The Journey
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Editor's Note:  This is a piece of online fiction that ran on the Black Hole Literary Review beginning in mid-1996.  It is a straight text capture of the online novella as it occurred.


This is the journey of SHAMAN and SYSOP as related by the two of them
in their quest for whatever. It started when SYSOP decided that he and
SHAMAN needed to take a vision quest, or a vacation, or whatever, and
departed through the Red Door of /LILINN. It will end when it ends.

Onward and Inward, into the Beyond.


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Welcome, Sysop, to JOURNEY: The Journey of SYSOP and SHAMAN

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Date: Saturday, June 29, 1996 1:18am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658120
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Thoughts on being a tiger 
(Copy by Sysop) (1 reply)

I'd been out. Nevermind where.

I had dog on my breath. My coat,freshly licked clean when I left,was
matted and covered with road grime, and I smelled bad. Most of all, I
wanted it that way.

I came in and padded towards the back. Everyone could see my mood. Most
could probably smell it too. I crawled behind Red's table and flopped
down. The floor shook. Nobody looked over--they were probably scared to.
Good. That's the way I wanted it.

Jonesy was playing a set at the piano-- old standards.

". . .You may be king, you may possess the world and it's gold, but gold
won't buy you happiness when you're growing old. . ."

It was insufferable. I had been ten years as a tiger now, most of it
forced. Now I was free to choose, and I had chosen to remain so. Tigers
did not need to apologize for having dog breath. They did not have to
justify their moods. Tigers were self-justified, self-contained, self-

"Oh the world, it's still the same, it never changes. As sure as the
stars shine above. . ."

Damn that piano player. He was interrupting my brooding. I got up and
stalked over to the piano and closed the lid. Jonesy had seen me coming
and gotten his fingers out of the way. I think some folks were
entertained, some were frightened, some didn't notice. I didn't care. A
tiger's brooding is sacrosanct.

Now where was I? Oh yes, tigers do not live for others to justify them.
They just are. That was a simple truth, and it was a simplicity that
drove my life. So why was it that I had such a bad mood?

"Hey Shaman." said Jonesy. "Why you in such a mood?"

"Where's Red?" I asked.

"Don't know." Jonesy replied to the telepathic demand.

"Good." I thought.

"You not jealous, are you?" Jonesy asked. "I'm sure she ain't with no
other tiger."

"That's not the point." I replied. "I'm a tiger, she's a . . . a woman.
What she does is her business."

"Listen here, Mr. Tiger, sir. You is making one big mess of a good
Friday night crowd." Jonesy sat down on the floor beside me. "Now either
I'm gonna get to the bottom of this and get you chilled out, or I'm
gonna havta screw up the courage and ask you to leave."

"I'm a tiger. I don't have to chill out."

"OK, so it ain't Red that's got you in a snit. What is it?"

"I'm a tiger, I do not have to have a reason for being in a snit."

"There's more truth to that than you know." said Jonesy. "I think you
been figurin' out that tigers just are. They's like far to out there on
their own trip. Bein' in your own space ain't being in somebody else's
space. Dig?"

"Yeah, tigers don't share space. Yeah, I get it. Get me a saucer of
scotch."

"There's no law I gotta serve a mad tiger in this establishment. You go
read my liquor license. You wanna drink, you gotta settle down."

Then I got it. I was a tiger. I was living the life of a solitary
carnivore at the center of his own universe. I was completely self
contained, and I was quite alone. If I was fully a tiger, I wouldn't be
worried about it, but I was not a tiger by birthright, only by marriage,
and it was bugging me, and it bugged me that the whole world seemed to
be making it clear that I couldn't have it both ways. I couldn't be a
tiger and maintain any semblance of my connection to humanity.

I roared. It knocked Jonesy over, stopped all the conversations in the
room, and upset a dish of beer nuts two tables away. After I finished
my roar, I shook my head and started licking the grime of my front paws.

Ptfththththththth! God that tasted bad!

"You finished with your snit now?" asked Jonesy.

"She said it was too weird being with a tiger," I replied.

"You got's to admit, you ain't nothin' to take home to the folks."
Jonesy said. "I'll get ya that saucer of scotch now."

Date: Monday, July 1, 1996 1:30pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658121
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Making my goodbyes. . .at least for now 
(Copy by Sysop) 

SYSOP can be so. . . I had to think for a minute. I just couldn't
find the right word. I had to get out of there just to hear myself
think. But then aleatory magic is that way. As shamans went,
SYSOP had the edge on dealing with the shit-at-hand. If life dealt
him lemons, he found a way to make a steak dinner out of it. The
problem was it was weird magic and it's not something you always
enjoyed being around. I'd been with him on one of his guerilla
camping trips to the suburbs and watched him once try to build a
fire in the rain with no wood, no matches and no apparent good
sense. After an hour of scouring the woods, routing through garbage
cans and a rummaging through his pockets he got a spark off a wet
flint and sent a small quantity of discarded gasoline and paint
thinner ablaze on rain-soaked newspapers. The wood came from
pruning dead limbs off the neighbor's trees with a saw he had in
his pocket.

I'd been over to /LILINN, and SYSOP had offered me something I'd known
immediately I'd be bound to take: a way outta here. I needed a
breather. Too many green entities, too many screwed up relationships.
I had to get outta town. I was just a little wary of the means of
transport and of my companion.

The problem is this magic is always a bit short sighted when it
came to giving participants and witnesses warm fuzzies. Watching
SYSOP work was always a trip to the brink of chaos, but I think
that's where he drew his power. Even he'd admitted that it had
seemed iffy that the rain/gasoline/thinner mix would light. He was
riding the strange attractors of destiny, always on the verge of
flying off into oblivion but always seeming to keep to the groove.
SYSOP had a saying: "Don't get off the path." It came from a scene
in Apocolypse Now-- something to do with a Cajun chef and a tiger.
Well, he might be on the path, but the path to SYSOP was a thinner
line than I was capable of seeing.

Anyhow, I had to get my head clear, and do some goodbyes. Jonesy
was cleaning up from the night before.

"Red come in?" I asked.

"No, sir Mister Shaman." said Jonesy.

"Just as well." I replied. "I'm taking off for a trip."

"I'll tell her you were looking for her." he said.

"Look Jonesy," I started. "About the other night."

"Now come on." said Jonesy. "Tigers do not apologize."

"You're right. Still, thanks."

"You take care of yourself," said Jonesy. "And take care of ol'
SYSOP. I'd hate to lose a boss."

"I'll do that, Jonesy."

Date: Monday, June 24, 1996 4:27pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658122
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: A new day 
(Copy by Sysop, Reply to #629881) 

I had found the door to the \LILINN open again, and between the
weird little yellow things, the weird little green things, and my
general disposition of complete boredom and indigestion, I decided
to wander over and see what was happening.

I went largely unnoticed, especially by the orange sprite picking
at some cheesecake at a far booth. I didn't know if I was going to
scare her or what, but it occured to me that this is where I should
be. So I plunked myself down and looked intently at her. Nothing
happened.

"You know, I stayed for a long time in my cage, after I found the
door open." I thought at her.

"Oh." came the answer.

"I did it, because I didn't know what else to do." I thought
again, a little harder.

"Oh."

"After all those years being cooped up, I couldn't give myself
permission to leave."

"I'm not like that." she replied flatly. "This is different."

"Look, what is it? You not like tigers?" I asked.

"No. I'm just busy thinking."

"Oh." I thought, and realizing this was going nowhere in a hurry,
I departed for the door to \HOLENWALL.

Date: Tuesday, June 25, 1996 3:02pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658123
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: A new day 
(Copy by Sysop, Reply to #632165, Reply to #629881) 

SHAMAN, the tiger was padding back across the LILINN when a voice called
out behind him.

"Wait a second. . ."

SHAMAN turned to look.

Date: Sunday, June 30, 1996 11:32pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658124
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: A new day 
(Copy by Sysop, Reply to #634093, Reply to #632165, Repl*) 

SY>SHAMAN, the tiger was padding back across the LILINN when a voice called
SY>out behind him.

SY>"Wait a second. . ."

SY>SHAMAN turned to look.


"Come on over, here." I said to SHAMAN. The tiger thought for a
moment, and then came over to my table. "Don't worry, dude. As long as
you're with me, there won't be no broom. Gypsy owns this place, but I
own Reality around here.

"I've been watching you. I've been watching you like grass watches the
sun. You rise up outta what could be and you go to bed at night with the
cold realizations of what had to be done. And in between, you dream of
antelope, and it makes the taste of dog so much harder to bear.

"Now it's hard enough live, but it's harder to live in two minds than in
one. I don't know which is harder, a tiger who wants to return to being
a man or a man who wants to live as a tiger. You tell me. But here's
one thing we share: we want to shed our skins. They've grown too small
for us.

The tiger stayed silent, and I felt I should go on.

"I used to think that relevance was answer. Go up on the mountain, steal
some fire when they weren't looking and bring it back down to Earth.
That's how I'd shed a skin: seek a new relevance by trying what hadn't
been tried, going where others hadn't. All it's done really is kept me
running all my life. Now I'm stuck. I can't run as fast as I used to,
and the pissants of Olympus have put out concertina wire and dogs, and
fire just doesn't draw the interest it once did.

"So what do people people do to tigers when they won't jump through
hoops anymore? The zoo? Some cage out back of a bar? Is that what
awaits us? Basking in the shadows of yesterday's glories and roaring to
the taunting crowds. Yes, I believe it is. Tigers wear thin after a
while, and so do magicians who can't come up with new tricks. We're
still only as good as our last kill, our last trip up the mountain, and
our last screw. We must find new fire."

"But what I seek is not to be had by tigers." thought SHAMAN.

"Then screw it." I said. "Either lose the strips, or get a new gig.
Antelope on the next hill don't fill the belly, now do they?"

"So what do you suggest?" thought SHAMAN.

"I'm still in the belly-aching stage like you." I replied. "I've got
some dreaming to do before I can let you know. In the meantime, get back
to basics. Stop playing with your food-- you spend all this time
stalking it, and then you want to stop and talk to it. Just kill it and
eat it, and move on. It'll make you feel better, believe me."

"You sound like Phil Fang." thought SHAMAN.

"FANG talks to much to his food too." I replied. "FANG's a tiger who
likes to be put in cage and kept. I, for one, have grown bored. Are you
with me?"

Suddenly, the /LILINN was shaken by two roars.

Date: Monday, July 1, 1996 1:28pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658125
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: SHAMAN and I get started on the journey 
(Copy by Sysop) 

It did not surprise me at all to have SHAMAN greet me the next
afternoon in the Little Further Inn. His coat had been licked clean
and fluffed with precision. His eyes glistened. He had made peace
with the situation and chosen his course.

"Well, I see one tiger who's ready for the trail." I said, as he
strolled in with tail held high.

I cleared off some of the maps and worn books that littered the
table and moved my gear off the spare seat in the booth.

"What am I working on? The journey, my friend. I had my dream last
night, and it looks to be a good and powerful one indeed. We will
leave tonight."

The tiger looked worried.

"Of course we could leave tomorrow," I continued. "But it would
mean we'd get there sooner. Leaving yesterday would have been all
right, but that's a hard one to pull off right now. It's better to
leave tonight-- we'll have much better light. If SHAMAN is still
a shaman, then he must understand the strength of surprise. You'll
be a hard one indeed to surprise, but complacency is always a tough
enemy. This dream was powerful, perhaps too detailed, perhaps too
programmatic and definitely short on abstractions. That may be a
problem-- you may have to surprise me, but then you are a shaman
and a tiger, and are well versed in the magic of surprise. Oh, and
pardon me, Pedro made the coffee a bit strong this morning, and I
fear I'm more than a little buzzed. I think I'd better go pee
again. Excuse me."

When I got back, the tiger was gone.


I've been informed, SHAMAN was over in /HOLENWALL.

Date: Monday, July 1, 1996 5:35pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658126
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out through the Red Door and into the beyond 
(Copy by Sysop) 

I was busy with getting the last little bit of cargo stashed into
the bags when Anna came on duty.

"You going somewhere?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm going off with SHAMAN, the tiger." I replied.

"Camping trip? Hunting?"

"We'll camp." I replied. "We're going to get away for awhile."

"Listen, " she said, "I didn't mean to be rude to you."

"Rude?"

"I haven't been talking that much to you lately." she said. " I
never got back to you on things."

"I didn't mind." I said. "I just figured you had other stuff
going."

"Coffee?"

"Yeah sure. I think Pedro's stuff is wearing off." I said. "I
haven't had the shakes or a weepy spell in over an hour."

"So where are you going?" Anna said, pouring a cup.

"I'd used to say we were off to bring fire down from the mountain."
I said. "Nowadays, I'm not so sure. SHAMAN and I just decided to
get away for a while."

"Listen," Anna said. "I've been thinking. Do you still think
Reality is a good place for someone like me?"

"Reality is never a good place for anyone." I said. "Once you go,
you never come back alive. We can talk about it when I get back."

"Okay, sure." Anna said, a little disappointed. I thought for a
minute and then rummaged around in my jacket.

"Here," I said. I handed her a black dongle and a diskette with no
label on it. "If I. . . if I don't make it back before you make a
decision. Have Gypsy help you with it-- it's all in the READ.ME
file."

At this point, SHAMAN appeared, coming from the doorway to
/HOLENWALL.

"I'd better go," she said. "Thanks."

"Thanks for the coffee." I said, and she was gone.

Date: Monday, July 1, 1996 5:27pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658127
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: OK, SYSOP, count me in. Let's go. 
(Copy by Sysop, Fw by Sysop) 

When I got back to the Little Further Inn, the day was nearly over.
SYSOP was talking to one of the waitresses. The mess of maps and
other detritus had been cleared off the table, and had been
replaced with a mountain of gear piled in the neighboring booth.
SYSOP was dressed in his bush jacket. His staff was leaning against
the booth. The Portable Hole was on the table, appearing a bit more
crammed than usual.

"Good to see you, tiger." said SYSOP, as the waitress left. I
don't think she liked me. I wanted you to try on these paniers
before we got going. They should fit you, but the straps may need
adjusting."

"Nuts to that. " I replied with several other stronger thoughts
quickly following on.

"Okay. " SYSOP said. " I just thought we'd be more comfortable if
we took a few comforts with us. Oh well, nevermind. I'll just pre-
position this stuff with the rest of the gear." With that, he got
up and started carting the whole mess to the Red Door in the back
of the Inn. With a seeming lack of caring, he flung open the door
and started launching the various duffels, equipment cases, and
wicker baskets out through portal.

"There." he said.

"What was all that?" I asked.

"Oh, just a lot of stuff we might need. I'm sure we'll find it as
we go."

"You just threw it out the door?"

"Well, yes." SYSOP said. "If I'd try to put it anywhere
specifically, I'm certain we'd never find it. At least this way
we'll probably stumble on it when we least expect it."

"You're a flake."

"You know me better than that." he replied. Sadly, he was right.
"Off we go then." he said.

"Where?"

"Out the Red Door and off to seek our destiny." SYSOP said.
"Forward and inward, into the beyond." He shouldered his pack and
returned to the door. "After you. . . oops! One sec. . .I forgot
my staff." He hurried back to the booth and grabbed it. "Can't
forget that thing."

We walked through the Red Door, Gypsy's portal to the inner world.
What we found was the back of the INN, the garbage cans, a small
herb garden and a complete lack of SYSOP's gear.

"Hmmmmm." said SYSOP, taken aback. "This isn't where I thought we'd
be."

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 1996 12:50am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658128
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Onward and Inward, a tiger sheds his skin 
(Fw by Sysop) 

SYSOP seemed a bit flustered when we first left the INN by way of
the Red Door. Something was definately not what had been planned.
However, with the zeal of a pilgrim, SYSOP adjusted the load of his
pack and pointed towards the back gate.

