The Pilgrimage

There are two kinds of pilgrimage we are obliged to undertake in our lifetime, and it's a duty we owe to our world: one is a return to intimate places we have lived in for long stretches of time, the other is a visit to places we have never been, but which have nevertheless had just as powerful an impression on us over the course of our lives.

The first pilgrimage, the Return, almost always involves the same two sacred sites: the childhood home, and the school. These two hallowed grounds marked our formative years when time seemed longer, because time was marked out by constant novelty, discovery and innovation. Things seem long when you're experiencing them for the first time, and childhood always seems long to us for that reason. Often on the Return pilgrimage, we will wonder how it was only two or three years that all those memories could have been crammed into, and also at just how much bigger things seemed in our childhood minds than they actually are upon the return. The walls were higher, the trees were bigger, the streets were longer, and the hills behind your house were mountains. It was a time when every day was an adventure, and time seemed to stretch out immeasurably to no end. In the span of a few years, great things happened, events that shaped the destiny of your life. The love, friendship, adventure, success, failure were all great, and regardless of whether they were remembered as happy times or sad, they were exciting times, and you felt things then. To return to these inanimate yet hallowed and vivid places always seemed to me a duty, as if it were repayment for great gifts bestowed once, and which deserve the paying of respects now. Because the house and the neighborhood and school were alive once, and they had souls, and we must respect their souls as we would a dead family member. Those souls were created only through us. That is the beauty of the Return pilgrimage. What was created between me and the hallowed place, was the soul. Neither on its own means anything. It is together that the spirit awakes, the soul manifests, and the experience becomes sublime. It is through that interaction of brain, eyes, light and brick that the walls come to life, that the buildings speak, that the windows reproduce faces that once peered through them and now peer back in our minds.

We will return, and we will stand silently, and observe. We will assume a solemn remembrance for the bonds of self and place and time. We will pick out the holiest of signs, the relics of the hagiography in our minds. The gate, the door, the bush, the tree, the steps, the window, the vines, the wall... We find ourselves in a temple, and everything has meaning, no matter how profane, no matter how inanimate, no matter how lowly, or how utilitarian. The world comes alive when we stand there, and our life regains its sense of wonder and mystery. It is deeply personal, it is shared with few if any others, and even then not in exactly the same way. There is merely overlapping. But in essence what you worship there is unique. It is yours. That is your place, that is your temple, and nobody can ever take that away from you.

The second kind of pilgrimage is the Seeking, because it's a not-yet-attained yearning for something, some place that held great meaning for us in our formative years, but which has eluded us until the pilgrimage of Seeking. In my case, the Seeking was center court at Wimbledon, because I grew up playing tennis and watching tennis, and it was for many years all I would do outside school. I would wake up at 6am and hit on the wall for hours before school, and then again after school. I would wake at 4am to watch Wimbledon on TV, and I would skip school if there was a match I had to see. I remember countless matches watched on TV, all in that sacrosanct cathedral to the thing I loved: tennis. To others, the pilgrimage may be to the Metropolitan Opera, maybe to Yankee Stadium, maybe to a Museum. To me, the thought of walking onto center court at Wimbledon would be the way a Catholic would feel upon walking into St. Peters Cathedral. It would be a truly religious experience, and I don't just mean that as a metaphor. The times I lay out on the floor watching the McEnroe's, the Becker's, the Edberg's, the Cash's, the Lendl's and the Connors's would come flooding back to me. The Duke and Duchess of York would be up there waving. John Newcombe or Tony Trabert would be commentating from the press box. The photographers lined along the side would be clicking. The faces in the crowd would be fanning themselves and clapping and running from the rain and returning with their umbrellas. Giants would be facing off on either side of the net, each of them surely ten feet tall and superhuman. The grass under my feet would be something not of this world. I would be stunned and in awe of the power of that place. And inside I would experience something truly akin to a religious ecstasy, or an epiphany.

But so far, that Seeking hasn't happened. I've yet to go to Wimbledon, but it's a pilgrimage I hope to achieve one day. As for the Return pilgrimage, that's a bit different. I've had a few childhood homes, and while I've done the Return pilgrimage to a couple, others I've yet to do. And sometimes when I have it within my grasp to do so, I chicken out. Something pulls me away. I feel a melancholy kind of fear, as if it would only bring back to me the memory of what is gone and can never be retrieved. As if I would only become conscious of a happy time lost, and feel all the more powerfully the onset of age and the cruel passing of time.

But I know I have to overcome this fear, because life is too long to live without going on that pilgrimage that will remind you just how short and just how precious it really is.


A walk through a secondhand bookstore

There are certain writers who always greet you when you walk into a used book store. George Orwell, Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen and Jules Verne are a few, writers that you know will always be there with those welcome familiar titles, those well-worn yellowed crumpled pages that have that comforting smell of dust and decay. You'll finger through them every now and then, and see the names of past owners scribbled on the title page, endearingly unfamiliar names of people with lives you know nothing of, except that at one point their life was immersed in the book you now hold in your hand. A priced numeral now stands there, written in pencil beside their name - or the name of the library they saved that book from.

Sometimes I visit the bookstore to see these friends, and I often find myself just thumbing through books, not so much reading, but touching, feeling, smelling, hearing them and the writing within, like the long coded strands of souls that inhabit those pages, ciphered with symbols that represent all their loves and passions, their failures and successes, their time on earth that we empathized with as our own time, from the writer's mind to the page and then to our own mind, like the transmigration of a soul shared by us all and stored on shelves where entire worlds are packed into creaking wooden boxes, stacked one upon the other, waiting for a new owner to free them so that they may live in the imagination of a mind once again, and give hope and understanding to others.

The bookstore is a mystical place with a hidden architecture that is encoded within covers, that constructs some magnificent, invisible, undiscovered edifice of interweaving lives and adventures through an interdimensional space that can only expand and enrich through the mind of the beholder who has come to explore. And yet that whole hidden edifice, that magnificent lexical DNA is bounded within an often ugly (not always so), dank, dark and dinghy little three dimensional shell that is the bookstore itself. The contrast is staggering. Infinity, potential, beauty, bound up within clumsy walls and cracking shelves, attended to by an old man in the corner. When you listen closely, you hear those voices chattering all around you, telling great stories, relating great adventures, yet lying there now, rotting in some corner, needing eyes to spring back to life and offer once more the riches they were meant to give.

Because ultimately, the bookstore is a repository of the gifts mankind has bestowed on itself. It is a holy place where we entrust the souls of our forefathers. It is the repository of humanity, and should be treated as a sacred and hallowed place. To step in, one should remove one's hat (metaphorically speaking) and lower one's voice (as we all instinctively do). There is Jane and Emily in the A's and B's, and a copy each of Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, the testaments of a passionate inner life trapped in a world of limitations, precocious, before their time, their sacrifice given and shared for posterity. You feel gratitude toward them. Further down, you greet George Orwell, and you relive his touching, human portraits of misery, poverty and injustice in The Road to Wigan Pier, his depiction of the futility and alienation of middle class life in Coming Up For Air, his satire of totalitarianism in Animal Farm, the life of the destitute in Down and Out in Paris and London, the chilling dystopian despair of 1984, and his wonderful bookstore within the bookstore, his own personal Notes From Underground, Keep the Aspidistra Flying. You move on through the Dostoevsky's and Tolstoy's, perhaps one or two volumes of Proust lying around, thumbing through any random page, taking in a whole passage comprised of a single sentence, and wondering again why you never finished In Search of Lost Time. And then of course Jules Verne and his fantastic adventures at the dawn of science, in the wonder of the 19th century, the age of brilliant, intrepid, genius explorers setting off on fantastic journeys yet always ensconced in the comfortable safety of 19th century bourgeois trappings, velvet couches, brass lamps and libraries always at hand, where the armchair adventurer can find a safe harbor in new worlds. You'll find T.S. Eliot's Cocktail Party, Wasteland and Prufrock, and read again those haunting lines; you'll stumble upon a copy of Borges's Labyrinths and wonder in awe, as you always did, at the Library of Babel; and you'll sense your feelings stir and your mind itch and the voices call you away when you see a worn copy of On The Road, even as regrets well up within you. Those friends will be there on those shelves, faithfully standing sentinel, as if they know you and are expecting you. They speak to you, and you find solace in the fact that your troubles are not unique, that we all share the same trials and loneliness, but that somehow it isn't a cause for despair, because they are alchemists who have found the formulas that convert despair into something beautiful and sacred.

There is, besides that great architecture of imagination, a deeply palpable physical dimension to the secondhand bookstore. It is a place of dying. Not in a metaphoric sense only, though a case could be made for that (reading always makes me conscious of death). Death in a real physical sense. The leaves upon which those words are written, the wooden shelves hewn from dead trees, the long dead writers, the pensioner tending to the books, the young student who reminds you that your best days are past, all of it reeks of death and dying. But most of all it's the haunting silence and passing of time in the bookstore that conveys a sense of mortality. The rush outside is somehow magically left at the door once you enter the bookstore and you feel that time has stood still. We are solemn once inside, we are humbled and respectful, like someone who has entered a church or a cemetery. Your self-consciousness dissipates, your mind retracts, your self-assuredness recedes. Great names line those walls and shelves. Great stories, great deeds, great longings, great ideas are left behind, with their names, like ghosts, but the great men and women themselves have long since perished. There may even be a part of them there, atoms of Lucretius himself even, in the pages and the shelves that their imagination still occupies in a strange kind of mixture of life and death for which there is no word.

