NEW AGE RISING
The face in the clouds stared at him. Its mouth opened and a tongue of smoke descended, searching for him. At the tip of the tongue was an eye
* * *
In New York there is a pyramid of corpses three hundred feet high. Helicopter based telecasts buzzed around like flies while studio computers flashed estimates of the number of bodies in the pyramid based on volume. Surface of the pyramid squirmed as rotting flesh inside the pyramid liquefied and shifted.
Telephoto lenses showed a surface of contorted limbs, emaciated torsos and sightless faces frozen in mute screams.
New bodies were continually being added. Some of the bodies that joined the pyramid weren’t quite dead.
Something was being born in there; a news announcer was saying, voice crumbling into static.
No one knew what.
Schroeder’s eyes snapped open and the jungle closed in.
* * *
Naked, the fat woman danced in the centre of the village. There was a small man on her back. He seemed to be melting.
Sweat rolled down the small of Schroeder’s back, pooling there. Sweat collected at the end of his nose. It was night, and supposedly cooler in the jungle, but heavy moist heat offered no relief. His heart raced keeping time with the desperate erratic rhythms of the drums.
“Do you see it, Schroeder?” Elysse whispered beside him. “Do you see it?”
He could barely hear her whisper above the chants of the villagers. He felt almost ill; the air seemed to writhe around the dancer, like the heat shimmer on a dry road.
“It’s the heat,” he said aloud. Not caring if Elysse understood. Schroeder felt physically sick, nausea crawled up the back of his throat. He swallowed desperately.
The woman lifted her leg up high, and then brought it down, reminding Schroeder of sumo wrestlers, except faster, jazzier. Her whole body vibrated. The man on her back struggled and squirmed. He seemed to be screaming. She ignored him, and kept on dancing.
He was definitely sinking into her body, his legs, his lower torso gone, his arms melded with her flesh. He was just a sweat shining back and a screaming head.
The ground was rippling around the dancers. He could see it now. Concentric circles of distortion. Ripples. The man caught his eye for a moment, as he sank out of sight, disappearing into her without a trace. The naked woman paused in her dance, gasping for breath, pendulous breasts and heavy brown body glistening with sweat.
The drums, the chants stopped. In the silence his body was unbearably loud, a cacophony of heartbeats and tremblings and breathing blaring from a wrapping of floppy sweating meat.
“Oh God,” he moaned.
“Not God,” Elysse said, “magic.”
There was a hunger in her voice.
* * *
In Havana, Cuba, a cat spoke at great length and with profound eloquence on the nature and value of life. A maddened crowd burned it anyway.
People everywhere shunned contact with each other, especially with strangers. They wore gloves to keep their fingers from melting together.
Dreams swept the earth, active voracious creatures, they leaped from victim to victim, sometimes not even waiting for sleep. Executives in office towers looked out their window and watched nightmares pursue muggers and victims alike. They licked their lips and planned on trapping wet dreams.
Schroeder staggered across Memorial Plaza, a featureless expanse of concrete. He was conscious that he had no shoes. A wind blew up behind him, he turned…
* * *
Schroeder opened his eyes. It was cooler now, and quiet. Even his own heartbeat was barely visible.
Elysse was sitting beside him, she changed the cool cloth on his forehead.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“I need a cigarette,” he said suddenly, and then realized that he hadn’t smoked in five years.
She shook her head.
“Do you remember what happened?”
Schroeder squinted. What did he remember?
A wave of nausea slid through him. He convulsed.
Her hand was gentle, holding him down.
“Do you remember,” she asked again.
“There was a ceremony…” he mumbled. What was it for? “Solstice or equinox…I got sick, I think I passed out.”
“What happened in the ceremony?”
“I got sick, I passed out, I think I hallucinated…”
“What did you hallucinate?”
“She was dancing…”
“There was a man on her back…”
“She absorbed him.” Elysse whispered.
“Hallucination,” Schroeder moaned.
“No,” her face was intense, staring at him, “that was real, I checked the videotape.”
And he was gone again.
* * *
A man helped him to his feet. He looked oriental. The man jabbered incomprehensibly.
Schroeder waited until meaning seeped in. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t, it didn’t matter any more if people spoke the same language.
There was a roaring in the sky, wind pulled and plucked at their hair and clothes.
