Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 6, "Buraq in Red Neon"

  The cab sped through the horizontal desert night. The driver had taken a different route out of Mountain Meadows. He drove to the end of Isaiah Way, down the row of neat lawns to where the yards were now rough dirt. Then came the houses that were but frames, and finally it was all concrete slabs and stubbed out pipes. The pavement gave way to rock and gravel and scrub. They rode in silence, save for the clatter of ill-set tappets and the rumble of the wheels on dirt.

  Hubbard schemed. His mind really was getting clearer. "A small town booster," the cabbie had said. Was he screwing with him, trying to scare him? This couldn't be Mohammed. Not the Mohammed. But then again, he just had a sandwich with Joseph Smith, so there was that. Maybe he should charm him with some anecdote or put him at ease with a joke? Find his ruin? Probably not.

  "So, Habibi, you know the way back to my hotel?" Hubbard asked casually.

  "How many did you get?" said the driver sliding open the scratched, plexiglass partition.

  "Beg pardon? How many whats did I get?"

  "Followers, El Ron. How many followers did you get?" the driver clarified through his thick accent. "In Scientology. How many?"

  "Uh, well, I don't know, a couple of million I suppose, give or take a few . . . hard to tell" he said with false modesty.

  "Two billion, nine hundred eighty seven million, seven hundred forty four thousand, two hundred seven . . . and counting." the driver boasted thumping his chest.

  "Well, that's . . . um . . . impressive."

  "Who's the small town booster now? Plonk!" the driver was bouncing in his seat and laughing hysterically now, so much so that he veered into the ditch, correcting violently back onto the road bed.

  Hubbard pulled himself off the floor. His heart was really pounding now. "Alright Habibi, take it easy there . . ."

  The driver's laughter tapered off and he said "Heaven and hell! Hubbard, heaven and hell. You know the difference, my friend?"

  "To be honest, I don't know much about anything right now . . . friend."

  "Heaven is having a follower. Hell is having billions of them. Count yourself lucky in your failure."

  They rode in silence while Hubbard digested that last statement. What the hell was this com cycle all about? Irritation began to simmer.

  The driver continued, "You're so very lucky that none of your offspring wanted to take over the family business. Such quarrels. Such quarrels! I too thought that my wishes would be clear to follow when my time came. But as you no doubt know . . . such a mess. Such. A. Mess. Only Moon had it worse! I know how you must feel my friend, even though it's on a much, much tinier scale. If there's anything I can do, you know . . ." he trailed off, shrugging. The driver was clearly pleased with himself.

  "Alright, so I suppose you're supposed to be Mohammed and you're cheesed off about my little description of you, the whole 'Kansas, Middle-east, booster' business. Well look here. I'm not interested in buying what you're selling, mister."

  "Yes, my friend if you need anything from me to make your trip more comfortable, you just let me know. Music? Some Chiclets? I love them! Food that never goes away! Well, except for the taste . . . so sad when that goes away, so sad . . . " the cabbie trailed off again.

  "Just drive, already. That's all the help I need." huffed Hubbard.

  " As the old saying goes . . . your wish . . . my command!" More cackling from the front seat.

  Hubbard wished he could sleep, but he was too irritated. After about an hour, the ride smoothed out with a sudden thump. Pavement again. Not a freeway, but at least a highway. "This brown clown had better know where he's going" he thought to himself. He was particularly proud of his rhyme. "Brown clown." He'd have to write about that later. If only he had a pencil and some paper.

  "Here you go, boss!" The driver said in a perfect imitation of Jack Benny's Rochester whilst handing a small pad and a pencil through the separation.

  Hubbard fell back into the mohair seat and stewed for the next hundred miles.

  He was finally beginning to doze off when he felt them decelerate and heard the bite of the tires on gravel, then pavement again and the familiar double-ring of an air bell. A young arab boy in black trousers, a crisp white, short sleeve shirt, red bow tie and a paper garrison cap with a red flying horse logo on it appeared in the doorway to the old gas station. He saluted the driver and they exchanged pleasantries in blazing fast Arabic, punctuated with loud guffaws. The attendant had clearly told the cab driver a joke that had left him holding his sides with laughter. The boy went about filling the car with fluids and checking the tires. Just as the driver's laughter would subside he'd look back at Hubbard, barely get out an Arabic word and the mirth cycle would start all over again. Finally, the boy came back around to the window and asked the driver a question. The cabbie stopped laughing and turned to Hubbard, asking "bathroom, my friend?"

  It was weird. Did he still go to the bathroom? He hadn't since the Mormon boys showed up, when was that? Yesterday? "Uh, no. No thanks. I'm alright."

  "Ah, this place! You'll get used to it." the cabbie said and turned back to the attendant at his window. He touched the boy's cheek. The boy clasped his hand and pulled it to his face. He was in tears. Hubbard felt uncomfortable with this strange display of emotion. "For the love of Mike, couldn't we just get on with it?" he thought to himself.

  "Yes, yes, of course. The road calls, does it not? So much to see. So much to see!" There was another rapid-fire exchange with the attendant, more laughter, and the lumbering taxi peeled into the night in a hail of gravel and blue exhaust. Hubbard watched the gas station as it shrunk with the passing seconds. Soon the animated, neon, flying horse was all he could see, and then it too, was gone.

  They were in the deep desert now. Rock outcroppings and the occasional Joshua tree. There was bright moonlight, but he didn't see a moon. He craned his head to find it. Nothing, just a blaze of stars. He rolled the window down and the desert air was dry and cool. It felt good on his face. He sat back in the soft mohair seat to try to recapture his drowsiness.

  The next thing he knew they had turned off the highway and were driving down another, smaller two-lane road. They came upon a wide clearing, a dirt parking lot near a chain link fence, and the cab came to a halt. Hubbard could make out another darkened car in the moonlight about 20 yards away from them.