I always pause for a second once I have entered the secondhand bookstore. Then I walk again in a forest of waking lives past, upon which have been built these great edifices of the mind and spirit, and I always discover a welcome sense of mystery in life once again.


Oh my god, I have SO much money!

Here's a look into the glamorous life of a freelance writer
For me, money is an obsession. I must have it. And when I want something, I get something. Money is no exception. It is one of those somethings I need to have and get. You just have to look at my LUXURY watch. I am the owner of a LUXURY watch. And it's not some Cassio either, it's a Cartiere, or a Rollex, or a Tag Hauer, or a Patek Fillipe, or a Guchi. Whatever. The point is that it costs a FUCK BUCKET OF MONEY. Watches do also tell the time, that's true, I'm not denying that, they do. But they also tell you SHIT TONS OF MONEY. So much so that they cease to be called watches and instead become "Time Pieces". Look, here's my "Time Piece", tell me this doesn't say FUCK OFF:

Another money thing I have bought is a CAR. Cars are expensive in general because they're big and complicated and they need to be made in factories with an assortment of capital and skilled, semi-skilled and no-skilled (managerial) labor. You don't just pluck a car out of a tree. You BUY a car, fucknuts. And guess who bought one? Me. It is a LUXURY car. As if you didn't already figure that out after having seen my watch, right? The point is that my car is EFFING FUCKING EXPENSIVE, just like my watch, but in a different kind of way. It costs WAY more. Cars can be used for transport, that's true, I'm not denying that, I agree, they can. But they also say SHITWHACK OF MONEY BELONGING TO ME. It's like my money is a transformer robot that assumes the shape of watches and cars. And airplanes... But before I move on to my LUXURY AIR PLANE, here's a photo of my car:

It's a diamond rolls roice or a mercedes or a audy or a bmx, whatever. All you need to know is that it's the fucking MONEY. THE money, to be exact. And what about my airplane? Yeah, you guessed it. LUXURY airplane, or "jet" as I like to call it. I'm the VIP in first class aboard Air Me, ok dickface? Pilot? I have. Air stewardess? Yes, have. Ground crew? Have. It's a LearJet Airbus DC ten 67687ehxt, whatever. Oh my god, if I was any richer I would vomit on your face right now, because my body would reject such a rich host, i.e. ME. I'm too rich for me is what I'm saying. Here's my airplane, WHOOOSH:

When you're as rich as I am, you can start spending money on luxuries beyond things that tell time and fancy ass transporters. You can also make and raise CHILDREN, which are living repositories of your DNA and which will hopefully eventually also have their own children to keep your DNA alive, unless they turn out to be an utter disappointment, in which case you just flushed twenty years of moneys down the toilet for nothing. But that's just it. I am so rich, I can make one even if it isn't guaranteed to make one of its own and keep this RICH genetic heritage alive. I can clothe, educate and "love" it too! That's how rich I am. I can BUY it love, and that is something money can definitely buy. Here's my children:

Some more things my money buys: dehumanized women who will take their clothes off for me because I pay them to; dehumanized chauffeurs who I pay to sit in cars all day to wait for me; exclusive things I pay for to belong to something that excludes and dehumanizes others; paid health insurance that is expensive enough that it doesn't try and come up with tons of subtle ways to deny coverage whenever I actually need it; a kingdom of mown and watered grassland for me and a handful of others like me to club tiny white balls into holes with little flags fluttering over them; a Christian LeBlah wallet made from only the most endangered animal skin; politicians me and my other rich friends pay for so they can cut taxes on us and reward our campaign contributions with lucrative publicly funded contracts; and of course the best thing money can buy: MORE MONEY! I can invest in a FUCK fund or a FUCK stock or a FUCK bond that goes out and FUCKS more money out of other FUCKERS and gives it to me so I can be an even richer FUCK. That's the non plus ultra of rich. I am so rich I can afford an education that enables me to use fancy latin and french words to say things for me, like "je suis the sine qua non of my raison d'etre vis-a-vis cirque du soleil". That is fancy private schoolish for "I have sooo much fucking money it's almost useless". Look, this is me:

And guess what I wear? Guess. Just guess. Go on, guess it. Just take a wild guess. Ever heard of the color feldgrau? I wear a scarf with a rich gay french guy's name on it that is that color. Feldgrau. You didn't guess that did you? I didn't think so. Fuck you.

I am like the one percent of the one percent. If everything was the human anatomy, I would be like a refined idea at the very tip of the brain compared to butt fat. That's how apart and esteemed and precious my money puts me above all you butt fat. Money is MY idea, and I AM the money. Actually, that's a little confusing. I didn't pay good money to be confused, and I sure as hell didn't pay this asshole HEY WHO ARE YOU CALLING AN ASSHOLE? this asshole to write this fucking piece of shit for me I THOUGHT YOU WANTED ME TO WRITE THIS BECAUSE YOU WERE TIRED no I wanted you... me... to write this because I am rich enough to make you, me, because I don't earn good money so I can just waste my time on finger labor. That's how rich I am, I am a freelance writer who hires other freelance writers to do the finger labor for me. So keep writing, fucko... wait don't write that, just write what I say after this. You wrote that too, didn't you? And that? And that? Here's some more money, stop writing.


The birth of an idea

Ova of procreative philosophic forces comprise thought bubbles from sinister entomologic wombs hovering above unaffiliated premises that are impregnated by the penetrating alien extrusion specific to semenophoric lust expulsions amid tangled forests of phosphorescent knowledge balls lit up through a vast neurotic electrosystemal network of mental agitation while ratiocinated mechanic intruders farm the fertilizing neurogenetic life-force with a caution and calculation guided by courageous oneiropilots who are bound by duty to reap the electrocuted intelligence that is born from these primordial oocytic geneses unmapped now and never observed before



New ideas for Halloween 2012!

Left: The Tobias Fünke bleeding botched hairplug look will make you stand out on Halloween

It's that baffling time of the year when it's somehow totally ok for little children to approach complete strangers and ask them for candy. It sounds like the totally wrong thing to do on paper, but it's not so bad when you compare it to other holidays that celebrate crucified space gods, chocolate rabbits, and the beginning of the genocide of Native Americans. And that's not even including holidays from other parts of the world that involve self-mutilation and the mass slaughter of animals. So when you think about it, Halloween isn't so bad as far as festive occasions go.

That having been said, most of us are pretty bored with all the usual vampire, ghost, werewolf or superhero costumes we see every year. So here are some alternative suggestions for out-of-the-ordinary characters that will make you stand out from all the other kids on Halloween while still faithfully contributing to this lucrative annual billion-dollar industry.

Babar the Incontinent Elephant
I know, nobody wants to hear "incontinent" and "elephant" in the same sentence, but hear me out. You will need a long hose, a paper mache trunk and one other person. Fix the hose to your garden tap, bring the hose up through the back of your elephant suit, up the neck and through the paper mache proboscis you have fixed to your face. When your neighbor opens the door, you say "Trick or Treat!" and your neighbor laughs and says "What are you, an anteater?" and you say "No asshole, I'm Babar the Incontinent Elephant!" which is your friend's cue to turn the water on as you spray your neighbor's shoes, pants and floor, crying "HUNTERS KILLED MY MOTHER!"

TIPS: Paper mache is the best choice for material because it's not only cheap and pliable, but the glue will get you high. Also, cover tip of hose with finger for extra spray.

Deformed Olsen Triplet (Who Has Just Escaped From Attic of Evil Twin Sisters)
You will need long blond hair and a deformed female munchkin face (buy a mask if you don't already have a deformed female munchkin face). Bang on the door repeatedly with both fists until opened, then pant and blabber in a panicked voice "HELP ME, PLEASE, MARY KATE AND ASHLEY ARE LOOKING FOR ME, PLEASE I BEG YOU, DON'T LET MY SISTERS TAKE ME ALIVE!"

TIPS: Starve yourself for a week and throw a spoilt tantrum if denied help so as to convince people that you are indeed an Olsen triplet.

Monty Python's Ethel the Aardvaark
You will need long ears and an extended pig-like snout, and you will also have to be highly argumentative. When asked what you are, you will say "I'm Ethel the Aardvaark, from the book Ethel the Aardvaark Goes Quantity Surveying by Charles Dikkens, the famous Dutch author, with two K's", after which there will be an extended back-and-forth in which you will exchange accusations of mistakenness as to the provenance and spelling of said author's name and authenticity of said book, accompanied by exponentially increasing levels of annoyance and confusion. Eventually you will be offered candy by the irritated adult, to whom you will say "Aardvaarks don't eat candy, they eat termites", to which they will answer "Well I don't have termites", to which you say "How can you be sure? Can I dig around in your basement?" to which they reply "No", to which you say "Why? What are you hiding in your basement?" after which they get defensive and angry, upon which you take out a bowl of Tic Tacs, say they're termite eggs, place it on the ground, get down on your hands and knees, and proceed to eat the entire bowl of Tic Tacs with barking and grunting noises. When finished, scream "ARE YOU SATISFIED NOW, YOU ANTI-TUBULIDENTATITE?!"

