fly, in some of their life stages.  They weighed about 100 pounds at the most, except for the queen, who could weigh up to 300 pounds.

            But some of their most bizarre features, and those that go farthest in explaining the nature of their behavior, involved their life stages, and methods of reproduction.  They had seven fairly distinct life phases, and three sexes, if a sex is defined as a contributor of genetic material.  The egg and grub phases were fairly simple and straight-forward.  Then there were the infant workers, too young to do much of anything very useful.  They just played and learned.  These were called barbalutes.  Then there were the mature workers.  These were still entirely asexual.

            Workers, after serving the colony for a decent interval, matured into females.  On the dorsal surfaces of their abdomens, egg buds grew.  These had to be fertilized by a drone (male) before they’d grow beyond the tiniest nubs.  After a long time as a female, a small number of Zorgons would then metamorphose into drones.  Only those females who’d managed to both acquire many resources, mainly food and the attention of drones, and who’d had many healthy offspring, would eventually mature into drones.

            The last phase was the most selective and elite of them all.  If a drone managed to collect enough of a certain biochemical (the Zorgons called it Holy Feces) from enough females¾and it was physiologically impossible for the females to release this substance without the females freely, willingly regarding the drone as the best of all the local drones¾then and only then could a drone metamorphose into a Queen.  That is, with the additional qualification that this metamorphosis was not inhibited by the continuous presence of biochemicals from an already-reigning local colony queen.

            The Queen was the supreme ruler of any Zorgon colony.  She would suck the sacred sap of the Truffulla tree, and metabolize it into a liquid called Holy Water, which was the most sacred of all Zorgonian substances.  This, she would mix with her own gametes (sex cells), contributing a small but vitally essential portion of genetic material.  This would be sprayed upon mature egg buds, allowing them to be released from the females.  Without this Holy Water, egg buds couldn’t mature into grubs, and the females couldn’t become ready to be fertilized again.  But with the Holy Water, the egg buds could break free, becoming grubs, and starting the cycle all over again.

            So evolution had provided the Zorgons with methods of selecting for genetic fitness, as well as sociopolitical unity and coherence.  After all, without the females actually “voting” for a drone to become Queen¾this “voting” being built into their very bodies¾the drone could never become a Queen.  So only politically astute and compassionate drones ever made it to become Queens.  And without the Queen’s contributions, the whole show would come to a screeching halt.  So if any individuals decided to split from the colony, and do their own thing, they might do so for as little while, but they couldn’t reproduce without the consent of the Queen.  So political unity was strongly favored.

            Then there was the tie-in to the Truffulla trees.  They provided essential biochemicals to the Queen.  And the entire colony had to religiously look after the Truffulla trees, in order for them to provide the sacred sap.  This provided a limit on population density.  If space and resources became too scarce, or the political unity of the colony, or even relations with nearby colonies, suffered, then the trees would suffer, the sacred sap would run low, and reproduction would slow down, providing a very nice, neat feedback loop.

            This is what evolution had provided to the Zorgons.  They, in turn, culturally overlaid their instinctual behavior with very strong religious commandments and taboos.  Starting with their strongest taboos, and working down the list’s top hitters, the list approximately translates to this: 1) Obey the gods and their sacred scriptures, 2) Obey the Queen, 3) Respect, and do not waste or destroy, any phase of the Zorgonian life cycle, or the Truffulla trees, and 4) Do not conflict with, or steal from, any neighboring colony.  Parenthetically, we might add that once the Zorgons became space-farers, they broadened this to become, “Don’t mess with any other planet that has life on it.”

            For billions of years, their instincts and taboos had served them well.  Their species was a very stable, balanced, and life-respecting one.  Even though they could, long, long ago, have supplemented and bypassed many features of their reproductive system (for example, synthesize Holy Feces, Holy Water, genes, and so on, and even do entirely without queens or Truffulla trees), they refrained, for the most part, from doing so.  Cultural continuity, sociopolitical stability, and species solidarity demanded it.  Religiously, this translated into an extension of respecting the Zorgonian life cycle.

            But there were, now and then, a few cases where charismatic leaders would bend and even break the rules, leading isolated Zorgonian outposts astray.  Aileron Hubba-Hubba was one of them.  He’d been trained as a biochemist, in hopes that he’d be able to solve the twin mysteries of how the Earthling dinosaurs managed to be intelligent with such small brains, and how they apparently managed to communicate with each other.  So, being a biochemist by training, he had the skills.  Being of strong will, intelligent, and utterly in thrall to his strong lusts for sex and power, he had the drive.  He’d diverted resources, and figured out how to synthesize Holy Feces, Holy Water, and the relatively simple genes contributed by the Queen.  The latter, he derived from his own genetic material.

            So when the Queen died a mostly natural death (he’d only slightly hastened her demise with his poisons), he was prepared.  Now, he could have just gone ahead and become the new Queen.  That, alone, would have given him a lot of power.  But it wouldn’t have given him a whole bunch of sex.  The genetic contributions of a Queen, after all, were pretty minimal.  Thus, too, in proper proportion, the instinctual/emotional satisfactions derived by a Queen from such reproductive functions, were rather small.  The drives and pleasures were much stronger in the drone phase.  Of this, Aileron Hubba-Hubba was well aware.

            So he didn’t actually go through with the metamorphosis.  He’d fabricated a large prosthesis, a fake striped orange-and-green Queen’s abdomen, a “falsie” to slip on over his own abdomen.  He’d rendered it, and his metamorphosis, faithfully enough to fool the entire colony.  A few drones were suspicious, but they didn’t live long enough after the Queen’s demise for them to make any difference.  So now Aileron Hubba-Hubba was quite clearly Queen of the hop.

            Except He was also King of the hop, too, because he retained drone reproductive functions as well.  This wasn’t entirely unheard of; in times of great stress, Zorgonian myths and legends (or was it history?) from ages ago said that when all drones had died, an occasional, very powerful Queen would still be able to serve as drone as well.  These myths, and Aileron Hubba-Hubba’s methods of staging His Metamorphosis, served all the more to prop up His Power.

            Entirely appropriate, at this point, would be an explanation of Aileron Hubba-Hubba’s name.  This is rendered as a fairly accurate translation from the Zorgonian.  Yes, Zorgons resembled flying insects.  But that’s only very, very roughly.  Their front wings were mostly fixed, liked fixed-winged aircraft.  Propulsive power came from vertical and horizontal flappers at the rear of the abdomen.  Flight control surfaces on the trailing edges of their fixed wings, then, corresponded to no known Earth species, but rather, to the ailerons on an aircraft.

            During the metamorphosis from female to drone, the Zorgonian cloaca (one combined opening for wastes and gametes) would migrate from the abdomen out to the right wing, close to the inner right aileron.  By snuggling up to a female from her left side, then, a drone could place his ailerons, and hence, his cloaca (now protruding out of a prehensile peduncle, or stalk, for mobility and control) over the abdomen of a female.  Then he could fertilize her embryonic egg buds.

            Now Aileron Hubba-Hubba was quite the specimen, and He much appreciated the females of his species.  And yes, that’s an understatement.  In the manner of His species, whenever He’d see a very attractive female (which was quite often, since He considered them all very attractive, so long as they had six legs), He’d push His cloaca out onto the very tip-top of His peduncle, and He’d grind it against the resonant, rubbery surface of His ailerons.  This would create a loud, repetitive sound, which might translate roughly into Earth speak as “Hubba-Hubba.”  And so they called him Aileron Hubba-Hubba.

            But that translation is extremely crude¾just like any Earthling translations of Zorgonian concepts and words must be.  To Earthlings, “Hubba-Hubba” connotes the crude and vulgar utterances of a lout.  But the original Zorgonian sounds are considered music to Zorgonian auditory antennae.  Similarly, we might add, the concept of “Holy Feces” has lost much of its respectful Zorgonian aura, in translation to modern Earth speak.

            So on that fateful day, life seemed sweet to Aileron Hubba-Hubba.  There inside a large hollowed-out six-mile-long asteroid named Chicxulub, within the safe, sheltering confines of Zorgonian Outpost Gorglephutz (ZOG¾and yes, the asteroid and the colony had two separate names, just as humans might give one name to an island, and another to the city covering the island), Aileron Hubba-Hubba lolled underneath the Truffulla trees, idly watching the barbalutes scamper through the Grickel grass.  There were so, so many barbalutes these days!  But Aileron Hubba-Hubba didn’t mind them a bit.  After all, they were all His barbalutes (baby Zorgons), unlike so many of them were when He’d first come to power.  So these latest barbalutes, these He made sure were fairly well cared for.

            Then, to make His idyllic day complete, who should come fluttering into His verdant grove of Truffulla trees, but her!  Her very own nubile, gorgeous self, Snuggle Thorax (her name, of course, is crudely translated from the Zorgonian).  Aileron Hubba-Hubba’s most favored of all His babes!  And best of all, she’d shed her egg buds now, and was ready to go!  “Hubba-Hubba,” the musical notes reverberated throughout the glade.  Snuggle Thorax alighted onto the Grickel grass, right there next to Him.

            She swept her antennae back alluringly, and whispered, “Hey, Your Magnificence.  Whaddaya say You tell the barbalutes to scoot, and we, um, have a little talk.  Some spiracle to spiracle, as they say?”  Zorgons regarded their spiracles to be the poetic seat of their feelings, as human regard their hearts.

            Aileron Hubba-Hubba needed no encouragement.  He instructed the barbalutes to “scram” on out of that grove of trees, as Snuggle Thorax had suggested.  This He did without much thinking, almost as a reluctant afterthought, but He knew He had to at least make some genuflections towards Zorgonian propriety.  So the barbalutes scooted.

            Her antennae reached out, and smoothly caressed His.  His spiracles heaved, shooting out a hot, fine mist.  Her embryonic egg buds throbbed in anticipatory pleasure.  Eagerly, He swung His glistening abdomen around, and thrust His gleaming thorax towards her abdomen.  He juxtaposed His cloaca to hers, stimulating her, but also probing her for her levels of Holy Feces.  “Oh, Aileron,” she moaned, “You’re such a hunk!  Just look at You!  Your clypeus, it’s like a fresh Truffulla bud!  And Your epandrium, it beckons to me like a bright beacon in the night!  And such a shapely reticulated endocranium, it makes my thoracolumbar mucopurulent membranes pulsate!  I can’t help it!  Oh, oh!  Yes!  Such a hunka, hunka, gamete-spewing, love-making mean orange-and-green machine!  Take me now, You Big Steaming Peduncle, take me!  I’m yours!”

            He ripped the bodice off of her thorax in one smooth, well-practiced swoop of His mandibles, swung His quivering right wing out over her abdomen, and thrust His throbbing cloaca out to the tip of His peduncle.  Then He did things that can’t be described here, in case they ever want to make Jurassic Horde Whisperer of Madness County into a movie with any sort of decent rating whatsoever.  All you Zorgonian readers out there, shame on you!  Now put your cloacas back!  And Marv Albert, Hugh Grant, and Billary-Bob, that means you, too!

After all this brief but intense love-making, Snuggle Thorax fished around in the shreds of her bodice, finally coming up with a small kit.  As is Zorgonian custom in such circumstances, she flattened out the processed leaf of Truffulla tree, sprinkled some dried fragments of Grickel grass onto it, and rolled it up.  Then she repeated these motions, ending up with two cigarettes.  One, she offered to Aileron Hubba-Hubba, and the other, she kept.

            Then she lit them both up.  Aileron Hubba-Hubba, however, did His part purely out of Zorgonian propriety.  He’d draw the smoke very slightly into His spiracles, just enough to make it look good, then He’d spew it right back out.  He never inhaled, you see.  As often as He was enjoying these pleasures these days, if He’d indulge in Grickel grass every time, He’d soon have abdominal cancer, He thought.  Besides, I have to be in top condition all the time, just in case there are some heavy-duty religious or political machinations.

            So they lay there, smoking.  Or at least, she smoked, while He pretended.  Then, she struck up a conversation.  Oh, no, here we go again, Aileron Hubba-Hubba protested inwardly.  Religious and political discussions again!  Why must they always do this to me?!  But He went along with it, as He always did.  It gave Him a chance to sample the thinking out there in the rest of the colony, while He’d also push His own views.  “So what are we going do when all these barbalutes grow up?” she was asking, “We’re going to run out of room.  We’ll have to hollow out another asteroid.  Do you think Galactic Headquarters will give us permission?  You know how they usually are.  We’re just supposed to be an outpost, not a population center.  And the more asteroids we inhabit, the greater are our chances of being found out, by those giant reptilian lizards down there.”

 

 

 

 

 

Illustration goes here above…  Actually 2 of them.  “Miss Zorgonian” and then the censored “Love Scene”

 

 

            “Oh, don’t worry your gorgeous thorax about it, Snuggle Thorax,” Aileron Hubba-Hubba replied.  “Galactic Headquarters will have to give us permission.  As you can plainly see, the Truffulla trees are giving Me enough sap to make all these barbalutes.  And as the Holy Markings say, we are to be fruitful and multiply, to the limits that our trees and commandments will allow.”  Good thing she can’t read my mind, Aileron thought.  If she knew I was synthesizing all that sap, and only pretending to suck it from the trees, why, there’d be hell to pay!

            Then, there’s My other worries, He thought.  Disobedience and insurrection here in ZOG seem to be on the rise.  Doubts about Me and My Leadership.  I’ve got to keep a visual sensory stalk or two on this situation.  Now Snuggle Thorax, here, she seems to be fairly loyal, judging by her levels of Holy Feces.  No, wait, didn’t I learn from that other nubile but rebellious young babe, Hübsches Mädchen, that I can’t judge by that anymore?  No competition any more, so of course I’m the biggest, most sensitive peduncle around!  Their “votes” mean nothing, any more!

            So, best to make sure I keep ‘em in line as best as I can.  Along these lines, it’s good to frequently chastise them, and insure that they still react in such a manner as to acknowledge that I’m the boss.  The situation at hand, now... what was she saying?  Oh, yes, us populating more asteroids means us increasing the probability that we’d inadvertently reveal ourselves to the “giant lizards” below.  Now, there’s a hook!

            “But I heard you calling them giant reptilian lizards,” he added sternly.  “I don’t think that reflects proper respect for our fellow beings.  It’s for their benefit that we’re here, you know.  I don’t think they’d take too kindly to the way you’re describing them.  I do believe they’d much prefer to be known as magnitudinally and metabolically challenged individuals.  Now I think you’re displaying your own attitudinally challenged nature.”

            “I’m sorry, Sir.  I won’t do it again, Your Magnificence.”

            That’s much better, He thought.  Now if only I can steer her clear of all these controversial topics that keep on cropping up more and more lately...

            No such luck.  “But it seems to me, and to many of the others, that when we calculate all this out,” she continued, “That we’re already behind.  I mean, count the barbalutes that we’ve got already, not to mention how many more we’re bringing into our world these days, and how much room they’ll need, how soon, and all, and how long it takes to hollow out another asteroid, and...”

            “That’s enough of that!” He thundered.  “Don’t you know, the Sacred Markings instruct us to be fruitful and multiply!?!  And not to worry, the future, the gods, will take care of tomorrow!  We need not worry!  And most of all, they say, obey the gods, the Markings, and your Queen!  I’m not only your Queen, but also your King!  Now I’ll have none of this insurrection!”

            He knew extremely well, exactly what she was talking about.  But He did indeed trust that the future would take care of itself.  And the hell with all the work of hollowing out another asteroid, in the hostile vacuum of space!  A friendly planet beckoned below.  At the last minute, when ZOG’s population pressures became nearly unbearable, there would be a certain transmission for Zorgonian Galactic Headquarters.  Or, at least, that’s where they’d think it came from.  Then they’d violate a few rules.  They’d descend down to that beautiful multi-colored, multicultural, multi-specied planet, and get intimate with it.  They’d set up a small colony on a small, isolated island down there.  And then they’d grow.  And grow and grow.  But no need to reveal those plans yet.

            “But I’m not rebelling, Your Magnificence.  I’m just asking,” she wheedled.  “I mean, just use the evidence of your senses, common sense, logic and reason.  There’s just no room here for this many adults of any kind!  Now, I believe the gods and the Sacred Markings are perfectly correct, and so are You.  I’m not questioning any of those things.  But just suppose something has gone wrong.  Pretty much, if we are to believe in reason, and the evidence of our senses, then this must be the case.  Maybe the Truffulla trees have mutated, gone astray from the master plans of the gods.  Maybe they’re just giving off way too much Sacred Sap.  Maybe...”

            “Enough blasphemy!” He declared.  “Reason and the evidence of your senses are worthless!  We must go by faith and faith alone!  Faith in the gods!  Reason tells us nothing!  Can you tell Me how reason tells us anything of fundamental value?  It doesn’t tell us why we should love instead of hate, create instead of destroy; seek pleasure rather than pain, live instead of die.  Why we should worship the gods, and not the dark whisperers?  If reason can’t tell us these most basic things, then of what use is it?  I tell you, it is faith and faith alone that will save us.”

            She wouldn’t give it up.  She knew she could get away with more than most others.  He’d never harm her, since He so intensely lusted after her body.  “But Sir, just suppose for a minute that You’re right, but only so far.  Maybe faith is where we get these fundamental choices you list.  Maybe these are starting assumptions, axioms, and postulates.  From there on, though, we must strictly adhere to reason and the evidence of our senses, to get us to the goals dictated by those axioms.”

            That really set Him off.  He began a long tirade against reason, and in favor of passionate faith in the gods.  He told her she should just behave herself like all of the many faithful ones in ZOG, and listen to her Leader.  She should go with faithful obedience, not with the deceptions propagated by “reason” and the evidence of her so-called “senses.”  He quoted the Sacred Markings at great length.  Snuggle Thorax just laid there, impressed but unpersuaded.  Halfway through His harangue, the ground below them quivered slightly.  Then the graviton generators automatically smoothed the vibrations out, so that they never consciously noticed them.

            Meanwhile, some mischievous barbalutes, smarting from having been kicked out of the Truffulla grove, had decided to go and explore.  To have themselves some adventures, as it were.  To indulge in Inappropriate Activities, as inadequately supervised barbalutes were prone to do, in the absence of watchful adults.  The adult to barbalute ratio was getting pretty low, those days.  So chaos and badness got its chance.

            They snuck into the control room.  Aileron Hubba-Hubba had erected barriers preventing all Zorgonian adults from entering without His Permission, since the control room was where the communications link to Zorgonian Headquarters was located.  He insisted on strict control of this link, for obvious reasons.

            But His precautions weren’t quite up to the appropriate standards, as events would show shortly.  The barbalutes, smartly clad in their barbalute suits, snuck through the tight spots in the barriers, easily slipping through where no adult could ever have gone.  They sat at the many controls, tweaking many dials, fiddling with many switches.  Asteroid Chicxulub, with its contents, the entire ZOG, accelerated under the impulse of giant thrusters.  The barbalutes chortled with glee.  “Asteroid go zoom,” they chanted, congratulating each other, slamming their manipulatory appendages into one another, making the “high elevens” gesture.  The graviton generators kicked in at that point, disguising the acceleration.

            But the appropriate alarms were tripped, and engineers (adult worker phase Zorgons) were summoned.  They frantically scampered about, trying to cut off power to the control room, trying to bust in, and screaming at the barbalutes through megaphones, telling them to stop immediately.  But the barbalutes only chortled some more, and tinkered happily at the controls.  “Asteroid go ZOOM!” they hollered with glee, watching the multicolored displays flashing hideously.  ZOG assumed a most dangerous orbit, one almost certain to cause it to skim across the top of Earth’s atmosphere, but still, hopefully, allowing it to break back free.  The alarms now kicked into high gear, indicating truly dire straits.

            The engineers desperately debated whether they should go off and interrupt His Magnificence.  The last time they’d done so, His Magnificence had been truly outraged.  Some blamed management, some blamed employees.  On ZOG, only one opinion mattered.  Several engineers had died shortly thereafter.  His Magnificence told them it was just another random spurt of industrial disease.  They hid their doubts, waving their antennae in assent.  Despite their fears, this time, they felt that they had no choice.  Several of them were selected randomly.  They set out to bring these matters to the attention of His Magnificence, Aileron Hubba-Hubba.

            By that time, His long philosophical and religious discussions with Snuggle Thorax had come to a rather abrupt halt, when another of His favorites, Lady Abdomen, had happened by.  So when the engineers arrived, Aileron Hubba-Hubba and Lady Abdomen were caught in a passionate embrace.  Despite the utter urgency of the matters that brought them by to visit Aileron, they simply couldn’t force themselves to interrupt.  So they waited, wasting more precious moments.

            By the time the engineers got back to the control room, Aileron Hubba-Hubba in tow, it was too late.  The ZOG’s electronic hardware and software had many, many safety features, supposedly preventing that which happened next.  But like most systems, the propulsion systems had override features.  They were supposed to be able to be activated only by fully trained adults.  Yet despite all the radars, gravity sensors, computers, and software, twelve barbalutes at twelve separate stations, with their child-like intelligence, somehow mysteriously did exactly the wrong thing.  Safety systems were overridden in a seemingly coordinated manner, and ZOG, imprisoned within the six-mile long asteroid named Chicxulub, blazed through the Earth’s atmosphere.  “Asteroid go ZOOM!” the barbalutes chortled one last time.

            Chicxulub approached the southern edges of the North American continent from the south.  Then ZOG got much more intimate with the Earth, far sooner than Aileron Hubba-Hubba had ever intended.  The unspeakable fury of millions of megatons of explosive force detonated, instantly vaporizing many cubic miles of the Earth’s crust.  Countless globs of white-hot, glowing magma literally went ballistic, then rained down from the skies.

            Within three minutes, incendiary gasses swept across most of North America, igniting a continent-wide firestorm.  Billions upon billions of tons of soot and vaporized minerals roiled the atmosphere.  The entire planet rang like a struck gong.  This planetary gong, having been struck entirely too hard, ruptured.  Across the globe, shock waves shattered the Earth’s crust, rending the planet’s face with giant fissures.  Lava burst forth, flooding the land and sea.  Angry dark clouds blotted out the sun, and poured acids down upon the battered Earth’s open wounds.

            Death bestrode the globe like a raging army of Titans.  Billions of dinosaurs and lesser life forms perished, extinguishing hundreds of thousands of species forever.  Upon hearing the news, several insurance companies on the Zorgonian home planets collapsed.  The Zorgonian stock market took its biggest hit in several million years.

            The Horde Whisperer smirked with glee.  There were no more missions here for him, for a long, long time.  He departed the solar system, never to return again.  At least, for another sixty some million years, that is.


 

 

5) Setting The Pleisto Scene

            “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that; no ordinary man could be such a fool.”  George Orwell  (1903–1950)

 

            The dinosaurs had reached consciousness, intelligence, sensitivity, self-awareness, self-congratulation (that is, most especially, self-congratulation regarding the superior sensitivity of the self, one’s own self, as compared to other, lesser life forms), and all sorts of other, similarly wonderful mental attributes, only due to some very special, highly improbable genetic mutations.  They’d acquired awesome mental powers completely out of proportion to their relatively small brains; so much so, as a matter of fact, that mainline modern paleontology hasn’t the vaguest hint of what really happened during that entire 165-million-year span known as the Mesozoic era (comprising the Triassic, Jurassic, Youarassic, Bodacious, Smegmacious, and Cretaceous periods).

            So remember, only the most elite academic researchers, the true elite of the elite of the neat, only they (you!) know.  Only to the readers of Jurassic Horde Whisperer of Madness County is the full Truth, in all its glory, revealed.  And the Truth is, the dinosaurs weren’t dumb, lumbering beasts.  Not at all!  Dumb?!  Ha!  So they didn’t have fancy vocal chords, or hyoid bones suitable for speech synthesis.  So what?!  They had awesomely advanced mental powers, including the ability to speak, wheedle, cajole, plead, scream, holler, whisper, and yell, all without making a sound!  Their ESP (Especially Sensitive Perception) abilities allowed them to groove to each others’ cosmic-karmic brain vibes.

            And lumbering?!  Another lie!  The American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Edition, © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company, as revealed to me in CD-ROM driven dreams from beyond realms of time and cyberspace, defines the verb “lumber” as A) “To cut down (trees) and prepare as marketable timber.” or B) “To cut down the timber of.”  And the dinosaurs, they never cut down a single tree.  No Sir, not a one!  They were far, far more Sensitive than that!  They waited for the dead trees to fall all by themselves, first.  Only then did they feel free to make use of the wood.  After all, dead but standing trees provided primary habitat for the spotted Archaeopteryx.

            So as we can see, the dinosaurs were neither dumb nor lumbering.  They were, indeed, quite advanced, more advanced even than modern humans, in many ways.  And those highly improbable genetic mutations that enabled the amazing feats of the dinosaurs have never evolved again.  Well, OK, so, twice, in two individuals, these genes came into play once again.  But those were even more extremely unlikely events, in which these genes rose from the grave, so to speak, ever so briefly, and then subsided once again, this time forever.  These events occurred at the dawn of humanity, and profoundly shaped the myths, legends, and dreams (and therefore the very essence) of humanity itself.

            What happened is that dinosaur blood, containing dinosaur genes, was sucked down by voracious Mesozoic-era mosquitoes.  These mosquitoes in turn often became stuck in tree resins.  The tree resins became fossilized amber, in certain times and places, excluding such times and places when and where the likes of Thomas Edisonosaurus used said resins to fabricate industrial artifacts and to gum up Lawyersaurs.  And so dinosaur genes were preserved through the long ages, entombed in white blood cells inside mosquitoes inside amber.  And inside these genes were entombed the vast, almost mystical mental powers of the dinosaurs, awaiting the highly improbable events that would unleash them upon unsuspecting victims... (Note, macabre music starts here, all you hordes of screen-play script writers).

            Scene: Dawn of humanity.  The alarm clock of humanity has just buzzed, and humanity is sloshing around in the waterbed of humanity, floundering its way over to pound on the snooze button on the alarm clock of humanity.  Outside, a large female snake by the name of Shoshoni Squamata (to be played by Demi Fleiss, Heidi Bassinger, or Kim Moore) is slithering down a path.  Shoshoni Squamata shows irritation, and signs of molting setting in.

            Shoshoni slithers on down that path.  After a few hundred yards, she comes to an outcropping of sharp rocks.  She starts belly dancing on the rocks.  Soon, her outer layer of skin starts seriously peeling off.  Male snakes, forked tongues flicking out, gather around, panting, wolf whistling, and sticking freshly killed hamsters (roughly, hundred-dollar bills, translated to modern human currency, and accounting for inflation) underneath a ring of Shoshoni’s old skin (the first “garter belt”, even though Shoshoni is a python, not a mere garter snake).  Showing her appreciation, she wriggles and writhes all the more enticingly.  The male snakes go wild!

            Now the camera zooms in.  Zooms, and zooms some more.  We see, in the middle of all these sharp rocks, some yellow-orange crystalline rocks.  Amber-colored rocks.  Amber.  Zoom some more.  Inside the amber, we now see the dark outline of a mosquito.  Computer graphics take over, as we zoom to the mosquito’s guts.  Zoom yet more, and then we see helical DNA molecules.  Zoom way back out.  Now we see that Shoshoni has punctured herself on the sharp rocks, and is bleeding a bit.

            Zoom very slowly way back out, and we see Shoshoni dancing in the middle of a mass of writhing male snakes in the middle of the jungle.  Focus goes fuzzy slowly, while we hear Shoshoni’s voice-over:  “One day I was just a stupid snake, a dumb beast.  The next day I was endowed with awesome mental powers.  I eventually figured out what had happened.  The DNA in those amber crystals mixed into my blood.  Retroviruses carried the genetic codes through my blood-brain barrier, and into the cell nuclei of my brain neurons.

            “Highly improbable, yes.  But the Chaos Theory, this incredibly deep Theory based on mathematical equations that say that if you put a drop of water on the back of a hand, it will run off, but it will also give you an excuse to hold that hand, if it belongs to a gorgeous member of the opposite sex.  Now I’m just a snake, and I don’t have a hand, so how can I know these things?  Well, don’t forget, due to the immense complexity of genetics and Chaos, I became very wise.  So now I know All Things.  Don’t forget that.  And don’t forget that Chaos is Badness.”

            Shoshoni slithered away after shedding her old skin, giving all those male snakes a quick brush-off.  The last thing in the world that she wanted to be, right now, was a mounted python, let alone a multiply-mounted python.  Just what kind of a girl did they think she was?!  They’re just after my body, with no respect at all for my mind, anyway, she thought.  But wait!  What’s this?!  I didn’t even know I had a mind, till a few seconds ago!!  What’s come over me?!

 

            Illustration goes here above…  Snake Dance

 

 

She slithered off into the bushes, and pondered matters for quite a few days.  At first, just thinking was a great thrill.  She came up with all sorts of wonderful new ideas.  But then she realized that she had no one to share her marvelous new thoughts with.  And so she became profoundly lonely.  In the whole wide world, as far as she knew, she was the only one with a mind.  This was quite simply intolerable.

            So she set out to see if maybe she could convince other snakes to writhe on the shards of amber, to see whether perhaps the same thing would happen to them.  Then, they’d become highly intelligent and conscious, too, and she’d have company, and all would be well.  But alas, such was not to be.  First of all, she ran into tremendous difficulties persuading dim-witted snakes that they should writhe on sharp rocks, at any time other than when they were molting.  And then, to try to get them to deliberately make themselves bleed?  Forget it!  Soon, all the snakes for miles around were quite thoroughly convinced that Shoshoni Squamata was the craziest snake that anyone could imagine.

            Worst of all, even Shoshoni started to think she was crazy.  She set up detailed biochemical simulations in her mind, and showed herself how utterly improbable her current condition was.  By any common-sense analysis, a snake awakened to sentience by dinosaur genes in mosquitoes in amber should never have happened.  Yet there she was.  But now, to go off and try to replicate such extremely improbable events?  Wasn’t this utterly insane?!

            So Shoshoni gave it up.  Then she slithered around in desperation, thinking, well, obviously, so far in my wanderings, and in picking up the brain vibes of the various creatures, I’ve been able to tell that some are smarter than others.  Yes, none of them are anywhere close to being as smart as I am.  Still, some show more promise than others.  So if I just slither all around, and survey the creatures, maybe I can find some, somewhere, that might be worth communicating with.  Maybe even, if need be, I can intellectually stimulate them, poke and prod them in exactly the right ways, and help bring them to self-awareness!  Yes, that’s it!

            So, enthused once more, full of grandiose ideas about what she’d accomplish once she shared a world with fellow sentient beings, she set out.  She sifted the whispers of the winds from distant times and places, searching through the cosmic-karmic vibes for those indicating intelligence.  She explored her mental powers, probing here and there, using parts of her mind that no one had ever shown her how to use.  Here, she thought, what’s this?  If I just use my mind this way, then maybe I can detect...

            The anguished death cries of billions of dinosaurs came crashing down on her from sixty-five some million years ago.  She shut them down instantly.  No way can I handle that kind of psychic shock, she told herself, thoroughly shaken.  Besides, they’re all dead, frozen in time, and can have no real, genuine interaction with me.  We’ll have to try again.

            This time, she tried to open up that part of her mind again, this time with a filter: only the cosmic mind vibes of creatures in the present were allowed.  This time, there was again a sensation of crashing.  She fearfully retreated, only to stop herself almost immediately.  There was no threat, no pain.  She concentrated... the crashing was the crashing of waves, and of flukes upon the surface of a salty sea.  Cheerful, sleek, happy, intelligent creatures splashing among the waves, out beyond a distant shore, playing in an immense body of water.  Company!  She had company in this world!  Creatures fully as intelligent as herself!  She slithered off towards distant shores.  Many, many miles lay between her and the sea.  But as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single slither.

            Months later, she dragged herself onto the beach.  Exhausted, she sought the shade of a surfside palm tree.  There, she relaxed.  And then she got to thinking again.  What if these creatures had no interest in her?  She’d been so obsessed with getting here, she’d never even allowed herself to do much doubting about what would come next.  She’d not be able to swim with these creatures.  Their styles and hers, in locomotion and so much more, mismatched fundamentally.  What, if anything, would she have to offer them?  For that matter, what would they have to offer her?  Oh, stop it, she told herself.  Like seeks like, and sentience seeks sentience.  Surely that is enough!

            Surely they’d soon come swimming close by!  Surely they could hear her cosmic brain vibes, just as she could hear theirs!  Surely they’d come to assuage her loneliness any minute now!  She waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  And they never came close by.  She drifted off to sleep.  After having traveled those many, many miles, she slept the rest of the day, and then through the night.  She dreamed of growing flippers, slapping silvery waves, and slipping through the seven seas, all in the company of her new cetacean friends.

            In the morning she woke, and probed the ether with her mind.  Where were they?  Were they close by?  Yes, they were!  They were some miles to the north, swimming south along the coast, straight towards her, it seemed!  She could feel their vibes getting stronger by the minute!  Did they hear her presence?  No, it didn’t seem that way.  Maybe they weren’t as strong, in the receive mode, as she was.  Maybe they just weren’t quite as sensitive as she was.  Still, they talked among themselves with obvious ease!  Surely they’d hear her, when they’d swim right down the beach beside her!  She eagerly slithered right down into the water.

            The surf pushed her back up onto the beach.  She made herself content to slither north, there on the hard wave-packed sand. She pushed herself faster.  Every yard closer to them meant they’d be that much more likely to hear her before they turned back out towards the open sea.  Here they come, she thought.  Maybe time to slow down, relax physically, and pour all my energies into reaching out, psychically, towards them.  And so she did.

            And then they were right upon her.  She could even see that gorgeous sight, as their dorsal fins sliced through the waters, no more than two hundred yards away.  Shoshoni poured herself into screaming at the dolphins, straining every neuron in her newly reconfigured neural networks.  Yet they never showed even the slightest hint of being aware of her presence.  So she stopped screaming at them, after they’d just barely passed her, just long enough to listen very carefully.  It was only then that she came to realize that they were using physical vibrations in the water to communicate with, and that they couldn’t hear her at all.

            Crushed, she headed back inland.  But she wasn’t defeated yet.  She reached out with her mind yet once again, this time adding yet another filter: flipper-footed critters need not apply.  Land lubbers only.  Maybe with land creatures, she could get so close, they’d not be able to ignore her psychic screams, even if they were almost deaf.

            So she searched high and low.  Then she found the elephant-like creatures.  They weren’t anywhere close to being as smart as dolphins, but they were certainly a lot smarter than your average bear, or most any other land-lubbing creature she’d slithered into.  So she set out to work on them.

            But she very rapidly ran into problems.  First of all, there was the fact that along with the intellectual and psychic capacities that she’d inherited from the dinosaurs, she’d also picked up their ethical sensibilities.  So she had to ponder long and hard, the ethical implications of what she was about to do.  What would happen if she put mammoths or mastodons on the road to sentience, civilization, and technological advancement?  After watching their behavior, and trying her best to understand their essence, she conjured up such a future.  It didn’t look good.  The females, infants, and juveniles behaved just fine.  They were highly social and well-behaved animals, if one ignored their tendency to wreak havoc with their environment.  They’d trash the local environment, tear down trees and eat everything in sight, and then move on.

            The real problem was the males.  They were antisocial loners, except during mating season.  During mating season, they’d go into “musth”, many of them getting extremely grumpy and peevish.  To expect such a species, with such behavior among the powerful males, to advance to higher levels of technology and political organization¾well, it was scarcely an acceptable risk.  Put it this way, the first tentative visions Shoshoni got when she conjured up such a future, was of male elephants running around with sharpened metal blades strapped to their tusks, goring, slicing, and dicing their opponents left and right.

            Despite her extreme misgivings about what she was doing, the force of her loneliness pushed her on.  She persuaded herself that surely, there’d be no harm in just gathering a bit more data.  So she forced herself to go up right next to a large female mammoth, the matriarch of her herd.  Shoshoni announced her presence with a loud psychic shout, saying, “Hi, there, Mrs. Mammoth, can we talk?”

            Mrs. Mammoth did indeed hear that psychic shout, but she also promptly proceeded to try and squash one Shoshoni Squamata.  Shoshoni squirmed away as fast as she could.  The hell with that, Shoshoni concluded.  If even the females behave this way, then there’s no hope.  Let’s move on to some other creature.

            Then Shoshoni discovered the ape-men.  Now she was quite reluctant to deal with them, since they smelled quite disgustingly awful.  But they seemed to have their virtues.  They were highly social, and the males even seemed capable of often getting along with one another, rather than constantly fighting over the females, as in harem-oriented species.  The male ape-men, being mostly monogamous, even managed to do a bit of offspring-rearing.  Now this species has the potential to become sentient, maybe even civilized, Shoshoni noted approvingly.

            There were of course some disturbing attributes of those two-legged beasts.  Shoshoni couldn’t quite put her finger on exactly what it was that bothered her so much, other than their smell, even if she’d had a finger to start with.  So she pondered the nature of those beasts, and conjured up a possible future of civilized humanity.  She opened up her mind, and the vibes rushed in.

            Peon I was yelling at Peon II, saying, “I’m starving, and you’ve got bread, and you’re not giving me any.  You’re valuing your possessions more than my life!  Now if you had any compassion at all, you’d share.  Give it to me.”

            Now Shoshoni had no idea what bread was, but she could put it in context.  Something like freshly killed hamsters or some such, to these critters, no doubt, she figured.  Hummmm.  Hissss.  Interesting.  Perhaps I’d better listen in some more.

            “Now fork it over,” Overlord was saying to Peon II.  “You heard him.  You’re being utterly selfish, while your comrade is starving.  Let’s have the bread.  Good.  That’s more like it, more like the way a citizen should do his duty.  OK, now, I’ll take my small administrative fee for the Bureau of Compassion.  Here you go, Peon I.”

            “Peon I, stop!  Don’t you dare take a bite!  How can you be so cruel, getting ready to chow down in front of me, Peon II, your starving co-worker and comrade!  You’re valuing your possessions more than my life!  How could you?!  Comrade Overlord, make him stop!”

            “Now listen up,” Overlord said to Peon I.  “Let’s have none of this reactionary insensitivity.  We’ve got to be team players, and work for the good of society.  Give it here.  Great, that’s more like the New Society Man.  Now I’ve got to collect taxes on behalf of the State, so that it can perpetuate the new, classless system of glorious equality.  And here’s the remainder for our hard-working co-worker, Peon II.”

            “Peon II, how could you?!  You put that down right now!  You crass materialist, you’re valuing mere material possessions more than the life of your starving fellowperson!  Comrade Overlord, make him stop!”

            “Comrade Peon II, now, you know this crass materialistic selfishness won’t cut it.  We can’t be punishing Peon I for his poverty.  Here.  OK, good.  Now for the transaction fee, and the rest goes to our deserving comrade, Peon I.”

            “Peon I, stop, I say!  Comrade Overlord...”

            Shoshoni had heard enough.  Let’s see what else is out there, she thought, tweaking the knobs of her cosmic-karmic vibes detector.  So far, things look rather bleak.  But maybe she’d just gotten a bad sample.  OK, here we go...

            “We’ve got to find our common ground, so we can be compassionate to Our Children.  Only then can we come together and face our tomorrow, which is our future.  Nothing big ever came from being small, and nothing positive ever came from negative thoughts.  Negative thoughts like questioning our goals of being compassionate to Our Children.  How can anyone who claims to care...”

            “Yes, yes, I know, I’ve heard you and your husband say that many times.  But now we need to work with the people, so that they can understand...”

            “But Eleanor, they just won’t understand!  They’re so cruel and heartless, so self-centered!  Here I am, with degrees and honorary degrees from all sorts of top-notch schools, with more compassion than a bucket load of those selfish oafs, and they’re resisting my selfless attempts to make their charity decisions more wisely for them!  Those low-brow simpletons, if we let them keep their money for themselves, they’d spend it all on trailer parks, beer, and cigarettes!  And lottery tickets!  State lottery tickets, not federal, mind you!  We’ve got to get the power into the hands of those who are morally superior, more sensitive and most compassionate!  If we’re going to move ahead, and have the villages raise the children, then...”

            “There, there, now, Hillary-Bob,” the feminine vibes of the Eleanor-creature said soothingly, “You just hang tight.  Think cattle futures.  Now if you can just raise some money, then, since it takes money to make money, you could, like, drag a few hundred dollars through Washington.  There’s no telling what you’ll scare up when you drag a few big bills down the corridors of DC.  The possibilities are endless.  Maybe you could even rent Billary-Bob out for children’s birthday parties, tea parties, garden parties, pool parties, and so on.  Lots of fund-raising potential there.  And after you’ve got the money to get your messages out, you can Do Good.”