"We'll head off this way and make up for lost time by cutting
across the MUSH." he said, pointing with his staff.

And so we headed up Warner Street, inside the MUSH and made our way
west. The sun was beginning to set over Fairview Heights, and
SYSOP wanted to keep going.

We headed up Victor Street, past the Ashram. SYSOP stood for a
moment, looking up at the building in silence. The place stood
silent. SYSOP stood silent with head bowed, then lifted it, and
began singing to himself and started walking briskly towards
McMillan.

We turned left, down McMillan and off to the corner of the MUSH.
When we got to the corner at Fairview. SYSOP's little tune that
he'd been singing got louder. I looked across the 6-way
intersection and the traffic, and wondered how a) he was going to
negotiate the cars, and b) how he was going to escape the MUSH. The
tune just got louder, and without a pause, SYSOP stepped into
traffic and made it out into the middle of the intersection before
turning around. With cars coming in several directions, he turned
and made a pumping motion with his staff, indicating I was to join
him in traffic. I did, and with a little bit of dodging, managed
to make it to the center. As soon as I stepped off the curb, SYSOP
then turned fled to the far side, leaving me scampering to catch
up. I heard the squeal of brakes and made a mad dash for the
sidewalk on the other side.

"You almost got me run over!" I said, puffing, as I caught up with
him on the other side.

"The way out, is often scary." SYSOP replied. "That's was only
way." I realized then, that I was talking, and that I was walking
on two legs. I looked at him, and fear suddenly caught me."

"Don't look back, my friend." he said, catching my eyes in his.
"Don't look back, or you will be lost." He patted me on the
shoulder, and pushed me forward down the sidewalk and away from
Clifton Heights, and away from the tiger who was left behind.

I have tried with all my might to remember the simple little tune
he'd been singing as we left the ashram. I could not. He did not
sing it again. As we made our way down the hill, he switched to one
of his old favorites, a song about a southern belle who'd dumped
him years ago down in Memphis.

". . .Now it's been many years
since she ran away,
guess that guitar player
sure could play.
She always liked to sing along--
always handy with a song.

And then one night it happened,
at the Commodore Hotel.
I chanced to meet a bartender
who claimed he knew her well.

And as he handed me a drink,
he began to hum a song.
And all the boys,
settin' at the bar,
began to sing along:

If you be my dixie chicken,
I'll be your Tennessee lamb,
and we can walk together,
down in Dixieland."

By the time he was done, we'd reached Fairview Park and the tune
he'd been singing at the intersection was totally gone from my
head. We were on the far side of the street from the park entrance,
with cars wizzing past. The thought of moving cars made me shudder
and vomit.

"Here," he said. "Put on these." He reached into the portable hole
and picked out jeans, a tee-shirt, and a pair of boots that had
been packed on top. At this point, I realized that I was standing
buck nekked. SYSOP laughed, and said. "Forget something?"

It took about 10 minutes for me to get dressed, because I was
shaking so badly. SYSOP just stood and watched the traffic.
"Don't worry," he said. "They won't see you." Besides the fear, I
was quite rusty on putting on clothes.

Somehow, he managed to get me across the street. Somehow we managed
to get into the park. We finally made it to a wall overlooking the
West End and Western Hills. The sun was about to set.

"Join me." he said, and we sat together on the wall and watched the
sun lower itself below the rim. It was haze-shrouded ball slipping
from the grasp of the sky. It went down silently and unobserved by
the world.

SYSOP sat in a modified lotus with his staff across his lap. When
at last the sun was down, he roused himself and began scanning the
park, looking for some sort of sign. All that was to be seen was a
an old buick parked down the park drive a ways. He stared at it for
a while, until a man got out and went round and opened the door for
a woman and a dog. SYSOP's face pouted for a moment, and then he
said "Come on, dude. Let's get out of here."

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 1996 12:53am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658129
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Fw by Sysop) 

So off we went. I don't know exactly what happened, but the shift
in reality going through the red door was different from what I'd
expected. We ended up inside Clifton Heights, the MUSH. Oh well,
no matter.

On the way up Victor Street, I decided to stop at the Ashram, and
pay my respects. God, but it'd been a long time since I'd lived
there. It seemed like lifetimes ago. I stayed and meditated for a
while, and when I looked down at the sidewalk again, I saw a slug,
crawling over a snail shell. This was an omen I understood, and I
realized suddenly why I'd packed extra clothes.

Poor SHAMAN. The trip out of the MUSH and out of his tiger skin was
hard on him. I apologize to you, my friend, should you ever read
this, but you were dying in there. You have lost the tiger's skin
for now, but not your tiger's heart. It is just what a friend has
to do.

Funny, I got us down into Fairview Park without mishap, and I'd
been spending so much time getting SHAMAN turned around and
disoriented, that I realized that I too had become quite out of
sorts. I stopped and watched the sunset with him-- most uneventful
really. I'd expected much more.

Then it happened. I looked down the road and saw me getting out of
my old car and escorting a young lady over to watch the view. I
remembered the seen from years ago. Funny how it goes. I was young
and skinny and the girl was tired from work, but eager to have some
fun. It had happened as I was making my break, becoming a shaman
myself, starting a tribe, and forming what was to become the
ashram. She had been my only regret. Losing her had been losing my
last tie to the mundane world. I saw it happen all over again.
Funny how that tape would get replayed for me now. Oh well, a
shaman I'd been, and a shaman I needed to be again. I had many
miles to cover with my friend.

We left the park and began walking in the gathering of darkness. On
the way over to NorthSide, I started singing a song that I had
learned phonetically in some Indian dialect . It was a simple
song, and it had formed the bridge between me as skirt chaser and
me as a spiritual seeker. I had no idea what it was, but I'd been
told it was a love song, and it had given me a hell of a charge
learning it.

"What is that song you keep singing?" asked Shaman.

"It's some Indian love song, I think." I answered. "I have no idea
what it means."

"What do you mean?" he said. We were crossing the Ludlow Viaduct
over the Mill Creek.

"I was told it was a love song." I said. "I don't know what the
words mean, they just sound nice."


"You mean you don't know if it's a song about spiritual love or
romantic love?"

"No, I mean, I've got no idea what the words mean. I learned it
phonetically."

"Have you ever listenend to yourself?"

"Why?"

" I couldn't understand you at first, it sounded like some foreign
language, but for the past mile you've been signing :

'I was born on the wings of the dawn.
Yes, I was borne on the wings of the day.

then after a while you sing:

'Like a thief in the night you came to me.
and stole my heart away."

. . over and over again.

"You're tripping, man." I replied. "That's nothing like. . ." then
I thought back, and ran the words I knew again. "Jeeezus Christ!
You just had a spontaneous translation."

"What?"

"You heard my bad rendition of Indian, and somehow it got
translated into English in your head." I replied. "That's
spontaneous translation."

"No shit."

"Shit." I said. "Wow, what were the words again?" SHAMAN repeated
them. "God." I said, leaning over the rail and staring down at the
Mill Creek. "It all makes sense now."

"What?"

"It's a song I learned from somebody a long time ago," I answered.
"When I was just starting to walk the Path. I couldn't figure out
if he taught it to me, because I was head over heels over the girl
I was dating or if it was because I was getting so deep into the
spiritual gig."

"And now you know?" SHAMAN asked.

"Yes." I replied. "Yes, it is. It's both. The love was the same.
The love IS the same. Only people make the differentiation."

"I'm not sure I follow you." said SHAMAN.


"Ah, but you will, my friend." I said. "Wow! What a gas. I had no
idea and then BANG! I really dropped that one on myself."

"So where are we going?" SHAMAN asked.

"We're on the way to find out." I explained. "Let's establish a
camp in Spring Grove and then head out in the morning. I think
we've worked enough magic for one day."

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 1996 6:05pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658130
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Fw by Sysop, Reply to #653125) 

We wound our way up through NorthSide in the crunch of night,
falling on us like a draft from an attic. My mind felt old and
dusty. I felt uncomfortable in my clothes, uncomfortable in my
skin. Cars going by were electric shocks. I was enveloped in my
own self-absorbtion.

"Strong Zen, man" said SYSOP.

"What?"

"Strong Zen. Nothing like getting smacked with the wet noodle of
Death to make you get mindful."

" I feel so strange, " I said trying to digest what SYSOP had said.

"You're growing into your new skin." he said.

"So where did you learn this shit."

"Learn what?"

"Learn to . . . well you know."

"I make it up as I go along." said SYSOP, not slowing down as I
stopped.

"That doesn't make me feel good."

"What would?" he laughed, finally coming to a stop and waiting for
me to catch up. "Don't worry. Once I got the hang of IT the rest
was easy."

"So where are we going with this?" I asked.

"If things go well, we'll make camp in Spring Grove tonight, and
then we'll get up in the morning and eat breakfast."

"But where are we going?"

"I don't know. We've been off the program since we left."

"So we're lost?"

"Only if you want to be." he said, starting to walk again. "If you
don't know where you're going then you're never really lost."

"Is there a plan?"

"Are you being rhetorical?"

"Are you?" I demanded.

"When we're tired, we'll sleep. When we're hungry we'll eat, and
when we pass any women, we'll show them our good teeth and manners.
The rest will be gravy."


"When we reached the edge of habitation, SYSOP found a road
paralleling a large stone wall. We turned North and headed up the
street, paralleling the wall.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Spring Grove. Second largest cemetery in the world."

"We're going to camp in a cemetery."

"The neighbors are quiet and the overnight rates are cheap."

After a few blocks, SYSOP found a breach in the wall and we slipped
into the graveyard. Even in the moonlight, the place looked vast.
We walked down roads, and well-groomed lawns, hedges, and
plantings. We seemed to walk for hours.

"All of Cincinnati is buried here," SYSOP said. "We've buried the
dead here forever, and they'll be planting in here clear through
the next century."

Suddenly headlights appeared and SYSOP made a gesture to me. We dove
fore the bushes and waited for a security patrol to pass.

"Hmmmmph!" said SYSOP.

"What?"

"Look where we landed." I looked where he pointed and spotted a
pack hanging off a yew bush. I reached out and grabbed it.

"That's some of the gear." SYSOP said. "That's convenient. Your
tent's in there."

So we pitched tents and settled in for the night. SYSOP pulled some
food out of his pack and lit a little stove. He fed it twigs and
leaves and bark, and boiled water from his canteen. In the end we
had barley soup, rice, and something weird that SYSOP simply called
trail stew.

Before we ate, SYSOP brought forth a flask of single malt scotch,
and poured it into two sierra cups. The stainless reflected in the
moonlight and sent jets of brilliance into me and into the night.

"To the hunt," SYSOP said, handing me my drink. "Nothing comes back
alive."

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 1996 6:06pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658131
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Fw by Sysop, Reply to #654873, Reply to #653125) 

I got us to Spring Grove Cemetery and made camp. We found part of
the gear and SHAMAN was one tired piece of shit by the time we hit
the sack.

SHAMAN and I got up at dawn, fixed breakfast, broke camp, and made
like tourists after the gates opened up. I showed him around a
little-- the lakes, a few of the big mausoleums. I didn't want to
push him any further. We crossed over the two bridges near the
McAlpin plot and hung out on the island.

"Can I ask you a question?" I said.

"Shoot."

"Did you and Red ever. . . you know."

"That's a funny thing about tigers," SHAMAN said. "We breed once a
year. Outside of that, we're not real concerned. All those people
thinking Red and I were engaged in some major act of bestiality
just don't understand tigers."

"So why stay a tiger?" I asked.

"Who did?" he answered. "Look at me now. For ten years, I was
cooped up in a cage, unable to be anything," said SHAMAN. "One
day I found the cage door open, but after ten years, even though I
was free, it was a struggle not to think like a tiger. It's inertia
I guess. You know what I notice the most about the way I am today?"

"What?"

"The smells are gone. I can't smell a goddamn thing. Those geese
over there would have been a tasty meal. I can't smell'em, so I
don't even think about it." He pointed to a flock of geese
skimming along upwind of us. "It's like a whole part of the world
is gone-- I'm utterly blind to it."

"You wanna go back?"

"Hell no." SHAMAN replied. "But you know, this thing with Red; I
miss her just as much as smelling the geese. Even though we
weren't exercising the biological imperative, we've got . . .er
had something deep. I was a part of her, and she . . .well, Red's
not a tiger by nature. She's just driven to trying to be one most
of the time." I looked at him odd. "Hell, I don't know. She's got
a mess of problems I can't figure out. She loves wearing the red
dress. She loves the attention. She loves shocking the world. She
just hates thinking that's all there is too her."

"It isn't all." I said. "That woman has a big dose of talent. I see
what's she's writing. I hear what she's thinking. She's awesome."

"But she's still fighting the battle." SHAMAN said. "I suppose if
you got up and told her that, she'd think you were patronizing
her."

"Creative anorexia." I said. "Look in the mirror, and no matter
how many complements you let yourself hear, you still think you and
your art are pudgy and mom dresses you funny."

"You sound like you know about it."

"Why do you think I'm here with you, hiding out on a 2-line board?"
I replied. "Rod Serling's first boss, told me once I was better
than Rod was starting out. I just didn't see it in myself, at
least not so it counted. Red thinks it's the dress we're looking
at."

"Maybe we are." he replied.

"Huh?"

"Maybe we are looking at the dress." he repeated.

"Nice dress." I said. "But then you make a cute tiger too."

"Cute's not a good word for anything that enjoys bringing down large
animals and consuming their flesh without benefit of proper
utensils." SHAMAN said. "Ten years in a cage-- I got out and I
couldn't figure out what was hunger, what was sex, what was just
pure cussedness. It all just ran together."

"Yeah, but I know for a fact that you come into the Hole in the
Wall with dog on your breath mostly for the pure enjoyment of
watching folks squirm." I said. "So what's your excuse?"

"Dog breath is a much better excuse than: 'I'm shy.'" he said. "I'm
shy, confused, and forever worried that someone's gonna come by
and poke a sharp stick in my cage."

"So why this big broohaha over there with Jonesy the other night."
I asked. "Red get out the sharp stick?"

"No. " SHAMAN responded after a bit. "I think Red was trying to say
'I feel weird.' and it came out 'We're to weird,' and I heard it as
'You're too weird.'"

"Too weird for what?"

"I'm not sure." SHAMAN said. "You'd have to take that up with her."

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 1996 6:10pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658132
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Fw by Sysop, Reply to #654874, Reply to #654873, Reply *) 

SYSOP was hot to quiz me the next morning on what the juicy details
were on me and Red. I think I disappointed him. Hell, it ain't
his business, but I tried to be honest. The surroundings were
nice, we found this gorgeous spot in the middle of the cemetery
with large reflecting ponds, and little islands connected by
bridges. The sun glinted off the white mausoleums. The morning
came alive with geese, water birds, squirrels and huge carp skimming
the surface like something out an Escher drawing.

"When you're a tiger," said SYSOP, "Do you think much about God,
and that sort of stuff."

"Not when the tiger was really upon me." I responded.

"What do you mean."

"There was a lot of times when the tiger just took control, and it
was like sitting on a roller coaster. I really didn't have much
control." I said.

"What about the rest of the time."

"The first time I killed," I said, "I was overwhelmed. I brought
down a deer and ate her. After I'd pretty well squeezed the life
outta her, I suddenly became conscious of the act. I dropped her
out of my mouth, and realized I'd done her in and there wasn't much
I could do. I stood there in my human mind and set about trying to
finish the job, sobbing inside all the way. It was really horrible
and I botched it completely."

SYSOP looked squeamish. "Why did you tell me that one, dude?"

"Because, while I was mucking about trying to get it over with, I
was praying like mad. I needed the strength to finish, both for
me-- I was starving, and because of the deer that suffering in my
jaws. That was the first and only time I was completely aware and in
control of what I was doing, and somewhere in the middle of it all,
I realized some sort of Grace, and realized that this was the way
it was going to be for me, and it was okay, because I was a tiger
and I had to eat. Otherwise, I'd have starved to death."