TIPS: Grow your fingernails a year beforehand for extra aardvaarky looking claws.

Halloween Industry Association PR Executive
Put on a business suit and a big holiday smile as you go door to door merrily stating that the Halloween Industry Association was formally incorporated in 2005 as a 501(c)(6) trade organization to promote and build the celebration of Halloween in the United States, representing businesses involved in the manufacture, importation or distribution of Halloween products including costumes, décor, novelty items and party supplies, and that HIA has grown to become the premier authority on Halloween and serves as a non-profit voice of the industry. Present your card, and wish each household consumer a Happy Halloween.

TIPS: In between houses, rob and steal candy from other kids which you can then redistribute to the children of wealthy Halloween Industry Association executives.

Arrested Development's Tobias Fünke
Go trick or treating as both an analyst and therapist combined, the world's first trick or treat analrapist. Bleeding hair plugs are A MUST. Make sure to use lots of unintentionally homosexual innuendo like "I've been dying to put some of that sweet stuff in my mouth all day, so dump that load right in my hands mister!"

TIPS: When pronouncing "analrapist", emphasis should be on the second syllable. Be sure to work on pronunciation.

The Love Child of Kim Kardashian and Charlie Sheen
You will need a ton of mascara, a big round ass, false teeth and madness. You will also need four other friends, three of whom will follow you with cameras, while the other follows you around dressed like a porn star/prostitute. When people open the door turn your ass to them, look back over your shoulder, bend knees slightly and say "Tricks and treats are like tiger teets filled with manna I suck from the earth bosom mother warlord spirit because I'm FUCKING WINNING!"

TIPS: Down a few cans of energy drink beforehand to simulate a genuine cocaine high. Stop once you achieve appropriate rate of heart palpitations.

Flatulator, The Wrath of Ass
To dress up as this alternative superhero, you'll need a body suit, boots, and cape, with a big F sown into your shirt. Declare yourself "FLATULATOR! THE WRATH OF ASS!" and then proceed to make assorted fart noises until you get your candy. Example: "Who are you supposed to be young man?" Answer: "ppfth"

TIPS: Keep lips tightly pursed and push air through forcefully.

Jack Sparrow, the Management Speak Pirate of the Caribbean
Dress up in a Jack Sparrow costume and say "Shiver me timbers matey, let's touch base later in the week to see if we can't go ahead and synergize an aggressive growth strategy that should expand our portfolio while positioning us competitively on the boarding and plunder segments vis-a-vis the Caribbean market, ARR."

TIPS: When you get your candy, look at your watch and say "I have an 8 o'clock scheduled, I'll slot you in for a follow-up at 7 o'clock on October 31, 2013, ye scurvy dog."

Russel, the Sausage-Loving Gorilla
Wear a gorilla suit, refuse all offers of candy with a violent swing of the arm, and repeatedly say "SAUSAGES" in your best gorilla voice. For extra effect, break a large branch off a tree and drag it behind you as you run in circles, shouting "SAUSAGES" at the top of your lungs while beating your chest with the other hand.

TIPS: I have a feeling this would also work with a Darth Vader outfit, for some reason.

Amy Winehouse, the Semi-Decomposed Zombie
By 2012, the decomposition should have really kicked into full-on skeletal mode, but that's no reason to deny yourself and others a little suspension of disbelief for some zany holiday fun!

TIPS: Stagger around like a deranged zombie and mutter like a crazy person to reproduce Amy's unforgettable Belgrade concert.

Pedro the Llama
You'll need a decent llama outfit and lots of expectorate. People will answer the door and say "Hi there, what are you?" upon which you act skittish and spit in their eye.

TIPS: Nervous kicking is also a fun option.

Train wreck
Dress up as Courtney Love.

TIPS: For extra effect, have make-up running down your face, wear ripped fishnet stockings, and stumble around babbling incoherently in a drug-induced daze. See Amy Winehouse above for tips.

I know dressing up as a pirate sounds a little hackneyed, but imagine the surprise on people's faces when they see a Somali militiaman with an AK-47 on their doorstep!

TIPS: Don't just ask for some candy, take hostages until your demand for all the candy is met.

Enjoy Halloween, only 12 months to go!


story - Waiting for God

(The Hypothetical Afterlife of a Suicide Bomber)

Gabriel passed Azrail through the smoldering wreckage in which the torn ligaments of human bodies were strewn amid the blood-spattered remnants of shattered windows, ripped seats and twisted railings which, only moments before, had almost ensured the safety of the passengers of bus 412. The hideous remains of the 26 people who had been making their way to work, school, hospital, the beach, a shopping mall, and (in one case) martyrdom, lay there eerily still, despite the violent horror of their grotesque visage, and despite the wailing of ambulance and police sirens that were fast descending upon them, to remove them, bury them, and cast them back into oblivion.

The angels would not speak when they crossed paths, but they would sometimes exchange glances. Gabriel always noticed the look of calm indifference on the face of Azrail, and always thought he could sense a slight, almost inconspicuous smirk every time he passed him by, whereas Azrail never failed to capture a glimpse of pity on the face of Gabriel, which he always preferred to mistake for wasteful sentimentality. But these creatures of divine light that were the most beloved of God’s creations knew their respective tasks and adhered solemnly to their own boundless destinies with a loyalty and purpose reminiscent of the constancy of the rays of light that emanated from a distant star over billions of years.

26 flashes of light sped through the smoldering wreckage and emerged as streaks of brilliance ascending up toward the heavens from which they were born. The angels took no notice. They too sped away and disappeared quietly, invisibly into the primordial ether that was their divine essence. The scene of carnage left behind in their wake was now filled with the sounds of human voices, of sirens, radios, chatter, wailing, crying, screaming, and, finally, silence.


The radiance in which he was ensconced forced Yakub to adjust his sight, even while he was amazed he was still not only conscious, but seemed to have eyes as well. When he had become accustomed to the light, he started to notice his surroundings. He looked down at himself and at his hands and found that he was all intact, standing there like nothing had happened at all. He thought “this then must be Heaven,” but when he looked a little closer around him he found that it wasn’t what he had expected, not by a long shot. There were no bucolic landscapes awash in rivers of milk and honey, no beautiful virgins frolicking around him, no semblance of an idyllic Paradise as the just reward for the newly martyred, the man of unswerving faith, who had died in the name of the Almighty, who had taken the lives of infidels (“Praise God!” he said out loud) in the name of the All Merciful, and who had sought his eternal salvation as a loyal servant of the one true God.

In fact, to his utter confusion, Yakub was standing in what seemed rather like a grimy ramshackle office, in which there was nothing but an old wooden table, two wooden chairs, and a rusty spotlight dangling from the ceiling. The walls were a dirty grey color, and there was neither a window, nor a door, nor anything else in the room. Nothing hung from the walls, nothing lay on the table. The room was absolutely bereft of even the simplest aesthetics. The floor was hard, cold, grey and concrete. Was this for real? Was he dead and in the afterlife, or had something else happened? He suddenly felt a sense of utter dread, loneliness and despair at the situation he had found himself in.

He decided to sit down. “Strange,” he thought to himself, “Does a dead man need to sit down? Can a dead man be tired of standing up?” But he sat down nevertheless, feeling annoyed by the logical dilemma that this seemingly simple act seemed to pose. Just as he put his head in his hands wondering what was happening to him, he felt a chill, and heard a faint sound. The hairs at the back of his neck stiffened, and he felt there was a presence standing directly behind him. He turned and saw an amazing sight.

There were two angels – or what he immediately assumed were angels – standing there all aglow, in flowing white, diaphanous robes, with the most beatific faces, compassionate yet firm, beautiful and pious, yet, even though they had the bodies of men, their faces seemed like those of children. They were young, innocent, pristine, and glowing. Yakub immediately fell off his chair and went down on his knees as he laid his forehead on the cold concrete floor and said “Oh faces of wisdom and everlasting sanctity, I kneel before you, a humble…” But before he could finish his obsequies, he heard the divine ones speak in voices at once mellifluous and stentorian. “Rise to your feet Yakub,” they said in unison. “Our Father will be with you shortly.”

Tears welled in Yakub’s eyes as he bowed his head and crawled slowly toward the angels that stood before him, to touch and kiss their hallowed feet. So it was true! He was in the presence of angels! What bliss awaited him, he thought! He rejoiced that despite this initial state of unsavory limbo, he would soon take his place among the faithful who dwell in eternal bliss and enjoy the rewards duly granted those who have followed the righteous path as he has done. The road to salvation, he thought, is never easy, and he must be patient, he must surrender his doubts and trust in the all-encompassing mercy, love and compassion of the omnipotent one, of the all-seeing and all-knowing one, of the one true God for whom he had dedicated his life – and his death. “God is truly merciful,” he thought, and a teardrop ran down his face and fell on the concrete floor, leaving a tiny moist spot on an otherwise desolate, ugly, barren surface, as if it were – he imagined – a puddle on the moon.

He reached for the feet of his beloved angels, and he touched them. What soft, gentle, beautiful feet are those of angels, he thought, like those of a child’s. He kissed them and ran his fingers all over one, and then the other. His eyes were closed as he was in the height of pious bliss, savoring this moment that he had longed for all his life. When he opened his eyes and looked up, he saw, however, that the angels were no longer there, having been replaced instead by a child.

