Sunday, September 21, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 23 "And You May Ask Yourself, How Did I Get Here?"

   Several days earlier, in The Universe Just Next Door:

  It was a glorious New Hampshire morning with the sun shining warm gold through the hardwoods across Phillip's Pond. As usual, the man had risen with the dawn and headed to the kitchen where the pack waited patiently for the whir of the can opener to signal breakfast's imminence. The man fed the beasts, made coffee and a rasher of bacon with some toast. There were some perks to being in this odd reality, like never being sick and all you can eat bacon.

Bob Minton was a relative newcomer to the afterlife. Like so many billions before him, his death had been a complete surprise. Actually he had to be convinced that he was really dead. Everything felt so normal here. But he could be stubborn like that. Much of his life had been such a struggle, but he grew to love a good fight, and his grit and determination yielded many wins, especially in the financial arena. There were, however setbacks to counter the victories, and none so epic as those he suffered in his fight with Scientology. The cult was a far more dangerous opponent than he bargained for. Though things had gone down in flames after that war was lost at the turn of the century, his last years on Earth, spent in Ireland, saw his life coming together at long last. But, that didn't last long.

  He'd come to forgive himself in those last years of his life. Forgive himself for his rashness. For his impatience. He had no regrets for taking on the monolithic darkness of Scientology. Having been bullied from a young age, he hated abusers with a blinding passion, and to him there was no target more irresistible than L. Ron Hubbard's brutal invention. No, his regrets were the fallout, the collateral damage of the fray. He'd underestimated the cult. He never imagined what lengths it would go to, what it would be willing to do to his wife, his marriage, his relationship with his children. He had tragically misjudged the depth of the well from which David Miscavige drew his bile and rage.

  But that was a universe away, now. Another reality. This one felt so dreamlike and pleasant. There were others living here around Phillip's Pond, but the first person to greet him was a bit of a surprise, being one Robert Vaughn Young. The two of them hit it off instantly, though Bob was hesitant, considering that he had been in a relationship with the man's ex-wife, a woman he'd dearly loved and wronged in so many ways during those dark days just after the turn of the century. But Vaughn was forthright and forgiving. He laughed easily and listened like a therapist when Bob found himself in his new surroundings.

  On this particular morning, Vaughn arrived precisely at quarter after six, his approach betrayed by the excited baying of Bob's beagles. The dogs related to their master's friend using the simple formula: Vaughn = treats. Bob was feeling a bit anxious about their fishing expedition today. Vaughn had said he said they 'had to talk' something about, 'important business'. For Bob, that always triggered childhood memories of his abusive father. "Son, we have to talk" would inevitably lead to rage, beatings and worse. Every time. He'd just been talking to Vaughn about how that childhood fear followed him all his life and into this one.

  His pal seemed jovial enough as the dogs mobbed him at the door. "Coffee before we head out?" asked Bob.

  "I have a thermos full right here, so we're good to go whenever you are. I packed a lunch" said Vaughn scratching the ass of the most insistent of the five beagles.

  "So, what was this big deal you wanted to discuss, this news?" Bob asked, washing the remains of the coffee grounds down sink.

  "Well, I'm afraid it's about Hubbard" Vaughn paused to let Bob take that morsel in.

  Bob stopped his chores and looked down into the sink with a thoughtful expression.

  Vaughn continued, "I had these two Mormon missionaries at my door the other day, and they said something about my having to interact with Hubbard, that he was awake from a trance or some damned thing, I don't remember the exact term they used. But, anyway he's been in a sort of coma since he bought the farm back in '86 and now he's up and about. I know it sounds weird, and I can't explain it, but it instantly made sense to me, and I felt you should know. They said something about becoming free. I know things are nice around here, but I have this feeling that free would do us both a world of good, brother Bob." The beagle kept jumping up for more scritches, but Vaughn was already washing his hands.

  "Siobhan! Let the man alone, girl!" Bob said swatting the insistent beagle away.

  "Hubbard?" Bob had an expression like he'd just remembered some awful, long forgotten smell. "Shit, I never even thought about him being . . . well, here. Where is he, anyway? Did they say?"

  "Jeez, Bob, I don't even know where we really are, other than it looks an awful lot like New Hampshire. Who knows where that asshole is." said Vaughn as he picked at the bacon leftover from Bob's breakfast.

   "So, why did Mormons come and tell you this? Shouldn't it have been Sea Org? What exactly did they tell you to do?"

  "Honestly Bob, I don't really remember. I was so taken aback by the whole thing, I was totally distracted trying to figure out what the connection with Hubbard was to Mormons. I missed most of what they said. I do remember them saying 'You don't have to do anything Mr. Young, everything will unfold.'"

  "Say, you're not related to Brigham Young, are you?" Bob walked up to his friend and peered intently at his face, looking over his glasses for comic effect. "Maybe that's the connection."

  "God, I hope not! I don't need that kind of grief. Anyway, they said we don't have to do anything, so I suggest we do just that, nothing. And speaking of doing nothing, let's hit the pond, old man!" With that, Vaughn headed out onto the porch with the dogs. Bob gathered up his gear and, took a last sweep of the kitchen and joined Vaughn out on the dock where he was loading their gear into Bob's beautiful Gar Wood 20' utility boat for another day on Phillip's Pond.

The fish weren't exactly jumping into the boat. After lunch Bob said they should call it a day and head back to cook the few bass they'd hooked. Vaughn finished his beer and concurred, they should cut their losses and head back. The old Chrysler engine fired up and Bob began to head back across the glassy surface of the lake, but something was wrong.

