Dick and Osama Attempt to Join Forces
Episode 11 from Must Not Sleep, a new novel which takes place in shamanic space, a realm of shapeshifting and trance. Check out episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. A free download of Michael Brownstein reading from the novel is available on Podiobooks.com.
Then I was standing in the bathroom studying my pensive face in the mirror.
MUST NOT SLEEP, MUST WARN OTHERS...
You'll never figure it out in a thousand years. By definition the mystery is bigger than you. Surrender to it.
"Where's that smile?" I demanded in a loud, clear voice. "Your little self never stops wondering and worrying. Drop it!"
I took off my clothes and stood naked in front of the mirror. Breathing slowly, I sensed my arms and legs, my bare feet on the floor. I watched my face expand until its features dissolved in blazing yellow light.
I AM the universe.
"My intention is to journey to the basement below the Superintendant's Residence where Dick is hiding out," I said. My smile kept widening and widening until the mirror cracked open and the my power animal appeared again, his hard yellow eyes nailing me with an unblinking stare. The sound of rapid drumming filled the air.
"Remember," he communicated to me soundlessly, "whatever frightens you, immediately move toward it. Never hesitate."
He spread his huge wings and began to fly. Riding between his shoulders I peered into the darkness which soon surrounded us. I felt ecstatic, invincible.
Eventually we descended into nighttime haze and fog, a murky space filled with acrid fumes. Then the air cleared and I saw Washington D.C. spread out below. Capitol Hill, the broad walkways of the Mall, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial. We kept flying until we approached a large traffic circle. Inside the circle were two buildings: a Greek Revival structure surmounted by a cupola and a big Victorian house.
Banking steeply, the eagle aimed straight for the roof of the modern office annex attached to the Victorian house. I held on for dear life, the skin on my face rippling from the sheer force of our rapid re-entry. Spotlights, barricades, police vehicles, shadowy figures carrying weapons, all grew larger and larger. I dug my fingers into his back.
"Don't clutch," he said sternly. "Your spirit self will remain invisible as long as you don't hesitate."
We plunged through the roof of the annex--bristling with antennae and patrolled by armed men wearing night vision goggles and dressed in black--as if it were insubstantial, no more than a roof in a dream. Security checkpoints, hallways and offices and computers, faces and bodies, they all streamed past us until we flew into an elevator whose doors were closing.
"When you've had enough, return to this elevator and press GROUND. I'll be here."
And then I was alone.
-1, -2, -3, -4, -5...
Breathing deeply, trusting that I remained invisible, I released the panic which threatened to engulf me. The elevator doors parted and I moved forward, emerging into a vast open space. Looking up, I couldn't see the ceiling. The space was lit like the Western sky in late afternoon, cloudless and pristine. Distant purple mountains caught the sun's oblique rays. I moved into a high desert landscape relieved here and there by solitary cactus and stands of juniper and pinyon pine. At my feet tiny blue flowers bloomed. A heady wind was blowing, carrying the sweet scent of sage.
I saw no one as I moved along and I began to relax. Soon I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that this seemingly empty landscape teemed with beings, animals of all kinds as well as ghosts, the spirits of those who had once wandered here. The ghosts kept their distance but the animals sometimes propelled themselves toward me at warp speed. Suddenly standing three feet away were deer, antelope, bear, mountain lions, elk, and all sorts of birds, each of which displayed its fur or plumage and disappeared. I knew then that I was in non-ordinary reality, the lower realm where shamans journey to retrieve lost souls. Except that far in the distance, just before the mountains began, I saw a line of oil wells, and if I stopped and cupped a hand to my ear I could hear them hammering the earth.
"Even here," I whispered sadly.
Following a dry riverbed which ran parallel to the mountains, after a while I found myself approaching a single-story log cabin with square windows. Smoke poured out of a chimney at one end. Two black horses stood outside tethered to a post, but although they raised their heads they made no sound and I glided past them silently. One of the windows was open. I approached it and looked inside.
A bed covered with Navajo blankets stood in the middle of a large room, with a stone fireplace to the left and an old leather sofa and rough-hewn table with several chairs around it to the right. Two men, naked, stumbled toward the bed in the heat of passion, their hands fumbling over each other's bodies, their red, engorged members swaying back and forth. One was portly and nearly bald and wore glasses. The other, a very tall man, bearded and painfully thin, towered over him.
"You randy devil," the portly one laughed as he wrestled the tall man onto the bed, brusquely turned him onto his stomach, and entered him. Passionate cries filled the air, interrupted by the overweight man swearing when he lost his balance and fell away from his partner.
