Monday, June 09, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 14, "Trouser Snake"

  Even though he had recently met Jesus, Mao, Joan of Arc and was currently riding around the afterlife with Avalokiteshvara himself, Ron was officially freaked out by the grinning man chomping on a cigar emerging from the orange Rolls-Royce.

  There, coming right at him, larger than life was Commander 'Snake' Thompson, just as he had always described him. Problem was, he was a fiction. Like so many things in the ripping yarn that was his life story, Snake was a fake. He was a compilation of a few interesting characters he'd met on voyages with his parents when he was in his early teens. The long ocean crossings he made were fairly tedious and Ron's mind never sat still for a minute. As he had always done, he would just make up characters to keep himself company. However, that wasn't usually the end of it. Thrilled with the imaginative discussions that he'd have with his phantom friends, he would regale real people with his exploits with his "friends" as if they were fact. He always felt more important with an interesting story to tell, and the truth be damned.

  Sid was staring at him now, one eyebrow raised expectantly. "Won't you introduce me to your friend, Ron?" he said slyly.

  "Oh, for god's sake Sid, go ahead. Tell me what a big, goddamn liar I am, let's get it out of the way. What's next? Will good old Snake tell me to be glad I had so few followers? That can't be too far off, can it?" Hubbard turned and started to walk back toward the barn where Jesus had taken Fred. 

  "Ron Hubbard, you'd better not be turnin' your back on your old pal Snake, now!" boomed the apparition of a life-long lie. "Hell, you turned out to be quite a renaissance man Ron! Aviator! Navigator! Map Maker! Physicist! Adventurer! Musician! Philosopher! I knew you were special when I met you on the USS Grant in, what was it? 1923? You beat me at chess every damn night on that tub!"

  "Why, Mr. Hubbard, I didn't know you played chess. We really must have a game some night." Sid's tone was coy. He turned his attention the Snake. "Commander Thompson, I am Mr. S. G. Lokavid, a recent acquaintance of our friend, here. Ron has gone on at length about you and your influence on his precocious mind."

  "Well, I'd certainly met my match in the boy, let me tell you. Barely a thing I could teach that one. Well, there was one thing, I recall . . ." Snake made the universal sign language of jacking off as he said this, only to break out in a braying laugh. "Aw, come on Ronnie, everybody does it! Am I right, Sid? Am I right?" Howling at his own joke, he was now elbowing a grimacing Sid in the ribs.

  "Quite right Commander, the lure of the lingam is universal." said the Buddha.

  Hubbard continued toward the Tesla wishing his reanimated id would just shut up. He reached the car but the door handles that would emerge automatically stayed flush with it's sheet metal.

  "Ron, you're going to need this. It won't open without it. Catch!" Sid threw the black key fob to Ron with amazing accuracy. 

  The fob landed in Hubbard's hand perfectly. As he caught it, the door handles slid smoothly out from their bays. He pocketed the tiny homunculus of the Tesla and got into the driver's seat. "Come on Sid, we're getting out of here!" he barked. "Now!"

  Sid and Thompson looked at each other in astonishment. Snake looked a bit crestfallen that he wasn't exactly given a hero's welcome. 

  "Look here, Commander. I'm sure he'll warm up to you. Do you remember how you got here?" asked Sid with genuine concern.

  "Uh, well, I was . . . in that car there . . . I think. I can't say as I remember how the hell I got there though. Little skinny fellow in the back seat with me kept rattlin' on about how 'anybody that gives you a belief system is your enemy' and suchlike. Strange little fellow, that." Snake trailed off, he looked lost in thought.

  "Well, Commander. He's gone off that way with his well armed ladyfriend. I do believe they're going to have a bit of a do with quite a few interesting people. It could be fascinating . . . from a purely psychological perspective, of course." Sid placed his hand on Snake's shoulder as they walked. "Ron's still a bit high strung from his trip here. It was harrowing." 

  "I can only imagine. Storms. Gunmen. Scorpions. The guts of that guy are really something else, eh?" Thompson looked to be a bit in awe.

  "Oh, yes, Commander. He has some kind of gut's alright. I'll give him your fondest wishes. Do enjoy yourself tonight." And with that he sent the somewhat bewildered golem off to whatever Osho and friends had in store for him.

  "So, then Ron. Where are we off to?" Sid said settling into the bullet peppered passenger seat. Don't you think we might want to find a place for the night and get the car fixed?"

  "Look, Sid. I just want to get the hell away from that . . . thing. How does . . . I mean, what the hell is he? You know I made him up, right?" Ron was visibly agitated.

  "Are you afraid of who you might run into here? I don't blame you. You had quite the imagination." 

  "I just feel . . . I feel . . ." Hubbard struggled for his words.

  "You . . . feel? Yes?" Sid looked at Ron like a parent with a child on the verge of his first step.

  "Oh, never mind. I'm so goddam hungry I could eat a skunk's asshole." Hubbard had totally switched gears. 

  Sid's face dropped. He sighed and composed himself for a moment. He was really hoping for a breakthrough. "Well, then, on that appetizing note, let's see about finding a place to stay. Then we can get a bite to eat and get this poor thing fixed up a bit, shall we?

  "So, how does this thing work again?" Ron looked at the key fob. It was shaped like the car, but featureless. 

  "There's no key. You just push the start button, there. That's your gear selector, and the car will let you know how many miles are left in the charge. Do you know where we're going?" asked the light of Asia.