  Phillip's Pond was only about a kilometer long, and they were at the far end from his place, but the further they glided through the water, the further the far shore seemed to get! In fact, the whole lake seemed to be expanding away from them in a strange, vertigo-inducing retreat. Bob cut the motor and shot the now very sober looking Vaughn a 'what the hell' look. They slid through the still water for a while until the boat slowed to a crawl. That didn't stop the shoreline, however. It continued to retreat into the distance. The phenomenon was compounded by a building cloud cover. A dull gray ceiling, now spread from horizon to horizon. The world was silent and reduced to two things: water and air, with their small boat smack in the middle of it.

  Vaughn was the first to speak, "Bob, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

  They both laughed nervously.

  "I'm gonna have to agree with you, Mr. Young. I don't think we're much of anywhere at present" Bob replied. His face had gone blank. The same way it did when he knew the storm was about to come . . . 'we have to talk, son.'

  And come it did. A rumbling at first. A dull, low pulsing, too rhythmic for thunder. The water around the wooden boat throbbed in a quilted pattern with the growing vibration. A soft wind began to blow from the . . . well, from somewhere. The sound grew in pitch and volume. Vaughn tapped Bob on the shoulder and pointed up to a growing glow in the dark cloud deck directly above them. The light intensified as the sound built.

  Their bodies buzzed with the lifting tone, and Bob was worried that the boat might start breaking up, when he noticed one of their empty beer bottles float upward past his face. Eerily, other objects started to rise and he felt himself lift slightly. After a few terrifying, floating moments, there was a sucking sound below as the boat broke the surface tension of the lake and rose to scoop the two ascending men up in its gradual climb. A sense of gravity returned as the boat lifted them. At about 500 feet they caught up with that first bottle which gently touched down on the deck as they continued to rise into the now blinding light above.

  The two men huddled in the small space up toward the bow of the Theresa M. with their eyes shut tightly against the all enveloping light. The sound changed pitch and rose suddenly until it was inaudible and everything just stopped. There was a slight thud as the boat came to rest on a hard metal surface. They opened their eyes and crawled out from under the dashboard. They were in a large, circular chamber with a vaulted dome above. Everything was bathed in an low, blue glow.

  "What the fuck was that?" said Bob, "where the hell are we?"

  "Like I said, not in Kansas, but that's the best I can offer Bob, that's all I've got." Vaughn was staring up at the seamless welkin overhead.

  They weren't alone in the huge space. There were chairs, sofas, one bed, a bicycle and several other vehicles in there. A Cessna 172 sat on the other side of the huge structure in the blue gloom. They could make out a Jeep Wrangler just to their left and an old Thunderbird convertible just behind them.

  Bob was about to respond to Vaughn when there was an otherworldly sound from below, and one of the hexagonal floor plates began to glow with a chartreuse light. It pulsed and hummed pleasantly.

  "I think they want us to get out Bob" said Vaughn looking over the gunwale.

  "I think we'd better do as they say" replied the captain of the now useless boat.

  They clambered awkwardly out of the tilting hull and stood on the plate. Sure enough, the next one over lit, and when they moved on to that one, as expected, the next one lit and so forth until the duo stood at the far wall. The Cessna and Jeep were empty and the road-caked T-bird was vacant as well.

  Bob looked expectantly at the wall, "Well? Isn' this when you . . ."

  And just as he said 'you', the wall began to glow with that same limey light. An opening formed as though the wall had transformed into some kind of liquid. Strange. They passed through the glowing ring into a corridor. More floor panels lit and they were off down the long, curved passage.

  "You have any idea what the hell this is about?" asked Bob.

  "I think I just might." Vaughn looked at Bob with an mischievous grin and said, "Xenu."

  "What the fuck? Are you kidding me? You're kidding . . . right? Tell me you're kidding."

  "Think about it, you've been here in this life for a few years now. You know how things work, kinda strangely? So many daily events turn out to be metaphors, and most coincidences are usually made manifest in some way. The Mormons show up. We hit the lake. This crazy shit happens." Vaughn stopped and looked at Bob. "Think about it. Hubbard was all about spaceships and Venus and Marcabians. Maybe this is a kind of joke or something?"

  "I'm not laughing" said Bob.

  "Come on Brother Bob, I studied that old crackpot for years. I think there's more to this than meets the eye" Vaughn clapped him on the back and they headed down the featureless corridor until they heard . . . laughter? It sounded like there was a party behind the wall. Yes, it was definitely music and laughter and it was getting louder. The wall beside them began to make the now familiar greenish glow.

  Vaughn looked at Bob, "I think we found the spot."

  "Or it found us" said Bob uneasily.

•••

  Meanwhile, in Burlingame, Mr. S.G. Lokavid was getting it together. His preflight checklist was going well and he'd be airborne within the hour. The fog of his regeneration had cleared and he felt awful. Not physically, but at heart. He felt responsible for Hubbard's abduction. He hadn't heard anything from Joe either. He knew that Joe was basically a petty man, and still held dreams of grandeur encouraged by Brigham's martial streak. Sid worried that if Joe found Hubbard, he'd only encourage his delusions further and the man wouldn't make any progress for decades, if not centuries. Joe was a relative youngster in this reality, he hadn't even tried to kill himself . . . yet. Smith tended toward the prissy and cautious, so he rarely put himself in harm's way. Sid could tell that Joe really missed his followers and the adulation, but he was also an intelligent and thoughtful person, so he was hard to predict. Mo was absorbed in some fairly heavy interactions with his followers who were arriving in droves. Wouldn't be able to help now. Sid would have to find Hubbard himself.