            Shoshoni could hardly understand any of this.  Inchoate apprehensions nipped at her scaly tail.  What was this bizarre, all-important thing called money?  She decided to leave this pleasant little chat, and cast about for another sample.

            She found herself as a disembodied spirit flitting about a large, ugly, smelly, hellish and hellishly hot open-air dungeon called Chicago.  She watched as old, withered humans died of the heat in little cages.  They were afraid of opening their windows for fresh, cooler air, lest unrestrained violent fellow humans rob or kill them.  She listened to some of their conversations, as they suffered and died.  Apparently, they suffered from the heat because they were poor, which meant that they lacked money.  That, in turn, meant that they couldn’t get the things that could make their air cold, nor the mysterious power that made these things work.

            She studied and pondered these matters diligently, and concluded that money must be a weird distillation of worth, of material value.  Symbolic freshly killed hamsters, one could say.  With what few of these symbolic freshly killed hamsters that these poor old folks had, apparently, they’d buy things of value, like the small shiny metal cans of beans that they’d eat.

            Then she heard some racket outside the little cages, and fled out to the streets to see what was going on.  Loud, angry humans were shouting and carrying signs, things with more symbols, protesting that their air was too dirty.  She listened long enough to realize that most of the protesters were what was called rich, which meant that they had enough freshly killed hamsters to worry about dirt in the air, so much so that they carried these signs, wrote letters to the editor, and made campaign contributions, rather than just worrying about staying alive, like the poor.  After doing all these things, the rich would then retire to the cooled comfort of their air-conditioned cages, while the poor ones died in the heat.

            Then she flitted back to the cages of the withered poor, and listened some more.  She came to realize, from the utterances of some of the few better-informed suffering ones, that cooled air cost a lot more than it otherwise might, because the rich ones insisted on clean air.  The air-cooling machines and their power plants somehow fouled the air.  To make things even worse, the air-cooling things of the rich cooled their indoor (cage) air, while heating up the outdoor air, making the air of the poor even hotter.

            So the poor died, while the rich got cleaner cooled air.  Some said that there was a simple solution to all these many interrelated problems.  Dirt in the air, soil, and water, and the prices being driven up by richer humans demanding more regulations on all the machines.  The all-wise regulators should own everything, and make everything good and clean for everyone.  Yet when this had been tried in other lands, the results had been dirt and suffering for everyone.

            Her brain reeled as she tried to assimilate all this.  It was all way too confusing.  She decided that maybe it was time to tie up loose ends, to go and see if she could now make more sense of the two ladies’ conversation.

            “Yes, you could give money to the poor, and feed them for a day,” Eleanor was saying.  “But if you use that money to lobby, to change the cruel and heartlessly punitive ways of the government, why, then, you could do much, much more good.  Much more long-lasting good.”

            “Yes, you’re right,” Hillary-Bob said, thoughtfully.  “There’s no end to the good things I could do for the poor.  Take care of their children, give them all good medical care, clean up their air...”

            Shoshoni couldn’t stand it any more.  “But Hillary-Bob,” she said, breaking in, “Realize you that you regulate everything, you make bigger prices for all-one?  Them wrinkled ones, them poor old folks in Chicago have not many fresh killed hamsters cool their air.  Them with many fresh killed hamsters, them get cold air, them protest, them make ones who not have fresh killed hamsters get hot air.  With fresh killed hamsters get cold air and cleaner air, with no fresh killed hamsters die.  Poor ones become killed, become killed hamsters for them with many killed hamsters.  But ones who kill think them are much compassionate, because them want clean air, which is such big good thing.  Isss sssilly.”

            There was a long, long silence.  Finally, Hillary-Bob ventured, “And just who are you to barge in on our conversation like this?!”

            “Oh, I are Shoshoni Sssquamata.  I what you call python, large sssnake.  But not mounted python.  I the only, the lonely, the only sssmart sssnake in thirty thousand B.C., as you sssay.  I not mounted sssnake because I the only sssmart sssnake, they all want my body, not my mind.  Ssso they not mount me.  But you not care about that.  I come to sssee you.  I come to sssee if OK for me to make ssstinky ape-men go road to sssivilization, as you sssay.”

            Again, the long silence.  Hillary-Bob, frightened, managed to squeak out, “Listen, Eleanor, I’d better cut this short.  Way short.  This is it!  No more!  I’m laying real low till after the elections!  Good-bye!”  She beat a speedy retreat.

            “What ssslithered up her asss and died?” Shoshoni inquired, trying one of those weird idioms that these humans were so fond of.

            “Oh, don’t mind her,” Eleanor replied.  “She’s not too hip on us spirits in the afterworld, and other such-like bizarre, otherworldly spirits.  She frightens easily.  She fears for her sanity, and so she’s afraid she’ll ruin Billary-Bob’s chances of getting re-elected.”

            Eleanor said this quite breezily, as if totally dismissing the idea that she, herself, might fear this alien spirit, this Shoshoni Squamata.  But Shoshoni knew otherwise.  She could smell the fear, somehow.

            “So tell me,” Eleanor continued, “What were you saying?  About you being from 30,000 B.C., and such?  What’s the deal?”

 

 

Illustration goes here above…  Hillary and Eleanor and snake

 

 

            Shoshoni explained as best she could, that Hillary-Bob, Eleanor, Chicago, rich, poor, regulators, elections, money, air conditioners, and so, so many other things were all still quite hypothetical at this point, and that she, Shoshoni, had come to scope things out, to see if this grand experiment should proceed, or not.  She was quite lonely, so she wanted to go for it.  But she’d had her doubts.  And now she had yet more doubts.  So what should she do?  She didn’t know.  So she asked Eleanor for some advice.

            Eleanor was shocked to her ethereal bones.  But she recovered enough in time to mumble something about Shoshoni not playing with billions of souls.  Bossily, yet fearfully, she asserted that Shoshoni had better go kick-start those ape-men, and pronto!  Shoshoni slithered merrily away, happy to have gathered some encouragement for her endeavors.  Her loneliness would come to an end, and soon!

            Little nagging doubts kept on nipping at her scaly tail.  Well, they said to her, what if you’d gone ahead in time, and looked in detail at hypothetical civilized elephants instead?  What if you’d had a conversation with one of them?  Wouldn’t they have said the same thing?  You can’t play with billions of souls, you have to bring us into existence.  So in the future, the elephants could be carving trinkets out of the teeth of dwindling populations of humans, instead of the other way around.  Why was one any better than the other?  Shoshoni just told her nagging doubts to hush up, because no human had ever tried to trample her.  So that was that.

            She set about the business of intensively studying the ape-men.  She soon discovered that there were three tribes (extended family clans) of them, all living together in harmony.  They were fairly smart already, certainly smarter than the elephants, although nowhere near as smart as Shoshoni, or the dolphins.  The three tribes shared the same lands, trading various goods and services between themselves.  They all had their own ways of worshipping their gods, which mostly translated to eating certain things that made their brains do strange things.  But they had taboos against messing with each other, or using the resources that belonged to other tribes.

            The Firewater Tribe used the seeds of grass plants, grinding them up and using their knowledge of yeast.  Well, to be more accurate, they knew nothing about yeast, other than how it worked, or what it did.  They called it the BFD God, for Bread, Firewater, and Dough.  Dough was the lumpy, gooey mix made by grinding up grain seeds.  Firewater was the fermented liquids obtained by sprouting seeds, drying, grinding, and roasting them, making them into liquids, and then enclosing the liquids in large earthenware jars.  They called it firewater because it burned their lips.  Yet they liked it, because it made them feel good, and enabled them to talk to the gods.  And bread was a food made by heating their dough; this bread, it seemed, lasted longer and tasted better than the dough.

            The Firewater Tribe gave bread and dough to the other tribes, in return for other goods and services.  But the firewater was sacred, and reserved just for them.  The other tribes respected this, and their fields of grain, as the sole provinces of the Firewater Tribe.

            The Shroom Oog Tribe had the secret of fire.  Fire made heat, which they used to harden clay into earthenware jars and pottery.  Also, periodically the Firewater Tribe would come to visit them, and they’d all have big ceremonies and celebrations.  The Firewater Tribe would bring dough to be baked into bread, which they would then share with the Shroom Oog Tribe, in return for their baking services.

            They’d also bring the dried, ground-up remnants of barely-sprouted seeds, so that the Shroom Oog Tribe could roast this, too, in preparation for the fermenting of firewater.  This was the time when all the special ceremonies would be conducted, so that the Shroom Oog’s Fire God would bestow his Fire Powers unto the Firewaters.  At the end of the day, the Firewater Tribe would go home with bread, jars of fermentable powder for brew, the occasional wooden tools, and empty new jars fresh from the kilns of the Shroom Oog Tribe.  The Shroom Oogs, meanwhile, would contentedly lay back, bellies and larders full of fresh bread.

            The trees and shrubs of the forests belonged to the Shroom Oogs.  This meant that their fruits, nuts, and berries were theirs, to eat and to trade with the other tribes.  The special resources of the Shroom Oogs also included the mushrooms that sprouted in certain special places.  These, though, were for eating only by the Shroom Oogs.  When they’d eat them, they’d commune with their gods.  And all the dead wood of the forests belonged to the Shroom Oogs, too, because they needed it for their fires, and for making a few wooden tools now and then.  The other tribes respected the Shroom Oogs very much, and took special pains not to offend them.  In fact, the Shroom Oogs, with their special Fire Powers, were actually regarded as gods by the other tribes.  It was unthinkable that anyone other than a Shroom Oog should ever mess with Fire, which belonged to these particular gods.

            Then there was the Blunt Heads Tribe.  They talked to their gods by eating the leaves of the cannabis weed, a hardy plant that grew in special places.  Their weeds, and their Weed God, were, needless to say, their sole province, and highly respected by the other tribes.  They got their fruits, nuts, and berries, wooden tools, and their earthenware, for carrying water, from the Shroom Oogs, and their bread from the Firewater Tribe.  In turn, they provided various services for the others.  They gathered wood for the Shroom Oogs’ fires, and tended to the spirits of the plants that nourished all the ape-men.  In times of drought, they’d carry water to their own weeds, to the grain plants of the Firewater Tribe, and to the trees and shrubs which belonged to the Shroom Oogs.

            Even more than all these other things, though, the Blunt Heads were highly respected for the special services they conducted to appease the spirits of the Earth Mother, and all her daughters.  They made beautiful music and dances.  They appeased the Earth Mother by carving beautiful images from the ivory of naturally deceased elephants.  Then, they’d conduct fertility rites, and put seeds into the soil.  Seeds for their weeds, grains for the Firewater Tribe, and tree and shrub seeds for the Shroom Oogs.

            Last but not least, the Blunt Heads had the immense patience and magic required to sit still for long, long periods of time, pondering the Earth Mother, and catching glimpses of the wild animal spirits that the ape-men shared their world with.  Then they’d use their special gifts to go deep inside the sacred caves (members of the Shroom Oog Tribe would come with them, with torches of fire, to light the way) to paint pictures of the wild animal spirits, who were full of life and vigor.  When the members of any tribe then fell sick, the Blunt Heads’ Medicine Men would go into these caves, appease the animal spirits, draw on the reserves of power in the paintings, and return to heal the sick.  These Medicine Men were also responsible for protecting the ape-men from the wild animal spirits, which were occasionally known to directly attack, and even eat, the ape-men, instead of just causing sickness.

            The wild animals spirits, as well as the resources and special provinces of the various tribes, were highly respected by all the ape-men.  No one ate of their flesh; this was taboo.  Killing of animals could only be done by the Blunt Heads Medicine Men, in the rarest of circumstances.  These cases were in defense of the lives of ape-men, or in ending the sufferings of near-dead animals.  And the Blunt Heads had a lock on the privilege of using the remains of animals, mostly naturally deceased.  From their skins, they would fashion blankets, which all tribes used to keep warm, when the weather turned bitter cold.  From the tusks of elephants, they’d fashion images of the Earth Mother.  From the antlers of elk, they’d fashion implements with which to process the soil, in special rituals to prepare the earth to receive seeds.

            So all the tribes were in what they called a mutual flea-picking arrangement, and it worked out very well.  They all lived in peace and harmony.  All this, Shoshoni learned in the space of several months, by hanging out close enough to hear their thoughts loud and clear, always avoiding detection.  But she longed for the day when she could get closer¾close enough, even, so that she could finally talk to these ape-men, without them running away in fear.  After all, they’d regard her as a dangerous, powerful animal spirit.  Yet she needed still more information.

            She decided to investigate the Shroom Oog Tribe some more.  She made this selection for several reasons.  First, she perceived that the Shroom Oogs, when eating their hallucinogenic mushrooms, would regard a telepathic snake to be far less of an unusual threat, compared to what she might expect from the other tribes, whose consciousness seemed to be much less altered during their communications with their gods.  Then there were the tantalizing hints that there were some highly intelligent members within the Shroom Oog Tribe, who were running the show, somehow.  And the Shroom Oogs, with their fire and pottery, seemed pretty advanced, probably more so than the others.

            She started to move in closer to one particular group of the Shroom Oogs (each tribe had many small groups, spread out over all the lands Shoshoni knew of), searching for more details.  They weren’t long in coming.  Yes, indeed, there were special Shroom Oogs with special knowledge and intelligence!  The Shroom Oogs had their Medicine Men, but they didn’t fool Shoshoni for long.  They were mere figureheads.  Each small group had one or two wise old women, called witches, who really ran the show.  They set the fires, and supervised the care and maintenance of these fires.  They selected the clays and colored minerals for making pottery, supervised the forming of the clay, and performed the most delicate operations.

            Shoshoni noticed that, along with the witch being the one who did those things requiring the greatest skill and intelligence, she exhibited other strange behaviors.  She, alone, of this entire Shroom Oog group, didn’t partake of the mushrooms.  And she surreptitiously crept off, on fairly frequent occasions, and ate of a taboo fruit.  This was the musical fruit, the fruit of a forbidden tree.  Now Shoshoni knew, from her glimpse of the human future, that the humans would one day call these forbidden fruits beans, and call the smaller plants shrubs and simply plants, rather than calling all plants trees, as these ape-men now did.  And she also knew that in the future, all knowledge of these beans having once been taboo, would be lost.  She knew, because she’d seen those old folks in Chicago eating them out of metal cans.

            But at this point, Shoshoni couldn’t understand much about any of this.  Why was the musical fruit taboo?  Why was it called musical fruit in the first place?  Why did the witch violate the taboo?  How and why would things change in the future, so that musical fruit should become no longer taboo?  Curious, she started intensively following the witch, and observing her thoughts and actions.

            Shoshoni was quite lucky one day, happening to be hidden in the bushes really close by, when Beldame Oog, the witch, not only came to eat of the forbidden fruit, but also to sit, relax, and to think things over.  So Shoshoni got quite the earful, so to speak.  Beldame sat there, morosely pondering her options, while Shoshoni snooped on her thoughts.

            Beldame, like most witches, had been raised by a witch, from infancy on.  Ever since she could remember, she’d secretly been fed the musical fruit, and told, most severely, not to reveal this secret to anyone.  In her turn, she and her fellow older witch had raised another two female children to be witches.  They’d fed them the taboo fruit, and kept the mushrooms away from them.  The special diet, it seemed, was necessary to prepare the minds of the young, so that the magical witch knowledge could take root there.  In a flash of brilliant deductive reasoning, Shoshoni came to realize what this all was really about.  The ape-men were all starved for proteins, except for the witches.  With their special monopoly on bean proteins, only their brains developed their fullest potential.  And the abstinence from eating mushrooms was simply to keep their minds from becoming too addled.

            But Beldame Oog had stumbled onto some bad luck.  The two young girls who’d been slated to become witches had both died, the older witch had passed away, and so now there was only Beldame.  She was getting old, so there wasn’t enough time to raise a new witch from infancy.  She couldn’t convince any spare witches from any nearby Shroom Oog groups to come and join their group, so there weren’t many choices.

            Rather than facing the strong possibility that her group would collapse, and either revert to animal status, or join some other group of Shroom Oogs after her death (a source of great shame in the afterworld, as envisioned by witches), she’d have to tackle a very difficult task.  She’d have to persuade a young ape-woman, one almost but not quite yet an adult, to become a witch.  And she’d have to teach her to become a good witch, despite her mind not having been prepared by the special diet.

            Shoshoni observed, fascinated by all this, as Beldame pondered her predicament.  Of the young ones, who would she pick?  Which one was the smartest, and most easily persuaded to secretly break the taboos, at this late stage, when minds have begun to rigidify?  Beldame’s mind swirled with complex considerations of all the sophisticated ramifications of her group’s social dynamics, the nature of ape-man behavior, and past history, as relayed, word of mouth, from one generation of witches to the next.

            Shoshoni listened with rapt attention.  She came to realize what awesome powers these witches held.  They were actually the ones who’d set up the taboos, the various sole provinces for the three tribes, so that they could all co-inhabit the same areas, and live and trade in peace.  Beldame knew of distant times when all had not been quite so peaceful.  Before her ancestors had deliberately designed and set up the new social order¾they’d apparently enforced it with threats of severe counseling and other punitive magic¾there had existed a primeval state of war, a war of all against all.  All resources had belonged to whoever could wrest them from the other ape-man, or, more realistically, from the other groups of ape-men.

            Beldame, in her ruminations over their current troubles, was rather superficial in her mental review of a lot of background information, though.  Questions persisted in Shoshoni’s mind.  Why was the musical fruit called musical fruit, and why was it taboo?  If it could make ape-men smarter, why weren’t they all eating it?

            Beldame wondered yet again, which young ape-woman might make the best witch.  Who would violate the taboos, and eat the musical fruit?  There was one young one called Eve Oog, it seemed, who showed some promise.  On occasion, she was known to speak quietly to her friends, proposing wild ideas.  Ideas in direct contravention to received social wisdom, taboos, family values, and common sense.  Some members of the group, now, were occasionally known to whisper dark suspicions about just how strange Eve Oog was.  Yes, Beldame concluded, Eve Oog is my best choice.

            Frustrated, Shoshoni began to debate.  Could she perhaps send out her thoughts, cosmic-karmic vibes and such-like things, and touch the mind of Beldame?  Could she even do so without Beldame catching on?  Or would Beldame flee in terror?  There was risk, yes.  But there was also so much more she needed to know.  So, quietly, subtly, she sent her thoughts out to Beldame.

            Taboos were made by witches, and witches can tear them down, Beldame thought.  Or, this is what she thought that she thought.  In reality, of course, these thoughts came from Shoshoni.  Why settle just for subverting Eve Oog?  Why don’t I just make a frontal assault on the idea that we should all addle our brains with mushrooms, and that none should eat of the forbidden musical fruit?

            Beldame recoiled in shock at this latest turn in “her” thoughts.  “Get thee behind me, Dark Whisperer,” she hissed inwardly.  “What do you want, anarchy?  A return to the war of all against all?  Only our taboos stand between us and utter madness!  Now get away from me!”

            Shoshoni’s mind boiled and bubbled.  A Dark Whisperer?  What’s that?  Just another of these irrational, superstitious ideas cooked up by these witches, to give them a grip on all the other ape-men?  Well, whatever it is, I know I’m not one.  Maybe it’s time to come out in the open, and have an honest snake-to-witch talk.  Get this all out in the open.

            This idea of having honest, intelligent conversation with a real, live sentient being¾not dead dinosaurs or hypothetical beings from the future, mind you¾was just way too much for Shoshoni to resist.  Her loneliness was just too much to bear.  So she slithered out into plain view, and said, “Hi, Beldame, I Shoshoni.  I wonder you answer questions from me.  Why called musical fruit?  Why...”

            Beldame threw incomprehensible curses at Shoshoni and fled in terror, wondering who’d been sneaking mushrooms into her food, how, and why.  Shoshoni cranked up the amplitude of her vibes, pegging the needle and screaming at Beldame.  “I real, #Σ&Æ@y%¥!, I real!!!  I just harmless sssmart sssnake!  I not hurt you!  Come talk me!”  But Beldame fled all that much faster.  Crushed, Shoshoni slithered back into the bushes.


 

 

            6) The Paleolithic Horde Whisperer

            “If there were only one religion in England there would be danger of despotism, if there were two, they would cut each other’s throats, but there are thirty, and they live in peace and happiness.”  Voltaire  (1694–1778)

 

            Meanwhile, back at the branch¾that’s a branch of the river, not of the bank; ‘cause we’re still back in 30,000 B.C., now¾no, that’s B.C., not B.S.¾now look what you’ve done; you’ve made us lose our train of thought.  What little we had.  OK, so we’re out over the river.  We’ve set the Big Scene.  The Pleisto Scene.  Now set the little scene.  Where the eagle glides descending, over an ancient river bending.  The eagle’s name is Aquila Martlet, and his mind isn’t on his gorgeous view.  He sees it just about every day.  His mind isn’t even on getting some fish in his belly, as is so often the case.  He’s had his fill already, today.

            His mind is on his itches.  Those damned mites and fleas, they’re just driving him bonkers.  So he’s thinking some dust fluffed into his feathers, then shaken back out, again and again, might satisfy his itches.  The dust might take a few pests with it, when he shakes it out.  He’s not aware of all that, though.  He’s not even aware of what causes his itches; he just knows how to scratch them.  So he’s thinking, like, clearing in the jungle.  Clearing where there’s many, many crumbling rocks, so many that the plants can’t grow so as to cover them all.  Here and there, in those plant-hostile rocks, there’s fresh sand and dust.  Sand and dust created by crumbling rocks, that is, but once again, these are things unknown to our hero, the eagle, Aquila Martlet.

            Aquila wheels and soars, heading in the general direction of the rocky clearing.  He descends, swoops over to his favorite rocks, and lands.  He rotates his head back and forth several times, eagle fashion, giving everything the eagle eye.  Satisfied that all is well, he hops down the talus slope and into the dust and sand.  Delousing activities commence.

            Little known to Aquila, he’s picked the same outcropping of rocks where Shoshoni’d had her brush with fate a while back.  The tiny, sharp shards of shattered amber work their way through his feathers, and one works its way down beneath the skin, down between a feather’s shaft and eagle flesh.  There, Aquila’s bloodstream picks it up and carries it to his brain.  The second and final case of dinosaur genes quite improbably arising from the grave and animating a living creature’s brain has commenced.

            Aquila flew off in a huff when he felt the strange changes begin in his mind.  He sat in the highest branches of the tallest nearby tree, shaking his head and fluffing his feathers again and again.  But the bizarre new thoughts wouldn’t go away.

            By the time the changes were complete, he’d accepted that they weren’t so bad after all.  Like Shoshoni, he experienced the great thrill of the awakening intellect.  Like Shoshoni, he went off by himself for a while, to ponder matters large and small, for quite some time.  And discovered great loneliness.  So he, too, ended up looking for other sentience to communicate with.

            Unlike Shoshoni, he didn’t waste any time with elephants or dolphins.  Elephants didn’t seem anywhere near as smart as ape-men to him, and ape-man smell didn’t bother him much.  Dolphins were very smart, yes, but they looked like fish.  Aquila couldn’t seriously consider trying to communicate with something that looked like a good, giant dinner.  So the ape-men were it.

            Now the use of cosmic-karmic vibes for communication being extremely personal and subjective, it just happened to be that Aquila’s tastes ran in different veins than Shoshoni’s.  Whether that was due to their different species, or just to their personal differences, we’ll never know, because the sample size is just way too small.  Aquila, after investigating the three tribes of ape-men, decided that the Blunt Heads were his best choice.  When they ate of their sacred weed, the states of their minds were closest to his, when compared to those of the Firewater Tribe, or to those of the Shroom Oogs.

            The local clan of Blunt Heads had stumbled onto a new patch of weed that day, so they were quite happy.  They were kicking back, enjoying a potpatch dinner.  Aquila detected the resulting spike in cosmic-karmic vibes compatible to his own mentality, so he flew over to take a look-see.  Sitting in a tall tree nearby, he kept an eagle eye on the party below.

            Panama Red, Bud Roach, Head Rush, Roach Clip, Chong Bong, and other, lower-ranking members of the clan sat in their assigned positions in the Great Circle, conducting The Ceremony.  In front of them, inside the circle, there lay piles of weed and earthenware pots.  Aquila watched carefully.  They’d strip leaves off of the weeds, twirl them into cylinders, pick small objects out of the jars, lay them alongside the tips of the cylinders of leaves, then wrap yet more leaves around this assembly.  The tips of these finished assemblies were then tamped into a rock, and passed around the circles, with each Blunt Head, in turn, taking one small bite, and chewing it with great dignity.

            Even Aquila’s eagle eyes weren’t strong enough to discern what, exactly, it was that they were putting into their roach joineds, as the finished assemblies were called, nor were their thoughts on this matter entirely clear, from a distance.  So Aquila flew to a tree a mere fifty yards away, to get a closer look.  This caused quite the stir among the ape-men.  The females pulled their infants in closer to their bodies.  Aquila perched in perfect stillness, and they went back to the ceremony, as before.

            Aquila watched and listened to the vibes.  Those were insects, mostly cock roaches, that the ape-men were pulling out of the jars, and putting into their sacred fare!  After careful study and thought, Aquila came to realize that the ape-men suffered from a low-protein diet.  Their taboos forbade all animal proteins except for insects.  So they gathered insects, saving them in covered jars.  Blunt Head tastes were such that they felt that their weed and their insects, together, tasted far better than either one alone.  Sort of like fish flesh and fish guts, Aquila surmised.  So the weed and the roaches were joined together, creating the roach joineds.

            As Aquila further studied their thoughts, he realized that there was yet more to the story.  It seemed that when the Blunt Head Medicine Men went to create and fetch magic in the caves, they’d first have to appease the Weed God, and get in the proper state of mind, by heartily partaking of the Weed God’s blessings.  Being then quite inclined to bump their heads on stalactites and cave ceilings (hence their name, “Blunt Heads”), they wanted to take out any available insurance against becoming too blunt headed.  So they ceremonially blunted the heads of the roaches in their roach joineds, offering these creatures as living sacrifices to the Weed God.

            Aquila stuck with the clan of Blunt Heads for a few weeks.  His constant presence spooked them at first, but they soon got used to him.  He soon noticed just how large a difference the weed made in their moods.  When they’d not had a recent meal of weed, they were edgy, irritable, and hard for him to understand.  When they were sated with weed, they were easy-going, open, and mellow.  Aquila decided that if he was ever going to make successful psychic contact with them, and push them towards higher levels of sentience, to end his loneliness, he’d have to catch them in a very, very weedy mood.  Yet they just never seemed to get very close to the desired state.  Even after the best of their potpatch feasts, they just didn’t get high enough to talk with him, to use their term.

            So Aquila studied this problem at length.  What made them high?  Their ceremonies, their belief in their Weed God?  Or the chemicals in the insects, or in the weeds?  Well, OK, sure, he thought, it’s all of them combined.  But which is the most important?  How can I work on them, get them to a state where we can communicate?  What’s the angle, here?

            He pretty much concluded that it had to be mainly the chemicals in the weeds.  So how to I boost these?  Poop in their pot patches, to fertilize their plants?  Nah, no way, there’s not enough poop, even if I could convince a few of my far-less-intelligent fellow eagles to join me.  Bury dead fish in the pot patches?  Now that sounds more likely.  Still, entirely too slow, too impractical.  The problem is, they just assimilate those chemicals way too slowly, way too inefficiently.  But how do I solve that?  And that’s where matters were stuck, for quite a few weeks.

            One day their nomadic wanderings brought them close to a far more settled clan, a group of Shroom Oogs.  Aquila grew excited; he suspected something big was about to happen.  So, along with his periodic escapes to the river to catch fish, he now also abandoned the Blunt Heads often, to fly off and go investigate the Shroom Oogs.  Flying back and forth between these two groups, as the Blunt Heads slowly approached the Shroom Oogs, he surmised what was about to happen.

            And what was that?  A big ceremony¾singing and dancing, and beating of drums, which the Blunt Heads did so well¾and then trading.  The Blunt Heads would present blankets of animal furs that they’d collected from carcasses during their wanderings, and then there’d be a feast.  Bread, fruits, nuts, berries.  The Blunt Heads would put some flesh and fat back onto their weary, gaunt bodies.  Then their best Medicine Man, Head Rush, would join a torch-bearing Shroom Oog Medicine Man, and they’d make their way deep into the sacred caves, fetching magic from the paintings.  Maybe even make a few more paintings, if they had plenty of time and energy, if the harvests had been good.  Other Blunt Heads would hang out for a few weeks, helping the Shroom Oogs gather firewood, nuts, fruits, and berries, and planting seeds.  Then the Blunt Heads would gratefully receive a few earthenware pots from the Shroom Oogs, and they’d be back to their nomadic ways.

            Aquila watched enviously as the Shroom Oogs and the Blunt heads met, celebrated, and socialized.  Oh, if only he could end his loneliness, and interact with fellow sentient, or at least semi-sentient, creatures, as these ape-men did!  He made himself content, for now, to just watch, as they socialized and gossiped.  He was mildly amused to hear them gossip about the large bird that had been following the Blunt Heads.  Was this good magic, or bad?  They concluded it was good magic, since he’d never made even the slightest threat against them, or their babies.

            He dismissed one minor piece of gossip as no more relevant than any other piece of gossip, at that time, although he later came to realize its significance.  That was that a neighboring clan of Shroom Oogs, many, many miles away, was experiencing some difficulties.  Their only witch, or witch in training, was quite old, and she was having trouble persuading her would-be apprentice, a headstrong young ape-woman, to co-operate.

            One night as Aquila roosted in a tree, watching the glowing embers of a fire, he got to thinking.  What was this smoke, these partially oxidized fragments of burning vegetation?  Would the sacred weed burn?  Would partially oxidized weed fragments, perhaps, be a method of delivering chemicals rapidly and efficiently into the bodies of the Blunt Heads?

            So off he flew, in the middle of the night, to the weed patch.  Returning with talons full of weeds, he dive-bombed the unattended fire, and watched.  Smoke poured forth.  He flew through the smoke, drawing it into his lungs.  Hacking and coughing, he retreated to his perch, high in the trees.  Then the euphoria came to him, and fed upon itself.  I can feel it, he thought, giddy with joy.  If I can feel it, then they’ll be able to feel it!  Now all I need to do is to persuade them to do this, and victory is mine!  He got so high, high in his tree, that he nearly fell off his perch.

            Then the morning came, and with it, letdown.  How would he ever persuade the Blunt Heads to do as he had done?  Do it again, in the light of day, for all to see?  But what if they determined this to be an omen, that the spirit gods of the birds and wild animals wanted them to destroy their sacred weeds, and just say no?  This was an all too real possibility, as best as Aquila could judge how the ape-men thought.  So demonstration was entirely too risky.  What to do?  The Blunt Heads didn’t even mess with fire; it was the sole province of the Shroom Oogs.  Aquila became downright dejected.

            So he flew off all by himself for quite a few days, and thought.  His loneliness drove him back.  But at least he returned with a tentative plan, a first step.  Obviously, he had to get close enough to one of the Blunt Heads to persuade him that the fire taboo was wrong.  That he should steal fire from the Shroom Oogs, and then persuade the rest of the Blunt Heads clan that this was good and right.  After that, then let’s move off to weed smoke, Aquila concluded.  First things first; one step at a time.

            Panama Red seemed to be the wildest, most radical of the high-ranking Blunt Heads, so he was the one that Aquila chose to work on.  Aquila spotted his opportunity one fine day when Panama Red took a walk with Twiggy Sinsemilla, his favorite babe, out in the jungle.  He swooped down to perch on a branch not more than five yards above their heads.  “Hey, you party animals, like, let’s get faced,” he psychically blared out at them.  Panama glanced inquiringly at Twiggy, a funny look on his face.  Twiggy just shrugged, in that appealingly feminine manner that so endeared her to Panama.

            Aquila tried again.  This time, he spread his wings out, fluffed his feathers, and audibly squawked, while saturating the ether with his vibes.  He projected images of burning weed, lungs full of smoke, euphoria, and an immensely satisfied Weed God.  “This bud’s for you,” he shouted, mentally projecting an image of a particularly potent clump of weed smoldering under their noses.  “Bud is Wiser,” he added.

            Panama turned to Twiggy again, saying, “Maybe I’m crazy, but I think that big bird is trying to tell us something.  Don’t look at me so funny, but I think... it has something to do with weed, and fire.  Like he wants us to sacrifice weed to the Fire God.  But that’s crazy!  Weed belongs to us, and fire belongs to the Shroom Oogs.  We can’t go and...”

            “Squawk, squawk,” Aquila protested quite loudly.  Then he concentrated on cranking up his vibes.  “Take fire from the Shroom Oogs, you dense bunch of overgrown monkeys!  It’s real simple!  Just feed it dry wood!  You’ll not regret it!  It’ll keep you warm at night, and when you breathe the smoke of burning weed, the Weed God will be quite pleased!  Trust me!”

            Panama Red took the concept of a talking eagle in stride, with amazing equanimity.  “But we can’t go and steal fire from the Shroom Oogs!” he protested.  “They’re gods, you know!  Surely stealing goes against all the taboos!  Surely the gods will punish us, swiftly and without mercy!”

            “Oh, don’t sweat it, dude,” Aquila replied.  “They’ll still have their fire.  All you do is take a few embers, and stick ‘em in a jar.  Wrap the jar in grass to keep from burning yourself, and feed it wood.  They’ll never miss a few embers.  Stick some extra wood in their fire when you take the embers, if you must, to make yourself feel better, ‘cause embers are just burning wood.  You won’t really be stealing anything.”

            “It is forbidden,” Panama replied staunchly.  “Fire belongs to the Shroom Oogs.  We must not steal!  So the gods command us.  We obey the gods!  We won’t listen to your madness.”

            Aquila sampled the vibes.  Nothing but adamant conviction wafted it’s way to him from the minds of Panama Red and Twiggy Sinsemilla.  He squawked in frustrated protest and flew away in temporary defeat, thinking, I’ll convince one of these ape-men of the virtues of what I say, one of these days.  And then their minds and their technology will be stimulated, their auras will be much more palatable to the refined tastes of an advanced creature like me, and my wretched loneliness will be at an end.  All I have to do is figure out who to convince, and how to convince them.

            Many miles away, Beldame Oog was having similar troubles explaining to Eve Oog that it might be wise for Eve to violate the taboos, and eat of the musical fruit.

            The old witch said what?!  “No, I’m serious, Eve,” she said, out there in the jungle where she’d pulled Eve away from prying ears.  “In the old days, we lived in a war of all against all.  People fashioned sharp rocks, tied them to the ends of sticks, and killed large animals.  Then they ate them!  Yes, that’s right!”

            Eve could barely imagine such barbarous acts.  The Blunt Heads, with their killing and eating of cock roaches, were bad enough, but at least these were small, stupid creatures they ate, not large, spirit-filled animals, like deer, bear, tapirs, and so on.  Nor could she imagine that, as Beldame explained, in those old days, ape-men fought and killed each other, in conflicts over limited territories and sources of fresh meat.

            “So the witches of old got together, and talked and thought things through,” Beldame continued, “They decided that the greedy, bloody ways had to end.  They very deliberately designed and implemented a new social, magical, mystical, spiritual order, in which the three tribes could live together in peace, respecting each others’ specialties and resources.  The large animals wouldn’t be killed any more, either, so that there’d be no more fighting over hunting lands.  Yes, our population density, the level of proteins in our diets, and our brain power all took hits.  But these were small prices to pay for peace.

            “So witches implemented our new social order, using threats of magic, unrelentingly stern counseling, and merciless sensitivity training.  The common ape-men, with their new, lower-protein diets and lowered mental powers, soon forgot the old ways, and took the new taboos to heart.  We witches, meanwhile, secretly violate the taboos against eating musical fruits, which allows us to retain our higher mental powers.  We’ve passed on, from one generation to the next, the secrets of the past, musical fruit, and our hopes.  You see, Eve, we eventually hope to bring all of us to the light of reason, of higher mental powers.  Someday, we hope to again allow all ape-men to eat of a high-protein diet, this time in peace.  So far, though, we still haven’t figured out how to safely set up such a new and improved society.”

            The shock to Eve Oog’s mind seemed nothing less than traumatic.  “The commands from the gods didn’t originally come from the gods, but just from witches?” she protested. “Witches aren’t even the bosses of Shroom Oog society!  Sure, we all respect you witches, a great deal,” Eve hastened to add.  “But doesn’t Thag Oog conduct all the most important ceremonies?”

            “That’s of no real concern,” Beldame insisted.  “Thag Oog and all the other Medicine Men don’t really have as much power as we witches do.  We have the real power.  Who runs the fires, after all?  Our whole tribe derives its power from fire, and the other tribes regard us as gods.  They’d not be able to survive anywhere near as well as they do, without us.”

            Eve didn’t know what to think.  The worst part of it all was that Beldame then strictly forbade Eve from talking to anyone about anything they’d discussed.  Eve feared Beldame’s magic, so there was no question that Eve would have to keep all this to herself.  She, and she alone, would have to figure this out.  Should she become a witch, as Beldame asked?  Beldame insisted that Eve’s decision would be truly voluntary, as it had to be, for some strange reason, and that she’d not be punished if she said no.  The choice was hers¾entirely, dreadfully hers.  Should she risk angering the gods, violate the taboos, and eat of the musical fruit?  Or should she risk the future of her clan, and the wrath of Beldame¾Eve couldn’t quite convince herself that Beldame would completely refrain from exacting any revenge, should Eve choose to say no¾and resist Beldame’s entreaties?

            “I don’t know,” Eve hemmed and hawed.  “Give me some time to think it over.  I just have such a hard time envisioning myself violating the taboos.  All my life I’ve been taught these things.  And now you want me to go off and eat of the musical fruit?  I fear the wrath of the gods!”

            “Oh, come on now, Eve!  I’ll show you!  I’ll eat them right in front of you!  You’ll see that no harm comes to me.  None.  None at all!  It’s what gives us witches our special powers, really.  Come on.  Join me, and we’ll go eat them somewhere in secret.”

            “I don’t know.  I don’t think I’m quite ready.  I don’t think I could eat them here or there.  I don’t think I could eat them anywhere.”

            “Now, Eve!  Think rationally!  You already know I eat them, and I don’t suffer from the wrath of the gods!  Come join me, eat of the musical fruit, become a witch!  What are you afraid of?!”

            “Well,” she admitted shyly, “Witches never have children.  Men won’t mate with you.  I’d really like to... to...”

            “Yes, yes, I know,” Beldame broke in, “You’d like to have children with Adam Oog.  You know, what you think are such secrets, your friends are blabbing to the whole clan.  They all talk about your strange ideas behind your back.  That you should like to marry Adam, as a man and a woman, the way that the Firewater Tribesmen and the Blunt Heads marry, instead of the way we marry.  Some mock you, for, they say, you go against family values.  In our Shroom Oog Tribe, men marry men, not women.  And that’s the way it is, and must be, for our tribe, they say.”

            What Beldame said was true.  Like some other societies (notably many Greeks) later on down the long and winding roads of human history, the Shroom Oogs regarded ape-men as superior, and ape-women as inferior.  Therefore, sex between equals (males) was far better, nobler, than sex between males and females.  The latter was merely a distasteful necessity for perpetuating the Shroom Oog Tribe.

            “But that’s the main reason why I’ve picked you to hopefully become the clan’s new witch,” Beldame continued, “We need you, you know.  I’ll not live much longer.  Anyway, by questioning this taboo, at least, you show some promise.  You don’t unquestioningly obey all the taboos.  I was really hoping that you could hear what I say with an open mind.  You know that the other tribes regard marriage differently than we do, and you’ve thought it through.  Now come and watch me eat musical fruit, and you’ll see that this taboo, too, needn’t be mindlessly obeyed.”

            “Well, then, what’s the purpose of this musical fruit taboo in the first place?  Didn’t you say you witches set up most of the taboos?  And why do they call it musical fruit, anyway?”

            “Well, we’ve got to keep the commoners down,” Beldame explained patiently.  “If too many of us eat the proteins in the musical fruit, too many will be too wise.  They’ll gain knowledge, and start questioning the taboos.  Then we’d have to resort to stern, harsh measures again, or fall back into barbarism.  Eating animals, fighting each other, and so on.  Then there are some of the more subtle reasons, too.  Eating of the musical fruit can be dangerous, as we discovered way back when.  Should you decide to become a witch, I’ll have to teach you how to be very careful.

            “In a nutshell, what we say is, ‘musical fruit, musical fruit¾the more you eat, the more you toot.’  Your tooter becomes a polluter tooter.  That means if you feel the toot coming on, you have to leave, get away from the rest of the clan, else they might catch on to us violating this taboo.  And most of all, remember¾never, never, never ever toot close to a fire!  The Fire God can’t abide by toots, and can burn your polluter tooter!