  "I haven't a clue. That way." Ron said pointing down the long drive to Jess's compound.

  "Good. I love an adventure" Sid added enthusiastically. 

  And with that, the car slid silently down the drive and into rays of the late afternoon sun.

  After about ten minutes of driving toward downtown Nazareth, Hubbard pulled over onto the shoulder and turned off the car.

  "What's all this about?" Sid asked lightly.

  Hubbard just stared straight ahead.

  Was he going back into his loop again? It certainly wasn't common, but Sid had seen it more than a few times in the two millennia he'd been in this place. The recently deceased leader overwhelmed by coming face to face with the misdeeds of a lifetime. It happened. Hubbard did seem quite disturbed by running into a living, breathing example of his own compulsive imaginings.

"Ron, is everything alright?" the Buddha asked a little more forcefully.

  Nothing for another few minutes, then "My grandfather . . . Lafe. I always . . . I always."

  "You always? Always what, Ron?" Maybe this would be the breakthrough Sid sensed was coming.

  Hubbard turned to Sid with a look of near panic, "With my grandfather I alway felt . . . " There was the rising roar of a diesel engine and a sudden, sickening impact from behind. The car shot forward and into the trunk of a huge lyriodendron, buckling the front of the Tesla past the front wheels. Everything went white. Multiple airbags had deployed, filling the car with limp fabric and mist from the propellant. Hubbard's head slumped toward the wheel, his nose dripping blood down his shirt. He was unconscious.

  Sid could hear the ominous clattering, roar of a diesel behind them, it's turbocharger's whistle rising with each rev. There was a grinding of gears, another roar and a crushing impact as the bumper of the car joined the rear wheels a few feet ahead of where it usually sat. Sid tried to open his door, it wouldn't budge. He fumbled for his seatbelt latch, but he couldn't get to it through all the airbag fabric around him. The air filled with a hot, acidic, chemical tang. Outside, someone was yelling through a megaphone, but his eardrums were blown, he couldn't make out a word of it. All at once there was a tearing of metal as the driver's door was ripped from its hinges. Sid watched helplessly as two inhumanly huge hands reached in and pulled Hubbard from the car like a rag doll.

  Then there was a pause.

  Now, Sid knew he couldn't "die." He'd tried to kill himself more than once, the first time was just two days after the start of his 253rd year in this place. That was only one of several unfortunate incidents. There was no sweet release of death here, but there was pain. Pain was real enough alright. A severed limb, a terrible fall, or a bullet hole, these things might resolve themselves after a time, but when they were happening, they hurt just as much as if you were living on Earth. No, he was not scared of death, but he was scared just the same. It wasn't the roaring truck or the giant hands or the hissing heat he could feel growing under his feet. It was the pause.

  The universe, Sid had observed, has a rhythm, a sort of ebb and flow. What really bothered him was the pause, the moment when he felt an eerie quiet envelop him. Any child who grew up watching the classic Looney Toons would recognize the pause instantly. It's that moment where the coyote hangs in the air before falling into the canyon. It's Yosemite Sam's plaintive look at the camera, just before the anvil hits. In this case, it was the moment right before dozens of overheating, shattered lithium-ion batteries exploded into a searing white fireball. For Mr. S. G. Lokavid it was, once again, terrible pain fading into a familiar, temporary oblivion.

  Unaware of the passing of time, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard woke up with a headache. A bad one. He had forgotten what real pain was. His nose was an agony of smashed cartiledge and his left knee sprained and throbbing. He was cuffed to a metal chair at the wrists and ankles, in a darkened cell of some sort. As he came-to, more details of his surroundings came into focus. The walls were smooth metal. The room seemed to be about twenty feet on each side. The door, however, was crazy tall. He couldn't even see the ceiling, the room just went up into blackness. There was a shaft of greenish light from a window a couple of stories up, casting a distored version of itself on the opposite wall. 'Very film noir,' he thought to himself.

  There were also sounds.

  The whole place throbbed with a low, pulsing hum of power punctuated by the random crackling of electrical discharge. There was grinding and clanking, and there also were distant, distorted voices, pinched and small, as if they were coming through cheap speakers. Most disturbing were the screams. They would pierce the gloom every now and again sending chills through Ron's aching body. He wondered what had happened, the last thing he remembered was having a memory of his father's father. Sid asked him something, then . . . he woke up here.

  And where was Sid? He always seemed to know what to do. But, as usual, Ron wondered what was going to happen to him next. Just as he was beginning to panic at the thought of being abandoned here, there was a metallic clattering of gears and the whine of servo motors coming from the impossibly tall door. The massive, metal panel slid slowly into the gloom above. And now, the real moment of terror and recogntion, for in the doorway were two, disparate figures. One was an impossible monster. He knew immediately what it was. A towering, shaggy figure, nine or ten feet tall with an inhuman face. But that featureless face, with its tiny, sunken eyes and bony plates was as familiar to him as his own. He'd written that very face into existence. It was Terl, the Psychlo overlord from his novel Battlefield Earth. However, it wasn't the hulking Terl that frightened him. Not by a long shot. That terror was reserved for the slightly paunchy, diminutive figure with the red hair and thick glasses that Terl stood protectively over. It was the sight of his firstborn son that filled him with dread.


Ze Moo said...

"It was the sight of his firstborn son that filled him with dread."

You foreshadow very well Artoo.

Aeger Primo said...

WOW wow wow! I am on the edge of my seat...