  The Pilatus PC6 Porter he'd chosen for this flight wasn't the most luxurious form of transportation. Small, light and robust, these planes were built for alpine search and rescue, and he'd need it for the rugged, high altitude landing he'd have to make at the end of this trip. Intersectionality was tugging him in this direction, and after two thousand years in this place, he knew better than to resist the pull. He fired up the Pratt & Whitney turboprop and taxied out to 01R-19L where he'd await clearance for his trip into the mountains.

•••

  The wall glowed more brightly and then a small hole opened up in the center of the light and expanded until the opening was large enough to walk through. The volume jumped suddenly as the party inside was in full swing. There were about 20 or so people mingling and jazz trio playing in the corner of what looked like a large Manhattan apartment, circa 1960. There was even a city view through the floor to ceiling windows on the opposite wall.

  "Come in! Come you two, we've been waiting for you!" said a Chanel-clad Ayn Rand. She turned to the crowd, hands raised, "everybody, we have some more guests!" Ayn ushered Bob and Vaughn into the foyer. The music stopped and the party goers settled down and turned to see who had come in.

  The two men stood there uncomfortably until Vaughn said, "Uh, Hi there, I'm Vaughn Young." he looked around the room. "I'm beginning to recognize a few of you from, well, life. I see Quentin Hubbard over there by the piano! Hey Quentin!" Vaughn waved at Hubbard's son, who smiled and raised his glass. "Oh, and this here is . . ." Just as he was about to introduce Bob and woman pushed her way out of the crowd.

  "Oh my god! I know! I know who he is now!" said Lisa McPherson rushing up to hug the man who had lost so much defending her memory.

  "I know what you did. They showed me after they picked me up! How can I ever thank you for what you did?" She had Bob in a total bear hug, the side of her face pressed hard against his chest. "You're a hero. You're my hero."

  It was Lisa. After all those years, he knew that face so well. He held her out at arms length, "Is it really you? I . . . I don't know what to say . . . I feel like I failed" tears were welling in his eyes.

  "Oh, god no, you didn't fail! You didn't know what they were capable of . . . none of us did."

  Bob was sobbing helplessly now. Lisa and Vaughn held on to him. Normally, he wouldn't allow himself to show this kind of emotion, but it was all crashing down on him now. His childhood abuse. The losses he suffered. All his good intentions and all the harm done. Ayn, who had naturally taken control of this little band of abductees signaled the band to start playing again.

  "Oh, man this is kind of weird, isn't it?" said Bob through his ebbing tears. "I mean, my girlfriend's ex and the woman I tried to avenge are comforting me at a cocktail party . . . in a spaceship that looks like an apartment and we're all dead . . ." he started to laugh at the delicious ludicrousness of the idea.

  The three of them were now laughing every bit as hard as Bob had been sobbing.

  "Well, I see you've all met Ms. McPherson!" said the hostess walking up to them with a martini in her right hand and a cigarette in her left. "Mr. Minton, I'm Ayn Rand. We're associated by way of our intersection with Ron. Of course, we're all associated with him here, all of us are on the road to meet with him. Some of us as fellow leaders of men, some of us as his victims" she looked thoughtful for a moment and said, "and I suppose, some of us as both."

  "Oh, I'm sorry about my big entrance here. Everything is a little bit much for me these days" said Bob wiping his face with his hand.

  "Here, use this" said Ayn handing Bob a cocktail napkin with the words "Teegeeack Express" printed on the corner in a gay, 1950s script.

  Bob continued, "Thanks. Now, Miss Rand . . ."

  "No! You must call me Ayn! All my friends do. I insist!"

  "Okay then, Ayn, can you tell us where we are and what we're doing here?" asked Bob.

  Ayn took a long drag off her Nate Sherman and a short sip of martini and began, "Well, as best as I can figure out, at this point we've all been hijacked by Hubbard, although he has no idea he's doing it. We're probably between realities in this saucer thing. It's hard to explain, but there are many universes intersecting, probabilities if you will. Is this an afterlife? Well, I can safely tell you that I'm dead for all intents and purposes, but somehow I exist here in this place where the only other denizens are leaders of other humans. Religious figures, movie stars, politicos. There's a mindset to us. Maybe that's why we're all trapped in this place to reflect on what we've done. You, on the other hand, your life was affected intensely by your relationship to one of us. In this case, Hubbard's church.

  "And speaking of churches, I can tell you there are no gods running the show here. Not that we have seen. Some of  us have been here for thousands of years and there's been no communication from 'above' as it were. So here we are in a spaceship from Hubbard's own imagination and . . ."

  "Xenu! It's Xenu isn't it?" said Vaughn excitedly.

  "Very good Mr. Young, it is indeed Xenu . . . after a fashion. Though how our imaginary creations come to manifest here is not well understood, but intersectionality drives it. Hubbard was in a sort of coma for decades, but he's awake now, and he's drawing all those he touched in life to him." Ayn stubbed out her cigarette in her empty martini glass and looked around for a waiter. A compact man in a toga and sandals appeared with a tray. "Thank you, love. Could you get me another?" she asked. The man nodded and headed over to the bar in the corner of the room.

  "That's a lot to take in, all of this is a lot to take in" said Bob. He turned to Lisa, "I still can't believe I'm talking you you. You can't know how much this means to me. I want to know everything. Everything that happened to you."

  "I'll tell you the whole story, Bob, but first, can we get a drink? I'm parched."

  "After you, Lisa, I could use a good belt right about now myself."