            “That’s really about all I can say for now.  Some of our magic is real, not just stuff we’ve made up to keep the commoners in line.  But that stuff’s secret.  Any more, we have to wait till you’re a real witch.  Till after you’ve eaten of the musical fruit.  So what do you say?  Ready to go?  Shall we dine on The Forbidden Fruit?  I’m ready when you are!”

            “Um, no, not quite yet,” Eve mumbled.  “Give me a day or two.  Surely you can spare me a few days to ponder this?”

            Beldame reluctantly gave in and walked away, back to the clan’s huts.  Eve Oog’s mind reeled as she headed off in another direction, out into the jungle, to be alone with herself and her thoughts.  She had important matters to ponder, obviously.

            For almost subconscious reasons, she headed for a patch of musical fruit.  Arriving there, she thought, well, yes, this is appropriate that I should sit here and look at these while I think things over.  Look at these little musical fruit trees, and get over my fear.  Realize that they’re just another tree.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Nothing threatening.  Now let’s just go ahead and move on out, here, and sit here in the middle of this patch...

            She sat there, studying the bean plants, AKA musical fruit trees.  Here, there were green fruits, and there, there were ripe fruits.  And over here there were little flowers, magical blossoms, as Beldame had once explained.  Strange little trees, that the fruits should be at all stages like this, in the same patch.  Look at those blossoms!  Weird smell!  What had Beldame called them?  Oh, yes, that’s right¾“fart blossoms.”  What a strange name!

            So can I imagine myself eating these, she asked herself, eyeing the ripened little fruits.  Well, not just yet.  But maybe I should go ahead and pick a few, and see if I can work my nerve up later.  She steeled herself against her queasiness at picking the forbidden fruit, and started filling her small satchel.

            Eve felt a presence.  A non-human, non-mammalian presence, with its life force laying down low, close to the ground.  Now Eve, unlike Beldame, remembered many strange experiences after having eaten mushrooms, so she wasn’t particularly spooked.  She didn’t even get that upset when she saw a large python’s head poking out of the bushes, looking at her with hypnotic eyes.  “Hello, Eve, out for nissse little ssstroll?  I Shoshoni Sssquamata.  Nissse meet you.”

            At this point Eve got a wee bit disturbed, recalling that, well, hey; after all, I haven’t eaten any mushrooms lately.  Now if this seemed just like a regular big python, and it was heading closer to me, I’d be makin’ tracks outta here!  But here it is, talking to me, and I’ve not had any mushrooms!  Nor have I been one to eat too many, too often, so as to be like a few of the others, mostly older male Shroom Oogs, who randomly see things just about any time.  But this is such a nice snake.  If I can handle the idea of eating taboo musical fruits, then I can also calmly chat with a snake.

            “That right, Eve, Shoshoni is nissse-sssnake.  I no hurt you.  We talk.  And eating musical fruit not bad, either.  You want sssee me eat sssome?  Watch.”  Shoshoni chomped on a clump of the forbidden fruit and slithered backwards.  The shrubs bent, then gave way.  She swallowed without chewing.  “Sssee?” she concluded, “No hurt me.  Not poison.  You try?”

            “You’re just like Beldame.  Why are y’all so bent on getting me to eat these?  No, I mean, Beldame I can understand, I guess.  She’s got to line up a new witch, to replace Beldame when she’s gone.  But how about you?  What’s your interest here?”

            “Oh, I want what besss for you and clan, just like Beldame.  Fruit make you sssmarter, wiser, you know.  And I want you sssmart, wise.  I only, lonely sssmart sssnake.  I need company of sssmart one talk to.  You be my friend?”

            “Oh, I’ll be your friend, don’t worry about that.”  Eve was very nice, very solicitous.  “But I don’t know about eating musical fruit.  What will they do to me?”

            “They make you wise.  Ssself-aware.  You will sssay to youssself, ‘Eve, I am.’  You will know good and bad.  That chaosss is badnesss.  You help Beldame and them who follow you to work towards good sssociety she talk you of.  You musss eat musical fruit wisss me.”

            “I don’t know if I could eat them with a snake.  Maybe I could eat them if they were baked.”

            Shoshoni couldn’t imagine any way she could manage to bake the fruits, even if she managed to get access to a cooking fire.  Not having any limbs was such a drag!  “Well, try them, take home with you, bake them for youssself if you please,” Shoshoni pleaded.  “Maybe Beldame help you.  Just try them, try them, won’t you please?  Try them, try them, you will sssee!”

            “I couldn’t eat them back at camp.  They’d catch me, and call me a tramp.  I’m not sure if I can eat them here or there.  I’m not sure I can eat them anywhere!”

            Shoshoni sighed.  Be patient, now, she told herself.  Think.  Think!  OK, so, like, maybe if she eats some mushrooms, and gets quite “fried”, as they say, maybe then she’ll try them.  But what if it takes too many mushrooms?  What if we have to destroy her mind to save it?  There’s danger here!  But maybe it’s worth a try.  Maybe we can have her go just far enough, but not too far.  She projected these concepts, asking Eve, “Now, to not think of me as sssnake.  Think of me as you friend.  Could you eat them with a friend?  Could you, would you, eat them as you go ‘round the bend?”

            Shoshoni could feel the fear as Eve contemplated going around the bend, as certain other members of her tribe had done.  Eve was getting stubborn now.  “I could not eat them with a snake, I would not eat them if they were baked.  I could not eat them with a friend, I could not eat them as I go ‘round the bend!”

            Come on, Shoshoni, she said to herself.  You’ve got to go for it!  If you want to end your loneliness, you’ve got to help her, stand by her, coach this dim-witted but kind-hearted girl to see that if she’ll just eat this fruit, she’ll become wiser, much wiser, and help her kind, as well as me!  Now let’s see.  Among other things, she fears that they’ll taste bad.  And truth be told, they do taste kinda bad.  That’s to python taste buds.  Who knows about human taste buds?  Even if I get her to try a few, that might not be enough.  I’ve got to get her into the habit, which means that they’ve got to taste good to her.  Let’s see, her fellow ape-men over there in that Blunt Heads Tribe, they have a way of mellowing out the harsh taste of their weeds.  Let’s try it, now...

            “Would you, could you eat them if I was your coach?  Would you eat them with a roach?”

            Eve Oog picked herself and her satchel up off the ground and flew away in terror, fleeing back to her camp.  Eating musical fruit was bad enough, but the idea of eating roaches, like the Blunt Heads did, was just far, far too much, she thought.  Stupid snake!  Doesn’t she understand anything about us?!

            Shoshoni, crushed once more, slithered back into the bushes and tried to sleep.  She started seriously suspecting that the ape-men and ape-women were just a bunch of speciesists.  Well, no, how can that be, she asked herself.  Eve seemed to be quite nice, as an individual.  She cared that I’m lonely, and wants to be my friend!  Maybe it’s just one of these insidiously invidious things.  Institutional speciesism, I guess you’d call it.

            Eve ran for a few hundred yards, then calmed down a bit.  Still, she walked towards camp, rather than back towards her new friend, whose ideas she feared so much.  That little satchel, with its cargo of musical fruit, weighed heavily on her mind.  She really, really needed to share her burdens with someone.  Someone normal.  Not a witch, and not a snake.  I’ve just got to talk to people about this, she thought.  But Beldame told me I’m not to talk to anyone about our little talk!  Now Shoshoni, she’s a different matter!  I can talk all I want to, about her!

            Eve burst into the camp during the middle of a solemn ceremony, but she didn’t care.  Just as Thag Oog invoked the gods to bless the marriage, saying, “And do you, Adam Oog, take Steve Oog to be your lawfully...,” Eve ran up, breathlessly saying, “Thag Oog!  Thag Oog!  Help!  Help!  I need some Strong Medicine!  There’s a big snake in the musical fruit patch, and it was trying to get me to eat the musical fruit!  Her name’s Shoshoni, and she says that if I’ll just eat the fruit...”

            “Now, now, calm down, my little one,” Thag Oog said reassuringly.  “Calm down!  Now, have you been partaking of the mushrooms, without anyone joining you, and without the proper ceremonies?  You know how the gods get angry when...”

            “No, no, Thag Oog, Sir!  No!  This is real!  It’s a real snake, a real, large, smart snake with a long tongue and piercing eyes, and it eats musical fruits, and...”

            Thag Oog spoke patiently, tolerantly.  “Now Eve, you know I’ve heard some talk.  Silly things about you wanting to marry Adam, here.  Can you imagine?  Adam and Eve, instead of Adam and Steve?!  No, now, really, I’m not trying to make fun of you.  Are you just trying to break Adam and Steve up, because you’re jealous?  You can’t stand to watch us complete this ceremony?”

            “No Sir!  That’s not it!  There’s really actually a real, live, large smart snake in the patch of musical fruit trees just down that path a ways, and it wants me to eat the fruit, it says it will make me wise!  I can’t figure out what I should do!  I need some help, some advice!”  She started to sob.

            “There, there,” Thag Oog said, taking her in his arms.  “Why don’t you just tell your big strong handsome Medicine Man about your visions, and I’ll help interpret them for you, and you’ll be all better.”

            Eve protested yet once more that the snake was real, not a vision.  Thag Oog nodded very reassuringly.  Then she told him all about it, between sobs, and excluding any mention of Beldame.  When she was all done, Thag motioned for her to sit down.  He stood up to address the crowd.  “Eve Oog here has had a powerful vision, bringing us Good Medicine.  Now some of her motives aren’t so good, but that’s not her fault.  Her motives are subconscious, not willfully malicious.  As we all know, she likes Adam very much, which is OK, as long as she doesn’t get in the way of Adam and Steve, or think that she’s as good, as powerful, and as beautiful as men are.  And I think she’ll do fine, here, and stay in her place, even if her dreams bring thoughts that are disturbing to her, if we keep on helping her out.

            “Now we all know that we men have long, beautiful noses, with beaks like eagles, while women have short, stout, ugly little pug noses like the pigs in the forests.  Lots of people talking, few of them know.  But we mighty Medicine Men know!  We know about visions from the Great Spirit.  We know what a large snake stands for, in dreams.  Snakes stand for long, powerful, beautiful noses.  Eve has nose envy.  She’d like to be like a man, with a long, beautiful nose.”

            The crowd muttered in anger.  Thag Oog raised his arms, saying, “Now let there be no anger or chaos.  Chaos is badness!  She brings Good Medicine!  Good Medicine, I say!”  The crowd calmed down.  “Now I say her visions bring Good Medicine because it shows that we men of the Shroom Oog Tribe are beautiful, with noses worthy of great envy.  It shows that the evil spirits that dwell in the musical fruit trees want us to do bad things, because they know we are powerful, that we have much Medicine.  But we can defeat them!  They have shown us that bad things go together.  Bad things like women wanting to be men, and disobeying the taboos, by eating musical fruits, for example.

            “But they defeat themselves in their own actions!  Now we know yet again that they’re bad, and what they’re up to!  When we stick together, when we ask each other for help, as Eve Oog asked me to help her, then we will make yet more Good Medicine!  Now people of mine, remember this!  And remember, we shall not blame Eve Oog, or the serpents, for what the bad spirits of the musical fruit groves would try to have us do!  There will be no chastising Eve, or tormenting of serpents, or any other animal spirits of the wild!  Hear me and obey!

            “Now let’s get back to our ceremony.  And do you, Adam Oog, take Steve Oog to be your lawfully...”  Eve picked up her satchel and headed for her hut, still sniffling.

            That night, under the cover of darkness, she ate the musical fruits.  It wasn’t so much that the proteins stimulated her brain.  The beans didn’t contain that many proteins, and Eve was already entering adulthood.  Protein deprivation affects the human (or ape-man) brain the most during major developmental phases, before birth, in infancy, and in childhood.  So the beans were too late to make much difference, physiologically.

            Psychologically, matters were much different.  All Eve’s recent stresses concentrated on those magical beans.  She focused all her mental powers on overcoming the taboos.  So when she did, she felt great relief.  The placebo effect kicked in.  She’d overcome her internal self-limitations along with the taboos, and had become self-actualized!  Self-awareness blossomed.  “Eve, I am,” she muttered to herself.

            The next morning she woke up at dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  She ate breakfast, then went to find Beldame.  After Eve called for her outside her door, Beldame limped out of her hovel, looking miserable.  “Beldame, Beldame!  Guess what?!  Last night, I...”

            “Hush, my child, hush.  I can see what you did.  I’m proud of you.  Now let’s go off into the woods before we talk.”

            “Beldame, you poor old dear, you don’t look too well, or too happy.  Aren’t you glad about what I’ve done?  What’s the matter?”

            “I am indeed quite glad for you, my child.  My young lady.  My witch.  My successor.  You’ve done what you needed to do just in time, it seems.  But now there’s much more on my mind.  Let’s walk into the forest before we speak, though, for we must take great cautions not to be overheard,” she whispered.  “Now let’s casually speak of trivial things until we’re far away from camp.”

            They veered off of the path, and hid deep in the middle of a lush riot of trees and vines.  They sat beneath an ancient, gnarled but stately tree on an old rotting log, where they could survey their surroundings fairly well.  “I ate the fruits!” Eve exclaimed at last.  “I’ve become self-actualized!”

            “Yes, yes.  I know.  I’m so glad.  Now you’re a witch.  When we’ve had our little talk, we’ll return to camp, and we’ll have the ceremony.  We’ll make it official.  Will you be ready?  Are you willing to give up your hopes of having men like Adam pursuing you, and having children?”

            “Yes, I am.”

            “Good.  That means I’ll now tell you all the most important secrets of being a witch.  First, let...”

            “But Beldame, excuse me, you seem so... down.  I’d have thought you’d be a lot happier to see that I’m becoming a witch.  What’s the matter?”

            “You’re right, Eve, something is wrong.  Very wrong.  Terribly wrong.  I’m quite happy, really, that you’re joining me as a witch.  I frankly don’t know what would happen if you didn’t.  Some very, very bad things, I suspect.  They may happen anyway.  But at least our chances are a lot better, now, with you joining us witches.  I’m sorry I don’t seem more enthused; it’s just that I have a lot on my mind, now, suddenly.

            “But I’ll fill you in on all this, just right here, right now.  Be patient, and I’ll explain.  You already know some of the most important things about being a witch.  That we’re working towards a much better society, some day, when we can combine the best of the old, and the best of the new.  The higher-protein diets and population densities of old, with the more peaceful ways of today.  Meanwhile, we secretly pull the strings, using taboos and magic.

            “What you don’t yet know is what I’m going to tell you now.  We witches perform very, very little real magic.  Maybe none at all, depending on which witch you ask.  It’s a good thing we Shroom Oog clans live so far from each other, that we have meetings of witches so very, very rarely.  Else we’d sit around and debate such matters all day, and never get any work done.  But what I’m saying is, there’s little if any real ‘magic’, the way that the commoners, or even the Medicine Men, think of it.  Magic is in the mind.  Ceremonies and rituals don’t really do anything, in and of themselves.  They only do what they do, through the power of the mind.

            “Does that mean our magic is all false, a trick?  That it’s not ‘real’?  No, not at all!  The power of the mind is very real!  This contradiction is why we witches can sit around and talk about such things all day.  Eve, this you must understand: The Most Important Thing about being a good witch, next to having a heart full of love, is understanding what is real, and what is not real.

            “You see, we witches even practice ‘magic’ on each other.  We do and say things to each other that aren’t ‘real’, in the strictest sense of the word.  We deceive each other a bit, now and then.  Deliberately.  Older witches are especially likely to do this to the younger witches, who are in training.  This puts the younger witches into the web of ‘magic’ by which we control the clans and the tribes.  In other words, younger witches often have a hard time appearing to believe in the rituals enough to persuade the commoners, if they, themselves, don’t believe in literal ‘magic’.  So we tell them that it’s entirely real.  In doing so, we also show them the power of the mind.  Then, later, after they see this power, we can reveal to them its true source.

            “We witches have a tradition.  A tradition in favor of honesty and knowledge, and against the danger of ‘magic’ becoming too powerful, a power unto itself.  Usually, when the oldest witch is close to death, she’ll see it coming.  A matter of weeks or days, usually, it seems.  At that point, she’ll stop all deception between her and the next witch in the line of succession.  She’ll tell her everything she knows, as best as she knows it, which usually means that she’ll reveal how very, very little of the magic ceremonies and rituals address anything ‘real’, so to speak.  But keep in mind, now, that the power of the mind is completely real and awesome.  Magical, even!

            “The bad news¾well, OK, only a part of the bad news¾is that you’re facing an extremely steep learning curve.  You’ve not been a witch for more than a day, yet, and you haven’t even had your induction ceremony.  I’m telling you everything right now.  You see, last night a vision came to me.  I’ll not live for more than a few weeks at most.”

            “Beldame!  No!”

            “Yes.  It’s true.  But the Life Force provides, it seems.  You’re here.  You’ll carry on.  Life, and the good life of our clan, will go on.  It will go on.  It must go on.  So you must know all that I know.  Know, then, that magic is in the mind, but that it is extremely powerful.  Probably the most powerful thing of all.

            “Now some things lie between the worlds of the real and the unreal.  Words become very slippery here, but I will try to tell you these things as best as I can.  By believing in them, we make them real.  We invent them, and they invent us.  By the power of our minds, we create them.  By their power over our minds, they become real.  So then we must be utterly, extremely cautious as to what it is that we invent.  Yet strangely, they also seem to exist even beyond just what we invent.

            “On the good side, there is the Life Force.  A thing that links and loves all minds.  A thing that wants us to live and grow.  Most of all, it wants the powers of our love and of our minds to grow, and to be devoted towards helping others to grow.  It feeds upon the powers that our minds devote to helping others to grow, in a process that feeds upon itself.  If we all help each other to grow, there’s no telling what we can do.  There will be no stopping us!  Victory will be ours!

            “On the evil side¾note that ‘evil’ backwards is ‘live’, that these are opposites¾there is a Dark Whisperer.  It wants us to fool ourselves into depending on the literal magic of our rituals and ceremonies.  It wants us to think that we needn’t worry about devoting our powers of living, loving, learning, and growing, because all we have to do, is to trust in our magic.  We just have to do the ceremonies and the rituals, and say the magic spells just right, and that’s all we need to do.  We needn’t worry about suffering through honest learning, where we have to undergo the pain of admitting that what we thought we knew before, was wrong.

            “We just need to perfect our literal magic, says the Dark Whisperer.  There’s no need to worry about developing the magic of our minds, the Whisperer says.  That’s too painful, too honest.  And then, we’re left defenseless, without any real power, because there’s no real power in perfecting empty ceremonies.

            “Then, when others try to help us, by telling us that we’re crazy for thinking there’s all this magic in these worthless spells and rituals, the Dark Whisperer tells us that they’re attacking us, not our crazy ideas.  It tells us we must defend ourselves against them.  We shouldn’t just sit down with them and think and talk, we must defend ourselves and our elaborate, almost-perfect ceremonies.  All we need to do is add just a few more finishing touches to make the rituals perfect, and then they’ll see!

            “The Dark Whisperer tells us that our literal magic is all-powerful, yet when outsiders question our beliefs in this magic, the magic isn’t powerful enough to defend itself.  We must defend it with our own violence.  ‘Everything is all the fault of those others over there’ is Its favorite line, it seems.  When we blame others, including those who say our ceremonies and spells are silly, then we needn’t work on growing, and fixing our own problems.  But It’s not happy till we’ve given up all real power to learn and grow, and we’re dead.  Even then, It won’t be happy.  It can never be satisfied; It’s thirst for death and destruction can never be quenched.

            “Forgive me, Eve, if I get carried away, here, and start to sound as if I’m reciting another spell.  I’m not.  These are matters that other witches and I have pondered and talked over at great lengths.  Now let me just throw in here that if and when your time comes for you to pick more witches to follow in your footsteps, you must be extremely careful in just who, exactly, it is that you pick.  Even if you should be so lucky as to find little girls, who you can start at a young age.  You will know.  Just make sure that they have a feeling, deep down, low in their guts, that they want to follow the Life Force, and not the Dark Whisperer.  This magic thing is a powerful thing, and it cuts both ways.

            “Now the funny thing is, the Life Force and the Dark Whisperer can be understood to be just more creations of ours.  We willful beings don’t need that much help from outside forces, comes time to do good and bad things alike.  Whisperers?  Forces?  Just more ideas, more ways to look at things.  I strongly suspected that that’s all that they are, for long periods of time.  I really didn’t know one way or the other.

            “Then last night I learned that the Dark Whisperer is all too real.  That’s the rest of the bad news.  I felt a great, deep, dark disturbance in the Force.  But right there is the good news also!  There is a Force, you see, because I have felt it!  And It, too, will be with us!

            “There’s no room for complacency, though.  The Whisperer has always been with us, in a sense, in the internal, metaphorical sense.  But now, after having left our world an incomprehensibly long, long time ago, when willful life of some sort, somewhat like ours, was wiped out by this very same Whisperer, he’s back again.  He’s here, and he’s hungry.  He’s felt the stirrings of our awakening minds, and so It wants to push us back into the mud.  Or worse!  It’s real, It’s here, and It wants to hurt us.  Real bad.  Bad, bad news.”

            “So what are we going to do?” Eve inquired nervously.  “Can’t you just turn the Whisperer into a frog or something?”

            Beldame replied quite patiently.  “No, my child, I can’t do that.  Real magic is a seldom thing.  I don’t know what we’ll do.  We’ll just take it a step at a time.  Trust the Force, Eve, trust the Force.  We do what we must, day by day, hour by hour.  We learn, then we think, and then we ask the Force what it is that It would have us do, to help all minds to grow.  And then we act.  And when that time comes to act, we’ll know it, and we’ll not look back.  We’ll just do it, and do it right!  Victory will be ours!  Trust me!  Trust the Force!  We will win!  The Force told me so!”

            This is all just entirely too heavy for me, Eve thought.  What have I gotten myself into?  Is it too late to back out?  Where’d they find this crazy old bat anyway?  Am I going to be like her some day?  Am I halfway there already?  How ‘bout that snake yesterday?  Now just how ‘bout that, anyway?  So who’s the crazy bat, here, now?

            “Beldame, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something else, here.  You know I talked to a snake yesterday, out in the middle of the grove of musical fruit.  It was real, I tell you, real.  Real as you and me!  I saw it, we talked together.  It told me to eat of the musical fruit, because that would make me wise.  Because the snake wanted my company, my friendship, as a fellow wise being.  Do you suppose this snake has anything at all to do with your Dark Whisperer?”

            Beldame just sat there, staring at Eve intently for a few silent moments.  Then she said, “No.  Thag Oog and the Medicine Men are full of turtle poop.  There are no evil spirits in the groves of musical fruit.  We keep that to ourselves, of course.  I think the snake is our friend.  She may be of help to us.  She is somehow linked to the lives lost long, long ago, to the depredations of the Dark Whisperer.  She will be no friend to It, when we tell her what’s going on.  Now let’s go back to camp, to conduct a proper ceremony, for all to see.  All must know that you are now a witch.  Then we’ll know what to do next, to oppose the Dark Whisperer.  Let’s go.”

            Beldame was right.  The Horde Whisperer had returned.  After sixty-five some million years of hanging around more lucrative domains, and only occasionally casting the gaze of his cosmic-karmic phase-sensitive vibes detector arrays at Earth, he was back.  Sensors indicated that vulnerable intelligence was on the rise; these ape-men held forth promises of providing the Whisperer with much in the way of jolly amusements.  Unlike the far more intelligent and wise cetaceans, content to frolic endlessly, frivolously, and merrily in Earth’s seas, the budding bipedal sentients were damned with the triple vices of ambition, seriousness, and ideology.

            The Horde Whisperer hovered far above the Earth’s atmosphere.  Gingerly, he cranked the gain on his remote sensors, hoping to remain concealed.  Ah, yes, he thought, my long-distance surveys were right.  There are indeed some novel new intelligences down there, stirring things up, prodding the ape-men towards advancement!  For so long, they’ve remained in boring, harmless stasis.  Now they awaken!  Now they become Sensitive.  Vulnerable.  Who is upping the stakes?  How are these cards stacked?

            Expertly, he twiddled with his sensors, rejecting this frequency, damping that one, amplifying others.  Filtering out the noise.  The vibes rushed in, painting a detailed picture.  Three tribes of ape-men, all with their own gods, their own rituals and beliefs, and their own mind-bending chemicals with which to talk to their gods.  And¾what’s this?!¾yes, two greater sentients, each one prodding on one of the three tribes!  Who are they?  What are they?!

            Careful, now, contain yourself, don’t reveal yourself too easily, he told himself.  Let’s probe some more.  Blazing Beezlebubba, dude, what be goindown, bro?!  Check it out!  This can’t be!  Yet it is!  Two dinosaur minds!  After all this time!  How could they have survived, dormant?  No?  OK, I see.  Highly improbable, yes.  But chaos is badness!  And the power of badness, as we all know, is what pleases me!

            And they are lonely.  Oh, so lonely!  So they stir the pot, waking the dormant powers of the ape-men.  Yes!  This, I can use!  Now let’s see, what’s the angle, here...

            OK, so we’ve got the Blunt Heads.  Their weed god is a mellow fellow, a benevolent sort.  A peaceful people.  They get high, and then all they want to do is to sit around and eat, listen to their silly, primitive music, watch the animals, and paint pictures.  How quaint!  How disgustingly non-destructive!  There oughta be a law against this sort of thing, I’ll tell you!  And some of them are watched over by one of the newly recycled dinosaurs.  Best to stay clear of all such true intelligence.  After all, they say that a thinking creature is the worst enemy that I could have.

            Then there’s the Shroom Oogs.  When they get high, there’s more possibilities.  They see things.  Things that aren’t there.  Maybe I can get them to see me, and to Listen.  To be Sensitive to me and my ways.  To hear my Whispers, and to obey.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  But they, too, have a recycled dinosaur trying to look out for some of them.  And also¾wait, what’s this¾a wise, wise old ape-woman, a witch, wise beyond all expectation, for a low-brow, stupid ape¾and she knows I’m here!!!  Oh, no, could be trouble brewing!

            All right, damage control!  Deflector shields up!  Cloaking devices on!  Full steam ahead, Baals to the walls, all that jive!  Now¾Who, exactly, is she?  What does she know, and when did she know it?  Who finances her campaigns?  Where are her weak spots?  His tentacles snaked out, probing for data.  They met silence, as if a thick brick wall had smashed down between him and his adversary.  OK, be that way, then, he thought.  There’s more fish in the sea.


 

 

7) Magic, Myths, and Whispers

            “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”  C. S. Lewis  (1898-1963)

 

            The Horde Whisperer’s ethereal presence haunted the Paleolithic Earth.  He flitted here and there.  Ah, yes, he exclaimed to himself, here they are, with their growing powers left unguarded.  The Firewater Tribe.  Promising material, here.  Their BFD God, who gives them Bread, Firewater, and Dough, makes some of them aggressive.  And since their god is such a BFD God, maybe I can get them to go on the warpath, in defense of their particular understanding of their particular god!  Yes, that just might do the trick!  So clever of me!  Take their worship of their “higher power”¾a concept which could give them so much real power, the power of the mind, and of working together, if they understood “higher power” wrong¾and turn it to the right path, my path!  Give the power to Me, the only one who really deserves it!  Ah, yes!  A plan that can’t fail!  Let’s go!

            Dough Boy, Yeast Man, Bread Pan, Beer Bellicose, and all the other, lesser lights of the Firewater Tribe were sloppily arrayed around the amphorae, roughly according to rank.  But their ranks were looking a bit ragged.  Yeast Man would normally have served as Master of Ceremonies, but he was too far gone.  Dough Boy and Bread Pan were doing the honors that night, pouring from the earthenware amphorae into individual calabashes (dried-out bottle gourds).  Harvests had been good that year, and the Firewater Tribe was paying proper homage to the BFD God.  That’s with heavy emphasis on the “F”.

            Beer Bellicose was feeling pretty miffed.  Yeast Man, Big Man on campus, hadn’t appointed him as one of his stand-ins during his temporary incapacitation during this, the high Holy of Holies, Smashed Calabash Bash, and Falling-Down Fall Festival.  This seemed, to Beer Bellicose, to bode ill for his hoped-for eventual rise to Yeast Man’s hallowed position in the Firewater Tribe’s org chart.

            So Beer Bellicose (they all called him B-Belli for short) watched, disgusted, as Yeast Man mumbled and sloshed about in the smashed calabashes and beer-and-barf-soaked mud, where he’d fallen down.  How pathetic, he thought, that our fearless leader can’t hold his beer, and has fallen into such a low state.  And look, that fool, he seems to be wanting yet more beer!  He dishonors the BFD God, not only by making a fool of himself, and appointing fools to act in his stead, but also by barfing up His Bounty!  And then he asks for more!  Ha!  His arrogance knows no bounds!

            B-Belli had hoisted a few calabashes himself by now, but he was no lightweight.  No Sir!  He still had his head together.  So he thought, well, maybe it would be the good and honorable thing to do, here, to teach Yeast Man proper respect for the BFD God.  One doesn’t barf up the blessings of the BFD God, and then ask for more.  It’s just not done.  It’s not right.  And to let a bad deed like this go unpunished, would, itself, be a deed most foul.

            Well, let’s see, here.  We could make sure he remembers that when he gets sick of the BFD God’s blessings, maybe the BFD God is telling him something.  Something like, “Hey, weakling, you can’t even hold the power I give you in Firewater.  What makes you think you can properly handle the powers of being My Representative on Earth, the leader of the Tribe?”  So it falls on me to make sure he remembers his lessons, that he’s got to quit while the quitting is good.  Make sure he remembers that he can’t handle his beer, and never be such a disgrace to the Firewater Tribe again.

            B-Belli forced a smile onto his face while he went up to Dough Boy to get his calabash refilled.  Then he slipped into the darkness of the surrounding jungle.  He homed in on a patch of belladonna, where he picked some of their glossy black berries.  These, he squished into the beer, discarding the solids.  Then he returned to the party.  There, he generously attended to the fallen and ignored Yeast Man, giving him the beer.  Yeast Man promptly spilled half of it, but managed to drink the other half.  Then he asked for more.  B-Belli rolled his eyes, then went to fetch more beer.  The party continued.

            Yeast Man had been laying off in a dark corner, barely visible from the main action center of the party, which was the filling station, where Dough Boy and Bread Pan were serving up the hooch grog.  Hooch grog: that which is good for what ails you, if what’s ailing you is that your head feels too good, and you’re still managing to stand up.  B-Belli strolled haphazardly around, making an unnoticed departure from his rendezvous with the fallen, neglected Yeast Man.  Yeast Man may very well have been Big Man on campus, but after his over-indulgence at this particular frat party, he was pretty much regarded as less than a stimulating party partner.  So no one paid him any heed at all.  That is, until a little while after B-Belli casually sauntered up to the collection of amphorae and loudmouth drunkards.

            B-Belli squelched his natural instinct to jump into the fray to reassert once again that he was the most raucous and rowdy of them all, as he had his calabash filled once more.  Then he stepped close to the main action, and selected Sadsac Grainslinger, a suitably gopherishly ranked member of the clan, for a special mission: he was to go and deliver the fresh calabash of beer to His Eminence, our Great Leader, who you’ll see right over yonder, rolling in the beer-and-barf soaked muds while calling out for more beer.

            Sure enough, the partygoers noticed this transaction, and the sad state of their Leader.  They laughed as they watched from the distance, as Yeast Man grabbed frantically at the proffered beer.  Then B-Belli stumbled onto his best luck of all: Keg Tapper, known about campus as quite the sardonic wit, boisterously offered up yet another assignment for Sadsac Grainslinger.  Sadsac was to ferry ever more beer, until such time as Yeast Man’s thirst was thoroughly quenched for this evening.  After all, this was the Smashed Calabash Bash, and the BFD God might be quite angry if the Chief Himself got less than his deserved bellyful.  Keg Tapper proposed these motions in a clever toast.  There were guffaws all about.

            In the morning, Yeast Man would no doubt chew on some ears about how he felt so awful, and how no one had helped him out last night, in his hour of need.  But he’d have forgotten whoever would and wouldn’t have helped him during his Dionysian Bacchanalia and Barfing Fest, anyway, so what good could come out of attending to him?  Besides, this wasn’t the first Festival of Chiefly Overindulgence, nor would it be the last.  Or, at least, so they all assumed.

            Meanwhile, B-Belli thanked the BFD God that Keg Tapper had offered that witty toast, and that Sadsac Grainslinger was now quenching the Chief’s thirst with repeated deliveries of brewsters.  If Keg Tapper hadn’t done it, B-Belli might have had to.  Things were better this way.  And some of Keg Tapper’s humor tapped into an underlying vein of tension between Sadsac and Yeast Man.  Sadsac was just one of those lowbrow ape-men who couldn’t help but loudly squabble with his superiors, despite his low rank.  So he’d evolved into a whipping boy of sorts for other, higher-ranking clansmen.

            Sadsac would say things he’d hear others say, say them, and receive the Chief’s wrath.  The process of receiving said wrath would prod Sadsac’s dim bulb just long enough to keep him from spilling the beans about who he’d heard say such things in the first place.  No use getting beaten by the squealed-upon clansman, too.  So Sadsac served as a hybrid trial balloon, litmus test, and punching bag.  Anything you could say to Sadsac, that he’d not get beaten for repeating, was OK to say to the Chief’s face.  Anything different... well, maybe better keep it to yourself, unless you wanted to take on the Big Man.

            This meant that there wasn’t much love lost between Yeast Man and that dimwit, Sadsac.  So there was a certain hilarity about the whole deal.  Sadsac was getting back at Yeast Man by doing Yeast Man’s bidding!  B-Belli couldn’t believe such good luck!  If anyone suspected poisoning, in the morning, when Yeast Man would be even more indisposed than usual, then blame would attach itself to Sadsac, sure as beating the ceremonial drums was known to cause the Eclipse Dragon to un-eat the Sun God.

            B-Belli chortled inwardly at his great fortune.  Regardless of how this whole thing resolved itself, he’d come out ahead.  The boss would be weakened, physically and politically, any way one looked at it.  Maybe he’d even be dead.  B-Belli blanched at the thought, contemplating the enormity of his unheard-of crime, if this was indeed what was going to happen.  But then he calmed himself, telling himself he’d never be caught, and that even if his actions would result in such dire consequences, he could always reassure himself with the thought that he’d not meant for it to quite go that far.  He merely meant to teach the Chief some self-restraint and dignity, for the sake of the Clan, the Firewater Tribe, and in service of the BFD God.

            The party’s momentum faltered slightly, but kept on moving towards it’s beery, falling-down-at-the-dawn conclusion.

            So far so good, the Horde Whisperer nodded in satisfaction.  Now what’s the haps at other current loci of vibe vortices on this cosmic wave front, he asked himself.  He tweaked the knobs.  The coherent wave fronts of the cosmic-karmic vibes harmonically collapsed within the confines of his phased array detector node stubs.  Focal lengths of aura analysis elements contracted precisely.  Even though the vibe apertures asymptotically metastabilized somewhat harshly due to the malfunctioning oil pan modulators, the new image coalesced promptly into a new pattern.  The Horde Whisperer cast his gaze inquiringly.

            Beldame Oog was up at the dawn, fussing about her latest and largest rendition of ceramic splendor.  Eve Oog paced about, inquiring about this and that.  Beldame patiently answered her questions, occasionally restraining Eve when she got too eager to help.  The chatter was fairly rapid and tense, it seemed, despite Beldame’s outward calm.  Something big’s up, it seems to me, the Horde Whisperer thought.  Better watch this for a while.

            “Can I help you over there?  Here, how about I smooth out...”

            “Watch it there, now, we have to be careful not to add too much water, here.  We want to make this large, with high walls.  Get the clay too wet, and it’ll collapse, even if we keep the walls thick to give it extra strength.  The extra weight of that thickness will bog us down.  We’ve got to keep the clay on the dry side, to get fairly thin yet high walls.  The signs of a good piece are thinner walls.  This helps when firing the pieces, too, because the Ceramic God and the Fire God are angered by thick walls.  Thick walls often mean there’s little holes, gaps, voids, within the clay.  The Fire God breaks the clay in these spots.

            “Here, do it this way.  Put a flat piece of wood on each side, and push.  If you have to, just keep the wood a bit wet, and slide it like this.  OK.  Looking good.”

            “So why are you making this thing with sharp corners, instead of making it round on your potter’s wheel?”

            “We’re making a very special container today, Eve.  A magic container.”

            “What kind of magic container?”

            “It’s called a ‘box.’  It’ll have four sides, a bottom, and a lid, which is a separate ceramic piece for a big top opening.  The top will be a lot bigger than anything I’d normally make that’s intended to be sealed at the top.  Can you see how it’s shaping up?”

            “Sure, Beldame.  I see what you mean.  But why are you doing this?  What kind of magic do you mean to make?  Magic to mess with the power of the people’s minds, or some of what you call those very, very rare cases of real magic?”

            “Oh, make no mistake about it, Eve, this will be real magic.  Quite real.  Very real.  Count on it.”

            Eve put down her tools.  “How so?  What’s up?”

            “Oh, the Dark Whisperer is out to do us in.  We’ve got to take strong measures.  This calls for very strong, very real magic.”

            At this, this Horde Whisperer’s phased-array vibe detectors invisibly pricked up.  What’s this, he fretted.  Surely the old crone is off her rocker!  In all my billions of years, I’ve never seem any real magic, in that sense!  Sure, I can mess with their minds real bad, by making them believe in literal magic.  When they think reality is a subjective whim to be redefined at will, I can take away their real powers.  I can make them help me to make what is unreal, real, by getting them to fear, irrationally.  There is no real magic, as far as I can tell.  My powers over minds, not matter, is all that I have.

            So far, that’s all I have, at least.  But there’s always the chance that I could invent some real magic, or steal the techniques from someone who has them.  Never discount that possibility.  If real magic ever becomes possible, it’s imperative that I, and not my opposition, be the first to exercise it in a big way!

            The Horde Whisperer’s mind briefly flashed back to the last time he’d had a brief, sneaking suspicion that someone had invented real magic.  This had been during some of those millions of years he’d spent away from the Earth, in a far-distant corner of the galaxy.  The local powers, Cluster Buster and Scamgram I Am, ruled that corner of the galaxy as co-equal rulers.  This was about 75 million years ago.

            Cluster Buster and Scamgram I Am ruled co-equally, holding court in an adversarial but cordially balancing yin/yang kind of arrangement.  Everyone lived in relative harmony; there was peace, generally.  But oh, those cultural wars!  Cluster Buster favored keeping the citizens clean, protected from the ravages wrought by those dastardly artists, especially the Bloody Thespians.  But the Bloody Thespians fought back with their ideas, heaping travails upon Cluster Buster.  Scamgram I Am was their staunch supporter.

            Those millennia were filled mostly with boring, low-fireworks kinds of days, so one of the few avenues that the Horde Whisperer had to wreak any havoc at all, was in was those cultural wars on Planet Claire.  So when that new Bloody Thespian with her new, radical ideas emerged on Planet Claire, and stormed her way, with her dance troupe, into the Grand Galactic Imperial Court, for a very public show, backed by Scamgram I Am but vocally denounced by Cluster Buster, the Horde Whisperer was there.

            For a few nights, they put on their show.  Galactic citizens great and small denounced the crass degeneracy of the show, or praised its piercingly honest portrayal of contemporary society’s crude materialism and refusal to abide in higher, metaphysical realms of uplifting transrationalism.  There was much gossip about how that leading Bloody Thespian, Shurely Inane, was “channeling” the spirits of many powerful deceased Bloody Thespians in her dressing room before the show.  In other words, she was performing real magic.  The Horde Whisperer discounted all these rumors at first, but he did keep a careful watch on her.

            But judging by the complete uproar she and her dance troupe caused in their normally relatively staid society, the Horde Whisperer began to have second thoughts.  Had Shurely Inane managed to somehow stumble on the formula for real magic?  Watching her show, and how galactic citizens reacted to it, he had to admit that the theory couldn’t be rejected out of hand.  The climax of her show was when she pulled out that large, ornately decorated symbolic spleen, vented spleen dregs all over her naked body, smeared it around, and cried out in anguish about how cruel society was.

            Now her society had very negative thoughts about bodily remains, and spleens were regarded as especially sacred, where the essence of one’s soul resided.  Yet Shurely had managed to convince a totally radical citizen to donate his spleen upon his death, and Shurely had made good use of it.  Liquids from this spleen were diluted billions of times.  Yet according to Shurely and her disciples, the power of those spleen dregs remained.  Her followers used these liquids in many, many ceremonies.  Then, of course, there was that highly incendiary climax at the end of her show.