"Is that the only time?"

"Isn't that enough?" I replied. "I'm just a poor schmuck like
everyone else. Just because I get intimate with my dinner doesn't
mean I'm any different than any other bastard that does his
shopping at Kroger. We're all part of it, it's the closest real
analog to original sin I've found. But it ain't sin, it's
wonderful! It's a gift. I'm quite content not to be stalking those
geese right now, but if you and your stove weren't around, I'd be
damn glad they were there. The world provides for us and feeds us,
and when our turn comes we feed something else. What else is there
to think about?"

"I'm not sure." He replied. "I was just asking."

"You talk about Zen." I said, "There is nothing more mindful than
a tiger trying to slip through tall grass trying to catch a 2 lb
rabbit, most of which is all ears, and you haven't eaten in days."

"I didn't know tigers ate rabbits."

"They start trying after a few days." I replied. "That's when
tigers start feeling close to God. You can call Him dispassionate,
cruel, call him anything you want when you're belly's full. But
you gotta believe you've got a Buddy in the Business when you make
your pounce on something that that small, that quick. They always
seem to jag the wrong way after about 20 yards."

"So you prayed?"

"No, I crept, I stalked, I pounced." I replied. "but it's the same
thing."

Date: Wednesday, July 3, 1996 11:51am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658133
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Fw by Sysop, Reply to #654875, Reply to #654874, Reply *) (1 reply)

"So what are we waiting for," SHAMAN said. "The day is upon us."

"Why don't we stay here, today?" I answered.

"Because it's a frigging graveyard, and it gives me the willies."

"Don't tell me you're scared of the neighbors?" I said.

"I still feel like I've already joined them." he said. "That was a
bum trip down here yesterday."

"I know what you mean." I said. "I was hoping to stay here until
afternoon, and then take off north of here."

"Let's go, SYSOP." He said. I must have shown something on my face
he picked up on. "You know there were two tigers on this trip."
SHAMAN said. "And they both needed to shed their skins."

"I was afraid you were going to see that." I said. "Frankly, it was
something that I wanted to put off. I've been having such a good
time getting away from it all."

"So what do you want to do, boy?"

"I suppose it's time to go." I said, and I dragged myself up and
shouldered the pack.

"Which way, bwana?"

I pointed north and east and off we went. When we got down to the
fork leading up to plots where my grandfathers were planted, I
hesitated for a moment.

"That way?" SHAMAN said.

"No. I don't think we'll go that way today."

We walked out of the deloped part of Spring Grove and into the
woods. We didn't talk much until we stopped for a drink of water.

"What are you out for in all this?" SHAMAN asked.

"This trip? The Hole? Life? What?" I asked.

"Okay, lets try all of them at once." SHAMAN said. "Now that you
mention them."

"I wondered about that a lot after the Hole got going again," I
said. "I couldn't figure out why I'd kept it going after it sort of
fell apart. Then one night I was rolling up the hill towards home
and an old Laurie Anderson thing came on the radio. "Tightrope" I
think is the name of it. It's the one with:

"'Remember me is all I ask.
and (if) remembering should be a task.
Forget me.'"

"I think my big gig is trying to be remembered, to touch people and
put some Vulcan mind meld on them, so that I'll never go away, no
matter what happens." I said. "That wasn't what I thought I was
setting out in life to do, but as I get on and the people I
infected early on start checking in, I hear a bit of my voice in
theirs, and at the same time, I see all these odd bits and pieces
in me and I start to realize where they came from. It's like all
those headstones down there. Only you pay for these kinda
headstones with acts of kindness and whatever all through your
life, and if people think you're worth it, they put them up in
their minds and let you live there."

"I think you do that just fine, SYSOP." SHAMAN said. "You do it
without trying."

"I know," I said. "But it suddenly occured to me I HAD been trying.
Trying and trying to make it work. After I saw that, I could
finally relax. There, the end of my creative anorexia. The end of
the trail. Problem is, I'm not sure I've got a fire in my belly to
replace it and move on."

"You come out here to die?" SHAMAN asked.

"I came out to see if I can get back." I answered. "Either I've got
the fire to pull it off, or you'll have to leave me out here and go
on."

"That wasn't in my plans." SHAMAN said.

"Don't kid yourself, you know the rules of a vision quest." I
snapped. "One hand per player, 5 card stud. All chips to the
middle, winner walks with the pot."

"That sounds like only one winner." he said, trying to size me up.

"Who do you think was lookin' over the dealer's shoulder when your
time came up there on that street corner?" I said. I saw SHAMAN
shudder a bit and start to wretch. "You just keep an eye out for
me, good buddy. You'll do fine."

Date: Wednesday, July 3, 1996 10:02pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 658136
To: Sysop 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Reply to #658133, Fw by Sysop, Reply to #654875, Reply *) (1 reply)

"So like when you were active, and before you were a tiger," SYSOP
said. "What made you decide to go on a quest?"

"Same thing that made me go now, with you." I replied. "It just had
to be. I never went unless I had to, but you could always get the
feeling it was coming on. First off, all the women start getting
pissed off at me, or I'd piss off all the women. Then I'd get sick,
and feel lousy. Then we'd start having bad weather all the time.
Then I'd start losing sleep and not eating right, and then I'd
realize it was time to go."

"What's this with women, man?" SYSOP said.

"It's funny," I said, "But I notice that the women are always the
first to pick up on it. They withdraw and get moody around me. You
can't say anything right. Their periods start getting messed up,
and they seem to sense you're to blame. It's like those movies
where the old gunslinger has no intention of strapping on his guns,
but the girl knows he's going out to get himself killed and starts
hating him."

"But there's always been a woman waiting when I got back," I
continued. "There's always one that steps out of the crowd to
welcome you back. Someone who's never really shown herself before
and stayed away while you were going through the shit on the way
out the door. It's always the last one you'd think of, too.
Because, like you say, you change out there. Nothing goes out and
comes back alive. It's a path of life, and death and rebirth."

"Have you thought about getting yourself checked out for something
like manic depression." SYSOP asked.

"Yes," SHAMAN said. "There was no sign of it. I hunted for years to
find some reason for this part of my life. In the end, I realized
I had been born a shaman, and it was my calling, and I could not
escape it. I kept looking for a way to excuse it, looking for what
I was doing, but in the end I saw that women smelled Death on me,
and until I crossed over and was reborn, it would continue to grow.
Some look at the path of crows across the sky for a sign. Some read
the cards. I look to the women around me. I see it in their eyes."

"That's got some heavy corollaries," SYSOP said. "The Tarot is full
of that sort of thing, the High Priestess-"

"There is another woman," I said. "Another woman who lives on the
other side, who lives here, in the world we now inhabit."

"What kind of woman?" SYSOP asked.

"She is known to me as--" I stopped and thought. "She is the Lady
of the Waters."

"You know her?" SYSOP pressed.

"I know her." I said.

SYSOP replied, "I can't say we ever dated, but she took an interest
in me many years ago, and has pitched in and helped me several
times."

I'd grown restless, and it was time we got going. We started
walking in earnest, and once the direction was established, I
started taking the lead. I thought about all the women that had
fallen away over the years, the ones who'd not been there when I
left. I thought about the few special women who'd shown themselves
on my returns, and how life had been fresh and simple. Most of
all, I thought of Her, The gentle voice at my back, the waft of
sweet perfume that smelled of things growing in sunshine.

The course of the woods left us winding around steep ravines, most
of the time in sight of a large tower that SYSOP called Hammond
North, and another bizarre structure that he simply called the Twin
Towers. Somewhere, in all of this we got out of the cemetery and
into a city park. We emerged from the woods to find a day camp,
decorated in Indian themes with totem poles around a fire circle.
We came out into a large open field, and saw that the sky was
filling quickly with clouds.

"It will rain, " I said.

"It always does," SYSOP said. "Lets hole up here."

Date: Wednesday, July 3, 1996 10:04pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 658137
To: Shaman 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Reply to #658136, Reply to #658133, Fw by Sysop, Reply *) (1 reply)

We'd been on the trail for a while, SHAMAN seemed to have the smell
of something, after the general direction had been established, so
off we went. It was late in the afternoon when we found the first
of the toepaths that wind through LaBoiteaux woods, and we started
our crooked ascent.

"You know who I wish we had on this trip?" I said.

"Who?" said SHAMAN.

"Pookah." I said. "He'd be good on a trip like this."

"What, you mean the rabbit?" said SHAMAN.

"He's changed quite a bit since last you saw him over in the
/LILINN. He went for a trip through the Red Door and came back
looking human."

"What's his thing?" said SHAMAN.

"I'm certain it's impossible to tell." I replied. "He's just
started on the Path. But his eyes are wide open, and he sucks it
all in. It's a joy to see him take in things. When he figures out
what his thing is, I'm certain it'll be awesome."

"Still sounds like a tourist." SHAMAN replied. "I suspect he
wouldn't stand for it when the shit starts flying."

"I've always been amazed at his pluck." I said. "I think if we'd
stand firm, he'd stand with us."

"What about Jonesy?" asked SHAMAN. "He'd stand and take it."

"Jonesy wouldn't come, because Jonesy's been there and back." I
said. "He was in-country back when Johnson was ramping up. His dues
are paid up. Still, if there was anyone I'd want watching my six,
it'd be him."

"Fang." SHAMAN said. We both laughed.

We came out of the woods in the wrong spot, but it was as good as
any. The sky was starting to get angry, and it looked like we were
going to get hit square on. We dumped our gear in a picnic shelter
and then retired to the ball field to watch the gathering storm. I
broke out jerky and cheese, and dumped some Gatorade mix into the
canteen to wash it down.

"To the hunt." I said, gnawing off a piece of dead dried cow flesh.

"Nothing comes out alive." said SHAMAN, tilting the canteen, and we lay
back against the backstop, and watched the storm brew.

Date: Thursday, July 4, 1996 6:30pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 660083
To: Sysop 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Reply to #658137, Reply to #658136, Reply to #658133, F*) (1 reply)

The storm came up boiling and fast. SYSOP applauded the first few
strokes of lightning-- hard ground strikes that did not snake
about, but flew straight down at their targets. A few had tinges of
yellow and red.

"This is the show you see maybe once every five years." said SYSOP
as the dark clouds approach. There was a flash and an immediate
report just at the edge of my vision. It was getting close, and
then I realized the world had grown silent.

"Get down." said a familiar voice. I started to turn around. "Do as
I say and get down." The next moment became drawn out into infinity.
For as if I'd been kicked from behind, I found myself sprawling
forward, coming to rest on my elbows and knees. I looked up and saw
a very old man walking down the stairs from the park office. He did
not see me, but I was transfixed by him. He was pale and gaunt and
he shuffled across the grass of the outfield towards the Indian
circle. He was dressed in a ranger's uniform. Then I noticed the
unmistakable Hick's pack on his back. It had grown slack and empty,
and he went like a wind-up toy across the seething grass blown by
the winds.

"He is dying," said the voice behind me, and I turned to look. She
was as I had always seen her in my mind's eye. Soft eyes, and wry
gentle smile that was either about to break into laughter or tears.
Her blond hair blew out behind her as a halo of white gold flame,
and her robe was purple and white fractal lace that churned an
endless pattern of evolving chaos. "Stay down," she said.

"I -"

I saw SYSOP tumbling through the air, like a P-47 caught in its own
bomb blast. There was a trail of smoke. He had blown off the backstop
and been launched into the air.


I came too much later. My ears were ringing, I could hear no sound
from the world. The storm was just an angry line of black to the
south and east. The sky was beginning to clear from the west, and
through the breaks in the clouds, I saw tall pillars of rising in
the fire of sunset. I was soaked. I was cold.

There, in the mud, down the first base line, as SYSOP, as if he'd
been struck down trying to beat out the bunt. I ran over to him and
turned him over. From the look of it, the strike had hit the chain
link of the backstop. He'd been leaning back on it, and I'd moved
away when I'd gotten the warning. The portable Hole on his back
had taken the bolt. It was still sizzling on him. His boots were
blown off-- steel toed hiking boots, and his feet were charred. I
tried to feel a pulse, and realized I was shaking too bad. I tried
to listen for breath, and I still could not hear. I finally pulled
his head up and pinched his nose and covered his mouth with mine
and waited. I wasn't sure if I felt any pressure, so I started
blowing like I'd seen folks do. Occasionally I stopped, and tried
to feel if there was breath starting with my mouth, but I could
never be sure. I tried and tried again to feel for a pulse, and
then I realized I might have lost him.

"It is in his hands now." said the voice again, and suddenly she
was beside me. She bent down and held me as I held him him. We
cradled each other, and I wept as she wept.

"Why did you only tell me?" I sobbed.

"This is what you came for." she said. "Do not worry, you are
always with me." I looked up to question her, and realized night
had fallen. The stars were out, and the sky was clear. She was
gone, and I saw his staff beside me. I clutched it and pulled
myself up. I used my pack as a pillow for SYSOP. The staff, I put
in his hands across his chest. I pulled out my sleeping bag, opened
it up and covered him, and then sat and waited.

Date: Friday, July 5, 1996 4:58pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 661703
To: Shaman 
Re: Out of the MUSH and into the Beyond 
(Reply to #660083, Reply to #658137, Reply to #658136, R*) 

In looking back on it, I musta just checked out. Key on the table,
sewing kit in my pocket, and I was gone. There was this dream I
had-- it was all mangled up. I dreamed that I had died. I dreamed
that I had seen this tunnel, or more like an elevator. It grew out
of the base of a perfect anvil of a thunderhead. I was scared by
the perfection and precision of the shape, but I felt compelled to
go. I looked up again and the cloud had risen into the heavens and
become the pillar of fire that I'd first seen as a youth. I entered
and rose like hail at a frightening rate until all around me was
dark, and all I could see was a light.

I did not want to go there, for I knew that I would only see this
pillar again when I died. I awakened from the dream enough to know
I was not ready. A dozen forms raced from the light, and resolved
themselves into ballet dancers, and they danced towards me and
around me. They were young and long, and lithe and they danced
with such eagerness and passion, I felt myself being seduced by
their movement.

They enveloped me, and I then realized then these were the
valkyries of my dreams, come to carry me to the Hall of Heroes in
Valhalla. Oh my, but they were wonderful, each one a perfect
porcelain silhouette as they began to touch and caress me. I gave
in completely to them and I felt a youth returning that I had not
noticed gone.

My eye caught one who seemed most lovely and appealing. Her hair
was like embers fanned by wind. Her eyes like blue flames. I looked
up into her face and was smitten. It occurred to me then that all
these beautiful young women had no lips no mouths, not even slits.
The dream turned very sour from there and they began to hold me
down and tear at my clothes. I was being torn apart, and I could
not bear it. I closed my eyes and turned inward.

And then I woke up, and found myself lying on my back in a clear
lake, watching the stars. The crickets were chirping, and the
frogs and birds filled the air with their chorus. There were houses
across the lake, a bustle of tiny lives, but they were too far
away. I looked up and beheld the sky. I was looking up into
Gemini, and the Milky Way stretched out before me. There was a
brilliance and fullness I had never seen before. There was a
dimension to the sky that I had not seen before. The smear of stars
had resolved into discreet pinpoints growing in brilliance with
proximity.

I looked again, and I saw myself as if I was looking down, and the
reflection of the stars on the lake rippled, and then I realized I
was part of the reflection, and it was on the firmament itself that
I was floating.