•••

Sid knew which heading to follow. After two thousand years in this place, you just know things. You follow your instincts and they'll usually serve you in good stead. The plane passed through some cloud cover at 9700' in the Central Valley, just over Modesto, but when it emerged on into the clear again, the Alps were spread out before him. You also got used to things like that. Gray spots. Fuzzy patches. Indistinct intersections that suddenly take you where you need to go. Sid checked his GPS unit and there was a pulsing red dot that indicated a rough landing strip near a small village at about 4800' feet. He guided the sturdy plane to a smooth enough landing on the grassy alpine strip. There was a small hanger with a windsock and a bike rack at the end of the runway. He moved the plane into a parking area with a couple of old Marchettis and an ancient Fokker D.I, came to a full stop and powered down.

The map said the town was called Champex Lac. Sid slipped out of the flight jumper he had on over his light cotton suit and placed it in the back of the plane. He stepped out into what felt like a warm summer day. He pulled out his iPhone and reviewed the odd email he received yesterday regarding Hubbard. The missive was signed 'Dr. F.' It read:

  Esteemed Mr. Lokavid, Some time ago, I was out for a stroll through the countryside when I came across a most curious fellow. The man is obsessed with a Mr. L. Ron Hubbard. He seems to be quite devoted to the chap, who by this strange man's account is one of the greatest people to have ever lived. The man is called Commander Thompson, yet he insists that I call him "snake." I can only imagine the obsession that lies behind that moniker. The chap has a delusional belief that we were acquainted in life. He says that he once studied with me in Wein, yet the years he describes us working intimately together would have found me in London. I've been an admirer of yours for quite some time and had a feeling that you might be able to shine some light on this vexing subject. Can you come to see me in Champex tomorrow? I shall wait for you by the fountain at three.
Dr. F.

  Sid's new Apple watch read 2:48pm as he wound his way through the charming, immaculate town. He rounded a corner where the local tobacconist's shop was and there in center of the neat town square stood the fountain. And what a fountain! It was a life-sized gorilla of finely carved black obsidian. The gorilla was depicted wearing a traditional alpine dirndl and pouring water from a wooden bucket into the basin of the fountain. Sid was marveling at the sheer strangeness of the monument when he noticed a distinguished gentleman came striding across the square.

  Bowing graciously, Sid said "Dr. F, I presume?"

  On a sunny, summer's day, in a small square, in an obscure town, in a place that was a dead ringer for Switzerland, Sigmund Freud nodded and tipped his hat to the Buddha.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 22, "X Marks The Spot"

  They had been driving for too long. Hubbard felt certain that R6 City would only have been a couple of hours away, yet here they were driving through the middle of nowhere. It was pitch black outside the burgundy velour cocoon of the Cadillac.

  "Say, ladies, shouldn't we be there by now?" Hubbard asked, putting his hand on the driver's shoulder.

  "Another cigarette, sir?" said Cigarette Girl proffering a fresh Kool.

  "No. I asked a question! Now, I'd like some clear com for once! Where the hell are we?" he was getting irritated again.

  "There should be a gas station or roadhouse up ahead sir, we'll pull over and find out how far away we are" said the driver calmly.

  "Oh no you don't. I can see it now, we'll go in there and there'll be Atilla the Hun or Aimee Semple McPherson, or somebody else who just has to tell me what a fuck up I am! No, sir. We're not stopping again." He was adamant.

  "Sir, we'll have to get gasoline sooner or later" said the driver. Cigarette Girl tried to make herself small and invisible.

  "Now wait just a goddamned second! Sid and I drove all over hell's half-acre and never stopped to plug in his electric car, but we have to stop and get gas? How does that work? How does anything work in this fucking place!?" exasperation was rising.

  "I don't make the rules, Sir. I just follow them" came the reply from the driver.

  "Well, I make the rules in this car, and we're not stopping!"

  "As you say, Commodore. As you say" said the young woman, staring straight ahead.

  They drove on with Hubbard slumped in the back seat muttering under his breath about "not many followers" and "insubordination" and "booby traps." They were off the highway, it had turned into the Main Street of a sleepy looking town when the engine began to sputter. The motor quit and the driver strong-armed the huge car to the curb behind a red Corvair station wagon with New York plates.

  "SonofaBITCH!" Hubbard yelled over and over again. He was in full tantrum mode, slamming his fists down on the armrests rhythmically with each uttered 'son' and 'bitch.'

  The girls sat silently in the front seat, waiting for the storm to pass. Eventually, the Commodore had exhausted his spleen and sat, panting and crimson in the back seat. "Well, now what. Now what?"

  "Sir, it looks like there is a bar open on the corner. We'll go in and see where we are" said the chauffeur. 

  "The hell you will! I'm not gonna sit here alone while you two go traipsing off into the dark. Not again. We'll go together" said Hubbard with his best Tone 40, command intention. 'Fake it 'til you make it' he used to affirm to himself.

  The small town they found themselves in was unassuming. They could've been almost anywhere from the looks of it. The place certainly didn't look like R6 City, it was too clean and tidy. The street signs on the corner read Water Street and South Walnut. The bar was on the street level of an Edwardian era apartment building. There was a red, neon sign in the window that spelled out "Toby's Bar & Speaker's Lounge" in cursive script. Below that was a funny, cartoonish alligator logo with the words "Best Sausage Sandwiches in Town" painted on the glass. There were other neon beer signs in the large plate glass window. The bar was tucked beneath two stories of modest looking apartments. Ron checked the clock in the car when they got out, it said it was 9:42, but who could tell in this reality?

