The first novel in the Conspiracy trilogy by Casey Alden Free Chapter Previews Download #1
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Excerpted from Conspiracy by Casey Alden. Copyright ÂŠ 2010 Casey Alden/Fehrman Books. Excerpted by permission of Fehrman Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. A free excerpt courtesy of Fehrman Books. www.fehrmanbooks.com
Fehrman Books Fehrman Books 3701 Sacramento Street, #343 San Francisco, CA 94118 www.FehrmanBooks.com This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the authorâ€™s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions hereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Fehrman Books, 3701 Sacramento Street, #343, San Francisco, CA 94118 Copyright ÂŠ 2010 by Casey Alden ISBN 978-0-9842001-1-5 First Fehrman Books Edition January, 2010 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Manufactured in the United States of America
Acknowledgements No creative work is ever a lone effort, but rather a collaboration. Even if an author or artist believes a work is the result of a single mind, it is likely that the outcome was influenced by a wide range of experiences and interactions. Sincere thanks to Lorin Horosz for sharing his knowledge and expertise, and to all the other friends who made contributions toward the creation of this venture.
Only the Initiates can see through veil to the truth beneath. â€“The Man
Fact •This is a work of fiction, however, the historical data are factual. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were involved with the occult and the supernatural to the extent that Hitler sent expeditions searching for an ancient, priceless object. It was believed that whomever possessed this object would be invincible. • Stenonychosaurus was a dinosaur of the Cretaceous period. It was about two metres long, walked on its long, thin, hind legs and had long thin arms with long thin fingers. A carnivore, Stenonychosaurus had four toes, one very short and spur-like similar to a bird’s foot, and three toes used for walking. The middle toe was short and equipped with an articulated claw. The head was quite large with a large brain cavity and large eyes. •In 1982, paleontologist Dale Russell, curator of vertebrate fossils at the National Museum of Canada in Ottawa, speculated on how evolution would have proceeded if the dinosaurs had survived the extinction. Russell speculated that a species like Troodon (stenonychosaurus) would have grown smarter and taken on a human-like appearance. Russell partnered with taxidermist and artist Ron Séguin and together they made a model of what a derived, intelligent Troodon would look like, naming their fantasy creation a “Dinosauroid” (Russell & Séguin, 1982). Some paleontologists, such as David Norman (1985) and Cristiano dal Sasso (2004) have regarded this as a plausible line of reasoning.
11. Kama rushed from Fuzio’s restaurant. His brain was spinning out of control. Drinking wine on an empty stomach was a bad idea. He ran to the gutter and vomited, humiliated that people passing by could see him. Still, it was better than vomiting in the restaurant. A whale. The body is a whale. Purging the contents of his stomach cleared his head. He felt shaky, but better. The body is a whale! Suddenly he understood. It wasn’t Marcus Church who had washed up on the beach. It was just a whale. The realization flowed through his body, unknotting muscles, alleviating the pain in his neck, taking away the terror that had been stalking him. He realized he was smiling and simultaneously wondered what people passing by must think of him, standing there in a pool of vomit grinning to himself. I just left Mitch sitting there. Should I go back into the restaurant? He decided he had humiliated himself enough for one evening. He would go home. He could always phone Mitch later and say he left because he felt sick. It was the truth anyway. Or, maybe he would just never see Mitch again. Maybe he would put the whole incident behind him and go on with his life as though the other night had never happened. Yes. It was obvious that’s what he should do. The universe had given him a gift. Who was he to refuse it? He had probably been making too much of the whole incident anyway. After all it wasn’t like it was a two hundred foot plunge down that cliff. The old man could have just rolled down to the road, gotten up
and gone home. It was possible. That’s probably what happened, Kama decided. He had been stressing far too much over nothing. As Kama maneuvered his motor bike toward home, he felt as though he had won the lottery. His spirits soared. Life was good. He was free! He was safe. No one knew anything. He had regained control of his brain again. Now, maybe he would be able to tackle that stack of translations that had been piling up. Although Kama had lived in the U.S. for many years, his early Japanese upbringing was still very much a part of him. He had a strong sense of honor and duty. It had bothered him that his work had been piling up, but his mind had been in no condition to function on the level required for detailed translations. He liked working for Translations, Inc. It allowed him to work from home which was so much better than having to show up to an office every day. Translations Inc. had been good to him and he owed them his loyalty. By the time he got back to his studio, he was feeling like his old self again. The ride home in the night air had cleared his head and now he felt remarkably good, not the least bit tired. He decided to continue with the translation he had begun before all this had happened. He had been working on a highly confidential document, translating it from Japanese into English for one of Translations, Inc.’s best clients. At least, that’s what his Project Manager had told him. He had also been told to make sure he got the translation right. A lot depended on it. From the tone in his PM’s voice he knew he had better pay close attention. Kama’s studio was small, minimalist, and very efficient with everything kept neatly in its place and
nothing nonessential. He loved translating and now that his mind had returned to normal, he was looking forward to getting back to work. He switched on the computer and while it was booting up, he went to the kitchen and began eating some leftover noodles. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was until he began wolfing down the strands of buckwheat soba which he washed down with a Coke. Feeling fortified, he then set to work. He began by rereading the sections he had already translated to reorient himself. “George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was born in 1872 in the Caucasus region of Russia, of Greek, Armenian, and Russian ancestry. He claimed to have met members of a Hidden Brotherhood while traveling in Asia, and they initiated him in the occult tradition. After returning to Moscow, Gurdjieff started an esoteric school where disciples were supposed to be taught how to reach higher levels of consciousness through meditation exercises. After the school’s success he opened a similar one in Paris. Gurdjieff has always been an enigmatic figure. Some speculate that he may have been sent by the Russian authorities to Tibet as a spy. Others affirm that while in Tibet he was actually the man known as Dorjieff, the preceptor of the Dalai Lama. According to some sources, it was in Tibet where Haushofer met Gurdjieff and became one of his adepts. On the other hand, it is evident that Gurdjieff never held the Nazis in high esteem. While visiting Berlin during the height of Nazi power he and a small group of disciples were watching a street parade, which he begin to satirize loudly. Somebody called the police and he was about to be hauled to prison, but was eventually dismissed as a madman. On the other hand, it seems that Haushofer was somehow influenced by Gurdjieff’s teachings, which held that men are asleep, just waiting for a strong leader to force them to awake and become
supermen. Gurdjieff also believed in the legend of the Masters of Wisdom, superhuman intelligences who keep a careful watch over the destiny of mankind and intervene whenever human affairs get out of hand. Even more, he believed that he himself was in direct communication with a source of higher energy from which, through him, his disciples could draw.â€?
Kama had not previously paid that much attention to what he had translated. He had been too distracted by events surrounding the old man. He had never before heard of Gurdjieff, not knowing that he had a loyal following and was considered a spiritual figure by his followers worldwide. Now he read it with a sense of interest, recapping its content in an effort to better understand it, to make sure he had translated the essence of the document, and scanning ahead to capture the gist of it. Just as many religions have been introduced during the current cycle of humanity, there have also been esoteric teachings that teach how to do what the esoteric part of religion preaches. Gurdjieff had said an esoteric teaching is preserved in secret in special schools and with its help it is always possible to rectify what has been distorted in religion or to restore what has been forgotten. All the religious revelations had failed to create the New Man needed to fill the enlarging gap. Gurdjieff warned: â€œHumanity is at a standstill and from a standstill there is a straight path to downfall and degeneration....There is nothing that points to evolution proceeding. On the contrary when we compare humanity with a man we quite clearly see a growth of personality at the cost of essence.... Contemporary culture requires automatons. And people are undoubtedly losing their acquired habits of independence and turning into automatons, into parts of
machines.... Man is becoming a willing slave. He no longer needs chains. He begins to grow fond of his slavery, to be proud of it. And this is the most terrible thing that can happen to a man.”
Kama continued to read further in the document. Gurdjieff predicted that the eastern world would again rise to a position of world importance and become a threat to the momentarily all-powerful, all-influential new culture of the western world dominated by the United States, a country that was very strong but also very young. Gurdjieff said that one should look at the world in the same way that one would look at another person. As there were two sides to a person, there were also two sides to the earth. To bring each of these sides together so that people might live in peace and harmony was the one fundamental purpose of all messiahs and messengers from the gods. He said that time was very short. That it was necessary to achieve this world harmony as soon as possible to avoid a complete disaster. How many times have I heard that! More ramblings from another nut case. And yet, something in those words resonated with Kama. Lately, Kama had been required to translate a whole series of manifestos, journal entries, and letters between people discussing the most bizarre concepts. He took most of it with a grain of salt. He continued scanning the document. It seemed that Gurdjieff had developed an esoteric teaching called The Fourth Way and believed that the earliest indications of the Fourth Way lay in prehistoric Egypt—an Egypt that existed before recorded history, which dates from three thousand B.C. There was a quote from Gurdjieff which read: “It will seem strange to many people when I say that this: prehistoric Egypt
was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ. In other words, the Fourth Way predates not only Christianity but the Egyptian, Judaic, Persian, Buddhist and Islamic religions.”
Kama read it twice. It made no sense. He picked up the original document which was housed in an old oncetransparent celluloid sleeve which had become clouded with age. He pulled the papers from the sleeve. They felt strangely sticky and brittle, as though they might crumble to the touch. He handled them carefully and reread the passage he had previously translated. It came out the same, but it make no sense. How could Christianity have existed in ancient Egypt before Christ was even born? He must have translated something incorrectly. He looked at it again, but it still translated the same way. Maybe I’m more tired than I thought. He could not remember when he had last slept. His adrenalin was wearing down now, leaving him feeling exhausted. Time to go to bed. He did not even bother to brush his teeth. He just lay down fully clothed and melted into the futon. He was just dropping off to sleep when the phone rang. Hell! He reached for the phone and mumbled, “Hello.” No one answered. “Hello?” he said again. Still there was no answer. He was about to slam the phone down when he heard breathing, slow and steady. “I know someone’s there. Who is it?” Then a man’s voice said. “I saw you and the old man at Land’s End.” “Aaagk.” The strangled cry escaped Kama’s lips. “Who is this? Who is this?” he repeated frantically.