  "We'll rest here, my friend. I need to stretch my legs." said the driver, and as he pushed open the car door the dome light blazed, hurting Hubbards eyes. Ron shielded them and stepped out in the silent night. The driver, ever animated, walked off stretching theatrically, singing some tune Hubbard didn't recognize. He wanted to get away from that dreadful, little man and walked in the opposite direction toward what he could now see was a white, Pontiac Sunbird. It seemed to be running but it looked empty. Beyond the car, he could make out the blue lights of a runway in the distance. They must be near an airport, but that silence. No planes in the air.

  Something felt wrong. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something was . . . wrong and familiar. For the second time since coming-to at his ratty card table, he felt an icy dread. He kept walking toward the car. Then he saw it. The hose from the exhaust pipe. He froze in place. He felt as though his heart would burst out of his chest when suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder.

  "Dad, don't freak out now, it's just me."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 5, "Making History Perfect"

Blood. Ron felt like he was going to pass out for a moment. For all the bloodied tough guys in his ripping yarns, he hated the sight of blood in real life.

"Aw, Joe, you didn't warn him?" said the man in the track suit wearily.

"I was distracted, Brigham, accept my apology." Smith turned to Hubbard and to explain, "the blood you see. It's not really there. It's a . . . symbol."

"It's a fucking curse it what it is!" bellowed Young. He shoved the silver book (there was that fruit symbol again) into the hands of the shorter of his missionaries, who took it into the other room to the table where Hubbard and Smith had just eaten. "Don't be afraid Mr. Hubbard. The blood, it's not wet, really. Look," he said wiping his hand on the remaining missionary's spotless white shirt, "clean as a whistle."

Smith interjected, "We think it's some kind of punishment, or warning or . . ."

"A fucking, goddamned curse!" roared the bloodied man in the track suit.

"Really, Brigham, don't be so dramatic. We can only speculate, and look, we have a guest, isn't that cause for rejoicing?"

  Young rolled his eyes and clapped Ron on the back, "Welcome to Hell, Hubbard, welcome to Hell!" 

And with that, he motioned everyone back down the long hall in into the family room where the short missionary had opened what Hubbard had assumed was a book of some kind. It wasn't. It was yet another device with a screen. They seemed to be everywhere.

"You're not quite what I'd imagined" said Ron.

"I'd have thought you'd appreciate the role of the attack dog successor well played. You can't say I did otherwise, right Joe?"

"Oh, quite, Brigham. Quite," said Smith placatingly.

"Here's the straight deal Hubbard. Time has passed since you died. Things have happened. Joseph is an old softy, but I take a different tack. Straightforward. Direct. You screwed up Hubbard, you left your successor with no tools to grow your faith. Joseph, on the other hand was smart. He made sure that there would be prophecy available to me, that I could commune with the almighty and change doctrine as fresh winds blew. And blow they did."

"What the hell do you mean by that?" Ron said defensively.

"Look at your struggling successor. Ruthless. Ambitious. Devoted. Scheming. Everything any religious leader would want in the man following in their footsteps, ensuring that their legacy lives on. But you left him an unchanging, unchangeable canon, sir. You made yourself infallible. Your "tech" can't be altered by your own decree. You, sir, are a fool."

Now Hubbard was beginning to get angry with this blustery guy, "Pat Broeker's perfectly capable, he can handle that. I left him six more OT levels to go with."

"That would be fine if he were your successor, which is definitely not the case!" snapped Young.

"What do you mean? I left explicit instructions that Pat, Starkey and Annie were to take over when I died. Who the hell did then?"

Smith and Young just looked at Hubbard while the missionaries suddenly busied themselves tidying up the kitchen.

"Well? Who then? Tell me! Tell me dammit. Oh no . . . not Miscavige! Say it's not Miscavige."

Joseph put his hand on Ron's arm, "That brings us to your religion's biggest problem, scientific progress. You locked your organization in a changing world with no way to significantly alter it. Really, you should have left revelation or channeling or automatic writing as an option for the poor boy" Joseph said looking somewhat disappointed.

"Miscavige. That little bastard. I should have known he'd pull something like this! What the hell happened? What the hell has he done with my religion?"

"Lafayette, you really can't blame him, he's done a wonderful job with the restraints you left him in, so many lovely buildings" Joseph blurted out, trying to find something positive to say.

"Buildings, Joseph? Buildings? All that matters is bodies in the shop! Starts up the bridge! There's nothing about buildings in the tech!"

"You were a science fiction author Lafayette, and I hate to say it, but you really missed the boat. You failed to recognize the rapid change of technology as a possible hazard for continued growth. There's something new in communications called the internet, or the World Wide Web. It's a sort of network of computing machines that allows constant communication around the world in a flash."

"With total anonymity, Lafayette," interjected Brigham.

"Will you stop calling me goddam Lafayette! It's Ron!"

"Very well, Ron," Young said sarcastically, "your critics, those that you had silenced with barristers and thugs, well, they became untouchable, and the stories flowed. Unflattering stories."

"We're not judging brother. We all have our . . . stories."

Hubbard felt deflated. "How much do the wogs know about the upper levels?"

"Everything. All of your OT Levels are online for anyone to see" Smith said absently picking at some lint on his trousers.

"OT III? I'm ruined! I'll be a laughingstock! I worked so carefully, so long to figure this gig out, to prepare people for each new level. The first the TRs for hypnotic induction. Once you've got 'em that way, boy, you can feed 'em anything you want and the cash just keeps flowing in . . ." Hubbard's reverie faded as he remembered exactly what they were discussing.

"Xenu is a household name now, I'm afraid. That's why our news is so bad, Ron. You have no idea what this internet has done to our church as well. But for us at least, when public opinion shifts, "God" can shift as well. I imagine we'll be sealing homosexual couples in the Temple before the end of the 21st century."