  The night was crisp, and there were two couples laughing and smoking outside the bar's front door. Aside from the sound of a small plane overhead, the town was pretty quiet. He'd always loved bars when he was younger. He prided himself on his ability to go into any pub and within a half hour have a crowd of people in rapt attention, and usually leave with his pick of the ladies if he was really on the beam. Hell, he was getting younger in this place, maybe he still could summon the ol' Hubbard magic, he thought. 

  But then, he hesitated. This reality was so full of twists and turns. He'd just been ambushed by three wives, a prophet, and two dogs! Everyone he encountered seemed to come stocked with a full set of opinions about him. It was unsettling to say the least. Would this place be just another one of those traps? He peeked in the window and saw what appeared to be an ordinary, bar in an ordinary town. It looked jolly and warm. "What the hell . . . ladies, after you" he said holding the door open in a courtly manner.

  Ah! There was that great bar smell. Stale beer, pine-sol and smoke, blessed, cigarette smoke. The crowd was thick and the chatter loud. He and the girls made their way to the bar against the far wall. The room was as long as the building with what appeared to be a large back room. Also packed with revelers. 

  "What'll you have, friend?" said the thick, bald bartender. Hubbard couldn't quite place his accent . . . sort of European sounding, or maybe Israeli? Odd. "What delectable drink can I create for you, Mr. Hubbard!" said the man slamming his hand down on the bar with enthusiasm.

  "How do you know . . . oh, nevermind, I'll have a seven and seven" he yelled over the din. "Ladies? A beverage for you?" he asked turning back to his Messengers, but they were nowhere to be seen. Oh well, they'd be back when he needed them, they always seemed to turn up. 

  He leaned back on the bar, lit a Kool, and scanned the crowded room. 

  Some of the people looked oddly familiar to him, though he couldn't quite place them. 

  "Here's your potion, Mr. Hubbard" said the barkeep cheerfully. "That'll be a buck fifty." 

  Hubbard was taken aback. Money? Then he remembered the bill in his pants back at Joe's, right before he got in the taxi. It seemed so long ago. He reached into his right pant pocket and there, sure enough were some bills and coins. These were twenties, also with his picture on them. "Can you break this?" he asked the squat man.

  The bartender held it up to the light. "Can do, sir! Nice likeness, not like some of the other crap I get in here! Look at this piece of shit!" he said offering Ron a hundred dollar bill from the till. 

  On the money, Hubbard saw a horrible, grimacing face wearing sort of war helmet, with the word 'Ramtha' under the engraved portrait. Ramtha. Ramtha. Where had he heard that name before? Television? Yes, it was television. He vividly remembered watching the Merv Griffin show in his motorhome in Creston, and there was a blond woman on the show claiming to speak for some disembodied spirit called Ramtha. Some of what she was saying sounded like she'd cribbed what he'd cribbed. He remembered thinking that she might be PTS, and writing that name down to tell Pat Broeker to get someone to look into it. Ramtha. 

  "So, what's this all about? Why does this guy have money here?" he asked the barkeep.

  "You'll see. You'll see . . ." said the little man laughing jovially.

  "I'll see what?" Ron asked, but the bartender had busied himself fixing a strawberry daiquiri for a heavily tattooed, bald, Indian further down the bar. 
  
  Hubbard sipped his seven and seven and looked around to see if anybody looked like they might know the score in this joint. Amid the rather ordinary looking crowd he began to notice that there were more than a few rather extraordinary looking characters now that he'd been able to settle in a bit. There was that Indian character down the bar and a few others in Flash Gordon get-ups. Maybe there was some kind of costume party happening. A tall, majestic Chinese woman in flowing robes, sipped a green drink while holding a white rabbit. Just as he was about to find the bartender to order another drink, there was a commotion at the door. The grimacing man from the bill that the bartender had showed him was standing there, bigger than life, in the doorway, and he didn't look happy.

  "Seth!" his voice boomed out dramatically. "Thou defamest me again!" bellowed the giant.

  "Oh shit, here we go again" said the tall Chinese woman, "asshole's back in town."

  The compact bartender climbed up onto the bar and held his hands in the air, "Ramtha! Good Ramtha. Friend Ramtha. There is no excuse for violence. Are we to have a repeat of last month so soon?"

  "I shall make last month's bloodbath seem as mild as one of your outdoor eating events!" roared the heavily muscled warrior in the same vaguely European accent in which the barkeep spoke. "I shall make you all my slaves!" he bellowed at a surprisingly impressive decibel level.

  The Chinese woman rolled her eyes wearily and leaned over to Hubbard, "don't worry about it, honey, he does this all the time, he's very insecure. It's just how he was written." Her rabbit squirmed uncomfortably in her arms.

  "Uh, sure. Sure thing." Hubbard said backing into the crowd. So far, this stop wasn't going too well. The giant, armored man lunged toward the bar knocking other patrons aside and roared, "I am real, I tell you. REAL!!!!" he said lifting his huge battle club above his head. The stout bartender stood impassively, showing no fear.

  To Ron's left, he saw that the crowd was parting, and a small, slender woman holding a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other tottered up to the raging hulk. 

  "No, Rammy. No, you're not" she said dryly looking over her cat-eye glasses.

  The huge warrior froze in position, his eyes fixed on her as she approached.

  "Rammy, put your hammer-thingy down, you're scaring our guest here" she said looking directly at Hubbard. 

  "But I am RAMTHA!" the room shook and a few of the crowd fainted. Then, he slowly lowered his massive war-hammer, "I am Ramtha . . . I am." he said dejectedly.  