“Fields of corpses,” the man yelled over the wind, “standing there, like wheat in the sun. A spirit crosses the sky, dead faces turn like flowers, following the sun.”
“Please,” Schroeder begged, “what do you want from me?”
“Half the world is dead, turned to dust in the wind, or jelly beneath or feet. New things, never imagined, inherit the world…we never imagined…we weren’t ready.”
They both crouched motionless as the clouds above them formed into a titanic face that seemed to stare intently at the ground. The mouth opened and a tongue protruded, worming its way to earth. There was an eye at the end of it.
The oriental man turned to Schroeder.
“The face,” he whispered.
“Oh God,” Schroeder whispered.
“Not God,” the man replied, “magic.”
“Ripples snapping back and forth in time,” the man said. He grabbed Schroeder’s jacket, he seemed angry and intense. “Chaos refracting infinite fractals faces furnace seeming refractions.”
“What?” Schroeder asked. The meaning was leaching out again. The voice was turning to gibberish.
“Sentience kills faces oscillating tangent. We fuel fires.”
He seemed enraged.
“I don’t understand,” Schroeder said desperately, “I know those words but they aren’t making any sense.”
The man pushed something into his hand. A tongue of smoke caught him then and began to drag him into the sky. Schroeder looked up.
“Kyoto is gone,” the man screamed, coherently.
It wasn’t a human face up there.
He looked at the thing in his hand.
It was a nine millimetre Beretta.
* * *
“I thought at first,” Elysse told him, “that it was the fruit. You know, forbidden fruit. Like in the bible.”
“Hallucinogens,” Schroeder said suddenly. “They gave us their drink, it had hallucinogens.”
“No,” she said, “it was real.”
“Subjective reality,” he whispered desperately, “to an inside observer there is no distinction between reality and hallucination.”
“It’s on the videotape.”
“It’s an ingrained hallucination then, a recurrent trauma. The same response to the same stimulus, reinforced memory, acid style flashbacks.”
Abruptly, he vomited.
“I still think that’s part of it,” Elysse said. “It makes sense in a way. How does a fruit or seed bearer get animals to eat the fruit, propagate the seeds. Program a desire to eat, program reality into the fruit. It makes sense from an evolutionary point of view.”
“What are you talking about?” Schroeder asked suddenly.
“Feedback loops. Alter the internal realities of the animal. Addictions. Hallucinations. They evolved alongside us, we selected each other for compatibility. Everything does. Everything selects everything.”
“You aren’t making any sense,” Schroeder said, “you’re jumping around too fast. Slow down.”
“Plants evolved with us,” she said patiently, “they evolved to be addictive, mind altering, and animals evolved to be susceptible to them.”
“All right,” Schroeder said carefully. “Now what.”
He had a horrible feeling that if he closed his eyes at that moment he would open them ten thousand feet above the Himalayas. He could feel the chilled thin air of the glaciers.
“I thought it was the plants, but they were just symbionts. Its bacteria or viruses, perhaps just self-perpetuating sequences of chemicals. Subjective infections.”
His guts heaved and he clenched his bowels against a loose liquid feeling deep down.”
“What?” He looked at her for the first time. She seemed gaunt but her skin was puffy and unnaturally slick. There were pustules on her half naked body. Some of them looked like faces.
She has it too, he thought, she’s got whatever it is.
Elysse glowed, he could feel her….elation.
“Viruses selecting sentience. Co-evolving animals with bigger and bigger brains, more complex perceptions, more elaborate subjectivities, because that’s all there is, you see. Cause is effect.”
“Everything is subjective to the observer,” Schroeder said, “but people die in the world out there. That’s pretty objective.”
“Male objectivity,” she said, “the holy phallus separating light and dark. The rape of the goddess, the sowing of order.”
* * *
Schroeder staggered out of the dugout. Ragged children ran up to him. He almost fell. Behind him, the dugout drifted back into the river.
The Amazon, he thought desperately. I’m on the Amazon.
Past or future, he wondered suddenly, and laughed at the ridiculousness of the thought.
“Elysse,” he bellowed suddenly, shocked by his own voice.
An old man was coming up to him. Dressed in black, supporting himself with a cane.
“Bless me father,” he said suddenly. “For I have gone where none should go.”