But the caller had hung up. All that night, waves of panic gripped him again. Someone knows! Someone had seen him with the old man. Finally out of sheer exhaustion, he fell into a fitful sleep, but he could not find peace even in sleep. He tossed and turned and when he did sleep he dreamt of a strange, snow covered place with dark shapes reaching out toward him. Over and over again they said: Tokyo no sora wa kitana-ku narimashita. The sky has become dirty in Tokyo.
12. It had been a long day. Mike was wet, cold and tired. Even worse, he was dissatisfied. He seldom felt that way, usually being quite stoic about his lot in life. He had always tried to make the best of things. When he had hated moving so much as a child, he rarely complained, even when it meant being constantly uprooted from school, from friends, from familiar things. Mike Cross had attended forty-three schools in five countries before he reached the tenth grade. He and his mother moved constantly, seemingly on her whim. By the time he was twelve, Mike realized that moving was the way his mother solved problems. She was totally incapable of tackling adversity head on. If things did not go well, she simply moved on to the next place where things would be rosy for a time until conflict found her again. He had complained only once. He had been at St. Monica’s Elementary School for four months, longer than he had ever been anywhere. In that time he had made friends and was looking forward to taking part in the eighth grade graduation ceremony. He had arrived home from school to find his mother taping shut the last of the packing boxes. Something snapped inside him and he refused to go. “No. No. It’s not fair. Why are you always making me move? I like it here,” he had said. She had tried to explain that things weren’t going well. They had to move on to a better life. But he had been tenacious. He refused to budge. It wasn’t like his usual self, but he had had enough. They arrived at a compromise. They would stay for one more month until
graduation, then they would move again. That afternoon his mother had been stung by a yellow jacket. Her arm had swelled to horrific proportions, looking like a sausage ready to burst out of its skin. He had gone with her to the emergency hospital and sat by her bedside during the week when her life hung in the balance. She recovered and he never again mentioned staying on for graduation. As soon as she was discharged from the hospital they moved again. It took him years to get over feeling guilty. He knew logically that he had not caused the wasp to sting her, but logic and guilt are seldom related. That had been a turning point in his life. The point at which everything had begun to change. Mike listened to the rain drizzling down the windows. He reasoned that the best thing about a rainy night was its invitation to a good book, a hot toddy, and a comfortable chair. Mike had all three. He settled into the well worn leather wing chair, took a sip of his warmed brandy, and picked up the book he had begun the day before, the work of a somewhat obscure nineteenth century French author named Louis Jacolliot. Jacolliot was an avid student of occult literature and many of his books reflected that interest. The main theme of his books dealt with the idea that modern civilizations were originated from a single, primordial nucleus, which was the same for India, western Asia, and Europe. The Semitic and Indo-European races were not different at the beginning, but the Semitic races degenerated in the process, while the Aryans remained pure. A code of law ruled civilized people, the Code of Manu, name of the divine ruler in India, while in Egypt he was called Menes,
Moses among the Hebrews, and Minos in Crete. According to Jacolliot, Jesus Christ is but a recent reconstruction of an old Indo-Aryan tradition, that of Iezeus-Christna. Jacolliot proposed that Jesus of Nazareth was only a different characterization of the same person. Sounds fairly sacrilegious, Mike thought. With more than a few racist overtones. Jacolliot wrote of a magical Northern European civilization named Thule. The superior beings of Thule lived in huge caverns in the entrails of the earth and possessed an extraordinary source of magic energy: the Vril. The theme of the Vril is exalted in most of Jacolliot’s writings. Vril is an energy latent in people, which they utilize only fractionally. It is the source of divinity, the source of the anticipated superhuman. Whoever discovers Vril and masters its use acquires great powers and can become a master of men. Yeah, yeah, and there really is a Santa Clause. Why in hell did I start reading this? Then he remembered it had been recommended by the new Chair. Well, better keep him happy. At least I can learn a few key words to give the impression I read the thing. Mike doggedly read on, learning that Jacolliot believed he had discovered the existence of Vril among an Indian sect called the Jains, who are still active in the regions of Mysore and Gujerat, and to this day count millions among their followers. Apparently, Jacolliot’s discovery of Vril created extraordinary interest among European intellectuals of the day, avid to learn about traditional oriental wisdom. Inspired by Jacolliot’s writings a group of Rosicrucians from Berlin founded the Vril Society at the end of the
nineteenth century to divulge the writings of the French master. Thatâ€™s enough of that. Mike tossed the book aside. He was not in the mood for some strange, pretentious drivel. You have to wonder where the Chairâ€™s head is, recommending this book. Up his ass, no doubt, as I suspected. Mike felt uncharacteristically restless. Irritable. He could not even get comfortable in his favorite chair. Something was bothering him. For days he had been pushing it to the back of his mind. But now, in the solitude of his own home on a rainy night, it nagged at him. He could not avoid confronting it. His life was beginning to unravel. Maybe Iâ€™m having an early mid-life crisis. Is it early? Or is thirty the appropriate age for a midlife crisis? He assessed his life. He had a pleasant place to live, work that usually pleased him, but virtually no lasting relationships. The constant moving in his early life seemed to have stunted his emotional ability. He quickly grew tired of people. They confided too much, told him things about themselves that he did not want to know. And, even worse, they expected the same in return. Women particularly expected him to share his feelings and thoughts with them. Students unloaded on him constantly. It rattled him. It was the reason he hated cell phones - the inescapable attachment that resulted from being constantly accessible. Frankly, he preferred his own company to that of most people anyway. They demanded more than he could give. And so, his existence was fairly solitary. And he liked it that way. Until now.
Lately it had begun to bother him. He wanted something more. Perhaps it’s some weird biological thing that makes people need to spawn like salmon. Perhaps all these feelings are about some primal need to reproduce. Mike resented the idea that he might have no more control of his life than a salmon struggling against the rapids to return to its place of birth, reproduce, and die. He deeply resented that biological urges might drive him to do things he might not otherwise even consider. Perhaps it’s not loneliness. Perhaps I need to return home. The thought came to him out of nowhere. It made no sense to him. I am home. This is the only real home I’ve ever had. Mike had lived at The Cottages for nearly five years. He had moved in the same year he began teaching at the university. It was the longest he had ever lived anywhere. Maybe the only reason I’ve stuck it out so long is because the place is so anonymous. In all the years he had lived there, he had barely spoken to anyone. He did not even know his neighbors. In fact, the thing that had most attracted him to his condo was its secluded location. Most of the units had front doors which faced onto a common central courtyard which had a decorative pond with floating waterlillies, large tubs of potted plants, and benches where people could sit and enjoy the view but rarely did. Each building offered two units with lots of privacy, where the front door was secreted behind a bend in the corridor, adjacent to a stairwell that led outside the building. When one of these units became available,
Mike jumped at the chance. He enjoyed the feeling that his condo was a private home, something he could not afford. So, he considered it the best of both worlds: affordability with a private entrance. Since Mike lived on the second floor, he most often used this seldom traveled entrance, bypassing the lobby and elevators altogether. Normally, Mike thought of rainy nights like this as heaven sent. He enjoyed the solitude of his books, his fireplace, and his leather chair. Perhaps if he read something that interested him, he would become absorbed by it and this restlessness would leave him. He picked up his lecture notes. He was preparing an article on cosmetics in antiquity and he needed to review what he had written so far. He began reading: â€œThe sophistication of Egyptian cosmetics was only eclipsed by the advanced design of the beauty equipment. Mirrors of polished metal have been discovered in tombs dating from the sixth dynasty, about 2800 B.C. and kohl vases of glass which date from 1500 B.C. Queen Hetepheres, mother of the Pharaoh Khufu who built the great pyramid of Giza, had in her tomb thirty alabaster cosmetic vessels and a beautiful toilet box of eight inscribed alabaster jars, some still fragrant with unguents dating from antiquity. There was a whole range of toilet implements in gold, copper and flint. Exquisite cosmetic containers were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, including a make-up chest in cedar and ivory inlaid with black pigments, plated in silver and gold and decorated with magical symbols. Other tomb excavations have yielded a wealth of cosmetic implements, such as manicure tools, razors and blades made of gold. Some implements were decorated with the ouroborus, an ancient Egyptian infinity symbol. The ouroboros is depicted as a serpent biting its own tail. Symbolically, the serpent puts its tail in its mouth and is continually devouring itself.
â€œIn the Egyptian Book of the Dead the cobra snake is seen as the symbol of Earth. The ouroboros represents; rebirth, immortality, the round of existence, evolution, continuity, and perpetual movement of the universe. It symbolizes unity and infinity, with no beginning and no end. The cycle of day and night, life and death, heaven and earth, good and evil are all represented by the endless turning on itself. It was a symbol in both Egyptian and Greek mythology.â€?
Mike tried to concentrate on reviewing the article. It would be the perfect time to write. He would be able to work undisturbed for hours. But his mind was too active. There was too much to think about. Too much to be done. On this night he felt urges that he could not ignore. He grabbed his black leather jacket and went out into the rain.