"You keep still now," he purred. "Let me run the show. Your turn will come."
He resumed plunging forcefully into the tall one whose excited moans lost themselves in a high-pitched whine.
At the foot of the bed was a small table on which sat balsa-wood models of a mosque and a church, and behind them a model of the pre-9/11 World Trade Center towers. The steeple of the church, the minarets of the mosque and the towers themselves--their height had been exaggerated until they teetered in the air.
Scattered on the rug below the table were empty glass vials and a cardboard box which read SIZE DOES MATTER: The Only Solution to Penis Enlargement. Add At Least 3 In. or Your Money Back!
I turned away from this scene, wanting to give the lovers some privacy, and floated off into the sagebrush. Sitting at the base of a pale boulder, I watched as the sun's reflection climbed to the tops of the mountains and the immense valley below them was bathed in deep indigo light. An irridescent-green dragonfly buzzed me now and then, zooming off and returning with pinpoint control. I marvelled at how this insect revealed an intelligence perfectly modulated to its world. In comparison we humans, in spite of our unparalled mental development, blundered our way through life like drunken sailors, leaving it to the children among us to ask why.
Rolling over onto my hands and knees, I noticed with trepidation that my body cast a pale golden light on the darkening sand. Did this mean I wasn't entirely invisible? But my power animal had said--
I cut my mental chatter and approached the cabin again.
This time the horses didn't even turn their heads as I passed by.
Never hesitate. That's the key.
I crept up to the window and stood erect.
Gazing in my direction, Dick and Osama sat next to each other in bed. Osama's long beard was carefully arranged on the Navajo blanket pulled up around his chest. I could smell freshly brewed coffee.
I made eye contact with Dick as he glanced out the window. He noticed nothing. Completely involved in what he was saying, he paused only to take gulps from the steaming mug on the end table beside him.
"--joining forces to destroy this world of sin and delusion, this evil fallen realm. Because, if you stop and think about it, your madness and the christo-fascist project are fundamentally the same...Forgive my pun...But do you see what I'm driving at? They complement each other, they need each other, and together they'll get the job done ten times faster. It's the revenge of two creeds which are more alike than you may be willing to admit, Osama. Just think. The Rapture and Total Jihad, what a killer combination! A huge conflagration of oil and fanaticism. Working together, we can bring on the Apocalypse in record time."
Clearly intrigued, the bearded man looked intently at his bedmate.
Then Dick paused, considering something. "But forgive me. I'm assuming you're familiar with the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. Maybe you're not. The New Testament, Osama. You know. Armageddon, 666, the end of time, the coming of the anti-Christ?"
There was no answer.
"Well, you should read the Book of Revelation sometime. It's right up your alley."
Dick's eyes glazed over as he recited from memory, "'And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of Blasphemy.'
"Hot stuff, isn't it? See, the Beast is the anti-Christ, come to deceive, by means of miracles, those who dwell on Earth. And which miracles do you suppose this refers to? Which miracles is the anti-Christ deceiving us with? The miracles of soulless technology, that's what. The miracles of nuclear warheads and genetic engineering and dioxin."
Tilting his head back, his eyes closed now, he resumed reciting. "'And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, save that he has the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the Beast: for it is the number of a man. And his number is 666.'"
Opening his eyes, Dick said, "Sorta like what me and my corporate buddies are doing. Only we've modernized things. We no longer live in Biblical times, thank God. All that moralistic thrashing around is outdated. Instead of 666, we've come up with something for the mark of the Beast that's totally contemporary. Something in keeping with the consumerism sweeping the planet. We gotta use what the public can relate to, right? So guess what it is?"
He chuckled. "The bar code! You know, the marketing tool imprinted on every product sold around the world. Even in Saudi Arabia, dude. That's the new mark of the Beast."
Osama eyed him with distaste.
"Isn't that a stroke of genius? And there's something else that's different this time around. The mark doesn't come from Satan, or from Christ either, for that matter. It comes," he pointed up at the ceiling, "from above and beyond. From outer space."
Noticing that Osama was pouting, Dick reached under the blanket and extracted one of his long, bony hands.
Squeezing it excitedly, he said, "Look out the window, my desert flower. Isn't the light beautiful now? That's the golden glow of twilight. The magical time--betwixt and between--when nothing's what it appears to be. It's the end of the day, Osama. That light in the window is calling us to take advantage, to seize the moment. We have a golden opportunity we mustn't pass up, a chance to work together to realize the goals we share. Even our supposed doctrinal differences are a mirage...Christianity and Islam and Judaism too, for that matter...Be honest...They're all austere desert religions with jealous gods at the helm, founded on a guilt-ridden rejection of life. The story-lines of the two fundamentalisms sweeping over the world may be different but ultimately the drift is exactly the same. Do you understand?"
