In the Belly of Guile
by Pedro Blas González
Part 1 and Part 2|
appear in this issue.
I was now introduced to the others. There were about thirty people in all. They all wore red tunics with some symbols, astronomical I think, that I couldn’t easily make out. Gusiflax had me sit at the very front, right in front of what looked like an altar.
I now began to have some misgiving about the whole thing. I found myself looking about me like a child in an alien environment. None of the others smiled. Their sullen faces looked ominous.
Gusiflax went up to the altar and began to chant something that I couldn’t make out. When he stopped, the others then repeated what he had said. This entire process was repeated six times at which time there was absolute silence. Gusiflax then put on a head piece that looked like a ram’s horns.
“My friends let us rise and invoke the power of the absolute,” Gusiflax said, motioning the others to stand. Not knowing what to do, I too, stood. Then came my greatest surprise. Gusiflax began to rise above the altar floor. At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but after the initial shock, I began to look for a cable or other trick devices. I had an unimpeded view of the man, and to this day I cannot explain what I saw.
Then turning his attention to me he said, “friends with us today we have a most noble guest.” He remained floating about twelve to eighteen inches above the ground, his arms stretched out wide. I didn’t know if I was being made a fool of, given that this is the impression I always got from Gusiflax.
“Do not doubt, my friend. What you are seeing is the way of the world. Reality is veiled beneath the guise of matter. This is why so many mortals cannot see further than they can spit. I know, you’re looking at me and wondering what tricks I am up to now. Am I correct?”
I merely smiled.
“Take your pick. You tell me what I should address next, your dog, little Pucci, whom your little ones loved so much. Or should I concentrate on your pretty relic of a car? Go ahead, tell me. Which one will it be?”
I sat quietly. My thoughts were on turning to leave when Gusiflax addressed me: “You’re not thinking of leaving are you? What, are we not to your liking?”
I felt helpless and very stupid to have gotten mixed up with these people. I got up.
“Sit down. Where are you going?”
I felt myself being weighed down. “What is all this Gusiflax? What did you bring me here for?”
“What does your imagination tell you it is?”
“You are all part of a cult. I can’t really say.”
“You can’t really say? Is this all you have to say? Can you explain the death of your dog? Well, I can. What about your beloved car. The poor thing is being dismantled as we speak. You disappoint me Raymond. You truly do. I thought that you had greater sense than this. Your naiveté is legendary in my book. Childlike, no doubt. You’re rather funny that way. Yet this is why you are here today. No other reason. Friends, our guest is a disciple of reason, of good will and trust.”
As he finished, the others reacted by showing their disapproval. I now wanted nothing more than to flee this place and never see these sinister people again. I ran to the door, but found it locked. Before I could even turn around, two men grabbed me and took me back to my chair.
“Now especially for you, our honorable guest, we present you with Miss Jessica.” At that time one of the women brought in a young woman. Her hands were tied behind her back and she wore a red hood over her head.
“Raymond. Look what a beauty. What should her fate be? You can help us decide.”
“Whatever it is that you have in mind, I will remind you that you will all end up in prison. I will see to it.”
“Oh, Raymond, threats are not one of your better traits. Please spare us the moralizing. Look how beautiful and young she is. She could be your daughter.”
At that time Gusiflax began to fondle the woman as the other woman held her.
“The way of the world, my friend. This is the way of the world. What else did you think it was? Is your God going to save you and her now? I truly doubt it. Do not flatter yourselves. You are not that important. You are both now as alone as you will ever be. As you can very well imagine, your God is now watching. What a spectacle, my friends, a God who is a spectator,” he shouted, as the others reacted excitedly. The mood of the place now became much more agitated. Gusiflax began to pace about the altar, continuing to fondle the woman as he passed by her.
“For you, Raymond. I am doing this solely for you. No one else. The others here tonight already know the order of the universe. They are no longer deceived by your values. How surprised you seem. Just who do you think you were dealing with? Don’t tell me that you have undermined me all this time? Only fools are capable of such indiscretions. Come, my friend, feel the power of the absolute.”
At that moment a woman came to me and handed me a pencil and paper.
“Take it. I am now going to baptize you in the ways of the world. Take the pencil in your hand and write out: V-A-N-I-T-Y,” he said, diligently emphasizing every letter. “Write it or you will feel my wrath like you haven’t witnessed yet. Write it now!” he shouted.
“Take the pencil in your puny hand and write Vanity. Do it now, man or I will cripple your hands permanently,” he demanded.
“I do not believe in the forces of darkness.”
“You know nothing about the forces of darkness. How much longer will you continue to shock me with your self-righteousness?”
“Aah!” I shouted, feeling an excruciating pain in my hands.
“Soon you will understand that while it takes so many of you to do good, it only takes a few of us to undo it or what is even more exciting to me, to neutralize you. Come join us,” he demanded, now walking closer to me. Let me liberate you from your pain.”
He then took my right hand and guided me through the motion of writing the word Vanity.
“Good. You’ve done well. But it’s only a start, you understand. There is still so much work to be done. You are really lagging behind other mortals in your understanding of reality. While those who practice evil never admit its existence, you, who with your goody-good character do not even suspect it, are now in its very entrails.
“Just who do you think these people are? They are the workers. All successful organizations need foot soldiers, you know. These are the committed ones, but don’t be misled by them, they are gifted with an ability to enact some serious harm. The chain of events that they start is truly, should I say, miraculous. So few doing so much. Hasn’t that thought ever crossed your head? A cosmic education. That’s what you need. Now, shout after me: All is Vanity! Shout, now!”
I resisted. But for the duration of this time, he applied an immense pressure on my hands that felt like they were on fire.
“Being difficult again? Shout it, or I will rip through you like an eagle through a helpless, lowly salmon.”