  "No, baby" said the small woman, "you were just made up by an angry hack in a suburban kitchen. Now you can stay here and have a drink with the others if you behave. Look, there's Lazarus over there. He's a good listener. He knows the score." she said patting the now dejected looking warrior on the back. "If you won't behave, it's back to your void." She stared-down the hulking man with intensity. "I mean it. Be polite or scram!" she said. 

  The huge beast-man looked half as big as when he came in. He went and sat in the front window next to a bearded, rotund man to sulk.

  This whole time Ron had been moving slowly toward the front door.

  "Not so fast Hubbard!" said the woman, "we have some shit to talk about. The name is Jane. Jane Roberts, and I believe you stole some of my ideas."

  He knew it! I was another goddamned trap! Jane Roberts. Crap, how did she know? How did everyone here know everything about him?

  "Come on back here with me, I've got some characters for you to meet. It's okay, Ron. We're all friends here, even him" she said gesturing toward the now contrite Ramtha. "He's just a bit self-absorbed and out of control, just like his creator."

  The diminutive brunette led him through to the back of the bar and then through a beaded curtain with a hand lettered sign saying 'Speaker's Lounge: Private' above it. The ceiling was high and the room warmly lit. There was a mezzanine balcony to the left and, the back wall was floor to ceiling bookshelves with a ladder on rails. "I know Ron, it's a bit weird being here, isn't it? I couldn't quite believe it when I got here. It was like I never went anywhere, yet everything was different. If I was dead, where was Seth? There was nobody I recognized . . . at first. It was nothing like my after death vision, at least not like I had written about. Create my own reality? Hah!" she laughed. "Hey, your smoke's almost out, have one of mine" she handed him an unfiltered Camel.

  "Uh, no thanks. I'll have one of my own. Menthols, you know" he said as she set down her wine and picked up a huge mid-century lighter and flicked the flame into being to light his Kool.

  "Ugh! I can't stand menthols, but, to each his own, eh?"

  Jane Roberts was tiny, with a high, nasaly voice, but he felt as though she had a very powerful presence. To Hubbard, she seemed very comfortable in her skin and laughed easily. He envied that natural grace in others. He always tried to bluff his way through life, to emulate that ease, but he was certain people saw through it.

  "So Ron, you purloined a lot of sources my friend, a lot of sources. And speaking of sources, I see that you and Sid have been hanging out quite a bit. He's a real kick, isn't he? I like him. Not quite what I imagined the Buddha would be like, but then again, nobody here really is what you expect, except, of course for them" she said gesturing toward the door leading to the noisy bar room.

  "What do you mean by 'them?'" he asked.

  "Most of those characters out there are, well . . . characters!" she said making a dramatic gesture with her cigarette. "The bartender? That's Seth. My Seth. From my own imagination now into my own 'life,' if you can call this life." She stubbed out her cigarette and proceeded to rummage through a large purse on the couch for another. "This place is my concept. The Speaker's Lounge. A sort of metaphysical contrivance where all the great spiritual teachers would gather and watch man's follies, like it was some football game on TV. Somehow our characters have form here. It's kinda crazy. I wrote about the Speaker's Lounge a few times. It can get pretty lively in here on a busy night. Surely you remember . . ." she looked slyly at him as she wrestled the huge table lighter up to light her smoke.

  "I honestly don't remember reading your books" said Hubbard hoping she wouldn't pick up on his lie.

  "Oh, but I remember reading yours!" she said pointing her cigarette at him as she backed over to the bookshelf on the far wall. She turned to point to each book in order, "Typewriter in the sky. Fear. Ol' Doc Methuselah. Golden Age classics!" She grew more animated now. "You know I wrote sci-fi from the time I was a teenager. I sure as hell stole from you! I'm pretty sure you returned the favor in the '70s." She had now gone behind the tiki themed bar to open another bottle of red wine. "Check this out. Chateau Margaux 1995. Stunning Ron. Fucking stunning. Get this nose, you won't believe it. You can smell the earth in it! I love the smell of the earth. My beautiful, beautiful earth." Jane looked wistful.

  "Let me take a sniff" Hubbard said as he crossed over to the bar.

  Jane poured him a glass and handed it over the bar. "Take a deep drag off that, Ron. Amirite? Superb. I could never afford wine like this when I was alive" she said looking into the distance.

  "Who are you kidding? You were a best-selling author! You must've been raking in the dough!" He wasn't going to fall for this story.

  "It was a comfortable, middle-class living Ron, but I didn't have the Midas touch like you did. We bought a nice home, but my medical bills were through the roof. It was a struggle."

  "Cancer?" Hubbard said holding up his cigarette.

  "No! Can you believe that?" she laughed bitterly. "And I was a chimney! No, it was RA, rheumatoid arthritis and an overactive thyroid that did me in. Worst part was, I knew it was coming . . . that it would get worse. It was terrifying. It's what killed my mother, I just lasted a lot longer than that hateful cow did."

"I guess I can look back and be grateful for the experience . . . almost. I've learned that it's what motivated me to create Seth, the fear. The sheer, existential terror of what I knew would be coming, forced my creative hand, as it were. Seth was the benevolent father and mother I never had. Kind. Wise. Funny. A part of myself I just desperately needed to be real."

  "But wait a second, now. I remember reading about how you swore you were uneducated in science and physics and you used that as proof that you couldn't be consciously creating Seth." said Hubbard.