13. “I need you to be my legs today,” Gigi announced. “Certainly. How can I help?” Monica replied. “There’s someone I want you to meet. An antiques dealer. Connie Hauser. Here’s the address.” Gigi handed Monica a folded vellum card with the initials G.G. embossed on the front. Inside was the address written in Gigi’s spidery script. “Connie has some information to give you. Pay close attention. Then, when you’ve finished, come back here and we’ll discuss what you’ve learned. Oh, by the way, you should know that Connie has an eye for the ladies,” she added. Oh great. Now I’m going to be hit on by a dyke, Monica thought, but she said “I can handle myself.” Gigi smiled enigmatically. “I’ll expect you back this afternoon.” Following Gigi’s directions led Monica to an unexpected part of the city. Most of the high end antique dealers were in Jackson Square or the area around the San Francisco Design Center. This address was at the end of Third Street, through the Mission District, almost to Hunter’s Point. Not exactly the high rent district. Monica took note of groups of young men hanging around liquor stores. They could only be described as gangs. Drug deals were being done openly as though a police force never existed in the area. The cops probably give his place a wide berth. Even panhandlers and the homeless stayed away from this area.
She took a right onto Custer, a barely maintained road filled with potholes. There were no sidewalks, just a row of derelict warehouses on each side. She parked in front of number 31, grateful that she did not have to walk in this neighborhood. There was a large, typical warehouse door big enough to drive a truck through, with a human scale inset door. She tried turning the handle but it seemed locked. She looked around but could find no doorbell or other means of attracting attention. She tried rapping on the door. It was solid steel and hurt her knuckles. She resorted to kicking it hard, making as much sound as she could, then reached back into her car and honked a few times for good measure. The door opened a crack. “Yes? What do you want?” “I’m Monica Caldwell for Connie Hauser. Gigi Greenwood sent me.” The door swung open. A fiftyish man with a receding hairline stood smiling on the other side. He wore beautifully tailored gabardine slacks, yet the sleeves of his white shirt were rolled to the elbow, sending a mixed message. Wealthy but a worker. “Ah. Come in. I’m Conrad Hauser. Gigi will have her little joke. She’s the only person who calls me Connie. I’ve been expecting you.” Conrad looked at Monica a little too appreciatively, making her feel immediately uncomfortable. Gigi had been right about his attraction to the ladies. Monica stepped through the door and crossed into another world. She felt the way Howard Carter must have felt when he first entered Tutankhamun’s tomb. That day in 1923 Luxor could have been no more astonishing to its
observers than the sight that Monica saw as she entered Conrad Hauser’s warehouse. She stared wide-eyed at the treasures that were packed into the cavernous space. The interior of the warehouse had been divided into beautifully designed galleries, each containing rare and ancient artifacts. Monica was no art historian, but she did know quality when she saw it and this collection rivaled anything she had seen in museums. There was stone and marble statuary, urns, old master paintings in lavish, gilded frames, furniture inlaid with rare stones, marble panels so flawlessly carved that they looked like lace. The inventory seemed endless. In the center, was a raised platform which held an Egyptian sarcophagus entirely covered in gold leaf, its rich, mellow patina glowing under banks of halogen spotlights. Monica was speechless. She simply stared dumbfounded at the massive wealth that lay concealed in the seedy warehouse in an even seedier part of town. “Do you like my little collection?” Conrad Hauser asked. “It’s astonishing! I’m completely amazed. I mean you just don’t expect to find this here - in this neighborhood.” Conrad laughed. “That’s exactly why I chose this location. Also, the property was very cheap. Actually this collection was begun by my father.” He gave her a knowing little smile. “Of course, I’ve taken the precaution of having a state of the art security system installed. May I offer you some tea? A glass of sherry?” “No, thank you. I’m fine. Gigi said you had some information to give me.” “Yes. All right, let’s get right down to business. As
you might have gathered from my name, I am of German descent, although I was born in San Francisco and I’m as American as apple pie–or streudel at least.” He grinned. “Anyway, like most children I never asked my parents many questions about our family unless they related directly to me. It was not until my father was dying that he told me he had been a high ranking member of the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler. It’s something I’m not proud of.” His jaw clenched. “Well you can’t choose your parents. If you could, most of us would probably pick different people,” Monica said trying to lighten the mood. “You may be right. Anyway....” he hesitated then continued. “My father was a wonderful man to me. Patient. Intelligent. He had a wonderful sense of humor. I have found it very difficult to put together the two halves of my father. The man I knew and the Nazi.” “That can’t be easy,” Monica agreed. “My father served the Fuhrer in the capacity of an archaeologist. He was not involved in the more nefarious activities. Before he died, he told me things that I found hard to believe. But I know my father was a scholar and an honest man. Are you familiar with Baron Edward BulwerLytton?” “The author of The Last Days of Pompeii?” “The very same.” “I’ve read it. I found it quite interesting,” Monica said. “Bulwer-Lytton was also an occultist. He wrote a novel called The Coming Race in which he describes the existence of a superhuman race of beings living in huge caves in the center of the earth. These beings had developed
a strong source of psychic energy called Vril, which gave them powers equal to gods. According to Bulwer-Lytton, Vril was a sort of energy which pervaded all life forms. His Vril-people accumulated it through mental exercises, physical discipline, meditative states and so on. Now while this was written as a novel, it was based on what he believed to be a reality. He believed this power actually existed.” Monica almost said - and does it? - but she decided to remain silent. She vaguely remembered encountering the word Vril while working on Gigi’s research. Conrad continued, “My father told me that Hitler had totally bought in to the concept of this power. So much so, in fact, that he created the Ahnenerbe - The Society for the Study of Ancestral Heritage. It was founded privately in 1935. Two years later Himmler turned it into an official organization attached to the SS.” “Excuse me for interrupting, but I find it so difficult to accept the fact that Hitler and the powerful people who surrounded him would believe such nonsense,” Monica said. “So you think it’s nonsense?” Conrad replied. “What else could it be?” “What else, indeed. Well, today there are many people who believe in UFOs. People make pilgrimages to Roswell, New Mexico to see the site of a supposed alien spacecraft crash. One of my wealthiest clients is such a believer in UFOs that she has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to UFO research groups. Is that any crazier?” “That’s as crazy in my opinion.” “You are certainly entitled to believe what you
wish, Ms. Caldwell. As I told you I had trouble believing it. At first.” He stared at her for a long moment, then said, “What I am here to do is give you the information that Mrs. Greenwood requested. If I may continue....” “I’m sorry for interrupting. I’m just trying to understand so that I can be more helpful to Mrs. Greenwood. Please go on.” Monica was careful to avoid saying what exactly she was doing for Gigi. Conrad lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, then exhaled through his nose. Only then did he ask Monica if she minded if he smoked. She would have preferred that he didn’t, but she did not want to cause anymore interruptions. She shook her head. He took another drag, then continued. “In 1939, the Ahnenerbe was incorporated into the SS as one of its branches, and its leaders were absorbed into Himmler’s personal staff. At that time it had fifty branches, called Institutes, under the direction of Professor Wurst, an expert on ancient sacred texts who had taught Sanskrit at Munich University. The mission assigned to the Ahnenerbe was to locate the origins of the Nordic race which, according to Nazi lore, was of Aryan stock. But the Ahnenerbe’s multiple branches dealt with a more broad spectrum of activities. These activities ranged from strictly scientific research–like vivisection practiced on prisoners–to espionage, as well as the study and practice of occultism. “After the war, my father learned things about experimentation on live subjects that sickened him. But he swore to me he knew nothing about it at the time. The scientific horrors were conducted in a different branch of the Ahnenerbe, its most infamous section–the Institute for Scientific Research for Military Purposes. Experiments
there were carried out under secret or top secret classification, so my father knew nothing about them. Hideous things were done to live human beings, mostly on prisoners procured by the Ahnenerbe from Dachau and other concentration camps. One involved the feeding of mescaline to concentration camp inmates to determine its effects. That was probably the least offensive of their practices. “According to my father, the most notorious among those who worked in the Institute was Dr. Sigmund Rascher. Rascher was in charge of the Institute’s experiments at Dachau, and was the first to request test subjects. These poor souls were frozen in low-pressure chambers and vats of icy water and then experimented on with attempts to rewarm them using sleeping bags, boiling water, and intercourse with incarcerated prostitutes from the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Those who survived the experiments were shot. Rascher also had the skulls of test subjects split open while conscious to examine their brains. He also developed the standard form of cyanide capsules used by the SS. In fact, Himmler used one to commit suicide, although certainly not soon enough. In 1945, Rascher was executed by the SS due to a plot with his wife to pass off kidnapped children as their own.” Monica felt sick just thinking about the things Conrad was saying. Conrad appeared to be unaware of her discomfort and continued in his chatty manner. “Another wartime function of the Ahnenerbe was the acquisition of artifacts. They seized and collected documents, paintings, sculpture, pottery and other items considered Germanic and “returned” them to Nazi Germany. The more than fifty Institutes over which the SS presided, succeeded in
spending over a million marks on their research. The Ahnenerbe had archaeologists digging up all of Europe for remains of Germanic cultures. They organized several expeditions to Tibet trying to locate the origins of the Nordic race which was, according to the Nazi theoreticians, of Indo-Germanic stock. But the main goal of these expeditions was to get in touch with the spiritual power-plant producer of Vril.” Monica shook her head in disbelief, but she remained silent, allowing Conrad to continue uninterrupted. “The huge archives of the Ahnenerbe mysteriously disappeared after the war, but it seems that Germany spent more money and devoted more resources on the Ahnenerbe than America did on the atomic bomb.” “May I ask a question?” Monica asked. “Of course,” Conrad replied. “I am here as a resource for you. Ask whatever you wish and I will do my best to answer.” “Well, to begin with you say that your father was an honest man, a good man. Forgive me, but how could a good, honest man have been a high-ranking member of the Nazi party?” Conrad sighed. He had asked himself this same question many times. He searched for a way to make Monica understand what he had come to believe. “Perhaps if I put it this way. There were levels within the Nazi Party, on a need to know basis. People were divided into groups according to their level of acceptance. Some groups had no idea what other groups were doing. The outer fringe, the Folk, were taught what they could handle: blind obedience, group service, a new history and identity. The Party elite such as the SS were
taught something different: psychic knowledge, tapping into the “Vril Force”, self-denial, Brotherhood mission, medieval lore, fearlessness of death. The innermost circle was privy to the more hard-core teachings of superiority, immortality and godhood. Many neo-Nazi groups continue to pursue these topics with devotion. There was a mystique surrounding Hitler. It wasn’t accidental.” “What do you mean?” “Hitler was groomed for the job. He even studied under a magician and vaudeville performer to learn to project charisma. Going back as far as 1923, Dietrick Eckart one of the founders of the Thule Society said: “Follow Hitler! He will dance, but it is I who will call the tune.” Eckart took credit for putting Hitler in touch with the powers that promoted him to the starring role. Hitler even dedicated Mein Kampf to Eckart. While Hitler voraciously sought out occult teachings in private, he mercilessly attacked occultists publicly. It was probably a ruse. Hitler was determined to keep his occult roots hidden from the general public. The groups and individuals he targeted for early elimination were those who knew of those roots and who might expose him, thereby challenging his Great Plan. This would explain why the Nazis burned every available copy of books which proclaimed those roots, and why Rudolf Hess’s defection to the West in 1941 prompted Hitler to outlaw all remaining occultists in the Third Reich, such as astrologers, mediums and even parlor magicians.” “Hess defected to the West? I thought he was supposed to be in England trying to get them to join with Hitler.” Conrad smiled. “I see you’ve been doing your
homework. It’s interesting to note that when Hitler attacked occultist groups he did not burn their books as he had with so many others. He confiscated them instead. Perhaps in an attempt to learn their secrets?” Monica felt her head beginning to spin again. “It’s pretty hard to take all this in at one time. I mean, I never even heard of this stuff until I began working for Gigi.” “It can be formidable. I, too, was in denial when my father first spoke to me about it.” “I didn’t say I was in denial. I just said it’s a lot to take in.” Conrad smiled. “Same thing. Your brain is refusing to accept what your ears are hearing. Well, I’m sorry to burden you further, but there is more I must tell you. The Institute for Germanic Archaeology was created in 1938. Archaeological excavations were conducted throughout Germany. During the war, archaeological expeditions were sent to Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Poland, and Romania with the collaboration of local authorities. The Ahnenerbe also conducted similar operations in occupied Russia and North Africa and they were also very active in the Far East, mostly in Tibet. Descriptions of hidden cities deep within the Himalayas were a great source of Nazi interest in Tibet. In Tibet, the Ahnenerbe sought their own twisted brand of Shangri-La, a source of the Germanic superman and a repository of lost Aryan knowledge. Their goal was to disprove Darwin’s missing-link theory which linked humans with apes, and to prove Aryan superiority. My father was sent on a secret mission to look for a dagger.” Monica snapped to attention. Could this be the dagger Gigi’s trying to find? “Was your father successful?”
