‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Eleven

“Why are we all meeting here, in Tory’s and Karen’s house, of all places?” Michelle asked Karol Sargent the morning of the next day.

“Because their loyalty to the UCSA and NATO makes their home one of the safer places,” he told her. “The last place they’d think we’d be hiding in is the home of traitors to us.”

A mob of carriers, including Karol and George, and non-carrier sympathizers, including Peter, Michelle, Wendy Callaghan, Pat, Valerie, and Sid, were crowding Tory’s and Karen’s living room. Others, just arriving at the time, were flooding the house by coming in through the front door and filling up all the space in the front hall and the kitchen.

“Come on in,” Karol said, gesturing to have people move towards the back of the house. “Let everyone in. We don’t want a lineup of people outside. The invading soldiers will see them and suspect us.”

“What happened last night?” Wendy asked.

“George and I were in the gym basement with a few dozen carriers, making plans to repel the invaders, when a drone flew by with some American soldiers. They broke a basement window, and the drone sprayed bug spray into our meeting area.”

“Oh, no!” Wendy and Michelle said together.

“Many Bolshivarians died in the basement,” George said with a frown. “Since humans who have been carriers of Bolshivarians for a long time feel their life force inextricably connected with ours, those human carriers exposed to the bug spray toxins also died. Fortunately, Karol, myself, and several other carriers managed to escape.”

“So, what are we going to do?” Peter asked.

“All non-carrying sympathizers must leave South America immediately,” George said.

“Why?” Peter asked. “We wanna help you.”

“No,” Karol said. “You’re far too valuable to risk being killed. We need to have as many non-carrier sympathizers as we can, to counter all the propaganda against us in the northern continents. All carriers must stay here to help us fight off the invaders. Many of us will die. The surviving carriers will have to confront a new testing process that reliably determines if a human is a carrier or not.”

“But what about the vaccines that MedicinaTech has made under their CEO, Wayne Grey?” Peter asked. “He’s a carrier, as you all should know. His vaccines are supposed to be a kind of ‘cloaking device,’ hiding the carrier status of people.”

“No,” George said. “This new test has rendered his vaccines ineffective. New reports have come out to confirm the new tests. Grey has been discovered to be a carrier, and they have killed him.”

Peter’s and Michelle’s jaws dropped.

“Holy shit,” he said. “Does that mean…?”

“Yes,” George said. “You, Peter, are to be the new CEO of MedicinaTech; and you, Michelle, are to head your parents’ newspaper, The Mississauga Exposé.”

“You mean, the CEO of the newspaper…?” Michelle began.

“Yes,” George said. “He was discovered to be a carrier, and he was killed.”

“Oh, my God,” she said with agape eyes.

“Those of us carriers who survive this onslaught will have to go underground,” George said. “You and Peter are to return to southern Ontario immediately. In public, pretend to comply with the ruling classes. In secret, do as we wish until we can change the situation. For now, things have become too dangerous for us to carry on as we have.”

“How did you and Karol manage to escape the ambush in the basement?” Pat asked.

“Bolshivarian lights hid in the bushes and trees outside,” George said. “They came at the soldiers and drone from behind, causing the men–who as you know would never accept the new way–to split into pieces.”

“Other Bolshivarians flew into the drone from behind, took control of it, and flew it into a corner wall of the gym, blowing it up,” Karol said. “George and I got into our cars and drove away. When the coast was clear, we drove here, then called all of you to meet us here.”

“We’ve heard reports of the UCSA and NATO armies warring tirelessly all over the continent,” George said. “Many of us have fallen, inevitably, but the reports say we have so far defeated most of them.”

“Still, there are the nuclear strikes planned,” Karol said. “And they will come any time now, so we must get you sympathizers to safety. Especially you, Peter and Michelle, who have proven your loyalty so fully.”

“Well, speaking of loyalty, I’d like to stay and help,” Peter said.

“Me, too,” Michelle said.

“Me, three,” Wendy said.

“My wife and I, too,” Pat said of himself and Valerie.

“And me,” Sid said.

“That’s commendable of all of you,” George said. “But you cannot help us here. You’re far more helpful back in your home countries in the north. Air travel has been arranged for you, and it is with the governments on the other side. They’ll test you, find no Bolshivarians in your bodies, and you’ll be taken home safely. Now, hurry. We have cars to take you to the airfield.”

“No!” Michelle said. “We don’t wanna leave you!”

“You must,” Karol said. “The cars are waiting outside.”

“No!” Peter said. “We won’t g–!”

Suddenly, a rock was thrown through the living room window, smashing it and startling everyone inside. The hissing sound of bug spray, coming from a drone floating over the front lawn, brought screams and yelling from all inside.

“Quick!” Karol said. “Evacuate the house!”

Coughing, they scrambled to get the non-carriers out of the house by the back door. A number of carriers fell and died from exposure to the toxins, making it harder for the rest to move through the crowd and get to the back.

Bolshivarian lights flew out of the bodies of some of the carriers in an attempt to confront the drone and troops, but bug spray shot right at them, killing them and making the lightless balls fall to the floor like marbles. Some trying to get to the back of the house slipped on the little balls and fell; some of the fallen got trampled on in the panic to get out, killing more.

Other Bolshivarian lights flew at the drone and troops from behind. Screams from the soldiers being torn up could then be heard; some of those trying to get out of the house looked back to see the dying soldiers and smiled at the sight of the carnage.

As for the drone, a few Bolshivarian lights entered it from behind. They took control of it and smashed it into a jeep of soldiers, killing them all.

Peter and Michelle were taken outside and over to a car on the side of the road.

“Please, both of you, get in,” Karol said.

“No!” Peter said. “We want to stay with you.”

“There’s no time to argue,” Karol said.

“But we don’t wanna–” Michelle began. Then she heard a familiar voice in her head.

Michelle, you must go, Siobhan’s voice said.

You, too, Peter, the voice of his mother said in his mind’s ear.

“But, Mom,…” Michelle said.