"Homos? The hell you say! They're 1.1! Covertly hostile. Root 'em out boys, root 'em out and keep 'em out! It's the only wa . . ."

Smith interrupted him, "Oh, Ron, grow up! That's been one of the main weapons used against your "tech." All your critics have to do is point to some of your more ill-advised passages regarding homosexuality as proof of how out of touch your ideas are. Marriage and adoption rights for homosexuals have been enshrined in the constitutions of most states lately. Being "Gay" as they sometimes call it is no longer universally derided." Young and Smith shared a long, knowing glance. "Times have changed, Ron, times have changed. But there's the rub. Your Mr. Miscavige can't change. You set it up so that he can't alter your writings. Oh, he's tried revising some of your mistakes . . ."

"The hell he has! That little shit better not have changed one goddamn semicolon! The tech was perfect!"

"Are you even fucking hearing this Hubbard? Do you ever listen to anybody?" bellowed Brigham Young, now leaning forward with his hands on the dining table, the veins in his bloodstained temples bulging.

"Miscavige could have been a great leader if you'd left him the tools!" Young was growing more agitated, "He could be in total control of millions instead of the few thousand that still believe. Take my approach to the years after we lost Joseph. 'Making History Perfect,' I called it. That meant controlling history Ron, controlling it by changing it as needed. I collected the written journals of all the apostles since the founding of the church and I made sure that they were "perfect." If they weren't, well, they just might have gotten lost." he gestured toward the trash can next to the island. "I expanded on our in-group language. Hell, I bet you didn't know I invented a new alphabet for even better control! The Deseret Alphabet was genius, I tell you. Genius. Your church is collapsing and Miscavige is failing Ron, but it's not his fault, it's yours. You got greedy and you made the fatal mistake, you began to believe in your own invention."

Ron just sat there staring straight ahead. Young signaled one of his missionaries to do something with the keypad attached to the silver television/book thing at the other end of the table.

"Pull up Rinder's blog. The thing about the EUS OT report."

"Did you say Rinder? Mike Rinder? He was one of my most trusted boys toward the end." Ron said smiling hopefully.

Young lit into him again, "Well, he's turned against the church Ron. He claims to be a follower of yours, but he's bent on destroying everything you built. He just posted the stats for the Eastern United States online. They're pathetic Ron, Totally pathetic. Nobody's going into your churches anymore. Miscavige had kept things going by prevarication, sheer cunning and sleight of hand. He's a hated man, Ron, he's done . . . things . . ." Brigham trailed off, he was shaking and looked pained. He softened and went on, "Look, Ron, I did things too" he said indicating the phantom, spattered crimson all over him, "one does what one has to. But Ron, you left him no other course, no flexibility." Young turned away and walked toward the fireplace.

Smith got up and put his hands on Ron's slumped shoulders, "I'm sorry that Brigham has been so . . . brusque with you, Ron. I admire what you did down there, I really do. It was a remarkable game in many ways. Inventive and freewheeling. But, you just didn't take change into account. Sadly there's really nothing we can do to change things from here. The communications are frustratingly one directional. Brigham can be very passionate about our business. I was hoping to ease you into your new existence. We have so much in common, you and I. I hope we can be friends and I can show you the ropes, as it were. Eternity can be lonely. Very lonely."

Ron was still staring at the small image of Mike Rinder with a young woman he assumed was his daughter. It was all too much to take in at once. He needed a smoke. "I . . . I gotta smoke now," he said heading toward the sliding door. The night felt as cool and soothing as the smoke in his lungs. From the outside, it looked like Smith and Young were about to have a bit of a Donnybrook. The missionaries rushed from their cleaning duties and got between the two prophets. Smith and Young seemed hypnotized, frozen. Memories of his cherub came back to him . . . stop. Stop. Stop.
Next thing he knew, the missionaries were back in the kitchen cleaning and Smith had his hand on Young's shoulder. Was he crying? These two were damn strange, but, then again, wasn't' everything around here?

"Ron," Smith said imploringly as he stepped out onto the patio, "I do hope you'll forgive our lack of tact with you. Visitors are infrequent and newcomers we can relate to, so very rare. I do hope you'll forgive us."

"Uh, right, no, not a problem, Joe, not a problem."

"Now, I really am terribly embarrassed but Brigham and I have an engagement we must attend, so we'll be sending you back home now. We've called you a cab. I do hope that's acceptable."

"A cab? There are cabs here? How will I pay for it?"

"In your pocket, Ron, there's a hundred." Smith said looking down at Ron's filthy sailing pants.

"I don't think . . ." Ron thrust his hand in his pockets and there was, indeed paper in the right-hand one. He pulled out a crisp hundred dollar bill. It had his picture on it with his commodore's cap and an ascot. "What the hell?"

"It's how things work around here Ron. You'll get used to it. We'll send for you again soon. I promise." And with that Smith took him around the side yard and escorted him to a hulking, yellow 1947 Checker cab that sat purring in the end of the driveway. The livery on the door consisted of a red, flying horse with the words "Emanator Cab Cº." in Brush Script below. Smith helped Hubbard into the wide, mohair back seat. He then went around to the open passenger window and said "Bulgravia Arms, R6 City. And, Habibi, take good care of him, he's new." The cabbie nodded and they shook hands.

Young and all the missionaries had joined Smith in the driveway. Ron watched out the back window as they receded into the distance. He turned back to the front of the cab, where the short driver barely cleared the seat back. He was dark complected and wore a white kufi over his black, curly hair. The driver adjusted the mirror to get a look at his fare. "El Ron Hubbard! Providence brings you to my cab at last! You have no idea how long I've waited for this moment. Such an honor for a humble small town booster such as I."