The tall man abruptly withdrew his hand from Dick's and moved to the far side of the bed.
"I mean, I'm asking you to put aside the content of your beliefs and consider only their structure. You must begin to think structurally, Osama, it's the only way to go. For example, take the Koran and the Bible. Their content is secondary. What's important is the fact that they're both Holy Books. Do you see? Where the word of God appears in chapter and verse, allowing any knucklehead to turn to this passage or that in order to justify whatever agenda he has in mind. Just like the Jews and the Christians and the Moslems do. And down through history the result has been an endless bloodbath. That's because structurally they're identical. Be brave. Admit it!"
Osama, unable to stifle his indignation any longer, threw off the covers and jumped out of bed. Donning a voluminous black robe, he rummaged through a saddle bag and extracted a white turban which he wrapped around his head. Drawing himself up to his considerable height, he faced Dick with a scowl distorting his features and, pointing an accusatory finger at him, began to hold forth in Arabic.
This infuriated Dick.
"Stop that gibberish, will you? You know I don't understand a word. Worse than that, it grates on my ears. I'm getting heart palpitations. Only English spoken here."
Osama reached under his robe and extracted what looked like a remote control. Aiming it at his face, he pressed a button and bright red supertitles appeared on his forehead, slowly crawling from left to right.
This is utter blasphemy...Allah knows best...Mohammed wouldn't approve...Death to the infidels...Death to the Jews...Death to the Americans...My followers will liquidate you...Al Queda uber alles...
Dick laughed mirthlessly.
"Oh, Jesus," he groaned, "you're so fucking literal-minded. Talk about pearls before swine."
He got up and hurriedly dressed in the costume of a weekend cowboy: a stiff new pair of Wranglers, a black Western shirt, a string tie fastened with a big lump of turquiose, and pointy lizard-skin boots.
In his right hand he held a coiled lariat, which he slapped against his thigh as he said sarcastically, "Oh Grand Mufti, I'm going to spell this out for you one last time, so please listen carefully. We need to come to an agreement, you and I. The stakes are much too high for you to persist in your myopia."
He swore under his breath, barely able to contain his impatience.
"What is it with these Semites?" he muttered. "They're all so caught up in being pure. It's maddening. As if they've each got the one and only direct pipeline to God."
Raising his voice he said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, Osama. We both want to see this corrupt freakshow wiped clean off the face of the Earth. We both condemn our enemies without a glimmer of mercy. We both will go to any lengths to realize our aims--although I must say your style is repugnant in its crudity. Don't you see that from a public relations point of view you're shooting yourself in the foot? Why slaughter innocent people? There are more refined ways to go about getting what you want. But that's neither here nor there. Things have gone too far for you to change direction. In spite of your boorishness we can still work together. In fact, we already are. But consciously working together is another story entirely. Because fundamentalism is fundamentalism, regardless of the fine print. It's all about denial of life, denial of pleasure, denial of space. Combining two claustrophobic visions is a masterstroke. Truly formidable, don't you see? It sucks all the air out of the world. We'll come at the general public from both sides. They won't know what hit them."
Osama wasn't buying it, however. Once again he pointed the remote at his face and clicked.
You crusaders are vermin...You are as nothing compared to the glorious forces of Islam...Look at 9/11...In a thousand years could you ever hope to achieve what we accomplished in a single day?
Dick bit his lower lip, slapping the lariat harder and harder against his thigh in a vain attempt to keep his temper under control.
Finally he erupted, "9/11! You're talking rubbish, you big baboon. Save your propaganda for the faithful. You act like you've got the whole world quaking in its boots. Well, what if I told you that you're just a pawn in our game?"
Sneering, he said, "You can be honest with me, Osama, no one else is listening. Admit that deep down you have no idea who--or what--was responsible for 9/ll. You're as much in the dark as the people who died that day. You think you pulled a fast one, but it just fell in your lap. Coldblooded murderer that you are, you may have planned what took place, you may have recruited those poor automatons, but have you ever stopped to consider how such an opportunity arose in the first place? Who lifted the rock that let you crawl out into the light of day? How could a pissant bunch of disorganized fanatics--losers, really--penetrate the greatest security curtain the world has ever known, with absolutely no resistance? Answer that before you start bragging to me about your gruesome exploits. Because the fact is, 9/11 took place deep inside a dream. Out of your control. And the same holds true for us. What compelled the American government, against all common sense, to plunk down military bases on what millions of Moslems call holy ground? Thereby giving you the opening you needed?"
