Curate of Curiosities

The Apocalypse Is Off Its Meds

DIY Novel Kit (pg 27-55)

Previously on the DIY Novel Kit, we met a man living on a deserted island, who rambled on about a movie that he believes will bring about the end of the world. Also, he thinks you, the reader, are his mistress, and wants to penetrate you with his DNA delivery organ. Meanwhile, he and every other human on earth are slowly being transformed into cicadas due to the influence of aliens that both live underground and inhabit people's souls.

All of this is in the first 30 pages of an 82 page manuscript.

Across the room, I see a lab-coated man seated at a bank of computer monitors, working the knobs on a sprawling control board. The central machinery is familiar. Could it be – yes, it’s Seymour Cray’s 6600. Three hundred fifty thousand transistors and one metal plaque -- Property of Ozona International.

The man in the labcoat is one Dr. Adolfo Morel, who apparently works for the aforementioned company. If the name sounds familiar to you, then it's because Morel is the name of the manufacturer of the dream-manipulating implants mentioned earlier in the novel.

When the narrator tries to address him...

I cast about for the right phrase, but the words will not come. Something is wrong. The words orbit around me, detached and paralyzed, exiled and numbed by the habit of self-grief.
I see another metallic snake, this one affixed to my navel.
I want to pull it out, but I can’t seem to make my hands work. Something is stopping me. I am blocked by – cloth. I am encased in a black cloth sack. I stare out through two holes, a deep sense of separation and dejection, of dizziness and disorientation, suddenly transcended by the scent of roses, mystic icons weeping blood, statues moving of their own accord, a cloud formation in the shape of a well-known corporate logo emitting a bolt of blinding white light. I try to speak, but my mouth doesn’t work, either.

We don't really get an explanation as to why he's tied up like this, other than it being part of the script.

“He’s precisely as advertised,” he remarks, his countenance suggestive of a young Albert Einstein. “An authentic neurotic with free flowing discharge.”
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Your palms. In the initial draft, The Stranger wrote you as a stigmatic."
The black sack is now gone, so I can see myself again. Sure enough, my hands are bleeding.

You know, compared to what we've seen of this movie so far, making its main character into a Christ figure seems awfully pedestrian.

The scene continues with the doctor explaining his motives:

“Life will be strictly controlled through the imposition of an entire collection of electronic manuscript requirements. The Wise Ones will subject residents to electronic boulevard search and seizure by skinless auditors, who will wear tin stars affixed to their erect DNA delivery organs. The goal is total sexual demoralization. Official notations will be entered into the genetic ledger, and those without the proper notations will be subject to indefinite nude incarceration in ashen-walled prisons comprised of vanishing brick and mortar, an uncertain state of affairs that will inevitably result in charges of jailbreak. The problem will be defined as a noxious chemical imbalance, of course, treated with Fluoride9. So as you can unmistakably comprehend, the industrial options are infinite.”

I...really have nothing to say about this.

Moving on, our main character has a dream while asleep in his own room.

A dream from my early 20s: I am bitten by a winged demon, transforming me into a Hell’s Angel. I join a band of these pitiful creatures flying through the night. We are circling a house (or perhaps a town), then I realize that dawn is approaching. We must leave, go down to the underworld to escape the rising sun. I am sad because I realize I can never again be part of the waking, daylight world. I fly with the evil ones now, life through oxygen containers and I.V.s, prepared for a satin-drawn coffin, arms folded like bat wings and lip stitched together in a silent scream.

He wakes up, puts on the dream implant, and goes back to bed.

This aerial entity possess within it a sort of stage -- no, a screen. It is a drive-in movie theater, and the show is already playing. I am still too far away to make out all of the action, but it occurs to me (in that strange way knowledge sometimes just seems to come to you in the dreamscape) that my judgments, or expressions verbalized in my brain, are representing themselves on the movie screen.
I am the director of my own movie.

Right, right. We get it.

He goes on to find himself transported to a small town, where he meets his long dead great-grandmother. He tries to ask her what the afterlife is like, when something unexpected happens.

Suddenly I am propelled upward toward the ceiling, tossed skyward as if by an unseen hand. Then I fall to the floor. Perhaps this visitor is not Nanny at all. Time to escape. I run for the door.
I decide the lights are already turned off, so all I need to do is lock the door and return to the safety of my family at the nearby store. Only I can’t get the door to latch. I’ve set the door knob button to lock, but the door will not hold. I even tear away some foam weather stripping that I think may be the problem. Still no luck. Then I glance back inside the store for one final look. A vinyl restaurant chair is moving about all by itself , and I know immediately it is being propelled by a demonic force. So that is it. My store is really a diner for demons.