Date: Saturday, July 6, 1996 8:32am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 662180
To: ** ALL ** 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(1 reply)

I awoke again as the last rays of the afternoon were shining through
the windows of the Ashram, now ten years gone. I had fallen asleep
on the ratty old carpet of the Hole, and bits of pizza crust sticking
out of the fibers greeted my return. As I awoke, Gummer the house
cat was there watching my face as he always had. How he had loved
to watch me, as though I held the secret of life itself. In the
Green Chair sat the Old Man. He had been the gardener and handyman,
and he'd often strayed to that chair at the end of the day to sip
a beer before heading back home. Normally the Green Chair had been
mine alone, not out of deference, but rather out of the
practicality that is was entirely uncomfortable to anyone else.
The previous owner, my grandfather had sat in it for years with a
spring sticking up in the middle. Through some recessive gene, he
and I had shared the same flat ass, and it fit both of us like a
glove. The Old Man that sat there now, always sat there, but I
could never figure out why.

It felt good to be home again.

"How do you stand this chair?" said the Old Man. "You still
haven't gotten it fixed."

"I'll get to it someday." I said, rolling over on my back. The
carpet must have imprinted itself on my chest and face. The side of
my face that had been pasted to the floor tingled, and I saw my
chest, and it was a vivid pattern. "God, I musta been out for a
while. That was a long-assed nap. What's cooking?" I asked. "I
smell something."

"You are." said the Old Man in the Green Chair. "You finally got
your wish. You caught a bolt of lightning. Hit you square in the
back and knocked you Here."

It all rushed in on me like flats being moved on a stage between
scenes. I remembered where I had been, and leaning back on the
backstop and feeling a tingle in my feet and a crackle close by my
head. The stage was set for the next scene. The lights came up and
I suddenly knew then the truth of what had happened, and I grew
very sick, for I had forgotten the lines."

"So the question is, son." he said, pulling on the beer can and
wiping his lips with his wrist, "Whatcha gonna do?"

"What can I do?" I said. "What was that little song: 'If you ask
me Lord to board the train, my answer, Lord would be the same.' I
got to my feet, and said, "Which way do I go?" At that point I
resolved that I must. It had been a good life, and a good try at
life. I couldn't ask more.

"I knew you'd say that." said the Old Man. "You have that
Welshman's certainty like your grandfather."

"I didn't know you knew Whitey?" I said.

"I have known all your grandfathers." he replied with a growing
dispassion. "No, you have come here seeking something." he said.
"You have sacrificed all for just a peek under the tent. You come
here to watch the show, but you don't want to join the parade. You
come to defy and to- "

"I come, because I am built to come." I said. "If I were not here,
now, I would be defying You. If You want it, You have only to ask
of me. All that I have is by Your leave. I come, because You call
within me."

"And so you shall," said The Old Man. "Over and over you will come.
You will prove that you can come, you will prove that the line can
be crossed, and that only he that gives up his life shall have life
and only he who breathes. . ."

"Would you please pass me my lighter." I said. "It's there on the
table beside you, next to my pipes. Nevermind," I said. "I see
it," and I snatched it and a pack of smokes off the table next to
the green chair. It was my chair, my table, my smokes, and my
house. And damnit, I needed a cigarette. Now why I wanted a
cigarette just then, I'll never know. But then I've been horribly
inappropriate all my life and never had but walking-around sense.
The Old Man moved around the room and sipped on his beer. He was
agitated. "Why do you defy Me?"

"Are You not Everything?" I said. I'd had this conversation years
ago, and nothing had ever gotten settled. I plopped down in the
green chair and looked at him. "You came here and helped us, not
because we needed You here." I said, stabbing the air with my cig.
"This Ashram did fine without you. You came, because You were
bored. You wanted someplace to go during the days, and You liked
the lunches. We've always loved You here. What You've done for the
place is terrific. But You did it for You, not me and not these
people. We all love You, but all of us are dedicated to a Path. It
is a Path of discipline-- or lack thereof-- that we do because WE
wish to. You're no different here. Don't think this is a vacation
from Reality. You're bound by the same rules we are-- just 'cause
you're retired doesn't mean you're off the Path. There is a Path,
and a desire to walk the Path, and a Faith to stay on the Path, and
a Discipline to keep you walking the Path. . . and that's IT! "

I think I must have pissed the Old Man off, for the scene changed
rapidly, and I was all at once flung out of the Hole as if someone
had picked me up by the back of my pants heaved me or kicked me.
I remember seeing the ground coming up in my mind's eye, and then
an angry sky and then the ground again. I hit on my right shoulder
and cheek and slid for a long ways. It was raining, but I could
only feel the rain. The world was silent. It fell on my left
cheek, and drummed on the ground and on my eyes, but my eyes were
closed, and I could not open them. It wasn't all that uncomfortable
there in the rain, and I must have fallen asleep.

Date: Sunday, July 7, 1996 7:02pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 666226
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #662180) (1 reply)

I ran through every trick I knew. SYSOP was dead, and I had to
bring him back. I realized then that all I had were parlor tricks--
I was out of my depth entirely. I looked around, and all I had
was a bright sky filled with stars, a muddy ball field, and an
uncaring world beyond Reality. I thought of finding a pay phone and
calling 911, but that was an even cheaper trick. If this had been
the real world, the medics would come and wrap him up and take him
away to morgue. This had been a walk of power, and now I felt
powerless.

I sang to myself. More to calm myself down than anything else. I
felt like any moment would bring panic, and then we would be lost.
My life flashed before me. All my trips down the path seemed
suddenly like shoes I'd outgrown. I had no depth, not compared to
here, to now. I closed my eyes and kept humming. I thought about
the trip out of the Red Door, the walk up Victor Street. I thought
of Shaman's pilgrimage to the ashram, and that stupid tune he'd
kept humming. I still could not remember it. I walked again with
him and watched him step into traffic. The song. What had been the
song?

The only thing that I could think of was that song I had heard, but
I could not remember. I tried to place it, and couldn't. Finally,
all I left with was an old Simon and Garfunkel tune, stuck in my
head that I couldn't get out.

"In the ring there stands a boxer
and a fighter by his . . .
(damn, I couldn't even remember the words!)
. . .that cut him 'till he cried out
in his anger and his shame
I am leaving! I am leaving!
But the fighter still remains.

Lie de lie! Lie de lie lie lie lie de lie!
Lie de lie! Lie de lie lie lie lie de lie!
De le Lie Lie-lie Lie!"

I just burrowed in on the song, and wept and sang and shook and
bargained. I wished it was me that had been struck, and SYSOP
saved. I saw SYSOP motioning to me with his staff from the middle
of the 6-way intersection, and I saw myself stepping off the curb
and making for the other side. I saw SYSOP turn and walk away to
the safety of the farthest corner and I felt the anger and hatred
for having him leave me. I hesitated in the intersection and
remembered clearly SYSOP looking at me and smiling dispassionately,
and I heard the breaks and the horn and I lept for him as he turned
his back on me again. The tiger within me welled up as I bounded
for his back. I would have killed him-- the tiger would have killed
him if the car had not . . . slammed into . . .

Lie de lie! Lie de lie lie lie lie de lie!
Lie de lie! Lie de lie lie lie lie de lie!
De le Lie Lie-lie Lie!

But he had known that. SYSOP had gotten the tiger riled and blinded
him with fear and rage so that he never saw the car. He had held
the tiger for a moment with his smile and then turned his back on
me/him. He had offered himself to the tiger, without complete
knowledge that the car would connect. It was then that I felt
myself being hurled from the body of the tiger, and I felt my form
close in around me as I had flown to the curb. I saw then how he'd
killed the tiger and saved me. But he had only saved me to come
here to witness his demise. I had been used.

Lie de lie! Lie de lie lie lie lie de lie!
Lie de lie! Lie de lie lie lie lie de lie!
De le Lie Lie-lie Lie!

I snatched SYSOP's staff from his grasp as he lay there on the
grass. It was an oak staff that was stout, and made heavier than it
should be from all his doctoring. He'd shown me the steel bolt
running up the length of it, the half-pound of lead below the
copper fairing at the tip. I had seen him use it only once, and
just on this trip. We'd walked into a patch of multi-flora rose,
and SYSOP took his staff and wielded it against the sea of
stickers. His staff in one swipe had leveled all the bushes at
their base. Without thinking I now raised that staff, thoroughly
intent on bashing in his skull.

Date: Monday, July 8, 1996 10:40pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 668148
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #666226, Reply to #662180) (1 reply)

I awoke in the night, under the stars, with SHAMAN holding my staff
aloft in some form of healing. He seemed poised to banish unseen
forces in a plane beyond this one.

"I've got to pee." I said, and realized I could not hear myself.
SHAMAN looked down at me. Our eyes met, and he fainted dead away.
In the silence I rolled over and tried to stand up. I was not able
to. I couldn't roll over either. I had to pee. I had to pee real
bad. I finally just let loose where I lay. It felt warm and good.
I was soaked already, so what did it matter.

After a while, SHAMAN came to and crawled over to me. It didn't
take long for us to realize we were stone deaf.

"I thought you were dead!" He said in wide silent words I read from
his lips.

"I did too." I said, "What did you do?"

"I'm not sure." SHAMAN replied.

"I can't move." I said.

"You were hit." He said, and I could begin to hear his voice,
within me, as he had been able to do as a tiger. "You are hurt bad.
You're legs are real bad."

"I want to see." I said. "Bring me my portable hole."

"It's cooked." he said.

"Let me see it." I said.

Indeed, the Hole did look a little the worse for wear. The steel
survival knife strapped down behind the pack and the frame had
taken the hit. It was toasted. There was quite a bit of singeing
on the frame-- steel stays under canvas. The pack itself was
intact.

"The naked singularity must have absorbed most of it." I said.
"Help me up. I want to see my legs. The first view I had was grim.
There were two charred cakes of black where my feet had been with
a shred of one boot still on the ankle.

"Go get a flashlight from your pack." I said. "This looks grim. "
SHAMAN went off for a moment and came back with a flashlight. I had
to see it. When the light came on, it was as grim. However, I'd
expected to see burnt toe bones and charred flesh. The mass was a
single undifferentiated layer.

"Get my socks off" I demanded. SHAMAN layed the light down and felt
around . Finally, he found unburnt wool and started pealing. In the
starlight, I could see pale toes emerging.

"Three layers of sock-- really keeps away blisters." I said. "Steel
toe. Steel shank. I'm gonna miss those boots. SHAMAN was
speechless. I thought about it for a moment, and though
implausible, it made sense that wool would ablate rather than burn.
I'd had a heat shield when the boots had exploded. Briefly, I
reviewed the course of the strike in my head. The backstop had
taken the hit, charged the chain link and then gone onto the pack
frame and knife. From there it may have split-- going back onto the
fence and taking part of the current down my legs and discharging
off my boots and into the ground.

"SHAMAN, " I said. "I'm still pretty rugged here. We're gonna have
to do something with me."

"What do you want?" He said.

"Make camp. Make a fire and get me out of these wet clothes." I
said. SHAMAN ran around for a while and did as I had suggested. He
set up shop near the shelter house, found some wood and built a
fire. In the middle of the woods, he'd also come up with some more
of our gear-- a basket of clean clothes and food. I'd left some
bleached out boat shoes in the bottom, so if my feet didn't swell
to bad, I'd have footwear come the morrow.

Between us, we managed to drag me across the ballfield and get me
to the fire. I warmed up after a fashion. My motor control was
returning, but it was very shaky. SHAMAN fixed us some onion soup.
When at last I dragged myself into my tent, I was beat.

We slept in well past 10. I don't think I would have gotten up at
all, but the sun hit my tent and it quickly turned into and oven.
Over coffee, SHAMAN showed me what he'd picked up from the ball
field.

"I went up there and found your billfold, and a bunch of your
stuff." he said. There was what remained of the zonograph, charred
clothes, odd bits and pieces that the portable hole had coughed up
when the lightning had struck. "I found this in the grass too." He
handed me my butane lighter that I hadn't seen in years. It was a
Calibri pipe lighter that an old girlfriend had given me. I'd
always turned it way up when company was around, because it worked
like a blowtorch and impressed the heck outta folks.

"What is that?" SHAMAN asked.

"It's my gift from the Gods." I said. "Best lighter I ever had."
I lit up a cigarette and gunned it down. Somehow, in all of this,
a dry pack of Camels had shown up. They were unfiltered-- much
like I'd been smoking fifteen years ago.

Date: Monday, July 8, 1996 10:42pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 668149
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #668148, Reply to #666226, Reply to #662180) (1 reply)

I had come within a moment of killing SYSOP, and when I saw his
eyes were open, I saw the ground rushing up to meet me. I was out
for a bit, and then came to my senses. It was amazing for me how
he came back, and began throwing order back into the scene. The
burned stumps on his legs grew back. His body was restored, even
his blessed portable hole turned out to be not all that badly
damaged. He arose out of his own ashes and stitched his world back
together one piece at a time. Body, clothes, gear. He had restored
himself.

It was as if he refused to accept any reality except the one he
wanted, and the world around him fell into place. The things that
had been lost seemed in the end to be worthless. A pair of boots,
and a bit of this and that, sheds of skin from a snake that crawled
on it's belly across the field to where he had ordered a camp be
made. By the time he'd gotten across the outfield he was whole
again.

As I was going about the task of making camp, I watched him dip
into the portable hole and pull stuff out.

"Where is that?" he said. "Damn, did that get lost? Oh drat. Oh
well." and then later he would say. "Ah, there you are!" and
something would emerge. When at last he was satisfied with the
sizeable pile he'd built, he set about stuffing the small mountain
of stuff back in, reorganzing it."

"My zonograph's dead." he said. "Took the zap straight through."
He motioned to my pack. "There's a better one in there. I just
couldn't hate to part with this one though. We've been through a
lot together. I guess we'll have to double up. I seem to have
lost my cigarettes."

"We'll find them in the morning." I said. "Stay put. Your day is
now ended."

"I suppose you're right." SYSOP said. "We can look for shit in the
morning." He fretted. "I hope I didn't lose anything on the way
across the field."

"WHAT?" I said, getting frustrated with him.

"I hope none of the cargo fell out coming across the field." SYSOP
replied. " Did you and I follow the same course coming through the
grass?"

"I'm sure I don't know," I snapped. " And if there's anything lost,
we'll find it in the morning. I'll help you look."

"Don't worry," he said. "It'll all turn up."

I found some unmarked packets of stuff, and mixed then with water
and boiled them. One of the packets made a strong oniony syrup
with chunks of hard salty stuff that was hard to chew. I gave that
mess to SYSOP, who stirred it for a long time and then finally
drank it down.

"Good soup." SYSOP said. "What are you fixing for yourself."

"I'm not sure." I said.

"From the smell, it comes off like maybe it's taco seasoning. If
you can find some rice and lentils, it'll come off okay. But
that'll take too long. Here, hand me the bag." SYSOP reached in
and pulled out a can. "Mister Dinty Moore to the rescue. Don't
check the date on it. You'll just lose your appetite." He threw me
a can with a label so worn it could not be read.

I sat there and stewed. I now both ecstatic and peeved at his
return. He was making it easy-- too easy for my liking.

"We make a bargain with our Gods," SYSOP said, getting
philosophical again.

"What?"

"We make a bargain with our Gods." he repeated. "They handle the
affairs we cannot, and in return we let them live in our world and
drink from our cup."

"Where did that come from?" I asked.

"Oh, no where special." he replied. "I was just thinking how simple
it is conceive of that thought, and how difficult it is to live
it. We spend our lives giving over to Gods the big questions: life,
death, the meaning of it all," he sighed, "And then we turn around
and start trying to figure it out for ourselves. It screws
everything up. Out here, where contract says we're not supposed to
go, you gotta do it yourself or do without. For me, this is where
it all makes sense. Out here, where IT is the only law."