            Cluster Buster and his followers said nonsense; probabilistically, there’s a next to zero chance that you or any of your followers even have a single molecule of spleen left in your liquids, and all this is completely silly.  So why do you object, then, retorted Scamgram I Am and his followers, when we do these ceremonies?  Cluster Buster would reply, “Because y’all are sick.  Sick, sick, sick, you hear me?  You’re wasting time on disgusting perversity!”

            But Shurely and her troupe just kept on putting on the show.  The capitol, Planet Claire, and then the whole Empire got further and further up in arms.  The nay-sayers and crass materialists, led by Cluster Buster, kept on bad-mouthing the show.  Why won’t you at least come and see it before you condemn it, the New Wave Artists would say.  Because it’s a perverted waste and a bad influence, they’d reply.

            Shurely just kept on drenching herself in spleen dregs for the conclusion of her avant-garde show, every night.  During the day, she’d attend rallies, pushing her concept of a homeopathic elixir for all that ails society.  Her cure was SPAMM (Socially Progressive Art for Mobilizing the Masses).

            Society’s moral fiber couldn’t long withstand this onslaught.  One night, Scamgram I Am couldn’t take it any longer.  So he had Cluster Buster forcibly bound up, and deposited in a front-row seat for Shurley’s show.

            “There, Cluster Buster,” Scamgram I Am announced.  “You will like the Show.  Come on, try it, you will like it.  You will see.  This is what’s best for you, this I know.”

            “But I don’t like spleen dregs and SPAMM, Scamgram I Am!” Cluster Buster wailed in a shriek of pure terror.  “I do not like them here or there, I do not like them anywhere!”

            Cluster Buster flailed helplessly against his tentacle clamps and other bindings.  He went into an apoplectic rage.

            “Geeze, Dude, don’t have a cow!” Scamgram I Am protested in panic.  “It’s just a show, for Great Galactic Cluster’s sake!”

            But that’s what he did.  Cluster Buster had a cow, right there on the spot.  Then he died.

            But his cow grew up immediately, right then and there, in front of everyone.  It became known as Zebu, the Cruel Galactic Emperor.  It took vengeance for its parent’s death by seizing power, and then outlawing all magic, transrationalism, spleen dregs, and SPAMM.  Shurely Inane spent her last years in abject anonymity.  The Horde Whisperer was never able to complete his studies of her acts, to see if she had the secret of real magic, or not.

            Now Emperor Zebu was indeed a villainously vile, cruel tyrant.  You could tell by the Nazi helmet he wore, and the large brands of cobras, knives, and skeletons emblazoned on his hide.  Confirming beyond a doubt that Zebu was an inappropriate sort of a fella, one could also observe that he had neither steely eyes nor a square jaw.  And those brands!  Talk had it that he’d had those blazing branding irons thrust onto his hide without any painkillers whatsoever, without flinching.  So everyone said that Zebu was the toughest, roughest bull around.

            And it was true.  Without mercy, Zebu severely chastised anyone who dared to talk of Socially Progressive Art for Mobilizing the Masses, or any related concepts.  All such matters were now considered to be sacred, since these were what had brought about the birth of the sacred CCHOWDERHEAD (Chief Cow and Holy One; With the Duty to Enforce Rationalism, Head the Empire, and Advance Democracy), blessed be His Name.  And we all know that matters which are sacred, dare not be discussed, lest they be questioned.  Zebu managed to drag a lot of things into the realm of The Sacred, and so He prohibited any discussion or flexibility on a lot of matters, not just art.  Society froze into stasis, especially for lack of avant-garde artists to point the way.

            Zebu’s ideas about democracy were roughly as follows; 1) Make as many things as possible as sacred as possible, so that the people will be cleansed of their unclean thoughts.  Everyone will then go around being Sacred all day, and they’ll all agree with Me.  2) Without remorse, viciously assassinate the character of anyone who is unclean, who disagrees with Me.  Hire private detectives to ferret out or create some dirt about them, and broadcast it on all cosmic-karmic aura channels, especially during prime time.  3) If all else fails, sue and harass the unclean ones into silence.  4) Do all of the above well and faithfully, in the Name of CCHOWDERHEAD, blessed be His Name, and all the other, minor things, like mandates from the voters, will follow.

            His people were a deeply pious folk, so Zebu’s grip on power was unquestioned.  All his followers, being meek and mild, never once even thought of resisting Zebu’s will.  So he mooed his terrible moo, stomped his terrible hooves, and chewed his terrible cud, and sent the mild things off to bed without any supper, and they were all sorely afraid.  They whispered in the dark, saying, surely this must be the cruelest Galactic Emperor of them all!

            But the Cruel Galactic Emperor Zebu was cruelest of all to the Horde Whisperer.  The Whisperer endured frightful powerlessness and boredom, since all belief in any power but Zebu and Zebuism was roughly squashed.  He had to content himself with tempting Zebu into giving some of his powers to him, but the Horde Whisperer couldn’t seem to wrest anything of significance away from Zebu.

            Zebu may have been a cruel, intolerant, insensitive, and sometimes even a shockingly inappropriate despot, but He wasn’t a truly evil cow.  He was, after all, Zebu, the Holy Cow.  He realized that if He listened to the Whisperer, said Whisperer would be leeching His, Zebu’s, powers away from Him.  Zebu loved His power too much to share it more than He had to, in order to keep it.  And sharing power with the Horde Whisperer seemed to Zebu to be a very irrational thing to do.  So the Horde Whisperer had tolerated this boredom for ten million years, as Zebu locked all the action into stasis.

 

 

Illustration goes here above…    Hero of the Working Cow

 

 

            Then there’d been that little K-T mass extinction party at Earth.  After that, the Horde Whisperer had gone straight back to nipping at Zebu’s thoughts, with occasional side trips to see if he could seduce any Zorgons into listening to his Whispers.  Still no luck.  Then one day, ten million years later, a wandering tribe of barbaric nomads stumbled into the palace on Planet Claire.  Not knowing any better, all they saw was a placid cow, chewing its cud.

            Being insensitive, under-developed hicks from the hinterlands, they were totally deaf to the cosmic-karmic vibes with which Zebu severely admonished them as they carved Him up and made Him into steak tar tare, beef jerky, and liver-and-marrow burgers.  No one even thought of answering Zebu’s loud cosmic-karmic cries for help, for His society had been in stasis for so long that no one knew what a physically violent emergency was, any more, or how to react to one.  And Zebu was but the first of many sacred cows brutally butchered.  So stasis collapsed, and business picked up for the Horde Whisperer for quite a while again.  Only now, fifty-five million years after Cruel Galactic Emperor Zebu’s cruel demise, were things getting back to boring.

            But now, all these millions of years later, here he was, watching Earth, and some new and exciting developments in this former backwater.  Could this low-brow ape-woman witch, Beldame Oog, have concocted some real magic?  What was she up to, anyway?  He wrestled with the controls, refocusing the vibe vortex induction synthesizer.  The thermoelectric diffusion injector gasket sprung a tiny leak, and the rear-view mirror synchronizer acted up quite a bit, but overall systems performance was still within acceptable norms.

            “Well, Eve, I do believe it’s looking good, if I must say so myself,” Beldame concluded.  “Now let’s take a break, and let it dry a bit, before I carve the Magic Symbols into all the outside surfaces.  Can’t go carving on it when it’s still too wet.  Break time.”

            They retreated from the morning sun’s budding heat into a tree’s shade, and chatted.  “So what’s the deal, here, Beldame?  I’m your apprentice, and you say you don’t have long to live.  You say you have to tell me everything now.  Well, I’m listening.  Why don’t you go ahead and explain all the details about this ‘real magic’ we’re making here right now?”

            “OK, Eve, I’ll do that.  What we’re going to do, in detail, and why.  On our level, and on the commoners’ level.  They have their truth, which we work with, and then we have our higher truth.  The day will come when all knowledge will be accessible by everyone, but for now we have to work with what we’ve got.

            “What we’re doing is carving magic symbols all over this box and its lid.  I’ll have to do almost all of that myself; you’ll be able to help only a tiny bit.  Then we’ll fire it.  While it’s firing, we’ll make a little trip to the musical fruit grove, and see if your friend the snake is still there.  If she is, we’ll explain our situation, and why we need her help.  I’ll bet she’ll be glad to assist us.

            “After the box is fired, we’ll have a big ceremony.  We’ll take the whole clan, along with the box, to the musical fruit grove.  There, I’ll explain to them that we’re being attacked by the evil spirits of the musical fruits, and that the way to fight back is to gather up all the fart blossoms, and put them in the box.  By picking all the blossoms now, you see, there won’t be any fruit later.  At least, not at this particular grove.  They won’t worry much about other groves, because they’ll be all wrapped up with this strange new magic I’ll be showing them.

            “Yes, I know what you’re going to say.  You think no one will go into the grove at all, for fear of all those evil spirits.  They’ll believe that they can’t go in there to pick the fart blossoms, because they fear they’ll accidentally touch a fruit, and then they’ll die.  Well, you’re wrong.  I’ll explain to them that we’re under dire threat from the evil spirits, as shown by what happened with you and the snake in the grove the other day, and our only hope is to take strong measures, and fight back.  I’ll explain that if they let me do my special magic to them first, then they can go in there, pick the fart blossoms, and even live through it easily if they accidentally touch a fruit now and then.

            “They’ll be scared at first, sure.  But then they’ll see you and me picking the fart blossoms, without any problems.  And then the snake will come out and join us in our task!  Everyone will be really impressed with what we witches have wrought, and then they’ll pitch in to help.  Their spirits will be much strengthened when they see that they can touch the dread musical fruits now and then, and live to tell the tale.  So one of the small side benefits of this whole deal will be that we’ll move closer to the day that we can actually get everyone to eat of the musical fruit, get more proteins in our diet, and move towards a rational age.  All will have access to knowledge, and all will act out of reason and love.

            “That’s how we’ll handle the commoners, and that’s how they’ll understand this whole exercise.  But you and I, and hopefully the snake, we’ll be operating on a different level.  We know what this is really about.  It’s about putting together an extremely powerful talisman; one that’ll overpower the Dark Whisperer.  When he sees the awesome power inherent in this thing we’re making, he’ll flee in fear.  He’ll have no choice but to leave us all alone.”

            “But Beldame, how will this talisman work?  Isn’t this just another piece of pottery we’re making, and won’t all those fart blossoms be just another bunch of tiny flowers?  How can there be real magic here?  Are you sure this isn’t just another case of messing with the powers of the mind?  How can you get real power out of some pottery and a bunch of flowers?”

            “Oh, we’re onto some real power here, my dear.  Trust me.  What it is, is that eventually, we’ll go back to a high-protein diet, largely from the benefits of fruits like these now-forbidden musical fruits.  We will become far more wise and powerful, and begin to respect all knowledge, and to act out of knowledge and reason.  The fart blossoms are both symbols and embryonic substance of these dormant but budding powers of ours.  When we gather many, many of them together, their vibes will reinforce each other, and create a very subtle but immensely powerful vibe vortex.”

            “OK, if you say so.  But what about these special magical symbols you said you’d carve onto this ‘box’ thing?”

            “Oh, I’ll show you in just a few minutes.  What we’ll do, is we’ll call on the magic of the future of the human mind.  See, our descendants will be known as fully human, ‘Homo Sapiens,’ wise men.  The box will be decorated with symbols of the future, in a time when the powers of men’s and women’s minds will be channeled into large, powerful organizations.  These large organizations will be ordered in such a way as to fully unleash the potential of many, many human minds, and the results will simply be quite awesome.  So the combination of the fart blossoms, as symbols and substance of our budding powers, and these symbols of our future, carved into solid ceramics, will create some incredibly powerful magic.”

            The Horde Whisperer watched, taking it all in with growing apprehension.  What if¾OK, the old hag is crazy, but just what if¾she happened to be talking about real magic.  He tried to probe her mind yet once again, only to be coldly, forcefully shut out.  Well, I’ll just have to keep a close eye on all this, he thought.  He watched as Beldame and Eve lounged about for a few more minutes, and then got back to work.

            Beldame carved away at the clay very rapidly.  By now, a few members of the clan had started to drop by.  They, and Eve, questioned her as to what, exactly, all those symbols were, but she “shushed” them all, saying that she’d explain it all as soon as she was done.  Finally, she pulled back, adoring her creation.  There were boxes, circles, arrows, labels, and symbols all over the box and lid.  “Explain-explain-explain,” demanded many voices.

            “All right,” she relented.  “I’ll explain.  These represent the future of the powers of many of our descendants’ minds, all working together in harmony.  Sort of.  These will help us to scare away the evil spirits in the musical fruit grove.  OK.  Examples.  This little box says ‘Quality.’  And this one says ‘Teamwork.’  This circle says ‘ISO 9000.’  And this one says ‘Dullbert.’  Then this arrow over here is labeled ‘Form BR549, Authorization Requisition and Design Guide for Synthesizing New and Improved Forms.’  And here we have ‘Focus on Proactive Employee Empowerment.’  And here we have the various org charts and Gantt charts and pie graphs.  Then this big box over here says ‘Leveraging the Synergies of Global Marketing’s Quality Paradigm and the Mission Statement of the Interdisciplinary Cross-functional Technology Strategy Enhancement Team.’  Y’all understand, now?  Any questions?”

            There were no questions.  All of them, including Eve, just shook their heads, thinking, geeze-um, this witching business is way over our heads.  We’ll just trust Beldame, they all seemed to agree.

            Surely this old witch has been sneaking way too many mushrooms on the side, the Horde Whisperer concluded disgustedly.  But he failed to convince himself completely.  After all, he might possibly find himself with a severe handicap, if someone stumbled onto real magic before he did.  Especially if said someone was opposed to him and his worthy causes.  So he couldn’t resist trying to sneak a look into Beldame’s mind yet again.  Her psychic barriers withstood his onslaught, same as before.

            He retreated, thinking, well, no great loss.  So I can’t read the contents of some stupid old ape-woman’s mind.  Big deal.  Just a bunch of silly trash in there, anyway.  I must confess, though, it’s amazing how she sustains that kind of energy, keeping her shields up that way.  So now they’re just sitting around, chewing the fat, watching the jungle grow and the clay dry.  Let’s blow on outta here.

            The Horde Whisperer eyed the gauges, shifted gears, recalibrated his vibe vector overshoot dampers, and inserted the lockout bypass modules into his secure aura translation transducer.  All systems performed normally, and his new link sprang to life.  Ah, that’s more like it, he crowed.

            B-Belli stood towards the rear of the crowd, as the clan paid final respects to their fallen former leader.  They’d dug a large hole in their best grain field and conducted the proper ceremonies, led by none other than B-Belli himself.  With just a few well-chosen and emphatically delivered words to the wise, he’d become the new acting Chief.  He’d finish consolidating his power after a proper period of mourning.

            The Horde Whisperer concentrated intensely on his tasks for a few days, and all sorts of thoughts churned through B-Belli’s mind.  The Shroom Oogs and the Blunt Heads had been ripping the Firewater Tribe off, he thought.  Despite the fact that they’d given out much bread from their bumper crop this year, they’d not gotten much more than the usual, in terms of pottery and wooden implements from the Shroom Oogs, magic and furs from the Blunt Heads, and so on.  Obviously, they were intent on disrespecting the BFD God and His Bounty.  Come to think of it, those morons with their silly false gods should worship the BFD God the way we do, and give up their immoral, sinful ways.

            But what about the Shroom Oogs and their Fire God, B-Belli mused.  Aren’t the Shroom Oogs, themselves, gods?  Since the Fire God gives them very special powers?  Some very obviously real powers?  Well, just wait a minute, though.  Maybe fire hasn’t got much to do with the Fire God.  I’ll bet we, with the help of the BFD God, could handle this big “fire” deal.  What’s so special about it, anyway?  Take fire from the Shroom Oogs, and put it to our own use, ourselves.  Surely, properly done, this would only increase the glory of the BFD God!

            So B-Belli became determined to violate the taboos, and transgress into the provinces of the Shroom Oogs.  He’d steal fire from these so-called “gods”, and the Firewater Tribe would put the fire into firewater for themselves.  No more submitting to the insults of those BFD-God-disrespecting fools!

            The Horde Whisperer was pleased.  He truncated the vibe vector parsing routines, and reinitialized, dedicating all hyperbolically tangential cosmic energies available to him into the maw of his latest, most high-tech Cosmic Vibomatic Vibatronä.  The yaw dampening embedded circuitry within the synchronicity self-actualizer overloaded.  Bias currents within the current-limiting FETs punched through the gate to source barrier, spewing red-hot sparks all over the radiator hoses, causing one to spring a leak.  In a cascade of events, ethylene glycol contaminated the auxiliary vibe vortex generator, blowing several banks of fuses, which in turn caused the cosmic wave front aperture to go into electrosomatic shock.  Only with immediate and astute corrective action did the Horde Whisperer forestall systems lockup, thereby saving himself several days of work in rebooting and reconstructing lost files.

            “Oh, sugar-peas!” the Horde Whisperer exclaimed in anger.  “This Cosmic Vibomatic Vibatronä is a golly-gee shuck-darned piece of unacceptably substandard workmanship!”  But then he calmed back down, and got to the business at hand.  The image formed once more, even though phase jitter cut down resolution a wee bit.

            Beldame and Eve Oog were plucking fart blossoms, before the astounded eyes of half of the clan.  Then Shoshoni slithered out of the bushes, joining them.  They calmly continued gathering blossoms, as the snake bit off the tiny flowers.  The other members of the tribe exclaimed their great amazement as Shoshoni dropped clumps of flowers into Eve’s hands, for her to place them into the box.  Pandemonium ensued as the spectators consulted one another as to whether they were all seeing the same thing.  Then there was discussion about whether they’d all had too many mushrooms, cumulatively, and had all “gone ‘round the bend.”

            Eve and Beldame calmly continued picking fart blossoms during all this time.  When the spectators finally calmed down, Beldame called out to them, asking that they come and join the effort.  They refused.  Their fear was too great.  So Beldame abandoned Eve and Shoshoni to the work, and went to talk to the troops.  After a long, long talk, she persuaded a few brave souls to join their effort.  Sure enough, these few brave souls soon jubilantly exclaimed their great powers in defying deep, dark forces and their fears of these deep, dark forces.  It wasn’t long before the half of the clan that was in attendance was all out in the grove, picking fart blossoms.

            The Horde Whisperer just watched in rapt fascination.  The few passes he made at probing Beldame’s mind, now, any more, were quite half-hearted.  But everyone else’s minds were open to his inspections.  And the clan’s minds were full of how they were forcefully fighting off the evil spirits that dwelled there in that large grove of musical fruit trees, by making powerful magic.

            Shoshoni’s and Eve’s minds, too, were full of magic, on a different level.  By doing what they were doing, they were getting the tribe used to the idea that they could mess with musical fruit trees, and not die.  This was just one step towards unleashing the real power of human minds and high-protein diets.  And then, of course, there was the literal magic of combining the symbols and substances of these keys to human advancement, embodied there in that slowly filling, magically decorated box of fart blossoms.  What, exactly, was Beldame up to, anyway?  All in all, it filled the Horde Whisperer with a sense of dread and foreboding.

            Periodically, Eve would step into the box, and trample the blossoms down, making more room.  There were many, many blossoms in that large grove, and Beldame vowed that every last one of them would go into the box.  But the box had a lot of room.  Work continued till daylight gave out, and dusk called all efforts to an end.  Shoshoni was left alone to guard the box overnight, as the excited and zealous clansmen and women returned to camp.

            By now, the Horde Whisperer was quite anxious.  He focused all his cosmic-karmic energies on trying to do physical harm to the blossoms, or to the box.  If his opposition was to be allowed to do real magic, then he, too, should be allowed such activities, he decided.  Box, break! he mentally commanded.  Nothing.  Wind, blow, he decreed, but the breezes barely tugged at the lid, let alone got even close to carrying the blossoms away.  Blossoms, burn! he psychically shouted.  As best as he could tell, the vegetable matter got only slightly warmer than its surroundings.  This gave him some solace, since he’d never studied the phenomena of exothermic chemical reactions causing self-heating and even spontaneous combustion in large piles of freshly cut vegetation.

            So he stayed there all night, raising the temperature of the blossoms ever so slightly, more and more, all night.  Just a wee bit more effort, here, he told himself, and this whole mess will break out in flame!  Then in the morning, the whole tribe showed up!  When they lifted the lid to put more blossoms into the box, the excess heat escaped, unnoticed by all but the Horde Whisperer.

            He spent that whole day trying to scare them away, with thoughts of great fear and foreboding.  Calling up these particular moods wasn’t too difficult for him.  Beldame, however, did an excellent job of convincing her troops that fear, itself, was the enemy, and had been sent by the evil spirits, to dissuade them from completing their noble and vitally essential task.  Still, the Whisperer couldn’t tear himself away.

            That night the clan made a temporary camp at the grove, and excited and inquisitive juveniles (and the occasional adult) couldn’t resist lifting the lid periodically for a peek at the budding magic within.  By now, the warmth of the exothermic reactions could be felt at the outside of the bottom of the box.  Beldame explained that this was the result of the anger of the grove’s evil spirits, who were quite frustrated that none of these blossoms would ever become musical fruits.

            The Horde Whisperer was, indeed, frustrated and angry.  Mostly, he was angry about the fact that as soon as he managed to build up the heat in that box, some fool would lift the lid for another peek, and heated air would escape.  He was still far, far from being able to burn up Beldame’s talisman.  Finally, he gave it up.  For the time being, at least.

            Crossing his fingers, he consulted his checklist, then implemented precautionary action items proactively, and punched the buttons on his phased-array aura analyzer’s remote-controlled channel-changer.  Amazingly enough, all systems performed without anomalies.

            The clansmen of the Firewater Tribe were dancing around their fires, celebrating how their brave new leader, B-Belli, had stolen fire from the gods.  But they weren’t all wasting their time in celebrations.  In the light of one fire, away from the main action, the Whisperer could see that other seeds he’d planted were now taking root.  B-Belli was encouraging Dough Boy as he experimented with mounting a spear-head onto a shaft.  They’d found several spear-heads over the space of many years of digging in their fields, and had kept them as curiosities, not realizing their ancient origins or purposes.

            But now they knew what they were for, and they were intent on reviving the ancient sports and arts of hunting.  Keg Tapper, too, sat there with B-Belli and Dough Boy.  He was teaching himself the art of fashioning new spear points from raw, natural rocks.  B-Belli coached both of his disciples eagerly.

            Fine job, good work, the Horde Whisperer nodded approvingly.  Well, big deal, so far, really.  But just wait till what comes next!  As soon as they learn (or relearn) the fine arts of big-game hunting, we’ll move on to the next step, which is where the real fun comes in!  We’ll see if they can’t also do a good job at infidel-hunting!

            Just then, the Horde Whisperer realized he’d been neglecting his personal hygiene.  His perm was frazzled, but his nails were far worse: they were nothing short of atrocious!  So he thought matters over, and concluded that all was roughly on course on Earth for a little while.  The Firewater Tribe was well on its way towards Whisperer Wisdom.  Beldame’s crew of fart-blossom pickers were still several days from completing their task of picking every blossom in the grove.  So he could relieve himself of the concerns of this world for a little while.  Time was ripe for attending to more personal matters.

            He fled the Earth and its hick backwaters for a few days, to seek more civilized sectors of the galaxy, wherein he might procure a first-class perm and manicure for himself and his nine-inch nails.  Never hurts to pamper oneself, he thought.  Heck, if my nails get to short or too tattered, other spirits might regard me as low class¾even as one who is so low that I’ve got to work with my hands!

            Oh, and while I’m out and about, I’d better get the shop to take a good, long, hard look at this Cosmic Vibomatic Vibatronä.  I think it’s still under warranty.  After all, it’s still got less than thirty thousand gigavibes on it.

            So the Earth was left without the Whisperer, to run on autopilot for a little while.  Beldame noticed, but other than relaxing her psychic guard a bit, she never missed a beat.  The blossom gatherers still gathered fart blossoms, full speed ahead.  And B-Belli and his gang blazed full speed ahead also.

            Meanwhile, one night Aquila, in one of his exploratory flights, flew within the range of the smoke from B-Belli’s campfires.  Thinking it must be a previously-unknown Shroom Oog camp, he flew up to investigate.  He was totally astounded to find B-Belli and his clansmen sitting around campfires, feasting on freshly roasted boar, and clad in luxurious bearskins!

            Aquila perched in a nearby treetop, pondering matters.  Well, well, well, what have we here, now!?  Obviously, some big changes taking place!  How?  Why?  Well, never mind.  What’s in this for me?  Or for my buddies, the Blunt Heads Tribe?  Yeah, now we’re thinking!  If Panama Red won’t steal fire from the gods, maybe I can convince him to steal it from those who stole it from the gods!  Get these Blunt Heads on the road to advancement, and more efficient methods of getting into my favored state of mind!

            So he flew off and summoned Panama Red that very same morning.  Sure enough, Panama Red was amenable to his line of persuasion.  Aquila flew scouting missions for Panama, and told him exactly when and where to go, to sneak into the camp and steal fire undetected.  He snuck in while the entire clan had traveled down the trail a bit, in order to give a hero’s welcome to Dough Boy, who was dragging a freshly killed tapir home.

            Panama savored his few minutes alone, sneaking around the empty camp.  He scooped the red-hot coals into the ceramic pot normally used for roaches and wrapped it in insulating leaves, as instructed.  He was ready to begin his long journey home, when he noticed the amphorae off to the side.  I’ll bet that’s where they keep their sacred firewater, he thought.  While I’m here, why not sample the wares?  He took a tentative sip.  Yuck! he thought, spitting it out.  But then the flavor sunk in, and he persuaded himself to drink deeply.  Well, I’m not sure if I like it or not, he thought.  Burp!  Maybe it’s not so bad after all.  But I hear them returning!  Best to boogie on outta here before they catch me.  Maybe just grab this full amphora, here, and decide later, at my leisure.

            His beer buzz settled in a bit during his long walk home, and he decided he liked it.  But he refrained from drinking any more on the way home, realizing that he’d have to be in top form when he got there, explaining how he’d gotten fire, and how taboos were going to need to be violated.  Not wishing to violate too many taboos at once, he stashed the amphora in the bushes not far from home, then strolled into camp with the leaf-wrapped ceramic pot full of hot coals.

            As instructed by Aquila, he promptly gathered up dry grasses, twigs, and small logs.  He spilled the coals onto a heap of dry grasses, blew the fire to life, then heaped twigs and logs on top of it.  A small crowd of lower-ranking members of the clan had gathered by now.  Bud Roach and Head Rush came running over in a panic.  “And just what, exactly, do you think you’re doing?”  Head Rush demanded.  “Have you gone off and stolen fire from the Shroom Oogs?  Do you know what the punishment is, for stealing fire from the gods?”

            “Oh, no, Sir, I haven’t stolen fire from the gods!  It was the Firewater Tribe!  They’ve stolen it!  They’ve got big fires going, and they’re killing, roasting, and eating the wild animal spirits as we speak!  And you know what?!  They’re not being punished!  Not one bit!  They’re having big meat feasts, right now!  I’ll tell you, the times, they are a changin’!  And if we don’t change with them, we’ll get left way behind!  Now’s the time!  Sir, with all due respect, we’ve got to get with it!”

            Head Rush paused.  Other than the crackling of the flames, there was silence.  “And this ‘getting with it’ that you speak of¾it means stealing fire from the Firewater Tribe, then?  Since they’ve stolen it from the Shroom Oogs, then it’s OK for you to steal it from them?”

            “But Sir, they’ll never even miss those few fragments of burning wood that I took from them!  Fire is cheap!  All it takes is the heat of the burning from an older fire, and dry, dead wood or grass!  You see how much dead wood and grass there is all around us.  Even though, yes, the wood does belong to the Shroom Oogs, they’ll never miss it if we use just a little bit of it for ourselves, to help keep us warm at night!  See?  Feel this!  It’ll keep us toasty warm, more so than a whole heap of blankets!”

            “Stealing is stealing, Panama,” Head Rush pronounced with seemingly great regret. “And taboos are taboos.  Wood and fire belong to the Shroom Oogs.  You’ll have to be punished, to ward off the righteous anger of the Shroom Oogs.  I’m sorry, but that’s just the way things are.  You should’ve known better.”

            “Sir, that’s ridiculous!  What I’ve done is nothing, compared to what B-Belli and his clan are doing!  And they suffer no punishment!  None whatsoever!  Zero, zilch, nix!  You doubt me?  Come with me, and I’ll show you!  OK?”

            “Oh, we believe you, no problem there,” Head Rush replied.  “It’s just that wrong is wrong, no matter how many people do it.  And stealing is wrong!  Wrong, wrong, wrong, you got that?!”

            “What’s to steal?!  There’s all the dead wood and grass all around us here that anyone could want, and then some!”

            “I wouldn’t suppose that the words ‘global warming’, ‘fine particles pollution’, ‘deforestation’, and ‘erosion’ mean anything at all to you?” Head Rush said in a this-is-gonna-hurt-me-more-than-it’s-gonna-hurt-you tone of voice.

            Panama Red replied with a snappy comeback.  “And I don’t suppose that ‘Incredible buzz from the Weed God’ means anything to you, either?”

            “And just what do you mean by that, you impertinent young twit?!?!” Head Rush thundered.  One could discuss most anything with him, in an at least somewhat reasonable tone, but when challenged on the finer points of theology, Head Rush couldn’t conceive of himself in the role of second best.

            “Bring me a roach joined, and you’ll see.  As a matter of fact, skip the roach.  Just bring me rolled-up weeds, minus the roach, and I’ll show you a thing or two.”

            All the Blunt Heads were too astounded to do anything other than what Panama suggested.  They hastened to bring him the weed.  How could this cocky young snot talk to Head Rush in such a manner?  He’d better have some awfully strong magic up his sleeves, or there’d be quite a price to pay!

            Panama pulled a burning branch from the fire, applied it to the end of the rolled-up wad of weed, and sucked deeply.  Then he passed it to Head Rush.  Astounded, Head Rush followed his example.  Panama, still holding his breath, motioned to Head Rush to pass it on.  And so he did.  And so the whole tribe did.  Blunt Head see, Blunt Head do.  Whadda rush!” they finally exclaimed in collective amazement.  “Let’s crank the drums up and order some pizza!”

            A wild party was had by all.  Panama smirked inwardly in triumph, resisting the urge to crow.  Everyone was happy, and that’s all that mattered.  Who was right and who had been wrong?  That was all academic now.  This was Party Time, and the Weed God was being appeased as never before!  Remotely, Panama sensed that Aquila, perched low in the branches overhead, was immensely enjoying it all, too.

            Panama sensed correctly.  Aquila was soaking luxuriantly in all those groovy vibes, and inhaling the stray smoke.  This is like¾um, this is like¾oh, heck, I don’t know, Aquila concluded.  It’s like hanging out and sunning myself on a cool, clear autumn day after having eaten my fill of slightly rotten fish flesh and fish guts, in just the right balance, and having scrogged a gorgeous babe.  In the old days, before I judged all the babes to be incredibly dim-witted, and beneath my station in life.

            But then Panama remembered the amphora of beer he’d left stashed out in the bushes.  Wanting to top off this best party of all time with yet another buzz, he headed off into the woods.  Aquila sensed the meaning of his vibes.  Now Aquila was feeling quite fine, himself, by now, but he still had his wits about him.  Aquila cared for Panama’s well-being.  He perceived danger for Panama, so he followed Panama out to Panama’s beer stash in the bushes.

            Panama floundered about it the dark, then found his stash.  He pulled the plug and drank.  Then he drank some more.  Aquila watched, apprehension growing.  Doesn’t Panama know about hangovers, Aquila wondered.  Doesn’t he know about the physiologically addictive nature of alcohol, lethal overdoses, and delirium tremens?  No, he’s used to the relative benevolence of his Weed God, Aquila reminded himself.  Heck, he doesn’t even know about cirrhosis of the liver, I’ll bet!  Perhaps I’d better set him straight!

            But... well, just how does one go about informing an uninformed barbarian, anyway?  I can’t very well go into all the biopsychoneurovibophysiomedical details of substance abuse with this oaf, now, can I?  Well, maybe I’d best just try to project these concepts in mental imagery, Aquila concluded.  So he flew down to a branch right smack above Panama’s head, and prepared to crank up the vibes.

            Then he choked.  Addiction?  Delirium tremens?  Overdosing?  Cirrhosis?  What to project to Panama?  How?  In his present intoxicated state, what’s going to get through to him, anyway?  OK, let’s just pick something.  Cirrhosis, then.  Let’s compare it to... OK, here we go.  It’s like intense, chronic pain in your shrunken, hardened liver.

            It’s like being chained to the rocks, and having the vultures come by once a day, nibbling on your liver.  Got that?  Come on, you stoned dimwit!  Vultures chewing on your liver!  OK?!  That’s what you’ll get for drinking the firewater you stole from those who stole fire from the gods!  Now concentrate on this, you fool!  Aquila poured all his energies into his cosmic-karmic vibes generators, broadcasting on all channels.  Panama finally, dimly received the message, although he mangled it considerably before passing it on to others later when he was in a more sober state of mind.

            Panama regarded this stoned experience of his, listening to the harsh admonitions and allegorical vibes from Aquila, as a seminal development in his spiritual awakening, so he repeated the story many, many times in later life.  And because he regarded himself from that point forward as having become completely reformed, he took a new name for himself, that being Prometheus.

 

Illustration goes here above…  Ape-Man Hangover

 

 

            Shortly after Panama/Prometheus’s special experience, the Horde Whisperer returned to Earth.  The vibatronics repair shop had been swamped, so he was running a bit later than expected.  The first thing he did was to attempt to get a navigational fix on Beldame’s vibe vortices.  But unexpectedly strong transverse orthorhombic psychonuclear forces overwhelmed his gyroscopically rectified aura transducer anodes, tearing down the PNP junctions in the impact force sensors in his airbag.  Regulatory agencies had neglected to allow the Cosmic Vibomatic Vibatronä’s manufacturer to tie a simple vibe-rate transducer into the airbag’s trigger logic, so the airbag deployed, despite the fact that the Horde Whisperer was scanning at well under the danger threshold of ten to the twenty-third megavibes per femptofeeling.

            When the airbag deployed, it sent forceful shock waves reverberating about the Horde Whisperer’s cockpit.  He had his seat belt on, and was sitting back, so he, personally, wasn’t much traumatized.  But the shock waves knocked the tritronatronatronä’s* translation look-aside cache buffers into temporal dislocation, spewing non-indexed data into indeterminately aliased memory addresses.  Read/write heads slammed into servo stops, and wildly over-amplified vibe fronts overwhelmed the automatic gain circuits like a tsunami washing huts off of a small, low-lying island.

            *footnote: No, this particular tritronatronatron was NOT of the same sort as those manufactured in Stanstanistan.  Stanstanistan didn’t even exist till 33,000 years later.  This particular brand of tritronatronatron was manufactured intergalactically by EVIL (Ethereal Vibatronic Instruments, Limited).

            Holy frijoles, the Horde Whisperer exclaimed to himself, frantically flailing at the controls.  This gol-darned thing has gone way outside of the control limits at three sigma!  This process is out of control!  In fact, I’ll bet it’s not even ISO 666,000 compliant!  Dang stupid incompetents at that lousy shop!  I go to a certified vibatronics repair shop, and what do I get?!  Certified junk!  It’s just about impossible to get good help these days!

            After he cleared the smoke by invoking his NOSMOKE.BAT batch file, the Horde Whisperer found himself stuck with severely crippled systems.  No matter how often he readjusted his VCOs (Vibe-Controlled Oscillators), the picture just wouldn’t straighten out.  He dug out his oldest, simplest, and most primitive viboscope, and even it ended up not wanting to work quite right.  So he ended up “fixing” it, if we can be so generous as to use this word here, by slapping some Propoxyä ethereal epoxy putty on it, here and there.  Oh, no, he thought, looking through his newly repaired viboscope, reality has become Propoxified!

            But he soon forced himself to tolerate the fuzzy, partially obstructed view.  Then he resumed spying on Beldame, starting to wonder if maybe she had something to do with his technological bad luck streak lately.  Let’s see, what is she doing now.  Looks like I’m just in time!  They’re bringing the last few fart blossoms in now.  There’s just barely enough room in the box for them, and that’s despite the fact that they’ve stomped them in there as tight as tight can be.

            And what’s this?!  It sure seems that the blossoms are putting out quite a bit of heat, even though I’ve not been here!  So has this been Beldame’s magic all along, then, instead of mine?!  Might be trouble!  And just what, exactly, is that old hag doing now, anyway?  It seems she’s messing with some mud, with some tiny bright specks in it, and she’s¾she’s¾well, what in tarnation is she doing, anyway?

            The Horde Whisperer grew increasingly frustrated with the limitations of his quite low-tech viboscope and its blurred, partially Propoxified view.  So he thought, it’s time to be bold.  Stop sitting here all bottled up in my high-tech womb, behind my vibotronic shields, being a nowhere man, and playing with my nowhere gland, and break the paradigms.  Get down there, in my own personal if still ethereal form, and get my hands dirty, so to speak, even if I do break my nails.  Desperate situations require desperate methods.  And this is definitely an emergency!  I absolutely must find out whether Beldame has beaten me to the punch, and has managed to cook up some real magic!

            So the Horde Whisperer abandoned his technological accouterments and personally appeared on scene.  Only Beldame noticed.  He glanced at her mud, dismissed it as harmless, and dived into the box of fart blossoms, right before Eve threw the last handful of blossoms on top of the pile.  Beldame stood up, grabbed the ornate lid, and quickly but gently sealed the box.  Then, in a matter of seconds, she smeared the mud around the seal.  A great sigh of relief escaped from her, and an ecstatic grin brightened her old, withered face.  Then she literally jumped up and leaped for joy!

            Beldame and Eve led their whole Shroom Oog clan in a frenzied celebration of their victory, while the Horde Whisperer discovered his defeat and imprisonment.  After a whole day of feasting and celebrating, Eve finally managed to pull Beldame aside for a private conversation.

            “So what’s the deal, here?” Eve inquired.  “I can see how this has helped unify the clan, and how we’ve at least gotten them over their silly fear of the musical fruit grove.  But where’s this real magic you’ve been speaking of?  Other than how this box has been heating up, I see nothing!  So has all the magic just been in the minds of our clan, then?”

            “Thanks, Eve, for reminding me about that heat.  Yes, the box has been getting awfully hot, lately.  Even more so, now that we’ve put the lid on it.  It might get hot enough to crack, and we sure don’t want that!  Let’s continue this discussion later, and do something about that heat.”

            Beldame and Eve recruited some brawny bodies.  They pushed the hot box very carefully onto some stout small logs.  Then they gently hoisted it up, and carried it to a nearby stream, where they partially submerged it in cool flowing water.  Beldame and Eve were shortly left alone again there by the stream, as their assistants returned to the party.

            “So where’s this real magic, then?” Eve resumed pecking at Beldame.  “Just the fact that the box is hot?  Surely that can’t really be the anger of the defeated spirits of the musical fruit grove, as you’ve told the commoners!  So is this heat all there is to this real magic?”

            “No, Eve, the heat isn’t magic at all, any more than our fires are.  They’re both just ordinary exothermic chemical reactions.”

            “Then where’s the magic?”

            “In our minds, and in the minds of our opponent, as usual.”

            “Is there any real magic here, at all, then?”

            “No, Eve, I’m truly sorry, but I’ve had to deceive you¾and your friend Shoshoni with you¾one last time.  The contents of your minds were an integral part of our magic, the same as the contents of the minds of the commoners.  Yes, we’re on a different level.  But the magic is in our minds, the same as is true for the commoners.”

            “Then there’s nothing of any real, material significance in that box, and we could open it right back up, without any real impact to anyone, other than what it would do to their minds, if they knew that that’s what we had done?”

            “No, that’s not quite right.  There is something immaterial sealed up in there, but it’s impact on minds can be very, very real.  That is true, regardless of whether they know we’ve set it free, or not.  So it mustn’t ever come back out, for a long, long time, as best as I can tell.  Till we’ve become wise enough to resist Its Whispers, I suppose.  I’m not sure how long that will be.  We must allow the heat to bleed off for a few days.  Then we must very carefully bury it, deep, deep down, in a geologically stable area.  Like where we dig up our salt, but off to the sunny side a bit, where the salt is poor, and future generations won’t go digging into it.  Then we must forget where we’ve buried it.

            “Eve, this is what we must do.  I will die soon.  Can you promise me that you’ll take care of this?  Eve, this is very important.  Do you promise to do this?”