We’ll be with you in Canada, Siobhan’s voice said in Michelle’s mind. We’ll never leave you.

Peter and Michelle got in the back of the car. It drove away.

The Fourth Poem from Jason Ryan Morton’s Book, ‘Diverging Paths’

Here is another poem by my Facebook friend, Jason Ryan Morton, whose work I’ve looked at so many times before. This is Poem Four from Diverging Paths. As usual, I’ll be putting his words in italics to distinguish them from mine:

Disillusioned
I face my personal hell, 
I am the illusion, 
Of a man you know well,
 

Time is a distance, 
Scattered betrayers, 
Crucify me, 
With the intrepid 
Definitions of reality, 

You are the only being, 
That I could care less if I see, 
When I realize I am not me, 
But a fool looking to the sky for substance and 
meaning,

And now, for my analysis.

I don’t believe the poet is speaking in his own voice here. Instead, this is a person confronted with his own phoniness. He’s lived with a False Self for much of his life, but at some point he cannot maintain his illusions. His “personal hell” is the realization that he can no longer pretend illusion is reality.

The pain of this realization is a kind of narcissistic injury, so it’s easier to blame his woe on “scattered betrayers” who “crucify” him, rather than take the responsibility for himself. Making his pain into something as grandiose as to be compared with Christ’s Passion, he can try to hold on to some sense of illusory greatness. Try, but not succeed.

The “definitions of reality” are “intrepid” because the truth is that fearless in how it hurts us without remorse. The person to whom he speaks is someone much better; he “could care less” if he sees this person, which is better than not caring less, so this person is of at least some value to him, in his otherwise empty life.

It is the ideals that he looks up to, symbolized by a heaven that supposedly has “substance and meaning,” that are what make up his not being himself. It is the narcissist’s tendency to idealize someone else, and to want to emulate that idealization, that creates the False Self; for the idealization is a false person, too. So the person to whom he addresses his identity crisis is, presumably, that idealized person, who is now not so ideal, hence he “could care less” to see him or her.

This loss of someone to idealize is the essence of his “disillusioned” state, for the idealized other is a face mirroring back one’s own narcissistic, illusory self. Note also the continuous use of commas, especially at the end, suggesting that this is an ongoing, unending pain. For though “time is a distance,” that distance in time from the original injury to one’s ego will never erase the pain entirely.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Ten

The afternoon of the next day, Peter and Michelle were in the living room of their apartment watching the news on TV.

President Price was giving another press conference.

“It causes me great pain to say this,” she said, “but all our efforts to eliminate the alien menace in Africa, through the use of airstrikes and drones, have failed. What’s worse, it is clear that the aliens have taken control of the vast majority of not only Africa, but also most of Latin America and Southeast Asia. Even our covert attempts at rooting out the aliens and their human carriers have been nothing less than frustrating.”

“So, what are we going to do, Madame President?” a reporter asked.

She let out a sigh, then said, “The time has finally come for more radical and sweeping measures to wipe out this menace.”

Gasps were heard among the reporters.

Peter and Michelle almost jumped off their sofa.

“Will these measures include…the use of…nuclear weapons?” the same reporter asked, with the deepest dread.

Price let out another sigh. “I’m…afraid so,” she said.

More gasps were heard…including in the living room.

“We’ll have to hit specified targets…in all three continents…to maximize the annihilation of the aliens while minimizing loss of human, animal, or plant life,” the president said, with more sighs.

More gasping, with indistinct chatter among the reporters.

“For fuck’s sake!” Peter said, shaking.

“Please, somebody, wake me up from this nightmare, now,” Michelle whispered.

“Where will the targets be?” another reporter asked.

“If I were to answer that question, Ted, the aliens would know, too,” Price said. “They’re following these news reports even more attentively than the average viewer is, for obvious reasons. But suffice it to say, our intelligence will know where the aliens are most concentrated.”

“In the Amazonian rainforest?” Peter shouted. “As if climate change wasn’t bad enough already. Apart from the fallout, think of the destroying of all those trees! There’ll be carbon dioxide everywhere!”

“The UCSA governments have gone insane,” Michelle said.

“I assure you, ” Price said. “We will use newly-made, miniaturized nuclear warheads, of roughly the size and power of the W54, which will do a minimal amount of damage, leaving a minimal area of fallout while effectively hitting their targets.”

“Somehow, I don’t find that very reassuring, Madame President,” Michelle said.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Nine

The week after, George chaired another meeting in the gym basement. The energy pervading the room was tense. Still, George smiled and tried to keep things positive.

“Our efforts in improving life here in South America have gone on uninterrupted, as you know,” he said. “The ruling classes of Earth are content to let us repair the damage they’ve done to the planet, as long as they don’t give us credit for these improvements. In fact, as we’ve seen on the news on TV over the past week, their media has tried to blame us for worsening the wildfires, flooding, and rising sea levels, while they take credit for any improvements. Videos that have been tampered with, manipulated to make us seem guilty of worsening things, have been sent to their media for propagandistic purposes. Some of these videos were recorded among us!

There was no shocked reaction among the audience, as all of them, over the past week, had seen these videos on the news, as Michelle and Peter had seen.

Michelle sat among a few non-carriers, trying not to let anyone see her nervousness, and hoping neither the carriers nor the floating dots of light above would sense her tension. Burying feelings was hard for her, though she managed it.

“Hey, Michelle,” Wendy Callaghan asked. “Where’s Peter?”

“Oh, uh,…” she began, trying not to stammer. “H-he hasn’t b-been feeling well today.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Wendy said. “I hope he gets better soon.”

“Thanks.”

“Have you heard from Tory?”

“Well, he’s still recovering from the loss of Karen,” Michelle said. “That was quite a shock, a few weeks ago.”

“Yeah, he’s gonna need time,” Wendy said. “He was here last week, though. He seemed better. But I guess the grieving process has its ups and downs.”

‘Yeah,” Michelle said, hoping her smile didn’t look as forced as it felt. She and Wendy resumed listening to George.