Dick rocked back on his heels and smirked.
"You want everybody to think you're big and bad and evil, but underneath all the bluster you're lost...Lost...Just like people in this country are lost. These conspiracy theorists saying it was Israeli agents or the C.I.A....Pathetic...The fact is, nobody knows how it happened because nobody knows why this world is destroying itself, nobody knows why two rabid fundamentalisms are torching civilization, nobody knows why we're going to war in Iraq, nobody knows why the Israelis and the Palestinians can't stop killing each other, nobody knows why greed and cruelty have absconded with human reason. Your suicide bombers are no more than crazed addicts, driven insane by hatred. And you're worse, selfishly taking advantage of that hatred, using it for your own ends. Far from presiding over a band of courageous warriors, you distort your religion to send these nut cases over the edge. Deep down you know that what you're doing is a crime against humanity. But in a larger sense--in the grand scheme of things--you have no idea what you're doing because you have no idea of the forces arrayed against you. This is all part of a much bigger picture. So much bigger than you and your narrow 12th century mindset that you can't even begin to conceive of it. A profound intelligence is looking down on you and laughing. Do you hear the laughter, Osama? There are beings in the universe infinitely more evolved than you. They're feeding on the fear generated on this planet by the likes of you and your enemies. They're the ones calling the shots. From above and beyond, like I said before. From outer space. Now do you understand?"
Osama's face turned ashen. Backing away from Dick, his eyes rolling up in his head, he stumbled over the saddle bag and fell to the floor. In the throes of some sort of seizure, he gasped for breath, his mouth leaking spittle, his limbs stiff and contorted.
Immediately Dick's demeanor changed. Tossing the lariat aside, he ran to the prostrate figure and dropped to his knees.
"Dearest one, are you hurt? What a fool I am. I came on way too strong, please forgive me. Can you breathe? Should I try mouth to mouth resuscitation? Or what about water? Are you thirsty? Say something!"
He cradled the tall man's head in his arms.
"Goddamn it, where's that pitcher we were drinking from when we arrived?"
Peering around the cabin, his eyes swept past the open window and then returned, fastening on the pale golden light which glowed on the windowsill.
"Well, well. What have we here?"
Gently lowering Osama's head to the floor he stood up, his mouth twisted into a crooked grin. The faint black and white lines of a bar code pulsated on his forehead.
"Golden light...I should have known."
He approached the window until his face was so close to me I could smell his aftershave lotion and his rancid breath.
"Baby boy, is that you? There's only one light like that, of course it's you."
He inhaled, his eyes narrowing with pleasure.
"I can't see you but I can smell you. That sweet, eager energy of yours...See, my heart feels quite strong as long as I'm here. It's only when I go back into the world that the trouble starts...I wanted to eat you up that night in the apartment. Remember how much I was hurting? I begged for your help and you turned me down. Now you have the gall to come and spy on me here in my secret place. My power spot. Wrong move, baby boy."
His head disappeared from the window and I heard the sound of boots thumping along the wall. Then the door swung open and he stood there cradling a shotgun in his right arm.
"Say your prayers," he shouted as he raised the gun and aimed it in my direction. "You may look like a ball of light but I can still blow you to smithereens. You're dead meat now."
I turned and ran as fast as I could.
Sharpen your intention like a knife.
My feet skimming above the sand I rocketed into darkness, zooming through sagebrush and around trees and boulders, jabbed by cactus thorns whenever I lost my concentration.
Moments later I stood in front of the elevator.
What if the eagle isn't here for me? What then?
My arm froze in mid-air as I reached out to press the UP button. I felt heavy and encumbered. Looking down, I saw my heaving gut, my knees and feet. I was inside my body once again, no longer invisible, no longer a form of light.
In the distance I heard Dick bellowing, "Dead meat!" as he drew closer and closer.
Soon I was hammering at the button, my body shaking with fear, but the polished metal doors remained shut.
"Why is this happening?" I cried out as I felt cold metal poking into the small of my back.
"Sorry, but your time is up," he said, a tinge of regret in his voice. "What a pity. You look like your old self again too. Naked and alone as the day you were born. Maybe your power animal got called away to lead a workshop in shamanic journeying or something. Turn around, baby boy."
Image by Allan Rostran, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet