In 1975 Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson published The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It remains a seminal work of conspiracy fiction. Today, The Omnivore continues a serial-fiction experiment: Illuminoimia.
Everything You're Afraid Of Is True.
Theodore Odell is once again entangled in the conspiracy as he becomes involved in 'Rex's' plan against the Kings of the World. He travels with Rex and learns a little bit more about the Secret Masters.
Previously On Illuminoimia
Ch 16: The True Kings of the World
Ch 17: The Second American Revolution
Ch 18: Angels In The Architecture
Ch 17: The Second American Revolution
Ch 18: Angels In The Architecture
Chapter 23: Riding The Rails
December 23 Leaving Seattle
We were on a train--me and Rex--on a box car shuddering along through the night. Things were out of control. Way, way out of control.
“JFK,” I said. The wind whipped around us. I wore my heavy coat and he’d given me the finest set of gloves I’d ever touched--but the wind still bit into my exposed nose.
“Oh, come on,” he scoffed. “Of course that was us. The pattern was ‘Killing of the Scion.’ That was when the American Dream adopted its own version of Ragnarok--when the American Experiment first seriously contemplated its own mortality. He knew it was coming and didn’t like it. There was also some slight punishment for his wife I think. Whatever.” He seemed to mull this in the darkness.
“Canceling Star Trek?” I asked.
“Not us. No. Nelson ratings were stupid.”
“But you could’ve saved it?” I asked. “Or some of the other good shows?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, sure--but we win either way so we don’t get involved.”
I shifted. The metal was icy through my jeans.
I looked at the bag of chips in my hand. I was hungry and thirsty. “Standard serving size?” I asked.
Rex brightened: “Yes! Failure of Attainment of the Ideal! It was part of a campaign to demoralize the middle class and make the government a pervasive and subtle scold. Who eats half a carton of oreos?”
I scowled at the tiny ‘two serving’ bag. I looked up. He was completely serious.
“You guys are fuckers,” I said.
“Man--you have … no idea.”
“I read your diary,” I reminded him. The train thundered into the blackness heading east towards our final destination.
“I know! But still: trust me--no idea. None. You don’t even want to know.”
I shifted. He sat there in the darkness. If he was cold, he gave no sign of it.
“Come with me,” he’d said in my hall, “if you want to live.” I’d stared. Cherry had too--he was, after all, gorgeous. His hair was like Warren Zevon’s werewolf’s: perfect. “Actually, Sarah,” he’d said. “Come with me if you want Sarah to live.”
The way he said it with cold cheerful certainty was like an ice pick in my heart. I’d faked anger--I’d felt fear. “Are you threatening her?” My voice didn’t sound strong though--it was weak: What he’d said had terrified me.
“Fuck no--but if you don’t come with me she’ll die. Probably horribly. So will a lot--and I mean a lot--of other people.”
Cherry was recovering from her initial this-guy-is-a-movie-star shock. “Theo,” she said, “who is this.”
He’d cocked his head at her--looking intently--then flashed a ring--it did catch the light. Then: “Fuck. I can’t do it.”
“Hypnosis. Some of us are really good at it,” he’d told her. “But even for me it’s an esoteric skill. Why don’t we just do this Lauren--” I looked over. I’d suspected ‘Cherry’ was a stage name--”You go back in there and tell Sarah that someone came to get him--someone from his old life--and he had to go--and she’ll be fine--and tell her he definitely loves her--and he’ll come back--but that he has no choice.”
He stepped in--close--into her personal space as she looked up at him.
“Can you do that? Can you do that for me, Lauren?”
She … nodded. She wasn’t hypnotized--but he was magnetic all the same. He held her shoulders lightly. I saw her lick her lips.
“Good,” he said. He had her repeat it and she got it more or less right. He reached over and took my phone from my pocket. “Give this to her. She can’t call him until it’s over. Okay?”
To me: “Come--every moment I am here is worse and worse.”
I didn’t doubt him--and I came. His car--an ancient Thunderbird in perfect repair had rumbled when he turned it over and slammed it into an expert turn in the street missing parked cars by inches and sliding it out onto the road.
“You like classics?” I’d asked. I wasn’t able to think of anything else to say.
“Modern cars can be hijacked and soft-kill crashed through their blu-tooth interfaces,” he said. “Not to mention tracked everywhere. We rarely drive--but when we do we use a certain grade of antique.”
Then he’d told me what we were doing.
Then we’d jumped a train headed east. The roads had check-points what with all the presumed militia action and they were networked with traffic cameras and tollbooths and cop-cars with license plate scanners and all kinds of things--a network of knowledge and control that, with the hyper-powerful computers out in Utah could track the movement of just about anyone. With pattern recognition they could zero in on anyone who might be a threat. The window for Rex, one of the Sons of the Kings of the World, to be missing was, apparently, narrow.
I was pretty sure we were going to our deaths--and quite possibly maybe far worse--but when he told me what we were going to do I found I couldn’t argue. If nothing else, I thought, these guys traded on being persuasive.
“Iron curtain telepathy and using psychics to find submarines?” I asked.
“No--well, yes: (a) they tried and (b) that doesn’t work and it wasn’t us. Our methods above the level of normal reality don’t work the way you think they do. It’s like how we can turn anything into a celebratory ritual if we announce we’re going to do it before hand--as well as making everyone get used to it. Subtle stuff like that. Not mind-reading.”
I wanted to ask him about that--but I had a feeling it wouldn’t go very far.
“Do you worship the devil?”
He laughed--a real sound--but harsh. “A loser? Really? It’s almost like you don’t know us at all. No: we do not worship The Father of the Universe and we sure don’t worship some maybe-not-real angel He allegedly once beat the crap out of. All that Knights Templar and The Horned One--Baphomet nonsense totally underestimates our lack of humility.”
He looked at me. “Serious,” he said. “Totes.”
I squirmed. I got up. The metal floor was too hard, too cold, and the throbbing of the train hurt my ass.
“If you’re going to piss,” he said, “Do it out the door into the woods: it’s incredibly liberating to whizz off a moving train.”
I looked over.
“I did it on the way over. Capital. Absolutely amazing. Trust me.”
“What the hell,” I said, “makes you think I would trust you?”
“I saved your life,” he said. “I opened your eyes. I gave you two-point-three million dollars. I, like the snake in genesis, have never ever lied to you--look it up, truth!” He eyed me to see if I bought it. “Why wouldn’t you trust me?”
“You fucked my life over!”
“I introduced you to your soulmate,” he said. I could see him, mostly silhouetted in the darkness. I think he was grinning.
“You poisoned it,” I said. I sat, heavily. “Everything you touch turns to shit. I had to lie to her to keep her alive you fucker.”
He got up--easily, standing fluidly despite the shaking train car, and he came over. He lowered next to me.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s pretty much right. That’s how I feel too.” His voice wasn’t heavy--but it wasn’t light either. I thought I could hear pain.
I looked over. “Are we going to live through this?”
He looked back: “I guarantee it.”
The trip took two days of pounding, punishing, freezing travel. We roared through small towns, across vast empty stretches of farmland and forest, and past dull colored hills against a gray sky. With no phone and little appetite for conversation the time passed slowly. My back hurt. I felt frozen. I was afraid. I knew Sarah was freaking out. I knew Bryan was there. I should never have left her.
But it was too late now … you didn’t say ‘no’ to these guys.
Rex, for his part, moved fluidly: we left one train--walking easily through a rusted stockyard and down a stretch to find another. Boarding was done in either “marshall yards” (large train stations where they did maintenance) or, twice, by jumping--which was terrifying but Rex went first and caught me when I landed unsteadily, sprinting quickly down the car-length to reach me.
There was security--but he had timed things perfectly and bypassed them without noticeable effort. On the second day I could see the skyline of New York city on the horizon.
“When we reach the city,” he said, “things will be much more dangerous. If they have any idea what I am doing, possibly fatal--but I doubt that: it’s so far outside their model I don’t believe they could conceive of it.
“That said, they--and their security apparatus--are not just good but exceptional. Once we are in the city we will be tracked. Once we are tracked, we will be identified--that means you.” I watched him. “Don’t worry: me having you in tow isn’t by itself a red-flag. However, if they have noticed a gap in my travels, it will raise interest.”
I looked at him: “Then what? Will they investigate Sarah?”
“Yes--well, everyone: an entire network around you--usually two relationships out. Past and present--BUT I have taken steps. I’ve erased some records and masked others. Your biggest fear--that they’d connect you to Atlanta--is probably covered … unless they go directly to paper records in D.C.--but they won’t go that deep on a routine check.”
I swallowed. It hurt--I wasn’t built for this cloak and dagger stuff. I ached all over and I just wanted to take a warm bath and curl up in a hotel and call Sarah and meet with her. I didn’t want to be way, way over my head. I didn’t want to be part of someone’s apocalyptic vision. I was stuck now: even if I quit there would be no getting out safe.
The train slowed and he was off it as it rolled to a stop. Following him--to a large waiting limousine--we got in. Had he called it? Had he timed it right? I wasn’t sure. It was huge, heavy--armored, I thought, and it cut through traffic like a shark. He reclined on custom designed leather seats and I inhaled the new-car smell. Was it new? Was this a fully restored classic-model limousine kept on ice for his singular use? I supposed it might be.
“They’re watching us now,” he said.
“And listening?” I was alarmed.
“No--not in here. Not unless they knew--and then they wouldn’t be subtle.” He was relaxed. “We’re going to meet a tool of my father’s. He’s in ‘EVENTS.’ He’s a get-the-word out kind of guy. Media manipulation. That sort of thing. He’s the fulcrum.”
I nodded. The car turned and Rex suddenly sat up.
“Shit.” His voice was cold. Deadpan.
“They’re on to us.”
I don’t know how he saw it ahead of time--but two vehicles detached themselves from traffic as the car turned towards a closed parking entrance under a massive, blank-faced building. I saw the heavy metal door smoothly retract as we turned inside.
Rex was sitting up--alert--quiet: listening intently.
I felt waves of panic start to engulf me. His hands were still--but slightly coiled on the verge of being fists.
“Wait in the car if you can,” he said. Two large black Range Rovers pulled in behind us. They had night-black windows. The sodium lights illuminated a clean and otherwise empty parking space with massive cement columns with yellow paint lines circling them. “If we are ordered out, stay behind me and, as soon as possible either flatten yourself against, crawl under, or re-enter the vehicle.” He spoke like a machine. He didn’t look at me.
“What are you going to do?” I asked.
“If one of Us is not with them,” he said, “I’m going to kill them all. If one of Us is then I’m probably going to die.”
The door unlocked. I watched forms deploy from the vehicle. One was a woman in a felt-gray suit. She looked all business--sleek and intelligent. She walked forward, fearlessly, the other men--clearly security--waited behind.
“Or maybe I’m completely ass wrong,” he said. He cocked his head like a curious dog--and then got out.
For some reason--bad decision making, human curiosity, and the Imp of the Perverse, I climbed out behind him as well. I had to know.
“Theodore Odell,” the woman said to me, speaking crisply from yards away, “I have a message for you.”
Next On Illuminoimia -- Chapter 24: Inauguration Night
Blu-Tooth Hack: Automotive Soft Kill