“They have already begun the war here in South America, but they are being more covert about it this time, as opposed to their clumsy attempts in Africa,” he said. “There is an even greater troop presence in all of the military bases than the increase of the past few weeks, and they’re trying to root us all out quietly. They stake out the bases and wait for us to feel safe and let out our Bolshivarian lights. They’ve had some success with this tactic, but…”

Michelle raised her head to look behind George, in the shadows of that corner where the chairs and tables were stacked. A few drops of sweat went down her forehead.

She strained her eyes to see what was in the darkness. Then she saw it. A hand holding a pistol.

It was pointing straight at George’s head.

Though she was too far away to see in detail, she felt she could see the finger beginning to pull back on the trigger. Trying not to shake, she licked her lips.

“Ungh!” was heard from that corner. The assassin’s arm swung down to the floor, into which he fired a bullet just by George’s left foot. Screams pierced the ears of everyone in the room.

The assassin fell forward, the light revealing an axe blade in his head. A pool of blood grew around the body. The balls of light flew out of George and into the dark corner, lighting it up to reveal Peter.

Amid the screams and pandemonium, Michelle got up, waved her arms around to get everyone’s attention, and yelled, “Don’t hurt Peter! He saved George’s life! Tory was a traitor!”

A swarm of lights flew over to her. She felt their warmth. A mental message was sent to her.

Have no fear, Michelle, they told her in her mind. You and Peter told us of Tory’s treasonous intent last week. We all agreed to allow Tory to think he’d be safe hiding in the shadows with Peter, since Peter convinced Tory that he agreed to help assassinate George. Since there’s been so much burying of human feeling beyond Bolshivarian detection, we decided to let Tory and Peter hide in the corner, to test not only if Tory really was a traitor, but also if Peter was truly loyal. Your boyfriend has proven himself honourable.

“Everything is OK,” George said to the audience. “You can all sit down now. Our suspicions have been confirmed tonight. Though Tory Lee cleverly hid his true feelings beyond our probing’s ability to detect them, he has proven himself no less a traitor than his wife, Karen Finley. Both of them, out of a repressed wish to avenge the death of their son–a death caused by the boy’s rejection of our way, not a death caused by us–plotted against us Bolshivarians, revealing our hideouts to the UCSA and NATO armies, informing them of the identities of carriers hiding among their armies, and sending propaganda videos of our meetings to the ruling classes’ media.”

Peter then took the microphone to explain himself. “I’ll admit I’ve had my doubts about the Bolshivarians,” he said, “but I’ve never doubted the evil of the ruling classes of the Earth. Anyone who helps them is my enemy. That’s why I killed Tory. I pretended to sympathize with him to gain his trust, just as he and Karen had pretended to sympathize with us to spy on us. Look down at his body: this is what will happen to anybody…anybody…who endangers our lives and our hopes to save the Earth!”

The entire room exploded with cheers and the clapping of hands.

I just hope George will not disappoint me in the future, Peter thought amidst the noise.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Eight

The next day, Peter and Michelle were in their apartment watching the news on TV. President Price was in the Oval Office, at her desk, frowning as she spoke.

“New video has been sent to us from the City-States of Venezuela,” she said. “This video was taken by a member of the underground resistance there who, as a spy, has put himself at great risk to give us this information.”

“Translation: this propaganda,” Peter said with a sneer.

“Shh!” Michelle said.

“The video we’re about to show you will be disturbing to watch,” Price said, “but it’s proof that must be given the widest circulation, proof of the danger that the aliens present to our freedom. Proof that they must be stopped.”

“Get ready for state-of-the-art production values,” Peter said.

“Peter, we all know it’s lies,” Michelle said. “But we’ve gotta listen to know what they’re planning.”

“Apologists of the aliens, preferring to call them ‘Bolshivarians,’ to make us want to sympathize with beings that shouldn’t be sympathized with, claim they’re trying to improve life on our Earth,” Price said. “But does this look like an improvement?”

The video switched from Price to a group of people, about fifty in number, seen from a bird’s-eye-view in a forest…a forest in which a wildfire could be seen blazing. The flames were surrounding the group of people, closing in on them, though they didn’t seem at all concerned.

The video cut to a closeup of the people. They looked as if they were in a trancelike state. The flames could be seen in the background, though the zombie-like people were showing no awareness of the burning trees, or the smoke in the evening sky. The entranced people seemed to be chanting something.

“As you can see,” Price said in a voiceover, “the aliens aren’t keeping their promise to reverse climate change.”

“Wait a minute,” Michelle said, leaning closer to the TV. “One or two of those faces look familiar.”

“Yeah,” Peter said, also leaning closer. “This is supposed to be in Venezuela, right? Hey! That’s Wendy! Recognize her, Michelle?”

“Oh, my God!” Michelle said. “Yes, that’s her! Wendy Callaghan!”

“And there’s Pat! And Valerie! And Sid!”

“They’re all people from our group in the gym basement. We never meet in the woods, let alone in a wildfire.”

“This is obviously faked,” Peter said. “Yet faked well. The editing is seamless. It really looks as if we’re in the w–“

We are in it!” Michelle said. “Look!”

Indeed, they saw themselves among the mesmerized–far off in the background, yet close enough to be recognized.

“Whoever got this video obviously got it when we were meditating with the Bolshivarians,” Michelle said. “That’s why we all look so spaced out, mumbling.”

“And there’s Lenny and George,” Peter said. “This is an older video, taken before the assassination, and visually manipulated since.”

“Before the Bolshivarians got suspicious of everyone. While their guard was still down, and they trusted us.”

“Hey, there’s Karen’s face…but where’s Tory?

“This video was taken while Lenny Van der Meer was still alive, as you can see,” Price said in the voiceover. “Note the man with the moustache, next to Lenny. George Villiers-Joseph, their new leader. He’s a man much more ruthless than Lenny ever was. Beware of George. He’s very dangerous. He’s why we must go to war in South America.”

Peter ruminated on these words.

“Well, I don’t really like George all that much either, but still…,” he said.