Well, that's dream logic for you.

The narrator goes back to lecturing you on the symbolism of what he just told you:

Through the Archetype of the Alien, I firmly believe we can pursue the interpretation of reality as a subject of general story believability and then proceed to – eh, what’s that?
Oh. Well, that is interesting that you are most drawn to the sexual imagery. Perhaps pornography is my special gift.

Trust me, it isn't. I would appreciate it if you would stop talking about penetrating people with your DNA organs.

Of course, he keeps talking about his mistress...

Luh is neither virgin nor whore. She is a being of the unconscious, a tour guide to the internal existence, an arbitrator of waking world awareness of the often ambiguous landmarks and residents of inner reality. She assists in the investigation of significance and is the inspiration of and for the existence of the movie director. In short, the muse is an escort through – and at the same time a personification of – the Land of the Dead.

Naturally, he continues to conflate the reader with her:

So, perhaps you are the muse after all. In light of this revelation, I am going to skip ahead in the narrative and tell you about the time the son of the muse – our love child? – tried to murder me.

Well, clearly something has gone horribly wrong if your own son is trying to kill you.

In the ensuing scene, the protagonist is given a laptop by his mistress, but as soon as he turns it on for the first time...

Suddenly, the computer begins to change in my hands. The white plastic case darkens to a light bronze flesh tone. Arms and legs spout from the various serial ports. It is becoming a doll -- but not a nice one. This is a homicidal Chucky doll, writhing and struggling in my hands, its face twisted in hate.

It's at around this point that I've given up trying to make out what is "real" in the context of this novel.

And while your still processing a laptop suddenly turning into a killer doll, the narrator gives us yet another apocalyptic vision:

Here’s one way the world ends: I am in Louisiana, walking east along the El Camino Real towards Fort Jesup, the capital of the Land of the Dead. I come out of the ancient turpentine mist and the dripping Spanish moss and the pines and find myself at Trinity Baptist Church, the same one my grandparents belonged to (and many of my relations still do).
But all is not well. The front of the building is gone, sliced off like a piece of cheese. The pulpit and pews are all in place. But, no -- that’s not right. Because I can see into the basement. It is flooded with water, creating a sort of pool. A concrete ramp disappears into the water, suggestive of a boat ramp at a lake.
From out of the ruins, I am greeted by an old man in a plaid flannel shirt and a short, neatly trimmed beard. I learn that he is a former pastor of the church, now retired. He tells me he is in the process of restoring the old chapel. But after he took off the front of the building, it rained and the basement filled with water.
I am sad, for I realize that the church had been safe all these years but due to his ill-timed restoration efforts it is now in danger of total destruction. Surely, the cost of repairing the water damage is beyond the means of this old man. Still, I am happy that I have rediscovered the old church, which I thought had been demolished decades ago. At least I am seeing it for one last time, a joy flowered in difficulty.

A church being demolished does not an apocalyptic vision make, you know.

We are immediately shown a conversation between the narrator and one Sam Cunningham, a police officer. Sam has had his budget and pay cut due to a false accusation. He seems more sympathetic than anyone else we've met so far, so naturally, I expect him to be made utterly irrelevant as this "story" goes on.

I found the next few pages to be a bit hard to follow, but I'll summarize them as best I can:

The narrator goes into a house that appears to be themed after a UFO, only to be driven away by its residents. He is chased by a policeman, but is able to escape when he is pinned down by a passer-by.

Eventually, we are treated to what I can only assume is another scene from his movie:

A strange and disquieting morning, my beloved creations. It takes only a couple of queries to confirm my suspicions, unbelievable and unacceptable as I find them to be. This is the day I learn that Jehovah, the creator and sustainer of Planet Earth, has been arrested.

Arrested? Really? Did someone finally have enough of His passive-aggressiveness?