“I don’t know. He never told me the details and I had no interest in asking. He only said that he did bring back some artifacts to Germany, but he did not know what had happened to them.” “Wasn’t there some connection between Germany and Japan through Haushofer?” Monica asked. “Well, well. I am impressed! Gigi said you were a quick learner but I am very pleasantly surprised,” Conrad said in open admiration. “You’re absolutely right. During his multiple visits to Japan, Haushofer made the acquaintance of many influential Japanese politicians and developed a strong rapport for the Japanese culture which helped in some way to create the German-Japanese alliance during the war. He was introduced to Oriental esoteric teachings while in Japan. He also became proficient enough to translate several Hindu and Buddhist texts, and became an authority in Oriental mysticism. It is said that he belonged to the esoteric circle of George Gurdjieff. Others claim that he was a secret member of the Thule Society and the Vril Society.” “Ah yes. The magical mystery power,” Monica said mockingly. Conrad ignored her sarcasm. “I’ve always wondered if Haushofer was instrumental in helping my father locate the Egyptian artifacts.” “Did Haushofer go to Egypt?” “Not that I know of. But neither did my father. He found the Egyptian artifacts in Japan.” “Really.” Maybe Haushofer is the connection Gigi’s been looking for. “My father always said it was Rudolf Hess who helped him in his work.”
“Hitler’s Deputy? How could he have been of help with Egyptian archaeology?” “Rudolf Hess was born in Egypt.” “In Egypt? Well. That is a surprise! I always assumed he was German. Live and learn,” Monica said. “Hess was born in Alexandria. He didn’t live in Germany until he was in his teens. His father was a wealthy exporter. A very domineering man. Hess volunteered in World War I to get away from him.” “So getting back to Haushofer for a minute, do you have more information about him?” Monica asked. “Just that Rudolf Hess was one of his students. Hess introduced Haushofer to Hitler,” Conrad answered. “The more I learn about all this the more amazed I become at the links between these people. It’s like a finely woven net with everyone influencing everyone else. Or a circle or something. I’m not exactly sure what I’m talking about but don’t you find it odd that there are so many coincidences?” “Odd?” Conrad looked puzzled. “I don’t find it the least bit odd. Haven’t you yet realized there are no coincidences?” Now it was Monica’s turn to look puzzled. “What do you mean?” she asked. “What is coincidence after all? Coincidence is simply unexpected connections that are both riveting and rattling. The definition of coincidence is, I believe, a surprising concurrence of events which are perceived as meaningfully related, yet with no apparent causal connection. In other words, pure happenstance. Yet, by merely noticing a coincidence, we elevate it to something that transcends its definition as pure chance. We are
discomforted by the idea of a random universe. We want to feel that our lives are governed by a grand plan. God, if you will. But, in Nazi Germany, there was only one god and that was Hitler and the Grand Plan was of his creation – at least that’s what we have been led to believe,” Conrad said. His eyes searched hers. He waited for her to respond. He’s playing with me. Conrad is playing some kind of cat and mouse game with me. Gigi seems to trust him, But I wonder if she should. Monica suddenly felt trapped, wary and unsure. There is something sinister about Conrad Hauser. He’s not to be trusted. “So what is your version of Hitler’s Grand Plan?” she asked. Conrad’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. Her sarcasm did not go unnoticed. “My version is the accurate version. Hitler’s Grand Plan was to obliterate not only Judaism but also Christianity. Not only did Hitler regard Christianity as a defective, failed enterprise, he saw himself as replacing both its God and its Christ. At one of the huge Nuremberg rallies he hung a gigantic poster of himself, with the caption stolen from the Christian Gospel of John: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ German youth were indoctrinated from infancy to pray to Hitler, who they were taught was sent from heaven to protect them. Nazi-approved sermons in German churches proclaimed, ‘Adolf Hitler is the voice of Jesus Christ.’ Quite a horrifying thought isn’t it?” Conrad asked. Monica studied Conrad. His easy manner masked something sinister. She felt sure of it. What does he expect me to say? She was sure he was testing her in some way.
“When I found out about my father,” Conrad said, “I became obsessed to learn everything I could about his background, about the Nazis. His blood runs in me and I wanted to know what I am made of. I can remember a quote from Hitler. He said Christianity only added the seeds of decadence, such as forgiveness, self-abnegation, weakness, false humility and the very denial of the evolutionary law of the fittest. This, of course, was a reference to social Darwinism. Hitler saw all these things that Christianity teaches as a hindrance to the new species of man that he wanted to create. Of course, he blamed it all on the Jews, saying that conscience is a Jewish invention a blemish, like circumcision. He called Christianity the art of sacred lying. He despised gentleness and compassion. Hitler encouraged the growth of a violent, domineering, intrepid, cruel youth with nothing weak or tender in it. What do you think of that?” Conrad asked. Monica studied him. What is he trying to get me to say? With all the recent cover-ups of child molestation charges by the Catholic Church, the phrase, sacred lying, seemed apt but she certainly did not condone Hitler or his beliefs. She decided to remain evasive. “My job is simply to gather information, not to have an opinion,” she replied. Yet, she felt compelled to respond further. “If I had to live in the kind of world Hitler envisioned I’d just as soon be dead.” “Ah, a woman of strong opinions. Your beliefs are none of my business. Forgive me. I was just curious,” Conrad answered. “Your reaction is typical of people who have been raised under the Judeo-Christian ethic. In fact, Hitler knew he would face considerable opposition if he tried to expunge Christianity. So, Nazism attempted to
wean the masses from standard Christianity by removing the Jewish-influenced ‘negative’ parts, that is the Old Testament and most of the New Testament. New meanings were imposed on key passages. Colorful pagan legends were added. Essentially, the Nazis repackaged Christianity in their 1920 platform as ‘positive Christianity.’” “Well it doesn’t sound very positive to me. It sounds more like brainwashing,” Monica said. “Language is so fascinating. It can be used to slant a concept in any direction,” Conrad replied. “You are quite right about the brainwashing though. To remove the teachings of Judeo-Christian thinking, Nazi preparation of children began at the cradle. They were taught that they were born to die for their God, who was embodied in Adolf Hitler. Their education began with revised fairy tales teaching new principles of heroes struggling and dying to set their race free. Then group membership started at age ten, followed by continuous reinforcement in group settings for the remainder of their lives, ‘so that they shall in no case suffer a relapse, and they don’t feel free again as long as they live,’ as Hitler bluntly put it. The masses were kept in check by nonstop activity which required passive participation, allowing no time for reflection or discussion. It sounds horrible, yet in some ways it is very similar to the way devout Christians are raised.” “I don’t think I’d agree with that,” Monica said bristling. “No? I believe it is the Catholic Church who says: give me a child before the age of seven and he will be ours for life. Is that so different?” Conrad asked innocently. Monica lost patience with him. “What’s your game, Conrad?” she snapped.