“Peter?” Michelle said.

“I have an idea,” he said, then went over to the bedroom to get his cellphone.

“What are you gonna do?” she asked.

“I can’t explain right now, but trust me,” he said, dialling Tory’s number. “Hi, Tory? It’s Peter. How are you doing?…Yeah? Good. Look, I’ve been thinking about your criticisms of George Villiers-Joseph, and I must say that I agree with you. He’s messing everything up. If we let him continue leading everything, he’s going to get us all into a nasty war with the UCSA…Yeah, I was thinking that, too. I don’t have a weapon–well, there’s an axe in our closet, but I don’t have a gun…You have a gun? Good. I’ll come over to your place and we can work out a plan…Good. See you in ten minutes. Bye.” He hung up.

“My God, Peter!” she said, having listened to his end of the conversation. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of…”

“Don’t worry, Michelle,” he said, then kissed her on the cheek. “I know what I’m doing. I’ll explain everything later. For now, just trust me.” He went out the door.

She just stood by the door, stunned.

Analysis of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

A Tale of Two Cities is an 1859 historical novel by Charles Dickens, set just before and during the French Revolution, the two cities being London and Paris. The story is about the intersecting lives of Doctor Alexandre Manette, his daughter Lucie, and Charles Darnay in France, and Sydney Carton in England.

A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’s most famous work of historical fiction, and it’s one of the best-selling novels of all time. It has been adapted for film, TV, radio, and the stage, and it continues to influence popular culture.

Here is a link to famous quotes from the novel.

Of all the themes in this novel, the dominant one seems to be duality, expressed in many forms: London/Paris, feudalism/capitalism, light/darkness, Darnay/Carton (two men so fortuitously similar in appearance as to seem twins), Lucie Manette/Madame Defarge (personifications of light and darkness, respectively), and life/death…or death/life, as manifested in symbolic resurrections in the story.

The famous beginning of the novel establishes this theme of duality: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,…” The dualistic paradoxes continue with this famous long opening sentence: wisdom/foolishness, belief/incredulity, Light/Darkness, hope/despair, everything/nothing, Heaven/”the other way,” and good/evil.

These juxtaposed opposites represent their dialectical unity, the clash of contradictions. Though the above opposites are of the Hegelian dialectic of ideas, they refer to an epoch famously discussed by Marx as of the historical, materialist dialectic. The novel begins in 1775, just fourteen years before the French Revolution, when the old feudal system would be violently replaced by the capitalist mode of production.

Another duality is seen when Dickens compares the French Revolution to politically radical activity going on in England around the time of the novel’s publication. He fears that a similar bloodbath to that of the Reign of Terror may occur in England, though by the end of the novel, things seem more hopeful for England, even to the point of a tinge of nationalistic pride (recall patriotic Miss Pross‘s defiant words to Madame Defarge: “I am a Briton”–Book Three, Chapter 14, page 407).

The duality of death/life becomes apparent in Book One, Chapter 2, when it is learned that someone has been “RECALLED TO LIFE.” This enigmatic phrase, we later learn, refers to Doctor Manette, who in his 18-year incarceration in the Bastille–a kind of death–has been freed, a kind of resurrection. Other symbolic resurrections, two of them, will occur for Darnay, thanks to his look-alike, Carton.

The trauma of Doctor Manette’s incarceration stays with him after his release, when we find him still making shoes, his work in the Bastille, in the darkness, something he no longer needs to do, but a task he feels psychologically compelled to continue doing. His union with Lucie, the daughter he’s never known and who until now has thought him dead, will bring him back into the light. ‘Lucie‘ literally means ‘light.’

She is so shocked to learn that her father is actually alive that she faints. Symbolically, father and daughter have exchanged the states of life and death, unified opposites like so many others in this story.

Another example of duality is that of two spilled reds: wine, and blood. In Chapter 5 of Book One, a large cask of wine is dropped on the ground by the wine shop of M. Ernest and Mme. Thérese Defarge, in the Faubourg Sainte-Antoine, a suburb of Paris. The poor people of the area rush over to have as much of a drink of the spilled wine as they can. One of them smears BLOOD on a wall with the muddy wine (page 32).

This eagerness of the poor to drink wine off the filthy ground is a reflection of their desperation, want, and hunger. “Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomies in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.” (page 33)

Soon after, Dickens relates Want to violent imagery: “The trade signs (and they were almost as many as the shops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. The butcher and the porkman painted up only the leanest scrags of meat; the baker, the coarsest of meagre loaves. The people rudely pictured as drinking in the wine-shops, croaked over their scanty measures of thin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidential together. Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools and weapons; but, the cutler’s knives and axes were sharp and bright, the smith’s hammers were heavy, and the gun-maker’s stock was murderous.” (Dickens, page 34)

This juxtaposition of red wine and blood with hunger and want, and with references to “sharp and bright” knives and axes, heavy hammers, and with the “murderous” gun-maker’s stock, is altogether a foreshadowing of the violence in the impending revolution, when the poor and hungry will finally have their revenge on the rich.

Later in this chapter, we meet not only the Defarges, but also the three “Jacques.” These revolutionaries name themselves after the Jacquerie, a popular peasant revolt in northern France back in the 14th century. The nobles of the time derided these peasants as “Jacques” for the padded surplice, called “jacques” that they wore. The term jacquerie became synonymous with peasant uprisings in both France and England thereafter.

I don’t know if there’s a direct connection in meaning between the kind of Jacques the French nobility were scorning in the 14th century and the “sly, insinuating Jacks” (I, iii, 53) that Richard III was railing against in Shakespeare’s play, but there’s an interesting association that can be made in the “Jacques” of Dickens’s novel trading positions of power with the 18th century French nobility and the Duke of Gloucester’s contempt for such people of low birth when he famously says, “The world is grown so bad/That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch./Since every Jack became a gentleman/There’s many a gentle person made a Jack.” (I, iii, 70-73).

