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 . . .