“My game? I’ve no idea what you mean. I’m merely engaging in a philosophical discussion.” Conrad looked hurt. Like hell you are! “Frankly, I find you quite intriguing,” Conrad added. “Gigi said I would be quite taken with you and she was right.” Conrad smiled broadly. “Will you have dinner with me?” I’d rather eat with a crocodile! “I’m in a relationship,” Monica lied. “I see. Well, if you change your mind.....or if I can be of any further help to you in any way, don’t hesitate to call me.” He offered her his business card. “I mean it,” he added. Monica snatched it from him and shoved it into her blazer pocket. Then, without another word, she walked back through the human-scale door and out into the fresh air. She wanted a shower. She wanted to scrub away Conrad Hauser and everything associated with him. She glanced at her watch. She had been with Conrad for a little over an hour. In that hour, she felt she had aged ten years.
14. Kama woke with a splitting headache. There was a metallic taste in his mouth and his eyelids felt like sandpaper each time he blinked. It had been a horrible night filled with terrible images and the endless ringing of the telephone. During the brief moments of sleep he had found no rest, just menacing images looming out of the darkness. The sound of the telephone had become torture. The same voice kept reminding him of that night: “I saw you with the old man. I know what happened.” Weak rays of morning light filled the room. Sometime during the night he had made a decision. He could no longer tolerate the twilight state of not knowing if Marcus Church was alive or dead. He simply had to know for sure. And sometime during the night he had devised a plan. He went to the paper recycling bin and took out the flattened cardboard box in which his new software had been delivered the day before all this began. He reassembled it, taping the seams to make sure it would hold. He fished out a stack of recycled magazines and put them into the box then taped it shut. He then wrote a label addressed to Marcus Church and pasted it over the original address label. He looked at the clock. Six a.m. The night concierge would still be on duty. Perfect. The night man was much more easy going than the day guy. Kama couldn’t remember his name, but it didn’t matter. What did matter was that the night clerk had little interest in his job. He was a graduate student somewhere and used this job as an opportunity to study while getting paid for it. He did only the minimum
required of him and spent the rest of his time focused on his studies. The day guy was another story. Officious. Probing. He could easily have been a robot. The day clerk would ask a lot of questions. The night clerk couldn’t care less. Kama ran his fingers through his thick dark hair, tucked his shirt into his pants and grabbed the box. He wanted to find out which apartment Marcus Church lived in. With four hundred ninety-eight units in The Cottages, Kama did not even know which building Marcus lived in. He just knew he had seen him many times coming and going. Marcus was one of the few people to use the benches around the courtyard fountain, and Kama had also seen him sitting there. Kama took the elevator down to the first floor and went directly to the concierge’s office, a mid-sized room filled with file cabinets, computers and security screens separated from the interior lobby by a dutch door. The lower half of the door usually remained closed while the upper half was left open, allowing partial access to the office personnel. Kama walked up to the door. The night man was working at the computer. If he heard Kama arrive he made no acknowledgment. “Hello,” Kama said. The night man turned disinterested brown eyes in his direction. “Hello, Sir. How can I help you?” His voice indicated that Kama’s presence was an intrusion. “I received this package by mistake. It’s addressed to Marcus Church, but it’s got my apartment number on it. I know he lives in The Cottages but I’m not sure of his
apartment number.” “We can’t redirect mail, Sir. You’ll need to take that up with the post office.” The night clerk turned back to his computer screen. “I know that,” Kama replied. “But if you can just give me his apartment number I’ll drop it off to him.” “Oh. Okay. It’ll take me a minute to pull up that screen,” the clerk said. He entered a few keystrokes into the computer. The answer appeared and he read from the screen: “Search zero.“ When Kama did not respond, the clerk turned the same disinterested gaze toward him. “No data. No one by that name lives here.” “But that’s impossible. I know he lives here. I’ve met him. I’ve talked to him. Maybe you spelled his name wrong.” “I typed in what you gave me,” the clerk said without emotion. “Could you try it again. It’s spelled C-H-U-R-C-H,” Kama said. “Just like church. Yeah I get it,” the clerk replied. “Okay. One more time.” The clerk entered Marcus Church’s name and ran another database search. “Same thing. No Marcus Church lives here.” “There’s got to be some mistake. Maybe there’s a computer error. Is that possible?” Kama asked. “Anything’s possible. All I can tell you is that there’s no one by that name registered as living here at The Cottages.” “I just don’t understand. I’ve seen him so many times. Can you check in some other way? You must have
rent invoices or some other way to check.” “Maybe he doesn’t rent. Only about ten percent of our facilities are rentals. The rest are condos. And then some of the condos are rented out by the owners so we don’t have records on that.” “Oh.” Kama had not considered those possibilities. “And it’s always possible he’s staying with someone else. In that case he could be living here but his name wouldn’t be on our official records.” “I see. I thought it would be easier to find him. I was hoping....” Kama trailed off. “Sorry I can’t be of more help,” the clerk said. “Me too,” Kama replied, but the clerk had already gone back to his work. What am I going to do? In the middle of the night this had seemed like such a foolproof plan. Now he realized how foolish his idea had been. I’m a translator, not a private eye. Maybe that’s what I need? Maybe I should hire someone to find him? No. Bad idea. Then I’d just draw attention to myself. Oh God! I’ve just done that. Now the clerk knows I was trying to find Marcus Church. He’ll remember me now if the cops question him. Wait. Maybe that’s a good thing. It shows I’m making an effort to find him to deliver his package, so I must believe he’s alive. That’s not what the cops will think though. They’ll think I tried to find him to throw them off the track. Oh God. I’m trapped no matter what I do. There’s no way out. Somebody knows. Somebody saw me. For the first time in his life, Kama had an urge to run away. He had always prided himself on facing problems
head on. He was logical. He could solve problems with his rational thinking. I used to be able to do that. Now I can’t think straight at all. I am totally screwed. As Kama slowly walked back to his studio he came to the realization that he had three options. He could kill himself. He could wait it out. He could run away. He was not yet desperate enough for the first option. He doubted that he could stand waiting it out much longer. He was already becoming unraveled. Running away looked promising. It may only postpone the inevitable, but it would buy him time. He had vacation time coming. He could take a trip. Rationalization began. It had been more than two years since he had taken any time off. He could even take his laptop computer with him and work from anywhere in the world. Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Kama’s spirits lifted immediately. Deep down he knew it was not a solution, but at that moment if felt like one. It meant there would be no more phone calls. If he could just sleep his mind would clear and he would be able to figure things out. There was only one decision left to make. Where should I go? Somewhere warm. Somewhere sunny. Kama tossed some clothes into a bag, grabbed his passport and headed out for the airport.
Mike pulled up the collar of his black leather jacket to stop the rain from running down his neck. Perhaps he should have brought an umbrella, but he liked the feel of rain on his face, just not trickling down his neck. He pulled his car out of the parking garage and headed out for San Francisco International Airport. Going to an airport always made him feel better. It was something he had inherited from his mother. The airport brought him a sense of peace and calm. It meant escape. It meant going somewhere strange and new, leaving behind all troubles, mistakes and annoyances. The airport meant hope. Going to the airport was like being baptized into a new life. Mike shared that with all the travelers, that sense of adventure, excitement, no matter what the reason for travel. Even the most mundane business trip could be the start of a new life, bring new opportunity, give you the chance to begin again, to reinvent yourself. A chance meeting with a stranger could send your life spinning off in a whole new direction. By day SFO was a maze of on-ramps, off ramps and confusing signage. At night it was even more difficult to navigate. Recent expansion had added to the mazelike quality of ramps and terminals. It did not deter Mike from locating short-term parking and launching himself through the crowds to the main departure terminal. He focused on leaving, imagining himself set to depart for Athens, London, Barcelona, until he believed it totally. He knew from experience the transformation that belief could bring about. The familiar excitement began to surge. A heightening of the senses. Lights seemed a little
brighter, conversations more intense. Ordinary people took on a mystique. He had always fantasized about his fellow travelers when he was a child and now those fantasies came rushing back to him. They could be spies, or smugglers, or terrorists. Mike had not been to the airport since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was a different world now. Long lines of people stood looking bored or irritated, but most were just resigned to the hours they would be spending waiting to be searched. Barricades, armed guards and intrusive searches were now a way of life. The dramatic impact of the changes stirred an upsurge of anger in him. Terrorist bastards! I will never, ever forget that day. He forced those horrific images of carnage from his mind and caught a glimpse of himself reflected in the rain streaked window. He looked thoroughly average in height, weight and coloring. Brown hair. Hazel eyes. Medium everything. Mike was so completely average looking that he had the ability to blend totally into the background like a chameleon. As he entered his thirties he was not sure how he felt about being that average. On the one hand it made him feel like rice pudding or tapioca or landlord beige â€“ bland and boring. On the other hand it gave him the freedom of anonymity. Only someone truly anonymous has any freedom at all. He had taught himself to remain so still inside that to the outside world he virtually disappeared. It was a discipline begun in childhood as a defense mechanism from constantly being picked on as the new boy, and later perfected when he had studied Zen meditation. Once
in that state of total stillness he could go anywhere, do anything, and no one remembered him at all. He had tested it on several occasions going with people to quiet dinners, movies or noisy parties. No one had remembered he had been with them. But it had been more than a year since he had tried it. Can I still do it? He breathed rhythmically, focusing his attention on a single point of light that he envisioned between his eyebrows. Almost immediately his body remembered the discipline and he felt himself growing still inside. He was a pool without ripples, a glossy reflective surface mirroring those around him. It would be difficult to get past the guards. Airport security had been increased after the recent embarrassment of a sea lion who walked unnoticed through the terminal, through the security gates and got as far as the tarmac where planes where ready to take off before he was spotted. It seems the sea lion had become disoriented and climbed out of the Bay only to discover he was at the airport that disoriented him even further. The story made all the newspapers and TV newscasts generating the recurrent, â€œAll a terrorist has to do to invade SFO is dress up like a sea lion.â€? The notoriety had forced an increase in airport security to the extent that now SFO was one of the two most secure airports in the nation. Mike waited until the surface of his inner pond was smooth as glass. Then he casually walked past the snaking line of waiting people, past the security guard and into the international boarding area. No one stopped him. No one even noticed him. He might as well have been invisible. Itâ€™s amazing how little people see. They see what
they expect to see. The boarding area was crowded, with no seats available. Some people were curled up on the floor using their carry-on luggage as pillows. His attention was immediately captured by a young Asian man having an argument with a ticket clerk over his boarding pass. He seemed nearly hysterical as he shrieked that someone had stolen his passport. The clerk was insisting that he could not get a boarding pass without showing his passport. “I’m telling you I had it. I showed it to the person who was here five minutes ago,” the Asian said. “I’m sorry, Sir. But we can’t issue a boarding pass without seeing your passport,” the clerk said. “But you have seen it. The other person saw it. Why do I have to show it again?” “Sir, the other attendant has gone off duty. I will need to see it again before I can issue a boarding pass.” “You don’t seem to understand. I have to leave. I have to,” the Asian’s voice was shrill now with a definite hysterical pitch to it. “Sir, if you will please step to the side there’s a long line behind you.” “No. I’m not moving. I have to leave. I demand that you give me a boarding pass. I’ve paid for my ticket. You have no right to treat me this way.” The Asian man seemed more whiny than angry. “Sir, if you will please step to the side I’ll have my superior handle your problem personally.” “My flight is leaving in three minutes. I have to have that boarding pass.” The clerk looked thoroughly exasperated. “Sir.