            “Sure, Beldame, sure.  But I’m totally confused by now.  Are you just making more magic in our minds with all this?  What’s in the box, anyway?”

            “The Dark Whisperer.  The Evil One.  Eve, I’ll tell you a secret.  Many, many people think it’s cruel and insensitive to call It the Evil One.  So they call It the Inappropriate One, and other such nonsense.  None dare speak Its Name.  ‘Evil’ is a four-letter word, as they say.  But when we call It by Its real name, then we gain great power to resist.  This is a very, very important part of magic.”

            Eve’s frustration verged onto anger.  “But you told me that the Dark Whisperer is nothing but a spirit, an immaterial thing that has no power over anything but willing minds!  It goes where it will, being immaterial!  So how can this box hold it?!”

            “Because of magic.”

            MAGIC!  Come ON, Beldame!”  Eve spat out.  “Will you please just cut all the magical hoo-ha, and tell me the real truth?!”

            “We trapped the Dark Whisperer through the magic tricks we played on Its mind.  It saw in all of our minds¾except for me, because I, alone, knew the complete extent of our plans, and I shut It out of my mind¾It saw in our minds that we were completely convinced that we were making very, very powerful magic in our box.  And that includes your mind, and Shoshoni’s mind.  So I’m sorry that I had to deceive you yet one last time.  But It came to fear our magic, so It came to investigate.  Yet the magic was just in Its mind, in Its fear of our magic.”

            “Then what keeps It there, locked in that box?  Why doesn’t It flee, if It’s the immaterial spirit that you say it is?”

            “The truth is sometimes a very complicated thing, Eve.  I told you about those symbols on that box being symbols from our future, in which we’ll combine the powers of our minds, in large things called corporations and organizations.  This is true, and these things will, indeed, be quite powerful.  But these symbols denote how truly atrociously repugnant and loathsomely boring these conglomerated minds will also often be.  They will be so bad, even the Dark Whisperer cannot tolerate the thought of them.  The terrible meaning of these symbols permeates the entire amorphously but solidly fused molecular structures of the box and its lid.

            “Although theoretically, the Dark Whisperer could sneak his way out of there, between the molecules of ceramics, Its mind rebels at the thought of having to tolerate such close contact with the utter, sheer inanity of the meanings of those symbols, which permeate the ceramics.  For lack of self-discipline, It can’t make Itself do anything that It finds abhorrent, even momentarily, and even in service of Its other, lower goals.  In other words, the Whisperer is the helpless slave of the undisciplined, rebelliously irrational magic of Its own mind.”

            Eve sat there shaking her head silently and in total confusion.  Finally, she came up with another question.  “Then why doesn’t It just slip out through the mud-smeared crack between the box and its lid?  Is It afraid of mere mud?!”

            “No, but there’s some very special substances in that mud.  Ground-up little bits of APAPPD DiPablium crystals.  They are very, very powerful.  You could say that they hold the ultimate trump card, in the sort of situations we find ourselves in.”

            “APAPPD DiPablium crystals!  And what, pray tell, are these?!  Can you fill me in on the details?”

            “Yes, indeed, I can.  APAPPD, you see, stands for All Purpose, All-Powerful Plot Device.  That’s why they’re so powerful.”

            Eve just shook her head, finally giving up.  They sat there in silence for a few minutes.  Then, out of the blue, Beldame started to cough.  Deep, ugly, wretched, hacking coughs.  Eve helped her to her feet, saying, “Beldame!  What’s the matter?!  We’d best get you back to camp, get you to lay down in a comfortable spot on a nice bed of fresh moss close to a good, warm fire.  I’ll gather up some herbs and make you a potion.  Come on. let’s go.”

            Eve helped her walk.  She trudged slowly along, stopping to cough frequently.  To Eve’s incessant, worried chatter, she simply replied, “Time has come for me to die soon, my child.  Don’t trouble yourself too much on my behalf.  But make sure you bury that box in a proper manner.”  And then, between coughs, she filled Eve’s mind with all the details of how the box should be prepared for burial, in such a manner that it wouldn’t break, and the caulking wouldn’t fall out of the crack, for a long, long time.

            When they got back to camp, Eve busied herself making a potion for Beldame.  Halfway through this task, she remembered that they’d left the box unattended.  She briefly devoted just enough attention to this lack of security¾thinking, what if some unknowing barbarian Blunt Head or Firewater clansman stumbles onto it, and opens it unawares¾that she quickly selected a young maiden, Pandora Oog, to go attend to matters back down at the creek.

            Now one might ask, “How could any supposedly mature, enlightened young adult go and pick a young girl named ‘Pandora Oog’ to go and guard a sealed box containing a Dark Whisperer, AKA Horde Whisperer?”  Go ahead, ask away.  But remember, Eve Oog suffered from a low-protein diet early in life, and suffered from sub-optimal brain development.  Worst of all, neither she nor any other Shroom Oogs had had a properly funded education.

            So that’s what Eve did.  Sent Pandora off to guard the box, warning her about the seemingly obvious, that she must refrain from opening the box.  This just goes to show what can happen when young children don’t properly learn about important cultural matters, including Greek mythology, along with all those non-western cultures.

            Anyway, Pandora pouted about the fact that Eve was belaboring the obvious, and commented that she, Pandora, hadn’t fallen out of the mushroom basket yesterday.  Then she went off to watch over the box.

            It wasn’t but an hour later that Beldame stirred vigorously on her sick bed, saying, “I feel a great, deep, dark disturbance in the Force.”

            Eve gave her another swig of potion, saying, “There, there, now, Beldame, you hang tight.  Everything will be fine.”

            The Horde Whisperer made a beeline for B-Belli and his clan, after Pandora opened the box.  Not even so much as parole; this was free and clear!  But he’d broken all of his newly done nails while writhing around in that cramped box, so he was pretty darned well torqued off!

            One hour after that, B-Belli’s troops, drunken but under the skilled command of General Dough Boy, charged through the Shroom Oog camp, conquering in the name of the BFD God.  They yelled things about evil heathens, infidel witches, disrespectful heretics, shroom-eating and weed-addicted substance abusers, and sacrilegious unbelievers.  They speared and gored ape-men, ape-women, and ape-rug-rats right and left, up and down, and sideways, and struck the huts on fire, and just generally had themselves a good time.

            Eve abandoned Beldame and fled for the bushes only after they’d just narrowly missed her with a thrown spear.  She spent the night silently, inwardly simpering in terror, trying to sleep out in the noisy, damp, and forebodingly dark jungle.  In the first light of morning, she peered out over the wasted, smoldering remnants of her former home.

            After she verified that it seemed safe, she toured the battleground.  Corpses lay strewn about.  She called out softly, asking if anyone was still alive.  No one replied.

            She was just about ready to retreat from the macabre scene of death and destruction when she saw the bushes stir slightly.  She froze, then dashed for cover.  Then she cautiously crept up to see what was rustling the leaves.  There she spied Beldame writhing slowly, weakly.  Eve gently scooped the frail old witch into her arms, and carried her off into the jungle.  She deposited her in a safe place, fetched water, and attended to her wounds.

            Beldame finally recovered enough to faintly croak a few words out for Eve, who listened intently.  “I’ve been wrong all along,” she ‘fessed up.  “Eve, I had it wrong.  It’s OK.  The Dark Whisperer is allowed to be free, to pester and befester us.  This may not quite exactly be called good, but it’s certainly right.  We’ll never grow up to be big and strong, unless we learn to resist Its Whispers.  We’ve all got to learn the difference between truth and lies sooner or later.  The sooner we get started, the better.  Yes, some will listen, and fall by the wayside.  Let the broken hearts stand as the price we’ve got to pay.

            “So don’t begrudge the Whisperer Its freedom.  Just beware, and never listen to It.  Work against It, speak out against It, and warn others, but don’t hate It.  When you hate, even when you hate hate itself, you’re being irrational, and when you’re irrational in a hateful manner, then the Whisperer has won.

            “Yes, chaos will be badness.  But it will also be goodness.  We must resist the idea that we’ve got to chain chaos up in our boxes, rows and columns, matrices, and spreadsheets.  Because we can never chain it for good.  It’ll break back out, always.  Think you can chain it, and you’ve listened to the Dark Whisperer.  Let chaos be chaos.  Work with it.  Roll with the punches, and pick and choose, carefully, the little bits of chaos that you might be able to tame.  Then do your best to bring forth good from chaos.  No one should expect any more from you.

            “We make a mistake when we confuse chaos with the Dark Whisperer.  In chaos, there can be many beautiful things.  Things like freedom.  Freedom for all to chose for themselves leads to apparent chaos, but hidden in that chaos is complex order.  That complex order, if allowed to flourish, will bring forth many beautiful things.  This will happen only if we restrain our urges to always try to fight and contain chaos.  The root of all evil is the urge to conquer chaos completely.

            “No one can conquer chaos, and no one should try.  When we think the solution is always more order, obedience, control, and power, then we are listening to the Dark Whisperer, and he will push us towards destruction, which is the worst chaos.  We must stop listening to the Dark Whisperer, and listen instead to those whispered words of wisdom¾‘let it be’.

            “Don’t worry, the Force will send courageous prophets, and many will speak out powerfully against the Dark Whisperer.  Unfortunately, most people, most of the time, will ignore the wisest of the prophets.  Or for sure, they’ll not pay proper attention to things they don’t want to hear.  But that’s just the way things are.  We have to live in the real world, and accept things the way they are.  Always look on the bright side of life.  Some will listen to the prophets, and ignore the Whisperer.”

            They sat in silence.  Many of Beldame’s words were meaningless to Eve, yet somehow their essential meanings were quite clear.  Eve grasped Beldame’s hand, wincing at her labored breathing.  “Is there anything more?” Eve prompted.

            “Yes.  You can lead a horde to water, but you can’t make them think.”

            Eve sat and stewed on that for a bit.  Then, gently, she asked yet again, “Anything else, Beldame?  If you’ve anything else to say, I think you’d better get it off your chest soon.”

            “Yes, my child.  The meaning of life is...”  But then Beldame slipped into a coma, twitched, and died peacefully in a matter of minutes.  Eve sorrowfully drifted away, vowing that Beldame’s ideas and causes should never die.

            Many miles away, Aquila and Shoshoni, both fleeing from the frightfully insane carnage among the fledgling humans, stumbled into each others’ cosmic-karmic vibe auras.  The dialectic vibe constant was high that day, so this range was a bit close; a matter of mere miles.  Aquila and Shoshoni rushed towards one another, he at a pace obviously greater than hers.

            “Oh, my love!” he called out to her, “I’ve been looking for you for entirely too long!”

            “Oh my darling!” she replied in eager anticipation.  “You’ve a beautiful mind!  A real, intelligent, thinking and feeling mind!  A mind like my own!”

            “Oh, sweet bliss!” Aquila’s vibes sang out as he soared descending, far from that ancient river bending.  “My darling!  My gorgeous darling!”  He zeroed in on her, and only the uncaring, non-sentient jungle paid witness to their frenzied, passionate love-making.  Not one creature condemned the brazen unnaturalness and immorality of their inter-species love affair.  No one even cared, other than the millions of soil bacteria which happily feasted on drops of the physical manifestations of Aquila’s love, spilled so generously and directly onto their homes.

            Aquila and Shoshoni lived together happily till death parted them late in life.  This, though, was after they made a great journey.  Wishing to leave human butchery far behind, they traveled south ‘cross land.  When they got to the sea, Aquila stole a hide from some humans, and carried Shoshoni, stork-and-baby-bundle-style, across the great waters.  Arriving in a new land, they celebrated by making love in a swamp.

            The ape-men of this new land had never lived under the wise, subtle rule of Beldame and her fellow witches.  Beldame’s world and vision had never encompassed these remote peoples.  More fortunately, they were destined to live free from the wrath of B-Belli’s descendants for thousands of years, still.  They were still quite innocently primitive, in those days.

            Being quite innocent, the few of these primitives who witnessed Aquila’s and Shoshoni’s love-making could never have conceived that this was the results of an incredibly, shockingly sordid inter-species love affair.  They thought the eagle and the snake were fighting.  But they were quite impressed, and dedicated themselves to obeying the command of this great vision of theirs.  They vowed to build a great city, out there in the middle of that swamp.

            But the Horde Whisperer was loosed, destined to bedevil humanity for the ages.  This was the end result of the historical forces shaping those legendary times.  Also, these were the days when great myths propagated throughout the infant human populations, forming and shaping their world views and forging their very destinies.


 

 

8) The Horde Whisperer Breaks Through-

The Modern Era

            “In quantum gravity, as we shall see, the space-time manifold ceases to exist as an objective physical reality; geometry becomes relational and contextual; and the foundational conceptual categories of prior science¾among them existence itself¾become problematized and relativized.”  Alan Sokal, modern physicist, in recent demonstrative spoof writings published in an article entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, in “Social Text”, a “scholarly” journal dedicated to “deconstructing” modern science.

 

            The Horde Whisperer plied his trade steadily throughout thousands of years, spreading low self-esteem, misery, death, and destruction.  One of his favorite tricks was to Whisper to people, and to convince them that they had the secret to real magic.  Not just the kind of mental/spiritual magic by which, for example, if enough people pray sincerely enough for peace, there will be peace, but real, physical magic.  The “mere” magic of the mind just isn’t enough.  Believe such-and-such, and do these rituals here, in just the right way, the Whisperer said, and Awesome Powers will be yours.

            The Whisperer never delivered.  His promises were naught but lies.  What a shocking surprise!  When his victims listened intently enough, they’d be drawn into his spiral vortex of magic thinking.  When all their attempts at real magic ultimately failed, they’d perform that one, final piece of real magic that was clearly in their power.  They’d firmly convince themselves of just what, exactly, lays beyond death, for themselves and for others.  And then they’d transport those others, especially those who didn’t support their ideas of magic, to those realms beyond death.  When this happened, the Horde Whisperer was fairly well pleased.  But what pleased him most of all was when, merely through his own power to Whisper, he could convince True Believers to “magically” transport themselves to those realms beyond death!

            Through all the ages, the Whisperer kept on wondering if there could ever be real magic, though.  He lusted after such powers for himself, but the entire universe valiantly, steadfastly resisted his efforts for billions of years.  The laws governing the physical behavior of the universe and all the matter and energy in it remained firm and unbreakable.

            But during the 1990s, the Horde Whisperer finally broke through and attained real magic.  A physicist, Alan Sokal, unwittingly, unwillingly, unknowingly, and in complete contravention of his own intentions, released the Horde Whisperer from his most effective shackles.  Prior to this time, the Horde Whisperer had been constrained by the objectively unbending physical, chemical, electromagnetic, quantum mechanical, gravitational, relativistic, etc., laws of the universe.

            After Alan Sokal unintentionally revealed that existence is merely a subjective matter of social convention, reality became problematized, and the Horde Whisperer was left free to redefine reality at will.  Now reality didn’t suddenly become radically problematized all at once.  It became problematized slowly, quietly, and furtively.  Many people didn’t notice it for years.

            As one might expect, the first manifestations of this problematization were created by a spawn of the Horde Whisperer.  Also as one might expect, this spawn of the Horde Whisperer was one of many designed and built in a secret laboratory owned and run by the federal government.  This was in a top-secret lab known only to those fiendish researchers as THEMNOTUS (Technologists Helping to Engineer Marvelous New Opportunities for a Totally Ungrateful Society).

            But then word about THEMNOTUS leaked out.  Hordes of reporters, camerapersons, editorialists, and demonstrators constantly badgered all the lab’s workers, engineers, and scientists, and the government, saying that a far more accurate description of THEMNOTUS would be Terrible, Hateful Elitists Maliciously Negating Our Totally Unquestionable Sainthood.  The outcry was so deafening that THEMNOTUS was shut down.

            In many ways, this shutdown came too late.  The government shut the barn door after the spawn of the Horde Whisperer had escaped.  And the Horde Whisperer’s spawn were legion.  First, THEMNOTUS devised diabolically clever subliminal messages to secretly sell to fiendish tobacco companies.  The tobacco pushers then put these messages into “Schmoe Camelhumper” cigarette advertisements.  Innocent, angelic Boy Scouts, Brownies, and choir boys by the millions were thus ruthlessly forced, robot-like, to put cigarettes up to their virgin lips, light them up, and inhale deeply.

            Other than augmenting THEMNOTUS’s financial resources, addicting helpless children served their interests in another, even more sinister manner.  THEMNOTUS scientists invented nanotechnological behavior-modifying molecules, then snuck them into everyone’s vaccines, drinking water, and cigarettes.

            Nicotine, though, served to synergistically boost the effect of these behavior-modifying molecules more efficiently than any other substance, so this is where THEMNOTUS concentrated its efforts.  They encouraged the tobacco companies to spike their cigarettes not only with nicotine, but also with many kinds of these special molecules, some of which also increased nicotine addiction.  As a side benefit, the tobacco companies then repaid the government for its help by selling more heavily taxed cigarettes, thus saving socialized medical programs from collapse.  THEMNOTUS orchestrated lawyers and tobacco companies, making a great show about how adversarial it all was, but it was all really just a friendly mutual back-scratching arrangement.

            And just what, exactly, did all these special behavior-modifying molecules do, besides increase nicotine addiction, thereby increasing the government’s funds and powers?  The effects of these molecules were pernicious and pervasive, and too numerous to list in complete detail.  However, we can summarize their major effects briefly.

            They caused parents to neglect their children, and allow them to watch horribly immoral, sexy and violent TV programs, videos, and computer programs, and to listen to terrible music.  Some parents resisted valiantly, trying diligently to discharge their parental duties of loving and guiding their children, but those diabolical molecules held them in their iron grip.  Many children fell under the influence of these satanic molecules, too, and had no choice but to slip so deeply into cults and role-playing games that they ended up losing touch with reality, and committing suicide.  The molecules had left them no choice at all!

            They caused many, many people to become the friends of characters on TV, instead of making friends with their neighbors.  So then, when their cars wouldn’t start in the morning and they needed a friend to give them a ride to work, and Murphy Brown turned out not to be much of a friend after all, refusing to give them a ride, well, once again, they had only those evil molecular engineers to blame.  Those molecules made them limit their friendships to TV characters, and got half of them to become unmarried mothers, to boot.

            Some of the worst havoc that THEMNOTUS molecules wreaked was inflicted on poor minority communities.  They caused teenagers to have unprotected sex, women to go on welfare, fathers to abandon their children, and almost everyone to catch AIDS, smoke crack, and fight gang wars.  On top of that, those demonic molecules then caused richer, more talented, and more privileged workers to keep the poor from competing with them on free labor markets, through the use of minimum wage laws, licensing laws for hair braiders, interior decorators, and taxi drivers, and explanations such as “we’re just defending the poor ignorant consumers from their own weaknesses and stupidity” and “we’ve got to defend the working poor from slave-driving capitalist pigs.”

            THEMNOTUS molecules also devastated the plight of womyn everywhere.  They implanted oppressive patriarchal paradigms into womyn’s minds, including self-fulfillingly prophetical ideas such as this: that it’s normal for womyn to suffer from morning sickness and labor pains.  Had it not been for the vocal protests of courageously radical feminists on campuses, even more womyn would have fallen for these tyrannical lies.

            Some mad technologists at THEMNOTUS even conspired with the radicals of the far right, slipping behavior-modifying molecules into Billary-Bob’s food pods, such that Billary-Bob was utterly, totally and completely incapable of keeping his cloaca in his peduncle.  Fortunately for everyone, Hillary-Bob caught on to the right-wingers’ goals if not their methods, warning everyone about “...this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband...”

            In society at large, the molecules caused everyone to sue everyone, draining vast quantities of resources away from other, more productive uses.  They caused everyone to believe, and vote for, those politicians who promised them increased government-administered compassionate benevolence, to be funded by the other guy.  “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fella behind the tree,” as the politicians said.  And the people believed!  All because of THEMNOTUS molecules!  Those horrible molecules just did all sorts of strange and perverted sorts of things to all sorts of innocent people, who would otherwise never have dreamed of acting in such silly and irresponsible ways.

            They caused everyone to admire Kate Moss and other gorgeous waifs so much that many people died of anorexia.  Then there were split ends, overgrazing, body odor, genocide, halitosis, global warming, indigestion, interracial adoption, women with hairy armpits, soil erosion, baldness, satanic Procter & Gamble symbols, boredom, radioactive wastes, tooth decay, sexism, hemorrhoids, executive (but not athlete or movie star) overcompensation, dandruff, racism, athlete’s foot, political and moral corruption, headache pain, and a thousand million instances of hate and death and war, all also caused by the diabolically, fiendishly clever molecular engineers at THEMNOTUS.

            As one might imagine, the public’s thunder of righteous indignation was overwhelming, when word about THEMNOTUS finally leaked out.  THEMNOTUS was shut down in the nick of time.  Right before they were shut down, they’d been working on their most diabolical scheme of all: they were going to invent real magic, and put magic molecules into the papers of marriage licenses for gay people.  These magical molecules would have tainted the cosmic and orgasmic love-ether, causing normal, non-perverted couples to dishonor their marriage vows.  They’d have had no choice but to get divorced, since real marriage and family values would have been torn asunder.

            Since real, legitimate love is a finite resource, and a marriage license is a type of currency, the gays would have stolen limited love-vibes from straights.  Marriage licenses would have been devalued, love inflation would have set in, and divorce and fatherlessness would have skyrocketed, since straight love-vibes would have been leeched away.

            Fortunately, this most fiendish of THEMNOTUS’s plots was foiled before the engineers completed systems design integration.  So THEMNOTUS never did attain real magic, directly.  This was left to one of their creations.

            Chewdychomper Chupacabras was another gruesome creation of the mad scientists at THEMNOTUS.  He was a slimy synthetic mutant mucous-covered multi-tentacled blood-sucking monstrous fiend, and that was on his good days, when his various biorhythms maximized.  They’d at first intended for Chewdychomper to become an IRS auditor, but experiments indicated that he grew lethargic after drinking his fill of blood.  They never managed to explain the concept of the national debt to him.

            So the authorities at THEMNOTUS decided that Chewdychomper should help them to keep minorities in their proper place.  Since they’d already taken care of Blacks with their demonic nanotechnological behavior-control molecules, they decided to loose Chewdychomper on Hispanics.  They sicced him on Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, South Florida, and Mexico.  There, Chewdychomper was free to terrorize and oppress all the natives.

            In the lab, he’d gained his first name, Chewdychomper, because if you didn’t watch out, he’d chomp your chewdies and chew your chompers.  And after they set him free, the natives called him “Chupacabras”, which is Cuban/Mexican/South Floridian etc. for “goat sucker”.

            And Oh Boy, did he ever suck those goats!  And sheep and pigs and cows and horses and rabbits and geese and guinea pigs and emus and ostriches and all other sorts of domestic livestock!  He’d sneak up in the middle of the night, leave a few fang marks, suck the animals’ blood dry, and then slip away.  He never paid any refunds, and he never promised a lower blood burden on the middle class, let alone a pyramid scheme to support his victims in their old age.  However, even he refrained from threatening anyone with audits and incomprehensible forms to be filled out.

            He never did directly threaten any unwilling human victims, that we know of.  Humans, being anthropocentric speciesists, found him to appear repulsive and vile.  Their biased perceptions fouled the aura of any potential human-chupacabras interactions so thoroughly that this particular oppressed and misunderstood chupacabras knew that it was useless to even bother to try to interact socially with them.  Some say he was just too cowardly and shy, but such statements merely demonstrate ignorance of the extent of anti-chupacabras intolerance.  However, despite his lack of empowerment in the social arena, he set in motion a chain of events which was to cause all humans a great deal of problems.  In fact, we could say that he was the one who (by obeying the Whisperer) problematized reality.

            One night, Chewdy was out sucking goats’ blood in a favorite backwoods area of Mexico, and the rancher’s dogs caught wind of him.  They chased him under a large woodpile, where they barked and growled at him all night.  The rancher called the police, but they were too busy to help a common rancher.  At the behest of various Gringos, they were out smuggling drugs and busting drug smugglers who hadn’t greased the right palms.  The dogs got tired of guarding against fearsome fiendish monsters, so they sauntered off to attend to more important matters, such as barking at doorbells and squirrels.  Chewdychomper, shaken but not stirred by the terrors of his long, wild night of snarling back at semi-domesticated long-fanged fellow-beasts, slunk off into the dark right before dawn.

            Chewdychomper was shaken enough by this experience that he began to think about certain matters.  He decided that his low-tech life was just plain too dangerous.  So he dragged his slimy tentacles off to the nearest dump, where he invented real magic.  Using fragments of a broken lampshade, a beer bottle, an old magnetic compass, some battery acid, an egg beater, and a transistor radio, all of unknown brands, and a Cheese Dwonkyä wrapper, he created the Quart Low Tracker.

            Note, we do NOT imply that Cheese Dwonkiesä or associated products are defective in any manner, that their wrappers should be disposed of in anything other than a sanitary landfill meeting appropriate legal standards, that readers should attempt any such experiments themselves (especially not without proper adult supervision), or that Author or Publisher makes any guarantees, express or implied, of such devices working properly.  But remember, you can’t prove to us that the Quart Low Tracker DOESN’T work, either.  If it doesn’t work for you, it’s just operator error.  These things aren’t easy, or for novices, you see.  One needs Faith, not pessimism and unbelief.

            Now the Quart Low Tracker wasn’t just an ordinary heap of junk.  It was, indeed, an extraordinary heap of junk.  A real magic heap of junk.  With it, he could detect those who were a quart low in common sense and intellectual and physical vigor, but who weren’t too terribly low otherwise, especially in succulent blood.  In other words, the Quart Low Tracker allowed him to safely pick his victims.

            Chewdychomper Chupacabras enjoyed a few months of happy bloodsucking.  With the LCD (Luciferescent Chromosexual DiPablium) display on his Quart Low Tracker giving him infallible guidance as to whom he should suck dry next, life became safe and easy, and a belly full of blood was one of life’s givens.  Life became dull and boring for Chewdy.  Now that his belly was always full, he wished to slime his creepy tentacles up Madlow’s Hierarchy of Greeds, and acquire some money.  Visions of $$$$$ danced through his head.  Sadly, though, he came to realize that money was useless to him, since his appearance was so horrifying that he’d never be able to spend money and enjoy it a meaningful manner.  So he decided to settle for second best, which was to enable someone else to get rich, and vicariously watch all the fun.

            He pondered long and hard.  Then he made some very extremely special modifications to his Quart Low Tracker.  He hearkened to his LCD display, and made plans to head for Madness County.  Then he hauled himself off to the dump once more, gathering up fragments of lampshade, a beer bottle, a magnetic compass, some battery acid, an egg beater, a transistor radio, and a Cheese Dwonkyä wrapper.

            He carefully popped the cover off of the little hand-held magnetic compass, examining its delicate bearing.  Dang, he cussed to himself, the bearing works, swiveling freely.  Entirely too freely.  Well, we can fix that!  He dabbed a spot of battery acid on the compass bearing again and again, watching is as it caused the metal to fizz weakly.  Finally, after much diligent work by Chewdy, the bearing rusted rigidly shut.

            After testing the bearing, a satisfied Chewdy carefully wrapped the compass in the Cheese Dwonkyä wrapper, and performed other delicate high-technology engineering operations.  Thus, he fabricated yet another Quart Low Tracker; the world’s second such device.

            Now in Madness County there lived a striving, seeking, searching young lad named Ale Run Hubba-Bubba.  They called him Ale Run because in his younger years, he’d always been the one to make the ale run, when the party ran dry.  And yes, he did like women.  But only half-heartedly.  He’d inevitably be distracted by the nearest pink plastic yard flamingo.  But even his passing infatuations with pink plastic yard flamingoes would only last so long, before a nameless sense of seeking and longing drove him away.  So he carried such a mediocre rank in both fields of endeavor, with the women as well as with the pink plastic yard flamingoes, that he deserved neither to be called Hubba-Hubba nor Bubba-Bubba.  But his friends thought highly enough of him in both categories that he became known as Ale Run Hubba-Bubba.

            Now Ale Run, they called him a seeker.  He’d been searching high and low.  He sought bliss and ale and enlightenment and women and higher consciousness and a new pickup and inner peace and power and nirvana and status and blessedness and pink plastic yard flamingoes and a well-grounded sense of centeredness and money.  Especially money.  Lots of money.  Now money isn’t bad.  Prosperity and good fortune, to put a better spin on things.  So Ale Run never said he liked money.  He just had a well-grounded sense of centeredness, and he happened to be centered about prosperity and good fortune for himself, especially.  So far, he just hadn’t latched onto a proper channel through which to attract prosperity and good fortune to himself.  He’d discovered that it was hard to convince people to give their money to him merely because he liked money.  So Ale Run was seeking.

            Chewdy consulted his Quart Low Tracker one last time, confirming his reservations for an auspicious day for traveling.  Then he made his trip to Madness County one hot sultry late August day, on Friday the Thirteenth, with the Moon in Uranus and Chewdy having been manufactured a Pisces next to a black cat under a ladder, stashed securely away in the cargo bay on Panama Red Airlines flight #666, arriving on schedule one dark and stormy night.

            He pried the screen aside and crept through the open window of Ale Run’s apartment, replacing the screen behind him.  He scrambled up into the bedroom and stashed his second Quart Low Tracker under Ale Run’s heap of dirty laundry.  He secreted himself underneath the floorboards underneath that heap of dirty laundry.  Then he waited.

            Ale Run tottered into the bedroom at ten-thirty, flopped back, and watched TV for a while.  Then he turned everything off and worked his way to within millimeters of snoozeville.

            But then Chewdy Whispered to him.  “Ale Run.  Ale Run.  I have what’s good for what ails you.”

            “Wha-hunh?  Who’s that?”

            “It’s just me, your friendly neighborhood Chewdychomper Chupacabras.  My friends just call me ‘Chewdy’.  I’m here to be your friend.  Trust me.”

            “How’d you get here?  Who let you in?  What are you doing here?  What do you want?”

            “Why, I flew in on the friendly skies, just like anyone else.  And you let me in.  You invited me.  You asked God to bring you riches, yes?  Riches and power for you, so that you can make sure people do God’s Will?  Well, let me tell you something.  That’s a darn good thing to ask for, because that’s God’s will, is for you to be rich and powerful!  That’s so selflessly noble of you, to want vast powers and riches with which to serve God.  So God sent me here to help you become rich and powerful.”

            Now this all caught Ale Run’s attention, you can bet on that!  But Ale Run’s soul hadn’t been dispensed by the cosmic-karmic vending machine yesterday, so he was a bit skeptical.  “Where are you?  What are you?  What exactly is a ‘Chewdychomper Chupacabras’, anyway?  Why should I trust you?”

            “I’m an invisible spirit,” Chewdy lied, tweaking his Quart Low Tracker and concentrating on projecting his voice in such a manner as to foil Ale Run’s directional hearing.  “I’m a good spirit, sent by God and his Vibes to help you help Him.  I bring many blessings.  And you should trust me because I bring concrete evidence of my good will.  I bring you the Quart Low Tracker.  Lift up your dirty laundry, and Behold My Wonders!”

            Ale Run lifted his stained underwear and rotten socks up to the heavens, and proclaimed, “All I see is some weird heap of junk.  What’s this?  Is this some pervert’s stupid idea of a trick to play on me?  One of my old frat buddies?  Moondog?  Is that you?”  Ale Run looked around skittishly.

            “No, no,” Chewdy assured him.  “Not a joke.  Not a joke at all.  Now get pen and paper, and listen up, please.  I’ll tell you all about the Quart Low Tracker, how to use it, how it works, and how to build more.  Everything you’ll need to know.  You’ll become rich, powerful, and famous.  Just listen, please.  Listen, and write.”

            Ale Run fetched his pen and pad.  Then he listened and wrote.  And listened and wrote and listened and wrote some more.  For five hours he listened and wrote.  First, Chewdy told him how to use the Tracker.  He even walked him through some exercises, learning hands-on how to use the Tracker.  Then he taught him the theory of operation, in detail.  Finally, Chewdy walked him through just exactly how one goes about fabricating one’s own Quart Low Tracker from scratch, using commonly available household items and supplies.

            In conclusion, Chewdy dictated to the still-furiously transcribing Ale Run, “And now don’t forget, the final step of systems integration here is that one has to very, very carefully align the LCD display chromosexually with the Earth’s electromagic lines of flux, emanating from the current locus of the geomagic pole, using a counter-clockwise hand-waving motion and the right-hand rule.  This counter-clockwise rotation is what you’ve got to use here in the Northern Hemisphere in order to invoke the Coriolis Force.  If you were in the southern geomagic field, of course, you’d have to wave your hands clockwise, OK?  Great!  May the Coriolis Force be with you!”

            Now Ale Run was a bit tired and sleepy by that time, so we really should find it in our hearts to forgive him for getting a bit sloppy in transcribing the notes.  And Chewdy was getting hungry and impatient, too, so he didn’t bother to thoroughly double-check the CRC (Certification of Ridiculousness Check) codes that his Tracker displayed after performing calculations based on the vibes returning from Ale Run’s aura.  So one might say that mistakes were made.

            Chewdy conducted a lightning-quick review of all they’d gone over, while Ale Run drowsily checked his notes.  Then, finished at last, Ale Run fell into a deep and exhausted sleep.  Chewdy slipped away into the few remaining hours of night.

            Ale Run awoke halfway through the morning.  By the time he was fully awake, he came to realize that yes, the events of last night had been real¾not just a dream.  But he checked his notes, just to be 100% sure.  And then he found the Quart Low Tracker, right there where he’d left it on his nightstand.  He picked it up with trembling hands, thinking, I’m rich I’m rich I’m rich!!!  Providence has finally acknowledged my deserving nature!

            He checked his notes and his memories very carefully, thinking, I’ve got to be methodical, here, and make sure I don’t blow it!  This is a once in a lifetime chance, if this all checks out the way that this “Chewdy” spirit says it will.  OK, first things first.  I’ll make sure that the Quart Low Tracker works the way he says it does.  Let’s see...

            Ale Run decided on phase one, and then he acted.  He got himself signed up as a telephone solicitor for the Law Enforcement Officer’s Club, calling people and asking them for donations.  After filling out the proper papers and taking his training course that morning, he sat down at his telephone station.  Then he gathered up his pencil, lunch box, and phone book, excused himself, and went to the little boy’s room.  In the privacy of his stall, he pulled the Quart Low Tracker out of his lunch box.  He used it meticulously, marking about a hundred numbers.  Then he got back to work.

            Ale Run shone like a star that day.  Not a one call failed to elicit a promise of money for law enforcement officers.  All his bosses and coworkers mobbed him, asking him how he’d managed to do it.  He only gave vague replies, saying you just had to have a special touch.  He thought to himself, well, this is just peanuts.  Chump change.  Wait till I really get going!  Now that I’ve obtained my demonstration of the Quart Low Tracker’s powers, why am I still hanging out with these losers?  He almost told his boss he’d not be back in the morning, but then he stopped himself.  What if Chewdy’s hunk of junk was playing tricks on him, and all the charitable givers were going to change their minds?  What if not a one of them followed up on their promises to mail money in to their noble cause?

            So he came back the next day, and performed his magic once again.  And the day after, and the day after that.  Then the money started to roll in.  Thousands upon thousands of dollars poured in.  Ale Run got raises, the other employees got envious, and the policemen’s widows even got a dollar or two now and then.  Well, I guess it’s time to move on to phase two, Ale Run thought.  Time to quit my job, and move off to bigger and better things.  Once more, he stopped himself in the nick of time, right before resigning.  Better think this through first, he told himself.

            He went back home to his apartment that night and initiated phase two.  This consisted simply of intensely studying the theories behind the Quart Low Tracker, as dictated to him by Chewdychomper Chupacabras.  Phase two lasted for several evenings, while he staunchly forced himself to keep on slugging away at his stupid old day job.  He told himself he still needed that job, because he had to have a method of properly verifying completion of phase three.  Besides, the money, paltry though it was, came in handy.

            Then came phase three.  This consisted of his attempts to make his own Quart Low Trackers from scratch.  Let’s see, he thought, pondering over his notes and memories.  This sure is frustrating, seeing how my notes get progressively sloppier and sloppier looking, and my memory likewise gets hazy, as I move towards the end of all those instructions that Chewdy left.  I should’ve interrupted that spirit now and then, just long enough to make me some coffee or pop some study buddy pills, to keep my butt awake, towards the end of all that.  Let’s see, now...

            What are these crazy notes saying, anyway?  “Align the LCD display chromosexually with the Earth’s electromagic lines of fux, something something magic pole, counter-cockwise hand waving, the right hand rules.”  Do you suppose he meant homosexually?  Or was that really counter-clockwise, not cockwise?  The right hand rules the magic pole, maybe?  And what are electromagic lines of fux, anyway?  Ale Run puzzled long and hard, thinking of all the various possible meanings, and all the various possible permutations and combinations thereof.  Some he found quite distasteful, but he tried them all.  The lure of money was just too strong.  But no, a family-oriented book like Jurassic Horde Whisperer of Madness County can’t very well get into those kinds of details.  Suffice it to say that the men of the evening that he hired, gossiped long and hard, about how he was the strangest bird they’d ever encountered.

            For the next few weeks, Ale Run would make an attempt, every evening before work, at making himself a Quart Low Tracker or two.  Then he’d try it out at work, waving it over the phone book while sitting on his porcelain throne in the privacy of a toilet stall.  Chewdy had warned him that the Quart Low Tracker’s data needs to be as fresh as possible, due to the perturbations that free will causes over time in the electromagic lines of fux.  Or something like that.  In any case, the readings had to be fairly fresh.  Ale Run had verified that he couldn’t very well get away with taking his readings on the phone book the night before, in the privacy of his apartment, even with his known-good, original Quart Low Tracker.  The yields went way down.  So he had to sneak off to the toilet during work, on a fairly regular basis.  It was troublesome, but workable.

            The worst part of it all was that none of his new Quart Low Trackers worked!  They only rarely seemed to agree with his original device.  Sometimes he’d experiment, and go with the readings of his new devices, ignoring the old.  Not a one of them got any better results, consistently, than his coworkers did!  It was all extremely depressing.  How was he going to market his technology and make any money if he couldn’t duplicate it?

            He went into a deep, deep funk.  It got so bad that his one and only good Quart Low Tracker started returning fewer and fewer numbers for him to call at work.  This caused Ale Run to really panic, till he realized that it was his own depression that was causing his yields to fall.  Even magic couldn’t cause many people to send money to a morose, mopey, woe-is-me solicitor, he finally concluded.  So then he snapped out of it just enough to get his yields back up.

            His bosses congratulated him.  They’d been worried that maybe he was losing his touch.  So they gave him another raise, to help his spirits and keep his productivity up.  But then Ale Run quit his job.  His bosses begged and pleaded, and offered him even more raises, but he had bigger fish to fry.  He quit, and that was that.

            He’d finally snapped out of his mental rut.  Inspiration had struck, and he’d come to realize that there was no real need to come up with more Quart Low Trackers that actually worked, to rake in the big bucks.  No need at all!  One real Quart Low Tracker was enough!  He’d mass-produce fake Quart Low Trackers, and, with the assistance of the real Quart Low Tracker, he’d line up buyers for the fakes!  He got to work.

            He purchased the assistance of an industrial designer and a plastics company, and they made a few hundred Quart Low Trackers.  They consisted of small plastic boxes with swiveling metal antennae, and little interchangeable plastic “chips” carrying photocopied pictures of things such as dead ants.  Then he worked up the promotional materials.  Matter and energy are one and the same, Einstein said, they said.  So all matter gives off energy.  With the right optional plastic chip (for the right price) in this device, it will detect those energies for you, and you can just sort of follow the vibes, and you can find whatever you’re looking for, they said.  Like drugs or weapons.

            If you really, really care about the welfare of our children in our schools and on our streets, his promotional materials said, you’ll be sure to have a Quart Low Tracker or two on hand in each and every school and law enforcement agency.  The relatively small investment in Quart Low Tracker gear will surely pay itself off in just about no time flat, in reduced medical, law enforcement, and prison costs later on.  Investing in human capital, after all, is the most wise and enlightened course of all.

            Ale Run had tens of thousands of copies of his promotional materials printed up on nice, glossy brochures.  He had some very impressively technical-looking labels printed up, too, which he glued to his Quart Low Trackers.  Then he recruited salesmen for his new organization, Scamway International.  And he also invested some money in special CD-ROMs.  Every morning, in the privacy of his home office, Ale Run inserted special CD-ROMs into his PC.  These CD-ROMs contained information about schools and law enforcement agencies across the nation.  He then used his one and only truly functional Quart Low Tracker to pick a few institutions, whose names, addresses, and phone numbers he’d then pass on the appropriate people in sales.  He used a different set of CD-ROMs (along with his original Quart Low Tracker, of course) to pick new members of his sales staff.  He then passed these names to existing sales staff, who added them to their direct reports.  Thus, his empire grew.  And grew and grew and grew some more.