He stood up and looked around him, amazed that these beings could come in and out of this room when there was no discernible entrance or exit. “Where did Gabriel and Azrail go?” asked Yakub, but it was more a case of thinking out loud than it was of asking the child. Nevertheless, the child answered.

“Don’t worry, they are always with you. Are you afraid?”

Yakub was taken aback by the child’s precocious question. And then he realized who he was talking to… Could it be? Was it true, could God truly be just an innocent child? Somehow, he thought, that makes sense. He felt tears rise within him once more. He didn’t know what to say. How could you address the almighty? How could you ever conceive of the moment when you would behold true perfection, when the whole universe would seem to coalesce at this very moment in time and in space, right before your eyes, oh joyous…


Yakub jumped to his feet in panic. He turned around and found an unpleasant musty old bureaucrat with a cheap suit carrying a bunch of papers and dossiers in his hand as he noisily took a seat on one of the chairs behind the desk, coughing horribly, and pounding the stack of paperwork onto the wooden table. Suddenly an unpleasant feeling welled in Yakub.

“Sit down, sit down, I haven’t got all eternity… Hey kid, you get out of here, run along now!” Yakub was completely confused. “What do I have angels for if they can’t keep track of these fucking kids everywhere?” the irritated old man mumbled audibly to himself as he started digging officiously through his stack of crumpled pages, coughing up expectorate with a revolting heave of his entire body. “I’m surprised you didn’t recognize the kid from that pleasant bus ride you just took…” the old man said with a sarcastic laugh added at the end. Then he looked up at Yakub, squinting with his beady little eyes.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” the old man barked. “And wipe that stupid, stunned expression off your face, I’m sick of seeing it. Everyone has the same look, like they’re about to cry because they found out there’s no fucking Santa Claus.”

Yakub was sitting there stunned and queasy. Eventually he gathered his wits, and enough courage, to ask the obvious question…

“Who… who are you?” he said with a cracking voice and the expression of someone who’s 99 percent certain what the answer would be and really didn’t want to hear it.

“Who the hell do you think I am, fuckface? I’m GOD!”


“Ok, now, let’s see…” said God, sifting through some pieces of ink-blotted and yellow-stained paper before grabbing one out of the stack and putting it up to his face. “Says here you’re another one of thooose… suicide bombers? Is that right?”

“Well… yes, but…” Yakub wanted to say “I am a Martyr for the Glory of God,” but he couldn’t bring himself around to it, suddenly wondering if he should refer to God as God in the third person or if he should just use the second person singular. At the same time he felt a strange, noxious feeling in his stomach, like there was a sick joke being played on him.

“But what?” God said impatiently. “But ‘not technically’? But ‘it was an accident’? But ‘I blew up before I could know if I was a suicide bomber or not’? What?”

“But, I did it… well I did it for…”

“Oh let me guess, for glorious almighty ME?! Aw, how sweeeet!” God said in a raspy falsetto tone as he sarcastically tilted his head to the side and pouted his lips.

Yakub really wanted to get out of that horrible room, away, anywhere, he was decidedly sick now and felt his stomach churning.

“Gee thanks,” God went on. “Do you know how many of you dickwipes I get here every fucking month? Do you? A LOT!” God laid the paper down on top of the stack, crossed his arms, sat back and looked at Yakub. His eyes were watery, his skin was sallow and sickly, his ears and nose were large and out of proportion. In fact, his face generally lacked symmetry, as if all his features had been carelessly plastered on by a blind eight-year-old.

“Let me ask you a question Yakub. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to create life? Hm? Any clue there, Einstein?”

Yakub just sat with his mouth agape, unable to answer.

“Well let me tell you sunshine… IT’S FUCKING DIFFICULT! I spent what seemed like an eternity on all that fucking mitachondria alone. In fact, fuck the mitachondria, do you know how long it took me to get a decent protein going? Can you imagine the tangled nightmare that DNA caused me? And don’t even get me started on those viruses…”


“I think it’s viruses, or is it virii? I dunno, thank me I didn’t invent Latin… Anyway, I said don’t get me started, okay, I screwed up, I APOLOGIZE, now let’s just learn to live with them… My point is, Yakub, and I say this to all you butthole murderers who come this way, LIFE IS PRECIOUS SO DON’T FUCK WITH IT!”

“But, my Lord, I was only…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, ‘I was only doing it for your greater glory’ bleh bleh bleh, hey I don’t need it, ok? If it took me that much time and effort to create it, what makes you think I don’t mind when you morons – who, by the way, are supposed to be my smartest creation – go around shooting and killing and butchering each other? What am I, an idiot? Why the fuck did I go to all the trouble if you shitferbrains thought I’d think it’s ok for you to go blow each other up?”

Yakub was feeling more depressed than he’d ever felt in life. The thought that his afterlife – this situation he was in, and even this feeling he felt – might be eternal, sent a shiver up and down his spine. At least in life there was the escape offered by death, but there would be no such escape in the afterlife…


“Yes, yes, sorry…”

“I mean look at dolphins, you don’t see them acting like a bunch of idiots; and if they are you can be pretty sure that it’s because humans are making them act like idiots for their own stupid amusement, making them jump through hoops and shit… I should have known it would turn out like this when those chimpanzees came down off the trees and started roaming around and evolving… But no, ‘Let’s not mess with the delicate tapestry that is life’ says Gabriel, and now look at the mess we’re in: we have a bunch of overachieving chimpanzees that call themselves Homo Sapiens going all ape shit over a million pointless things as they turn the entire earth – which is undoubtedly my greatest work yet – into a fucking toilet. And then you all come up here looking for a pat on the back and a lollipop, oh and just a little thing called Eternal Bliss! Gee that sounds like a fair trade doesn’t it, Yakub? You go and murder some women and children, I give you an eternity in heaven surrounded by beautiful virgins! What do you think I am, a schmuck?”

God continued mumbling and ranting away as he looked at the sheets of paper and scribbled things here and there, going through them one by one, only pausing every now and again to look up at Yakub and give him a menacing glare before burying his head back in the documents.

Yakub tried desperately to summon the courage to speak his mind, to get his thoughts off his chest once and for all, hoping that any misunderstandings could be cleared up and his virtuous act of martyrdom finally recognized.

“Your graciousness…” he started, but was quickly interrupted.

“Just God will do, thanks, now what are you trying to babble?”

“Well… uh… God…”

“Just God.‘Uh God’ won’t do…”

“I feel… I feel I have to say something otherwise I feel I’m going to…”

“Feel for some touchy feely feelings with your feelers? What?”

“It’s just that, I am a loyal and devout follower of the… I mean of your Holy Book…”

“Which holy book?”

Yakub was mortified at such a question.

“The Holy Book, your holi-…”

“Oh, and what would that be, wait let me guess, The Absolute and Completely Definitive Last Word of God Ever? The TACDLWGE?” said God facetiously, pronouncing the acronym “tackdilwiggy”.

Yakub felt offended, as if God were blaspheming against the Holy Book, HIS Holy Book, the one he himself, the almighty, the all-merciful had written! He felt the ridiculous sense of being offended by God for blaspheming against God.

“Yes, well, God, the Holy Book, your Holy Book states, as you know…”

“Wait a minute, how do you know it’s my holy book?”

“What?” Yakub was shocked.

“Oh I’m sorry, let me rephrase that and put it in simpler terms. What I meant to ask was HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S MY HOLY BOOK?”

“Are you kidding? Are you testing me? You’re testing me, aren’t you?”

“I asked YOU a question now didn’t I? I said, how do you know it’s my book? Don’t you think an answer is due when… say… GOD ASKS A QUESTION?!”

Yakub didn’t quite know how to answer. He had never really thought about it, he just always knew it was the Holy Book handed down by God to mankind. It was always sort of a thing you just know.

“Well,” he ventured cautiously, slightly annoyed that he had to answer such a question, but believing it was a test, and thus wanting to answer it as best he could. “Well, you say yourself that you wrote it.”


“In the book.”

“How do you know that’s me saying it? Anyone could have written it.”

“No they couldn’t.”

“Why not? If anyone can read and understand it, then couldn’t anyone also write it?”

Yakub was again searching for an answer, and he knew there must be an answer, a perfect, rational, all-explaining answer, but, he thought, he was no theologian. He regretted at that moment that he hadn’t read the Holy Book more often, and learned more of it, otherwise he was sure he would be able to answer the question.

“Hey dipshit, I asked you a question, why don’t you think anybody could have written that and not me?”

“Well… I’m no theologian, I am not a scholar of the Holy Book, and so…”

“You don’t need to be a theoscholarologian or whatever, surely. If you have taken upon yourself the responsibility and, what you will no doubt admit, is the serious duty of belief and faith, then you obviously will know at least why you believe in what you do, why you believe it to be the Truth, and finally why the truth of it is beyond all reproach, or am I wrong?”

“No, you’re not wrong, of course…”

“Of course I’m not, because if I were wrong I wouldn’t be God would I, fuck knuckle?”