Please! There’s nothing more I can do. All these people are waiting behind you. I have to take care of them.” Mike had slipped beside the Asian man, completely unnoticed. “Come with me,” he said. The man jumped at the sound of Mike’s voice. “Where did you come from? Are you the supervisor?” The clerk’s mouth opened to say something, then closed again. It seemed at this point that the clerk did not care who Mike was as long as he took the Asian man away. “I can help you,” Mike said. That immediately calmed the Asian man who moved away from the counter. The clerk looked immediately relieved and began serving the next person in line. “I can tell you’re in a hurry,” Mike said. “Yes. I have to leave. But my passport has been stolen.” “That’s very upsetting,” Mike said calmly. “Yes. I’m...I’m....” the Asian man suddenly sagged as if all his energy had been drained out of him. “I’m very tired.” He looked around for a place to sit but there were no seats available. A jet shrieked overhead as it took off. The Asian man’s eyes followed the sound upward. “That was my flight. I can’t leave now. I’m stuck here. I just can’t seem to do anything right,” he said. Mike extended his hand. “Mike Cross. You look like you could use a friend. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? ” The Asian man’s dark eyes looked bewildered. He clasped Mike’s hand like a lifeline. “Kama Takahashi. “Yes. Thank you. Coffee sounds good. A friend sounds even better.”
As they walked toward the coffee shop Mike said, “I overhead you say someone had stolen your passport?” “Yes. I had it. I showed it to that other clerk. And then when I went to look for it again, it was gone.” “Could you have left it somewhere?” “I haven’t been anywhere else, just here in the line.” “Well you’d better report it stolen. We wouldn’t want some terrorist getting to use your ID.” Kama looked horrified. “Oh! I hadn’t even thought of that. They couldn’t blame me for being a terrorist could they?” “Not unless you are one,” Mike said. “No. No of course not. Why would you even say that?” “It was a joke,” Mike said. “Oh. It’s not funny to joke about that. Things are different now. You hear about people being picked up as terrorist suspects and just disappearing in jail somewhere. It’s getting like a police state. You aren’t with the government are you?” “Ah. No.” Mike answered. “You really do need to calm down. Are you in some kind of trouble?” “I’ve done nothing. Nothing.” Kama’s eyes darted back and forth. “I’m being followed. Not followed. Harassed.” “Really. Why?” “I don’t know. I just....I haven’t slept in a while. I’m starting to feel strange. Like everything’s coming apart. You know?” “I’ve heard sleep deprivation can make you imagine things. Maybe even hallucinate,” Mike said.
Kama felt as though they had been walking for hours. Where is the coffee shop? I need to sit down. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m just imagining things. Maybe none of this is real. I need to sleep. “I can’t sleep,” Kama said. “Why is that? Insomnia?” “I guess so. No. It’s....something else.” Kama trailed off and then lapsed into silence. “Do you live at The Cottages?” Mike asked. “I think I’ve seen you there.” “You’ve seen me?” Kama’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. Maybe it’s him. Maybe this is the guy who’s been phoning me. “Have you seen me anywhere else?” Mike shrugged. “I live at The Cottages too. I’ve just seen you around.” Maybe he’s lying. Maybe he saw me at Land’s End with Marcus Church. Maybe he’s trying to blackmail me. Kama could not think straight. Everything was beginning to seem sinister and strange. Shapes did not look quite right anymore. Curves and circles seemed to flatten. The ticket counters now seemed much longer than they had earlier. People were beginning to look poorly defined and wavy like a mirage in the heat off an asphalt road. He felt unsteady the way he felt in an earthquake when not even the ground could be trusted. “I feel like I’m on drugs,” Kama said. “Did you slip me something?” “Hey - back off guy,” Mike said. “I just offered to buy you a cup of coffee. If you’re having some kind of bad trip don’t lay it on me.” “I don’t take drugs. But I felt okay until I met you.”
“You didn’t seem okay when you were freaking out at the ticket counter,” Mike said. Kama stopped walking and stared at Mike for a long moment. “I can see right through you,” he said. Mike looked startled. “What?” “I can see right through your head. I can see all the atoms in your head spinning around. And all the space between them. I can see through the space between them. You’re flat.” Kama looked around helplessly. “Everyone is suddenly flat. Everything is flat.” His breath came in little gasps. He looked down at his hand. “Oh my god! Look at my hand. Nothing is three dimensional anymore.” Kama’s eyes were wild with panic. Mike reached out and touched his arm. “Hey Buddy, take it easy.” Kama shrieked. “Your hand went right through my arm! Oh god! What’s happening?” “Just take it easy. Look let’s move over to that wall. You stay right there and I’ll get you some help. Okay? Do you understand me?” Kama’s eyes were wide. He stared straight ahead, but he nodded. “Don’t move. I’m just going to that phone over there. I’ll be right back. Okay?” Mike said. Kama nodded. Mike headed for the white courtesy telephone. He was not sure what Kama’s problem was but he knew he needed help right away. He had not focused on how noisy the airport was until he tried to have a phone conversation. He sheltered the phone with his body, huddling toward the receiver, trying to block out the surrounding noise. He finally convinced the voice on the other end of the line that
this was not a hoax and to send security. When he turned around to face to the spot where Kama had been standing, the space was empty. Kama had gone. Shit! Mike scanned the terminal. There was no sign of Kama. The airport was huge and sprawling. Kama could be anywhere. Mike realized he had two options. If he waited around for security to arrive he could get involved with a potentially huge mess. It was clear Kama was having some kind of breakdown. He could be capable of anything. The other option was to get out fast and let security do their job. He chose the second option. Mike hurried back to his car and navigated the maze of ramps back to the highway. His car slipped into the stream of traffic, just another commuter on a crowded freeway. The rain had let up and now fell softly, little more than a mist. He felt like driving and headed back to the City, then through the Richmond District back out to the ocean. He loved the ocean on a stormy night. Its ionized air gave him a charge. He pulled up in front of the Cliff House. It was under construction, being renovated to one of its former incarnations. He got out of the car and stood looking out toward the water for a long time, thinking about nothing in particular, just enjoying the feel of the sharp wind on his cheeks and the salty smell in his nostrils. It began raining again. The wind had left him chilled and he wanted a cup of hot chocolate. There was only one place for that. Philâ€™s Diner. He walked the few hundred yards to Philâ€™s and wrestled with the heavy front door. The smell of hamburgers, coffee and maple syrup
greeted him. Many times he had to wait for a seat at Phil’s but tonight he had his pick. He chose a booth in the back and ordered a steaming mug of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream. Phil’s didn’t use the kind in the can. They whipped their own fresh cream by hand. Mike’s taste buds knew the difference. After the first few sips of sweet liquid he felt much better. “They make great hot chocolate here, don’t they?” a woman’s voice said. Mike hadn’t even noticed her when he came in. She was scrunched down low in a booth. “They say eating chocolate’s like being in love. Something about the way it affects your brain chemistry,” the woman continued coyly dipping her pinky finger into the whipped cream on top of her mug. She licked the cream off her finger, smiling seductively. Yikes! She’s got to be kidding! The woman was decidedly unattractive, obese with closely cropped hair and tiny eyes. Mike did not want to establish any eye contact with this woman or encourage her in any way. He continued to drink his chocolate and stared blankly at the reflection of himself in the large glass window which bordered his booth. His eye caught a glimpse of a light reflecting outside the window. This struck him as very unusual since most of the time there was no view at Phil’s this late at night. The light continued to grow brighter. Mike soon realized from the sound overhead that it was a helicopter sweeping the cliffs. Maybe someone’s stranded on the cliffs. Or maybe a small boat has run aground. Those rocks can be treacherous for people who don’t know the currents.
The woman that had spoken to him eased herself out of the booth, stopping to pick up her mug of chocolate which she took with her to the juke box at the other end of the diner. She made a selection, then headed back toward Mike, swaying in time to Johnny Mathis singing Misty. She took a seat at the counter next to Mike’s booth. Mike looked up. Without intending to, eye contact was established. Oh, hell! “Don’t you just love Johnny Mathis?” she cooed. “Actually, not,” Mike replied. “Oh I do. He’s sooo romantic.” Dear God, is she coming on to me? “Do you come here often?” she asked. “Not often. Just once in a while,” Mike said. “Oh, I just love their food. I come here every chance I get.” And you must get a lot of chances, judging from your size. Mike went back to staring at the window. Now he could see not only his reflection but the woman reflected in the window too. She swiveled on the stool and leaned back while holding her chocolate between her cupped palms. She then rested her elbows on the counter behind her which caused her large breasts to protrude toward Mike. Mike watched it all reflected with a growing horror. “Do you live around here?” she asked. “No.” Mike made no attempt to further the conversation. “You look really familiar. My name’s Alma,” she said waiting for him to respond.