Hubbard recalled Smiths words: "It isn't always safe." He swallowed hard. It was going to be a long ride.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

LRH: The Target two chronicles, Chapter 4, "The Prophet and Loss"

"Welcome to my home, brother Hubbard, welcome to Kolob" said the silhouetted figure.

"Is that where I am? Really? I took this for Target 2" Hubbard muttered sarcastically as he walked past his host. They entered a two story entryway with a wide, sweeping staircase that wound up to a balcony above. The place was surprisingly plain for such a large home, hardly any paintings or objects d'art, minimal millwork. All the oversized furniture seemed new. And then there was his host. The man didn't look the part of a Prophet. He was wearing chino slacks and a white polo shirt with a tiny angel logo in gold on the breast. Smith looked him over as though examining a relic from a lost age, "I've been waiting for you to come around. You took 28 years . . . It's always different for everyone."

"Okay now, so I'm supposed to believe that you're Joseph Smith and that I'm . . . well, where exactly am I? And don't try to spin some yarn, as I figure it, we're both in the same business, and we can't both be right." Smith smiled knowingly. He was strikingly handsome and so young looking. When he'd read about the Mormons while figuring out Scientology, Hubbard always imagined an old man heading that particular outfit.

"Mr. Hubbard . . . Lafayette, if I may, I do honestly wish I could tell you what this is all about, what the purpose of this place is. All I really know is that we're here, and perhaps I can help you get the lay of the land and some perspective on your endeavors back home."

Actually, in the moment Ron didn't give a shit where he was, he wanted a cigarette so badly he was starting to simultaneously shiver and sweat, even though it was perfectly pleasant as they moved further into the house.

"But what has become of my manners? Would you care for a beverage? A glass of water? Something sweet? I'm sure you know I shan't offer you anything stronger." His host began to rummage around in the largest refrigerator Hubbard had ever seen outside of a restaurant. There were three of them side by side, built into the cabinetry of the expansive kitchen. "I never know what I'll find in here. After all this time, I still don't really know exactly how all this food gets here, but they're always full. I used to think that maybe it was God, himself, but one night I found one of the missionaries that pass through here, filling this very cooler in the middle of the night."

"Are there many of them, these missionaries of yours?" asked Hubbard.

"Oh, They come and go. It seems like Orbel and LaForrest have been here for years. Time is rather . . . elastic, here. Oh, look! Here's something called 'Sunny D.'" Smith turned back to him, looking quite pleased with his discovery, a big, plastic jug. "It's very orange."

"I'll pass" said Hubbard. The longing for the sear of menthol in his lungs was growing unbearable.

"I know this is all rather strange Lafayette, but when we arrive here, or at least when we become aware, it's as though we are as babes, fixated, mute, and dreamy. Time means nothing. Months fly past. Minutes are as eternities. When I first became aware of my surroundings, I was in a simple wooden house in Nauvoo, or at least it looked that way. Everything was familiar to me as if taken from my very thoughts. I was certain it was God's way of easing my passing into his glory." Smith was now pulling packaged food from the steel icebox and laying it on the shining granite island at which Hubbard sat.

"You look unwell, Lafayette, can I make you a sandwich?"

"Look, Smith, or whoever you are, I'm a smoker. I smoke dammit! I need a goddam cigarette!"

"Old habbits, Lafayette, old habbits. But, if you must indulge, feel free to do so outside. It can't harm you now. That way, out the sliding door" he said pointing to the wall of glass across the room.

Ron fumbled for his smokes and girly matches in his breast pocket, and he was barely outside before he was taking his first, deliciously minty, drag of nicotine in hours. He felt as though he were filling with an amber calm, a glow of clarity. He walked out into the, manicured yard and let out a satisfying plume of smoke. Over the receding, identical rooftops, the blazing white spires of the temple looked as though they rose a thousand feet high. They seemed to cast a glow on the wall of mountains in the distance. He made his way across the perfect lawn to an elaborate, colorful castle that seemed to be part wood and part plastic. It had a slide coming down from a stout, crenelated tower. He sat on one of the three swings that made up the rest of the play structure. Next to him was a large sandbox, and beyond that there were more than a dozen bicycles and toys arranged neatly on shelves in an open shed. He imagined the the dozens of spoiled brats that used these were asleep somewhere in the darkened upper story.

With his lungs and nerves temporarily sated, he moved back toward the houseglow. From the night-cloaked yard, the warmly lit house looked oddly like a movie, Smith was making two very long sandwiches and pouring the orange drink into goblets. It was all very homey and pleasant, yet this place gave him the heebie-jeebies, it was so quiet and its scale, so vast. He almost missed the sweltering confines of his shabby room in the Bulgravia Arms. Smith was setting the sandwiches on a dining table near the fireplace as Ron closed the slider behind him, smoke still coming out his nose like some ridiculous dragon.

"Come, sit and eat with me and I'll tell you more." Hubbard was hungry. He couldn't remember the last time he ate anything. Damn the persistent mental cobwebs and damn this weird place.

"Well, I don't mind if I do. I see you have a large family here. I saw all the toys out in the yard there." Smiths face fell ever so slightly. He held his bugling sandwich in front of his face for a moment, then put it down on the plate before he could take a bite. He looked devastated.

"It tortures me," he said haltingly. "I only ever wanted to be with my family, my followers, forever. I wanted only that. What I did was only to that end, and now, this . . . place. Things haven't turned out as I expected, but I get by."

"You mean to tell me you're here alone? What about all these huge houses and all those toys?"

Tears were pooling in the corners of Smith's eyes. He stared straight ahead, then down at his plate, drops slowly accumulating on the gay flowers festooning the edge of the white Corelle. "Oh, I do I miss them, you know. All of them. My little ones. My family. My delightsome, dear, celestial family."

It was an awkward moment. He made a mental note of it. "Well, you have the boys, your missionaries."