“Yes, of course.” Yakub felt beads of sweat running down his forehead. His hands were clammy. He thought back to the question but his mind was getting slightly addled, not only by the weightiness of the questions posed to him, but his own emotional state and the feeling of panic which he still had not been able to shake off. “Well, to come to the point, it would have been impossible for any human being to write the Holy Book. The words, the insights into the past and the future, the prophesies, the compassion, the mercy, the depictions of heaven and hell, the beauty of the language…”

Yakub was now feeling more at ease, he believed in what he was saying and he believed he was finally affirming his faith and giving God exactly what he wanted to hear.

“… and the wisdom of millennia would be as if a grain of sand in comparison to just one single letter in the Holy Book of Books, the oceans would be akin to but one drop in the majestic spirit of the all-seeing and the all-powerful, the stars in the universe would be as if…”


Yakup jumped back.

“You’re just quoting lines from the TACDLWGE! Anyone can do that. It’s like using a prophet’s prophesy as proof he’s a prophet.”

Yakub couldn’t believe his ears. This was getting too much for him. He felt his muscles tensing, he felt his nerves tightening and straining, he felt his head throbbing. His violently beating heart felt like a derailed locomotive heading for a precipice, as if aware of its own impending doom.

Finally, Yakub gathered himself together. He felt a reckless courage welling up within him, and for the first time he felt his fear receding and giving way to something that resembled anger… even, he thought, defiance.

“I do not have to know, I believe in the Holy Book, I believe in you, and that is all I need to know,” said Yakub, immediately realizing that he was in the unenviable situation of actually trying to defend his faith in something which was questioning its faith in itself.

Yakub felt something new surge within him, something he had never felt before. It was a strange, foreign feeling. All his life he had lived for an ideal, and ultimately his ideal was God. He had served God in life, he had prayed, he had tried to be a good man, to live by the word of the Holy Book, to follow the example of his prophet… and, ultimately, he had given his life – and taken the lives of others, of infidels – for the sake of his ideal. But although this commitment of his, this belief, had inspired within him a sense of power and a sense of virtue, and a belief in his own unerring moral fortitude, he had all his life never felt that he was anything other than a submissive servant, as if he were always in the shadows of something bigger, as a mere subservient pawn, albeit the most happy, fortunate and blessed of pawns.

But now he felt something far beyond what he felt as a pawn, as a mere believer, as one who has submitted to a power far greater than him. He felt, instead, something else, a sense of exhilaration. Now, standing defiantly before God, his chest protruding, his arms hanging – as if prepared to carry out any task that might be asked of them – Yakub felt that he could hold his own against the blasphemy of God upon himself, that he could – and would – defy him, even though he knew this made little sense. At that moment he felt that he was even more upright, devout and righteous than even God himself. In short, he felt a sense of rebellion, and it felt good.

“Do you think I am a blasphemer, Yakub?” It was as if God had read his mind.

“I think you are testing me, and I will stand firm to my belief in you.”

“Perhaps I am testing you, but we will find out soon enough…” God paused for a moment, never taking his eyes off of Yakub. The documents he had before him were now completely discarded, shoved to the side of the table behind which God sat.

“Tell me this Yakub, do you think a mere belief justifies the killing of others and yourself?”

Yakub did not immediately answer. He thought of the question, unflinchingly, unhesitatingly. He looked down at his feet for a moment, and then he looked back up and gazed directly and defiantly into God’s eyes and said, “Yes. If it serves your interests, then yes I do.”

“And you don’t think that the taking of a life is the most serious crime of all, almost as if you yourself were acting like God, as if you yourself… were me? How can you take it upon yourself to be judge and arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil, and take people’s lives with such blithe indifference, when I, God, am the creator, the giver and taker and Supreme Judge of all life? Who are you, that upon a mere belief decide it is your right to kill another human being? Do you think you are greater than me?”

“I do not believe it is my right, my Lord,” interrupted Yakub. “I believe only that it is my duty. Thus I do not act in your stead, thus I do not act as if I were God, for it is only the right of God to take life. For me it is rather a duty, and this duty has been charged upon me by you, my Lord...”

“It has been charged upon you not by me, but by your belief in me,” said God.

“It is the same thing,” answered Yakub with an unflinching glare.

“Ha! And yet you cannot prove to me that what you believe is not the mere babble of men, is not some politically motivated scheme meant to hold sway over mankind by taking advantage of their ignorance, by preying on their fears, and by coddling to their hopes, so that men may satisfy their lust to dominate fellow men and profit from their dominance over them. You can offer no proof that what you consider a ‘Holy Book’, the TACDLWGE, is not just another device in the spiritual and moral enslavement of those who are made to submit to its laws, its codes and its demands, all offered them with the reward of some ludicrous heaven that contrasts with the threat of punishment in some ridiculous hell!”

“And can you prove to me, my Lord, that you did not write the Holy Book? Can you give me evidence that my belief is false? If indeed you say you did not write the Holy Book, I will assume that you are saying that as part of your test of my faith, and I will thus not believe you, and I will thus stay true to my faith. So tell me, can you ever prove that you did not write the Holy Book? Can you ever prove that my faith is wrong? Can you even prove that you are God, and not Satan?”

God was clearly taken aback by this question. Now Yakub’s voice was raised.

“No, my faith, my devotion, my belief is too precious, too important even to let You question my faith in you. If I have to, I will oppose you as I have opposed all blasphemers and all infidels for your sake. You are too important, and do you know why? Not because you are perfect, but precisely because you are not, precisely because of one great error in your entire creation. No matter what you have done, no matter what the magnificence of your deeds, there is one thing and one thing only which tarnishes it all, which casts a great shadow over everything you have done.”

“And what is this?” God asked with captivated attention.

“Doubt. And that is why I say that you are not perfect, for in a perfect universe there can be no Doubt. But sure enough, in yours there is. If the entire universe were your creation, if everything had emanated from you, then everything is you, because something cannot be created from nothing, and since you existed before all things, before all matter, then all matter must have come from you. And if, furthermore, you, God, are One and Indivisible, then it stands to bear that You are All and All is You. And so if this were the case, then you, God, would be self-evident in nature. You, the hallowed progenitor and origin of everything, from the tiniest atom to the greatest galaxy, You, in a word, would be without doubt. You would be self-evident. There would be no need for prophets, for books, even for belief or faith on the part of men. All would simply be God, and God would simply be, without any more need for belief. But as it is, your universe is faulty, your universe includes Doubt, and therefore we – I – must continue to believe that you are perfect, precisely because of your imperfection.”

“You dare blaspheme against your God!?”

“You dare let blaspheme your believer?”

“In this holy book, I, God, am infallible and good, in fact, I am the supreme embodiment of Good, of course, because I am the source of all creation. But you have just now said that I am not who I am, for an imperfect God is no God! You are blaspheming against your religion, your belief, your faith, your God!”

“And by sowing Doubt into your universe, you are blaspheming against your creation, against your own existence, against your Truth. By asking for proof you are annihilating your right as God, as the supreme judge and the supreme Father. Perhaps what I believe is, as you said, like using the prophet’s prophecy as the proof of the prophet, but that is all I have to hold on to, that is all I have to believe in, otherwise the world, life, the universe would be pointless, meaningless, void… But you, by letting Doubt reside like a weed in your creation, and then by asking for proof of something which is forever under the shadow of this overbearing doubt, you are blaspheming against yourself. You see, our belief and faith can only exist where there is Doubt. You see that the Truth we seek, the Truth we believe in, can only be True because of Doubt. In other words, my Lord, our belief and faith is too important to be spoiled even by You. Because we lack perfection, that is why we must believe in it, imagine it, and hope for it.”

“And would you kill and die for that belief even though you now understand the Doubt?”

“All the more so. For without belief, without the belief in the prophet, the Holy Book, and in you, God, without all that, then what would it matter anyway if all men died, and if I were to die with them, indeed if the entire universe were to simply disappear? Nothing. All killing and all death would be meaningless, and purposeless, and all of equal indifference if one should live or die. But with belief, our killing and our deaths have purpose, they have aim, they have a goal, and they will take us to that goal.”

“Which is?”

“Your greater glory,” said Yakub with pride.

“And why do you believe you must kill for your belief?”

“How couldn’t we? If the Holy Book, your book, is the final word, if our religion is the one true religion, our faith the one true faith, how could we let those of false faiths exist side by side with us? Would we not be blaspheming in the eyes of God if we turned a blind eye and let the infidels continue to ignorantly tarnish your creation with their continued existence? By condoning them, by letting them believe in their false beliefs, are we not ourselves guilty and complicit in the continuation of falsity, evil and ungodliness in the world? Can we just sit back and not do everything in our power to spread your word? No, if this is our Book, if this is our Prophet, if this is our Belief, if this is our only answer to the ubiquity of Doubt, then all else must perish, either by force or by persuasion, otherwise we – your true believers – must perish, and so must You.”

Yakub paused briefly, looked down at his hands, and then looked up again at God, but no longer like a servant, but a master. He noticed the look in God’s eyes. They seemed feeble now, tired, almost pathetic. His figure seemed even older than before, slumping there over the desk, a miserable old man. His face was blank, listless, expressionless, even meaningless.