            Within months, Scamway International spread like wildfire.  Millions of dollars rushed into Ale Run’s coffers.  Thousands of schools and law enforcement agencies snapped up his Quart Low Trackers, each costing several thousand dollars.  Manufacturing went to three shifts.  Even though there were a few skeptics here and there who said that the Quart Low Tracker was nothing but a modern-day dowsing rod, and no one ever proved that they worked, they were a big hit.  Illicit drug and gun users and dealers ran in fear.  Policemen and educators swore by the Trackers.  Regular civilians even got into the act, using the Trackers to find lost golf balls.*

 

                        *Footnote: OK, so by now all you readers out there in readerland are thinking, man, what kind of a nutcase is this Author-type-dude Titus fella, anyway?  Where does he get such totally whacked-out ideas?  Just how far out of touch with reality is he, anyway?  Well, sad to say, I get my inspiration from reality.  I may be off of my rocker, but so is reality.

            So here’s where we start an intermittent habit of putting endnotes after some chapters.  Facts and editorial comments, with source notes following that.  In order to keep your story flowing smoothly, though, we’ve put all that stuff at the end of the book.  If you like to take a break from the fiction, now and then, you can stick a second bookmark towards the end of the book, and go read a chapter’s endnotes as you finish that chapter.  I’ll put an unobtrusive little note at the end of each chapter that has endnotes, this being the first.  If you like your fiction uninterrupted, ignore these little notes, and read all the endnotes later.  Or don’t read them at all; suit yourself.  But don’t tell me you skipped my endnotes, or I’ll pout!

            So if you want to learn all about the Quadro Crackpots who inspired my tales of Quart Low Trackers, go see the endnotes for Chapter 8.


 

 

9) The Grain Elevators of Madness County

            “Robert believed the world had become too rational, had stopped trusting in magic as much as it should.  I’ve often wondered if I was too rational in making my decision.”  “Francesca Johnson”, a character in Robert James Waller’s “The Bridges of Madison County”, writing in a letter for her children to read after she died, explaining her secret affair with “Robert Kincaid”, a wandering National Geographic photographer, while still married to the children’s father.

            Oh, yes, and from the same source: “In a way, he was not of this earth.  That’s about as clear as I can say it.  I’ve always thought of him as a leopardlike creature who rode in on the tail of a comet.”  Fascinating.  Was he perhaps descended to Earth through Heaven’s Gate, from the Level Beyond Human?  Was the comet perchance named Hale-Bopp-Bopp-Bopp the Really-Bopped?  We don’t know.  The text doesn’t say.  Perhaps there’ll be a sequel.

 

            Now in Madness County there also lived a striving, seeking, searching early-fortyish semi-young woman named Francestuous Johnsdame.  She was striving for the next higher level of enlightenment, a husband who didn’t slam screen doors, bliss, an exciting sense of romance, higher consciousness, better tastes for what is truly alluringly elegant and fashionable, inner peace, a guy who was stylishly skilled in matters of lighting cigarettes and opening beer cans, finding herself, and being appreciated for her incredibly superior sensitivity towards all living things.

            Unfortunately, she lived her life in a hum-drum rut.  She was married to a slob, Bob, a chubby farmer who ate meat and brushed his teeth.  It wasn’t enough that he dined on the flesh of animals.  No, Sir!  That wasn’t enough.  He had to go and top it all off by brushing his teeth, thereby committing genocide upon the billions of innocent bacteria dwelling in his mouth.  Francestuous often fantasized about living a quiet life, and smelling only quiet scents.  Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to smell the scents of mass killing, like the smells of meat and toothpaste?  Those murderously loud smells assaulted her nose every day, forcefully reminding her of her plight.  Married to an uncouth bonehead, she was!  There was no escape.

            And that wasn’t all.  Her husband insensitively slammed the screen door, didn’t want her to smoke cigarettes, never talked to her about Panderwood, movies, and fashion (instead, it was usually hunting, farming, and football), and behaved in a generally undignified manner.  Oh, he was gross!  Farting, belching, and letting kids and dogs climb and drool all over him!  It never seemed to end.  When was he going to grow up, and become more concerned with really meaningful things?  Failing that, when was some star creature going to descend from the skies on the tail of a comet, and come and relieve her of her boredom and drudgery?  Throughout all those long, dark, torturous days, she never lost sight of her hopes and dreams.

            Then one day, her knight in shining armor rode into town.  He rode into town on a special, experimental new hypnohypoallergenic bicycle, courtesy of the DOT (Department Of Transportation).  Raoul Kinky was on a mission.  A mission from National Vegetarian Magazine.  He was there to photograph all those shining monuments to vegetarianism, the grain elevators of Madness County.  These elevators now accepted only organically grown grains for direct use as human food in macrobiotic diets, and for feeding companion animals.  Yes, there were still a few elevators here and there that stored grain for animals which were then to be murdered for human use.  But these wouldn’t receive any press from Raoul Kinky and the National Vegetarian Magazine, that was for sure!

            Unfortunately, Raoul suffered from MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity).  This meant that if Raoul had an unprotected encounter with abhorrent artificial chemicals (as opposed to always-benevolent, wholesomely natural ingredients from the Earth Mother), then he was in great danger of breaking out in rashes, bad vibes, sneezing, negative karma, toxitisapoptonecrosisitis, fatigue, depression, headaches, sympathy, spots, and other severe industrial diseases.

            Fortunately, Raoul had a few arrows in his quiver, with which he fought back valiantly.  First, there was his special $300,000 bicycle.  DOT had built this experimental vehicle for him.  It was lubricated by (organically grown) corn oil, and built out of organically laminated soy proteins and wheat germ, alfalfa sprouts, bean curds, and organically mined iron and molybdenum.  By organically mined, we mean that donkeys, not internal combustion engines, were used to power the ore carts.  And the donkeys were never subjected to substandard working conditions or paid substandard wages, which meant that they were fed all the organically grown hay that they could eat.

            As a further anti-MCS measure, Raoul and his all-natural bicycle had been jointly bonded together through expert sessions of nature-centered hypnosis.  Hence, the hypnohypoallergenic designation.  Not that Raoul or his bicycle held labels in high esteem.  To Raoul, his bicycle was simply known as “Herman”, and of course, to Herman, Raoul was simply Raoul.  The theory was that if bicycle and rider could bond thoroughly, then Raoul’s hypersensitive immune system, as part of his holistic mind/body whole, might be a lot less likely to act up.  It all made a lot of sense to Raoul.  He considered himself to be quite lucky, to have bonded so fast and so well to such a mellow fellow as Herman.

            This had left one major, almost insurmountable problem.  Raoul simply hadn’t been able to face the idea of pedaling through carbon monoxide, synthetic ozone, partially oxidized hydrocarbons, and Gaia knows what all else.  Just the thought of doing this, unprotected, even on the most lightly traveled of country roads, had made Raoul break out in rashes.  First, he’d thought of gas masks, but even when he was finally able to find one that had been manufactured organically, it was way too heavy and cumbersome.

            So Raoul had suffered in abject, pitiful terror, hidden away in his specially constructed $1.2 million Ecology House, manufactured chemical-free by HUD as a demonstration project on how to build homes for disabled MCS sufferers.  Then DOT had provided Herman (his bicycle), which he couldn’t ride in comfort, what with that ugly, cumbersome gas mask.  Raoul felt grateful in a way, but it hadn’t been enough.  Sure, he had a place to live without suffering too much, except when reporters, HUD and DOT officials, and other visitors came by, wearing synthetic clothes and after-shave, and driving fume-belching cars.  Yes, his lack of a driveway forced his visitors to park a half-mile away, but those fumes still followed them.

            Raoul had lived for a few years as an isolated hermit, desperately longing to join society as a productive citizen.  But the ravages of his MCS had prevented him from doing so in any meaningful and fulfilling manner.  Once, he’d tried his hand as a writer.  He’d finally managed to find organically manufactured paper, pens, and ink.  Organically manufactured computers, modems, fax machines, etc., had been unheard of in those barbaric days just a few years ago, and he hadn’t found anyone to blaze new technological pathways for him, due to society’s unthinkingly cruel disregard for MCS sufferers.  With great difficulty, he’d finally found a publisher who was willing to work with his handwritten manuscripts.  He’d been deliriously happy for a short little while, thinking he’d finally arrived.

            But then there’d been the need work with his editor at the publisher.  Raoul couldn’t talk to him on the phone, because he couldn’t find an organically manufactured phone.  The editor would send letters, but Raoul would have to hang them out on the clothesline for weeks on end, letting them air out, before he’d finally be able handle them (with organically manufactured rubber gloves) enough to read them.  Even then, he often broke out in rashes, thinking about all those chemicals used in manufacturing the paper.  He sent some of his own expensive organically manufactured pens, ink, and paper to his editor, to ease matters a bit, but that still left the contamination wrought by those chemically uncouth louts of the US Mail Service, not to mention their awful machines.  So matters didn’t improve much.  Finally, in exasperation, his publisher dropped him.

            Raoul still remembered those terrible days all too well.  Sitting around with nothing do to, looking at Herman, longing to ride him.  Longing to get out and about, to see the world, to interact with it, and to become a productive citizen.  But the gas mask was awful and awkward, even if it had been organically manufactured, and it let in the occasional whiff of polluted air, whenever Raoul would get physically vigorous on Herman, and start breathing hard.  So traveling by bicycle was a great ordeal.

            Then finally had come his day of deliverance.  He’d worked up his nerve, and had managed to ride Herman to a special gathering.  This was a meeting of an MCS support group, way out in the woods, far away from contaminating unnatural chemicals.  That’s where he met Big Moose Running Nose, who’d set him free.  Raoul could still remember it, pretty much word for word.

            There he was, freshly arrived, sitting on a stump, wondering whether it was finally safe to take his gas mask off.  A big galoot came up to him and stuck his hand out.  “Hi.  I’m Big Moose Running Nose, and I’m a recovering MCS sufferer.”

            Raoul looked at Big Moose’s large outstretched hand suspiciously.  Where had that hand been recently?  Oh, heck, be brave, Raoul told himself.  This is a fellow MCS sufferer.  Trust him.  Take a chance.  So he whipped off his gas mask, peeled off his gloves, and shook Big Moose’s hand.  “Hi.  I’m Raoul Kinky, and I’m an MCS sufferer, too.”  There, there, see?  He told himself.  You’re not breaking out in a rash.  Now sit down, and talk to this nice man.

            “So tell, me, Big Moose, how do you do it?  I mean, here you are, I don’t see you carrying gloves or a gas mask, and you seem to be doing just fine.  Are you feeling OK?  Or are you a real MCS sufferer in the first place?  And what’s that funny thing with all those bunches of feathers there?”

            “Raoul, you’re no doubt a smart kind of a guy.  Now you see, I’m not really so much an MCS sufferer, as I’m a recovering MCS sufferer.  Heavy emphasis on the recovering part, there, see.  And the key lies right here, in my hands, with this thing you refer to as a mere ‘bunch of feathers’.  These are very, very special feathers.  Sacred feathers.  We Native Americans call them horde feathers.”

            “Horde feathers?  Horde feathers?  What do you mean, horde feathers?”

            “Yes, horde feathers.  Horde feathers, because they come from a horde of different kinds of birds.  And each kind of bird has its own special kind of properties, which we blend together in just the right way, to do some very special things.  To make sacred objects like this thing here, which we Native Americans call a Sacred Dream Catcher.”

            “Are you really a Native American?  You look like a regular old melanin challenged Euro-American to me.  And I thought Native Americans hold eagle feathers sacred, not bunches of assorted different kinds of feathers.  Come on, Mr. Big Moose Running Nose, I think you’re putting me on.  Tell me the truth.”

            Big Moose stared down at the ground, but only momentarily.  He looked back up defiantly and hefted his Dream Catcher.  “Well, OK, genetically I’m not Native American.  And you’re right, Native Americans¾genetically Native Americans¾they hold eagle feathers sacred, not horde feathers.  But I’m what you call genetically challenged.  So the National Eagle Repository out there near Denver, they won’t mail me eagle parts, from naturally deceased eagles, like they will state-certified Native Americans, who fill out their forms right, and have tribal elders vouch for them, and so on.  So if I, who the cruel state judges to be a heathen, Native-American-wise, am caught owning eagle feathers, then I’m busted for trafficking in body parts of an endangered species.

            “You’ve got to have sympathy for me, as a genetically challenged Native American.  I’m a Native American, but I have no Native American genes.  The government bureaucrats, those heartless bastards, they can’t see that I’m spiritually a Native American.  Every last one of the lives that I’ve lived for the last five hundred years or so, I’ve been a Native American, except for this one.  And I can have my past-lives regression hypnotist show that, too.  Yet the feds, they won’t mail me eagle feathers.  They’ll bust me if I have them, even though they’re every bit as sacred to me as they are to any other Native American.

            “Obviously, the feds, those oppressors, they’re highly selective, trampling all over people’s religious liberties.  Punishing us for no reason at all!  Why, I met a fella, real nice fella, a while back, name of Ale Run Hubba-Bubba.  He worships a metal he calls Sacred Gold, just like we Native Americans worship Sacred Eagle Feathers.  The feds, they have a repository for gold, just like they have for eagle parts.  So he mailed in a request for some gold, in the name of religious freedom, just like genetically Native Americans do for eagle feathers.

            “Well, dang it, you wouldn’t believe this, but they turned him down!  Violated his religious freedoms just like that, without so much as a second thought!  I don’t know how we’ve let things get to this point!  Such a bunch of hard-hearted bureaucrats, I’ve never seen!  And in a supposedly free, democratic country, yet!  Why, we oughta go down there to that place with that gold, and, and...”

            Raoul nodded his head sympathetically.  “Yeah, maybe we should go down there and protest.  Where’d you say these hard-hearted ignoramuses hang out?”

            “Oh, I think they call it the Fort of Hard Knox, or some such.  Anyway, where were we.  Oh, yes.  So I’m spiritually a Native American, yet I can’t have Sacred Eagle Feathers.  So I made my Dream Catcher, with the advice of a Lakota medicine man, out of aspen, willow, and various feathers...”

            Big Moose showed Raoul how the Dream Catcher had been made.  It was a long stick wrapped in colored string.  From the tip hung a clump of feathers.  Close to the tip hung a hoop strung with string, looking like a loosely woven fish net.  From this assembly, yet more clumps of feathers hung.  Big Moose rattled them off.  Geese, pigeons, ducks, turkey, vultures, turkey vultures, and...

            Raoul cut him off.  “Well, that’s a very nice dream catcher.  So what’s it good for?  What does this all have to do with MCS, anyway?”

            “Oh, my friend!” Big Moose exclaimed.  “What is a Dream Catcher good for!?  What are dreams good for?!  They’re good for whatever you want them to be good for!”  He lowered his voice.  “You know, Raoul, I used to be like you.  Skeptical.  Pessimistic.  Negative.  And suffered from MCS something awful!  Then I met Large Bottom Snorfling Bear.  He showed me how to make a Sacred Dream Catcher, and how to weave my dreams directly into its very essence.  Then I worked at it a while.  And I finally figured out how to weave in my dreams of a chemical-free life.  So long as I have my Sacred Dream Catcher with me, it filters all the contaminants out of my life.  Now I’m free!  Free as a bird!  I fly though life, now, unhindered by MCS!  I’m free, Raoul, free!  And you can be free, too, Raoul!  Free like me!”

            Raoul squinted and looked at Big Moose really, really skeptically.  Big Moose just lifted his eyebrows and stared back silently.  “Oh, I don’t know,” Raoul finally replied.

            “Well, what’s there to not know?  Do you like suffering from MCS, or not?”

            “Of course I don’t like suffering from MCS!  It’s just that I don’t know about your Dream Catcher.  You admit you made it without any eagle feathers at all.  The real ones have eagle feathers, it seems to me!.  Does it really catch dreams, or not?  How can I tell?”

            “You can tell by looking at me!  I don’t suffer from MCS any more!  Now I hate to do this, but if you insist, you can take my Dream Catcher from me for a little while, and walk over thataway for a hundred yards or so, and I’ll just betcha I’ll break down and start sneezing and coughing up a storm, just like that.  That’s usually the way it goes.  Well?”

            Raoul declined the challenge, not wishing to be rude.  Big Moose, satisfied, continued.  “OK.  Now on those eagle feathers, and your so-called ‘right way’.  We all know there’s really not a ‘right way’.  Right and wrong are purely subjective, and vary from culture to culture.  So I’ve made my own way of making a dream catcher, integrating the good things from many, many Native American and other aboriginal, pure, nature-loving cultures.  Now if you’ll...”

            “Wait,” Raoul interrupted.  “You say you’ve integrated many different cultures.  So just exactly what kind of Native American are you then, anyway?”

            “Oh, me?  Well, I guess you could call me a Cree-Poospatuck-Navahopi-Blackfoot-Bigfoot-Yeti-Winnebago-Lakota-Dakota-Toyota, more or less.  Approximately.  But we really shouldn’t be into this labels thing so much, you know.  Even this ‘Native American’ label-thing.  I’m just a Native.  A Native, natural kind of a guy.  Just try to think of me that way.  Now about these Dream Catchers.  I really think that’s what you’re looking for.  It could really help your MCS, just like it helps me.”

            “Well, I don’t know.  I’ve got a really, really bad case of MCS, you know.  Probably worse than anything you’ve ever had.  I think I need the really, really Strong Medicine.  I need to have real, sacred eagle feathers, most likely.”

            “Well, Raoul, you might be right.  I won’t argue that with you.  But I want you to think about something.  You really have no right to the body parts of an endangered species.  I’ll bet you’re not part Native American.  I’ll bet you’re not even able to prove, like I am, that you were Native American in your past, most recent lifetimes.  Am I right?”

            Raoul nodded his head, affirming Bog Moose’s suspicions.  Satisfied, Big Moose continued.  “That means your desire for eagle feathers is illegitimate.  Not just illegal, but also immoral.  You have no Native American genes, karma, or culture, nor do you know how to properly conduct Native American ceremonies.  No way you’re a Noble Savage, then.  That puts you on a par with¾let me speak frankly now¾that puts you on a par with, say, the superstitious, greedy, Earth-raping, slant-eyed, kooky gooks of the Far East, who eat rhino horn and tiger penis in hopes of propping up their sagging health and pooped-out peckers.  Or the irrationally, chauvinistically violent and macho rag-heads of Yemen, who carve dagger horns out of rhino horn.  As a sensitive, Earth-loving citizen, don’t you think you could settle for horde feathers instead of eagle feathers?”

            Raoul just sat there, looking profoundly skeptical and stubborn.

            Big Moose just moved on to his next argument.  “Raoul, you know, I’ll bet there’s something you haven’t thought about.  Eagles, these days, they’re at the top of our poisoned food chain, and so they’re eating all sorts of things.  DDT.  Dioxin.  PCBs.  Plutonium.  Saturated fats.  Animals and fish that were abused when they were young, and who knows what all else!  Now the feathers I use to make my Dream Catchers, they’re raised organically.  They won’t let me raise eagles, ‘cause they’re endangered; otherwise I’d have some organically raised eagle feathers for you.  But that’s how it goes.  As is, I’ve got a source for the most organically pure and powerful feathers you’ll find anywhere.”

            “Sounds pretty good,” Raoul nodded agreeably.  “So do you think maybe you could sell me a few feathers, then, and show me how I could make my own Dream Catcher?”

            “Oh, yes, my friend, I could do that.  But it’s tough.  Real tough.  Took me a lot of practice, a lot of years.  You’ve got to learn or devise all these elaborate ceremonies.  Ceremonies, for instance, where you take sacred yogurt and pureed tofu, and smear it all over your body, while you wear a tie-died bandanna and get your nose pierced.  Now that may sound trivial, but you have to do it just right.  You’ve got to be in just the right frame of mind, while also eating peyote and being supervised by a Navahopi healer under the light of the full moon, while Venus is in Uranus.  I tell you, it’s not easy!  Took me years, like I said.

            “Or you could take it easy on yourself, and just stroll over this way for about a mile, where I have my car parked in the bushes.  I’ve got a few spare Dream Catchers in my trunk.  One of them I’m thinking of, I think it would be just the right one for you.  Why don’t we walk on over there, and...”

            “Wa, wa, walk over, over to you c-car?!”  Raoul sputtered in disbelief.  “You drive one of those fume-spewing metal, synthetic monsters?!  How could you?!  How...”

            “Oh, no.  Not at all.  It’s electric, so take it easy.  No fumes.  No pollution.  Well, OK, so they make a little bit of pollution when they generate the electricity to charge my batteries.  But it’s all for a good cause.  I go around selling these Dream Catchers to people like you, to reduce suffering.”

            “Well, OK, then.  Hold on a second, here, while I put on my mask and gloves, and...”

            “Oh, no, my friend, don’t forget, I’ve got my Dream Catcher with me.  It’ll cover the two of us while we walk on over there.  Trust me.  You’ll see.”

            Big Moose was right.  Raoul strolled without gasping, hacking, or wheezing, or even breaking out in a rash.  They got to the car, then marveled over the Dream Catchers.  Big Moose finally persuaded Raoul that he should buy one particular one.  “Since you’re my good friend, I’ll let you have this one for a steal, at four hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents,” he finished.

            “Um, seeing as how I’m kind of, um, unemployed, and, like, a victim of MCS and all, I was wondering if maybe you could get my Medicaid to reimburse you for this?”

            “No, I’m sorry, I’m working on that.  But so far, those nasty Nazi bastards in Washington, they’re blocking my efforts.  Punishing all the poor people who suffer from MCS.  So for now, I’ve got to ask for cash.  I’ve got to make a living, and pay for all the organic feed for my birds.”

            “I don’t have it in cash.  Take a check?”

            “Sure.”

            Raoul wrote out a check, using his organically manufactured pen, ink, and paper.  He forked over $499.99 that he really didn’t have.  Then he walked away with his very own Sacred Dream Catcher, specially made to catch the dream of living free from the ravages of MCS.  All this had been quite stressful, so he sat down and lit himself up an Earth Spirit, which was his favorite brand of organically grown, all-natural cigarettes.

            Raoul never regretted buying that Dream Catcher, not for one second.  It was the best $499.99 he’d ever spent, and the start of a whole new life.  He stashed his gas mask and gloves in the attic, and started riding Herman on a regular basis.  He made a special attachment to Herman, so that he could mount his Dream Catcher right up front.  There, it filtered the toxins out of the airstream before they could get to Raoul.  Now, Raoul was able to ride anywhere on his bicycle.  Through heat and haze, smoke and fumes, and fog and smog he rode, never missing a beat.  He lived life to the hilt!

            Finally, he was even able to get himself a decent job.  He became a traveling writer, poet, and cameraman for National Vegetarian magazine.  Since National Vegetarian came out in both hardcopy and on-line versions, they bought him a digitizing video camera and a laptop computer with a radio modem, and sent him out on the road.  Being the Earth-loving kind of a guy that he was, he refused to use any sort of polluting vehicle, not even an electric car.  So he faithfully stuck with Herman.  He mounted all his gadgets, including the antennae for his radio modem, onto Herman, and enthusiastically hit the road.

            So here he was, several years and many adventures later, on yet another journalistic assignment.  Yes, this was the big one!  Raoul Kinky had been given the Big Mission.  He was to get the scoop for National Vegetarian’s feature article on the organic-only grain elevators of Madness County.  He was to capture it all on his digitizing video camera, all while extemporaneously creating poetry to capture the spirit of those fabulous Grain Elevators of Madness County.

            So he rode Herman on down Amber Road, heading into Madness County.  Several miles away, an unsuspecting Francestuous Johnsdame cooked a lonely breakfast of bean sprouts, carrots, and tofu for herself, since her husband and children were gone for four days to see the State Fair, several hundred miles away.

            Raoul and Herman were in high spirits that day.  So was Lucky Foot.  Between the three of them, they were hardly ever lonely or bored.  Lucky Foot was Raoul’s and Herman’s companion animal, a rabbit.  She rode up in front, in a wire basket in a position of great honor, which was right next to that well-worn detoxifier and decontaminator, the Sacred Dream Catcher.  Lucky Foot had joined the gang during some of Raoul’s most recent adventures.

            Just when the navigating got a bit tough, as Raoul was fussing with his maps while also pedaling and steering, a dog caught wind of Lucky Foot.  The dog chased them for several hundred yards.  Raoul cursed, swore, and kicked at the dog, all while pedaling furiously.  So he missed a few turns and got lost.

 

 

Illustration goes here above…  Bridge, bicycle, rabbit, Raoul

 

 

            Raoul ended up on Francestuous’ doorstep, looking for directions.  Wow, who could be knocking on my door at such an early hour, out here in the middle of nowhere, she asked herself.  Maybe I’d better be careful.  She tied her nightgown up tight and peered through the peep hole.  No need to fear, she told herself.  He looks like a sensitive sort.  She opened up the door.

            “Um, hi, ma’am, I’m Raoul Kinky, and I’m a poet and photographer for National Vegetarian magazine.  No, no, that is my day job, so don’t slam the door on me.  And I’m not trying to sell you any magazines.  I’m not trying to sell you anything.  It’s just that I’m here looking for some grain elevators for our upcoming spread, which is going to be called Grain Elevators of Madness County.  I’ll be helping to put y’all on the map, see, ma’am?  Anyway, I’m lost, and I was merely wondering if you’d be so kind as to point me in the right direction.  Can you tell me where to find Dinkledorf’s OrganiGrain Silo?”

            Wow, he is a sensitive sort of fella, Francestuous marveled.  He’s asking for directions!  Whatta guy!  Makes me cry!  Now how often does one run into such a star creature, anyway?!  “Well,” she started, “You head down thatta way, till right before you get to old widow Henderson’s farm, and then you...  Oh, never mind.  I’ll take you there myself.  I’ve nothing...”

            “Oh, no, ma’am, I didn’t mean to trouble you so.  I’m sure you’re busy, and you’ve got better things to do than to play tourist guide to a vagabond like myself.  Now if you’ll...”

            “Oh, no, no trouble at all.  Come on in.  Here, sit down while I go change into something more suitable for traveling.”  He gracefully slipped into the house, gently closing the screen door behind him.  She pulled up a chair for Raoul, thinking, wait, this man’s a total stranger, what’s coming over me?  I’m being a total hussy, inviting him in here and prancing around in front of him in my nightgown!  No, wait.  So there’s a one in three million chance he’s a rapist or a murderer, or he’s casing out our house.  Fat chance.  He looks and acts like a really decent sort of a guy.  Take a chance.  Live a little.  Let him hang out here while I go change.  No sweat.

            She looked down at her half-eaten breakfast, feeling slightly embarrassed, as if she was a beast-like slob, eating slop in front of royalty.  Now why am I feeling like this, she asked herself, embarrassed for feeling embarrassed.  Here I’ve invited a stranger into my house, and I’m feeling embarrassed over what I’m eating, in the privacy of my own home.  Oh, face it, I’m acting like a silly, shy schoolgirl, in front of this sensitive, gazelle-like creature.  Get over it!  “Would you care for some breakfast?” she asked lamely, self-consciously.  “I can rustle you up some grub, real quick-like.”  Oh, God, she thought, did I really say that?  I sound like a real hick!  Am I getting to be a real hick, married to Bob the slob all these years?!  Now stop that!

            But the graceful, gazellelike creature took it all in stride.  “Oh, ma’am, your cooking smells so delicious!  So vegetarian!  So quiet, as I always like to say, because it doesn’t scream of the murder of helpless meat-bearing animals!  But no, I can’t impose any more on you than I have already.  I’ll just sit here on this seat you’ve so kindly provided, and keep you company while you finish up, if you’d like.  Or wait for you while you change, if you’re done eating.  Whatever.  Although, if you could spare a cup of that good coffee you’re drinking, I’d be forever grateful.  Black is fine.”

            She busied herself finding another clean cup, and found herself hoping he’d not think her too much of a low-class slob when she noticed the cup’s chipped rim, halfway through pouring the coffee.  Oh, great, lookit that, too, she thought, I’ve gone and picked one o’ them thar cups that says “Harvey’s Honeydipper, Septic Cleaning Services” on it.  Now he’ll think I’m a real country bumpkin!

            But the gazellelike creature once again took it all in stride, sipping coffee without seeming to notice the cup’s inelegance.  “Ah, good stuff!” he exclaimed.  “This must be the same organically grown kind that I always drink.  FreeBird Deluxe, isn’t it?”

            “Why, yes, it sure is!” she replied, sitting down next to him.  “Now are you sure you’re not hungry?  I’ve got some more bean sprouts, carrots, and tofu all warmed up here on the stove.  If I put some on a plate and put it right in front of you, I’ll bet you could eat a bite or two.  So what do you say?”

            Raoul confessed that he’d eat a bite or two, but that he simply hadn’t meant to be such a bother.  So she served him breakfast.  “Whoa!” he said after taking the first bite, “This is great!  You really know how to cook quiet food!  You’re quite the quiet cook, um...  I’m sorry, what did you say your name was, anyway?”

            “No, I’m sorry, I never did introduce myself, Raoul.  I’m Francestuous.  Francestuous Johnsdame.  So tell me a bit about yourself.”  They sat there eating and sipping coffee, chatting up a storm.  It was amazing¾just like talking to an old friend.  They talked about art and poetry and natural things.  Deep and meaningful things, so unlike what she and Bob talked about.  When they talked, that is.  When Bob the slob wasn’t busy belching and farting and letting the kids and dogs climb and slobber and drool all over him, that is.

            Then breakfast was over and they each had themselves another cup of coffee.  Raoul fidgeted a bit, so Francestuous asked him what was the matter.  “Oh, it’s just that I’ve got Herman and Lucky Foot and all my equipment out there right in front of your house and I’m afraid I’d better be keeping a better eye on things.  I mean, I know you’re way out here in the country, where there’s less crime and all, but I’ve been in here so long now already, and...”

            “Well, let’s bring your stuff in, then, for a few minutes, and then I’ll get dressed, and we can go find Dinkledorf’s Silo.  Here, let me lend you a hand.”

            So they went out front, and Raoul introduced Francestuous to Herman, Lucky Foot, the Sacred Dream Catcher, and all his equipment.  Francestuous cooed over how cute Lucky Foot was, and listened in rapt fascination while Raoul explained all about the Dream Catcher.  They put everything in the garage, closed the door, and then went back to finishing their coffee.

            They sat there sipping more coffee, discussing life, and looking deeply into each other’s eyes.  Probably more deeply than any other couple has ever stared into each other’s eyes anywhere in the known universe, that is.  I could fall into those eyes and lose my very center, she thought dreamily.  She began to wonder if maybe he made love like a panther.  She got wet between her legs, but then made herself stop.  I’ve got duties to my husband and children, after all, she reminded herself.

            Then the coffee was gone and the magical time threatened to come to an end.  Raoul fidgeted yet again.  “Um, sweetie, you look nervous,” Francestuous observed.  “Is something wrong?”

            “Oh, no, I just need a smoke, that’s all.  Whenever you’re ready to go change, I’ll just step outside for a smoke, and then we’ll be ready to go.  But no hurry.”

            “No, you can smoke in here!  Go right ahead!  No problem!”  She added to herself, there’s four days before Bob the slob and the kids come back, and I can air this house out real thoroughly before that.  What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

            So Raoul whipped out his Earth Spirits and lit one up, very expertly flicking his BicÔ.  Then he inhaled deeply, sensuously enjoying those all-natural vapors.  Francestuous was quite impressed.  “My, my, Big Boy, you flick your BicÔ so very well!  And those Earth Spirits, they smell so swell!  Do you think that maybe you could like spare me one?!”

            So Raoul expertly flicked his BicÔ yet once again, and Francestuous, feeling utterly, lusciously, sensuously worldly, purred over her cigarette.  She’d not had one in years!  Bob the slob didn’t approve, so she’d refrained.  But for today, she was free!  It felt great to live a little!  The magical time stretched out a bit longer, as they sat there smoking and chatting some more.

            Finally it was time for Francestuous to go upstairs and change.  As she stood up from the table, her arm brushed his, and tingles of electrovibosomatic energy energized her entire body.  But she stifled her urge to fall into his arms, smother him with deeply passionate kisses, and satisfy his throbbing maleness.  Instead, she used those unspeakably vast quantities of electrovibosomatic energy to propel herself upstairs to her bedroom.  Feeling as if she was in a trance, she went.  The energy made her go.  So she just went.  And she kept on going and going and going...

            She found herself in a dream, in her bedroom.  There’s a gorgeous creature downstairs, and there’s a nameless song in my head, she thought.  An old song, I can’t really say how it goes.  It’s old and it’s sweet, and I knew it complete... no, no, it’s old and it’s sad, and I’d be glad to be bad...  No, that’s not it, either.  It’s about how sad it is to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.  A man who doesn’t slam screen doors, who knows how to light cigarettes just right, and who appreciates quiet cooking.  And did you notice, she asked herself.  Even his breath smells quiet!  Star creatures like this don’t just happen by every day!

            She forced herself to snap out of dreamland for just long enough to select here best, low-cut sun dress, to brush her hair, and to put on a dab of Wind Sock Perfume, which had sat there in that little bottle in her dresser drawer, unused, for many years.  Then she stifled her impulse to put makeup on, and headed back down the stairs.

            “My, my, you look ravishing today,” he said.  She just blushed.  They went outside and opened up the garage door, and stared awkwardly at Herman.  Herman had no room for a passenger.  By now, Francestuous knew all about how Raoul had high principles, and wouldn’t ride in polluting vehicles.  So she only momentarily debated on asking him if maybe they could just throw Herman, Lucky Foot, Dream Catcher, and everything else in the rear of her pickup, and head off to capture the essence of Dinkledorf’s OrganiGrain Silo.  She thought better of it.

            Instead, she worked up her nerve, and then moved in to touch Raoul lightly on the arm, saying, “Um, Sweetie, Honey Buns, I hate to admit it, but I haven’t ridden my bicycle in years.  It’s sitting over there in that corner, behind the boxes.  Do you think maybe you could like look it over and fix it up?  That way, see, I could join you, and show you the way to the grain silo, without me feeling so bad about driving an Earth-disrespecting fume-belching monstermobile.  What do you say?”

            “No sweat!  Anything for you, my dearest Sugar Tush!”  Raoul dragged the bike out, cleaned it up, blew the tires back up, and made adjustments.  As he stooped over, working on that bike, Francestuous couldn’t help but notice his flexing lean muscles.  Then she caught a glimpse of his macho workingman’s bun cleavage.  Wow, she thought, if I only had a camera right now, here it is¾the cover of a new hit romance novel!  Now all we need my cleavage next to his cleavage, and we’d be into some really heavy heavage!  She stooped down to join him, getting ready to ask about the details of what he was doing.  But he stood up, declaring, “There!  Good as new!”

            “Oh, you’re so sweet!” she proclaimed.  “And such a handyman!”

            “So what’s your bicycle’s name, anyway?” he asked.  “I feel so crass.  Here I am, I just worked on her, and I don’t even know her name.  A doctor shouldn’t work on a patient without knowing her name.”

            Francestuous was deeply embarrassed.  Her bicycle didn’t even have a name.  But, hey, we can fix that up real quick, she thought.  He’ll never need to know.  “This is Betsy.  Betsy, meet Raoul.  Raoul, meet Betsy.”

            Raoul insisted on introductions all around.  Betsy met Herman, Lucky Foot, and Dream Catcher.  Then, finally, they were on the road to Dinkledorf’s OrganiGrain Silo.  They pedaled down the roads in the summer morning’s clean sunny country air, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.  Francestuous felt young and free, like a little girl, on her bicycle.  And she didn’t even worry about whether any of her farmer neighbors, out on their tractors, saw and recognized her out there bicycling with a strange man.  She was free!

            Those pure, innocent feelings of all-natural joy washed over here out there in that rustic scene.  She couldn’t help but to share her feelings of joy.  So she gazed over admiringly at Raoul, as they rode down that road side by side, and sang out to him, “You make me feel like a natural woman!”  His silent but sincere reply, a simple but radiant smile, confirmed to her that everything was right with the world.  Here she was, sharing her innermost feelings with a beautiful man in a beautiful world, doing beautiful, natural things, without a care in the world.  What could be more innocent, what could be more free?

            Then they got to the silo.  Raoul opened up his saddlebag to unpack his laptop computer, tripod, digitizing camera, and various accessories.  Francestuous watched intently, looking at all that well-packed gear.  “Hey, Big Boy, I really like the way you organize your gear,” she commented.  He unbolted the radio modem’s antenna from Herman, and hooked it all together.

            He gazed intently at the silo, pacing back and forth.  Then he turned to Francestuous, saying, “OK, I think I’ve got it.  Now I’m going to do my Thing.  Please just sit there and keep still, and don’t say anything for a few minutes.  I’ll say ‘cut’ when I’m all done, and then we can talk again.  OK?”  Francestuous nodded her assent, and he got to work.

            He pulled the legs out of the tripod dangling from the camera.  He flipped a switch, then slowly, smoothly walked around, capturing the silo and its surroundings from many angles.  Then he splayed the tripod’s legs out, set the camera down, and solemnly marched around to stand between camera and silo.  There, he paused once again.

            Then he swept his hands out, gesturing at the ground, the sky, and the grain elevator, as if to silently say, “Look at all this majesty that surrounds us.”  Then, staring straight and hard at the camera, he said:

 

            The Earth is good,

            The rain is wetter,

            Organically grown,

            Grain is better.

 

            The sky is blue,

            The grass is green,

            Get off your butt,

            And join our scene.

 

            Then he said, “Cut.”

            Francestuous clapped and cheered.  “Bravo!  Bravo!  Encore!  Encore!”

            “Encore at the next grain silo,” Raoul replied mock-sternly.  “Let’s go!”  He packed back up and they headed out.

            When they got to Schicklefhart’s All-Natural Elevator, Raoul repeated the performance, more or less.  This time, when he got out in front of the camera, he said:

 

            There was a man from Bombay,

            Who walked in a peculiar way,

            With each little stride,

            He wiggled from side to side,

            This is what we call The Way.

 

            They keep all chemicals away,

            They keep their poisons at bay,

            So a place called Madness County,

            Of grain brings forth a bounty,

            This is surely the best, we say.

 

            Francestuous was quite impressed.  She commented that she was sure looking forward to buying a copy of National Vegetarian, to see Madness County in the limelight.  But fate held the best reserved for last.  They pedaled many miles, following the large signs for Wiesengruber’s Elevated Gaia-Grain, which was a major local attraction.

            Halfway through those many miles of pedaling to their last destination, they took a break.  This was when Raoul insisted on taking some pictures of Francestuous.  She was quite flattered, and did her best to look as alluring as possible.

            Then they arrived at that last silo.  This time, it was Raoul’s turn to be impressed.  So he took a lot of footage, far more than at the first two elevators.  Then he gestured yet even more solemnly in front of his camera, and said:

 

          The Earth breathes in,

          The Earth breathes out,

          She gives forth humus,

          She gives forth sprouts,

 

          The Earth breathes in,

          She breathes again,

          She gives forth rain,

          She gives forth grain,

 

          The Earth breathes in,

          The Earth breathes out,

          That I’m quite deep,

          Is beyond all doubt.

 

 

Illustration goes here above…  Grain elevator, Gaiagrain

 

 

            “Cut” was barely out of Raoul’s mouth when Francestuous flung herself into his arms, saying, “Oh, Raoul, you are so deep!  I can’t help it!  Come on, quick, let’s go climb the silo and make love in the grain!”  She smothered him with insistent kisses.

            So he did as she asked, abandoning Herman, Lucky Foot, Dream Catcher, and all accessories.  They’d all have to survive for a little while without him.  They climbed the silo and crawled onto the grain.  Then they abandoned all control.  He ravished her throbbingly sensual womanhood.

            They lay in each other’s arms, exhausted.  “Wow, Raoul, that was great!  You’re the best!  You complete the essence of my womanhood!  You’re like the graceful meaning of the molecular spaces between the smoothest feathers of every bird who has ever flown into the moonrise!  You’re like the last mystic poet, falling forever towards me from dimension B, fulfilling my deepest womanly longings!  You really do make love like a panther!”