"They mean well, but they're mostly idiots. Sycophants. They can't carry on a conversation to save their . . . well, I would say lives, but I'm fairly certain we're dead, now aren't we?" He smiled bitterly and dried his eyes with a piece of paper towel he was using for a napkin.

"Well, who in blazes is in charge here!" Hubbard bellowed theatrically, a sort of protective camaraderie overwhelming him. "This man's in pain!" he yelled at some unseen tyrant in the ceiling. "I'm in pain, dammit! What the hell is all this?"

"It's no use, there's never an answer. Not a direct one, anyway. Believe me, I prayed at first. There were times I begged. I have railed and roared. Nothing. But one adapts. One makes due. I am comfortable, and I am sustained, and yet, in that bland comfort and sustenance there is still torment."

Hubbard had been getting his mind back more and more and suddenly, this wasn't adding up entirely. "You say there are no answers. Who told you I was here. How did you find me?"

"You were on the news." The prophet pointed to a huge, shining black rectangle built into the bookcase that made up the far wall. "That's the television, it appeared in the house one morning some years back. Of course, they were in boxes back then, and somewhat smaller. Before that there was the radio and The Newspaper. And now there's this . . . I don't know, maybe it's a big phone, it just showed up this morning." What Smith handed Hubbard didn't look at all like a phone. This looked like a miniature version of the strange, gigantic screen on the wall. One side was sleek, black glass, the other an odd, satin-smooth metal with what looked like a piece of fruit with a bite taken from it emblazoned on it. Maybe it was religious?

"Things just show up Lafayette. Every morning here brings more than daylight. But beware the night, sir, that's when things change. You probably haven't really noticed yet. But you'll see. It's not always a big shift. Sometimes it's insignificant. A favored shirt will be missing, replaced with a different one, in a different style. New food appears. An updated cooking appliance. The pace of change ebbs and flows. Years pass with incremental changes and then suddenly the world shifts in dramatic fashion. Your home is no more, and you find yourself in new surroundings. You'll have to find everything all over again. I started out what I thought was Nauvoo and now I'm in this endless desert. I never really get used to it. I also never stop hoping that my family might be there some morning when I wake up. Someone I love. Anyone." Smith and Hubbard ate in silence and after a while, upon finishing, Ron got up to light a smoke and Smith followed him to the sliding door leading into the night.

The end of Ron's cigarette bloomed bright red in the dark. "So, Smith, how long did it take before you figured out how things work around here?"

"A long, long time, and I'm still learning. I began to decipher clues in the stories I would read. After a while I discovered that I could bend their content to my desires, as it were. If I thought about The Church, for instance, I might get news of home from the new Tabernacle in the west. Often, they're oblique stories, but occasionally, very direct. Tales of home in my growing absence. Of my church. Of my flock. Oh, the changes I have seen, Lafayette, the changes."

"So, we're the only one's here? What about the missionaries and my cherub and the little girl I've seen. And the woman sitting in my room? And you said endless desert. I came from a big city, it's all pretty damned confusing."

"I'll be direct with you, I don't really know if this is Kolob, or the Target Two you spoke of. After the first hundred years or so, it doesn't really matter. But, as you've observed, we aren't entirely alone. There are others like us. Others associated with us in various ways. And there are those who've been here much longer. We get along . . . mostly. It's not always pleasant. Things happen. It's not always safe." And with that, a strange chirping sound caused both of them to jump.

"What the hell was that?"

"The telephone. Oh, they're marvelous things, and now they're made of glass." Smith stood and pulled a small reflective lozenge the size of a playing card from his pants pocket. The lozenge chirruped again and now Hubbard could see that writing glowed on the face of the thing. It said "Brigham" in neat white lettering on an azure background. Smith drew a forefinger across the words and held the thing to his head. "Impeccable timing as usual, brother Young. Where are you? Uh huh. Yes. We have a visitor. Yes. I'm here at the house with Mr. Hubbard. Yes. Oh, he does, he does now . . . I shall. No. No, thank you, we just ate and are fit to burst. Very good. See you in a minute. Goodbye."

"I gather that was your protegé, Brigham Young?" Hubbard picked Smith's phone off the table and flipped the phone around in his hand. It was an even tinier version of the television for all he could tell.

"Oh, old Brigham is my senior by three years. He just had the good fortune to outlive me by fifty."

"Is that why you're so young looking?"

"I was a mere thirty eight, when I was murdered, sir. Thirty eight."

"Makes me wish I hadn't lived so goddamn long. Look at me!"

"That will change Lafayette, you never really know how things are going to manifest. Like I said, I used to think it was God Almighty making things do what they do here. Now, let's just say, I'm not so sure."

There was the rattle of a key in the door, and two unfamiliar missionaries escorted a stout, bearded man as he strode into the grand foyer. He carried a silver book under his arm and was wearing some kind of powder blue track suit. Over the breast was the double M logo Hubbard had seen on the gates earlier that night, and he was covered in blood.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 3 "From Kolob with (Big) Love"

  "We have good news for you, sir. The Prophet has sent for you" said the taller of the two blonde boys visible through the sliver of open door. "It's very exciting–a celestial honor!" blurted the other, shifting nervously from foot to foot.

  "Prophet?" Hubbard said, mostly to himself. He still felt the rush of adrenalin from the incident with the men in the street, and he sure as hell didn't recognize these two squeaky-clean clowns in the hall.

"What the hell do you want from me, who sent you, do you run this place?" Ron said.

  "May we come in? You've been invited to an audience with the Prophet, sir."

  "I don't give a shit about your Prophet and his honor, if you're not gonna tell me where the hell I am then get the hell out of here!" Hubbard began to close the door when the taller boy shoved a shiny black wingtip in the jamb.

"Please, sir, The Prophet sent us. Doesn't that mean anything to you? He has the answers to all your questions, sir!"