“And you know what, my Lord? If you do not like this, if you consider our killing to be indecent, then you, and only you, are to blame. Not because of what we believe you have taught us through the Holy Book, not because of the religion and the prophet you have handed to us… No not for any of these reasons, but for one reason and one reason alone: Doubt. Thus, you, God, are beside the point. You, God, through your malice or your mistake, have given us our need for faith, our need for belief, and we will stick to them despite you. For all I care, you may or may not be good, you even may or may not exist, but I will always believe you are good, and I will always believe you exist, and I and others like me, will always give, take and dedicate life to the one True Way.”

“Which is born of a blemish, an imperfection?”


“In other words, your belief is a contradiction?”

“Yes, but our belief is too important to be sacrificed even to a contradiction.”


Complete silence descended on the office as God and Yakub sat there looking at each other, both of them now disdainful of the other, both of them sickened by the other’s presence. They found each other’s company to be burdensome, weighty, even shameful. God quietly collected up his documents and started thumbing through them again. Then, when he had gone through the very last sheet, he bunched them up in his hands, threw them in the desk drawer, and rose to his feet, although with a little difficulty, considering how frail he was. Yakub felt he should rise too, but didn’t.

“Well Yakub, I’ll be leaving now, and I don’t know if I’ll be back. I might and I might not. In the meantime, this is your office, you have everything you need. Your desk, a couple of chairs. In the top drawer here you have a record of all your days and deeds, everything you’ve ever done, everything that has led you here. That’ll be your only pastime here, your only diversion, your only reading material. But don’t look sad, I find everyone soon becomes engrossed and can never stop reading and rereading about themselves, so at least you’ll have something to pass the timelessness.”

“Will you return?” Yakub asked the question in a haughty and rebellious manner as God began moving toward the wall. God turned around with an indifferent expression.


Yakub took the documentation of his entire life out of the top drawer and laid it on the table in front of him. The stack of papers felt heavy in his hands, heavier than he expected it would be. He looked back at God.

“I have one more question,” he said.

“Go ahead,” offered God.

“Is this heaven or hell?”

God paused for a second before answering. “That’s for you to decide.”

God disappeared through the wall. Yakub sat back and waited for God to return.


IXI - City Of Romulotrix Along The Alterion Belt Of The IXI Home Planet Of Calybdis

A typical clear day in the City Of Romulotrix on Calybdis. Flaming Ghost-fueled power generator on the left, electric shadow entertainment plex on the right, some buildings in the background amid bubble trees. IXI tub craft flies overhead, with tubby pilot at the helm. Fiery meteorb lights up the sky with a strange orange glow that is not represented here due to lack of colored pencils in Romulotrix's founding. Piping goes nowhere, does nothing.


IXI - Warrior Of The Third Interplanetary Expeditionary Corp On Xerxe

Xerxe remains a largely unexplored planet, mainly because it's known to host a vicious race of humanoids called Tantavis, who have long sharp claws with which they are known to pull their victims' lungs out of their mouths. This warrior of the Third Interplanetary Expeditionary Corp is part of a reconnaissance force that aims to locate the fabled Symphonid Ecclestia Lembedary, believed to be the last remaining Lembedary (monastery) of the Symphonid sect, an ancient religious order of monks who take a vow of talkativeness. It's believed the Tantavis are so sick of the Lembedary monks' incessant yapping that they developed their special lungs-ripped-through-mouth killing technique just to have the pleasure of seeing their victims finally shut up in as satisfactorily horrific fashion as possible. Some believe the IXIians want to find the Lembedary so as to get their hands on the fabled Treasures of Xerxe, but few know that the real reason the IXIians seek the Lembedary is due to an irrepressible romantic streak in the average IXIian that yearns to believe the universe holds many fabulous and mysterious secrets that are only waiting to be discovered by intrepid and ingenious intergalactic explorers.

pre-IXI - The IXI Creation Myth

A primordial soup has given rise to the first organisms of the IXI ecosystem: aquatic plants, giant protozoids, coelocanthic fish spewing humanoid eggs, tricephalic ooklodon triply decapitated by a semi-autonomous cleaver-wielding ancestor of IXI robotoids, and the bubbles that will supply the life nourishment for a unique civilization. Musical coral emanate melodies as a proto-tetrapus swims away.

IXI - Insentient Robotic Exploration Module On A Volcanic Planet In The Habiluton System

Far beyond the bubble system, in the outer reaches of the IXI galactic civilization, a lone robot explores the volcanic planet of Volcano Planet, third terrestrial orb in the Habiluton solar system. Meteorite, the Habiluton sun, stars, and the rings of the gas giant Cloephus are all represented. IXI patrol hovers overhead, commandeered by a duck. Upon completion of its duties the robot will likely be abandoned on the planet. This is a fate common to robots, and one that makes some IXIians sad, even though authorities state that they are not properly sentient beings.


IXI - Age Of Aviation

In the 37'th Galactic century, the IXIians experienced their Age of Aviation, starting off with rudimentary balloons and winged air vehicles, eventually evolving into the hyper-cool bubble-lightning-fueled, jazz-rhino-piloted turbo-propellered air sedans which provided some of the hippest traveling options in the 3600's. This was a precursor to the IXI Space Age, and such trailblazing aviator icons as Wide-Eyed Elephant Joe and the first air traffic control pig, Steve, went on to become legendary figures in the Aviation Hall of Fame.


IXI - Jive Powered Groove Patrol Passes Over IXI Base With Bicephalic Cyborg-Ostrich In Foreground

Bubble leaf vacuum-generated IXI base under rhinoceral and elephantine command spots bicephalic mutant cyborg-ostrich scuttling through the wastelands of the sparsely inhabited Ruata, 35th planet in the Bubbly system, above which a jive-powered IXI patrol ship flies, commandeered by one groovy dragon with a goatee. Stars, bubble trees, bubble clouds and closest moons also visible.

pre-IXI - The Imminent Death Of Moloch

a vigorous culture is a degeneracy of the mind but of robust spirit
it has its certainties and its violence and its bullyings and its murders
it keeps you in line, it hounds you and tortures you until you give in
it does not tolerate the difference that declares difference is good
it seeks to silence and destroy all that lies outside its grasp
it is a culture of armed men made slaves, or slaves made armed men
it is a culture of judges and authorities and laws
it is a crusty old diseased shackle to the soul and to the mind
but it has spirit, it is a mighty spirit
the spirit of muscled demons that feed off the life blood of healthy intellects
that thirst for the great and the true
to make the great and the true something banal, something hollow
something forbidden, forlorn, used, crushed, flagellated
that turns the body into a carcass of unfulfilled hopes
that seeks to snuff out youth and fire and lust and all that is holy
it is a martial spirit, a perverse Ares fellating old father Zeus
rushing into the din of war, massacring men
it is terrible to behold, it sucks the courage out of you
it is hypnotic, it is cunning, it is savage
but fear is its own undoing
fear of that which it cannot conquer, fear of that which it has conquered
for what it conquers only stays conquered through that fear
and when the courage has been sucked out
and the life has been bled out
and the dead and the dying and the crushed have been snuffed of their last hope
when their dreams have been called forth
to a mock show trial where they must declare their guilt
that is when the whole stinking edifice will collapse
and all that was unholy becomes again holy
and all that was depraved becomes again blessed
and all that was sinful and wrong and traitorous becomes again magnificent and good
and virtuous
the old Moloch will bow before the seething mass of worms that writhe above us
and he will swallow those worms and he will flee
when fear is all that is left us
it will be fear that is their greatest enemy
fear will win what fear took away
and time, that massive rolling ugly wall of time
will be our friend again, will greet us again, as if to say
we have been free all along
and everything that once was has now passed
yesterday's future is now thrown off
and our lives are beautiful once more.

Also included are some mechanical fish.

IXI - Patrollers From The Floating Base Hover Above the Domed Cities Of Areno

IXI space patrollers from the floating IXI base hover above the domed cities of the sand planet of Areno, meteorite defusers at the ready, snake sun god overhead, command post IXI-Delta in the distance. Stars, giant dunes.

IXI - Monkey-Driven Compost-Powered Rocket Boost Cruiser From The Outer Reaches Of The Bubblesphere

Bubble flowers line either side of the road as a mechanical tiger platypus and a hydraulic bubble cropper graze on bubble plants. A IXI employee watches from the side of the road, under a bubble tree, as the monkey-driven compost-powered rocket booster hurtles down the highway, pooch-steered IXI low altitude saucer flying overhead, bubble clouds rising, flying, popping, brushing, crashing through the bubble clouds, floating. Somewhere in the outer reaches of the bubblesphere.

IXI Eleusinian processional uprising

IXI gods watch over an IXI Eleusinian procession led by IXI priests as underworld gods recover sordid ritualistic proclivities manifested in wild thespianic Sibylline representations of an IXI religious uprising. Bubble clouds barely conceal solar revelations of Exaraptor flights over the heads of spiritual dignitaries enveloped in ecstasies that brought rapture from the heavens on high and laid waste to all that withered between and beyond.

IXI - Underwater Exploration Team Discover The Oceans Of Nephtha Minor, 6th Moon of Mantis

The oceans of the water moon Nephtha Minor differ significantly from its neighbor Nephtha Major, in that it is teeming with myriad life forms, strange creatures of the depths, now accessible to the ever expanding armada of IXIian technological wonders, including research submersibles, boost tubes, and long-distance rover submarines. Among the diverse biota, the rare and incredible Xoondapus, Suction Fish, Giant Horsefish, Swimming Megafungi, and a giant abandoned Molluscipod shell.