            “Well, yes, Francestuous, my One True Fructose Fanny, that’s exactly how I feel.  I couldn’t have said it any better myself.  But a panther is a carnivorous beast, an eater of flesh.  I’m a vegetarian.  Don’t you think I make love more like a bunny rabbit?  Never mind; I know what you were trying to say.  All my life has been just a rehearsal for this heavy scene.  This is what I’ve been made for; this is my mission on this planet.  You’re right.  Always, I’ve been falling from dimension B-grade.  Falling towards loving you, Francestuous.  Loving you, my dearest Francestuous, loving you.  Forever and ever.  Like the dew kissing ten tired turtles in a tuddle-tuddle tree, that’s how I was meant to kiss and cuddle thee.”  So he kissed her, deeply and meaningfully.  Then they made mad passionate love again and again.

            The sun sagged down towards the trees by the time they brushed the dirt off themselves, straightened themselves out, and hit the long road home.  Dusk enveloped them as they rode up to her house.  They showered together, and ate another quiet meal of quiet but fresh vegetables.  Francestuous dug some beer out of the deepest, darkest recesses of her ‘fridge.  He opened the cans expertly, and they had themselves a drink.  Then they went to bed, where there made mad passionate love, bunny-rabbit style, yet again and again.

            For three days and three nights, all told, they quoted poetry to each other, talked of deep and meaningful things, and made bunny love, while Raoul always lit their cigarettes and opened their beer cans most expertly.  Never, ever, never once did he slam the screen door, either.

            Still, their time together had to come to end, sooner or later.  Or did it?  This was their unspoken question, which neither dared to raise first.  Finally, as they lay exhausted in bed yet again, Francestuous brought it up.  “You know, Sweetie, you and I remind me a lot of this couple I read about in a book a while back.  It was called The Bridges of Madison County.  They had a deeply meaningful and mystically moving affair, but then her husband came back, so her lover split, and then they both lived the rest of their lives, desperately, hopelessly longing for each other.

            “She made her choice out of like this rational sense of duty to her husband and kids, but she always kind of questioned like if maybe she’d have been better off going with her feelings, and the chemistry of their totally profound passion.  So the two of them went their separate ways.  It was so sad!  She had to make do with her husband!  The hero, the last cowboy, her lover, he was never able to make love to a woman again, ‘cause no one could ever compare to her.  So he ended up buying a dog to keep him company in his last days, and then, that was it.  So have you ever read that book, Raoul, sweet buns?  Do you think we’re maybe kind of like them?”

            “No, I didn’t read the book, but I saw the movie.  And, well, ah, yes, I guess we’re sort of like them.  Except I already have a pet, which I bought to console myself after my last true love cruelly, heartlessly betrayed me in favor of her husband and kids.  But I’m over that now.”

            They both laid there in dark, tired silence for a while.  Francestuous broke the silence.  “You know,” she said wistfully, “I really don’t want to be like the lady in that book.  Being too rational, going with my head instead of my heart.  Ignoring the important things, like magical vibes¾‘chemistry’, as they say.  I’m way too special to go with boring, regular, rational thinking.  What they call ‘common sense’ is just way too unromantic.  Duty is dull.  Just doing whatever makes your heart go pitty-pat is far, far more glorious.  More like the really cool things that the glamorous people in Panderwood are doing.”  Then she lapsed back into silence.

            She was working up her nerve to ask if maybe she could avoid a lifetime of regret, and come with Raoul on his journalistic journeys, when he spoke first.  “You’re not going to do that to me, too, now, are you, my deepest, dearest Francestuous?”

            “Why, do what, Raoul?” she asked, tumbling off of their mutual train of thoughts.

            “Abandon and betray me in favor of your husband and kids,” he croaked in hushed hoarseness.

            “Oh, no, I’d never do that do you, my dearest Polysaccharide Patootie.  Never!  Never!  I was just so afraid to ask you if I could come along with you!  You mean, you’ll have me?!”

            “As often as possible, for as long as possible.  Till death do us part,” he replied solemnly.  She started sobbing with the sudden relief from all her worries.  So then he sniffled a bit, too, and they held each other tight.  Then they made love all night.

            In the morning, she persuaded him to bend his principles just enough, just this once, to use a fume-belching monstermobile.  She did this only by promising that they’d sell the thing as soon as they moved her stuff.  Then they loaded her most precious clothes, furniture, and other household goods onto her pickup truck.

            She wrote a “Dear Bob the Slob” letter, pointing out to him that she didn’t want to hurt him or the kids, but that she had her own needs to consider, too.  Rather than living with a lifetime of regret, she was going to go with her feelings.  She’d found a man who didn’t slam screen doors, and who knew how to light cigarettes, open beer cans, and love a woman.  But yes, she loved him and the kids very much, and she always would.  She put it down on the kitchen counter.

            “Hey, Sucrose Snuggles, you mind if I read that?” Raoul asked.

            “No, please do,” she replied.  “I’m open for suggestions.  You’re a literary kind of a guy, after all.”

            He read it in silence, lifting his eyebrows now and then.  He put it down.  “Kinda harsh, I’d say.  Maybe you could sort of soften it up by adding some reference to a snippet of classy, uplifting poetry or music lyrics or some such.”

            “Have anything in particular in mind, there, Glucose Gluteus Monosaccharide Maximus?”

            “Oh, I don’t know.  OK, well, sure, sit back down here and write a wee tad more.  You’ve got quite a bit of room left on your second page down here, see?  OK?  Great!  Here goes: ‘PS.  Dearest Bob, please don’t take it too hard.  If things ever get you down, then please just remember some wise words from the Beatles.  As they once sang, “Oh-blah-dee, oh-blah-da, hey, hey, hey, life goes on.”  If you can remember this, and live by it, then nothing can ever hurt you.  Love, Francestuous.’  Now how’s that grab you?  Lift his sagging spirits, it will!  You never know what a few kind words can do.”

            “Oh, Raoul, you’re so deep!  And so caring and sensitive!”  She fell into his arms, and they smooched long and passionately.  They drove for miles and miles along those twisting, turning roads together, in ecstatic happiness, and moved her stuff into his $1.2 million HUD “Ecology House”.  Then they sold the truck, got new tires for Betsy, and started to build their perfect life together.

 

            This chapter has endnotes concerning All-Natural Nicotine, Eagle Feathers, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and Sensitive and Romantic Writers.


 

10) Whispers of Omnology

            “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Attributed to Phineas T. Barnum (1810-1891).  Barnum may or may not have actually said this.  He admitted that he may have said, “The people like to be humbugged.”  Show-business rival Adam Forepaugh accused P. T. Barnum of having said the “sucker” quote.  Barnum never denied it, and even thanked Forepaugh for the free publicity.

            “The Journal said, ‘There have been repeated reports that Mr. Hubbard told his science fiction colleagues that the way to get rich is to found a religion.’  The problem is this incident never happened.  So, from the Church’s perspective it does get tiring responding to it, repeatedly.  (For the record, George Orwell is the person who really said that and to our knowledge he never knew or met Mr. Hubbard.)”  From an ad in the 1 April 97 Wall Street Journal, placed by the Church of Scientology International, in response to a Wall St. Jrnl editorial of 25 March ‘97.  The Church made no indication whether or not this was an April Fool’s joke, either.  We were left in suspense.

            “Wrong!  See ‘Over My Shoulder: Reflections on a Science Fiction Era,’ by Lloyd Arthur Eshback, one of the first prominent publishers of science fiction (Oswald Train: Philadelphia, 1983).  He is very specific as to the subject:

            “‘The incident is stamped indelibly in my mind because of one statement that Ron Hubbard made.  What led him to say what he did I can’t recall¾but in so many words Hubbard said: “I’d like to start a religion.  That’s where the money is!”’

            “Scientology may argue that Mr. Eshback is wrong or duplicitous (he’s not), but the statement is neatly documented for all time.”  Our suspense is thus relieved, thanks to A. H. Lybeck’s letter to the editor, which was published in the 1 May ‘97 Wall St. Jrnl.

            Not authoritative enough for you?  Just another crackpot letter to the editor?  Okay, then.  “In the late 1940s, pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard declared, ‘Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous.  If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.’”  Eugene H. Methvin, in Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult, Reader’s Digest, May 1980.

            “All men are your slaves.”  La Fayette Ron (AKA L. Ron) Hubbard (1911-1986), according to “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power,” 6 May ‘91 Time magazine, by Richard Behar.

 

            Ale Run Hubba-Bubba and his friends in Scamway International kept on rolling in the prosperity and good fortune.  Everyone everywhere demanded Quart Low Trackers for finding drugs, weapons, and lost golf balls.  Unfortunately for Ale Run and his friends, though, all good things must come to an end.  So an FBI lab spent several months and millions and millions of dollars to investigate, and lo and behold, they reached a conclusion: Quart Low Trackers were a fraud!  And Ale Run and all his hordes and all his men couldn’t prove that the Quart Low Tracker did what their advertising said it could do.  A federal judge ordered Scamway International to stop selling the Quart Low Tracker.

            Ale Run was brought up on charges of fraud.  Fortunately, since the prosecution couldn’t prove that the Quart Low Tracker didn’t work, when operated by a properly trained expert, he was acquitted.  So he kept his prosperity and good fortune and avoided jail.  But he couldn’t sell his Trackers any more, so it sure looked like the good times had come to an abrupt halt.

            Ale Run sulked in his mansion that night, trying to console himself with that fact that he at least retained custody of that one last ace in the hole.  This was his original Quart Low Tracker¾the one with the real magic, which Chewdychomper Chupacabras had given him.  He drank a few pints of ale, sinking into an ever more sullen mood.

            But then he got to thinking, well, I’m not all washed up.  There’s got to be a way I can use this technology to benefit humanity and my bank account!  All I have to do is to figure out a safe way to do it.  A manner in which I’ll be guaranteed freedom of action.  Some method of using the Quart Low Tracker’s technology whereby the government can’t touch me.  I’ve got to think.  Maybe if I stare deep into the LCD display on my Quart Low Tracker, here, the answer will well up into my mind.

            Ale Run concentrated long and hard.  Then the Whispers came to him.  Whispers of Omnology, borne on the cosmic-karmic vibe fronts.  Let’s see, he said to himself as he channeled the vibes.  I’ll add some very simple circuits to the mass-produced Quart Low Trackers.  A switch, a battery, a Geiger-counter style beeper, a random noise amplifier, and some flashing LEDs.  I’ll call it the V-Meter, for Vibes Meter.  Then I’ll come up with an elaborate system and vocabulary to explain what all wonderful things that the V-Meter can do for you.  All your problems are caused by, oh, say, clusters of, um, scamgrams.  To get your scamgrams to go away, you’ve got to hire an expert who will use his V-Meter to chase away your scamgrams.  We’ll have a special word for casting out the scamgrams¾say, “fleecing”.

            Got troubles?  And who doesn’t?!  What a huge, untapped market!  All your troubles are caused by clusters of scamgrams and maybe even a bloody metan or two.  Bloody metans, that is.  Scamgrams and bloody metans that were left here maybe like seventy-five million years ago, by, oh, I don’t know, say, like, a Cruel Galactic Emperor Zebu.  And the only way to set yourself free is to have your scamgrams and bloody metans fleeced by an expert with a V-Meter!  That’s it!  Brilliant!

            OK, then, so we’ve got magic words and magic technology to make everyone’s troubles go away.  Now what do we call our discipline?  A science, or a religion?  It’s a lot like a science, like psychology or psychiatry.  We don’t have to prove anything; all we have to do is have lots of scientific-sounding words and theories, and act very authoritative.  Judges will send us clients.  No probation unless you come and see us.  And we’ll be called upon to be expert witnesses.  Very lucrative, possibly.

            On the other hand, we’ll have to pay taxes.  Keep records, maybe even give money back to dissatisfied customers.  And the FDA will doubtlessly call our V-Meter a “medical device”, and take years and years to approve it.  Maybe even never approve it!  We could avoid all these troubles by just calling ourselves a church.  A religion.  Sure, the courts won’t be able to call us as expert witnesses or send us clients, that way, ‘cause of separation of church and state.  Yet if we call it a religion, then no one will be able to touch us!  After all, isn’t religious freedom sacred?!  Yes!  Yes!  This is it, Ale Run, this is it!!!  Fame, wealth, and power, here I come!  Ale Run just about creamed his pants with joy at his latest inspirations.

            OK, calm down, he told himself.  So what will I call my church?  Something impressively all-encompassing, rational, modern, and scientific.  Something to tap into the trappings and respectable rationality of science, even though we’re a church.  Have our cake and eat it, too.  Something like, say, maybe... The Church of Scatological Scamology?  No, no, that won’t do!  Too honest!  Hmmm... OK, yes, this is good!  The Church of Omnology!  I’ll be the high priest of The Church of Omnology.  The Church of Everything.  The Church that has All the Answers.  For the $Right $Price.  Yessiree, Ale Run, you sly ol’ devil, you, you’re on it!  All the Answers, all right!  All the Answers to the problems of me not having as much power and money as I need, at least, that’s for sure!  And what other issues really matter, anyway?!

            Ale Run got to bed late that night, and still found it hard to sleep.  He’d never been so enthused in a long time.  The Quart Low Tracker would help him select his disciples and his methods.  Surely the Church of Omnology¾especially as a tax-free institution¾surely it would put Scamway International to shame, revenue-wise.  He couldn’t wait!  Finally, he drifted off to sleep.

            The next day he consulted his Quart Low Tracker once again, and got to work.  He called his industrial designers, and they got to work revamping the Quart Low Tracker design, creating the famous V-Meter.  Ale Run secluded himself in his mansion, writing down the doctrines of the Church of Omnology at great length.

            Not too many months later, Raoul Kinky and Francestuous Johnsdame were lying in bed.  One rolled over to the other and said, “I wanna be an Airborne Ranger, live a life of sex and danger.”  Francestuous looked at him with shocked, disapprovingly wide eyes.  “That’s a joke, Sweetie, a joke!  I’m just laying here all washed out, and thinking I’d like to be healthy and vigorous again someday.  That phrase just popped into my head. I went to protest at this Air Force base once, and I remember this from a marching song that the young troops were singing.  You know, kind of like, I’m just randomly grasping at our society’s clichés about vigor.  I’d like to be a lumberjack man, too.  Except I wouldn’t be killing people or trees.  Know what I mean?”

            “Sure, Honeypot,” Francestuous patted him gently.  “I understand.  We’ll get you over this CFS thing real soon, now, and you’ll be just like new.  Have faith.  We’ll find you a cure, don’t you worry.”  She referred to the fact that not long after he’d cured his MCS with the Dream Catcher, he’d caught a severe case of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).  They’d tried hypnosis, acupuncture, herbs, crystals, and homeopathy, all to no avail.  So he lay there, still bedridden.

            “Have you tried contacting Big Moose Running Nose lately?” he asked her for the umpteenth time.  He hoped that maybe Big Moose could make him a new, customized Dream Catcher to cure his CFS.  He often fondly handled Big Moose’s tattered old business card, desperately dreaming of a new Dream Catcher.

            “Yes, Lactose Lips, I tried to call him again yesterday, and wrote him just a week ago.  The number is still disconnected, and the address is still like obsolete.  And I can’t find him listed anywhere.”

            “I just can’t understand why a man with such a sure-fire cure for such a common and devastating illness would be so hard to find,” Raoul complained yet again.  “It’s a shame.  A mystery and a shame.”

            She agreed with him and told him she’d be heading downstairs to fix him breakfast in bed.  A breakfast of good, wholesome quiet food, of course, that is.  She crawled out of bed and stooped over to kiss him.  “I love you, Glucose Gluteus Maximus,” she whispered.  “Hang in there, you poor dear.”

            He smelled her quiet breath, thinking, what a wonderful woman I’ve managed to link up with, here.  “I love you too, Fructose Fanny.”  He rolled over gently, straining to protect his delicate, sore and aching muscles from abuse.  Francestuous headed downstairs.  Shortly, he heard the sounds of pots and pans, of the genesis of a delicious and quiet breakfast.  Then he heard her open the front door, to make the long walk to the mailbox.  Shortly, she’ll be back with news of the world, he thought.  He glanced over at his old Dream Catcher.  At least these days I’m over that nasty old MCS thing, he thought.  I won’t have to air all those toxic chemicals out of my mail for days and days before I can stand to read it, like in the old days.  No more mail on the clotheslines, thanks to my Dream Catcher!  Sure, this CFS thing is bad, but look on the bright side.  Things could be worse.

            A few minutes later, he heard the front door opening again.  Then there were more quiet breakfast sounds.  Shortly, the love of his life entered their bedroom once more, carrying two steaming trays of quiet food and some mail.  He sat up gingerly, then she set the tray up around his lap.  They dined quietly.  He finished up and praised her good cooking, like usual.  She gathered up the dishes and trays, heading back down the stairs.

            He reached over to the nightstand and picked through the mail she’d brought up.  Hm, no disability check from Social Security yet, but we’ll still survive for a little while longer.  What else have we got here?  A new copy of Mother Earth magazine.  Hm.  Let’s see.  He started reading.

            With curses long, loud, and foul, he leapt out of bed.  Francestuous started to dash up the stairs, but ran into him as he dashed down the stairs, proclaiming his outrage.  His vehemence overwhelmed her momentary amazement at his miraculous recovery of vigor.  “Look at this crap, Francestuous, just look at this x&*@#a~Y!!!  He sputtered incoherently.

            “There, there, my Sweet Sodium Cyclamate Mate, now, calm down!  What’s wrong?”

            “Look!  See this?!  There’s this nasty lying bitch of a whore, this Bertha Bubblebuster and her new book, she’s running around and, and slandering all of us CFS sufferers!  Listen to this!  This is all about her new book, called ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Sufferers and Those With Recovered Memories of Being Forced to Eat Alar-Poisoned Apples by Silicon-Breasted Space Alien Abductors in Abusive Satanic Rituals Are All a Bunch of Hysterical Whining Crybaby Sissies But We All Need to be Deeply Sympathetic and Double Our Contributions to Psychiatrists and Other Public Servants Who Will Destigmatize Their Neuroses and Heal Their Illnesses.’  She says it’s just all in our heads!  Can you believe this woman’s fascist insensitivity?!  Why, this Nazi wench, we should...”

            “Come on, Sweetie, now, calm down!  Maybe you should call your CFS support group.  Maybe they could help you feel better about how society blames the victims, and maybe we could come up with something to like do about all this.”

            Raoul did just that.  He and his CFS support group got together and decided upon a course of action.  They rounded up a few trucks and went around to grocery stores, garages, flea markets, and trash dumps.  Raoul and his friends got some good, healthy exercise, throwing old tires, crates of rotten organically grown tomatoes and eggs, old furniture, and moldy water-logged mattresses onto their big trucks.  Then they waited for just a few days, till Bertha Bubblebuster showed up at the local We Be Big McBooksnores for her book signing.

            At Raoul’s signal, they crashed their battering ram through the McBooksnore doors.  Splinters flew everywhere.  Their loud, blood-curdling screams sent hapless pedestrians fleeing in all directions.  Carrying old sofas, refrigerators, tires, and crates of rotten produce, they streamed three abreast through the shattered doors.  Then they heaved their cargo at one Ms. Bertha Bubblebuster.  Raoul shouted fiercely, “You sniveling rotten insensitive hysterical lying wench, here, see what it feels like to be victimized!  This is all just in your head!”

            She fled, screaming.  “Now who’s hysterical?!  Now who’s hysterical?!” they all chanted triumphantly in unison.  “Fascist bitch”, “Evil murderer”, and “Hitler’s whore”, they muttered as they traipsed out of the trashed McBooksnore.  Then they all went to hoist an organic beer or two in celebration, and then they headed for home.  All except for Raoul and Francestuous, that is.

            “That was really great!” Francestuous said.  “Way to stand up for the voiceless, helpless, oppressed victims!  I’m like really, really proud of you!  Now, while we’re out and about, and you’re like feeling pretty good it seems, at least for a little while, do you think maybe this might be a good time to go shopping for that wheelchair you’ve been wanting to get?  I mean, I hate to say it, but you never know when this CFS thing is gonna come and go.  You might be feeling worse again tomorrow or the next day.  Especially if those pesky, nosy Social Security folks come snooping around again, and making us all tense and stressed out.”

            Raoul agreed that this might be a good idea.  So they went window shopping.  But before they could get to the handicapped appliances store, they happened upon the All Paths Multifaith Soulorama, a co-operative multi-church recruitment center at the shopping plaza, between the Armed Services Recruiting Center and the head shop.  Francestuous paused there thoughtfully.  “You know, Raoul,” she said pensively, “Maybe our lives are too empty and shallow, spiritually-wise.  Maybe we’re like, um, too content with our material blessings.  All our quiet food, quiet clothes, our one point two million dollar ecology house, poetry books, and our bicycles, and all.  Maybe we should be paying more attention to our spiritual dimension.”

            So they walked hand in hand down the hall, looking at the displays, the signs on the doors, and the pleasant little offices.  Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists, Animists, Zoroastrians, Christians of many flavors, and Muslims beckoned at them from posters, displays, and office doors.  “This is all so passé,” Raoul muttered.  “Too boring and bourgeois for me.”

            Then they came upon an exceptionally tasteful display.  On the door there were gold-plated inscriptions:

 

Vyizder  Zomenimor

Orziz  Assiz

Zanzer  R. Orziz

 

Master Universal Omnologists

CEOs

(Certified Experts of Omnology)

Smile!  Happiness is at hand!

Whatever your troubles¾we can help YOU!

The Church of Omnology

Earth Division

 

            Raoul stood and stared in awe.  “This might be it, Francestuous, this might be it.  Just LOOK at this!  The Church of Omnology!  It sounds so... so... scientific.  So powerful, so universal.  We’d better check it out.”

            So they did.  They strolled right in.  The first sight which greeted them was a small crowd, all milling excitedly about a tall, dark and handsome man and his smiling, leggy blonde babe.  Could that possibly be Jon Travibesty, the famous Panderwood actor, and his actress wife, Julie Peston?  Here, in podunk little ol’ Madness County?

            Surely not, Raoul said to himself.  Probably someone’s idea of a joke, dressing up to look just like them.  Running into Jon Travibesty at the local Soulorama just seems too much like running into Elvis at the grocery store to possibly be really true.  Then again, how many pranksters would go to the trouble to also hire what looks like bodyguards and reporters with such big, fancy, and obviously expensive cameras, just to make the show more convincing?  Maybe they’re the real thing, after all.

            Raoul and Francestuous sauntered on up to the crowd, seemingly entirely casually.  Two men, upon noticing the new arrivals, peeled off of the huddle.  They introduced themselves, shaking hands with Raoul and Francestuous.  The tall one with the thick, glossy black hair said, “Hi. 

I’m Vyizder Zomenimor, and these are my partners, Orziz Assiz and Zanzer R. Orziz,” with a sweeping gesture.  The gesture clearly meant to Raoul that the shorter, more scholarly-looking gentleman must be Orziz Assiz, but as to who Zanzer R. Orziz was, Raoul had no idea.  This part of Vyizder’s gesture, as best as Raoul could tell, had pointed to nothing but empty space.

            Francestuous paid scant if any attention to the introductions.  Instead, she stared intently towards the center of attention.  “Um, yes,” Raoul replied, poking Francestuous in the ribs with his elbow.  “This is my companion human, I mean, um, my significant other, um, Francestuous Johnsdame.  And I’m Raoul Kinky.  Pleased to meet you.  And I’m sure Francestuous is, too.”  She nodded vaguely, still staring towards the center of the huddle’s attention.

            Raoul gave up on her.  “Is that really Jon...” he started to ask quietly, looking wide-eyed at Vyizder.

            “Yes, it really, truly is.  Jon Travibesty and his wife, Julie Peston.  Here in our own little Madness County.  You see, the Church of Omnology is starting to draw the attention of those who are truly hip and in the know.  Even though our esteemed leader and founder, Ale Run Hubba-Bubba, began imparting his wisdom to the masses only a matter of months ago, already the Word is spreading far and wide.  Wise and influential people are flocking to us.  Through the use of our latest therapies and technologies, we are casting out scamgrams, fleecing bloody metans away, and healing the people.  So as you can imagine, if we can do great things for even the rich and powerful, we’d certainly be able to do a lot for you.”  Raoul didn’t quite follow all the jargon, but he got the general drift of things.

            “Um, sounds good,” he replied.  “I’m not quite sure what scamgrams and bloody metans are for, but they sure don’t sound like nice things to have hanging around.  So if you can make them go away, that sounds like a good idea to me.  Now I’m sorry, I didn’t even quite follow your introductions.  So you’re... Vyizder Zomenimor?  Did I say that right?”  Vyizder nodded.  “And you’re Orziz Assiz?”  Orziz nodded in turn.

            “But then who is Zanzer R. Orziz?” Raoul finished.  “I didn’t quite follow you.”

            “Zanzer R. Orziz isn’t very apparent to the untrained eye,” Vyizder assured him.  “But you’ll learn to understand and appreciate him, if you’ll allow us to bring The Word to you.  The Words of Ale Run, that is.  Words that will ring down throughout all future eons, because they were written by He Who Fleeces Our Scamgrams Away.  Don’t worry, now, we’ll give you the answers that you deserve.  All in good time.  But we’d really much rather explain it to all of you at once, instead of going the piecemeal route.  Not that we mind the endless repetition.  It’s just that we could be so much more efficient, if we could speak to everyone at once.  We could then get The Word out to all those millions of victims of scamgrams that much faster.  So please excuse us while we put off your questions for just a few minutes, while we begin our class, here.”

            Vyizder and Orziz circled around the huddle that in turn circled around Jon Travibesty and Julie Peston.  They tried to pick people off of the perimeters of the crowd, announcing to all those who bothered to pay attention to them, that the class was about to begin.  Unfortunately for Vyizder and Orziz, Jon and Julie were just now breaking out their pens and offering autographs.  The crowd ramped into a chaotic crescendo.  Francestuous escaped Raoul’s clutches, and rushed towards Jon and Julie.  “So where, exactly, is the end of this line, anyway?!?” she demanded loudly.  Everyone ignored her.

            Jon waved a pacifying hand over the crowd, announcing that anyone who wanted an autograph would get one.  So Vyizder and Orziz gave up, and patiently waited while Jon and Julie satisfied the crowd’s demands.  Finally, the huddle broke up, and everyone had a seat in an array of chairs in front of Vyizder and Orziz.

            Vyizder started off with, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Now I gather that you’ve all come together with us here this evening to learn about the wonders of Omnology.  This, we’ll do our best to help you learn, Ale Run willing.  But first, I believe, proper introductions are in order.  This is my friend and co-teacher, Orziz Assiz.  And I’m Vyizder Zomenimor.  With us this evening is a third teacher, who hides himself from the uninitiated.  You can’t see him.  You won’t be able to see him till you’re thoroughly trained, and have become enlightened, operating metans, channeling vibes from higher energy levels.  But rest assured that our third teacher, Zanzer R. Orziz, is with us, here, and that his lessons, too, are vital for our well-being.  More about him in a few minutes.

            “Now please rest assured that the Church of Omnology is broad-minded and tolerant.  There are many, many branches of our church, and many ways of thinking.  All that holds us together is our common bond.  This is that we all acknowledge that our Esteemed Leader, Ale Run Hubba-Bubba, is the One True Seer and Caster Out of Scamgrams.  So our particular arrangement here hasn’t been officially ordained by the Church of Omnology, nor do all branches of the Church do things exactly the same way we do them.  As long as we all work for Ale Run, and against scamgrams¾and that’s the way I see the Church sticking together for the foreseeable future, for untold eons¾then none of the little details will matter.

            “Here in our little group, though, our approach is a division of expertise.  Orziz Assiz, here, he’s got his specialties.  They are the right-brain, holistic concerns of theology, philosophy, and all matters intuitive.  My specialties are the left-brain, logical, rational matters of science and technology.  Between the two of us, we can answer almost any question you’d like to pose to us.

            “Now there are some matters, though, where wrong, deceptive thoughts and scamgrams infest and befester some of us so thoroughly that we just can’t see it.  Try as we may, neither Orziz nor I will be able to break these paradigms.  Some of us, we just don’t get it, as they say.  Here, we need the assistance of a third party.

            “Now, I’ll be honest with you.  Our invisible third party, Zanzer R. Orziz, he’s a liar.  A deceiver.  Yes, he’s a scamgram.  A carrier of falsehoods and bloody metans, of dysfunctional thinking.  Yet...”

            “You mean he’s a delusion?” Raoul interjected.

            Vyizder tolerated the interruption patiently.  “Yes, we get these kinds of questions all the time,” he admitted.  “Are scamgrams like delusions, and are bloody metans like neuroses.  When we fleece your scamgrams away, using a V-Meter, is that like when a psychiatrist analyzes your delusions away using a couch and a notepad.  Well, there may be some extremely superficial resemblances here, but we of the Church of Omnology are much, much more sophisticated and technologically talented than psychiatrists.  For one thing, our V-Meter has flashing LEDs, and emits these really cool beeps.  For those Omnologists who take enough of our courses, and become operating metans at a truly advanced level, we even have a Technology That Makes ‘PING!’ Sounds.  No mere shrink has any notepads or couches that can compare to these kinds of sophisticated technological features.

            “We Omnologists don’t believe in psychiatrists.  They are quacks and frauds.  They mis-diagnose scamgrams, calling them delusions, confusing people with false promises of help, preventing them from coming to us, where we could give them some genuine help.  So they do far more harm than good.  Shrinks are deluded, or full of scamgrams.

            “If Omnology is to fleece our scamgrams away, so that we can become operating metans, then we as Omnologists must guard against the thinking and the words that psychologists and psychiatrists use.  Their entire world view and their vocabulary has so poisoned our entire society that we can’t even see our scamgrams and bloody metans for what they really are!  You ask if Zanzer R. Orziz is a delusion.  Is he real, or is he a delusion?  If people are depressed, do you ask them about whether their depression is real, or whether it’s all in their heads?  Is their depression real, or delusional?”

            The room full of budding students of Omnology just stared at Vyizder in wide-eyed, uncomprehending wonder.  Vyizder showed only the barest hints of frustration.  “Are my delusions real, or delusional?” he continued.  “To me, they’re real.  If I perceive them, they’re real to me.  Perception is reality.  That’s all that matters.  ‘Delusions’ is shrink talk, and we Omnologists don’t believe in shrinks.  Shrinks are delusional.  No, I mean, the shrinks are deluded.  If we must fall back into our psychologized society’s vocabulary in dealing with these things, that is.  Their ideas and talk of ‘delusions’ being real or not, it’s all delusional.

            “I mean, Omnologically speaking, it’s scamgramish.  It’s befestered with clusters of scamgrams and bloody metans.  It’s like saying, is my depression real, or is it all in my head?  You just can’t go saying things like ‘It’s all in your head.’  It’s not sensitive.  In some very crude sense, yes, my depression IS ‘all in my head’.  But telling me that doesn’t help me any.  It doesn’t ease my pain, or make me feel any better.  It doesn’t validate my feelings, and it surely doesn’t fleece my scamgrams away.  And if I tell my shrink that I’m ‘depressed’, that’s what I really, really need.  An expert Omnologist, equipped with a V-Meter, who will fleece my scamgrams away.”

            “Oooh-oooh-ooooo,” the crowd babbled in excitement, arms waving.  “Fleece my scamgrams away!”  “No, fleece mine first!”  “Can you fleece my CFS?”  ”Can you fleece my recovered memories?”  “Come on, bring out your V-Meter!”

            Vyizder and Orziz stood up tall and raised their hands way up, waving and appealing for calm.  Orziz thundered, “Now, that’s quite enough of that!”  They calmed down.  Orziz continued, “Excuse me.  Now, we can’t just break out our V-Meter and wave it around like a magic wand, fleecing all your scamgrams.  For one thing, you have to understand what it is that we’re doing, or the scamgrams will just come right back, as soon as you leave here, if not sooner.  We have to thoroughly enlighten you first, and then, and only then, will fleecing your scamgrams hold some real promise of permanently helping you.

            “For another thing, your selfish desires, themselves, are signs that you are all severely scamgramified.  What about the person right next to you?  Don’t they, too, need fleeced of their scamgrams?  Yet you all demand ‘Me first!’  And what of the larger picture?  All across the globe, there are millions and billions of metans just like yourselves, who are all operating on a very, very low level.  They all need to have their scamgrams fleeced away.  Yet all you clamor about is your individual needs.

            “Now Vyizder and I, we really do want to help you.  But you’re not the only ones to be considered, here.  There’s those millions and billions of others, too.  And there’s us, the leaders of the Church of Omnology.  We have our needs, too.  We need your support in order to fleece away the scamgrams of all the multitudes of multitudes.  Would you demand that your shrink wave his notepad and his couch at you, and make your neuroses go away?  For free, and in a few seconds?  No, obviously not.

            “Then why do you expect miracles of us?  Yes, we do do a far better job than shrinks.  Still, just like them, we need time and money.  Yes, money.  Money to buy food, clothes, and shelter, even like metans like yourselves, and money to help us spread the word about how we can heal the people and fleece their scamgrams.

            “Yes, we’ll bring out our V-Meter, and fleece your scamgrams away.  But only if you contain your selfishness and impatience, receive your training willingly and with an open mind, and make some reasonably generous donations to the Church of Omnology.  We don’t ask for much.  Now fend off your selfish scamgrams for just a few more minutes, while we work towards fleecing all of your scamgrams on a far more permanent basis.”

            Vyizder noticed that Jon and Julie were fidgeting and glancing at each other and their watches.  Fearing the loss of their most noteworthy pupils, he stepped forward to take some of the sting out of Orziz’s harsh remarks.  “Now, never fear, we’ll get to you and your needs very shortly.  All of your needs and your feelings are valid, after all.  It’s just that you do need to be patient, while we work towards filling your needs.

            “Now where were we.  Oh, yes.  Introductions.  You already know Orziz and I.  Next we’ll talk about our less-than-obviously-observable partner, Zanzer R. Orziz.  Then we’ll talk very, very briefly about the Church of Omnology, and then we’ll hear from all of you.  Who are you, where are you from, and what are your needs.  Then, for those of you who display the necessary faith, we’ll fleece your scamgrams away.

            “Now, then.  Zanzer R. Orziz.  Zanzer is our training aid, a token scamgram.  Most scamgrams are fierce and strong, a genuine danger.  One must beware of them at all times, and be fleeced on a regular basis.  But Zanzer, he’s our own semi-domesticated scamgram.  He’s not too bright or particularly strong, for a scamgram.  In fact, he’s almost totally foolish.  He’s so weak, we trained Omnologists can see him with little effort.  We can tell when he whispers in your ear, and attempts to ensnare you into scamgramification.  So we warn you, when we see him do it.  And the very best part of it all is, these foolish attempted depredations of this particular scamgram, Zanzer, are uninspired and predictable.  And he doesn’t even catch on to the fact that we’ve turned him into our training aid, so that all his attempts to fool you are in fact hurting his cause and helping us!  Isn’t it just great?!

            “But the thing is, this nifty trick to defend yourself against Zanzer works only if you listen when you’re warned that he’s whispering in your ear.  When we warn you, you must take heed.

            “Class, this is very important.  We Omnologists aren’t into nagging you.  Bad feelings are bad, they’re scamgrams, so we avoid them whenever we can.  The Good News is that faithful Omnologists who are fleeced on a regular basis are empowered to ultimately avoid all scamgrams and bloody metans eventually.  But we really, really have to warn you about Zanzer and especially his many, many smarter and stronger partners in scamgramification.  Most of the rest of them, most of the time, they’re smart enough to stay away from us and our V-Meters, because they know that we’ll catch on to them, and warn all those who we’ve taken under our protective wings.

            “So when you’re away from your Omnological Spirit Guides, then you must especially be on guard against all the stronger and smarter scamgrams.  But when you’re with us, you can let down your guard, because we’ll detect and warn you about any attempts by any scamgrams who try to deceive you.  So long as you heed our warnings, you’ll be safe.  So now you understand how Zanzer is our very own semi-domesticated scamgram, and why we keep around as a training aid.  Listen to us, and you’ll be safe.  That’s all you have to remember.

            “So that’s the three of us.”  Vyizder once again made his sweeping motion, pointing first to himself, Orziz, and nothingness, intoning, “Vyizder Zomenimor, Orziz Assiz, Zanzer R. Orziz.  That’s us.  The three of us, through the grace of our Leader, The One Who Fleeces Our Scamgrams Away, Ale Run Hubba-Bubba, can help you.  We can help anyone who comes to us with an open mind, acceptance of the validity of all feelings, and generous charitable, spiritual offerings.  Now let me turn this over to my companion and fellow Spirit Guide, Orziz Assiz.  He’ll briefly tell you all about the Church of Omnology.  He’s a very enlightened being.  Orziz is a metan who operates on a very high level, so please listen to him carefully.”

            “Um, yes, thank you, Vyizder,” Orziz muttered, “Thank you.  You’re an operating metan, too, Vyizder.  Let’s get on with this.  Now we must not act with undue haste, but the longer we chat, here, the longer it is before we can separate those metans who operate on a high enough level to join us, from those who don’t.  To separate the sheep from the goats, as they used to say.  And the longer we take till we see who is for us and who is against us, the longer that Zanzer will have to whisper in your ears.  Yes, sad to say, some of you will definitely listen to Zanzer’s whispers, rather than to our warnings.  That’s the way it almost always goes, with a group as large as this.

            “Some will listen to Vyizder and I, and some will listen to Zanzer.  Some are born to sweet delight, and some are born endless night, to suffer endless scamgramification of their own choosing.  That’s just the way it is.  One of the central doctrines of the Church of Omnology is that no one suffers anything without their consent, conscious or subconscious, express or implied, as the shrinks and the lawyers would say.  As we Omnologists say, what is, is, and what’s not, isn’t, except when what is, isn’t, and what isn’t, is.  The only way you can really, truly, with absolute confidence, know which is which, is to listen to the Will of Ale Run, as revealed to you by the Church of Omnology and its Spirit Guides.

            “So now, just what is the Church of Omnology?  The Church is the Truth and The Way.  A Way of Truth and Life, of fleecing scamgrams and bloody metans away, and of getting one’s own personal body metan to operate on a higher cosmic level.  That’s it.  That’s all there is.  Yes, we do have technological devices like V-Meters, and for truly advanced operating metans, we have Technology That Makes ‘PING!’ Sounds.  But for day to day life for common Omnologists, that’s all there is to life.  Have fellowship with fellow Omnologists, listen to The One Who Fleeces Our Scamgrams Away, and have your scamgrams and bloody metans fleeced away regularly, and you will be ecstatically descamgramified.

            “Yes, there are always higher and purer levels of descamgramification, but so long as you keep on working on it, especially by giving to the Church and becoming sanctified by periodically taking advancement seminars, then happiness is guaranteed.  If you follow us with an open mind, no scamgrams will be able to harm you.  And we’ll guarantee that in writing.

            “Now we’ll just very briefly cover the history of the Church, then we’ll talk about you and your troubles.  You and your scamgrams.  Then we’ll fleece scamgrams away from all of those of you who find yourselves worthy to become Omnologists.  You see, it’s all up to you.  We all choose our own fate.

            “The Church of Omnology officially has existed for only a few months, ever since Ale Run revealed His Wisdom to us all.  But the roots of Ale Run’s visions go way, way back.  Seventy-five million years back, as a matter of fact.  Seventy-five million years ago, there was a Cruel Galactic Emperor Zebu.  Zebu captured and tortured ancient souls and pickled them in cucumber jars.  Then he buried these pickle jars in swamps on an ancient planet known as Teakgeakiac.

            “Over millions and millions of years, those swamps became beds of coal.  Millions of years later, humans first started talking.  The first words they came up with were ‘Earth’, the new name for the old planet Teakgeakiac.  They became more advanced and intelligent, but they continued to live in peace and harmony, grooving to the vibes of an all-natural planet.

            “But then they discovered fire.  Now fires aren’t bad, when they’re natural.  We all know from recent experience in the national parks out west that wildfires clear out the underbrush and renew and enrich nature’s biodiversity.  But when people set them, they’re bad.  Unless, of course, the people setting the fires have been fleeced and descamgramified first.  This relates to one of the central axioms of Omnology, which is that chaos is badness.

            “That is, since those early humans didn’t have the technology to fleece and descamgramify themselves before setting their fires, and since chaos is badness, then it was only a matter of time before badness set in.  Yes, sure, for a while, they set their fires to keep themselves warm, cook their meat, and keep predators away, and all was well.  But then they started to encircle their campfires with rocks.  And then it was only a matter of time till they used some coal, and noticed that these particular rocks were very peculiar, because they burned just like wood!

            “So a few of them here and there started to burn coal.  And then one day they burned some coal formed around those seventy-five-million-year-old pickle jars.  The imprisoned souls, captured and tortured so long ago by the Cruel Galactic Emperor Zebu, were then let loose upon an unsuspecting humanity.  Ever since, we humans have been mercilessly befestered by what we now know as bloody metans and scamgrams.