With a strained "sonofabitch, Hubbard threw his considerable girth against the door, which being thin, old and oft repaired, gave way on the word "bitch," with a splintering crash, and the three of them landed in a heap in the hall.

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was, from his supine position, releasing a stream of colorful invective, the definitions of which the two missionaries could only begin to guess. They pulled the shards of broken door off of the raging writer and tried to help him to his feet.

"Oh, my goodness, sir, this is not what we planned at all, sir," the tall one implored, "I am elder Orbel Clayton, and this is Elder LaForrest Mayes, and we are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and we've come with an urgent missive for you" elder Clayton said, dusting himself off.

  "Oh, yes, very . . . urgent, sir, very . . . very . . . urgent" the stout elder Mayes huffed as he tugged ineffectually on Hubbard's arm. But Ron was having none of it. Having exhausted his extensive vocabulary of expletives, he lay heaving and wheezing on the ratty carpeting, covered in splinters, and with each fumbling apology and flustered attempt to raise him, the more irate he became until a look of wide-eyed awareness washed over his face.

  "Mormons!" Hubbard said, looking rather pleased with himself. "Goddam sonofabitching Mormons!" And with that he started to laugh, and the more he laughed the funnier the situation seemed to him and the cycle would start all over again. This went on for some time much to the missionaries dismay.

Beet red and flushed with exertion, Hubbard managed to get to his feet. He felt . . . better. Laughing felt incredible. He hadn't laughed, really laughed like this since the day he and Sarah took off with poor old Jack Parson's money and headed east to buy some boats. That seemed like a million years ago. "Okay fellas, you got me. Mormons. And you say old man Smith is here, and he has answers? Well, you'd better not be out ethics, don't try to bullshit an old bullshitter, boys, that'll never do."

  "P-p-please, just come with us, sir. All will be revealed," elder Mayes sputtered. Ron stopped for a moment to regard the ruin that had been his door. He wondered if that dirty cherub would fix it.

  "Just a minute fellas, let me grab my cigarettes and we'll be on our way."

The two looked at him with horror. "Oh, no sir, no tobacco!"

  "The hell you say, boy! You want me to come along or not?"

The two strangers looked at each other nervously, "very well" said elder Clayton, "but no smoking in the car, it's new."

  "Mmmmhmm" Hubbard mumbled sarcastically into his freshly-lit Kool. "Well, let's see what we can see, boys!" and with that, they made their way down to the dismal hall to the elevator.

As the cage of the lift opened to the lobby, Hubbard marveled at the growing awareness that he had somehow known this place before. Like everything in his world now, the dinge-tinted room before him with its grubby black and white tile floor, and slow ceiling fans was intimately familiar and yet, totally strange at the same time. Thin, nervous bookies and full-bodied hookers, looking for all the world like characters from a Damon Runyon story filled out the cliched scene. The night-manager, a spindly old man wearing a green visor nodded at him as Hubbard walked past the security-caged desk, down the chipped stairs and out into the seedy alley.

In front of the Bulgravia Arms Hotel, a huge, iridescent white station wagon, (or was it a truck?) waited for him at the curb. It was immaculately clean and looked quite out of place on the greasy pavement. The word "Escalade" was embossed into a long silver spear that ran the length of the doors. It looked expensive. Elder Clayton opened the back door with a flourish motioning for Hubbard to get in. The two young elders got into the front, with Orbel riding shotgun and LaForrest taking the wheel. He studied the controls as if he had never been in a car before. He stared helplessly at the dash.

  "How do I make it go, again?" said elder Mayes nervously.

  "It's running, now put your foot on the brake pedal" hissed Orbel. The engine roared.

  "Not that one! The other one! Okay, calm down . . . calm down, it's okay." Orbel tried to be consoling as Elder Mayes looked like he might cry at any moment. "Just put your foot on the brake, and put the car in gear like we did before, have faith elder, have faith." LaForrest Mayes pointed at the column shifter with a pleading expression. "That's the one," Clayton said. He pulled the lever into "D" and the SUV lunged forward, up onto the curb and took out a row of empty trash cans before thudding back down onto the street and heading into the night.

  "Well, that went well . . ." Hubbard muttered under his breath.

There wasn't another car on the road, though there were plenty parked (or on blocks) along the dark streets. Hubbard watched a strange-yet-familiar world gliding past. Bars, pawn shops, flop houses and empty lots gave way to a boarded-up business district. Everything looked like a set, like they were on the old Warner back lot. This street looked like the '30s. The next like 1940s New York, and what was this, London? No, it might be Los Angeles, or maybe New York?

The city streets became highways which became an oversized parody of a freeway some 16 lanes wide. The broad ribbon of asphalt reeled hypnotically toward him and eventually Hubbard dozed off into a dreamless sleep. The sensation of descending woke him up just as they passed below a huge sign marked "Exit 42 Zion Parkway." They passed glittering shopping malls and gas stations and on toward vast subdivisions of huge, identical homes. They seemed to spread out in all directions. A floodlit sign on the left said "Move on Up to Mountain Meadows! 6-10 bedroom homes from the low 650s," and as they turned into the development, huge gates emblazoned with the cursive double M logo, opened automatically to let them pass. The streets and sidewalks were immaculate and incredibly broad with row after row of cookie-cutter mansions on street after look-alike street. After several turns they pulled up to the only lit house on the street, Nº. 49, Isaiah Way. Houses stretched as far as Hubbard could see in either direction, like when he'd stood between two mirrors at his tailor's in London and thought he'd glimpsed infinity.

  "Here we are! Safe and sound!" chirped elder Clayton with a forced sort of smile. Elder Mayes seemed . . . fragile, and sat, staring straight ahead, still clutching the wheel, breathing deeply while the cooling engine ticked and pinged.

  "Is he alright?" Ron asked Orbel who was in the process of helping him out of the huge vehicle.