IXI exploration modules are commandeered by an elephant and two pigs.

pre-IXI - The Capacious Memory of a Mechanical Elephant

This is the first in a series entitled "IXI" (not pronounced "icksy" or "aye-ex-aye" but "nine eleven", although it bears no relation to the date 9/11/01, which was of course a momentous day because that was the day we all found out about the Enron scandal, but this series has nothing to do with Enron). This drawing is pre-IXI, and for good reason, because it involves what appear to be four rectally connected beings that share the same gastroextestinal pipework: some kind of slug-like mulluscial gastropod, a small catlike being, one other small manlike being opposing it on the same platform separated by a fountain, and a large mechanical elephant. You will note that the snail is utilizing a straw to ingest some kind of nourishment from pools of horizontally bisected stromatolites, while a tetrapus (an octopus-like creature with vacuums at the ends of its four tentacles) sucks up the stromatolite nutrients, disregarding the mechanical bird. The tetrapus appears to have a head window in which his brains can be seen. The bubbles that emanate from the creature's siphon float up as they are popped by a multicephalic ophiomorph. On the opposite side of the page, there is a megorapisc that drinks the fountain water in salubrious gulps through its three-headed microrapiscine cloaca. The ophiomorph's macrorifice passes the nourishment on to a system of mechanical apparatuses which utilize the nutrient to power the animatic oscillograph and the generator that transforms the stromatogenic multipartite gastroextestinal liquid into gaseous form, which cannot be seen, although the steam appears where the superheated gas meets cool air and transforms momentarily back into liquid. The autonomous contraption then connects to the embryonic parthenogenerator, where one such Parthenogen can be seen transforming through its piscine and reptilian stages, before becoming human. The parthenogenerated waste is not, however, wasted. It is channeled on to the zoomorphactoric biomechanilab which features an artificially produced and gravitropially developed proto-skeleton that will soon become an animal. Nobody knows where the pipes for the entire extravagant machine connect to, although its traces are believed to exist in the capacious memory of the mechanical elephant.


IXI - Ophiomorphic Recon Craft Patrols Overhead on the Dwarf Planet of Savandah

Girt by the moons of the Titan planet of Paeae, the lush semi-tropical dwarf planet of Savandah has witnessed minimal IXI-ian zoomorphic colonization, augmented by robotic IXI-ian modules (note Ophiomorphic reconnaissance craft overhead), with limited humanoid settlement (note human-built bridges and roads used for human-based terrestrial transport, much to the dismay of the more advanced IXI-ian porcines). Hillside settlements sprout, leading many to rue the prospects of overcrowding in centuries to come, and emigration from the inner planets of the IXI empire has already commenced toward the outer reaches of the known galaxy.


How to be happy

Left: This is a photo I found after Googling "happiness" but it looks more like what you might get if you Googled "Deranged Chinese Von Trapp Family" (which I now absolutely must Google)

Being happy is very important because it's very hard to find happiness without being happy. Unhappiness is universally considered to be one of the major obstacles to finding happiness. In fact, it's believed that unhappy people are some of the least happy people in the world, which in itself is one of the major causes of unhappiness. The cure? Happiness. So here are some tips on avoiding unhappiness while finding happiness in the process.

1. Remember, happiness is inside you.
That being said, it's hard to reach in and find it, because that would mean either shoving your hand down your throat or jamming it up your own rectal passage, which is gross, and even if you could do it you'd still have to know where to look, but of course you can't see inside you because your eyes would have to be on backwards and it would be very dark anyway, and just generally slimy and disgusting. Come to think of it, happiness might be better found outside you.

2. Find yourself a hobby that will make you want to drink instead.
Because drinking makes you happier than stupid model airplanes.

3. Levitate.
Levitation has been proven to induce happiness by giving you a sense of inner peace and tranquility. Find a quiet place and set aside a few minutes each day to levitate. Levitation will also do wonders for your concentration and, ironically, make you a more down-to-earth kind of person.

4. Imagine that society's expectations of you are actually your expectations of society.
So flip it around and expect society to be pleasant, hard working, productive, conscientious, responsible, fair and well adjusted for a change. You'll then realize that society will never live up those expectations, in which case neither should you. That'll make you happy, because you'll see that society is no better than you, which means that you're probably quite ok the way you are.

5. Drink.
I'm drinking and I feel happy. Theory proved!

6. Believe in a just God and an afterlife.
Unless you're evil, in which case moral relativism is probably the way to go here.

7. Be Zen.
Fuck everyone over for your own self-interest. Oh wait, I'm confusing Zen with Ayn Rand. I always do that.

8. Television.
The bigger the happier!

9. Look at green trees.
Trees make you feel happy because they're green. Or was it that green makes you happy because it reminds you of trees? Something.

10. Tell yourself how awesome you are when you're making love with yourself.
Whisper sweet nothings to yourself when you're having a romantic and intimate moment hunched over your computer in a dark room with a roll of toilet paper at the ready.

11. Don't get cancer.
Cancer is anathema to happiness. Anathema is Greek for "shit". That means cancer is to happiness as shit is to everything else.

12. Don't read books about happiness.
It's very endearing when people try to put feelings into words, fumbling around with adjectives, trying to get it right. But it's also futile because happiness can only be its own reference. Here, let's try: "Happiness is like a... like some... it's sort of... it's the feeling of... well... happiness." See? Don't waste your time reading books like this.

13. Get a job that is rewarding, interesting, meaningful and pays well.
You can find it by following the magic rainbow that will take you to Happy Job Land where rewarding, interesting, meaningful jobs that pay well grow on Happy Job Trees. Ask the Happy Job Fairy to pick the right one for you.

14. Next time you meet someone new, introduce yourself as Baron Horatio Wigglebottom the Third, a wealthy El Salvadorian industrialist and rubber tycoon who is currently building a massive white picket fence around Switzerland.
Trust me, wherever the conversation goes from there, it is guaranteed to end in laughter. Or at least awkward laughter. Or maybe awkward silence. But whatever, it's worth it. For added emphasis, make sure to assume an outrageous accent and a limp (you can ignore that if you already have an outrageous accent and a limp). Eye-patch is optional, but would be AWESOME. Stay in character even after you're asked "seriously, who are you?" for the third time. Sometimes a situation can become so awkward it becomes funny again. I don't know what all this has to do with happiness, but... hm.

15. Get rock hard abs and kick-ass personality!
Crunches and sit-ups are perfect for six-pack abs and a bang-up personality that will endear the shit out of you to others!

16. Feel superior to a different person every day.
Vary it up. One day you can feel superior to someone with a different sexual orientation than yours, another day it could be a foreigner or somebody with different skin color, the next day it could be a person of the opposite sex, or maybe even somebody with a conspicuous disability. Be creative.

17. If the booze is finished, check the cabinets and fridge again, just to be sure, then go buy more booze and a packet of smokes. A bag of chips would also be nice, but first see if the corner store's open, and don't forget your house keys this time.
Ok, done.

18. Remind yourself that you're special.
This sounds wrong, because you're probably not special at all, but I keep seeing this in magazines so I guess there must be something to it.

19. Focus on the present.
The bigger and more expensive the present is, the better. Live in the NOW. As in "I want my present NOW".

20. Be grateful rather than grating.
The first one is good, the second one gets on people's nerves.

21. Do drugs.
Drugs make you very happy, but you have to keep taking them, otherwise they make you very sad. First consult with your doctor and/or dealer and/or shaman.

22. Steal money.
Money makes you happy. Fact. Working for money makes you depressed. Fact. Solution? Money without work = stealing = happiness. Why are you looking at me like I'm an asshole?

23. Have dreams.
The best ones are when you're floating.

24. Be white.
Let's face it, being white helps. When Turks think of happiness they think of Scandinavians. Which is ironic, because from what I hear Scandinavians tend to kill themselves a lot. Not as much as the Japanese though. That's a whole different level of unhappy. Are Japanese white?

25. Be positive.
It's important to be positive, but not HIV-positive. Don't confuse the two. Also, if your blood type is B+, you can make some kind of witty comment about how B+ and "be positive" are homophones.

Also good for happiness: love, friendship, travel, children, art, food, pets, sex, compassion, humor, health, companionship, etc. Oh and fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. And exercise. And sleep. Music too, can't forget music. Dancing? Sure, that's always happy. I think that covers it.


When a Turk meets an Armenian

Have you ever met someone you really like at a cocktail party only to discover that they are your forsworn mortal enemy by birth? Unless you're from the Middle East, Caucasus, Balkans or Africa, probably not. But I'm Turkish, so there's a good chance that will happen to me. And it did.

It's like an epiphany when you have that connection with someone, because it happens so rarely, and yet it seems like such a natural thing to have happened. The conversation somehow just starts up effortlessly and continues perfectly, your sense of humor and intellects match, you both look good all scrubbed up and dolled out for the party, and the hours fly away as the two of you forget about everyone else and create your own little mini-party. Her breasts press into you when she talks, you're funnier and more charming than you've ever been, she's more fascinating than anyone you've met. Life feels good and exciting and fresh and new. The music is great and it's as if it's playing just for you two. This has become your party... but then you realize that one of you is Turkish and the other is Armenian.