Mike frantically tried to think of a way to avoid further involvement without being rude, but his mind had gone blank so he just finished off his chocolate in a gulp. “You’ll have to excuse me. I’m not feeling very well.” Mike got up and went into the men’s room which was adjacent to his booth. Maybe if I just stay in here a while she’ll go away. He splashed some water on his face. She’s definitely coming on to me. Dear God, let her be gone by the time I come out. Alma turned back around to face the counter, set her cup down and waited. She waited for nearly seven minutes, checking off the minutes on the wall clock. Then she gave a sigh of resignation. She had been gone from Gigi’s for too long already. She had to get back. She put five dollars on the counter and went out into the rain. When she reached her ancient Pacer, she opened the extra wide door on the passenger side and climbed through to the driver’s seat. It seemed cumbersome, but it was easier than squeezing through the driver’s side. The car visibly sank when she entered. Alma put the key in the ignition and started the car. She was not permitted to smoke at the house because of Gigi’s lungs, so her car had become her smoking room. She had begun smoking as a diet aid, but she had not lost weight and had become addicted to tobacco instead. As she made a U-turn she lit a cigarette at the same time, then headed back toward Pacific Heights. She traveled East on Geary Street. At this time of night all the traffic lights were synchronized so that if you maintained a speed of thirty miles per hour you could go straight through. By the time she pulled into Gigi’s
driveway she crushed out her fifth cigarette and opened the window. A huge cloud of smoke escaped the car. Alma opened the door and realized that she must have gained some weight recently as it was more difficult than usual for her to squeeze out of the driver’s side. A light on the second floor switched on. It was Gigi’s room. Oh crap! She’s awake!
16. Monica felt contaminated. She could not drive fast enough to get away from Conrad Hauser. She stepped on the gas and peeled out, splattering through a large puddle left over from last night’s rain. She struggled to understand why Conrad had such an effect on her. On the surface he seemed pleasant enough, even affable, yet she felt strongly that he was hiding something. Something evil. Conrad’s thinly veiled attacks on the Catholic church disturbed her greatly. Although she had not set foot in a church for years, she had been raised Catholic and still believed in the system of faith and the comfort it brings. Even with all the child molesting cover-ups the Church had recently endured, she knew deep inside that was the failure of men, not of the teachings. In spite of his smiling face, Conrad had mocked everything she had been raised to believe. The thought of Hitler as God was simply appalling to her. And the more she investigated the workings of Hitler’s mind the more hideous and bizarre it all became. What was it Conrad said? “Adolf Hitler is the voice of Jesus Christ. Quite a horrifying thought isn’t it?” But Conrad’s eyes had lied. You can’t hide the truth in your eyes. Monica was absolutely certain that Conrad still subscribed to those early Nazi beliefs no matter what he said. He had tried to present what he said as research but it was more of an indoctrination. She felt touched by Satan himself. In school, Monica remembered Sister Benedicta telling the class about the guile of the devil. About how
Satan could attract you with his smiles and sweet words while planning to suck you into a pit of evil from which there was no escape. The frightening imagery of her childhood came rushing back to her. Burning pits of sulfur-fumed lava sucking her down. The sizzling of her skin the moment before it melted. The endless torment of a thousand spikes penetrating her body. Her memories of the Church were equal parts sweetness and terror. The same Church that promoted the Holy Family and the warm imagery of Christmas also taught of the horrific punishments awaiting the damned. “Christ is the Savior but if you step off the Path of Righteousness the horrors you will suffer are unspeakable!” Sister Benedicta’s voice always rose on the last word and her eyes flashed with a mystic zeal that only hinted at the horrors awaiting them if they did not obey. Sister Benedicta had drummed that into their heads until they believed it without question. Monica still remembered the terror she felt as a child whenever she broke even the smallest rule as she waited for Satan to claim her. After a number of small transgressions when Satan did not appear, she began to think that perhaps Satan saved himself for only big ticket sins, and so she gradually drifted away from the rigid early teachings and onto a more moderate path until she stopped going to church altogether. But those early teachings were deeply rooted and still governed her sense of morality. It’s just too much. Too much information too soon. I can’t process it all. Monica tried to concentrate on driving. She turned left off Custer onto Third Street. Just getting off Conrad’s street made her feel better. Her body sighed involuntarily.
She took notice of her surroundings, feeling it was months since she had passed this way although it had been just over an hour. Third Street was relatively free of moving vehicles. Cars were parked on both sides of the street, and an occasional car passed her going in the other direction. A silver Ford followed some distance behind her. She turned on the radio. The classical station was playing Wagner, one of Hitler’s favorites. She switched channels to a country and western station. It wasn’t something she normally listened to but today it’s down to earth lyrics satisfied her. They sang about real life: romances and break-ups, hard times and hard drinking. They were comfortable topics that she could easily relate to and a far cry from the bizarre things that had been filling her mind lately. She just could not understand why Gigi trusted Conrad Hauser. Gigi was an intelligent, sophisticated woman. Surely she should be able to see through him. Maybe Gigi doesn’t care. Maybe she’s so focused on getting that dagger that nothing else matters. Monica glanced down at the dashboard and noticed the gas gauge. Jeez, I’m practically running on fumes. She vaguely remembered a gas station somewhere in the area but had no idea of the address. She was in China Basin, still primarily a warehouse and industrial district at the south side of the Bay. Lately, efforts at upgrading the area had resulted in massive reconstruction projects, but at the moment that amounted to wide expanses of decimation. The area looked pretty much like a war zone filled with the rubble of razed buildings and muddied, unkempt roads. She seldom came to this part of town, and now even the few landmarks she had known had been torn down. Even some
of the street signs had been removed. She was completely disoriented. She would have to trust her instincts. She suddenly took a sharp left turn and noticed that the Silver Ford Focus followed. It almost skidded past the turn but at the last minute the driver had managed to stay on her tail. She peered into the rear view mirror to get a look at the driver but the windows were tinted and she could not see who was behind the wheel. It’s illegal to have the windshield tinted that dark. What’s up with that? Immediately the fine hairs at the nape of her neck began feeling prickly. She drove for a couple more blocks with the Focus still trailing. She made another sudden turn and the Focus stayed right with her. This isn’t good. And I don’t even have enough gas to out run them. Oh crap! Monica suddenly made an illegal U-turn in the middle of the block and began heading in the opposite direction. The Focus made the same maneuver and hung right with her. There was no longer any doubt that she was being followed. She began to feel panicky. She was almost out of gas and had no real idea of where a gas station was. There was a map in the glove compartment where she had marked some gas stations but she was in no position to pull over and look at it. She was completely disoriented except for a vague sense of where north was. She knew she needed to go north toward the safe part of the city again. But if she tried to cut through the center of town she would run out of gas long before she got out of this wasteland. She kept driving with her eye on the gas gauge. The empty light flickered on for a second. Monica’s stomach
tightened. There wasn’t much time left. She kept driving desperately searching for some way out of this. Her plan was to head for the Embarcadero and to try and get back into a populated area before the car ran completely dry. Up ahead she could see the condominium complexes of South Beach. The empty light came on again. This time it stayed on. I’m not going to make it. Mercifully, there was a slight downhill slope. She took her foot off the gas pedal and coasted as far as she could. Then she saw it. A derelict warehouse. She quickly looked into the rear view mirror. The Focus was still there. She prayed she would be able to pull this off. She stepped on the gas and made two sharp turns, a left and then a right which brought her into an alley at the back side of the warehouse. There was an opening and she drove inside pulling in behind some construction equipment. The Jeep refused to go another inch and died there. She prayed that she had turned fast enough to throw off the Focus. She waited, concealed behind some sort of large dredger. She barely breathed. Waiting. What if it doesn’t work? I wish I had a gun. She heard a squealing of tires and a crunch of gravel as the Focus streaked passed the warehouse. She waited. The Focus doubled back, still searching for her. She waited in silence, the thumping of her heart the only sound. The Focus made another pass and then another. Seconds passed. Then minutes. Monica kept her eye on her watch. Her impulse was to get away as fast as possible,
but she forced herself to remain in hiding for a full fifteen minutes. Then she picked up her briefcase that served as a purse and fished around the bottom beneath the sandwich, the cosmetics bag and her wallet until her fingers found her cell phone. I’ll finally get to use my auto club service for a tow. Or maybe they can just bring me some gas. The cell phone was turned off. She switched it on. It did not light up. She pushed the on switch again. Nothing. The battery was dead. Shit! Typical. Just typical. Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong will go wrong. The only constant in the universe. There was no other option than to hike out of there. Reluctantly, Monica left the safety of her hiding place, slowly exiting the car. Her first step was into a pothole. Damn it. That’s all I need now, a broken ankle. She locked the door with her remote and the car made a single groaning honk in response. Monica moved swiftly but carefully through the warehouse, listening for the smallest sound or hint that the Focus might be waiting through the opening up ahead. The warehouse was deeply shadowed. Anything could be hiding in those shadows. The thought increased the knot in her stomach. She hefted her briefcase under her arm and now wished she had bought the one with the optional shoulder strap that had cost twenty-five dollars more. She moved toward the rectangle of light that separated the relative safety of the warehouse from the outside world. She stopped when she reached it, cautiously
peeping out to check the territory. There was no sign of the Focus. So far, so good. She stayed close to the building as she moved into the alley. With no sign of the Focus she felt relieved and picked up her pace, walking quickly toward what was left of the sidewalk. Only parts of the pavement remained. Large areas had been broken up by the construction and those areas were mostly mud-filled holes. It was going to be tricky to navigate it in a short skirt and heels. She soldiered on, gaining confidence with each step, as she picked her way through the mud and broken concrete. There had once been gas stations in this area, and stores, and phones. Now it was a wasteland of derelict buildings. She needed to get to a phone. If she could not find one then it meant a hike of a couple miles or more through the desolation until she could get back up to Market Street and civilization. She was very focused on stepping carefully so as not to twist her ankle, so that when the attack came it took her completely by surprise. She was passing a building with a deeply recessed entry. She had just walked by the door when she was grabbed from behind. A pair of very strong arms pinned her arms to her sides, suddenly and painfully pushing the lock of the briefcase into her ribs. She gasped in surprise and pain. She reacted instantly. She crossed her right leg behind her and drove her heel into her attackerâ€™s left knee then immediately drove her heel into his other knee and dragged it down his shin. Then she stomped with full force on his instep.