Meanwhile, Madame Defarge is typically seen knitting (see Book Two, Chapters 15 and 16 in particular). She will be a tricoteuse during the guillotine executions, doing her knitting there. This knitting symbolically suggests an association with the Fates, who in their spinning determined everyone’s life and death. Since Defarge is also seen knitting long before the revolution and its Reign of Terror, this early knitting is a foreshadowing of the violence to come.

She encrypts the names of those to be executed into her knitting, again connecting her with the Fates, but also, in a way, with Penelope, who wove a shroud while waiting ever so patiently for her husband, Odysseus, to come home and kill all of her suitors, who were eating her out of house and home. Madame Defarge, as she knits, is also waiting ever so patiently for the violent overthrow of those who, like Penelope’s suitors, have done violence of one form or another to her home (more on that later).

To jump ahead in Dickens’s story, we encounter the first time Carton saves Darnay, who is on trial for treason against the British Crown, by simply demonstrating to the court his uncanny physical resemblance to the accused. The witnesses, two spies, claim that they could pick Darnay out from any man; but their testimony is undermined by Carton’s likeness to him.

The doubles share more in common than just their looks. They share some sense of shame, Darnay’s by his association with his uncle, the wicked Marquis St. Evrémonde, and Carton by his life as a drunken wastrel. Both men redeem themselves: Darnay, by renouncing his uncle’s family and changing his name from Evrémonde to an Anglicizing of D’Aulnais (his mother’s maiden name); and Carton, by taking Darnay’s name and place in La Force Prison, from which he’s to be taken and guillotined, the former thus sacrificing his life to save that of the latter.

Yet another duality is to be found in the two systems of class oppression portrayed in A Tale of Two Cities–namely, the outgoing feudalist one and the incoming capitalist one. Though the revolutionaries, the left-wingers, were hoping for a genuinely new society based on the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité, this was a bourgeois, not a socialist, revolution. It was good that feudal France was no more, but a new form of class struggle was about to be born.

The despicable decadence of feudal times is personified in the unnamed aristocrat known as “Monseigneur.” In Chapter 7 of Book Two, we learn that he needs no less than four men, in “gorgeous decoration,” to get his morning’s chocolate into his mouth (Dickens, page 114)

The cruelties of feudalism, however, are personified in the marquis, whose carriage runs over a little boy, killing him. The marquis’s reaction to the death he’s caused is beyond insensitive: to compensate Gaspard, the dead boy’s grieving father, the marquis tosses him a gold coin and drives on. Gaspard will kill him in revenge, hide out for a year, then be hanged for murder.

The chateau of the marquis is vividly described in terms of the wickedness of the man who lives in it. The first paragraph of Book Two, Chapter 9, “The Gorgon‘s Head,” repeatedly uses the word “stone” or “stony” to describe so much of the marquis’s property as to suggest that Medusa‘s head had turned everything to stone two hundred years prior. This emphasis on stoniness, of course, reflects the marquis’s stony heart, just as the petrifying ugliness of the Gorgon’s head is a mirror to his moral ugliness.

It is this ugliness of feudal France that is the context in which the ugliness of revolutionary violence must be understood. Dickens’s tone, during his narration of all of the events from the storming of the Bastille to the Reign of Terror, gives the clear impression that he considered the actions of the revolutionaries to be no less evil than those of their former feudal oppressors.

As with A Christmas Carol, the Dickens who was otherwise thoroughly sympathetic to the poor is in this novel showing what we today would call peak liberalism.

For my part, I’m ambivalent about the wrongs the revolutionaries committed. Their main fault resides in ultimately leaving France with a new system of economic exploitation–capitalism–to replace the old system. The Defarges, after all, are the petite bourgeois owners of a wine shop. As for the violence of the revolutionaries, what can I say? Recall Mao’s words: “A revolution is not a dinner party.”

Were there excesses of violence? Undoubtedly. But revolutions are by definition chaotic, bloody, and messy. The oppressing class can’t be voted or legislated away…they can only be violently overthrown, for they will undermine every attempt to tax them or rein in their power over us. French revolutionary violence was, properly understood, a reaction to centuries of violence done to a starving, wretched populace of peasants.

As for Madame Defarge, her violent excesses may be wrong, but they’re perfectly explicable. Her sister was raped by Darnay’s uncle; her brother confronted the uncle about the rape and was run through with the uncle’s sword. Both her brother and sister died after the best, though failed, efforts of Dr. Manette, who was imprisoned for attempting to report the crimes, and who wrote of them in a manuscript in his cell. Having found the manuscript, which denounces the whole Evrémonde family, Madame Defarge uses it to avenge her dead siblings by trying to destroy not only Darnay, but his whole family, too.

She was “imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, and an inveterate hatred of a class, opportunity had developed her into a tigress. She was absolutely without pity. If she had ever had the virtue in her, it had quite gone out of her.

“It was nothing to her that an innocent man was to die for the sins of his forefathers; she saw, not him, but them.” (Book Three, Chapter 14, page 402)

One set of excesses tends to lead to an opposing set of excesses, like the teeth of the ouroboros biting into its tail, a symbol of the dialectical relationship between opposites that I’ve used many times. Since we don’t like riots, we should recall MLK’s words: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Similarly, if you don’t like revolutionary bloodshed, you should bear in mind that such bloody excesses are the words of those who have hitherto been silenced by their oppressors, often spoken in gory fashion.

Madame Defarge is motivated by revenge, personified in one of the other revolutionary women, known literally as The Vengeance. She is the “shadow” of Madame Defarge, a darkness within darkness. All of those who have suffered under feudal rule have been in darkness, such as Doctor Manette in his shadowy prison cell, and in the garret of the Defarges’ wine shop where he is found obsessively making shoes (Chapter 5, The Wine Shop). So when the revolutionaries have their revenge, they put men like Darnay in the darkness of cells in La Force, too. Indeed, his second arrest occurs at night.