  "I thought you didn't remember reading any of my books" Jane said slyly. "No, Ron, remember how I said I was a fan of yours? I devoured philosophy and science-fiction books when I was a kid. They saved my sanity. My mother was a very broken woman, a resentful monster who terrorized me from her sickbed. The world of sci-fi and speculative fiction was my escape. It made reality bearable to me." She sat for a moment and exhaled a puff of smoke. Jane turned to Ron, "I was afraid, Ron, but I wasn't wired for religion. I wasn't buying what they were selling. Most religious experience is fueled from fear, don't you think?" She looked earnestly at Ron. It made him a bit uncomfortable.

  "Well, anyway, I think it was no accident that Seth 'appeared' to me just as my body began to deteriorate. You don't know what it's like Ron, do you? To slowly loose your mobility? To be crippled with agonizing pain? To not be able to do the simplest things for yourself and watch your beloved die a little every day as you struggle? No. I don't suppose you do, do you?"

  Hubbard fumbled with his belt loop uncomfortably. It was getting too emotional for him.

    "Anyway, I can see this topic is making you a bit uncomfortable. You don't do well with feelings, do you, hon?" she said with a look of compassion.

  "I never have . . . liked . . . those. Feelings, you know."

  "Well, I read your later works and that's pretty evident. Looks like you were projecting your own reality out on all your followers, Ron." Jane flicked an ash into the large ceramic tray on the table. "That's one thing I got right, boy. I made sure that there would never be an official Seth religion, not while I was alive, at least. Of course, people being people, my followers did exactly what I told them not to do when I croaked. The Seth Center. The Seth Alliance. The First Bank of Seth." She laughed at her own joke. Hubbard just stared at her blankly. "Well anyway, blah, blah, blah. Seth told them to run in the other direction if somebody told them they had the capital T truth. But people just don't listen. They want someone to tell them it's all going to be okay . . . boy, don't I know it." Jane stubbed out yet another cigarette and took a deep swig of her Margaux. "You did just the opposite. Started your own religion, and did it ever pay off! You raked in bucketfuls of cash. I gotta say I really hated you back then. Just hated you and your whole authoritarian thing. I thought you were such a charlatan. And, of course, you were!" She laughed that breezy laugh again and Ron's stony expression made her laugh all the harder, "Come on, Ron . . . admit it! Embrace the shithead that you were or you'll be stuck in this crap for ever, or at least as long as this place lasts."

  This was too much. Hubbard got up and started for the door.

  "Ron. Honey. It's all gonna come back to bite you in the ass. Haven't you figured that out yet? It's karma, baby, or intersectionality or, whatever . . ."

  He stopped, but his back was still turned to her.

  "I know Sid says there's no such thing as Karma, but Ron, look at how things have gone since you got here. Come on Ronny, sit back down, just for a minute." Jane was now settled into a rocking chair with a freshly lit Camel.

   He turned toward her. "How do you know what's been going on since I got here?" he said defensively.

  "Ron, I've been here two years longer than you, only I didn't go into a loop. I woke right the fuck up after decades of pain and fear. Suddenly,  I was young. I was strong! I could dance and run again! I embraced a vision of an afterlife, so I think I was just ready for it. I also didn't have much in the way of a body count to have to face. Let's be honest Ron, you made one hell of a mess out of one hell of a lotta lives."

  Jane rose and began to pace as she spoke, "I've had a lot of crow to eat since I got here. I had to face that I knew, deep down inside, that I was making Seth up the whole time. Sure I claimed I was skeptical, and I was, but I would spin these tales off the top of my head. They were so beautiful and seductive. A universe that cared . . . about me! About all of us! With the success and the fans, I just bought my own party line. The irony was that I'd end up in an afterlife to find out that the afterlife I invented was bullshit. We didn't create our own reality when we were alive. We didn't 'pull it in' as you put it. That concept did give me a sense of control over my declining body, it dulled my fear, but it also made me hate myself for creating such a living hell. What had I done to deserve it? For me, Seth was the joyous and positive side of my life, the compartment I put all my hopes into, but he couldn't save me from death. Nobody could. I lost that battle, just like you did."

  Hubbard thought about his fears. Dentists. Doctors. Pain. Death. Being alone. Feelings.

  Then a smile spread across his face. "Well, it looks like we both beat the grim reaper, now doesn't it? Maybe we weren't so wrong after all?" he said with a palpable smug satisfaction.

  "Well, it may not be the gift you think it is. You do know that we can't die here, right? Hasn't anyone told you about that, yet? No suicide. No accidents. Oh, you'll feel the pain, but they don't kill you. You come back and it drives you mad after a while."

  Hubbard shuddered. "I recall Sid saying something about that . . . and a few others. It is a bit of a daunting though, I suppose. So exactly what are we here for? Just what is it that I'm supposed to do then, fall to my knees, weeping for all my sins? Is that what's expected of me?" asked Ron.

  "Don't be glib Ron, it's unattractive. I can't tell you what you're gonna get out of this place. No one can. Not even the ones who've been here for thousands of years. Some will try to manipulate you maybe, but ultimately, you're your own worst nightmare here. You gotta let go. Deal with those you wronged. Owning your shit is a start, Ron and let's face it, you're full of it. If you want to think of it in your own framework, I'm here to help you through your own wall of fire."

  Just then, the tattooed Indian stuck his head in the beads and said "Uh, hey Jane. You seen Ish in here tonight?"

  "He's probably waiting for you back on the Peaquod, honey. Just like last night, right? You alright to walk?"

  "Oh, uh, right. The ship! Yeah, I'm alright. Thanks Jane" the Indian looked a little embarrassed and  said to Hubbard "oh, sorry man, I hope I didn't interrupt" and backed out leaving the beads swaying.