Word of this amazing development apparently came months before, when a giant clock suddenly materialized in the eastern sky. The world watched in dumbfounded amazement as the hands climbed to 12 o’clock, then dissolved into a giant head. This head bore a kind and benevolent expression, a unique countenance the citizens of the planet instantly regarded as the face of a god (or, depending on personal religious beliefs, a rock star or JFK).
“Greetings, Earthlings,” the giant head entones. “I am R.E.L. Four, a citizen of the unseen, metaphysical world many of you know as Heaven. Today the Tri-Lateral Court of Cosmic Affairs administered warrants for the arrest of Jehovah (aka Yahweh, God, the Almighty, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, Allah, Krishna, Zeus, et al) for various and sundry crimes against humanity.”

Apparently, this R.E.L. Four, another deity, has read through the Bible and from what he found there, saw God as unfit to reign over humanity.

As such he decides to take God's place, but it quickly becomes clear that he is way in over his head:

[...]R.E.L. Four quickly discovers that homo sapiens have a lot of needs and wants, many of which are in extreme conflict.
Take the Republic of Texas, for instance. The Americans of the East Coast and southern California did not like it that Texas had become an independent nation. Talk about your impossible alternate realities. And yet, somehow under the watch of R.E.L. Four, the Republic of Texas had come into existence. The history books said it began in 1861, when a 20th century nuclear weapon fell through a black hole and into the hands of Sam Houston.

Needless to say, our God would never allow something like time-traveling nukes.

We go back to the narrator, who tells of another encounter with the alien cicadas.

The giant cicada stands on its back legs, revealing an exoskeletal underbelly of armored plates the tint of washed out gray. A whirring, rasping voice comes out of a vibrating membrane on its thorax.
“First remove the log from you own eye, then you can help your neighbor remove the speck from his,” it says.
I drop my drink, and the carmel colored liquid bleeds into the thick wool berber. My heart staggers. Caught in a crime (and by a Bible-quoting extraterrestrial).

I was expecting this to be as nonsensical as nearly every other time the cicadas were brought up, but believe it or not, this scene turns out to have some significance.

The creature’s name is Bellero Shield. He tells me he is a traveler from inner space who arrived in the Land of the Dead via a Sunday afternoon rerun of a 1964 episode of The Outer Limits.

His name isn't that important, and neither are his origins. What is important is what he reveals to the narrator.

“Do you not recall the first words of the alien in ‘The Revolution of Zion,’ a QCT Drama Special based on the extremely applauded work of print fiction of the same name?”
“You remember it fondly because you are a being of the movies,” Bellero explains. “And, of course, the movies are you. The epic film is employed to provide the pattern for our manifestation. Earthlings are unique among the sentient beings of the cosmos. It is normal for your species to have a split personality, living one utterly neglected, unacknowledged way in the metaphorical inner world and one far-too-obvious-and-self-aggrandized way in the literal outer world. What your species does not yet realize is the Deity is not an absolute life form living in the back of beyond. Nor is He a supernatural creature in outer space or the heavens. He is not restricted by occasion or location, the past or its formation.”
“So what is He?”
“The Deity is the underpinning of all existence. Everywhere else we have traveled the reasoning beings already know this. They are of one mind, understanding the universe and its creator as we do. The inner and the outer are just one world. They live in that one world at all times, all feet regardless of number simultaneously in the inner and in the outer.”

In other words, the Deity is omnipresent, permeating all of existence. This appears consistent with the fact that he was introduced quoting the Bible.

“And that, Roland Hayes, is why you should understand that you have been given a great gift – an Incredible Revelation. You are among the first Earthlings to experience life as it is experienced by the creatures of the rest of the universe, the creator manifesting itself in the creation. You are seeing the culture’s communal, extra-worldly perception concretely realized in the waking world. The dream made flesh.”

This, probably not so much.

I have seen zero instances so far of the narrator experiencing anything from anyone else's point of view, much less the collective experience of the whole universe. Even the apocalyptic visions are both set in places that the narrator is already familiar with.

The cicada goes on to explain that the narrator is destined to bring about "the conclusion of time" in the name of the Deity.

Meanwhile, remember the clock in the air? More people are starting to take notice:

The old men at the Circle L have their theories about the aerial timepiece, and they aren’t afraid to share them.
"I tell you, it's a commercial for television," Toots says.
Roy shakes his head. "I tell you, it's an alien spaceship.”

The narrator chooses this time to approach a representative of the local news and report on what he saw.