"I sat there tonight, and realized that this was how I had always
wanted it to be." SHAMAN said. "Facing death in all it's cruelty in
the company of those who know IT and accept IT. But having seen it,
I realize that IT scares the piss out of me, and all I can feel is
betrayed by IT and betrayed by you for leaving me alone. What's
more, I had a premonition that we were about to die, and I didn't
warn you. I just tried to save myself."

"You would have been a fool to try." he said. "I was a fool to go
out here in the first place." His eyes locked on mine. "But friend,
only a fool can snatch fire from the gods. We've put all that is
dear on the line for this, our journey on the Path. For us there
can be no greater truth. We breathe free, we walk upright. Wherever
we eat, we join the feast of heroes. When we sleep, it is under a
sky that has yielded to our will."

Date: Monday, July 8, 1996 10:44pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 668150
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #668149, Reply to #668148, Reply to #666226, R*) (1 reply)

It was while we were begining to pack that SHAMAN discovered the
body. He saw a crow come down look at a patch of something in the
grass at the edge of the outfield. He walked over and then called
for me. I limped on over and saw an old man in a ranger uniform
dead in the grass.

"He was walking across the field in my vision." Said SHAMAN.

I bent down and looked at him. He'd been struck down with either
a heart attack or a small leader off the big strike that had nearly
killed me.

"What are we going to do?" said SHAMAN.

"Bury him and move on." I said.

We stripped the body and I took the trenching tool and dug a grave
beside a fallen tree in the woods. There was no ID on him. His
knife was a reasonable replacement for mine. I traded with him.
His pack was almost as bad off as mine. He had a change of socks in
it that I kept. I also pulled off his belt a small first aid kit,
identical to the one I carried.

"Who was he?" SHAMAN asked.

"In realistic terms, he was probably a park volunteer, probably
kept watch over this park. In the terms of this place, he is part
of me that had to end so that the work could go on."

"What do you mean?"

"All work demands sacrifice." I replied. "We came here to meet our
destinies, and he did too. I know this man. I was here 30 years ago
as a kid in the day camp. He taught me about what to take into the
woods. He taught me to shoot an arrow. He taught me the names of
trees, and how to find my way home. He is not lost, he will be with
me always. I suspect he wanted it to end here."

I looked him over again and thought of his name once more, and then
covered his head over with earth. SHAMAN helped, and soon we were
done. When it was over, I pulled the end of the fallen tree over
the grave, and marked it.

"Why are you peeing on the grave?" SHAMAN asked.

"You do it too." I said. "I wanna make sure we put enough scent on
this dirt so nothing gets the idea of digging him up. At least
he'll have a fighting chance of joining with the elements without
getting gnawed on. This park has a lot of dogs in it." SHAMAN
relented and joined in the consecration. To be honest, I didn't
know it would work, but it was the best I could come up with.

Date: Tuesday, July 9, 1996 5:20pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 670440
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #668150, Reply to #668149, Reply to #668148, R*) (1 reply)

Now that we're sharing the same zonograph, I've seen what SYSOP's
had to say about burying the body. Let me just go a little further
and say that there was a callousness to it all that I didn't fully
understand at the time, and I called him on it. SYSOP tried to
laugh it off in his usual way, but I realized that I was pushing
him on something he himself could barely handle.

Since he's been back from the dead, he's grown quiet. Actually it
started when he found out I'd salvaged his cigs and his lighter
from the ball field. I didn't even know he smoked. Since that
time, he's gotten to be moody and sullen, and I keep catching him
rolling that cigarette lighter in his hand and pondering it.

"I'm still pretty lame, " said SYSOP as we got a start on the day.
"Let's take the bus."

"That doesn't sound like a journey to me, " I said. "I'm not used
to taking public transportation to my enlightenment."

"I can't walk on these feet. " he said. So without further
discussion, we headed out of the park and up towards Hamilton
Avenue. We found a stop and sat there.

"A long time ago," SYSOP said. "I realized that no matter where you
are, if you find a bus stop, you'll get where you want to go. You
ride around until something looks right, and then get off, get a
transfer and take off in a new direction."

"So where are we going?" I asked.

"I think we outta start heading back to the Heights." he said.

"End the trip?"

"No," said SYSOP, " but it might be wise to head back there just to
get our bearings.

Within a little while, a bus came down the road. SYSOP recognized
it as a 17, and jumped up to flag it down. We got on. SYSOP had a
couple of tokens in his pants, and off we went. I guess by then we
were looking and smelling like we fit in, because no one even
bothered to look up. After we were seated, SYSOP pulled a small,
slightly singed block out of the Portable Hole and studied it."

"What's that?" I asked.

"It's a Rubic's cube. " he replied. "I'm trying to remember how
this works."

"That's kinda strange to be pulling out." I said.

"You haven't learned the half of it." SYSOP replied, and gave the
cube a good twist.



After a moment's discontinuity, we were sitting next to a bubbling
vent of some sort. The air smelled terrible, and the moon above was
much larger and its face filled with horrible red pocks like acne.

"Ooops." said SYSOP, and shifted cube back. I found that I could
breathe again. "I'm rusty with this." he said. "Let's give this a
shot."

A moment's discontinuity again, and we were back on a bus, but the
scene had changed. The bus had gone from a familiar wide blue and
white with black molded seats. It had acquired a yellowed, narrow
appearance and the seats were green and covered with padded
leather. The bus cards too had changed, and we were now being
bombarded with ads for CG&E, Shillitos, and the Al Schottelkote
News at 6 and 11 and eleven.

"There, that's better." he said.

"What did we just do?" I asked.

"This is going to be a homecoming," he said, "but not in the usual
sense."

I looked out the window. Northside was a barely recognizable. It
had acquired a primordial small town look. The Alpha Theatre was
showing second runs. Men's shops and jewelers now populated
storefronts long dead. Western Auto was a busy enterprise, and the
viaduct to Clifton was now back with it's green railings and
ancient concrete. Trechter Stadium loomed majestically over a
scrimmage down on the football field, and the air outside smelled
of leaves burning in the coming of Fall. The cars were an odd
mishmash of fins, and chrome-edged windows, and sharp angles and
lumpy dullness in the few really old buckets still belching along.

"When is this?" I asked.

"I'm not sure." SYSOP said. "It's gotta be before '68. But I'm not
good with cars. If I can get into the Heights, I know we'll be
okay."

Date: Tuesday, July 9, 1996 5:21pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 670441
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #670440, Reply to #668150, Reply to #668149, R*) (1 reply)

There was a bunch of stuff going on in my head. Clearly I was
getting out of my depth, and I didn't want to find myself lost
beyond hope and lost beyond my own abilities to pull things back
together. I was smoking quite a bit now from the pack of Camels
that SHAMAN had rescued, and every time I lit up, I had to confront
the lighter too. That had been my trip to the mountain. This was
the fire I'd stolen. It had been my mountain and my fire, that was
a heavy one, too damn heavy.

I made careful stock of what we had and how we stood. SHAMAN was
getting freaked. I was getting freaked. We were low on everything
and my feet hurt. It was time to get back and rest up before
proceeding.

It dawned on me then that "getting back" didn't mean coming back to
the Little Further Inn with our tails dragging, and nothing to show
for it but a perpetual pack of cigarettes and a fancy lighter. But
there was a spark of something in all of this, or at least a hint
of a spark. I was not going to have let myself be struck by
lightning without finding a reason for it. Screw the Old Man. The
shaman's road is not there for suffering uselessly-- we leave that
to the Jews and the Christians. Our road is there for us to be a
link between the Great That Which Is and the folks we leave behind.
We have always been the ones to spurn the cookfires of home and
strike out into the path of darkness. I looked then at the great
Dream of the Tribe who called themselves Holers. I looked deep for
the yearning that dream described.

A sense of community. A feeling of acceptance. A chance to breathe
free of the bounds of the rest of the world. A place where anyone
can stand up and say "I control the Horizontal. I control the
Vertical. It's my set, damnit!" I knew that place and that time

It was then I decided that it was time for the Hole to seek it's
roots.

Date: Tuesday, July 9, 1996 5:25pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 670442
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #670441, Reply to #670440, Reply to #668150, R*) (1 reply)

SYSOP had us get off at Hughes Corner, and we wandered on down
McMillan. SYSOP went in to a little greasy spoon called the Tic-
Toc, and we ordered breakfast. There was a short middle-aged woman
behind the counter and several grizzled old men sitting in the back
smoking cigarettes.

"Hello Misses Georgiton." said SYSOP. "Good to see you again."

"Good to see you," said the woman in a thick Greek accent.

"It's Bill." said SYSOP. " I used to live next door to you on
Victor."

"Oh yes," said the lady, not really sure. "Yes, Beeell. How are
you?"

"Oh, just fine." he said. "Still baking those baklava?"

The woman relaxed. "Yes, yes I am." she said. "I have some here if
you'd like it."

"It would be heaven," said SYSOP. "Mister Georgiton doing okay."

Mrs. Georgiton frowned. "Yes, he is." she said. "But I think we
sell this place. It's his heart-- not so good."

"Go and enjoy yourself. " said SYSOP. "You've earned it."

The baklava tasted good, but the coffee was way too strong. While
we were sitting around waiting for something to happen. SYSOP went
over and looked at the bulletin board."

"Who was that?" I asked.

"Lady who lived next door to the Hole." he said. "Mister Georgiton
passed on in '88. But they had a bunch of good years in between.
She loves to go back to Greece-- they have a beautiful home there.
Once the place is sold, they can start visiting there again. .
.There!" he said. "That's what we want."

I looked at the 3X5 that someone had typed with an old typewriter:

"ROOMATES NEEDED. MUST BE COOL, GROK?"

There was an address on Ohio Avenue. We finished breakfast and
took off. The lady refused payment.

"I'll be her neighbor in something like 15 years." SYSOP said.

We crossed over McMillan and headed down the street, towards
Victor.

"We're going the wrong way, man" I said.

"I got business down here." said SYSOP.

We passed Joey's deli and headed down to the TV shop at the corner
of McMillan and Flora-- J&J TV. SYSOP went in and we were
confronted with a dark cavern of TV sets piled floor to ceiling.

"Jay?" SYSOP called. A little man came out from the pile.

"Yes?" said the man.

"You got my TV set ready?" said SYSOP.

"You didn't give me a set." said Jay.

"I will." SYSOP replied. "I just wanted to start checking early.
How's it going man?"

"Just fine." said Jay. "Do I know you?"

"Bill, from the Black Hole Tribe." said SYSOP. "We were talking
some trippy things last time. You do anything with my idea?"

"What idea was that?" Jay asked, bewildered.

"Take a yoke outta one set, hook up the horizontal and vertical
deflection coils to a hi-fi stereo and then replace the coil outta
a second set. You crank up the volume and watch the groovy way the
beam bounces all over the screen." SYSOP said. Jay thought for a
minute.

"You do that." said SYSOP, "and you put the set over into the front
window over there, and you'll turn on the whole neighborhood, dig?"

"That's ridiculous," said Jay. "You got business here?"

"I just stopped in to say howdy." said SYSOP. "Think about it and
let me know what'd cost to do it. I'll be back."

"Yeah, you do that," said Jay, getting annoyed."You come back.
Right now, I got work to do." We left.

"Why did you do that?" I asked.

"Fifteen years from now, Jay and I are gonna get to be good
friends, and he's gonna hold onto my TV set for a year trying to
fix it after I blow it up making modifications, and it's gonna come
out he put just such a rig into a set in his front window and got
the whole world flocking to his store. It's from his store," SYSOP
continued "that I'm gonna find out the 'Black Hole Tribe' was
around for ages, and by the time we meet up, he's gonna have
collected all kinds of stories about us."

"But you didn't exist back then." I said. "You didn't hit the
Heights until-"


"He doesn't know that." Jay's a gossip, and any freaky thing he
hears for the next 15 years going down on Victor-- he'll figure
it's us. By the time I open the ashram in 1981, we'll be legendary.
His assistant won't even come to the house."

"That's freaky," I said.

"Jay," said SYSOP, "Lasted until 1988. He had a stroke in his
shop, and they carted him off to the hospital where he vegetated
himself to death. He was a good man. I bought all my sets off him.
He always loved to try my weird ideas on making modifications to TV
sets. Come on."

Date: Wednesday, July 10, 1996 10:46pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 672391
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #670442, Reply to #670441, Reply to #670440, R*) (1 reply)

I banged around the Heights for a while with SHAMAN, taking him
around to some of the old places. I showed him my old dentist,
Corny Lottman's office. Corny flew his plane into high tension
wires in the mid seventies and burned up slowly. I showed him
Shipley's and Lahrman's pharmacy, Tueting's Hardware,

There was little used clothing store over on Calhoun Street. I
figured we needed walkin-around clothes, so we stopped in. In
short order I had Shaman and I reoutfitted with appropriate
stuff. Shaman went for a leather floppy hat, and leather vest,
and paisley shirt. I found a green velvet reversible vest with
two rows of pockets inside and out, a size or two to big. It
would hide vast multitudes. We had started checking out when I
saw the boots behind the counter.

"BIG GREEN COMMIE STOMPER!" said the sign.

"How much?" I asked.

"Not for sale man," said the guy.

"How much."

"They're not your size?"

"What size are they?"

"Thirteens."

"That's my size. You want $25 for them?"

"Thirty."

"Done."

When we were out of the store, SHAMAN stopped me."That was
horribly uncool there, dude."

"Do you know what these are?" I said. " These aren't even
supposed to be here. Somebody snuck these back from 'Nam in
their duffle. These puppies were 'specially designed to resist
pungee sticks by Goodyear. I saw the pentagon footage on them
when they were the secret weapon in the ground war. This and the
M-16 made 'Nam possible."

"So why get wierd on a pair of boots?"

I was feeling around for the inserts-- they were there too!
"Weird on these boots? I'll tell you why-- massive steel shank
lightweight stuff but verrrry protective." I said. "You gonna
question my taste?"

"Naw, man. " SHAMAN said. "You're just weird on your feet."

"They're my best friends in the world, man. Nothing's too good
for these puppies."

As soon as I could, I got a couple of pairs of wool socks and a
liner and changed out of the boat shoes I'd been scuffling around
in. There. I was healed, I thought. Let the heavens fall, I'm
ready.

"We gotta go meet the new folks." I said. "Let's get into it."

SHAMAN and I took off down the street, Flipping peace signs,
being groovy, and making the scene.

Ohio Avenue was just where it had always been. We crossed back
over McMillan and went to the first block of houses on the east
side of the street.

"There it is." I said. "Those lasted until '79-- torn down for
the parking lot at the Friar's Club. But for now, they're home."

I went up to the door of the middle house and walked in.

Date: Wednesday, July 10, 1996 10:49pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 672392
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #672391, Reply to #670442, Reply to #670441, R*) (1 reply)

SYSOP and I got some clothes at one of the stores and went over
to where he thought we'd get a place to sleep and hang out. He
found this house over on Ohio Avenue with electric blue paint on
the second story. He walked in like he owned the place. There
was a stereo blasting something very electric that sounded like
beach music on acid. I found out later that I was right. Amid a
guitar solo of seemingly infinite length and minimal depth, we
entered. The first person through the door was a young girl with
red hair down past her beltline wearing beads, flowers, peace
signs and not much else to speak of.

"Where's Paul?" SYSOP said.

"Paul's on a road trip?" said the girl. "I'm Chipmunk. You don't
look familiar."

"I know Paul from way back." SYSOP said. "I'm Lazarus Long, and
this is my trusted companion, Libby Sheffield."

Chipmunk cocked her head and looked deep into my eyes. "Is there
a real person in there?"

"Actually," said SYSOP. "He's recently back from captivity. He
got into a bad scene and some black wizard turned him into a
tiger."

"Groovy!"

"I'm charmed to meet you." I said, "and yes, there's a real
person in there somewhere."

"You guys looking for a place to crash?" she said, still looking
at me.

"We're on our way back East," said SYSOP. "Can we flop here and
wait for Paul?"