  "Characters, huh? Is Melville here?" asked Ron.

  "No, not tonight. I think he has a card game on Tuesdays" Jane replied getting up to replenish her glass of wine. "More?" she said holding up her glass.

  "Oh, sure. Why not? It's not like I'm going to be driving or something. What about all the other people out there?" Hubbard said gesturing toward the still swinging beads. "The ordinary looking ones, Where do they come from? They can't all be leaders or characters."

  "Lots of them are here to find the people they followed. Some are mine and our paths will cross. Some are William's, that's Will James. He lives just across the Chemung on Walnut. We hang out a lot together now that he's forgiven me for writing his "after death journals." God he was pissed. He's in here most nights. There are others. Depends on the night and intersectionality's strange pull." She polished off the glass she poured and lit another smoke. "Look, I've got people to see and a cat to feed and I've been up since dawn." She came around the bar and bent down putting a hand on Hubbard's knee. "I don't mean to jump all over you, Ron. But, for all the magical seeming abilities we have here, all we really have is each other and a few helpers. If we don't learn from each other we stay miserable. All that shit you did. You gotta own it. I'll be here if you want to talk." With that, she bent over, gave him a demure peck on the cheek and said, "nighty night, red. Go find your girls. I bet they're out there now."

  Hubbard watched her pass through the multicolored wood beads and into the crowded bar. He sat and swirled the Chateau Margaux in the glass. It had legs. He was looking through the glass when he felt a vibration. A thrumming pulse that shook the whole building. He got up and headed out to see what was happening. The crowd in the bar was nearly silent now, most had moved to the windows to see where the blazing white light that was bathing the town was coming from. The whole building was shaking as the sound began to drop in frequency. Glasses were now jittering to the edges of the shelving and falling like lemmings the floor. Seth and a couple of patrons tried to hold back the rows of moving liquor bottles behind the bar. Some plaster fell from the ceiling and then one of the big, plate glass windows shattered. The crowd jumped back from the remaining windows and moved into the center of the room.

  Whatever the source of the light was it was getting closer. The blazing white light was too bright to look at. All of the streetscape looked overexposed. Then he saw it, the huge saucer shaped craft that was emitting the blinding beam. It lowered itself over the lawn of the park across Water Street, vaporizing several trees in the process. An unseen force smashed flat several wrought iron benches and the small stone restroom in the park and the huge vessel settled onto its massive landing gear as the light dimmed to a dull glow. The thrumming continued for a few seconds and then stopped altogether.

  Ramtha was the first out the door, battle hammer raised above his head. "Who dares to come before Ram . . ." and before he could get out the "tha" there was a blinding pulse of light that left nothing but ash where he had stood. The crowd at Toby's was on the verge of panic now. Hubbard had dropped below the windowsill and was peeking over the edge, trying to get a better look.

  There was a sudden mechanical clank from the ship and icy vapor vented out of a growing opening on the underside of the saucer. A section of hull had lowered to form a long ramp from which a shaft of yellow-greenish light shone onto the flattened grass. There was movement inside the misty opening, and Hubbard watched as a phalanx of what appeared to be soldiers began to emerge from the vessel. They were about two and a half meters tall and dressed from head to toe in silver body-suits with elaborate utility belts, short capes and visored helmets. They all carried exotic looking rifles whose barrels ended in sharp, conical tips. Out they marched in perfect formation and following the first couple of dozen came an even more impressive figure. Clearly the leader, his massive physique was clad in form-fitting, polished armor that dazzled in the light. His red cape was floor length and there was a curved, upturned collar behind his head. The figure's reflective helmet came down over his face and he was followed by an equally muscular man in a short white toga and gold knee-high sandals. Behind them came an entourage of robed figures bearing a variety of cases and trays. These minions were then followed by another phalanx of soldiers bringing up the rear.

  When the last soldier from the last group had stepped onto the grass, the troops stopped and the massive, armored figure turned to one of his entourage and snapped his fingers. A robed figure rushed up to the leader, kneeled before the armored man and offered him a long pole wrapped in fabric. The mighty figure grabbed the pole and unfurled a flag that bore only a large X. He stepped out of formation and thrust the pole into the grass. The assembled soldiers raised their weapons and let out a roar of approval. They began to move forward in unison, they looked like they meant business and they were headed straight for the bar.


Monday, September 01, 2014

A quiz for my readers . . .

Hi Readers,

I'll be getting back to Hubbs, Sid, Mary Sue and the rest of the crew next week, but I was curious about a statistical development. Just going over my stats this morning and am absolutely fascinated by my popularity in Turkey (again)! Welcome back my Anantolian friends! I saw you were reading in the hundreds a few months ago. What has you all so fascinated by L. Ron Hubbard? Not much of a cult presence in Turkey from what I can tell. Do drop me a line a let me know what the draw is, won't you? And Ukraine! So much going on in your lovely country. Terribly sorry about the madman Putin threatening your sovereignty, but thrilled you're reading my little tale. Or is it just that there are OSA servers located in Ankara and Kiev? Who can say?

In any case, whoever you are, I hope you're enjoying the story so far. And for non-OSA readers, do comment more. This fledgeling writer can use the feedback. The story is not set in stone and is edited on a regular basis for clarity and especially grammar fails. And for any litigious or fatwah declaring types, let this serve as notice that this story is a fantasy. Fiction. Fake. 'Tis all from my fevered imagination and while inspired by a mixture of myth, real people and events, it is not meant to be a factual accounting of anyone alive, dead or in between. Capice?

Cheers,

Artoo