The priest jabbered in Spanish.
A small girl said in perfect English, “the transmission of viruses of discontinuity remains a coded sequence in some form of coherent order. The viruses attach at X chromosomes. Patriarchy was a function of coherent order opposing discontinuity.”
The girl looked startled by the words that had come out of her mouth. The priest didn’t seem to notice. Hallucination?
Sibyl, he thought. Cassandra, Delphic Oracles, mad prophets. Visionaries always fasted and scourged, depressing the immune systems and what did they let in?
“She’s been here,” he said.
Three years ago, Schroeder thought suddenly. Three years ago he’d gone deep into the Amazon with Elysse on a Doctorate project. He’d remembered Elysse kneeling forward in the front of the canoe, as serious as Napoleon.
“Napoleon Chagnon,” he said aloud. The first man into the jungle, who’d lived with the Yanomamo.
They’d gone much farther. They’d lived with a people that even the Yanomamo believed mythical. Over three years they’d seeped into their lives and been granted their secrets. Had been exposed to their….
Elysse had gone too far.
He had to stop her.
He had to stop her before she made it out.
Before she let it out.
“Bless me father,” he gasped, “for I must sin.”
The priest was shaking his wrist.
He looked down.
There was a nine millimetre Beretta in his hand.
* * *
There were lights in the sky and sounds in the earth. There were shapes in the darkness and presences in the deep.
* * *
“The world of the Goddess,” Elysse said. He could see in her eyes that she wasn’t speaking to him anymore. The words were flowing out of her like water from an overflowing cup.
“Transformation, transfiguration, life and death, birth and rebirth, the warm menstrual flow of eternity, of sky and soil. Of wet fruit in your mouth, juices spilling down your chin.”
“Elysse,” he whispered, “what’s going on?”
There were ripples, he realized. Small ones, but they were there. Ripples in things. Ripples in existence.
“Magic,” she seemed to pay attention to him for a second. “Magic is what’s going on. It survived here.”
“That’s what evolution was all about, selecting for magic, evolving for magic. For blending the subjective and objective. For melding real and unreal.”
“Magic went out of the world, confined and eliminated by a phallocentric world. Men bound the goddess, bound themselves with rationality, with the illusion of an objective world.”
“There’s only one world,” he told her. He reached out to hold her wrist, but his hand slid off. It left a greasy trail in the slick phosphorescence of her skin.
“We have to bring it back. Bring back the Goddess. Let magic loose in the world. End the oppression of male reality.”
“Elysse,” he said, “listen to me. You can’t let it get out. The people here are adapted to it, they have resistance. The world out there hasn’t had magic for a long time, we’ve lost our immunity.”
“It’s a new age dawning,” Elysse said.
“It’s extinction,” Schroeder whispered. She did not care.
“A glorious one. The end of patriarchy. The end of order and hierarchy and structure, of male logic and male domination.”
Schroeder closed his eyes and saw carnage, cities choked with corpses, storms and horrors, a world racked by cancer, crippled and howling by a plague it could not begin to understand.
He felt himself detaching. Becoming unrooted in time and space again. Felt the awful gravity of events pulling at him.
Flickering consciousnesses bursting in and out of existences, propagating each other at unimaginable velocities. Unprotected human souls fueling a supernatural firestorm, a psychic holocaust.
Was there anything out there, waiting to feed? Or was it really just us, he wondered, pent up and ready to explode? Growing more and more volatile and intense over millennia to compensate for magic growing weak and faint?
Response becoming more sensitive as stimulus, the viruses, grew weaker. Was it cause or effect, he wondered. And what would happen when pure magic was released back into the world?
No defences, no resistance, no way of coping. Time pulled at him, a mad dog biting itself in convulsions.
With a physical effort he held onto his body, onto his moment in time and space.
“Elysse,” he pleaded, “don’t.”
She smiled beatifically, her body swollen and oozing with an infection of magic, a ripe fruit long forbidden to the world. She was choking on the viruses of a new age.
“I have to bring the gift, don’t you see. The gift of magic. I have to set it free.”
He was suddenly aware that there was something cold in his hand. For a second he thought it was the wet cloth she’d had on his forehead.
Then, in a moment of crystal epiphany, he knew what he had in his hand.
A nine millimetre Beretta.