Record scratch. Chirping crickets.

Suddenly you're both awkward because whereas before you were thinking only about awesome sex (well I was anyway), you're now both in the uncomfortable position of having to think about genocide. Genocide is a buzz kill. Genocide is a killer of good moods and good vibes. Genocide is also, incidentally, a killer of entire nations. In this case, the Armenian nation. Fucking stupid useless genocide. Suddenly I feel less chirpy. In fact, I now feel guilty, because I'm from the nation that is believed to have committed genocide against her nation. Not that I killed anyone personally with my own two hands. But then neither did Hitler, when you think about it.

And... oh god, that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm thinking about Hitler. Nice.

There are three things that could happen at this point, and unfortunately none of them involves forgetting everything and reverting back to our previous state of flirtatious merriment. That's gone. Instead, we could get over the looking-at-our-shoes-and-nervously-sipping-our-drinks stage to start a cordial and innocuous conversation about the few good things we have in common from our history of mutual butchery, like food or music -- although that could also backfire and devolve into a bitter discussion about whether tarama salata is Turkish or Armenian. Anyway, that's option one, possibly risky but potentially manageable. Options two and three are far worse. Option two is that she can tell me about how her great-grandmother died in a death march to Syria -- which, thankfully, she decided not to do. Option three is that I mention how my friend's father was a diplomat killed by Armenian terrorists. Again, fortunately, I had the good sense to refrain from that. So instead we proceeded with option one, looking around nervously as we tumbled horribly back down that mountain of good connection we'd been climbing, and found ourselves back in the dreadful valley of small talk.

But there was hope yet. We could climb back up from here, we could put this stuff behind us. After all, wasn't it ridiculous that your nationality determine your personal connection with another human being? Sure it was. But just as we were laughing again, there comes my drunk friend to remind us that one of us was Turkish and the other Armenian. This kind of situation is very amusing to other people, drunk or not, because it is ironic to them. It's ironic that a Turk and an Armenian would be standing there drinking and having fun together when everybody knows that "Turks and Armenians hate each other, really really hate each other!", to quote my drunk friend then and there. And it is funny and ironic for others, but for the Turk and Armenian (or, for that matter, for the Israeli and Arab or the Serb and Croat or the Indian and Pakistani or the Korean and Japanese) those situations are just embarrassing and the last thing you want to do is go into that topic at all.

We both had to be very careful now, because someone had started a conversation about the very topic that we'd been trying desperately to tiptoe around for the last few minutes. But now someone had pointed out the stupid fat elephant in the room and we had to carry a conversation about it while remaining diplomatic. Needless to say, by now the buzz kill was well and truly complete; we were just trying not to let this possibly degenerate into a brawl. But that's almost impossible, especially when the next thing out of your stupid "friend's" mouth is "Why don't Armenians and Turks like each other anyway, how did that all start?"

The obvious answer to this question is "FUCK OFF AND LEAVE US ALONE!" But there were others around and this was a cocktail party, so that would not have been a viable reply, as tempting as it was. Actually, the situation is still salvageable if it's only you two and one other person there. But when another person can't help but overhear and join in with an inquisitive look to await a reply, you sort of have to answer that question.

I look at the Armenian girl, she looks at me. We share an expression that betrays a sense of worry that we're about to lose something forever and that we'll never get it back. There's still a connection there we don't want to lose. So I hazard a brave attempt at fending off this danger to a budding love. I think of the perfect thing to say, neutral, unbiased, objective... in a word, flawless. I prepare to speak, she looks at me with fear in her eyes... She thinks... no, she KNOWS, this cannot be done. It's impossible. Nobody can pull this off. But I can do it. I know I can do it.

"Well, the reason there is such animosity between Turks and Armenians is that..." her face was pale, her eyes were piercing, her whole body and being was focused on what was about to come out of my mouth. "... the reason is that, Armenians claim that in 1915..."


FAIL! Two words in, and I'm fucked. I thought I had the perfect explanation, but I only got as far as "Armenians claim" and it was over. Poof. Magic gone.

So I try and salvage what I can, foolishly. But from here on in all you can do is just dig a deeper ditch in which to bury the carcass of new love. Now I'm thinking of carcasses, damn you genocide!

"Well, what I'm saying is that... uh, they say, they state, they, uh..."


"Yeah, the Armenians... uh... they um... they aver that... in 1915 the Turks... I mean the Ottomans... or really actually the Young Turks, who were like the dictators of that time... uh, that they carried out a... well, uh, there was a deportation..."

"Deportation? Just a deportation?"

"Uh, yeah, but the Armenians claim is was a... a... a..."

"Genocide? Is that the word you're looking for?"

"Bingo, yes, that... is, yes, that's the, uh... word... that's a word, for sure and the word is geno..."

"Why are you stuttering?" She was looking at me now with a mixture of spite and anger, though not yet hate. Then the obvious question.

"What do YOU think it was?"

"Uh, me? Weeeellll... hmmm..." I was a dithering moron. And just then the worst thing happened. A Turk had overheard us talking and had now joined our circle, which swelled to five. I continued to babble an attempt at an answer with eyes flitting between the Armenian and the other Turk.

"I think it was, well... some people will say that Armenians revolted against the Turks and..."

"Oh, and what? Some Armenians revolted against the Turks so that's an excuse to uproot a million women and children and old men and send them on a death march into the desert? That's an excuse to wipe out a nation? That's an excuse for genocide?"

"Well... no... of course not... but... hm... uh, Turks will say it...uh..."

She knew exactly what was coming and she was waiting for it like a beast about to pounce on her prey.

"They say it wasn't a g... g... genooooociiiide..."


"Well yes, ok, I was just telling you what Turks believe..."

This time the Turk was looking at me, incredulous that I would not also state unequivocally that it wasn't a genocide.

"So are you saying it COULD'VE been a genocide?" asked the Turk.

"Well... I mean, I guess the Armenians might have a point... I mean, why would you attack and deport women and children and old men if you're fighting armed rebels? And then there's the American missionary reports, reports from German officers, Henry Morgenthau... Uh... and there are no Armenians there left today... so, I guess..."

The Turk was furious arguing that all of that was propaganda, lies, deceit, the attempts at false information, part of the British and French and American attempts to defeat and destroy Turkey. I gave a summary of what he said because he spoke for a while. In any case, I had begun sweating through my shirt.

"I'm just saying that's what they say..." I said meekly.

"So then, I repeat my question: DO YOU BELIEVE IT WAS A GENOCIDE?" asked the Armenian.

"Yes, do you believe it was a genocide?" chimed in the Turk.

Were they now in league against me? I saw the contempt in their eyes, the contempt of those who are so committed to a belief that they would respect someone committed just as passionately to the opposite view more than they would one who felt no commitment to either. It was an alliance of zealotry between the Turk and the Armenian.

Oh no, another Turk joins in, and another! They're my acquaintances, but right now it's as if that acquaintance is irrelevant. I have to pick a side. Was it or wasn't it? Genocide or not genocide? The eyes all around, six pairs of eyes now all looking at me. The lines were all drawn in the sand, and there I was on the fence... or on the line, in this case... fence or line? Focus!

One of the Turks asked me if I was going to fall for Armenian propaganda and lies. The Armenian girl asked me if I was going to believe my government's propaganda and lies. The Turks said "deportation" and "civil war" and "traitors who fought with the Russians" and "they're the ones who massacred us". The Armenian said "genocide" and "massacres" and "systematic slaughter by the fascist Young Turks". They raised their voices at each other. Now everybody at the party was noticing us, wondering what the commotion was all about.

I looked at the Armenian girl. Despite the loathing in her eyes, she still looked at me like there was a faint, dim, glimmer of a hope for us. If only I would say the right thing. Then I looked at the Turks. They were looking at me as if to say "You can't be serious about this, come on man, decide, are you a traitor, a coward?". My drunk friend who started the whole damn thing was excited about it all and just enjoyed watching the spectacle. Others moved in. What do you believe? WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE? So I answered truthfully.

"I don't know."

There was silence. Then there were some sarcastic pffffffs and sideway glances with scrunched up mouths... The Armenian looked at me like I was spineless and ignorant, like I was on their side. "You don't know? YOU DON'T KNOW?" said her face. The Turks gave me exactly the same look, like I was a traitor. Their faces said "What? How could you? How could you even doubt?"

"I just don't know" I repeated, truthfully. "I do not know."

The people around us started to disperse, the Armenian girl said she had to get up early the next day and left the party. The Turks moved away. Their faces were all so bitter, so twisted, so hateful, both the Armenian's and the Turks'. They became ugly. It was as if a giant lemon had been squeezed all over their faces.

All except for my drunk friend who was to blame for this whole mess, funnily enough. He was Australian and obviously couldn't give a shit, so he found the whole thing amusing. Throughout the conversation I'd noticed his face kept the same sense of good humor and amiability right through to the end. I remember admiring it in the back of my mind as I stood there struggling just moments ago. I admired his detachment. It was just us two standing there now.

He smiled at me then offered me a sip of his whiskey.

"I didn't understand anything," he said, putting his hand on my shoulder. "But that sounded like the right answer."