Lucie’s light is in dialectical contrast to Madame Defarge’s darkness. The former says of the latter, “that dreadful woman seems to throw a shadow on me and on all my hopes.” (Book Three, Chapter 3, The Shadow, page 298) Her light, symbolized by each golden thread of her hair, pulls her father out of the dark. (Book One, Chapter 6, The Shoemaker, pages 47-49)

Elsewhere, we have Jerry Cruncher, the “resurrection man” who raids graves in the darkness, and is thus a dark parody of the real resurrection man, Carton, who by taking on Darnay’s identity recalls him to life, bringing him out of that dark cell and into the light, to be reunited with the light of his life, Lucie.

Thus Jerry, a nasty fellow who abuses his wife early on in the story, is the darkness to Carton’s light. Before he is to be guillotined, Carton compares his fate to that of Christ. He quotes the Gospel according to John: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25) Carton, as a Christ-figure, dies so Darnay can live. In this we see the dialectical relationship between life and death in Dickens’s novel. Recall in this connection another important quote from John: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Though Carton loves Lucie, he knows he can never have her. After all, light doesn’t sit with light, but rather with its dialectical opposite: darkness. Carton will go into the darkness of Darnay’s cell so the latter can go out into Lucie’s light.

And while darkness and light are intertwined, so are life and death. Having approached the guillotine, Carton imagines a future world, one long after his death, in which Darnay and Lucie will name a son after Carton. He can “see the lives for which [he] lay[s] down [his] life,” (Dickens, page 417) and in his prophetic visions, as well as the son, Carton has his own resurrection, his own recalling to life after death.

Speaking of ‘resurrections,’ though, another resurrection can be seen today as compared with what was going on back in Dickens’s day and before: the exacerbated immiseration of the poor. A Tale of Two Shitties: the shittiness of Dickens’s time, and the shittiness of our world ever since the dissolution of the socialist states. In this, we see yet another duality: class conflict then, and class conflict now.

Dickens, sympathetic to the plight of the poor but horrified at revolutionary violence, was using this novel to warn the rich of the danger of aggravating class conflict to the point of provoking such violence. When one considers the extremes of income inequality today, as well as all these unending imperialist wars, climate change, and how fear of disease is a distraction from the contemplation of revolution, one would think the ruling class would be heeding Dickens’s warning.

Instead, would-be leftists virtue signal in such ways as AOC wearing a dress with the message “TAX THE RICH” (of which Dickens would have approved) while ignoring protestors outside the Met Gala. In some photos of that dress, the T in TAX isn’t really showing, a kind of fortuitous prophecy. Then there was that small guillotine set by the front door of Bezos’s mansion.

May the Evrémondes everywhere in the world watch out.

The modern-day Madame Defarge is doing her knitting.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Collins Classics, London, 1859

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Seven

The following week, the carriers and sympathizers had their next meeting in the basement of the gym, chaired by their new leader, George Villiers-Joseph. His close friend and associate, Karol Sargent, sat by him as he stood at the podium.

George’s bodyguards were double the number that Lenny Van der Meer had had, for obvious reasons. Though George tried to keep everyone’s spirits as raised as possible, there was an undeniable energy of paranoia spread throughout the room.

“Comrades, brothers, and sisters,” he began with a big smile under that moustache. “Now that we have mourned our fallen from last week, and have determined that, beyond a reasonable doubt, Karen Finley acted alone in perpetrating the tragedy last week…”

Peter and Michelle took a quick glance at Tory, who sat to their left, to see his reaction to George’s words. He seemed unaffected, paying close attention to every syllable that came out of George’s mouth.

“…we can finally turn the page of that sad chapter in our community’s history, and look ahead with cautious optimism to our future,” George went on. “First, I’ll discuss our progress, then, our challenges. Not only have we made significant reversals in rising sea levels and flooding here in South America, but also in the City-States of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Wildfires around the world have been fewer, too, thanks to Bolshivarian efforts. The ruling classes of the Earth have actually stopped interfering with us in these areas: not out of a spirit of goodwill or compassion, but because they plan that, once the whole Earth has been rejuvenated, their big business/governments can resume raping the Earth and profiting from such ravaging to the maximum.”

Tory leaned over to Peter’s ear. “This is part of where I must criticize George,” he said. “As soon as the healing of the Earth is finished, the capitalists will start destroying it again. I believe we should crush the capitalists first, all of them, then repair the Earth, when there won’t be anyone else to harm her again.”

“What was that?” Michelle asked.

“He was just saying he doesn’t like how George is managing things,” Peter told her.

“Why?” she asked. “Don’t all Bolshivarians have the same agenda, no matter who the leader is, Tory?”

“The Bolshivarian consciousness merges with the human brain of the carrier,” Tory said. “Just as the limitations of the human mind affect the Bolshivarians’ judgement, so do the biases of the human personality affect it. I think George’s personality might not be suited to lead our cause.”

Frowning, the three of them resumed listening to George.

“So we have done a good job of cooling the planet and eliminating pollution, too,” George said. “We’ve also made considerable progress in teaching South Americans about our advances in medical technology, healing the sick here, educating the people in general, providing housing and employment, and replacing fossil fuels with solar and wind energy.”

“All wastes of time and energy,” Tory whispered. “Revolution first.”

Peter turned his head slightly towards Tory when he heard that.

“So, that was the good news,” George said. “Now for the challenges we face. We have begun training and preparing the people, carrier and non-carrier alike, for the imminent invasion by UCSA and NATO forces, all the military divisions of their multinational corporations.”

“Now, that’s more like it, George,” Tory said. “Keep the revolution unending ’til we win.”

Peter and Michelle smiled at those words.

“We have plans to protect ourselves and survive a nuclear attack if it comes to that,” George went on. “We have been largely successful in the war in Africa, despite heavy Bolshivarian losses, repelling the fighter jets and bug spray attacks from drones, so we should have similar successes here in South America if they try attacking us that way.”

The energy of the room was improving.

“Finally, as you can see here, I have doubled my security in case of another treasonous attack,” George said. “The Bolshivarian lights you all see floating over your heads are monitoring the thoughts of everyone in the audience, as I speak. Have no fear: if your intentions are good, you’ll be perfectly safe.”