            “But then, only recently, the Great One and Spirit Guide of All Omnologists, He Who Fleeces Our Scamgrams Away, Ale Run Hubba-Bubba, came to Earth and set us all free!  Or, at least, he sets free those of us who heed His Word.  Now that He has revealed the technologies that can set us all free from chaos, badness, scamgrams, and bloody metans, there are three paths that you can go by.  You can rationally understand Omnology as a science.  Or you can intuitively understand it as a philosophy of life, a religion.  Or you can reject it altogether, and continue in your present misery, chaotically scamgramified by clusters of scamgrams and bloody metans.

            “So in our particular individual Church of Omnology, as opposed to the overall Church of Omnology, we have chosen to represent the three paths with the three of us.  Vyizder Zomenimor, Orziz Assiz, Zanzer R. Orziz.  We represent your three paths.  Through the wisdom granted to us by Ale Run, Vyizder and I can cast out your scamgrams and fleece your bloody metans.  With Ale Run’s guidance and generous donations to the Church, you can learn and advance as far as you’d like to go.

            “You can specialize in the rational and technological route, following Vyizder.  Omnology is a very technical and impressive science, as you can tell by our technical vocabulary, and by the LEDs and beeper-speakers on our V-Meters, which the self-chosen worthy ones among you will get to see later.  Or you can specialize in holistic, intuitive approaches under my guidance.  Either way, you can learn all about what, exactly, scamgrams and bloody metans are, and how best to fleece them away.  What, exactly, the difference between descamgramification and fleecing is, and when it is best to use the one, or the other.  All sorts of deep technical knowledge awaits those who find themselves worthy to live a life free of scamgrams.

            “Or you can ignore our warnings, and listen to Zanzer.  You can continue on a road paved by bloody metans and littered with the wreaked shards of unfleeced humanity.  The road to scamgramification, that is.  It’s all up to you.  I wish it weren’t so, but we’re all free to choose chaos and badness, as well as descamgramification.  But Ale Run in His Wisdom has declared that we, the fleeced, must allow the unfleeced to freely depart from us.  He says that when we spread The Word, and the people won’t allow us to fleece them, then we should shake the dust of their bad vibes from our shoes and depart from them, or they from us.  We cannot allow the unfleeced to scamgramify the fleeced!

            “Enough preaching.  We Omnologists aren’t into nagging, or the laying on of guilt trips.  Guilt trips are a prime example of unfleeced scamgramification.  We don’t ask for much in artificial constraints on your behavior.  Once you’re fleeced of your scamgrams, you can just go with the flow, do what comes naturally, and live a guilt-free, happy, descamgramified life.  All human metans are basically good, once scamgrams are fleeced away.  So all that we ask is that you be fleeced or descamgramified on a regular basis, and that your charitable contributions go to the correct accounts.  We have a matrix, descamgramification versus fleecing on one axis, operating metan advancement versus maintenance on the other.  Since chaos is badness, proper accounting procedures must be followed at all times.

            “Now let’s move on to the part we’ve all been looking forward to.  That’s the part where you get to tell everyone else who you are, where you’re coming from, and what your vibes and troubles are.  What your scamgrams are, and what you hope that the Church of Omnology can do for you.  We in the Church of Omnology are very informal.  This part of our services is actually almost the very best, because we can all tell it like it is.  We are all very, very strongly encouraged to be totally, totally and completely honest, and tell everyone all of our innermost, deepest beliefs and feelings, because all beliefs and feelings are valid.  As Omnologists, we are empowered, so we need never deny our feelings.  When we are totally honest this way, and accept the validity of everything, then this part of our service is very powerful medicine against scamgrams.  So once again, I encourage you all to be as honest as you can be.

            “Then after that, we’ll have the very, very best part of the service, which is when we get out our V-Meters, and fleece your scamgrams away.  So that’s where we’re headed.  But now, since we’re coming up on these most important parts of our service, we must first invoke the presence of The Benevolent One, The Mighty Fleecer of All Scamgrams, Ale Run Hubba-Bubba.  Omnologists usually join in, here, but since y’all don’t know the words yet, Vyizder and I will recite:

 

Ale Run is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He validates all my feelings,

and leads me to descamgramification.

He fleeces my bloody metans away,

and the LEDs of His V-Meter light The Way.

Yea though He leads me through

the valley of the shadow of discomfort,

I will fear no inappropriateness,

for Ale Run is with me.

Your V-Meter’s Technology comforts me.

Surely perfection and descamgramification

await me all the rest of the days of my life,

so long as I contribute to Your Church.

 

Our Fleecer, who art descamgramified,

Hallowed be Thy Name.

Thy polls go up, thy Wisdom be acknowledged,

In Panderwood, as it is in the Church of Omnology.

Bring us this day our daily session with a V-Meter,

and let its speakers beep, and its LEDs shine brightly.

Fleece us, as we fleece others.

Lead us not into scamgramification,

but keep us safe from bloody metans.

 

            Chapter 10 has some endnotes about being chronically fatigued of horse’s patooties.


 

11) Fleecing the People and Casting Out Scamgrams

            “Whether Hale-Bopp has a companion or not is irrelevant from our perspective... The Joy is that our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the Kingdom of Heaven) has made it clear to us that Hale-Bopp’s approach is the ‘marker’ we have been waiting for¾the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take us home to ‘Their World’¾in the literal heavens.”  From the Web site of Heaven’s Gate.  39 of their members committed mass suicide, leaving behind their “earthly containers” to go hitch a ride on some alien spacecraft that we weenie unbelievers can’t perceive.

 

            “And now,” Orziz continued, “The time has arrived.  Time for us all to speak honestly to each other, and tell each other all about ourselves.  Remember, it is of utmost importance, if we are to achieve the healing effects of this part of our Omnological services, that we all be as completely and utterly honest as possible.

            “I’ll start off by saying quite honestly that although all of us human metans are equal in the sight of Ale Run, some of us have more power to spread The Word which sets us all free from scamgrams than others.  Along those lines, I am very, very pleased to see that we have with us today the famous Panderwood actor and actress, Jon Travibesty and his wife, Julie Peston.  If we can get them to see Ale Run’s wisdom, then there is much cause for celebration, for they have the power to spread The Joy of His Word far and wide.  And I’ve noticed that quite a few of you have spent more time staring at them then you have listening to me and to Vyizder.  That’s okay, though.  Their vibes are strong.  I can tell even without my V-Meter.  So we understand how you are all fascinated by them.

            “Along these lines, then, I’d ask that Jon and Julie go first, so that we can all satisfy our curiosities, and then maybe we can pay better attention to the rest of us, when our turns come, instead of wondering and whispering about Jon and Julie.  So Jon, please stand up and go first.  Tell us who you are, where you’re coming from, why you’re here, what your troubles are, and what you hope that The Church of Omnology can do for you.  And don’t forget to be totally honest.”

            Jon stood up.  “My name is Jon Travibesty, and I’m a famous Panderwood actor, and you’re not.  I’m tall, dark, and handsome, and I have a square jaw, as you might have noticed.  That’s why they pay me twenty million dollars per movie.  And Melvin Swine pays me millions more to endorse his fragrances.  I’m in town here in Madness County because I wanted to visit my mother, and because I wanted to make a token show of mingling with the common folk out here in Hicksville.  I was hoping to get some media exposure, so that more people would see how utterly handsome I am, pay to see me in more movies, and make me even richer.  So that’s why we have so many cameras here today.

            “I was just passing through, and I saw the signs up in front of the Soulorama.  Then I got to thinking, you know, I have almost all that life has to offer.  Fame, a wife whose body everyone lusts after, a fifty-thousand-square-foot home, many obviously expensive cars, suits, boats, camels, goats, horses, trainers, coaches, and therapists, three private airplanes, bodyguards and servants to help me blow my nose, wipe my butt, and take care of my children.  But there’s just something missing.  Some part of me left unfulfilled.

            “Pondering just what it is that I’m missing, I can’t help but think some, um, of what I’d like to very modestly think are some pretty deep thoughts.  I’m thinking thoughts of, like, um, I’ve got all these things that make everyone pretty much aware that I’m an important and powerful kind of a guy.  But then, everyone in Panderwood, all the actors and actresses and producers and directors, even some of the script writers, they’re all important just like me.  And they all have big houses, fancy cars, expensive jewelry, herds of cows and sheep and goats and lusty young babes and handsome young boy toys and therapists and all, so how am I different than any of the rest of them?

            “So I’ve been sitting here thinking, you know, like, if I should join a totally whacked-out, bizarre, and far-out cult, with really strange beliefs, then I’d get a lot more media exposure, even more people would notice how handsome I am, and everyone would be impressed that I’m really, really, really important, because I can afford a really exotic status prop.  I can throw money away right and left, even for expensive nonsense like pseudo-scientific, technobabble-laden genuine imitation spiritual advancement, and never even blink an eye.  So then Melvin Swine will pay me even more to endorse his fragrances, and maybe I can make thirty million per movie.  So that’s what I’m hoping that The Church of Omnology can do for me.  And y’all don’t forget to see my movies, and wear Melvin Swine fragrances.”

            Everyone¾well, almost everyone, excluding radical extremists, of which there weren’t too many present¾clapped and cheered.  “Well, thanks for your honesty,” Orziz replied.  “I’ll bet Omnology can make your wildest dreams come true.  We’ll certainly work on it.  And now let’s hear from your wife, Julie.  Now Julie, don’t forget to be totally honest, just like Jon.”

            Jon sat down and Julie stood up.  She draped herself all over Jon and purred, then stood back up.  But she massaged his shoulders and caressed his face and hair while she talked.  “Hi.  I’m Julie Peston, and I’m deeply, deeply In Love with Jon.  In fact, I’m far more deeply In Love with him than any human being has ever been In Love with anyone before, in all the history of the world.  So I’m hoping that everyone will notice, not just how utterly handsome he is, but also, how utterly sexy I am.  How I’m so sexy that a man of Jon’s wealth and power finds me worthy.  Then all the men will lust after me, and the women will want to know all my secrets, so everyone will want to see me in the movies, and all the women’s magazines will want to interview me.

            “I’ll help them tell all the women that the way to be fabulously wealthy and famous, and to snag rich and powerful men, is to be beautiful.  Above all else, don’t forget to be beautiful.  This will fit right in with the magazine’s theme statements, which in turn helps them sell advertisements.  Happiness and success are all about buying the right rouge, makeup, eyeliner, dresses, houses, cars, furniture, cigarettes, and liquor.  These things help give you women the right alluring qualities to snag a rich, handsome man like I’ve got.  So don’t forget to envy me, because that helps make me get interviews with the women’s magazines, helps them sell advertisements, boosts my fame for being famous, and helps me make more movies.

            “What am I hoping that The Church of Omnology can do for me?  Well, I’m looking for something more, spiritually.  If the women’s magazines interview me, and they ask me about my spiritual life, and I tell them something conventional, boring, and unpleasant, that their readers don’t want to hear¾oh, for instance, that spiritual growth is hard to come by, that one has to work at it, suffer pain for one’s mistakes, ponder long and hard, personally, without letting anyone else make one’s decisions, to divine God’s will, and to practice discipline and self-restraint, for the longer-term good of everyone¾why, then, my value as an interviewee goes down.  People don’t want to hear that.  It’s boring, plain, unoriginal, and unpleasant.

            “If, on the other hand, I can tell them that my Spirit Guides have assured me that all that I need is the right technology, and enough cash to donate to The Church to entitle me to salvation, then that fits in with their theme statements and their advertisements a lot better.  Spiritual perfection is an ingredient of happiness just like makeup, cars, houses, furniture, liquor, and cigarettes, see, and they can be had for the right price, and that’s what I’ve got to push, if I want to help them sell advertisements.  We wouldn’t want to disturb the readers.  Bad feelings are bad, and chaos is badness, I heard you say.  I agree.  So I’m pretty optimistic that maybe The Church of Omnology has what I need.”

            There was another hearty round of applause, although a discerning ear might have picked up a few “boos”.  Orziz was still clapping and cheering after almost everyone else had stopped.  “Fear not, my pretty young lass,” he intoned, “Omnology has technology for every need.  All you have to do is to listen to your Spirit Guides, make generous contributions, and in turn be fleeced and descamgramified on a regular basis.  Everything will then be perfect forever for you.  This simple Truth is the brilliant essence of Omnology!”  Then he pointed at Raoul, saying, “All right.  Let’s hear some yabbering from some ordinary Joes.  You.  Now be honest.  But don’t go on all day.  Other people want to talk, too.”

            “Um, yeah.  I’m like a Sensitive Dude.  My name is Raoul Kinky, and I’m a poet, a writer, a photographer, and sometimes even an actor.  Now I’ve not made it to Panderwood, I’m not famous, but I am a truly Compassionate and Sensitive sort of a guy.  I’m from around here.  I eat quiet food, food that doesn’t scream of mass murder, which means I’m a vegetarian, and I’ve suffered from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, MCS, until I bought this here technology, it cures MCS.”  He hefted his Dream Catcher.

            “Since I got my MCS cured, though, I’ve caught CFS, which is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  So I’m looking for a cure.  I’m sure hoping that CFS is just a scamgram, and that you can fleece it away.”

            “Oh, yes,” Vyizder rushed to assure him, “We can cure your CFS.  CFS, as you’d hope, is, indeed, just another scamgram.  So is MCS.  Cancer, colds, stomach problems, zits, bad breath, obesity, poor circulation, amputated limbs, death, they’re all nothing but scamgrams.  With sufficient donations and fleecings, and if you believe in the Power of Ale Run strongly enough, all these things and more, all can be cured.  So stick with us, and you’ll be fine.  You can even part with your Dream Catcher.  We have technology for every problem, don’t you worry about that.”

            “Good, good.  Great!  Glad to hear that,” Raoul replied.  “Although I’ll want to keep my Dream Catcher just out of sentimentality.  Other than that, what do I want out of The Church of Omnology?  Well, I was sure hoping to validate my feelings of moral superiority.  You say that all feelings are valid.  That sounds good.  So, as an Omnologist, would I be able to, for example, feel morally superior to those who murder meat-bearing animals?  Wear leather?  Use soap made from dead animals?  Brush their teeth, murdering millions of innocent bacteria?  What do you say?”

            Vyizder and Orziz paused, shuffling back and forth a bit.  Orziz spoke up.  “You’re dangerously close to listening to the whispers of Zanzer, there.  Yes, all feelings are valid.  Some, though, are more valid than others.  When you’re judgmental about other Omnologists, though, you make them feel guilty, sometimes, and guilt laid on an Omnologist is one of the ultimate scamgrams, for we are all equal in the eyes of Ale Run.

            “Specifically, for example, in the kinds of issues that you raise, Ale Run has said that it isn’t that which we eat, wear, or bathe with, that makes us unfleeced, it’s that which we withhold from The Church of Omnology.  Our money and our honesty, primarily, among other things, that is.  So we can’t really quite say that you’re listening to the whispers of Zanzer, yet, because you’re being honest.  But you must work on not judging your fellow Omnologists, some of whom indulge in meat, leather, soap, and tooth paste.”  Orziz stared at Raoul expectantly.

            “Yes, I can see the wisdom of Ale Run shining brightly through your words,” Raoul admitted.  “That’s all I’ve got.  Now, I’d like for everyone to meet my domestic partner, Francestuous Johnsdame.”

            Francestuous got up and said, “Like this man here, my companion human, said, I’m Francestuous.  Not that I couldn’t have said it myself.  Anyway, there it is.  I’m Francestuous, an independent woman.  I’m from like around here.  I’m a poetess, an artist, and sometimes an actress.  Or, at least, I’d sure like to be a paid one.  But I guess I wasted way too many years as a farm housewife, trying to do what I thought were my duties, instead of flowing with the vibes.  So now I’m getting older, getting closer to being over the hill.

            “What do I want from The Church of Omnology?  Well, I want to have someone put meaning and excitement into my life.  But really, what I want is to be like a rich and famous actress.  So I read all the women’s magazines, follow all the beauty hints, and try to stay up with all the goings-on in Panderwood.  Some sunny day, when someone notices all my beauty and talent, I’ll be right on top of things.  I’ll move right on into Panderwood, and people will think I’ve been there like all my life.

            “I suppose I might be asking for a bit much.  For now, I guess I’d settle for some help with my relationships.  For one thing, now, my companion human, here, Raoul, he’s not too bad, as men go.  He knows how to light a cigarette, how to open a beer can, and how to love a woman.  But, you know, when we go out on overnight camping trips on our bicycles, Betsy and Herman, well, Raoul, here, when he puts his toilet paper on the handlebars, he like puts it with the paper rolling off of the top.  I think that’s inconsiderate male chauvinism.  The protruding paper is like a phallus, and he insists that it be on top!  So I think we need some help with our relationship.”  She glanced sidelong at Raoul, who gasped and floundered in silent astonishment.

            “Yes, yes,” Orziz proclaimed, “I can see that you do.  But don’t forget, we have technology for every need.  Technology for every relationship, even.  Trust us.  We’re brilliant, hip, and up with the latest!  And don’t be afraid to dream.  If we’re going to be the big hit in the Panderwood scene that we expect to be, especially if Jon and Julie here help us, why, then, you never know.  The sky’s the limit.  Everything is possible; you just have to believe in yourself.  Now, Francestuous, is there anything else we can help you with?”

            “Well, yes.  About that moral superiority thing, and all feelings being valid, but some being more valid than others.  Can we who are like intimately in touch with the vibes of the Earth Goddess feel morally superior to those who aren’t?  Like, Raoul and I never hardly ever drive fume-belching monstermobiles.  We almost always ride our bikes.  So what’s in this for us, if we’re not like allowed to feel morally superior?  Or are we, in this case?”

            “That’s kind of a touchy subject you’ve brought up there,” Vyizder replied thoughtfully.  “I’d say it all depends.  Like not driving motor vehicles, for instance, that’s fine, but it would be scamgramified to lay a guilt trip on another Omnologist over that, usually.  Especially if they’ve been faithfully donating, and getting fleeced and descamgramified.  Now if, on the other hand, you want to feel morally superior to oil company executives or tobacco lawyers, and there are no such types of metans in the fellowship of Omnologists currently present, why, then, Ale Run and I see no reason why your feelings should be any less valid than anyone else’s.  So as you can see, it all depends.  It’s usually best to just ask your Spirit Guides.  Next?”

            “Howdy,” a middle-aged, burly man in beat-up old overalls spoke up.  “They calls me Harvey da Honeydipper.  Ah’m a local yokel, an’ Ah earns a honest livin’ by cleanin’ out people’s septic tanks.  Two hundred bucks a crack.  Call me any time.  Now, Ah don’t make no twenty million bucks, not in several lifetimes.  Twenty thou on a good year’s more like it.  Ah nevuh learnt ta read or write so well, but ah ken clean your tank just like a ringin’ da bell!  Ah’m not nobody’s fool.  Ah knows rotted old poop when Ah sees it.  Or when Ah smells it, fer that matter.

            “Ah ain’t no dumb hickabilly just ’cause Ah talks funny.  Ah ain’t never went ta school much, but Ah done thunk about a lotta stuff a good long time.  Now Ah doesn’t hold nobody’s religious views against ‘em, not so long as they’s gots a lick a common sense an’ consideration fer others.  But it seems ta me, today’s religions, they’s got being saved, but nothin’ ta be saved from.  All sorts o’ fancy talk, believe this or believe that, do this or do that, an’ you’ll be saved.  But saved from what?

            We’s gots a lotta talk, but not much meanin’.  Say somethin’ with meanin, and ya might offend somebody.  Say people shouldn’t sleep with anybody unless they’s ready to deal honestly, fairly, and responsibly with all da possible results, and you’s just a prude, not with it.  So we’s got being saved, lotsa talk about being saved, but nothin’ about what we’s bein’ saved from.  Not that Ah’s into guilt trips, as y’all say.  Ah’s into thinkin’ ‘bout what Ah does, what it does ta others, and how ta live best, believin’ in what Ah sees, an’ listenin’ ta common sense an’ conscience.

            “Maybe we should feel guilty when we does bad things.  Maybe we are personally responsible fer the bad things we does.  Maybe we should stop blaming Satan, the Devil, scamgrams, an’ so on.  Maybe we should say, ‘Ah was wrong, and Ah won’t do that again.’  Ah even been able ta teach my kids ta say that now an’ then.

            “So Ah’s lookinfer a Church that’s about real stuff.  A Church that’s a gonna tell me what’s good an’ what’s bad, not just ta ‘lay a guilt trip’ on me, but why good is good an’ bad is bad, and when somethin’ is sometimes good an’ sometimes bad.  Mostly, though, Ah wants ‘em ta reason an’ think with me, tell me why, an’ work with common sense an’ what we sees.  Not a bunch a empty words.

            “Christ died fer our sins; He washes our sins away.  Ale Run fleeces our scamgrams away.  What’s it all mean?!  How’s it relate to my life, an’ how Ah can live a better life?  What’s we bein’ fleeced of?  What’s a scamgram?”

            “Now I see Zanzer whispering in your ear,” Orziz warned.

            But Harvey went right on.  “Well, come on, now, tell me.  What’s a scamgram?  Why should Ah believe in them?  Why should Ah be fleeced?”

            “Because you’re befestered with massive clusters of scamgrams and bloody metans, that’s why!” Orziz thundered.  “They’re plain for any trained Omnologist to see,” he continued more quietly.  “Now we can help you if you’ll let us.  And we can explain scamgrams and bloody metans to you.  But that takes a lot of time, a lot of training courses, and, of course, lots of generous donations to The Church.  Now if you’ll stick around and get out your checkbook, we’ll fleece you all in good time.”

            “Ah don’t wanna be fleeced until y’all explains what Ah’s bein’ fleeced of,” Harvey insisted.

            “Zanzer’s shouting in your ear now,” Orziz grumbled ominously.  “Can’t you see?  He’s leading you down the path to destruction right now.  Scamgrams, if you must know so soon, are, in very simple terms, those thoughts that make you ignore your Spirit Guides.  Like right now.  You can shut Zanzer out, sit quietly, and wait to be fleeced soon.  If you make an extra donation, Vyizder can even take you into the back room and fleece you right now.  But you’ve got to stop listening to Zanzer right now, before you scamgramify the whole congregation.  Got it?!”

            “Ah’s gots it.  Y’all wants ta fleece my money away from me.”

            “That’ll be enough!” Orziz bellowed.  “Now go get fleeced right now!  Or leave.  Pronto!”  Vyizder stood and beckoned towards the back door.

            Harvey stood up taller, put his hat on, and walked towards the front door.  “Like Ah says, Ah knows rotted old poop when Ah sees it,” he announced.  Ah’m outta here.  Y’all take care, now.  Don’t let the scamgrams getcha.”  Then he slipped out the door.

            Orziz sighed and continued.  “Now, people, if you don’t want to be scamgramified by massive clusters of scamgrams, it would be best if you’d just forget all about what that stupid, nasty man said.  It’s best that we all put his scamgram-befestered thoughts out of our minds, just as we flushed his unfleeced body metans out of our presence.  Now will y’all please stand up.”

            Everyone was taken by mild surprise, but everyone stood up.  “Now shake the dust off of your shoes,” Orziz commanded.  Everyone made motions of shaking and brushing their shoes.  Then they all sat back down.  Orziz gazed expectantly towards another member of the congregation, who reluctantly stood back up.

            “Um, yes,” the beautiful, dark-haired young woman submitted quietly.  “I’m Dorcas Whistling Elk.  I’m an anthropologist from the Pawnee tribe.  My people have sent me forth to study the ways of the White Man.  And the White Man’s, um, sidekicks.  So that’s why I’m here today.  Now if you don’t mind, I really don’t want to participate, I just want to observe.”  She started to sit back down.

            “No, no, now just wait a minute here,” Vyizder objected.  “We Omnologists are very broad-minded, and we’re all in favor of having all sorts of different people learn all about everyone else.  Now why don’t you just go ahead and ask about everything you’ve got on your mind.  I’ll bet many of the others here, they’re wondering about the same sorts of things, but they’re too shy to ask.  So go ahead.  Fire away.  We’ll answer all your questions.”

            “Well, okay, then, great!” Dorcas replied.  “Now I’m wondering about a lot of things.  I’ve heard about a lot of what Pale Face does, but I’m still quite ignorant.  So I hope you’ll excuse me for asking stupid questions.”

            “There are no stupid questions,” Vyizder interjected.

            “So then, do you, like, um, have these ceremonies where you chug wine, I mean, drink the blood of Ale Run, and eat, like, bread that’s actually his flesh?  And this sets you free of your scamgrams?  And is Ale Run the Father, then, or the Son, or the Great Spirit?”

            “No, ma'am, I’m afraid you’re confusing us with some other folks,” Orziz admitted politely.  “That’s not quite right.  That’s not us.”

            “I’m sorry, I guess I must’ve learned some wrong things.  I suppose I’ve got to ignore all those wrong things, and start with the basics.  So then who is your God?  What is He like, and what does He command that you do?  And does He have an enemy, an opposing force?  Do you have prophecies of the future?  Will there be an end time?  What will it be like?”

            “No, ma'am, Omnology has no God.  There is only Ale Run and His Words, which will never fade away.  Ale Run is completely free of scamgrams and bloody metans, and He commands that we try to join Him in this state of perfection.  All we need to do, then, is to be fleeced and descamgramified on a regular basis.  It’s that simple,” Orziz replied.  “As to the enemy, the end times, and what they’ll be like, no one but Ale Run knows.  If anyone but He should know about all these things, such knowledge would interfere with the fulfillment of the prophecies themselves.

            “But thoroughly trained Omnologists do eventually reach a high enough level to learn a lot¾not everything, just a lot¾about the enemy and the end times.  All that I can tell you for now is, yes, there will come an Anti-Hubba-Bubba, and that time is soon.  No one but Ale Run knows the day or the hour, but the Anti-Hubba-Bubba will come.  He’s probably walking this Earth as we speak.  For all we know, he might be in this room right now, here with us.”

            Everyone cast sidelong glances at their neighbors and hunched back into their chairs.  Dorcas continued, “Well, then, besides being fleeced and descamgramified on a regular basis, what, exactly, is it that Ale Run commands you to do?  Surely there must be more!  Doesn’t Ale Run, like, tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to treat others the way that we wish to be treated?”

            “No, ma'am, you’re confusing us Omnologists with some other folks again.  Omnologically speaking, all that a metan must do to be fleeced, is to take advantage of Ale Run’s amazing new technology!  If you’re fleeced and descamgramified on a regular basis, then all else will flow from there.  The White Man has many, many different beliefs, but only Omnologists have the One and True Wisdom of The Ages, which are contained in The Words of Ale Run.”

            “I’m sorry,” she replied.  “It’s just that you all look so much alike.  I thought that the White Man’s beliefs were cute, simple, and comfortably, refreshingly quaint.  But now I guess I’m seeing that there’s many, many different groups of Pale Faces, and they all believe different things.  So you’ll have to excuse my ignorance.  I’ll have to go off and study these things, I suppose.  Could you tell me where I might buy the comprehensive Omnological works of Ale Run, maybe?”

            Astonishment washed over Vyizder’s and Orziz’s faces.  Outraged, Orziz declared, “You think we would sell The Words of Ale Run?!  Why, why...” he sputtered off into silence, lacking words with which to convey his shock and amazement.

            “Well, sure, why not?” she replied.  “You say you want all peoples to know all about the others.  I think that’s just great!  So sell me a copy of his central works, so I can learn.  Or donate them to me, whatever, if buying and selling offends you.  Maybe I could make a contribution?”

            “Oh, yes, yes, by all means,” Orziz rushed to assure her.  “You can make a contribution at any time.  Please feel free.  But we can’t give or sell you His Words.  They are Sacred, Priceless, Treasured, and Descamgramified above all else.  And they’re very, very Powerful.  So Powerful, as a matter of fact, that novices, newcomers to Omnology like yourselves, you can only be exposed to tiny little pieces at any given time.  You have to advance through our fleecing and descamgramifying sessions, one stage at a time.  Else you’d be totally overwhelmed, and unable to appreciate The True Wisdom of His Words.”

            Dorcas wouldn’t give up easily.  “Well, how about if I try to maybe just study them, academically, detached-wise, not trying to understand The True Wisdom of His Words so much as simply trying to study the beliefs of the White Man?  As an anthropologist, not so much as an Omnologist, I might be able to handle...”

            “NO!” Orziz thundered.  “You Native Americans, you cultural imperialists, you, you come here and gawk at the quaint customs of the White Man, and then you try to steal our culture!  You think you can just go and buy our Sacred Spiritual Secrets, just like you’d buy some beads, blankets, or a quart of whiskey!  Well, we’ll just say no!  No!  There!  Got that?!  We say NO to cultural imperialism!

            “Cultural imperialism is a scamgram.  Zanzer is whispering in your ear.  You’ve got to wait patiently for The Words of Ale Run to be revealed to you, just like everyone else.  You can’t buy your quickie ticket to salvation.  Not from us Omnologists, you can’t.  Now you can just ignore Zanzer, sit there, and be fleeced in a little while.  Or if you can’t resist Zanzer’s lies for just a few minutes, then Vyizder can fleece you in the back room, right now.  But this cultural imperialism has got to stop.  We can’t tolerate such sheer scamgramishness.  Okay?”

            “Well, okay, I guess,” she murmured.  “So how much does it cost to be fleeced?  I’m not rich.  I’m just a poor student.”

            “We don’t charge money for fleecing.  That would be gross, crass, and materialistic.  We take donations.  Those who donate are entitled to be fleeced.”

            “So how much does one need to donate in order to be fleeced?”

            “Oh, approximately nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents, for four minutes and thirty-five seconds of fleecing.  Give or take.  Not that we’re into counting our pennies.”

            “Well, I’m afraid I can’t make those kinds of donations.  Is there any other way I can learn The Words of Ale Run?”

            Just then, a beeping sound burst forth from behind the podium.  Vyizder and Orziz consulted there briefly, stooping to stare at a hidden object.  Then they straightened up solemnly.  Orziz announced, “We’ve already noticed that Zanzer is whispering cultural imperialism into Ms. Whistling Elk’s ear.  Now our V-Meter tells us that she’s contemplating searching for fallen members of Omnology, and gaining access to illegal copies of Ale Run’s Words.  We must warn against this in no uncertain terms.  The Words of Ale Run are Ultimately Powerful.  To those who are properly trained, they lead to freedom from scamgrams and bloody metans.  For others, who steal His Words, they lead to nothing but endless pain and agony.

            “Ms. Whistling Elk, we’ll have to ask you to leave now.  And we’ve got to warn you, if you publish unauthorized copies of The Words of Ale Run, you’ll be prosecuted.”

            Dorcas Whistling Elk got up to leave.  Four others rose with her, heading for the door.  “Wait!” Vyizder proclaimed, “Why are you leaving?”

            “I ain’t got no thousand dollars for no five minutes of gettin’ fleeced,” one of them yelled, scurrying out the door.  “You be a bunch o’ jivinmuthus,” another one added.  “You be a coupla chitlins short of a picnic.”  “Tell ‘em, my man, tell ‘em,” yet another one chimed in.  “Dood B. Bad, you tells it like it be!”

            “When you get tired of all your scamgrams, come on back!” Vyizder called out after them.  “I just hope it won’t be too late.  All right now, class, everyone stand up.”  Everyone stood up and brushed the dust off of their shoes once again.

            “Let’s get on with the service,” Orziz added.  “You there.  Who are you?  Where you from?  What can we do for you?”  He nodded towards a nervous-looking young lady.

            “Hi, we’re Polly Hydrahead.  We’re the leaders of all my various multiple personalities.  There’s about thirty of us, give or take, depending on the weather, the phase of the moon, which shrink we’re talking to, and the ratio of how much our landlord is charging per person, versus SSI benefits per person.  Right now there are twenty-eight of us.  Please allow us to introduce all of us.

            “Right now Polly Hydrahead is talking.  She’s actually five different personalities, but we five have all reached consensus amongst ourselves.  So we’re pretty tightly integrated.  So much so that we don’t even insist on separate names for ourselves, for right now.  But there’s still five of us, sometimes more, especially when the SSI folks are counting, calculating our benefits.

            “We Polly Hydraheads are pretty reasonable, middle-of-the-road kind of folks.  Not all that argumentative, like some of the other people who share our body.  We seek common ground and compromise.  Like when one of our, um, companions, Violet Passionflower, insisted that we attend a womyn’s protest meeting, we went along.  But then, some of the womyn at the meeting were going topless, to protest about how men could do this, and womyn couldn’t.  Others said no, look at how all the men are coming by to stare and ogle.  Going topless just promotes turning womyn into objects.

            “Well, a lot of us¾all thirty-something of us¾were all ready to get into a big fight about that.  It was looking pretty bad.  But then us five Polly Hydraheads, we were the calm heads that prevailed.  We compromised.  We just showed one breast.”

            Everyone stared at Polly incredulously.  “Don’t you get it, you silly people?”  They just continued to stare.  “That’s the problem with the world today,” she declared.  “People simply don’t know how to compromise any more.  See, some of us thought we should go topless.  Others thought we shouldn’t.  So we went half topless, half clothed.  Like this, you morons!”  She reached over her back, unstrapped her bra, and started to pull one breast out.  The crowd watched, fascinated.

            Suddenly, Polly’s demeanor changed.  She writhed briefly, and then a new voice spoke up.  “Hi.  I’m Miss Prissy, and you can’t see my breasts.  Neither one!  Not unless you spend a lot of money on me first, and tell me a lot of good lines.  Especially the ones about how you’ll respect me in the morning, and call me.  I’m no slut, like those Polly wenches.  They...”

            Polly/Prissy convulsed again.  “Hey!  Who’re you calling a slut, you whore!  You’re the one who slept with our old boss, you filthy wench!  We never consented!  So he raped us, and it’s all your fault!”

            “Excuse us, please.  Polly Hydrahead here again.  Our slutty sister, Miss Prissy, here, she gets us into all sorts of trouble.  Some of us think it has to do with today’s excessively permissive and promiscuous ways.  Miss Prissy has been watching too many soap operas.  So she married this guy and had a kid with him, all because he manipulated her.  Told her he loved her, stuff like that.  But we weren’t consulted.  So we had him busted for rape, and now we have custody of the kid.  We’re trying to straighten out Miss Prissy’s messes.

            “We’re working three jobs, trying to give Junior a decent upbringing.  Meanwhile, Miss Prissy’s One and True Love can’t even hardly ever seem to send us a child-support check, and...”

            Polly’s body twisted, and Miss Prissy spoke up again.  “Yeah, well, if Brad wasn’t making humongous payments to his lawyers to keep him out of jail, all ‘cause of you and your silly rape charges, then maybe he’d have some money to give for supporting Richard.  And maybe Brad would feel more like sending money if you hadn’t gone and shacked up with Frank.”

            Miss Prissy cringed and twitched, and a new voice took over.  “Hi.  I’m Aunt Diluvianne Marmish.  Pleased to meet you.  Now you can see how all my nieces here have managed to make our lives just one big mess.  I believe in being responsible.  If you mess up your bed, you should either fix it up, or lay in it.  And if you get laid in it, then you’ve got to lay in that, too, and not lie about it.  Not tell no lies, like it was someone else’s fault.  Take care of yourself, and of your own.  Don’t go running off and blaming everyone else, and trying to make them pay for it.

            “Now for example here, Miss Prissy married and slept with Brad.  And she even lived with him, too!  So she not only slept with a married man, she was even living with him, too!  And Polly Hydrahead, they never did nothin’ to stop her.  But they was there, too, see, and so they’re responsible.  Tolerating is like tacitly approving, like I say.  So now Polly Hydrahead is, um, are shacked up with Frank, yet she expects Brad to be sending child support!

            “Well, I just don’t know what this world’s coming to, these days.  Brad went off and did the morally upright, responsible thing, and he got married to his new woman.  And he makes good money.  Yet Polly, who are poor and shacking up with another man, expect Brad to send child support!  So Polly are setting a bad example to little Richard by living in sin, being irresponsible, and Brad is being a much better example and makes more money, yet Polly keep custody!  Seems to me, we could give custody to the parent with more responsible lifestyle choices.

            “The laws are all messed up.  Frankly, child support laws, just like welfare laws, do some good, but they also do more harm.  Child support laws prop up women in their poor choices of mates.  ‘Well, yes, this man might be unreliable,’ women now say to themselves, ‘But I’ll go ahead and sleep with him anyway, ‘cause I can always rely on the Welfare State to squeeze money out of him if we have a baby and it doesn’t work out right!’  This is all just insane!”

            Aunt Diluvianne shuddered and disappeared, becoming replaced by yet another voice.  “Hi.  Violet Passionflower here.  I can’t believe the male-chauvinist fascism of that evil Aunt Diluvianne!  What repressive patriarchy!  Blame the victim!  Punish the poor and powerless, and then stigmatize them for being poor, powerless, and punished!  Self-righteously dump on poor ol’ Polly Hydrahead and Miss Prissy, here, blaming the victims, then advocate punishing them and all the other poor unwed mothers, taking their welfare and child support away!  Have you ever heard of such ruthlessly punitive self-righteousness?!

            “I mean, come on, now.  If all the dads and taxpayers out there were allowed to make their own choices, they’d all spend every last dime on beer, cigarettes, and trailer parks!  They’d never spend one lousy dime for all the oppressed poor folks, ‘cause they’re all a bunch of cheap, rotten, selfish, lazy bastards, and we all know it.  Damned greedy taxpayers!  It’s only by the enlightened Power of the People, as expressed through the collective voices of Compassionate Voters like me, that poor people can ever make any headway at all!

            “People, listen to me!  We can’t go and judgmentally punish poor people like Polly Hydrahead and Miss Prissy, just ‘cause their lifestyle choices are different than ours!  Miss Goody Two-Shoes here, Aunt Diluvianne, she’s stigmatizing single parents and their lifestyle choice in ‘shacking up’, which is entirely a valid lifestyle choice, and why be so judgmental?  Cheapskate scum won’t allocate any of their funds to the Betterment of Peoplekind, unless we voters, exercising the collectively morally superior Will of the People, make their charity choices for them.  After all, they are totally worthless cheapskate scum, who act in a morally repugnant and judgmental manner, when they question, and refuse to fund, the lifestyle choices of single mothers who just happen to want to ‘shack up’ with their partners.  I just hate that, when people become so quick to condemn others and our moral choices.”

            “Um, yes, I agree,” Orziz gently interrupted.  “All feelings and all lifestyles are equally valid, so long as we’re all fleeced and descamgramified.  But, now, we’ve, um, we’ve heard a lot about you¾some of you, at least¾but we still haven’t heard about what you expect that The Church of Omnology could do for you.  Could you all maybe fill us in on that?”

            “Oh, certainly,” Violet replied.  “I can tell you what I expect out of a church.  I expect social activism!  If a church doesn’t work for the Betterment of Peoplekind, then what is it good for?!  So tell me, what social causes does The Church of Omnology support, and how does it provide this support?”

            “Oh, we fleece people’s scamgrams away, and we descamgramify their bloody metans.  All else flows from this.  If everyone would only be fleeced and descamgramified on a regular basis, everything would be perfect forever.  Now, do you or any of the rest of you have any more questions for us?”

            Violet shuddered, and another personality appeared.  “Hi.  I’m Frank.  Yes, I’m the one that’s ‘shacked up’ with Polly Hydrahead.  What do I want out of The Church of Omnology?  Glad you asked!  What I want is a validation, a destigmatization, a descamgramification I guess if you will, of me and my lifestyle!  I’ve been to all sorts of churches, and none will sanctify my marriage to Polly!  Talk about your bluenosed self-righteous holier-than-thou prudes!  Some of these churches, they marry gay lesbian fornicators and cross-dressing adulterous kumquat molesters and celibate self-abusers, some who amuse themselves by abusing themselves, and others who abuse themselves by not abusing themselves, and all sorts of other lustful, wicked sinners.  But none of them will marry Polly and I, just ‘cause we inhabit the same body!  So tell me, will The Church of Omnology sanctify our marriage?  Maybe stop some of the endless bickering over how we’re ‘living in sin’?”

            Orziz muttered to Vyizder for just a few seconds, then Vyizder announced, “We can’t give you a one-hundred-percent guarantee, because we’ve never run into this sort of thing before.  However, we promise to elevate this to The Supreme Spirit Guide, Ale Run Himself, and get a ruling.  However, we’re almost absolutely positive that this will be permitted, especially if you and Polly donate for fleecings on a regular basis.  After all, Omnologists are very tolerant.  All lifestyles are equally valid.  We Omnologists aren’t int