"Groovy." said Chipmunk."But Paul won't be back for a while.
He's gone out to the coast to score some killer acid."

"Darn," said SYSOP. "We said we'd be cruising through around
about now."

"Paul's got a lot on his mind." said Chipmunk. "You can flop
here. We're short a roommate right now."

"Sure." said SYSOP. "We don't have to be anywhere for a few
days."

At this point a spindly fellow wearing a sleeveless fatigue
shirt, orange and yellow swim trunks, and a 20 mile stare came
through the hall.

"Roadkill," said Chipmunk. "This is Laz and Lib. They're gonna
stay for a while." Roadkill shook hands with us and then left.

"Roadkill's quiet." she said. "He did some really bad stuff when
he was hitchiking to New Mexico last year, and he doesn't talk."

"Maybe he's figured he's said enough." I said. Chipmunk thought
for a moment at that.

"That's like really profound, man." she said after a while.

We got a couple of mattresses in a back bedroom. There was a hot
pink moiré poster with the lyrics to "Tomorrow Never Knows"
tacked to the wall, and a half-finished mural on another wall.
The general motif was big yellow flowers with an American flag
and a hammer and sickle, being crushed under a Union Jack. "Rock
Rules!" had started to be sketched in before the artist had left.
We spread out our sleeping bags and stretched out. Through the
open windows, Beatles, Buffalo Sprinfield, and various other
refugees of another time floated in. Somebody else had WSAI
cranked up, and Larry Clark was counting down the Top 10. SYSOP
and I fell asleep and did not awaken until dark.

When we came downstairs, three women were putting together
dinner. SYSOP chipped in while I checked out the record albums in
the living room. SYSOP went upstairs and brought down a small
brown cloth bag, and set about fixing lentils and rice that was
spiced with a Middle Eastern flavor but was bright yellow. He
apoligized at dinner for mixing in too much curry, but no one
understood. We ate from woodend salad bowls.

Chipmunk came over to me just before dinner, ostensibly to invite
me to eat.

"You have some cool stuff here." I said.

"Libby. Libby. Libby." she said. "Is that Billy spelled inside
out."

"I'm not quite sure how it came about." I said. "Chipmunk. Is
that an Italian name?" She giggled.

"You're cute." She said. "I'd like to go upstairs with you after
dinner."

"You're cute too." I said. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen." she said. I doubted it.

"How did you get here?" I said.

"I ran away from home to go to San Fransico," she said. "But my
money only lasted to here. So I spent the Summer of Love in
Cincinnati."


"Will you make love to me?" she asked.

"I can't." I said. "I've sworn celibacy."

"Drag." she said. "Can we at least cuddle?"

"We'll see," I said.

Date: Friday, July 12, 1996 7:07pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 677622
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #672392, Reply to #672391, Reply to #670442, R*) (1 reply)

SHAMAN and I went for a walk down Ohio Avenue after setting up
shop. He had acquired a pet Chipmunk, and he practically had to
kick her away, before our departure.

". . .And down here is the Mushroom Cult. And over there's the
Morning Glory people." I was showing SHAMAN the sights.

"What kind of folks are we in with?" SHAMAN asked.

"Paul is the leader." I said. "They're kind of the tribe with no
name. It's the cult of Paul. Paul's figured out you can grab
people off the street, fill them with drugs and science fiction,
and they'll do anything for you. We are in the lair of the
dragon."

"Why pick such a creepy place?" SHAMAN asked.

"Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." I replied.
"Just remember, Charlie Manson grew up in this neighborhood."

"You mean this is. . ."

"I doubt it," I said. "this sort of thing was festering under
rocks all through this time, and not too many people knew about
it. But yes, this is a little Helter Skelter scene that never had
the spark to get going. Paul was a suburban kid with no ax to
grind. Charlie was white trash sociopath."

"But why are we here?" Shaman said. "This is kinda creepy."

"I wanted to visit the anti-Hole." I said. The conversation seemed
to stop.


"Isn't this beautiful?" I said to SHAMAN as we entered Belleview
Park? In the dark, there was probably not much difference to him,
but there was to me. The scrub forest of the South Woods was now
just a scraggly meadow, leaving an unobstructed view of downtown.
Yet even in those days, there was a broken chain-link fence on the
way out to the cliff.

The cliff in Belleview had considerably more room in those days. We
sat on a ledge that I'd seen disappear from the cliff in 1981
during the January thaw. The view down was most precipitous,
although some 10 feet lower than the current overlook.

We sat and talked for hours. I told him stories of things
forgotten-- half dreams of people and places gone long before my
time, yet living now for us.

"But why are we here?" SHAMAN asked again. "This wasn't supposed to
be a tourist outing."

"I must rest." I said. "I'm still not all that well. It made sense
to at least get out of where we were. We couldn't hear anything
except our thoughts. At least in this world we can talk to other
things. It looks like you're talking to other things."

"She's God knows how young." SHAMAN said.

"And you've thought about it. . . a lot." I said.

"Well. . ."

"Don't." I said. "The dangers are too great here. I don't want to
turn this thing into a matter for the Quantum Mechanics."

SHAMAN looked up at me with a certain anger. "I know that." he said
flatly.

Date: Sunday, July 14, 1996 9:23pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 679532
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #677622, Reply to #672392, Reply to #672391, R*) (1 reply)

There hasn't been a lot of time to write. For the first time
since we left, SHAMAN and I have really been unwinding-- well, at
least in some ways. I've been getting totally lost in the scene.
I nearly ended up on the 6 O'clock news the other night. Some
young communist tried to stick a copy of a socialist rag in my
face and make me buy it. It happened while a Channel 9 crew was
down shooting an anti-war protest outside Tangeman Center at U.C.
I'd gone over for the supreme nostalgia. He'd been given the
fifty cent lecture on how to incite a riot, and I guess I looked
like the perfect target. I let it go, until he accosted me as I
was turning away. I turned around all too quickly, and I guess
my elbow and his temple met up. The film crew turned around, but
before, they could get a close-up, I was gone. It must have been
a slow news day.

I caught a concert at the Ludlow Garage, a bunch of no-name guys
called The Allman Brothers Band were playing. The high point of
the evening was getting to sit with a cute blond in cheeleader
boots and pink mini-dress up in the famous giant rocking chair.
She was on something-- really spaced out. My mind was on
overload.

There have been a lot of other more esoteric things going on. I
went into Jaeger's Meats the other day and talked with the guys.
Fritzy was about the only one there that was willing to look
beyond the weird clothes. He even asked if he knew me. I didn't
have the heart to tell him, he'd been selling meat to my family
for two generations, and that I'd probably be up in a week or so
with my Mom and Grandma to go shopping-- 30 years younger.
Fritzy was cool-- those aviator glasses he wore said that, but I
don't think even he could handle the cosmic ramification. So I
just stayed an old hippy. I did ask him about my Uncle Henry--
he gave me the bad news he'd been in the hospital. I acted
surprised.

I've also managed to acquire a few bits and pieces of wartime
memorabilia. Just a couple of insignia and patches-- oh and a
boonie hat. I transferred my racoon tail over to it, and now have
a thoroughly weird-looking street persona. It fits in, but covers
up the rude facts that I have short hair and generally don't have
a complete command of hippie jargon. Some folks probably have me
pegged as a narc. That's okay-- a little fear keeps folks from
digging too deep.

SHAMAN has acquired still another female friend. This one has
auburn hair and startling icy blue eyes like a samoyed. They met
at a coffee house over on Calhoun Street. He's been seeing a lot
of her during the days, and trying to deal with Chipmunk at
night. The new one is named Carla, but she goes by Isis. She's
kind of a tourist around here too. She dropped out of being a
secretary for one of the banks, and tried to buy into the scene.
She works nights somewhere as a waitress, and manages to keep an
apartment over on Wheeler.




Roadkill just caught me writing on the zonograph. I had a hard
time explaining that I'm an extra-terrestrial visitor. I think
he bought it-- I don't think he'll be spilling his guts to
anyone. Anyhow, it's time for lunch, so I'd better go for now.



LATER

We got word today that Paul's coming back in a couple of days.
There's not much to do before he gets here. My plan is to roll
with the punches and see if Paul decides I'm a threat. I'm going
to lay some bread on the folks tomorrow-- tell them I sold an
article to a magazine or something. They already think I'm a
writer. I was offered the use of a typewriter. I told them I
carried a small portable. I didn't tell them that this little
portable has more computing power than what's being used to plot
the Earth/Moon trajectories for the Apollo flights.

I'm gonna check out Calhoun Street tonight. I wanna get a good
dose of it before they start really tearing things up with the
new campus expansion at UC.

More later.

Date: Sunday, July 14, 1996 9:25pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 679533
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #679532, Reply to #677622, Reply to #672392, R*) (1 reply)

It's hard being a space-monk, but SYSOP's right. Wetting the
wick here could have profound cosmic consequences. There's so
much opportunity here. This is the flower of the sexual
revolution right now. Birth control is here, but Herpes and AIDS
are not even a bad dream yet. Everyone's getting something, but
it's all treatable.

I met ISIS the other night. She was out alone at a coffee house
on a Monday night, and I'd gone to get away from Chipmunk. She's
a waitress at the Toddle House up on Ludlow. We talked about
Kerouac, Norman Mailer, James Joyce and Ken Keasey. I listened
mostly. She reads a lot. I kept asking her about books that she
didn't know, and then realized they hadn't been written yet. It
made me seem very avant garde. She managed to laugh at my
fascination with Robert Sheckley. She'd read some Heinlein, some
Asimov, but SF wasn't her bag.

To make a long story short, she invited me back to listen to
albums the next afternoon. We listened to Rubber Soul and to
Beach Boys. She's really tuned in to things. I think I was
supposed to make a pass at her, and I didn't. We had a long talk
over platonic relationships, and she says she understands my
reasons. I'm not sure I do. I think it ended up being bunched
together with apocalyptic ennui, and left as a dead issue.

Actually, I'm still trying to deal with the whole scene SYSOP and
I had before we got here. For all my years on the path, I'd
never had an experience like that. The Lady of the Waters had
actually come to me to warn of impending danger. That's a heavy
even if you get all reductionist and start calling it archetypal.
My big question is this: What was I being saved for? Am I just
a character in SYSOP's growing novel of self discovery, or do I
exist for my own purpose? I really felt like a secondary
character for a while-- probably my own bum trip. SYSOP's been
out of the scene for a few days-- being a pilgrim to his roots.
That's left me off on my own to find my own way.

We did meet up the other day on Calhoun Street, and I got to
watch SYSOP from a distance pulling a number on a couple of cops.
By the time I drew up close, the cops were already beginning to
roust the bunch of hippies he was sitting with, swapping stories
or something. The cops smelled pot-- I could too, and I came in
just as the cops were asking for ID.

SYSOP had been kind of laying back. He came down off the stoop
he'd been sitting on and interrupted the cops. The one cop did a
double take on his boots and then looked him over really careful.

"Officers." Said SYSOP. "I'm awful sorry to interrupt here, but I
think I know what you're looking for."

The one cop started to get huffy and his hand slid over to his
nightstick. The other cop told him to cool it.




"Good afternoon, Sir." said the cop. "You say you saw something?"

"Yes, I did." said SYSOP. "There were a couple of fellows parked
here a little bit ago. One was in a blue green Ford Fairlane,
and the other was in a white LeSabre. They were swapping a couple
of duffle bags between the trunks. One guy lit up a cigarette and
offered it to the other. After that, the bags were transferred,
and they took off."

"Did you see the license plates?" Asked the uncool one.

"No I didn't." said SYSOP. "But the one guy had a tattoo on his
right arm that had a serpent coiled around a dagger."

"Thank you, sir." said the cool cop. "We'll investigate it. By
the way, those are might nice boots you have on."

"I got them on vacation last year." said SYSOP. "The weather was
lousy."

I stayed just at the edge of things until the cops walked away
talking to each other.

"What was that all about." I said. A couple of people SYSOP had
been sitting with were very nervous.

"Don't worry," said SYSOP. "I'm no narc. Did you see any blue
Fairlane parked here?"

"No," said one, a large fellow who easily outweighed SYSOP and
was 15 years his junior.

"There was no sense wrecking the beautiful day." said SYSOP.
"They're off on the scent, and we're left to enjoy the sunshine.
The best of all possible worlds. Now where were we?"

Later, I got SYSOP aside and asked him about it.

"The fact of the matter was," said SYSOP. "That cop took one look
at my boots and knew A) I'd been in country and that B) I'd been
rear echelon mucky-muck, or I'd never been wearing a bright
shiny pair of boots. All the ones that came back with grunts
were really ratty. These I keep spit-shined. They knew I wasn't a
narc, or they'd have known me. Quite frankly, he didn't know what
I was, but he figured he'd better not ask."

"You just got right in their face." I said.

"Right." SYSOP replied. "By now, there's stories circulating
about mean-assed people coming back from Nam and unloading their
whole load at the drop of a hat. I don't think they bought my
story; I could have told them Martians had landed, and they'd
still have split. I was just letting them know these were my
people and to leave us alone."




"Folks on the street will leave you alone too." I said. "That
crowd buggered off real quick."

"That's okay." said SYSOP. "I'd just as soon have a little bit
of a reputation. It'll make things easier later on."

Date: Monday, July 15, 1996 12:10am Forum: JOURNEY
From: George Msg#: 681214
To: Shaman 
Re: Thoughts on being a tiger 
(Reply to #658120, Copy by Sysop) 

A tiger doesn't need to appoligize for being a tiger. A Dog doesn't
need to appoligize for being a dog. People don't have to appoligize for
being who they are. We do as we do. If they are real friends, they
will understand. If not, they'll get pissed.

OH WELL!!

Date: Wednesday, July 17, 1996 10:21pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 689620
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #679533, Reply to #679532, Reply to #677622, R*) (1 reply)

Paul came in last night, and the house adjourned quickly to the
front room, and the pocket doors were pulled shut. I grabbed
SHAMAN and headed out. I wanted to be away for a bit and let our
presence sink in. We walked on over to the Toddle House and let
Carla-call-me-Isis fix us a waffle and some steak and eggs. They
also had some great chocolate cream pie I'd remembered from my
youth. The pie alone made the trip worthwhile for me.

We came back to the house much later. The pocket doors were
open, and Paul was sitting in a big green overstuffed chair with
a black briefcase beside him. There were two other fellows
there. One was named Dave. He had a gaunt nerdish look to him. He
wore green tint granny glasses. The other was Chris. He was a
dark, stocky fellow with swirls of dark brown hair. They were
Paul's hounds of war and mischief.

Paul was clean-shaven, and closely cropped all over. It was only
his clothes that belied his leanings. An elaborately tie-died T-
Shirt was under a blue vest, covered with various occult symbols.
On his breast pocket was embroidered a Starfleet eschelon. He had
a peace sign and Ying and Yang embroidered elsewhere. He wore
knee length mocassins that met in blue jeans that had been
stripped and braided from crotch to knees in an elaborate 3-D
pattern. He wore a silver ankh on a chain around his neck.

"Peace, and long life, brother." I said, flipping him a Vulcan
gesture."

"Live long and prosper." he returned. "Do I know you?"

"Lazarus Long." I said. "This is my friend Libby. We were
cruising through on our way to the abbey in Upstate New York. We
met last year."

"I see. " said Paul. "Have the girls been keeping you
comfortable?"

"Can't complain." I said.

"How long are you staying?" he asked. "I hope you'll stay and
share water."

"I wanted to stay long enough to meet up with you again." I said.
"I promised Libby, we'd come by. He's heard a lot about you."

"Well, this is the best of all worlds. Please stay as long as you
want." Paul said. "I must be strung out from the road, but I
can't place you."

"That's cool." I said. "You were tripping when we met. If you
will excuse us, now. Libby and I have to meditate."