  "Oh, he'll be fine. He just needs to rest a bit. He means well." The night was cooler here and deathly silent. He could smell the smell of a million freshly mowed lawns and the sky was a blaze of stars. Over the rooftops, in the distance, he could see what appeared to be the spires of a vast white temple in a blaze of floodlights. It looked like there was a gold cherub on top of the tallest one. He thought of his dirty, surly visitor and shuddered. Just then the oversized front door opened and he saw a man silhouetted in the warm house light.

  "Come in Brother Hubbard, I've been waiting for you."

Friday, January 17, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 2, "Waking Up Is Hard To Do"

Hubbard wrote. He wrote, and wrote and wrote some more. His pinky was bloody from continuously slipping between the L and the colon keys and getting scratched by the jagged edge of the L's bezel. He wondered if he could get an infection here. Everything was pretty filthy, but he seemed hale enough. His teeth didn't hurt and he never seemed to feel stiff or sore like he used to toward the end of his life. Actually, he never felt much of anything, except the constant compulsion to write and smoke. "Well, that's Target 2 for you, old man" he muttered, a Kool's long ash dangling precipitously from his hepatine lower lip, as he banged away at the Remington. He did miss being clean, though. The days of having the CMO girls rinsing his laundry thirteen times, lighting his Kools and catering to his every whim seemed like a thousand years ago, or maybe that too was just another one of the myriad stories he'd pulled out of his ass. Stories in a life dedicated to making up stories. He just couldn't tell any more. The strange and judgmental Mrs. Eddy, who had sat by the window for some indeterminate period of time was now gone. Her chair still covered with the crisp, clean handkerchief with the "MBE" embroidered neatly in the corner. She gave him the creeps, but she was company of a sort. Maybe she would come back and watch him write again. Maybe she already had. And speaking of company, it seemed as though that dirty cherub and the sad, little RPFer must've been back recently, because except for the huge ashtray in the shape of Texas that he was currently in the process of filling, all the rest of the ashtrays around the filthy room were clean.

So much of what he'd written, or hallucinated when he was flying on pinks and grays or tripping on Peyote seemed to manifest here in this . . . place. The vast amusement park across the alley with its huge rotating gorilla. That cherub. The fresh railway timetables left at his door each dirty, gray morning. He assumed that he was dead and and if he was going to be honest, it surprised the hell out of him. The old man really never believed in the other side, just pretty tales to snare the frightened into buying his piece of blue sky. He pretty much figured that everything he'd made up was bullshit and yet, here he was, where ever "here" was. He still had no memory of arriving, of traveling. Last thing he could remember about his life was Broeker and that terrifying little martinet, that manchild, had him so drugged out during the last few months in Creston, there was no way to tell exactly when he'd died. One moment he was delirious and immobile in his Bluebird on the ranch, the next . . . here. But where was here? Was it really Target 2, a place he'd made up on a whim? Was he exterior? Was he really a Thetan? Or was this Hell? The Bardo? Purgatory? It all seemed so strange and so familiar at the same time.

There had been no official welcoming committee. Not so much as a how-do-you-do from anyone. The cherub and the RPF slave never spoke, at least that he could remember, they only cleaned and changed the roll of butcher paper on which he typed. The only communications he got came in the form of Manila folders with neatly type written reports. He never read them, just stacked them next to his table. He had the feeling that maybe these were what he was writing. It was frustrating to write so much and not have any idea what the hell he was saying. He looked across the room at the rumple of threadbare sheets that was his spavined bed. A bed. A bed? Did he ever sleep? And where was the bathroom? Did he ever eat or use the commode? There was a tiny kitchenette with a bare, flickering fluorescent light, against the far wall. All he knew was that he typed compulsively and smoked. And in that growing awareness began to knit together and form the idea that all of this was getting kind of old.

"Do I ever goddam get up?" he said to himself. Somewhere in the back of his mind, it seemed that he did. He had a vague sense of the lobby downstairs full of shady characters and loose women. He distinctly remembered looking out the window where he could just make out the top of the mechanical gorilla in The Great Hoipolloi Amusement Park & Whole Track Sensorium across the alley. So, it was with great concentration that Hubbard stopped typing, took a long, final drag off the Kool before stubbing it out in the panhandle, just above the cheerful gold letters exclaiming that the ashtray was "BIG . . . like Texas!" Pushing his chair back from the swaybacked card table, he slowly rose. That felt normal enough. His legs felt sturdy beneath him. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror in the kitchenette, why was he still old? He would have to do something about that, but for now just moving was good.

He walked over toward the windows that gaped in the muggy night air. God, it was loud out there. The traffic. The calliope. The roar and clatter and screams of the scenic railway as it rushed down it's impossibly high drop for the skillionth time. Three floors down, a group of noisy fellows were making their way arm-in-arm, rather drunkenly down the alley. They looked like a fine group of friends, old-timey card dealers, complete with sleeve garters, red and white striped shirts and visors, they were having a time of it, drinking from large mugs and laughing uproariously when suddenly they stopped dead in their tracks. Dread filled Hubbard. In that moment, the men turned slowly to face him, mugs shattering on the wet pavement. The city went silent except for the sound of a growing wind. The group of men fixed him with blank stares. He felt a distant, mounting terror. The temperature plummeted as an icy wind howled through his shabby room, fluttering the broken Venetian blinds and blowing the railway timetables he'd been collecting in a pile on the floor all over the place. He didn't know much these days, but he knew this wasn't good.

A sudden knock at the door was like a gunshot to him. He snapped back into the room and when he turned back the men were still drinking, lauging and caroming towards the all-night Helatroban nightclub down the block. The noise, the mugginess, everything was as it had been. The knock came again, more insistent. Ron made his way to the door with some trepidation. Leaving the chain firmly locked, he opened the door a crack to see two fresh-faced young men in white short sleeve dress shirts with badges on them. "Hello Sir!" they chirped in unison. "We hope we're not disturbing you . . .

