Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chapter Eleven

"The Meeting" Part ?

When Boss Eggers enters the restaurant, African friend at his side-- one step behind-- he reminds The Man in the Black Hat of an Imperial Roman with his curly hair and arrogant profile outlined against the room's sunny beams of light.

It resembles a scene of a movie. But which one? He can't decide. Eggers is an Imperialist of some kind, but not Roman after all; has too benevolent of a face. Yes! "Lawrence of Arabia"-- when Lawrence enters the Officers Club with a young Arab companion. Boss Eggers is playing the role of enlightened colonialist.

In the seconds before Eggers sees him at a back table near the windows, nearly invisible within streams of sunlight, The Man in the Black Hat thinks of many things.

He wonders: How could this crude gang boss defeat the Rebellion? Boss Eggers is too much of the material world, gauges his progress mechanistically there, in terms of sales numbers and percentages, and mainly, dollars. The underground on the other hand is an Idea more than an entity. They have no structure, no home, no buildings. A seldom updated website. An Idea which can't be killed. Or rather, something which has been killed again and again, yet continues. It isn't for lack of effort that the Man in the Black Hat has failed. The right moves were made. He takes the Plimpton Image's criticism as a personal affront. Yet the Image is correct. Like any guerrilla army, the ULA need win no battles but the last one. They need only survive.

The battle isn't one of sales or buildings or numbers of employees, of material substance or territory. Instead it's a psychological war, an ideological contest; a test of minds.

Lately he's been seeing the rebels everywhere. At a recent reading in their home city one of them had stared him in the face. A laughing face laughingly close-- his own senses had failed to recognize the person. Only later did it occur to him it was one of them.

Or a copycat? (Like the man who confronted Boss Eggers at a private Literature Police soiree?) He can't know. The Resistance is every place.

To win, he needs to understand their strategy. But how can he? It's Custer against Sitting Bull, two vastly different mindsets. On the one hand, order, rule, hierarchy. (Custer sent to find the Sioux because in his wildness he was the only white man who could approach their viewpoint. Custer loved to hunt and shoot and ride, in the open spaces. A throwback to Gothic warrior ancestors, he'd never enjoyed civilization. Still, he was entrapped in the rigid System which had recruited and trained him, which gave him his limitations.)

Sitting Bull, on the other hand, was no warrior, no leader. A mystic having dreams. He needed no structure to buttress him. He communicated with his warriors through mental telepathy.

The Man in the Black Hat stirs from this reverie. His head wavers from undefined worry. The elegant napkin in his hand drops under the table. He's surrounded by phalanxes of tables, black wood lacquered and polished to a mirror'd gleam; barriers protecting his security. The tables to him are markers of wealth, of power, of established artistic order manifested by skyscrapers of thousands of people.

The physical dominance of the Machine is unquestioned. But there can be other vulnerabilities. How do you fight ideas? His own standing in the literary Empire is buttressed by money, true, but he retains other powers-- the heritage of his caste!-- and understands the importance of mind, of psychology. It's on THAT plain he must be prepared to fight.

Arrogant warlord Eggers has spotted the Man in the Black Hat at a distant table in the large and exclusive room in this well-guarded office building-- so-secure building-- at the heart of the city of Empire, and smiles.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chapter Ten


As the Man in the Black Hat speeds in a fast elevator from a high floor down to his important meeting with Boss Eggers, he takes a cellphone from his pocket and touches a button with a red X on it. A display on the cellphone reads in sharp red letters, "DESTROY THE ULA."

This message is transmitted to Imperial offices throughout the country.

Literature Police Sergeant John Freeman at Literature Police headquarters smirks happily as he reads the incoming message on his computer screen: "DESTROY THE ULA."

Trooper Skurnick at a desk nearby begins to say, "I know we're not supposed to pay anymore attention to them, but--" She's cut off with a glance from Freeman, whose eyes point her to her own screen with its own message, "DESTROY THE ULA."

In a newspaper building in Philadelphia, a short man with curly black hair rearranges a stack of papers on his desk as his computer begins to beep. The man looks like a Roman and thinks of himself the same way. Last January he'd spotlighted a ULA-like book with a ULA-looking cover in the newspaper's "Spring Books" section. Unironically, he'd written about the book, "about two renegade leaders of an underground literary movement"-- knowing well his city harbors the most infamous of all underground literary movements, which he'd helped his paper to ignore the past several years; the capper being a major article about one of the city's least talented poets which appeared the same day as one of the ULA's readings. Glorious!

The incessant beeping disturbs the Roman's reveries of literary Empire, then he gloats as he reads on the screen, "DESTROY THE ULA."

In another office, Michael Signorelli, dressed in a gray Star Wars uniform marking him as a drone, also reads the command and prepares to comply. "DESTROY THE ULA."

Across the Empire the message is sent and read, giving satisfaction to guardians of literary privilege only too eager to enforce conformity and shut out the forces of dissent and change. They feel swift encouragement. In their fears of literature's failure they have a target which can be named only secretly-- the target has now been named to them and they feed on the information: "DESTROY THE ULA!"

(So ends the first section of the serial, originally posted at AttackingtheDemi-Puppets. Coming soon: All-New Episodes. More literary gangland action.)