"By all means." said Paul. "We are all slaves to our sahdna." He
put his folded palms to his forehead and bowed. Libby and I


returned the gesture with a deep bow.

We got upstairs and SHAMAN wanted to quiz me.

"He thinks we're the damn flight insurance." I said. "The people
he dealt with to get that black bag have a long reach."

"What's in the bag?"

"Pure, pharmaceutical grade LSD on blotter paper. I said. "Within
a month, he'll have tripped 30 days straight just from counting
it with his index finger."

"Should we be around that stuff?" SHAMAN asked.

"We're safe." I said. "I've got no truck with that stuff. What I
want is sitting in that green chair."

"You gonna face off with Paul." SHAMAN asked.

"I am." I said. "Paul doesn't know this, but his destiny just
moved in and joined the tribe."

Date: Wednesday, July 17, 1996 10:24pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 689621
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #689620, Reply to #679533, Reply to #679532, R*) (1 reply)

SYSOP has always been an in-your-face sort. But then, when
you're creating Reality as you go, you can afford to be
confrontational. Paul and his buddies came back, and SYSOP
barged in on them, like he was the angel of death.

I'm beginning to see where he's going, and I'm not real keen on
the idea. I'd always been taught you can't mess with the past.
Maybe it's a physical law, like gravity or something. Or, maybe
it's a ethical imperative like the Prime Directive. I just don't
think it's Kosher. SYSOP has continually and wantonly walked on
these graves of the honored dead. He's comfortable with it. I'm
not.

SYSOP started going off on me about living too long with the
natives, and it might be time to think about leaving. That's
when I revolted.

"I cannot believe you're coming down on me." I said. "You keep
telling me not to go screwing with anyone, but then you go screw
with their heads. What is this? You can and I can't? You're God?
What is this?"

"If you notice," said SYSOP. "I'm keeping it in my pants too.
What's the difference? I'll tell you what the difference is: it's
a clearness of sight. You're a tourist here. I'm here for a
reason. It ain't pretty, but it's something I've gotta do."

"What is it? " I said, getting hot. "You gonna screw up this drug
deal for Paul, right? You think you can stem the tide of Acid on
these streets? You think you can play God with these people? You
think you can change the past?"

"What was done," SYSOP said. "Is already done. Was done. Can't be
undone. My reason for this trip is not to change the past, but
to make it happen. I don't want to get back and find out that
the Black Hole was only my dream-- that it was all just some
overblown fantasy. You think I'm here to play God? Yes. I am, but
not to these people or to you. I'm here to be God, the Hairy
Thunderer, the Grand Creator, to me. Me! Do you understand that?
Do you realize that I'm here, because unless Paul goes down, the
Hole can't exist? "

"I don't get you, man." I said. "You can't say that Paul is the
sole reason the Hole came into being."

"No," I said. "but it did finally dawn on me that Paul never got
to be notorious, and if he had. . . if he'd become a bush-league
Charlie Manson. . .suffice it to say I along with all the others
who followed in the footsteps of the giants who walked these
streets would have never thought twice about trying to resurrect
these times for ourselves. We would have just gone along with all
the rest who buried ourselves in our disco and polyester and
never thought twice of the legacy. What we did, we did out of
nostalgia and a yearning to be something greater, like what we
believed these people had been.


"You think this is all a nostalgia trip?" SYSOP went on. "What
have we found? Smelly people in dirty clothes groping each other
in the shadow of a nasty little war. Nothing much changed in
thirty years has it? So how come folks forget the dirt and
gonorrhea and believe this was somehow a beautiful time and a
noble experiment for Mankind? Why? Because Charlie Manson was a
single freak. Because there were few mass suicides, no one else
calling for Helter Skelter, and Paul and company became exiled
from the Heights, and that's what I'm here to make happen."

"You're mad." I said.

"I want Paul buried." SYSOP said. "What he's doing here could
swing the balance, and the Black Hole might never come to be. "

"I still say you're mad" I said.

"Yes, I'm mad." He said. "And I'm here to make sure this gets
buried. That's it. You in or out?"

"I don't know" I replied. "I just don't frickin' know."

I came to see that SYSOP had become the serpent swallowing his
tail. He was the phoenix rising from his own ashes. I just
didn't want to burn up with him. I feared screwing things up
here, and messing things up so I couldn't go back. It dawned on
me, then, that I had little to go back to. I was free, and as
long as SYSOP could pull this off, the world he was creating
might be better. No matter what, he'd messed with things so bad
that going back as I knew was no longer an option. The only way
was onward and inward, and for that I needed SYSOP.

"So where do we sit cosmologically?" I asked. "This is one
massive Chinese cluster-reallocation as far as I can see. You
can't mess with the past and get away from it."

"Who says?" said SYSOP with a winsome look. "Who says with all
the infinite possibilities that the place we come back to won't
be better for what we've done? You think Reality is inviolate?
You who have walked the path on four legs as well as two? Tell
me, gentle tiger: what is the Path to you? Is the way paved with
stones, laid there for us to walk on? Or is it an urge to walk
with only the darkness without and the light within to guide us?"

Date: Tuesday, July 23, 1996 8:10am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 702282
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #689621, Reply to #689620, Reply to #679533, R*) (1 reply)

I came downstairs yesterday morning, and saw one of the women in
the kitchen. Carole is her name right now, but she's toying with
changing it to Satin or something. Anyhow, she was cooking
some Wheatina for herself, and I came in looking for something to
gnaw on. It was a cold morning with the sky clearing, and the leaves
had left the trees outside the windows just enough that the sunlight was
uncommonly brilliant.

"Paul was very impressed with you." she said. "We talked about you
last night for a long time." She was wearing a purple skirt made
out of an Indian print. It was cool, and she'd taken the white
afghan off the couch and was wrapped up in it.

"Oh?" I said. " I guess by now folks are trying to figure out what
flavor wizard I am."

"Are you a wizard?" she asked. "You and Libby don't seem the type."

"No." I answered. "I am not a wizard, but I have acquired some
powers along the way."

"Oooooo." she said. "Like what?"

"Nothing I'd like to drag out right now." I said. "But I do have
dreams. They're memories, but they're of the future."

"Oh, what kind of dreams?" she said.

"I once had a dream when I was sleeping on the Cliff in Belleview
Park." I said. "I dreamed I was many years in the future, and the
cliff was the shore of a large lake stretching between the hills."

"I didn't know you'd been here before." she said.

"Yes," I said. "I grew up here, but that was in a different time."

"Oh." she said.

"So anyway, I'm dreaming that I've got a little boat, and I'm
fishing near the shore, and I keep catching these really large
fish-- big catfish, and when I lift them out of the water, I see
they're really the reincarnations of all the famous political people
that came from here. Big Bill Taft, Boss Cox, you know. They'd all
been reincarnated as fish, and they'd been living in this lake for
hundreds of years far off in the future."

"That's really groovy." she said. "What happened? Oh, please sit
down here and let me get you a bowl of this."

"Well," I sat down at the kitchen table and continued, " I finally
asked one of them that I didn't recognize what the deal was. And he
told me that that this was heaven-- living on the bottom of the
lake that used to be Cincinnati. They had all they wanted, and
they had all their fish buddies, and they just did fish things and
they were happy. I threw him back along with all of his buddies and
got the hell outta there. I couldn't take that."

"How come?" she asked. Handing me a bowl of hot cereal, and putting a
bottle of milk between us.

"I guess I was scared that's all there was to life." I said. "I
wanted there to be more than being a fish on the bottom of a lake."
I started stirring the Wheatina.

"If there is any immortality for you." Carole said. "I know it will
be something more than a fish."

"I wish I knew that for sure." I said.

"You will." she said, and something in her voice caused me to look
up. She had moved back to the stove. The sunshine was streaming in
from the window, and it caught her hair and lit it up like a
flaming aura. "You shall always turn a brave face to the wind of
your destiny. You shall always be known for your willingness and
your daring. You shall be known for the path you walked and the others
who followed. You shall not have struggled in. . ."

It took about that long for me to realize that there had been a
major shift in my perception, and that Carole had left the sunlit
corner of the kitchen and sat down. I looked again, and the spot
on the floor was bare except for the shaft of sunlight on the
floor, and as I watched a cloud came past and the light became
muted. I turned to Carole again and must have had my jaw dragging
in my cereal bowl.

"Laz," she said. "Are you all right?"

"It was a . . ." I looked around for something to use as an excuse.
"It was a flashback, I guess."

"You were really out there." she said. "You suddenly got this look
like a little kid praying in church. You were so cute and innocent.
You looked three years old."

"I did?" I said. " Wow. It was so vivid. You were talking to me
and. . .and. . " I tried to tell her what had happened, but I
realized it all sounded foolish, so I finally clammed up.

"I saw what you saw," she said. "through your eyes, I think. I'm
not sure what all it meant, but it was so . . .I don't know. .
.pure? I felt as though I wanted to take you in my arms and hug
you."

"That would be nice." I said, and she got up and came over and
wrapped her arms around me and I, still sitting, put my face into
her belly and hugged her around her waist. All the warmth and love
I'd felt coming from the vision returned to me in a wave, and I was
overcome, and I began to cry with happiness. It suddenly occured
to me that Carole and I had gotten caught in the flow of a powerful
wave of . . . I don't know. Our actions were coming from within, but
being driven by a force from outside ourselves. I relaxed and
looked up into her eyes. We met each other's gazes, and then her eyes
turned away and she sat back down.

"I. . .I um. . ."

"That's okay." Carole said. "I think I understand. We'd better
eat this cereal before it gets cold."

Date: Tuesday, July 23, 1996 8:12am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 702283
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #702282, Reply to #689621, Reply to #689620, R*) (1 reply)

In all the mucking around these past few days in Clifton Heights,
I've mellowed considerably on the things that were bothering me the
most. I finally had to admit, that SYSOP HAD gotten me walking on
two legs again. He HAD taken me on a journey that had given me a
chance to unwind. What he's doing with this anti-hole thing I think
is a little weird, but if you take his view on it, then we aren't
really muddling up the reality we left. We're just exploring
alternatives, and maybe that really IS important to him. Me? I'm
just along for the ride right now.

I've been hanging with ISIS lately. She's been having a good time
with me. We hit the art museum yesterday, and then I took her for
a picnic out on the cliff in Belleview.

Chipmunk. Now there's been the one sticking point in all this.
She figured out early on we weren't going to have sex together, and
now she's started treating me like her Dad. I'm not sure which is
worse. Dads have to be brilliant and infallible. Dads have to be.
. .well suffice it to say we haven't been getting along to well,
and we've definitely got a communication gap. She stopped trying
to tail me, and started arranging dates of a sort. We have a set
time when I'm supposed to make myself available to her so that we
can groove.

Last night she broke the truce on sex by coming up after everyone
was asleep and asking me if we could talk. It was real clear what
she was up to when she got me down on the couch and asked me to rub
a knot out of her back. I did that for about 2 minutes and then
told her there was no knot in her back, and that I wasn't going to
break my sacred vows, etc. She denied the whole thing, and then
launched into this long conversation about sensuality versus
sexuality, and how she thought we should be enjoying each other's
bodies without. . .well you get the idea. Needless to say I did
fall for it a little, but I broke it off after it got past necking.
This whole thing feels like a bad high-school romance.

So today, I called up ISIS and we went out and hit a few bookstores
and then walked down to Fairview Park and sat around talking. I
was kinda sorta hoping that we'd get to talking about us, and we
did, and I sorta brought up the issues of sensuality vs. sexuality
and. . . well, she cut me off right there. I guess she'd drawn the
line for herself a ways back and she wasn't about to start crossing
it with me without some kind of commitment. I could see her point,
and I wasn't about to. . . this really IS starting to sound like
bad high school stuff, but I've really never been in this kind of
situation before, and I'm not really all that prepared for it. At
any rate, she went to work, and we parted on good terms, and I. .
. oh nevermind.

I can tell from SYSOP's mood that we'll be leaving soon anyway. I
hope he picks someplace totally asexual to hang out next. This is
all starting to wear on me. We caught up with each othe yesterday,
and he told me about this weird dream he'd had, and it really
freaked me out-- some of the stuff sounds like stuff I've
experienced myself. Anyhow, SYSOP says things are drawing to a
close here, and we'll be cutting out soon.

Date: Wednesday, July 24, 1996 8:27am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 704614
To: Shaman 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #702283, Reply to #702282, Reply to #689621, R*) (1 reply)

SHAMAN and I met up after a couple of days, and it seemed like we'd
been going down separate but converging paths. SHAMAN had been
having girl trouble, and I'd had some rather disconcerting
experiences in that area myself. We vowed it was time to get out
of here as soon as the work was done.

We did not have long to wait for a reason for concluding our visit.

Paul invited us along on a visit to an apartment over on Calhoun
Street. I'm not sure who's pad it was, but there was this Acid
Rock group in from Cleveland, and they had a black wizard in tow.
Paul had been offered a large sum for unloading a sizeable part of
what he'd brought back from his trip. So off we went to make a
deal. Paul and the rest of the house had been tripping a lot, and
I don't think anyone but SHAMAN and I were straight.

When we got there, there were a bunch of guys from the band, Paul
and his knights, and a few women I'd never met. It was close
quarters in the front room of this apartment, three stories above
Calhoun. Some of the folks were really out of it. One girl with
long blond hair was sitting in the middle of the floor staring at
the carpet, totally gone.

One thing led to another and pretty soon Paul and the black wizard
got into this row. Paul challenged the wizard to a duel. The bet
was that Paul could use telepathic mind control to get the girl on
the floor to pick up a pencil off the coffee table. It was the
black wizard's job to keep him from accomplishing it. No hands. No
nothing, just mind.

The two wizards squared off over the coffee table. Paul was on the
couch. The wizard was sitting on a folding chair. They began by
fixing their stares on each other and they remained that way
throughout the duel, never blinking. The room fell around these
two. Everything else shut off. I don't remember hearing traffic
going by or breathing or anything. Just these two men playing
psychic chicken.

After a considerable amount of time, we notices the girl was
beginning to shake her head as though she was trying to get a
better look at the carpet moving beneath her. Then suddenly her arm
shot out on its own over the coffee table, and then fell back to
the floor. She was rocking a little. Looking at Paul, looking at
the wizard, Paul had turned stoney. I didn't even see him
breathing. The black wizard was staring back, but by this time, a
sweat had broken out on him, and his T-shirt was beginning to spot
around the neck.

The girl continued to quiver, and her hand began dancing like a
snake in the air, stabbing at the table where the pencil lay and
then darting away or pulling away as though it was being burned.

For over what was probably over half and hour, the two wizards kept
it up, with the girl caught in the middle. Paul leaned forward, or
more like floated forward on his seat. The black wizard got this
look on his face like something was coming at him. We all looked
through his eyes at the unseen animal that was slowly stalking him.
The black wizard gripped his chair and braced himself. The pencil
began to roll about the table. First one way and then the other.
The girl's arm danced in a twisted frenzy.

The pencil began to spin around in a circle and the eraser lifted
off the table and began twirling on its point. It lifted off the
table and rose into the air a good six inches or so. The black
wizard looked down at his knees and saw what had come to eat him
and all at once started to push the chair away from the table with
his feet. We were all fixed on the wizard, and barely saw the hand
lash out and strike at the pencil pulling it out of the air. The
wizard slumped in his chair, the girl fell back on the floor,
curled in a fetal position. The pencil fell from her hand onto the
carpet.

The bass player had been standing at the window behind the black
wizard watching all this. When it was done, he still wore the
frightened expression of the black wizard. I don't know if he too
had seen the animal that had lept for the wizard, or if he just
couldn't hack a reality with dancing pencils and black wizards. As
Paul leaned back on the couch he shot the bass player a look, and
we all turned and saw the bass playe out the third story window. He
heard him hit the pavement a second later with a thud/crunch. Some
ran to the window. One guy bent down and cradled the girl. I looked
at Paul.