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 1, "Mrs. Eddy's Fodder"

This first chapter has been annotated with links for those unfamiliar with the astonishingly batty writings and life story of L. Ron Hubbard. The story as you read it, while based on the life and times of Hubbard, is entirely fictional . . . 

Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy and Lafayette Ronald Hubbard are seated in a filthy room at the Bulgravia Arms Hotel, a seedy flophouse across the alley from the service entrance to The Great Hoipolloi Amusement Park and Whole Track Sensorium in R6 City, the largest city in all of Target 2. Hubbard sits at a tattered card table beneath a naked bulb, a thin rope of smoke rises from a lit Kool (mostly ash at this point) in the heaping ashtray. Another cigarette hangs in the corner of his mouth, snowing ashes down the front of his stained sweater vest. He types furiously at an old, electric Remington with a "J" that sticks. When he was alive, he'd mutter every word out loud, acting out the scene with great flourish and self-satisfaction, eyebrows rising and falling with each feigned emotion. With LRH, everything was a performance. Now the face is blank. The typing rhythmic.

In the heat of the city night, the windows gape wide open hoping for a breeze. The din of traffic mixes with the amusement park barkers and the tinny the sound of a wheezy calliope playing Thank You For Listening on an endless repeat. This cacophony is periodically punctuated by the screams of terrified thetans as their rickety roller coaster roars to the bottom of the of the dizzying parabola, only to rocket them upward again, screams fading into the distance and their next sickening drop. In the distance, Scientology axioms blare from a three-story mechanical gorilla somewhere in the middle of the park, as it slowly rotates on its massive gears. Dozens of Sea Org slaves, trapped here between lives that span the countless quadrillions of years of The Whole Track, tend to the great machine's groaning, clockwork mechanism wearing nothing but shabby boiler-suits and glum, resigned expressions.

Over by the windows, across the room from the corpulent scribe, a tiny, prim figure sits stiffly handkerchief with the monogram MBE neatly stitched in one corner. She had carefully placed it on the filthy chair before deigning to perch on it. That seemed so long ago. How long had she been here? Days? Years? Time can be so dodgy in Target 2. The stern woman just kept staring intently at Hubbard as he typed ceaselessly in his cloud of minty, blue smoke. How did he do it? How could he write so much? So effortlessly? And what secrets was he writing? She was seething with envy. Her path would have been much easier had God given her the gift of such prodigious output. She didn't think this was heaven and she firmly denied hell, but somehow, it didn't really seem to matter now. She couldn't take her eyes off this great lump of a man for whom she felt such affinity and disdain.

Outside, in the trash-strewn alley, a chariot drawn by two exhausted, sway-backed mares drew up to the curb. In this once splendid conveyance, sporadically illuminated from above by the letters "BU G   VIA  A  MS" in block lettered neon, a tiny figure was talking to himself. In the faded elegance of the chariot, a fleshy cherub was chomping on a cigar (picture a rather unclean, 55 year-old baby with a bad attitude) while another small figure wrestled a cardboard box and a large satchel full of file folders and office supplies to the curb. He looked up at the outline of Mrs. Eddy in the dim light of Hubbard's window and thought about the three-story climb before him. He sighed heavily and dismounted with a flutter of his tiny, useless wings as another train-full of terrified thetans ripped by, sending a small tornado of food wrappers and cigarette butts down the deserted pavement.

Ten minutes later, the now thoroughly winded cherub stumped in the door, accompanied by a thin, sooty child in a filthy, gray boiler suit with "Stacy" stitched haphazardly over her left breast pocket. The odd couple entered the suite of rooms, set down their boxes and bags and immediately went to work. As if she'd done it a thousand times, the Sea Org slave busied herself collecting the five overflowing ashtrays stationed around the room and emptying them one-by-one out the window nearest the corner. She then proceeded to put them back precisely where she found them, lining them up with the dust shadows where they once sat. She then proceeded to open the large cardboard box she had carried in with her. The young woman carefully lined up 10 fresh cartons of Kools in a neat row on the coffee table, using a time-worn wooden ruler for precise spacing. Each carton was topped with exactly 10 books of matches (saucy ladies on the covers advertised an all-night Helatroban strip club down the street). The girl continued aligning her little cigarette henge, flinching with the bell of each manic carriage return.

Meanwhile, the cherub had busied himself rolling up the long ribbon of butcher paper that LRH had been typing on for the last 7 hours. All at once, the cherub shouted an unintelligible series of acronyms at the slave who immediately stopped work on her tabletop tobacco temple. She pulled a pair of safety scissors out of a tattered tool pouch she wore around her tiny waist and began the painstaking work of cutting the the continuous tome into individual pages at precise 11 inch intervals and putting each page into carefully numbered manila folders in the correct sequence.

With things under control, the cherub approached the mountainous writer, climbed up in his lap and suddenly slapped his face with his fat, little palm. "Stop!" he commanded. Hubbard went still, his eyes focused on some distant, unseen reverie. The cherub removed the last of the paper from the humming Remington, and climbed down to replace the roll of butcher paper on an iron spool under the table. After some struggle, he managed to feed it back up into the ancient typewriter. He then made his way across the paper-strewn table to face the writer once again. The little figure reached out and touched Hubbard's pock-marked cheek, straightened some stray wisps of red hair and whispered something into his ear. The cherub lit a fresh Kool, lovingly placed it between LRH's obscene lips and jumped down with a thud. There was a series of loud snaps, and the lights went out for what seemed like an eternity.

When they flickered back to life, MBE and LRH were alone in the room again. The cacophony had resumed. Everything was as it had been before. The city roared. The calliope tooted. The trains clattered. He typed. She envied. He indulged. She abstained. And so it went on in the breezeless night, for what felt like a trillion years.