After I shouted the word, the others cheered.
“Good. You are learning. Please take the young woman away,” he ordered.
“Let me go. I demand that you do so.”
“Demands are not welcomed here. The order of the world, I’m afraid is much more complicated than your asinine demands. What does a feverish child demand? Come now, you are being naïve, man.
“I’ll tell you what you will do. You are going to work for us. Tell them that I am here to stay. The rest of your life you will inform them of my power over the cosmos or else. My ways are not those of magic. I already told you that I am not a magician. I am as real as your God. You can even call me his evil twin. In time you will come around to see my point. You look surprised.”
“I am. I thought.”
“You thought what? I think you became too taken in by my many trophies. It works all the time. Did it ever occur to you to feel? There is where you and all your cronies continue to go wrong. You, my dear colleague, think too much. So much so that you no longer know what it is that you think. How about that for cosmic irony?
“You all make me sick. Inverting the order of things on your passing whims. Because you put it down on paper does not make something real. Get it in your head. Tell your friends. You shouldn’t be surprised that what moves me the most is the strife that I inflict on people.
“Sure, I love to watch the mayhem and destruction brought about by nature, but to see egotistical people triumph, always frustrating the noble ambition of God-fearing types like you, now that alone takes immense talent.” He then let out a raspy laugh and looked around the room in gloating satisfaction.
I no longer knew what to think. Fearful for my life, I began to tell him anything at all. My main objective was to get out of there and put the nightmare behind me.
“Do you want to try an experiment?” he asked mockingly. “Why don’t we? Indulge me, please. This will be good for both of us. You might learn a lesson, and I certainly need the attention. Look into my chest. Do it and tell me what you see. You might be surprised. Come, tell me. What do you see?”
As I looked at his chest, I could make out a void that stretched back infinitely, as far as I could see. The center point of my glance was aided by a searchlight effect that, like the light from my watch, illuminated only a small area, leaving the rest to hover as in suspended animation. My sight then became focused on the grotesque faces that kept coming forth from the depth of darkness. They seemed to be mocking me.
“Do you like what you see? Do you want to come in? I can easily arrange it, you know. Look, they’re all there. All trapped in the void. What to do? I mean to live an entire life, and in the end they all come to me.
“Ah, come to think of it, I am rather gifted, don’t you think? Come, come, and don’t look so shocked. This is what you call life, my friend. Nothing less, nothing more. But in the end, I am ruler. Don’t be coy. Keep peeking. You might recognize your world, your people.”
As I looked into the void, I noticed that the others present became restless. Gusiflax stood motionless, but the others began to chant in some undecipherable language. The only thing that I could make out was: “To evil do us part.”
“When you return tell them about me. Tell your pseudo-church people that their God is merely a caricature without me. Tell them all. Mention it to your ethicists. Remind them that conscience is what matters, not some contrived code of ethics. Whatever you do, tell them or I will hunt you down and destroy you and your little ones.”
I became nauseated by the things I saw inside the void. Unlike the classic depictions of hell and mayhem, instead I merely saw the causes that lead to evil and suffering.
My head began to spin. I felt sick with horror. I then fainted. When I came to be, I found myself lying outside on the floor of the strip mall. I was cold and still felt faint. I looked about me, but the area was deserted. All the stores were closed. I spotted my car and proceeded to get up but fell forward. On the ground, I looked at my watch and realized that it was 2:15 a.m.
I awoke in a hospital bed. My wife held my hand. It was 7:32 a.m.
“How do you feel?”
“Headache. What happened?”
“A security guard found you on the ground and bleeding from the head. Fifteen stitches above the eye.”
“I’m very cold. Why is it so cold in here?”
“You have a fever. The doctor tells me you have flu-like symptoms but he thinks it’s something more like chickenpox. Look at your arms.”
My arms were covered in soars and what looked like dark pimples. “When can I go home?”
“We first have to figure what’s wrong with you. The doctor is really perplexed by your condition. He’s concerned that you may have some liver or kidney infection.”
“Infection? I just fell down.”
“Unfortunately falling down doesn’t explain all these other ailments.”
To my surprise, I found myself in the hospital until Tuesday night. The next morning, after my wife had informed our department secretary about my condition, I received a call from Ms. Stevenson.
“I hope to see you back soon. We’re canceling your classes on a day-to-day basis.”
“Thanks Sally. Tell me, does everyone there know about what happened?”
“Sure. I’ve been telling people as they come. However, I have some bad news to tell you about. Dr. Agrimur has been suspended.”
“Really? For what?”
“A young female student came forth this morning with some pretty strong accusations of sexual misconduct on his part. The Dean heard her case and the university decided to suspend him pending an investigation.
“It’s strong stuff. The girl’s midsection is pretty scarred. The doctors who examined her say she was brutally attacked. She’s all scratched up. They tried talking to Dr. Agrimur, but he’s nowhere to be found. The strangest thing of all is that his office is completely empty of his belongings. He simply vanished.”
“Vanished? Just like that? What about his house?”
“That’s also very strange. The address that he gave as his home address does not exist. That is, the place is a butcher shop. Get some rest. I’ll call you tomorrow and see how you are.”
“Weren’t you with Dr. Agrimur on Saturday night?” my wife asked.
“I was. At least I think I was. I’m really not sure anymore.”
“How can you not be sure, Raymond?”
“Ah? I’m sorry, honey, I think the fever is keeping me from thinking straight. Strange feeling. I’ve never felt like this.”
A few seconds later the telephone rang.
“Hello,” my wife answered.
“Just a minute. It’s for you.”
“Raymond. Don’t forget. Tell them. I’m always closer than you realize.”
Copyright © 2007 by Pedro Blas González