"All great works of power demand sacrifice," he said. "Dan, go down
and get me a six-pack of Weidemann." He paused and looked at the
black wizard. "On second thought. Let's blow this joint. It's
getting hot in here. I need some air."

SHAMAN and I left in the entourage, not knowing what else to do.
One dead on the sidewalk, one wounded on the floor. That was enough
for Paul for tonight and more than enough for me.

Date: Thursday, July 25, 1996 2:35pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 708064
To: Sysop 
Re: Out there. Really out there 
(Reply to #704614, Reply to #702283, Reply to #702282, R*) 

It was on the next night, after the confrontation with the black
wizard that SYSOP and I departed Clifton Heights. Paul and the
others had gathered to trip in the living room. SYSOP announced
that we were leaving soon.

"So, Lazarus Long." said Paul. "What really brought you here to the
Green Green Hills of Earth."

"I have come to shut you down." said SYSOP flatly. "You have
broken your trust with your people, and you have turned away from
the covenant with That which brought you here. Yours is a false
teaching and your power collects far to much collateral damage."
The entire room looked at Paul for a reaction, and with none
coming, turned back to concentrate on SYSOP.

"That's an impressive goal." said Paul. "But you have to go through
the folks here. This is a communal house. If they want me out, I
will leave. Just ask them. I see you've been places." He pointed
at my boots. " I know you know more than you are telling. But you
cannot stop us. We are free and without guile."

"I will dispense with the usual displays of lightning and thunder."
SYSOP said. "My display shall be far more definitive if not as
breathtaking. Here me now, all of you. I come from a greater
power and my will be done." SYSOP then plopped himself down
in the middle and sat erect in a semi-lotus. He closed his eyes
and began to chant, as though to induce himself into trance.

"You will believe that this country is winning the war," SYSOP spoke
as though not fully connected, yet with bearing and gravity I had
never heard from him before. "In February, the Vietnamese will
overrun the country. Names like Khe Sanh will be forever
left in your memory as a testament to this night. There will
be horrors untold, and a South Vietnamese colonel will kill
a man on your TV screen by firing a shot that will end up causing
all America to rise up to oppose the war. You
will see blood spill from that man's head, and you will remember my
words. Lyndon Johnson will not run for president and Richard Nixon
will. It will be Richard Nixon who takes you into your next
decade, and you will see his face and it will bring forth my words
and fan the fire of discontent. He will make peace with Mao and
with Breshnev, and he will end this war in Vietam, but not before
many men die, and the country is lost.

"On Christmas, you will all see the Earth as it appears to me now,
a little ball of light amid a black and unyielding firmament. You
will hear the word of God spoken, and you will remember this
night." SYSOP continued. "The forces of youth and of the
establishment will square off in Chicago when the democrats gather
to nominate Humphrey. You will see the police turn evil, and you
shall remember my words.

"For this is a house with a false god in it," SYSOP said.
and each time you witness what I have said, you will seek this
serpent out and drive him from his lair."

"A man named Armstrong will walk on the moon, and Phillip will be
crowned the Prince of Wales. There will be a concert of such epic
proportions, that it shall mark the pinnacle of the age. It shall
not be forgotten, and it will be known by its place, a place named
Woodstock, However two of it's shining stars will perish within the
next year from the false promises of drugs. These are the same
promises this man you call Paul makes to you now, and even now he
plots to enslave you. If you doubt my word, wait until a man named
Charlie Manson snuffs the life of Sharon Tate. You will see the
eyes of Sharon's assasins and know of what I speak."

"Bobby Kennedy will die. Martin Luther King will die, all gunned
down by loners. But when four die at Kent State." SYSOP said,
rocking back and forth. "You will see the nation arise in righteous
anger and put and end to the war. When you hear the cry of 'Four
Dead in Ohio.' you will find this man before you and cast him out
of your sight. By the time "Four Dead in Ohio" is chanted, this
man must be gone from these Clifton Heights, or surely I will have
to return, and this time it will not be prophecy I use. I have
spoken, I have spoken the truth. Let no man or woman forget these
words. Let all who have heard me raise the fist of righteous
indignation."

SYSOP opened his eyes and glued them onto Paul. "Do I make myself
clear?" Paul was pale. Everyone in the room was riveted. "Good,
then my job is done here." SYSOP said. "Mr. Sheffield, it is time
to go. Come and join us gentle people for our last demonstration.
We shouldered our packs and began walking down the street. It was
late afternoon, and the chill of October was definately upon us.
We shuffled through the leaves and crossed Parker and entered into
the Belleview Park.

"What are we doing now?" I asked.

"Just follow me to the cliff." said SYSOP. "We're going to catch
the train outta here."

We went out on the cliff, and sat down like a couple of Indians
waiting for our vision. I looked at the entourage behind us, and I
saw Chipmunk shivering in the cold, and Paul was nowhere to be
found. We sat quietly and watched the sunset without speaking.

Finally Chipmunk came up to me and said. "Libby, what am I to do?"

"Go home to your parents." I said. "This was a nice dream, but it
is ended. By Winter you'll need to stay warm, and I don't see Paul
affording the heat. Now go, please. I don't know what he has
planned, but you'd better stand back."

When at last the sun was down behind Price Hill, SYSOP arose from
his meditation, and said goodbye. He had me come closer, and he
removed the Rubik's cube from his jacket. He gave it a twist.

There was a moment's discontinuity, and we were gone.

Date: Sunday, July 28, 1996 10:53am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 713598
To: Shaman 
Re: Oblivion and Beyond 
(1 reply)

* * * *


Where are we?

That's a good question.

I can't feel anything.

Neither can I.

What can we do?

I'm not sure.

Can we get out?

I'm not sure.


* * * *


Do you have the cube?

You have the cube.

You have the cube.

Do I?

I don't.

I don't.

Now what?

I think we've already covered that.

What is this?

"Oblivion" is a word that comes to mind.

What does that mean?

Look around. What do you see?

Nothing.

What do you feel?

Nothing.

That's Oblivion.


* * * *


Have you ever been here before?

Yes.

How did you get out?

I'm not sure I did.

What do you mean?

Well, when I started seeing and feeling things again, I thought I
was out, but perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I stayed there and just
imagined I was out.

How do you know?

How do you know?

I'm not up for existentialism right now.

Neither am I. Perhaps that's why we're here.

Huh?

Maybe that's why we're here. If you give up on existentialism,
perhaps this is all that's left.

That's an interesting theory, but I don't think that's going to
help us get out.

Well, having been here before, I'm reminded of the story of the
monk who dreamed he was a butterfly. After that, he was never sure
if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man or a man dreaming he
was a butterfly.

That's cute, but what does it mean?

Well, perhaps we have just awakened, and found out that we're
neither butterflies nor men.


* * * *


So now what? We just going to stay here or what?

Exactly.

What?

That's right.

You're not helping.

I wasn't trying to; I was just trying to state the obvious.

What?

Yes. What indeed. Are we going to go back to sleep and dream? Or
are we to stay awake and behold what we've found.

What's that?

It.


* * * *


I've never thought of It as this.

What?

Oblivion.

Then what is It?

What is Oblivion? Can't you see the syllogism: What is It. What
is Oblivion. It is Oblivion.

Date: Sunday, July 28, 1996 10:54am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 713599
To: Sysop 
Re: Oblivion and Beyond 
(Reply to #713598) (1 reply)

* * * *


We'll go mad here in Oblivion.

You're right. We will. Either that, or we'll stay.

You're driving me mad.

You're driving me mad.

Madness is not what It is. Madness is not Oblivion. You want out of
Oblivion? Go mad.

I don't want to go mad.

You want out of Oblivion?

Yes.

Then let go Oblivion and go mad. It is Madness to attempt to leave
Oblivion.

How do you know?

I've been here before.

Where: Madness or Oblivion?

Aye, that is the question, isn't it?

Whether to choose the slings and arrows of Madness or . . .

Stay in Oblivion. I think I understand now.

So which is it going to be for you?

We have a choice?

In a way. We prepare ourselves in Madness to reach Oblivion. In
Oblivion, we find the solace to face Madness again. We do it every
night when we sleep and do not dream. The choices we make in
Madness light our way back to Oblivion. To the extent, we cannot
handle Oblivion, we choose to awaken into Madness.

We are here when we sleep and do not dream? In Oblivion?

Of course. Are you aware of anything when you are asleep and not
dreaming?

No.

Then it must be Oblivion.

And it is Madness to leave Oblivion. I see your point.


* * * *


So what next?

Either we stay here or go mad.

Isn't there another option?

I've been here before, but I'm not a local. I'm open to any
suggestions.

We can try and go back to where we were.

That is Madness.

We could try going somewhere else.

That is Madness too.

So if we reach Oblivion, we have only Madness to face?

Or Oblivion. I don't think there's much of a choice.


* * * *


Are we mad yet?

Are we in Oblivion?

Yes. Except, we're talking to each other. In Oblivion I doubt I
would be able to talk to you.


No one to talk to? That would drive me mad.

Exactly. So we're probably not in Oblivion. If we're talking to
ourselves, we're Mad.

But I still don't see anything. I still don't feel anything.

Then we're in a state that is neither Madness nor Oblivion. We
have reached Delusion.

Do you mean we're imagining we can't feel anything or see anything?

Yes. We're deluded, and yes, we're quite along the path of Madness.

So what do I do in order to feel something or see something?

Just imagine it?

Yes. Try hard.

I think I want to be in the Park at Belleview again.

That's a nice place. Go for it.

I am imagining that I am on the lawn in the park. Looking up at the
night sky. I can see Orion setting in the West over Price Hill.
Sagitarius is over Mt Adams, and there is a full moon overhead. It
is springtime. I can hear the traffic rolling on the expressway,
and the squeal of traincars down in the yard. The air is chilly,
but I am warm inside.

And where am I?

I do not know. Where are you?

I am sitting on the cliff, staring out at the Heights. Wondering
where we really are. The towers loom overhead, and a look up and
wonder where we have come, and what it is we are to do. I feel in
my pocket and find my lighter and light up a smoke, and take a long
drag on it. The tip of my toungue is tingling, and I can feel the
smoke filling my head and making me heavy. I exhale and watch the
smoke drift out over the cliff and into the night like my dream.

Are we still dreaming?

You are off in the park, lying in grass just below the outlook.
I'm out on the cliff. There's 100 yards of scrub forest between
us, and yet our voices reach us as whispers. What do you think?

I think I don't want to go back to oblivion.

Then don't stop dreaming. Dream that you are going to sleep and
dreaming that you are asleep. And you will never be able to tell
the difference.

But I want to know the difference.

That is Oblivion. And that is Madness. And in between there is
Delusion. No go back to sleep and leave me alone. I'm tired.

Goodnight.

Goodnight.

Date: Sunday, July 28, 1996 10:56am Forum: JOURNEY
From: Shaman Msg#: 713600
To: Sysop 
Re: Oblivion and Beyond 
(Reply to #713599, Reply to #713598) (1 reply)

I awoke shortly before sunrise, it had grown cold. I was just
below the concrete wall of the overlook in Belleview Park. The moon
was setting. I was alone.

I wondered out onto the cliff and found SYSOP sitting on the ledge
looking out on the Heights, smoking.

"Have you been out here all night?" I asked.

"I wandered around a bit, checked on you a couple of times, but
yeah, mostly." he replied.

"So what next?" I asked. "I'm up for anything as long as it isn't
going back."

"How about breakfast?" he asked.

"Sounds good." I said. "Where to?"

"I scrounged up some stuff." he replied. "I tripped over some of
our gear over by the ball field. Want some eggs and bacon?"

"How about pancakes?"

"Pancakes too."

SYSOP had unpacked a large black duffel in which he'd found a
batter mix, a container of eggs, dried bacon, and a gallon of milk.
In the bottom was a griddle. He'd started a fire in one of the
grills, and the coals had burned down to where it was perfect for
cooking. I sat down on the bench and watched him cook.

"Good night?"

"Pretty good." I replied. "I didn't dream much."

"Damn!" he said.

"What?"

"Oh, one of the eggs is cracked." he said. "I packed this really
careful."

"Maybe it broke on the trip out the door." I said. "You weren't
paying all that much attention when you flung everything out."

"That's right." he said. "Oh well. Fortunes of the hunt and all. So
where are we going next?"

"What, me?" I said. "I have no idea."

"You dreamed this one up." he said. "It's your deal."

"I haven't a clue."


"Just as well."

"We could head East for a spell." I said. SYSOP was just turning
the bacon.

"Cool. That sounds like a plan."

The park was coming alive. Robins began poking around in the
grass. Squirrels were running about under the trees, not paying
much attention to us. An oppossum, late for bed, came running up
out of the south woods and ran across the lawn and off into the
bushes.

Date: Monday, July 29, 1996 3:26pm Forum: JOURNEY
From: Sysop Msg#: 717813
To: Shaman 
Re: Oblivion and Beyond 
(Reply to #713600, Reply to #713599, Reply to #713598) (1 reply)

After breakfast, no one had any great desire to get going, so we
hung out in the park and watched the city come to its full
awakening.

"That was a heavy one last night," said SHAMAN.

"Yes, it was." I said. "I think we finally ran our little Western
brains out of our heads."

"What was all that?"

"To us, as Prometheans, it was the ultimate insanity-- a state of
mind in which all we use to define ourselves breaks down. Enlightenment
is an acquired taste-- Coffee is not the preferred drink of children.
Similarly, oneness with the Universe is a bum trip to us.
We prefer to keep our Gods on high, and when we're confronted
with the truth we end up as either hebephrenic Shirley McClaines
rolling on the beach yelling 'I am GOD! I am God!' or worse."

"Like?"

"Like us-- two shamen staked out on the anthills of our spiritual
curiousity, roasting in the hot sun of the great unyielding Truth."
I replied. It's so easy, though. If we could only substitute 'Bliss' for
'Oblivion' and 'Prahna' for 'Delusion' it would be so much simpler for
us. However, we have been built for the struggles of attainment,
and our bodies and our souls are not prepared for the simple
realizations that are always waiting. For us, as long as we walk in
the inner world of the shaman, Bliss will always turn a cruel and
dispassionate face to us."

"I'm not sure I want to buy into that," said SHAMAN. "All my life,
I've seen things that I knew to be true that were outside the realm
of the waking. But I never dreamed of this."

"Look deep into our bag of tricks." I said. "Synchronicity,
imagination, creativity-- all build on an underlying connectedness,
and we as the craftsmen have to understand that connectedness in
order to make them work. If it all flows back to one connection at
the horizon of our awareness, what is that nexus? Throw away all
the dichotomies of our thinking: this is not this, this is not
that, and what do you have? Nothing. Nada. Bliss? Oblivion."

"I was so unprepared for it." SHAMAN said.

"And so it is." I said. "We are so much more comfortable in the
Madness of waking that we cannot accept what we know is waiting for
us when at last we close our eyes and look upon our inheritance."

"I think I'd like to go back there someday." SHAMAN said. "But not
for a while."

"And so we shall. " I said. "We cannot help it. It is the end of
every path. Now come on, let's get going."

We broke our camp and walked down to the stairs on Ohio Avenue, and
from there took off East. I was humming again.

"What is that you're singing to yourself?" SHAMAN asked as we
reached Liberty Street.

"Tomorrow Never Knows." I said and then continued.

"Lay down your mind,
Relax and float downstream:
It is not dying.
It is not dying. . ."

"The Beatles did it on Rubber Soul, but it comes from a classic
Hindu song. " I said. "Remember, it was on the poster in our rooms
at Paul's house."

And so we went, heading East and South towards the river.

". . . And you may see
The meaning of reeling
It is being.
Oh, it is being.



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