I don’t like the sou– Peter began to think, then, looking up, thought, Shut up, brain.

“And in the event of my death,” George went on, “my good friend, Comrade Karol Sargent, will take my place as leader.”

Tory’s eyes lit up at the sound of those words.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Six

Peter and Michelle went with Tory Lee to his home right after the meeting in the gym that night. His home was across the road from the gym, but on the side opposite to that of Peter’s and Michelle’s apartment. That he needed human company was obvious after what had happened to Karen only an hour before.

“Thank you for taking me home and being here with me,” Tory said, in a state of emotional exhaustion. “It’s gonna be rough, being all alone now. It’s good to have friends.”

“It’s also good no longer to be probed by Bolshivarians,” Peter said, with more than a hint of annoyance, as the three of them went through the front door. “Oh, those little lights passing into our brains like that, monitoring our every thought and feeling, searching for signs of treasonous ideas in our heads! It felt like being strip-searched, standing naked before the Bolshivarians, only it was our minds instead of our bodies. That was awful! They have no respect for our privacy.” They passed through the kitchen.

“I had only grief in my thoughts,” Tory said. “I couldn’t think of anything else if I tried. The Bolshivarians wouldn’t have found any treasonous thoughts in my mind, even if I’d actually had them hiding in the deepest shadows of my unconscious. They’d never have found them even if they’d tried their damnedest, and if they were actually there. Still, that was a horrible ordeal, especially after…Karen’s…” He began to sob.

“I’ll admit that that was the worst thirty minutes I’ve been through since my mom was killed,” Michelle said as they came into the living room. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Tory, especially after…what happened to Karen. Still, as hard as it was, I can understand why the Bolshivarians wanted to test our loyalty. They’re grieving over their losses just as we’re grieving over Karen. The pain of losing Cameron must have been too much for her.”

“It drove her mad, I hate to say,” Tory said as all three of them stood before shelves on a wall with a number of photos of him, Karen, and Cameron at various ages on them. “I knew she found Cameron’s loss overwhelmingly painful, but I’d never have guessed she’d had revenge on her mind. It wasn’t in her nature–isn’t in mine.”

As they walked through his living room, Peter noticed Tory’s desktop computer. Peter bumped his hip against the desk, and the monitor lit up, showing video editing software.

Next to the computer desk was a bookshelf. Peter gave it a quick scan, seeing these titles: The Revolution Betrayed, Animal Farm, Brave New World, The New Class, Nineteen Eighty-Four, In Defence of Marxism, Conversations With Stalin, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, Down and Out in Paris and London, and Island.

“It was tough losing Cameron those two years ago,” Tory said. “But I always understood that getting rid of the corrupt, capitalist governments of the world was necessary. Nobody, and I mean nobody in the Western world has any revolutionary potential, and that’s where the revolution has to come from. Nobody here in the Third World has the wherewithal to make revolution happen. It has to come from the richer parts of the world…and the people in our parts of the world–New York City for Karen and me–are too damn comfortable, too complacent, with our computers and cellphones, to rise up.”

“I agree,” Peter said. “Michelle and I are from the Toronto and Mississauga Districts, and we’re far too comfortable, too smug and self-satisfied, to do anything about the corruption in the world.”

“Though I lost my son, I’m still grateful that the Bolshivarians came. They are providing the revolutions we need to keep happening, to save the world. They merge with the minds of the people, and when the people accept the new way, the Bolshivarians can give them the impetus to become revolutionaries. Cameron should have seen the light–he wouldn’t, so the lights sawed him…to pieces.” He broke down and cried again.

Now they’ve sawn Karen to pieces, Michelle thought. Still, that’s what you get for turning traitor, not that I’d ever say that to poor Tory. “Again, I’m so sorry, Tory.” She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

Tory regained control and said, “Now, I’m not without my criticisms of the Bolshivarians. I’d watch what George is about to do, if I were you, now that he’s the new leader. I wish he’d focus on causing more and more uprisings around the world, which he seems less inclined to do, as I’ve learned from conversations with him over the months. I disagree with his direction for us. We can rebuild the world after tearing down the old system. We don’t have time for rebuilding right now.”

“I have my share of criticisms of the Bolshivarians, too,” Peter said. “But they won’t kill us for that.”

“They never kill us,” Michelle said. “We let ourselves die for not accepting the new way.”

Peter sighed in annoyance at these words.

“It’s true,” Tory said. “Karen wouldn’t accept the new way. If only she’d been able to control her grief.”

“I know,” Michelle said with a sigh. “It was hard for Peter and me to accept the new way, too, after the deaths of his parents and my dad, and my mom killed by a government agent in Canada; but there are greater issues to deal with than just our personal problems and our families.”

“That’s right,” Tory said. “We mustn’t lose sight of that. We must all pull together, or else man is going to destroy the planet with war, global warming, and the kind of poverty we see all around us in this city, with its beggars on the streets and its slums and barrios. We can’t afford to be selfish, the way the oligarchs are, caring only about their families and not about the families of the rest of the world. If only Karen…could have understood better…” He broke down again and wept.

“And the Bolshivarians psychically grilled him, as if he were a Nazi war criminal or something,” Peter said.

“They had to, Peter!” Michelle said.

“Right at the height of Tory’s trauma and grief?”

“They’re grieving for their own, too!” she said.

“She’s right,” Tory sobbed. “As hard as it was, they were justified in their suspicions. She was my wife; they had to make sure I’m not a traitor, too. For all they knew, I could have been plotting assassinations with her. I wasn’t, of course, but they didn’t know.”

Peter sighed. “Well, I guess so.”

“Anyway, I’m pretty exhausted,” Tory said. “The only thing I can do now is sleep off this sadness. You both can go home now. I’ll bet you’re really tired, too.”

“Yeah, we are, but will you be OK?” Peter asked.

“Oh, yes, I’ll be fine. I just need some time.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Don’t worry about me. You’ve already done a lot for me by coming here. Good night, and thanks again.”