So I tell him about my Vision, my Incredible Revelation, about how I dreamed the clock in the sky and the radio transmission from the Deity.
“When I awoke from the clock dream, I felt myself inundated with a feeling of nearly divine grace. It was almost as if I came from the Deity, a canary in a coal mine, first-line detector of brightness and vanity, depression as an entitlement, a civilization in which everybody is fraudulently performing instead of genuinely existing.”

Naturally, the representative is a bit hesitant to believe this.

“Well there you are, Roland. You were in the Exogrid. It’s just a hallucination.”
“No, the clock is real. And so is the Muse Sound System.”
“They could be false memories, implanted while you were onbeam.”
I know he could be right. But I don’t believe it.

At this point, even I'm not sure what's real or not.

The narrator has another vision, but he doesn't say whether or not it's apocalyptic in nature:

In this vision, I arrive at a desolate - perhaps abandoned - shopping center where in recent times the owners have shown drive-in movies on the side of one of the buildings. A sort of guerrilla-style drive-in theater. But when I get there, the movies are no more. This was apparently the last drive-in theater in the world. I am sad, for this is surely the End of the Age. Then it occurs to me that I should start my own drive-in theater. I am sure I could make it work. But I realize this is not realistic for I have no start-up capital.

Of course, this doesn't sound like anything we haven't already heard from him before.

In the next scene, the narrator tries to tell someone else about his visions, but is interrupted by a sudden explosion coming from the parking lot. Of course, this reminds him of a scene from earlier in his life:

I launch a homemade rocket, but it is not stable. My creation falls to earth in flames, resembling a fireplace log wrapped in burning newspaper. This occurs on a hill behind my house. There should be no hill here, only a vacant field. Yet there it is. And over the top comes a platoon of soldiers, ready to take the hill. They are streaming over it, engaged in battle. Explosions! Gun fire! War! I can hardly believe it. All this initiated by the crash of my harmless homemade rocket.

This leads him to think that the explosion is a direct result of the visions that he has been having. The news agency, for some reason, decides to humor him:

“I’m seeing a definite first-person piece,” Kyle says. “We’ll headline it ‘Crazed Dreams: Phantasms of a Psychotic Son.’ Roland, have you ever been treated for a mental illness?”

At this point, from everything that we've seen so far, he should seriously consider it.

However, it looks like the agency is seriously trying to cut a movie deal with him.

The next scene...just look:

Machine gun fire strafes the front of the strip center, showering the sidewalk in white Venetian plaster and plate glass. Guy is the first inside, huddled behind a wall of burlap sand bags that has suddenly appeared in the middle of the newsroom. He hands each of us a green Army helmet and an AK-47.

It turns out that the agency is going through a "newspaper war," hence the use of real assault weapons.

However, at the very end of the scene, one of the agency employees remembers something.

"Wait, what am I doing?" he asks. "I almost forgot about the certificates of achievement."

Everyone goes back to the office to pick up the achievements--being accosted in the meantime by an elderly coworker--and, with little fanfare, present the narrator with one.

He goes on to claim that he has two different mental disorders. The first that he names, which he claims to be self-diagnosed with, is called Dream Anxiety Disorder, and has the following symptoms:

The other, which he makes up on the spot, is a mixture of symptoms of different mental disorders, which he calls Post-Modern Prophet Disorder.

While it certainly makes sense for him to be mentally ill, I can't help but feel that this is a bit of a cop-out.

The newspaper war continues to rage on, and the narrator recounts yet one more apocalyptic vision:

Here’s one way the world ends: You are part of a group on a river tour, traveling in canoes. You are nearing the destination. The slow moving river flows through a stone canyon which centuries ago had been carved into a city. It is incredible, the ruins of an ancient civilization. On the right you see a set of steps lined with large pots -- perhaps waist height -- and it's all carved from the stone walls of the canyon. Your sons are with you, so you direct their attention to this incredible site. So perfect, it reminds you of the way Disney would build a set of ruins. Then on the left you see a flat area, apparently a stage. At the rear of this stage is a stand of palm trees and in the trees is a flock of red, tropical birds. There are no people yet, and you are a bit apprehensive. Will the locals be friendly?

If, from reading this paragraph, you are led to think that this isn't much of an apocalyptic vision at all...

Then you would be right, as the scene mainly goes on to show that the narrator is undersupplied for his camping trip. From what I can tell, nothing even gets destroyed in this scene.

This is not a good sign, especially now that we know for sure that he's mentally ill.

To be continued...