A squeal of pain escaped from her assailant. Her immediate response startled him enough to throw him off balance. She seized the opportunity to twist enough to raise her right arm, angling her elbow into his face. She could feel his nose flatten against his face. He screamed in pain and staggered backwards, letting go of Monica. She whirled around to face him. She could finally see his face. He was wearing a ski mask. Monica followed up by doing a well aimed kick directly at his groin. He let out a low moan. He had had enough. He staggered a few feet forward and disappeared around the side of the building into another alley. Monica followed cautiously. Maybe he’s going for a gun. Maybe he’s got a buddy around the corner. Monica steeled herself for another assault as she continued to move forward. She flattened herself against the side of the building then carefully looked around the edge of the building and peered down the alley. The Ford Focus was driving away very quickly. Monica felt a surge of relief and pride in herself. Those self-defense lessons had really paid off. “Hey, Asshole, next time don’t mess with someone who knows karate,” she yelled after the car. In the dojo after a freestyle match they always bowed to each other then to the mat to show respect. But this wasn’t the dojo. This was real life and respect seemed a thing of the past. The distant past. Monica returned to the site of the attack, retrieved the briefcase and checked for damage. Her blazer was torn. Her tights were ripped where she must have touched
down on concrete during the skirmish, and blood was oozing from a dirt encrusted graze on her knee. Her knuckles were scraped and she could feel either mud or blood drying on her face. Not too bad, all things considered. Then she began the long walk up to Market Street. This part of town was a current haven for the hopeless and homeless. Monica was sure her appearance would help her fit right in.
17. Kama was finding it very difficult to walk with his two-dimensional feet on a floor that was swirling toward a central vortex, like water running down a drain. He put his arms out for balance and began doing a sideways crab crawl. It did not even occur to him that he looked very peculiar, or that people were staring at him. People were rapidly becoming indistinguishable from posters in his new, flat world. He reached what he thought might be a corner where two walls converged. He tried wedging himself there for security but the corner began absorbing him, molding to his shape. Disturbing, yet it seemed more secure than being out in the open space being sucked toward the vortex. A small part of his mind was still functioning rationally, although just barely. That part knew he needed a doctor. Mitch Carter’s name popped into his mind. Mitch was a doctor. Mitch could help him. Mitch’s card was still in his pocket. With great difficulty, Kama maneuvered his hand into his pocket. The pocket had become a vice which narrowed and squeezed at his hand as he tried to push in to reach Mitch’s card. His fingertips finally gripped it and pulled it free of the vice. He tried to read Mitch’s phone number but all the print was running off the card, sliding off the edges faster than he could see it. He grunted in frustration and shoved the card back into his pocket so quickly that the vice did not have time to activate. I’m alone! Somebody help me!
Had he screamed that out loud? Or had he just thought it. He did not know. Several posters were gathering near him. Flat people carrying flat luggage. All staring at him. I have to get away! He left his corner and moved through the poster people toward the swirling vortex. Where will it take me if it sucks me down? The thought terrified him. He continued his crab walk to a place where there were no poster people, but a coldness that hit his face, and spikes of glass that fell from the sky. Thousands of glass shards fell all around him and settled on him. I have to be really careful now or all the glass will cut me. The swirling vortex had disappeared, driven off by the falling glass shards, Kama decided. Shafts of light streaked by on a ribbon of black shiny vinyl. Red lights going one way. Amber lights going the other way. He slowly moved toward the strip of vinyl. He had to be very, very careful not to let the glass shards get in his eyes. He stood by the side of the shiny black vinyl strip, watching mesmerized as the amber lights came close then passed by him. He had no idea how long he stood there, but the glass shards were coming down heavier from the sky now and disappearing when they hit the black vinyl. Then an odd thing happened. A pair of amber lights stopped right near him. He noticed then that the lights were part of a big, strangely shaped beast. The amber lights were the beast’s eyes. A voice called out from inside the beast. “Get in.” An opening appeared and without a second thought
Kama obeyed. He tried to enter the beast but the opening seemed impossible to navigate with his two dimensional feet. Something from inside the beast reached out and yanked his arm. The next thing he knew he was inside. “Man you are soaked through. Where ya heading?” the trucker asked. Kama had no idea. He turned his head in the direction of the voice. The sound came from a row of teeth suspended in space. Kama began silently counting the teeth. “Hey. Maybe you don’t speak English. Do you speak English?” the trucker asked. Kama’s bewildered expression led him to believe that Kama did not. “Well I’m heading up to Sonoma. I guess it’s better than leaving you on the side of the road. I’d stop here but I’m running late as it is with all this rain. It’s only about an hour away. We can get you sorted out when we get there.” Kama only heard the squawks and screams of tropical birds coming from the row of teeth. “You know I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers but you looked so damned pathetic standing out there all sopping wet.” Kama peered at the teeth, trying to make sense of the bird sounds. “Hey. It’s okay. I know you probably don’t understand a word I’m saying. But I don’t get much chance to talk to anyone when I’m driving so I’ll probably just rattle on here for a while. At least having you there it’s not like I’m talking to myself. That would be real pathetic. You know what I mean? Well, no, I guess you don’t,” the trucker chuckled.
They drove on with Kama trying to make sense of the bird calls and the trucker rambling on about life in general. Then Kama felt something strange happening to his hands and feet. He looked down at his hands but they were no longer hands but pools of liquid metal. And they were starting to drip onto the floor. He knew his feet were melting inside his shoes. “Aaahhhhh!” Kama suddenly shrieked loudly. The trucker suddenly swerved and began going into a skid. He fought to regain control of the truck. “Jesus H. Christ! What the hell’s wrong with you, boy? You all but scared the shit out of me.” “Doctor,” Kama managed to mumble. “You hurt?” Kama turned panicked eyes toward the teeth. “My hands are melting.” The sound of his own voice was the squawk of a parrot. The trucker cast him a sideways glance and involuntarily looked down at Kama’s hands. “There’s nothing wrong with your hands. They’re just fine. What the hell’s wrong with you, boy? Hey, are you having one of them drug trips?” “Doctor,” Kama said again. “Yeah. Well you might be right about that. If you think your hands are melting you sure as hell need to get out of my truck. You know there are some guys who’d just dump you out on the road right here. But not me. I’ve been through some hard times myself. Now we’re just a few miles from Golden Hills. That’s a real nice little rehab place. I’m gonna drop you off there.” “Doctor,” Kama repeated. “That’s right. We’re gonna get you a doctor. Now in
the meantime, don’t you go and do nothing crazy, you hear me? You just sit there.” “My hands are melting.” “You just sit there and calm down. You’re hands are fine. We’ll get you a doctor real soon.” The trucker mumbled to himself. “Jesus, wouldn’t you just know it the one time I pick up a hitcher they’ve got to be crazy as hell. Well, that’ll teach me. I need to do like my Daddy always said. Mind my own damn business. The hell with this Good Samaritan shit.” Kama felt something strange happening overhead. Suddenly the roof of the beast burst open. Above was the night sky filled with millions of stars. It was so beautiful! The vastness of space. The trillion points of light. And he, Kama, was a part of all the wonder and majesty. He noticed that one of the lights was brighter than the rest. He stared at it and it began to pulsate with a reddish halo. The more he looked at it the redder it became. He began to fear it, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the light. It grew brighter and brighter, larger and larger. Then he saw what it really was. A ball of fire, of seething flesh crisping heat, headed right at him. It was huge now, filling his entire field of vision with its vast destructive energy. Kama began screaming in pure terror. “Holy Shit, boy. Stop doing that! It’s enough to wake the dead.” The trucker speeded up. “Hell, I got to get you out of here, and pronto.” Kama tried to back up away from the speeding ball of light, but his melted legs were useless. They refused to take direction from him anymore. He sat transfixed by the flaming ball until it was his entire universe. He screamed and screamed.
Then, suddenly, the fiery ball transformed into his grandfather’s face, kindly and welcoming at first, then rapidly changing into the icy cold expression he had seen that day so long ago in his childhood when his grandfather had turned him away. The sky has become dirty in Tokyo. A huge explosion resounded inside his head. Kama defensively covered his ears with his arms. When the orderlies from Golden Hills discovered Kama, he was curled up in a fetal position on the cab floor of the truck. He did not resist as they lifted him out and laid him on the gurney. “I’m telling you he’s either crazy as a loon or he’s having one hell of a drug trip,” the trucker said. “Well I’ve done my duty. Now I’m outta here. I sure do appreciate you all taking him in this way. The only other option was to take him to the cops and he ain’t done nothing far as I can tell. Good luck, boy,” he called to Kama as he was being wheeled into Golden Hills Rehabilitation Center. Kama saw the flat people in white leaning over him. Perhaps he had died. Perhaps they were angels. “Let’s get some blood and do a complete work up,” one of the angels said. Blood? They want blood? Oh my god, they’re not angels. They’re vampires! Kama began screaming again