“OK, Tory, good night,” she said as she and Peter left the living room and approached the front door. “If you need anything, just call us.”

“OK,” Tory said. “Good night.”

“Bye,” Peter said, and he and Michelle left.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Five

The night of the next day, Lenny Van der Meer chaired another meeting in the gym basement. George Villiers-Joseph sat by him while he stood at the podium.

Peter and Michelle sat with Tory, who came alone.

“Where’s Karen?” Michelle asked.

“Oh, she decided to stay home tonight,” Tory said with a frown. “She told me she wasn’t feeling well.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Michelle said. “I hope she gets better soon.”

“Thanks,” he said. “She’s been acting funny the last couple of days. Moping, depressed, angry.”

“Why’s that?” Michelle asked. “Is it frustration with the growing military threat here?”

“She wouldn’t say,” he said with a sigh. “I asked her, and she remained all quiet and morose. I imagine it’s the fear of another war, like in Africa, but if so, she surely would have just told me. She seems to be burying her feelings so deep down, even I can’t figure out what’s bothering her. She still grieves over our boy Cameron, but so do I, and I’m carrying on OK, as you can see.”

“Doesn’t she get any comfort from communing with his psychic energy?” Michelle asked. “I get that every night from the spirits of my mom and dad.”

“You’d think she’d get such comfort, but I suspect she doubts that the apparitions of Cameron, his energy, is real,” Tory said. “I don’t doubt its reality; she’s never said she doubts it, but I suspect she does. In any case, I really don’t know.”

“Lenny’s about to start,” Peter whispered.

“Friends, brothers, and sisters,” Van der Meer began, “recently, there has been an alarming set of developments. The United City-States of America and their NATO allies are growing more and more aware of our activities here. Not only do they know of our attempts to reverse the flooding in the Rio de Janeiro area–you may have seen the video of the Bolshivarian confrontation with Lloyd’s army division yesterday, which the UCSA doctored to make it look as if we were worsening the flooding.”

“Oh, yes, that,” Tory said. “That was despicable propaganda.”

“Yes,” Peter said, “I saw the original video online.”

“Me, too,” Tory said.

“Guys, let’s listen,” Michelle said.

“Also, our enemies learned that we’ve infiltrated the Exxon-Mobile army base here in Puerto Ayacucho. They discovered the mutilated remains of Sergeant Dan Miller, who refused to join us as Captain Finch and Sergeant West had. Both Finch and West were discovered…and killed. All the Bolshivarians housed in their bodies were slain with the toxins in the bug spray.”

A mournful energy permeated the basement during the next several seconds. Lenny and George appeared on the verge of tears.

“But none of this, as regretful as it is, is the worst,” Lenny went on. “Just as we’ve had to endure a year of war in Africa, so will we have to prepare for it here. Recall also the thinly-veiled nuclear threat. We must be steeled and ready.”

In a corner of the basement, about two o’clock from where Lenny was standing, were stacks of chairs and tables piled high enough to create a shadow large enough to hide someone. From that shadow, a hand holding a pistol emerged.

No one was paying attention to it.

Least of all, Lenny’s bodyguards.

All eyes were on him.

“We must continue watching out for any danger,” Lenny said. “The UCSA and NATO have spies everywhere. Someone informed them of our hideout in Angola, recall–that warehouse.”

And our hotel in Luanda, Peter and Michelle remembered.

“Now, we assume that the spies in Angola weren’t among us during our meetings,” Lenny cautioned. “But however unlikely it may be, it isn’t impossible for one of our people here, a non-carrier who pretends to be a sympathizer, even consciously thinks like one, to evade Bolshivarian detection, by burying their feelings deep down–“

Just as the shooter of that pistol was burying her feelings.

The bullet shot through Lenny’s left side diagonally from the back and into his heart. He fell to the floor to the right of the podium. The balls of light left his body as quickly as his blood began to flow.

A sea of screams flooded the basement. Everyone stood up to get a look where the shot had come from. The lights leaving Lenny’s body flew right over to that corner to get their revenge.

“You killed my son!” the assassin screamed as she emerged from the shadows spraying bug spray at the lights.

“Oh, my God!” Tory screamed as he looked over to that shady corner. “Karen…NOOO!!!

Michelle put her arms around him, saying, “Tory, don’t look.”

Indeed, he wouldn’t be able to bear seeing his wife’s body torn to pieces, so he closed his eyes tight and let the tears roll down his cheeks.

Karen resisted the Bolshivarians as best she could at first, aiming her shaking pistol arm at George, but firing two bullets into the ceiling before dropping it. The hand holding the bug spray was more successful, hitting the first dozen of Lenny’s dots of light and dropping them to bounce lifeless on the stage.

Other Bolshivarians managed to evade the toxins and enter her. Michelle and Peter watched in horror as Karen’s body ripped through her dress and explode in a huge splash of blood. Michelle held Tory’s shaking body tight as he wept.

Was she the one who told the UCSA army where our hotel in Luanda was? Peter wondered. We told her about it.

George stepped up to the podium as Lenny’s bodyguards picked up his body and carried it away.

“We must have order!” George said, his eyes wet with tears. It was difficult for him to keep from sobbing. “We will bury…our comrades, Lenny and the Bolshivarians…who inhabited his body, and we will honour them all. But this act of treason…instead of distracting us from our cause, must keep us focused on it. We must prepare for war, and immediately.”

“What of our other projects?” a carrier standing at the front of the audience asked. “The quenching of wildfires, the reversing of flooding, the providing of healthcare to the poor?”

“Fear not, Karol,” George said. “Our preparations for war will not retard our progress in those areas by the slightest bit.”

“And who are the friends or family of the traitor?” Karol asked, looking back at the audience. “She was one of the non-carrier ‘sympathizers,’ was she not?”

“Yes,” George said, also looking out at the audience and frowning. “We will investigate the matter immediately.”

A swarm of dots of light flew right at Peter, Michelle, and Tory.